August 13th, 2011

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Capitalism Can Destroy Itself

A friend posted an excerpt from an interview of economist Nouriel Roubini by the Wall Street Journal, explaining some fundamental reasons underlying the current economic crisis.  I searched online and found more about the interview.  Roubini observed certain similarities between the situation now and the predictions of Karl Marx long ago.  Alas, this will almost certainly cause everyone to ignore the man's advice  in favor of ranting about him being commie pinko evil scum.  Nevermind that what Marx and Roubini said is perfectly obvious, which boils down to the fact that if corporations have too much of the money and average consumers have too little, the economy will stall, as it has; and that too wide a gap between the haves and the have-nots will at some point cause the have-nots to rise up and smash the system, for which there are numerous historic examples.  (Capitalism isn't the only approach that can cause those problems, it just has a fairly direct route to them.)  It was also perfectly obvious that then-fashionable forms of communism and socialism were going to stall due to a lack of private motivation, which they did.

People would far rather argue over politics than solve problems.  They like buzzwords better than facts.  They favor short-term thinking over long-term thinking.  (Some communist countries have worked in terms of five-year plans, with varying degrees of success.  That was about as far as they could get.  Most others do worse.)  They pursue personal gain at the cost of others, even if the pervasive impact winds up personally detrimental.  They persist in believing that they can steal the cheese without triggering the trap.  Hence the annals of history scattered with the wreckage of crashed civilizations.

Every economic or governmental system humans can devise has been flawed, because they all have humans in them, and humans can turn pesky.  But if people would frigging well stop arguing and examine the results, it would be possible to identify which techniques work better and which fail horribly, then assemble the best pieces to counterbalance the worst.  Keep doing that and it will eventually produce a system that works pretty well most of the time.  We've had some progress; democracy was a good idea because it spread out the power over a wider area, such that more people had to be stupid simultaneously rather than just one or a few.  Actually some of the failures we're seeing now are because the power has once again been concentrated in too few hands while a majority of America is prudently screaming, "We need JOBS, you rich imbeciles!"

If you want to know what's going on, ignore the arguing and look for facts.  What is predicted, and what actually happens?  Claims of "trickle down" economy do not match the data, for instance, because financial records show that America's wealth has overwhelmingly been sucked upwards in recent decades.  Look at some of the major economic models and see how their descriptions match or do not match observed performance.  Knowing the source of the problems privately won't solve them, but can inform better decisions as to surviving other people's mistakes.

Some of the online discussions about the interview:
Roubini: Marx was right. Capitalism may be destroying itself.
Marx was right; capitalism can destroy itself: Roubini
Is Nouriel Roubini Saying Capitalism Is Destroying Itself?
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Lolly, Lolly, Lolly...

... the adverb argument appears again.  This quote popped up in my Facebook feed:

"The road to hell is paved with adverbs." —Stephen King

And I said:

I expect writers to be able to handle all eight parts of speech competently. If they cannot, I won't buy from them as an editor or a reader. I'm not going to trim off the adverbs before handing them the English language, nor will I cut the crusts off their sandwiches.
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Three stories from my prompts

There are three stories based on my prompts over in kajones_writing:
"Donor House: The Beginning of the House"
"Afterlife: Friends with Death"
"Magi: Energy Healing"

I like all of them, approximately in that order.  I really like these settings, too.  Each of them takes a fairly familiar idea and turns it on a different perspective.

The author has a bunch of other settings as well.  I recommend that you visit and browse around.  There are more stories from other people's prompts.  The main prompt page has a donation button, although a key goal for August was to generate enough fiction to give people a good sample of these settings.  I would enjoy seeing more, so I hope this project does well.