End Times

In the supermarket yesterday I noticed a new tabloid by the checkout counter, called The Sun. Apparently it is the new incarnation of the late, lamented Weekly World News. According to the front page headline, a secret prophecy found at the Vatican says the world will end this month. Also, President-elect Obama has appointed the space alien to be ambassador to Mars. I’m sure we can look forward to new adventures of the Bat Boy in future editions. It was good to see that not everything worthwhile in Western Civilization is lost.

But this morning I see that Circuit City is closing completely. There is a big Circuit City about a mile from my home, and I’ve bought a lot of stuff there, including the computer I’m keyboarding on right now. I would have bought more stuff there, but I tended to avoid the place because it was always crowded. This particular store, at least, was very popular. I’m sure the crowds are lining up right now for the liquidation sale. I say stay home and wait for the stuff to be on ebay.

California is so broke that it is postponing payments for tax refunds, student aid, social services and mental health programs. Naturally, righties are screaming about government theft and blaming welfare recipients (lucky duckies!). There’s not a peep of concern from them about how the state came to be in such dire circumstances, nor the least thought about what might be done to set things right.

At the New York Times, David Brooks muses that just maybe the “classical economic models” do not work.

The classical models presumed a certain sort of orderly human makeup. Inside each person, reason rides the passions the way a rider sits atop a horse. Sometimes people do stupid things, but generally the rider makes deliberative decisions, and the market rewards rational behavior. …

..In this new body of thought, you get a very different picture of human nature. Reason is not like a rider atop a horse. Instead, each person’s mind contains a panoply of instincts, strategies, intuitions, emotions, memories and habits, which vie for supremacy. An irregular, idiosyncratic and largely unconscious process determines which of these internal players gets to control behavior at any instant. Context — which stimulus triggers which response — matters a lot.

The “reason rides the passions” notion always was a pile of hooey, and any honest reading of history and human behavior reveals it to be a pile of hooey. It is a fantasy created by a panoply of instincts, strategies, intuitions, emotions, memories and habits, not to mention greed.

Brooks goes on to inform us that people have biases and don’t think objectively. Wow. Who knew? But by the end of the column, Brooks manages to subjectively reassure himself that the Left’s economic models are just as deluded.

Reading Brooks’s column is sometimes like watching a child in sixth grade social studies. It’s kind of fun to see what he’s learning, but it’s all stuff you’ve known for many years.

Bat Boy is more fun, anyway.

24 thoughts on “End Times

  1. Hmm, regarding that peep of a concern, well, no, not really. We feel bad for the people got hosed by runaway governmental idiocy, mostly by elected Democrats, in California. What kind of policies lead to me paying $95k for a townhome, and the same size one being $750k in LA? And my property is bigger and nicer, and backs up to a river?

    Y’all created the problem, and can’t fix it.

    As far as Circuit City goes, I use to love the place. I bought several computers there, as well as many other products. Prefered it over Besty Buy, and the service was always better. But, they have really gone downhill. We have two in Raleigh, one out in Cary, and they have looked like they were going out of business years ago. Stores are dark, aisles are very wide which gives the appearence of limited merchandise. I went in to see what they had in Blu Ray (just bought a player, and all three of the stores barely had anything.)

    I feel very bad for the 30K+ folks who are going to be out of a job because Circuit City’s business plan sucked. And I’d rather not deal with Best Buy. They tend to be rude and unhelpfull, at least around here.

  2. Ooo, lookie, people, Teach is back! What fun!

    Re peeps of concern — I should have said peeps of unselfish concern. There was concern, but it always circled back to themselves, and you are no exception.

    What kind of policies lead to me paying $95k for a townhome, and the same size one being $750k in LA? And my property is bigger and nicer, and backs up to a river?

    Sounds like the free market at work to me. Demand/supply, that sort of thing. Lots of people are willing to pay more to live in cities than out in the boonies. Your 95K wouldn’t buy a rathole in Manhattan, but a lot of people would rather live in a rathole in Manhattan than join the “bridge and tunnel” crowd. I’ve seen this with my own tired eyes.

  3. I see the cartoon character Mr. Teach is back, muttering to himself again. Damned Demmycrats!

    Brooks goes on to inform us that people have biases and don’t think objectively.

    Yesterday Brooks and E.J. Dionne were on NPR, talking about the separate meetings Obama had with conservative and liberal pundits. Brooks said that Obama explained his economic relief package, “but when he spoke to the liberals, I’m sure he used much shorter words.”

    Ah ha ha. Funny. Obama is to be commended for all his attempts to reach out to those who disagree with him. But where the problem is arrogance, I’m afraid he’s wasting his time.

