Monday, January 16, 2012

Politics: The Individual Or The Herd


In this year of elections, we take for granted that there are certain inalienable rights.  Our Constitution guarantees them.  A simple question: what guarantees the Constitution?  To answer that question, you must examine the dynamics of the herd:

FRIDAY, OCTOBER 15, 2004Relationships: Rules of the Road
Humans are "herd" animals. Humans that live in isolation are less likely to survive. Herds survive by spreading the risk and sharing the resources. There are implicit "rules" of the herd. Rules allow the weak and strong to co-exist while acknowledging the strong through larger shares of the resources and protecting the weak by receiving a measure of protection from the strong. So, killing another member of the herd is prohibited except under extreme circumstances. Allowing the strong to kill the weak at will would destroy the herd. Sharing resources, albeit unequally, satisfies the strong and accommodates the weak.   
Politics is always about herd dynamics regardless of those who want to talk about individual rights or unions.  Look at the world and you will see that nations are amalgamations of many tribes who struggle to co-exist with different versions of tribal mechanisms designed to provide a framework for individuals to co-exist.  While that is difficult at best, international politics is a balancing act in which these amalgamations seek to maintain or expand their power while other amalgamations attempt the same thing.

As individuals, we presume certain "truths" about the way our amalgamation of tribes should function.  "We hold these truths to be self-evident...."  "Long live the King...."  "لا إله إلا الله محمد رسول الله...."

When we are faced with truths that conflict with our own, we resolve it with compromise or conflict... depending on how strongly we adhere to our truths and how strongly we are pressed by those opposing our positions.

Sometimes it is necessary to "rally the troops."  Iran has its "great Satan."  The U.S. had its "Evil Empire."  Conflict is threatened in the hope that the opposing faction blinks first.  Sometimes, no one blinks.

As individuals, we have a strong incentive to support our tribe... or who we believe represents the interests of our tribe... as long as we believe our personal interests are represented as well.  Sometimes we will support those who represent some interests contrary to ours as long as they also represent our interests.  So, we oppose a war, but we support the leader who promises to take care of our wants and needs despite leading us into war.  Sometimes it is "the devil we know" versus the devil we don't know.  We all know that leaders lie to or mislead us; we just hope their lies and deceptions are not too damaging.

FRIDAY, JANUARY 06, 2012Damn Politicians Lie To Us
Within our cultural and political framework, we have variations of interests and perceptions of truth.  We seek individuals to represent us who we believe best reflect our personal interests within the amalgamation.  Do we want protection and sustenance from the tribe more than individual freedom from the demands of the tribe [socialists] ... or vice versa [libertarians]?  

Very few demand complete separation from the tribe... and even most of those simply want separation from the demands of the tribe, not separation from the benefits the framework provides; i.e., laws that guarantee rights.
Most of us accept the ground rules for our culture and framework.  When we have those who represent us attempting to change the ground rules... or those who selectively play by the rules... we tend to get upset and seek their removal... especially if we believe we are being disadvantaged by those changes.

The point of all of this is that for those who want an objective truth as the basis for their politics, they are faced with the basic dynamic that drives all politics: what's in it for me?  It seems we are often left with the feeling that our choice boils down to our perception of what is the lesser of two evils.

So, again, what guarantees our Constitution?  Nothing more than people... and leaders... who are willing to play by its rules.  If the framework is allowed to be fluid and transitory, there is very little in it for individuals.  The tribe disintegrates.

2012 IS HERE


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There is always an easy solution to every human problem—neat, plausible, and wrong.
Henry Louis Mencken (1880–1956)
“The Divine Afflatus,” A Mencken Chrestomathy, chapter 25, p. 443 (1949)
... and one could add "not all human problems really are."
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- O. Henry
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Tracking Interest Rates

Tracking Interest Rates


SEARCH BLOG: FEDERAL RESERVE for full versions... or use the Blog Archive pulldown menu.

