Octavo Dia

Sunday, December 27, 2009

Book Reviews: A Patriot's History of the United States


Schweikart, Larry and Michael Allen. A Patriot's History of the United States: From Columbus' Discovery to the War on Terror.

When I was a young warthog, I had a series of school books by A Beka. I disliked them intensely, mainly because of their emphasis on rote memorization of random facts (I still wonder what earthly good the vocabulary word vexillology will do me).

A secondary reason for my displeasure was that they had the simplistic understanding that the difference between a secular textbook and a Christian textbook was the insertion of the word "God" at least twice in every paragraph. It did little to improve my understand, and much to annoy me.

Anyway, this book brought A Beka books to mind, only instead of Bible Thumping they inserted Flag Waving. Not better, just different.

From a historical perspective, they brought many new things to mind, but that's pretty well standard with any history book. Rare is the historian so uninteresting that they don't raise a single pertinent fact.

A Cubs fan would understand how I feel about this book. As a social, religious, and economic conservative, with libertarian tendencies, this book drew attention to every time my team got whupped. Which was all... the... time.... If it weren't for Pyrrhic victories, my team wouldn't have won at all.

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Thursday, December 24, 2009

Book Reviews: Evil Genes


Oakley, Barbara. Evil Genes: Why Rome Fell, Hitler Rose, Enron Failed, and My Sister Stole My Mother's Boyfriend. Amherst, NY; Prometheus Books, 2008.

Other than the eye-catching title--I plucked this book off the shelf when walking by it in the library--and being a quick read, I can't recommend this book.

Her research can be summed up in two statements:

(a) There are evil people in the world.
(b) Evil people don't think that they're evil.

Though I can't fault her research, the conclusions she derives are banal:

Q: What causes evil people?

A: A combination of genetics and environment.

(No, really?)

Q. How should we deal with evil people?

A. Be aware that they exist.

(I never would have thought of that.)

The one really interesting concept is that everyone is convinced that they are good people, and what they do is good. Machiavellian personalities simply have such a high concept of themselves that they never question whether they are doing the right thing. The acme of moral clarity is evil.

What it all boils down to is that the best defense is a good offense, as in: "He may be a S.O.B., but he's our S.O.B."

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Thursday, December 17, 2009

Me Disagreeing with Paul Krugman

Paul Krugman opines:

Here’s how the fallacy works: if some subset of the work force accepts lower wages, it can gain jobs. If workers in the widget industry take a pay cut, this will lead to lower prices of widgets relative to other things, so people will buy more widgets, hence more employment.

But if everyone takes a pay cut, that logic no longer applies. The only way a general cut in wages can increase employment is if it leads people to buy more across the board. And why should it do that?

Maybe if everyone in the world agreed to a pay cut that would make sense. In a globalized economy, American workers taking a pay cut would reduce the comparative advantage of foreign workers, making their imports less competitive, and American exports more competitive. Thus more employment.

So there.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Secularism

Secularism is dying.

It is losing the war of ideas against Creationism.

It is losing a literal war against militant Islam.

Christianity was the core, the foundation, of the Enlightenment. When the secularists usurped it, claiming that Christianity was just another superstition, they lost the critical mass and philosophical underpinnings needed to sustain it.

Just as Greek philosophy was maintained by Christianity, the Enlightenment will be maintained by Christianity, but just like Greek philosophy, those who base their thought on it will pass away.

Friday, December 04, 2009

How to create artificial inflation

What do you do if you've used all your monetary policy, but want to nip a deflationary spiral in the bud? You create some artificial inflation. I've read some very silly proposals about how to do this (by putting expiration dates on money, for example), but the solution needn't be silly. Here's how:

You make an announcement that, starting next month, there will be a 0.1% Federal sales tax on everything. The following month, the rate would increase to 0.2%, then 0.3%, and so on. It's providing the same rising price impact of inflation, but it helps the budget and doesn't lend itself to bubbles in a variety of things, as monetary policy is wont to do.

As a side bonus, a universal sales tax would provide effective devaluation, as imports would pay the tax but exports wouldn't, making you more competitive precisely when you were trying to avoid deflation and a rising currency.