The Cost Of Profit

Every businessman understands that every dollar of revenue that comes in has with it a cost required to earn it. If the business provides a service, then the biggest cost of sales is the labor required to provide the service. If the business sells a physical item, then the cost of making or acquiring the item is the big driver. There are indirect costs like rents and administrative expenses, but the starting place for any business is the cost of sales, as that is what ultimately determines profits.

There is another cost that is important, sometimes the most important, that does not show up in the financials. That is the cost of profit. This is an intangible cost. What unpleasant things do you have to do in order to make a profit? Maybe you have to be terrible to your employees or tolerate nasty customers. You can make a nice living running a pawn shop, but most people don’t think it is worth having to deal with the sorts of people, who avail themselves of the pawn shop.

As a society, this concept is easier to quantify, or at the minimum articulate, as a society has a shared morality. There is an agreed upon set of things that a society wants to minimize and a set of things it promotes. It may be better for the economy to rely upon slave labor in certain kinds of agriculture, but the moral cost of slavery is too high to contemplate such a policy. One reason manufacturing was shipped abroad is the cost of the pollution and the aesthetics was too high for our rulers.

The point is that certain types of economic activity may be lucrative for the people in that business or for the economy as a whole, but the intangible cost is too high. It is not just the moral cost either. There is the cost of risk. To allow certain types of lending, for example, puts the credit system at risk, so we forbid it. The cost of profit can also be the long term risk it poses the society, which generally means the cost that will be imposed on future generations when those risks become real costs.

A good example is the very lucrative basis trade popular with hedge funds, where they buy US Treasuries, while selling equivalent derivatives contracts. There is a small difference in price between the two, but when done in volume and with cheap credit, the profit to the hedge fund can be enormous. This is great for the private investors in the hedge funds, but it has huge risks for the economy. The recent bailout by the Federal Reserve is a good example of socializing the cost of profit.

This is just one example of economic activity that is profitable to the people doing it and good for those GDP numbers. It’s also high risk and therefore has an unacceptable cost for the profit gained. Throughout the financial system we see high risk strategies that can be highly profitable and serve some important purpose, like lowering the cost of borrowing, but bring with them unacceptable risks to the system. Socializing the cost profit through bailouts does not make it go away.

Another example of how the cost of profit works in the financial system is this story from Reuters about Capital One. This is the bank that peddles high interest rate credit cards to poor people and non-whites. They can specialize in high risk borrowers, because they charge mafia-esque interest rates. That covers the cost of collecting from deadbeats and the inevitable defaults. It turns out another one of their activities was gambling in the commodities markets, namely the energy markets.

Now, the obvious question is why is a credit card company that preys on dumb people playing at the high stakes tables in the commodities casino? Betting commodities is like playing at the baccarat tables in Monte Carlo. Actually, the odds are better in the casino, as the odds of winning are just 1.23% lower than the odds of winning a hand. The answer, of course, is the potential profit for the bank was huge, just as long as energy process never fell below a certain level, like they have recently.

As American states lost the will to directly tax their people, especially their rich people, they turned to indirect ways to fund government. One is the legalization of gambling, especially state-owned casinos. Since every state is in the gambling racket, a new type of casino has evolved. This is one with a grand shopping mall and Potemkin town center attached, so people can dine and socialize. The idea is to get everyone under one roof in order to encourage more consumption.

This model is the symbol of modern America. Our economy is a massive shopping mall, an international bazaar operated by traders from around the globe. Attached to it is a massive casino called the financial system in which the profits from the bazaar are wagered on increasingly high stakes bets. It has become so unstable that the landlord, the Federal Reserve and central government, has to keep stepping in to keep everyone afloat. It is a high tech, high stakes palace economy.

This is very profitable for the nation’s rich people, which get to enjoy luxury unimaginable just a couple generations ago. Even Louis XIV could not have rode out a pandemic aboard his floating castle. Meanwhile, the cost of such luxury will be his fellow citizens (does he consider them his fellow citizens?) lining up for miles to get food distributed by the local food bank. The price of such profit in terms of risk and inequality is simply too high to tolerate much longer.