February 3, 2006
Go back to 1999-2000 and see what the Fed did. They are following the same pattern for 2005-06. If it ain't broke, the Fed will fix it... and good!
August 29, 2006 The Federal Reserve always acts on old information... and is the only cause of U.S. recessions.
December 5, 2006 Last spring I wrote about what I saw to be a sharp downturn in the economy in the "rustbelt" states, particularly Michigan.
March 28, 2007
The Federal Reserve sees no need to cut interest rates in the light of adverse recent economic data, Ben Bernanke said on Wednesday.
The Fed chairman said ”to date, the incoming data have supported the view that the current stance of policy is likely to foster sustainable economic growth and a gradual ebbing in core inflation”.

July 21, 2007 My guess is that if there is an interest rate change, a cut is more likely than an increase. The key variables to be watching at this point are real estate prices and the inventory of unsold homes.
August 11, 2007 I suspect that within 6 months the Federal Reserve will be forced to lower interest rates before housing becomes a black hole.
September 11, 2007 It only means that the overall process has flaws guaranteeing it will be slow in responding to changes in the economy... and tend to over-react as a result.
September 18, 2007 I think a 4% rate is really what is needed to turn the economy back on the right course. The rate may not get there, but more cuts will be needed with employment rates down and foreclosure rates up.
October 25, 2007 How long will it be before I will be able to write: "The Federal Reserve lowered its lending rate to 4% in response to the collapse of the U.S. housing market and massive numbers of foreclosures that threaten the banking and mortgage sectors."
"Should the elevated turbulence persist, it would increase the possibility of further tightening in financial conditions for households and businesses," he said.

"Uncertainties about the economic outlook are unusually high right now," he said. "These uncertainties require flexible and pragmatic policymaking -- nimble is the adjective I used a few weeks ago."

December 11, 2007 Somehow the Fed misses the obvious.
[Image from:]
December 13, 2007 [from The Christian Science Monitor]
"The odds of a recession are now above 50 percent," says Mark Zandi, chief economist at Moody's "We are right on the edge of a recession in part because of the Fed's reluctance to reduce interest rates more aggressively." [see my comments of September 11]
January 7, 2008 The real problem now is that consumers can't rescue the economy and manufacturing, which is already weakening, will continue to weaken. We've gutted the forces that could avoid a downturn. The question is not whether there will be a recession, but can it be dampened sufficiently so that it is very short.
January 11, 2008 This is death by a thousand cuts.
January 13, 2008 [N.Y. Times]
“The question is not whether we will have a recession, but how deep and prolonged it will be,” said David Rosenberg, the chief North American economist at Merrill Lynch. “Even if the Fed’s moves are going to work, it will not show up until the later part of 2008 or 2009.
January 17, 2008 A few days ago, Anna Schwartz, nonagenarian economist, implicated the Federal Reserve as the cause of the present lending crisis [from the Telegraph - UK]:
The high priestess of US monetarism - a revered figure at the Fed - says the central bank is itself the chief cause of the credit bubble, and now seems stunned as the consequences of its own actions engulf the financial system. "The new group at the Fed is not equal to the problem that faces it," she says, daring to utter a thought that fellow critics mostly utter sotto voce.
January 22, 2008 The cut has become infected and a limb is in danger. Ben Bernanke is panicking and the Fed has its emergency triage team cutting rates... this time by 3/4%. ...

What should the Federal Reserve do now? Step back... and don't be so anxious to raise rates at the first sign of economic improvement.
Individuals and businesses need stability in their financial cost structures so that they can plan effectively and keep their ships afloat. Wildly fluctuating rates... regardless of what the absolute levels are... create problems. Either too much spending or too much fear. It's just not that difficult to comprehend. Why has it been so difficult for the Fed?

About Me

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Michigan, United States
Air Force (SAC) captain 1968-72. Retired after 35 years of business and logistical planning, including running a small business. Two sons with advanced degrees; one with a business and pre-law degree. Beautiful wife who has put up with me for 4 decades. Education: B.A. (Sociology major; minors in philosopy, English literature, and German) M.S. Operations Management (like a mixture of an MBA with logistical planning)