  4. Oh, I get it: it’s all MY fault! Never mind that president Bush wanted us all to buy houses and let predatory loans take advantage of first time buyers who had limited information and no understanding that the loan wasn’t from a reputable company. Never mind that advertisers promoted a culture of buy, buy, buy, we’ll even give you credit so you can buy more than you can afford. Never mind that every store pushes their credit card for even small purchases and offers you first-time discounts that won’t even cover the cost of the APR you’ll be charged for using their credit card. Never mind that every college campus in the US offers free T-shirts if a college kid will sign up for a 30% APR credit card when it’s documented that most college students don’t understand the basics of credit use, don’t have any money and have poor spending strategies. They can market to customers they know will abuse the system because they know they can sue to bankrupt the person, but it’s all my fault.

    At least some of that bailout should go directly to consumers, since banks and credit agencies share the blame for what’s happened.

  5. What kind of policies lead to me paying $95k for a townhome, and the same size one being $750k in LA? And my property is bigger and nicer, and backs up to a river?

    Righties continue to provide evidence that they have No Understanding Whatsoever of basic economics.

  6. Yet it’s always liberals who are chided for beeing foolish and naive, especially regarding economics, while conservatives posture as grown-up realists.

    This little crisis in conservative identity won’t last. We’ll start hearing about how true capitalism hasn’t failed because true capitalism hasn’t ever really been tried etc. etc. (The flipside of the argument an old history professor of mine used to make about how communism in the eastern bloc hadn’t really failed because those countries didn’t actually practice true communism, etc. etc.

  7. I’d agree with you about watching Brooksie learn, except that he never seems to retain it. Watch, in a few days he’ll be back with a column based on an economic theory requiring perfectly rational actors. (It is, however, kind of amusing that the idea that people are often ruled by their passions, not reason, is “new” to Brooks. Not only has it been the basis for centuries of art, literature and history, the economics research has been accumulating for quite a while also.)

    At the supermarket, the Sun was a long-time competitor with the late WWN, though I believe more recently they were under the same ownership. I’m glad to know they are moving to fill the vacuum, and look forward to the return of Bat Boy. The Sun‘s historical focus on Nostradamus and/or Biblical prophecy never really did much for me. Still, it’s probably a more reliable news source than the British Murdoch tabloid of the same name.

    I’m still waiting for some reporter to get Grover Norquist to comment on California’s situation. Now that it’s “drowning in the bathtub”, I’d expect he’d be feeling pretty proud of himself.

  8. Dave S – rightie’s understanding of basic economics is government is bad, the private sector is good. When Bush and his rethugs took over many painful years ago, it soon became obvious that they subscribed to the mantra of the right. Joe Biden was questioned at the time about the turn of events and his answer was that the right is committed to getting the federal government out of everything and the best way to accomplish it was to starve it to death.

    And here we are. Eight years of the ‘private sector’ running the country and the country is in a state of collapse. That worked well. So what does the right think now? The right doesn’t think.

  9. Enron.

    Does greed, deception and a clever con scheme mean misery in the end?

    If I could move my goats and farm to Tuscany ot Provence I’d say it would be worth the odd million extra euros. Hell, Langue d’oc Rousillon would would be fine too at quite a bit less.

    I seem to recall some about “location , location and location.”

    By the way, it’s kidding time and we had six new kids today. A few have absolute maximum cuteness. I know that’s off topic, but, I’ve just settled them in for their first night, which can be dicey.

  10. I’ll definitely be looking for The Sun at my local supermarket. One really cool office I worked in had a subscription to The Weeky World News, and I miss it, or at least what it used to be, before Batboy. They went downhill when they made the editorial decision to shift their focus away from space aliens, Elvis sitings, and Ripley’s Believe It or Not items, to children’s stuff, like talking horses, chimpanzees, and Batboy. One of my favorite stories (of many) was “B-52 Found on the Moon”, complete with a photograph of an airplane sitting in a lunar crater. Batboy was more interesting than this?

    California, because of the postponement of payments, is itself going to get real interesting real soon. The legislature has been controlled by Democrats for a long time (forever?). We also have this much-abused referendum and initiative feature which lets the people make laws and dictate how tax money is spent. We also have this wonderful law that requires a 2/3 majority to approve any tax increase. And so, while the Dems have a majority in the legislature, they don’t have a 2/3 majority, and this allows a few hold out Republicans to hold the entire state hostage. I’ve read that the Dems have repeatedly compromised, but the Republicans simply will not budge on taxes. Couple this with Prop 13, which limits property taxes – and even Warren Buffet, who owns a house in Laguna, said CA’s property taxes are too low – and you have a state government that is becoming a train wreck.

