Saturday, July 16, 2011

Harry Potter critics haven't surprised me

Having recently engaged many Christians on the topic of the morality of Harry Potter, I cannot help but notice that there has been no attempts to actually support their belief in the immorality of Harry Potter with anything that can be recognized as logic or evidence. Apparently those two concepts are wholly foreign to their shallow minds. Alot of handwaving and naked statements, yeah, but nothing more.

And there has been no attempt to rebut my article defending the integrity of fantasy fiction. No surprise there, as it is probably way over their heads. And even if they could muster up the intellectual firepower to understand the argument, the unforgivable wall of my logic precludes any honest attempt to dismantle it.

The truth of the matter is, it really isn't very difficult to grasp why their is nothing intrinsically wrong with the Fantasy genre in general and Harry Potter in particular. One just has to have the upsight to discern the difference between the witchcraft as described in the Bible and the witchcraft described in the Harry Potter books. The former refers to "power derived from the devil" while the latter refers to power systematically harnessed through a set of fictitious laws of nature. There is no substantive difference between the wizard that discovers that waving a wand in a certain motion and uttering a certain word produces a specific result than a scientist or engineer that invents a device based on his own understanding of what our laws of nature entail.

Come on guys, it really isn't difficult to comprehend and anyone with an I.Q over 90 should be able to do so, assuming, of course, that that intelligence is actually utilized and that the person isn't locked under an army of pretty lies. Don't get me wrong, I sympathize with their concerns about a potential satanic influence, I just don't see it in Harry Potter. They would be far more fruitful in attacking the socialism and atheism implicit in much of the sci-fi genre than an innocuous children's story. And by the way, where is the evidence that reading Harry Potter leads people to do bad things? Like I said, evidence isn't exactly their forte.

Some may wonder why I have taken the time to smash these (non)arguments up. The problem is that theirs is a fundamentally anti-intellectual worldview. One of the things that one can't help but notice is their distaste for abstract thought, probably because they woefully lack it.

Friday, July 15, 2011

Is Harry Potter anti-christian?

With the new harry potter movie coming out, one can scarcely go about without hearing haters and praisers alike. It is deeply amusing to see people hating on it, proclaiming that is is "gay" or "retarded," when the movies they watch and the books they read (if any) are utter trash. Seriously, it's one thing to read harry potter uninspired if you have read the works of authors such as Umberto Eco, Robert Heinlein, Neal Stephenson, George R.R Martin, Michael Crighton, and J.RR Tolkien. But, alas, I can personally attest that I have never - Ever - seen a teenager read any of those authors with the exception of Tolkien.

What is even more amusing is how Christians rationalize their loathing of HP by arguing it is satanic and unbiblical. Leaving aside the obvious absurdity of dismissing anything with magic - in other words, every fantasy theme out there - their argument makes zero sense from an historical perspective.

The concept of a fantasy novel has explicit Christian origins, starting with George McDonald and then popularized by Tolkien and Lewis. There is nothing inherently satanic about fantasy. The fact that magic and witchcraft are frowned upon by the Bible is irrelevant. But because most people are logically and intellectually inept that they don't see why this is the case, I shall elect to spell it out for them.

While it is true that in our World Satan and the evil side of the supernatural are behind witchcraft and other magical themes behind much of the fantasy genre, it need not be that way if you postulate a different World governed by a different set of parameters. Hence, magic may be satanic in this world ( although it is doubtful that all of it is, there is a good side of the supernatural as well) but it may not in another world. Heck, depending upon the Rules set by the Creator, it may not even be considered "supernatural". For all we know, the particular median of our material world that defines the mode of our existence is completely arbitrary. Moreover, there is no reason at all to believe that our universe is not one of many universes that are across the spectrum of what's "natural" and "supernatural." And from what can be interpreted from the Harry Potter books, magic isn't even a "supernatural" phenomenon in the sense that it transcends the natural, let alone an exploitation from a malicious being working outside their realm like Satan presumably does in our world. In the world created by J.K Rowling, what we consider magic is little more than a convenient set of natural laws that have been exploited by certain individuals. Quantum Mechanics is arguably more weird and remote in comparison to the traditional conception of our world, and yet I don't see these same fantasy haters beat down on the latest research collected by Switzerland's Super Collider.

