Thursday, October 20, 2005

I'm Still Alive

     Fear not, I'm not dead.... yet.

     I'm sorry for having appeared to have fallen off the face of the earth. And I'm sorry for allowing real life to interfere with this blog. But I'm in the process of changing jobs, so I'm training my replacement and getting trained in my new role at the same time. The extra work (and having someone sit next to me in a cubicle) keeps me from blogging much lately.

     I shall return.

Friday, October 14, 2005

Why Capitalism Doesn't Work

     You know the old saying, "If it ain't broke, don't fix it"? I know something that's so broken that you don't want to fix it. In fact, it also works so well that you can't fix it. I'm talking about Capitalism. But before you denounce me as a Commie or Anti-American or just dismiss me as a kook, hear me out. More has been written about Capitalism than I could ever do justice to. And a lot of it is still very controversial. But a lot of it is pretty settled as fact. It's like the theory of evolution like that. (But of course who would dare put a sticker in economics book in the US saying "Capitalism is only a theory, not a fact"?)
     Here's the thing: Capitalism describes a lot about the economic system of the United States. On any given day, you produce what you want to produce, you consume what you want to consume. The free markets moderate supply vs demand and the prices do what they need to all on their own. Sure, there are quirks on the individual level, but on the whole everything works out. But the dirty little secret is that the world economy is Capitalist. Even Cuba, a Communist bastion, is part of an unregulated world economy. And even within Cuba, Capitalism reigns, moderating the relative price of a chicken or of repairs to a 1957 Chevy. Money might not always be trading hands, but money isn't required for economics. It's just an intermediary product with a specific value.
     So what's the controversy? Well, Capitalism doesn't work as a political system. It's not a political system. It can't be a political system any more than you can smell the color blue. You might have political systems that work well with Capitalism or you might not. But if you try to replace our Republic with Capitalism, you will end up with what is commonly called, "Anarchy". Anarchy, by definition is the absence of political authority.
     Here's a recent example of something Capitalism doesn't work for. There is a potential for a severe flu pandemic in the next few years based on reports coming out of southeast Asia. Certain bird flus are being shown to have the ability to infect humans, and some scientists feel that strains found this year might be as virulent as the flu that wiped out between 25 to 50 million people at a time when the world population was only a third of what it is today. The best way to combat a reappearance of this disease is to eliminate it at its source - birds. But where is the Capitalist incentive to do that? Poor farmers don't get paid for birds they kill, unless their government intervenes (a Capitalist no-no). The idea of individual property rights would preclude outsiders from killing those birds. And in any event, it only takes a few infected people to start the chain reaction that would spread disease across the world at the speed of a 747.
     Or here's another flu example. The majority of flu vaccine recipients are elderly, and why not? They're the most vulnerable to dying of the flu. But the vaccine is only 28% effective. "So what?" you might ask. "It's their money. 28% is better than nothing." All true. But did you know that it is more effective to protect grandparents by vaccinating their grandchildren? And not just their grandchildren, but all children. Kids, apparently, have a 90% effective rate of vaccination. And if you took the limited number of flu vaccines available and vaccinated kids instead of adults, fewer adults would get the flu. But where's the incentive? Vaccines are somewhat risky themselves. Parents don't necessarily like the idea of sticking another needle in their kids arms. Plus they can be expensive. And why should a parent spend the money to vaccinate his or her kid when the kid's risk of becoming seriously ill from the flu is very low in the first place?
     The answer here is that Capitalism doesn't work for these situations because Capitalism has nothing to do with them. As human beings, we have recognized this fact for thousands of years, which is why we create binding associations. (We call them governments.) Capitalism is swell at selling excess flu vaccines. But if we want to protect grandma from the flu, we need government intervention. We need government intervention to kill sick birds in Indonesia. We need government intervention to vaccinate our children. What the government looks like is up to us. But one thing is for sure - it won't be Capitalist.

Tuesday, October 04, 2005

Shanah Tovah

Happy New Year! May you all be inscribed in the book of life.

See you Thursday.

Monday, October 03, 2005

Separated at Birth?

Harriet Miers, Supreme Court Justice nomineeEmperor Palpatine, Lord of the Sith

     Seriously, though, I know nothing about this woman. If her background is interesting enough, I might post on it this week.

Photo thanks:;