    I was at a family dinner over New Years, and made the statement that this crisis – which is the worst in anybody’s memory – will make or break Arnold. My GOP cousin sitting next to me, glared at me, her anger flaring, and tried to shut me up. I didn’t have the guts to throw her suzie sorority support of George W. Bush back in her face (maybe next time, if I really want to wreck family relations), but California is this wonderful blue state that’s in deep sh*t and the Republicans are not pleased.

  11. I suppose Keynes and Veblen aren’t part of “classical economics.” Sure, they’re not lineal descendents of Ricardo, but the idea that there wasn’t economic theory to describe what would happen is absurd. What Brooks means is that the Chicago school didn’t take into account human nature.

    Because ‘nobody could have seen this coming…’ [/snark]

  12. Mike — you really must read Brooks’s column to fully appreciate it. He discusses Keynes in the last four paragraphs and dismisses Keynes as being just as deluded as the “classical economists.”

  13. Teach is fascinated with you, Barbara, and cannot stay away. Simply cannot help himself. Sigh.

    And that is without ever even seeing a photo of Barbara! 🙂

    Seriously, this is one of my favorite Liberal blogs.

  14. felicity @ #11 says, “…rightie’s understanding of basic economics is government is bad, the private sector is good.” To that I would add, “and when the private sector screws up, then it must have been the fault of the liberal government” (ref. Teach’s original comment @ #2). And since they are against big government, this negates all rightie responsibility for their policies having created the problem in the first place, so they can go on blaming liberals even when they use those evil liberal policies (e.g., massive transfer of taxpayer funds to corporations) to “solve” the problem they created by hating government in the first place. Makes perfect sense … in most asylums. As economic theory, not so much.

  15. And that is without ever even seeing a photo of Barbara!

    Well, here you go! This is not recent, however. I’d guess 1954.

    Little Maha

  16. I think Beaver Cleaver, not to mention Charley Brown, would have had a crush on you, maha.

    Conservatives (and regrettably even a lot of liberals) persist in the absolutely irrational belief that a human construct, like an economic system, can be flawless. Admitting same would save us a lot of heartache, and prevent a lot of headaches.

  17. Swami — what do you mean, “were”? >:-(

    I don’t know what you’d call the hair. My poor mother was determined to make my hair curl, which is a challenge. My hair has no curl at all. So she’d give me home permanents and stick bobby pins all over my head to make curls.

  18. That’s an accurate take on Brooks who must have developed these lame theories during time spent on the sidelines while the other children were playing games. He seems to be token in most every sense of the word as he appears on shows like MTP.

    How ompeccably convenient of him to renege on one of the most fundamental conservative tenets of the last 8 years (and even back to Reagan once one considers that this fantasy is the premise for deregulation) while praising Obama for not looking back and indulging in the political food fights of the past.

    Ha! Of course those who dunnit and their enablers do not want to indulge into specific causes. They’d much prefer to sweep all that under the carpet.

    The problem is that if we cannot point to the causes and readily recognize them once they are arise again in some future conservative reincarnation what will we have learned? And how will we even recognize what is happening?

    So we can now expect a quick change from wrecking crew to protectors during a brief window and period of lucidity during which the voting public actually sees conservatives in Congress as what they are — tractionless hucksters with no steam, only capable of sniping at the most basic effort to get us through the crisis.

    The co-opting of the religious right cannot even help them now. McCains attempts to do so were seen for what they were — shameless pandering.

    This will be fun, for a while…until we once again forget how we got into the mess we’re in. Maybe a lot of good can be done during the interlude.

  19. Circuit City deserved to die. Perhaps it was once a good store, but that was back before they fired all their experienced staff:

    “….electronics retailer Circuit City announced March 28 (2007) that 3,400 in-store employees, 9 percent of the company’s workforce, would be fired. The company is specifically targeting experienced workers because after years on the job they had accumulated relatively higher wages.”

    Meanwhile, and were we surprised:

    “While claiming they cannot afford to pay more than $22,000 a year—barely above the official poverty rate for a family of four—Circuit City executives are continuing to rake in the cash. According to Forbes.com, president and chief executive Philip Schoonover received $4,514,975 in compensation and an additional $5,459,409 in stock options in 2006. Executive vice-president George Clark drew $1,949,733 in compensation and $4,083,013 in stock options last year.”

    $22,000!!! That’s Walmart territory. The new American business role model.

    “These workers now have the option of reapplying after a severance period at what the company’s executives call ‘current market range’ wages. And while the new wage range has not been announced, Babb tellingly announced that hiring was to start immediately, and applicants need have no sales experience.”

    And what became of these workers? Based on my experience at Circuit City, they must have all left, because those that remain seem unable to answer the simplest technical questions about their merchandise.

    The US Air crash shows that experience and skill DO matter. Perhaps that is why CC is going down the tubes.

    (Quotes from article here: http://www.wsws.org/articles/2007/mar2007/circ-m30.shtml )

Comments are closed.