As should be obvious to anyone who is not socially autistic, making a statement about a different world is not tantamount to making that same statement about this world. That's all fantasy is: world building, which is an ability that God specifically endowed Mankind with when he gave him abstract thought. And there are strong logical reasons to believe that the species that God made in His own image was designed to live, love, and create from the ground up

Friday, July 8, 2011

The real root of prosperity

Hans Palmstierna over at the end of civilization has lucidly explained the problem of *negative interest rates* - in which inflation exceeds the nominal rate of interest - and what they inevitably lead to: the evaporation of capital. The logic is simple. If savings is the root of investment and capital, then an enviroment that discourages savings will dry up the capital markets, which are the basis for any economy. Negative interest rates are a huge impetus to spend your money now - because why would you want to save money that depreciates faster than your rate of return - and even to borrow for consumption. There is no more instructive example of this happening than in the recent evisceration of the U.S manufacturing base.

Paul Krugman and other neo-Keynesians have it precisely backwards; it is not because of increased savings that have shredded the economy, but the lack of savings. Too much spending, too much debt. The answer to the question many observers have asked as they try to make sense of our economic plight is that our political ruling class, guided by academia, has identified the wrong source of prosperity. The reason mainstream economics is wrong and the policies based on it have failed is because it is savings, not spending, that leads us to the road of prosperity. In spendthrift lies the path to poverty.

Proph comes around

I've been a reader of Collapse: the blog almost since the beginning. The blogger there exhibits a sound grasp of history, economics, and ethics and has been a persistent predictor of the up and coming collapse. His primary focus has been the economic and political collapse, but has extended his analysis to the moral and societal condition of an increasingly decadent population.
What I find interesting is that even as a deist, he has decried many of the cultural ills spawned by secularism that have been the forefront of criticism by the Christian mainstream.

Modern liberalism was birthed in the moral and intellectual squalor of the Enlightenment -- which, if there were any justice in the world, would have been called the Darkening -- when it shucked off the rational realism and essentialism of the classical and scholastic philosophers and embraced, instead, the manifold absurdities of nominalism, empiricism, and skepticism. Its worst excesses were constrained, at the time, by the residual self-control inculcated in society through a millennium and change of Christian worship, but with the passage of time, society has forgotten even the reasons for this self-control, and its irrationality has worsened, giving way to utilitarianism, totalitarianism, and, ultimately, the present degraded nihilism that cannot even be bothered to justify or rationalize itself. Centuries after the world supposedly liberated itself from the chains of theology, it has enslaved itself to darkness again. Thinking people must go to war against it: against the exultation and fetishization of all its base impulses, against the denigration of human life and the devaluation of the human person, and against the vile particularist passions of the world. And to go to war requires that one have a clear conception of who is fighting whom.

What man requires is a return to first principles: and modern man's first principle, long before he was industrious or economic or intellectual, was spiritual. He understood himself as arising from a natural order ordained by a rationally-provable God. He understood faith to be not a mere assertion of hope in the face of mountains of evidence to the contrary, but a willful trust in what reason has revealed to be true, no matter how much his unreliable senses scream out against it. And he understood that to embrace that order was to live virtuously, and thus rationally, and that to rebel against it was to reject the rationality of the soul that had been given to him by God and therefore to live in sin and disorder.

When I realize this, suddenly the mere collapse of economies or societies or even civilizations seems woefully unimportant. What matters, and what is at stake here, is the collapse of man: whether he is able to embrace his noblest traits -- his reason and his will -- and so to transcend the animality of his sensory soul, or whether he will become enthralled to his passions and his senses, rebel against all order and reason, and exile himself into spiritual darkness. What is at stake is souls, by the billions. What is at stake is Heaven.

Unlike many non-theists, Proph understands that the ideals of the enlightenment that so many secular humanists praise are no sound basis for a functional and sustainable society. And that while Man is a spiritual and moral agent, his efforts to concoct a rational morality without God are futile and merely a sure-way down the road of self-destruction. In light of this, it makes perfect sense to view the Body of Christ, His Church, as a light amidst a dark and fallen world, and that what theologians describe as "the violation of the will of God" is indistinguishable from the observable evil that we see violating an individual's consciousness, ruining a families' stability, and even threatening our society's very survival.

Proph has just made that leap:

And a return to first principles starts at home. So I'm joining the Roman Catholic Church -- bending my knee to Rome, as it were, and to the God whose will is all that sustains the universe in every second. The Church has been reduced to a pale shade of its former fierceness, but it is the last and best hope for the redemption of the world.

I begin the Rite of Christian Initiation for Adults in a month or two. Wish me luck.

Very good news indeed. It touches me even more after realizing that I just started praying for him not more that a few weeks ago. Its likely true that his transformation was a gradual one, but its encouraging to see the fruits of an answered prayer.

Monday, July 4, 2011

Why the GDP is intrinsically innaccurate in mixed and command economies

As I found myself contemplating the implications of the the historical decline of the real wage rate, it struck me that it could be used a more reliable metric in measuring the health of the economy, accounting for changes of the employment to population ratio of course, than the GDP.

In fact, because GDP is merely the cumulative price value of all goods and services in the economy, artificial prices that distort the value of a good or service renders the calculation flawed because it creates a value mismatch. In a purely free-market economy, this would be less of an issue because prices are determined by their actual value; if I built a useless product or provided an unneeded service, the nonexistence of demand will suppress my product or services' value because nobody wants or needs it, thus it will not contribute to the GDP.

However, in a mixed or socialized economy, where a product's value is not necessarily determined by supply and demand - which is the measure of the collective population's assessment of its value - but by Government fiat, my service may not benefit anyone or increase the overall welfare of the population, but if it is arbitrarily mandated by the Government its price will be artificially inflated and thus contribute to the GDP, even though no wealth was created.

The biggest example of value mismatch is Government and private Government-mandated bureaucracy. Jobs that promote little to no increase in prosperity and are yet a big contributor to the GDP. In fact, they may even be a hindrance. What is also at issue but is rarely acknowledge is the immense opportunity cost involved of having millions of people doing one thing and not another. Actually, given the opportunity cost, it wouldn't be the GDP increasing and prosperity stagnant, but the GDP being static and overall prosperity declining. The TSA is a textbook example. Unionization and featherbedding have also served to distort the price configurations. Bubbles also have huge effects on value distortions. A house increasing 2 x in five years because of unsustainable credit expansion is no indication of growing prosperity - the house is the same as it was before - but it does add to the GDP.

This is why the real wage rate, the average purchasing power of a worker in terms of goods that he really needs, like food, is a far more accurate measure of the actual health of the economy than the GDP that counts everything, useful or nonuseful. Because the wage rate is simply a measure of efficiency, jobs that contribute little will only suppress it.

However, efficiency is only one aspect of the overall size of the economy; you have to combine it with the amount of workers involved, either the employment to population ratio or the size of the labor force. The former would produce the size of the economy relative to the population, the latter would produce the size without regards to the population. Put differently, the former is equivalent to GDP per capita, the latter GDP.

With this in perspective, it is interesting to note that the real wage rate has declined since 1973 while the population to employment ratio is back where it was before women entered en masse in the workforce! So, there has literally been no economic growth for almost 40 years. For all the iphones and sophisticated technology that has been developed to increase our efficiency, there has been a huge parasitical sector dragging it down. One may object by pointing out that we are in a recession , so using current numbers is not indicative of a historical trend. But not only this recession is not even close to reaching its trough (this is a point already demonstrated in conclusive manner, only an idiot can believe otherwise), but it is simply a return to an illusory-free status. The only reason the economy appeared to be growing for the past 30 years is because of increases in debt. In all fairness, price distortions work both ways. You can buy a computer with an advanced duel core processor today for the same price as a windows 95 Dell 15 years ago.

What it all comes down to is that the true state of the economy is hidden within the intricate mirage of Government and FED distortions.

Sunday, July 3, 2011

One compounding problem after the other

As I have implied on previous occasions, I don't believe that even the finest and well-informed minds have a comprehensive grasp of the situation the world in general and America is facing. On one hand you have the economic and financial turmoil that has survived despite the best efforts of the Government and FED. On the another is a story of rapid moral degeneration that is slowly eroding the moral fabric upon which any Civilization's survival is dependent upon. All of this is compounded by secondary and tertiary problems, from the overloading costs of health care spawned by the obesity epidemic and the imperial overstretch exhibited by an ever impotent military, to the evisceration of America's manufacturing base caused by free trade and its ethnic transformation via mass 3rd world immigration.

There are also demographic considerations that America is facing. And while it is hardly unknown that the WASP - White Anglo Saxon Protestant, the biological and cultural basis for American society - breed is in relative decline, what is less well known is the direction population genetics is moving toward. In any human group, there is always environmental pressure exerted upon it that moves the general population in a certain direction, causing natural or unnatural selection. The direction of this selection could lead to a significant transformation of the genetic and cultural makeup of the population, for good of ill. As it happens, there have been many changes in the past twentieth century that have changed the evolutionary game.

Thanks to the advent of the contraception, individuals who are more future-oriented have a perfectly viable means of avoiding child-spawning but still fulfill their impulses, while those who are myopic enough to bypass the contraception are having babies. This problem is compounded by the demographic decline of the middle class - courtesy to women's economic empowerment. Since the lower class is on average more short-term oriented than their upper and middleclass counterparts, whether myopia is a sympton or a cause is irrelevant - the rise of the lower-class has resulted in more short-term, live-for-the-moment people.

History has demonstrated that human idiocy and short-term guided people have always existed in abundance. But there are strong reasons to believe that we may be more myopic than ever.

You want to see an example of mass human myopia? 2003 -2007 housing bubble. For alot of people, it doesn't matter how much the house costs, just the initial down payment. That is why people saw the huge hike in housing prices as a good thing.

And there is a sure chance that chronic myopia is not the only thing that has been exacerbated by the turn in environmental pressure.

Right now we are finding ourselves in a moment where every ill America has pushed aside in the past is conspiring to reveal itself. Many problems exploding have been properly diagnosed, others have not. And under the superficial veneer of Billions of people and interactions, nobody truly has a good hold of the magnitude and specifics of our situation. But this does not mean we cannot track the overall trend and direction we are heading. One does not have to know the precise angle of a vector to know that it is pointing downward.

Saturday, July 2, 2011

The debt ceiling problem even confounds Ron Paul

Ron Paul has recently come out with a "creative" way to skirt the overly hyped-up debt ceiling problem: annihilate the debt between the FED and Government. This would have the effect of reducing the Government debt by 1.6 trillion. But, by his own admission, since the Government doesn't have to pay the FED back, it really doesn't make a difference besides buying time before the Government reaches the debt ceiling.

While I admire Ron Paul - he is literally the only on in Washington with a good grasp of the economic predicament we're in - I am dubious about the efficacy of his plan, in part because I want the Government to reach its debt ceiling. Moreover, there is no substantive difference between his plan and a straightforward ceiling raise to 16 trillion.

Contra most politicians and the brain doping media that serves them, the is no serious threat of default if it reaches the ceiling; being unable to service any more debt is not tantamount to being unable to pay it back. It will simply require vast reductions in spending. Spending cuts that would never have been implemented without sufficient pressure to do so. When left to themselves, politicians will never do the necessary thing until they have to. And while there are more *ideal* and *optimum* ways to dealing with it, this is the only plausible way grounded by the parameters of washington politics.

As will be no surprise, Republicans will succumb to raising the debt ceiling - with or without the spending cuts, not realizing that with the debt ceiling breached, there will be no need for democratic or anybody else's support for spending reductions. They will flow inexorably. Nothing is off the table now.

Why the reccession will turn into a depression

This graph has been making the rounds in the anti-establishment blogosphere ( courtesy of Karl Denninger). Its power lies in the fact that it completely inverts the entire economic paradigm the mainstream media has fed the American public for decades.

There has been no genuine economic growth for the past 30 years. None. All of it has been the result of increases in systemic debt. If our aggregate economic statistics weren't so perverted by a self-serving Keynesian worldview, it would be apparent that all the growth since 1980 has been illusory. In other words, if the GDP accounted for debt as a counter factor against growth, there would be no positive increases in GDP.

Bare in mind that this does not mean that we have not felt the benefits of a growing economy; we have, in a sense. In the tradition of the classical economists, I shall use a microeconomic example to elucidate an equivalent macroeconomic one. Take a household for instance. It has the ability to increase its standard of living by borrowing money, and maintaining it by borrowing even more. But once it is unable to do so - and unless you believe debt can be taken on indefinitely it must - not only will it must live without the borrowed money, it must undergo the opportunity cost of paying it back. Thanks to the modern miracle of credit creation and leveraged money, America has been doing this for 30 years now. (Note: I am refering to systemic debt, which includes but is by no means entirely Government debt). Because the media is so fixated on the Government debt, the public is pretty much ignorant of the crippling effect of the economy wide private-sector debt has as it hangs over the economy. Its a little over 50 trillion, around 350% of GDP. A mere contraction of 10% of this debt will shrink the economy by a third, and probably more given the multiplier effect.

This is why I am so confident that the reccession is not over; there is simply no way to avoid it. All recessions since 1980 have been the free-markets attempt to correct the malinvestment engendered by the Government and Central Bank. But the response has been inevitably to put off for another day. Keep spending, keep loaning, keep the the debt levels up. And it has worked, in the short term. But now is when our bad habits are catching up. We haven't seen anything yet.

Interesting times indeed.