In times of want, people are forced to think hard about their priorities. The same is true of a people facing a crisis. The Great Madness over the plague is going to send the economy into a depression. The West in general, but America in particular, is going to have to decide if the cost of profit, the cost of this high stakes casino economy, is truly worth it. Is this how we want to live?  For what shall it profit a man, if he shall gain the whole world, but lose his soul?

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The Great Madness

Has the world gone mad? It certainly seems that way to some of us. Even the most cynical never imagined the government shutting down the country for fear of a virus, but it has suddenly become the new normal. The cynical, if they thought of it at all, would have thought the opposite. Instead of a great lock down, the response would have been for the beautiful people to insulate themselves from harm, while abandoning the rest of us to the plague. Instead, we have all gone mad together.

Not everyone has got the fever, that is this panic fever, not the one caused by the Chinese coronavirus. Our world is now firmly divided into two camps. There are those fully invested in the great panic over the virus and there are those who look at the other camp, gobsmacked by what appears to be a general madness. Those in panic look at the rest of us the same way preppers look at normal people. They just assume the gods will strike us down for doubting the virus

Of course, the people in the skeptic camp could be the ones suffering from some form of madness that prevents them from seeing the threat. The trouble is, the great plague is not exactly lighting up the scoreboard. America has tested over 600,000 people suspected of having the virus. Over 500,000 tested negative. Of the positives, 12,000 needed hospital care. In a country of over 320 million people with 200,000 empty hospital beds at any one time, that’s not much of a crisis.

Yet, despite the numbers, formerly sober-minded people continue to carry on as if there are bodies in the streets. Steve Sailer, a man not known for excitability, is calling this virus a great adversary of the human race. Greg Cochran has completely lost his marbles over this thing. Geneticist and HBD enthusiast Razib Khan is in hiding, convinced the end times are upon us. In fact, the whole HBD community is a click away from fleeing to Antarctica to wait out the end of civilization.

Of course, part of the panic, a symptom of that particular virus, is a set of abracadabra phrases that have become so common they seem like something from a secret society, understood only by the initiates. The duller sorts chant about “exponential growth” while others talk about “the hospitals being overwhelmed.” That’s why we have to “flatten the curve” and “slow the spread.” These incantations are to chase away doubt and reinforce the belief that people are dying in the streets.

The dying in the streets bit is not much of an exaggeration. A popular bit of folklore now among the panicked is some version of the anonymous ER doctor or nurse relaying how they are overwhelmed and letting people die in the hallways. This urban legend turned up in China, Washington, Italy, New York and now New Orleans. Formerly sensible people now pass these whoppers around on-line, never bothering to think that maybe they are being fed a just-so story by people seeking attention.

One emerging aspect to the madness is the moral dimension. The HBD crowd seems to have been hardest hit. They spend a lot of time contemplating nature and their fellow man’s refusal to respect it. Part of what is driving them now is a sense that nature is going to finally exact some revenge. In other words, this panic is part of a strange revenge fantasy, where they are finally vindicated by biological reality. This sudden sense of moral purpose has made them immune to reason.

Another aspect to this general panic, unrelated to the virus itself, is a different type of revenge fantasy. Many people are cheering the collapse of the economy and civil life on the mistaken belief that what emerges from the rubble will have them at the top of the social hierarchy. This is a phenomenon shared across the political spectrum. It seems to be most popular with young people unhappy with the status quo and far too caught up in purge fantasies to be reached with facts and reason.

Probably the most salient aspect to this panic is the role of women. As has been noted too many times to count, the West is now a gynocracy. It is not a matriarchy, as women have stopped bearing children and stopped caring about children. Look around and you see childless women in positions of authority all over the West. In fact, these are women who reached their status by rejecting every aspect of womanhood. The West is now a world run by middle-aged childless women.

Anyone who has been around women in a crisis has observed a strange phenomenon among childless adult females. Some switch gets flipped in a crisis where their protective instincts get misdirected at the adults in the room. This part of their nature was never allowed to mature in the raising of children, so it comes bursting forth in an incoherent desire to help when their help is not needed. They become like mother ducks loudly herding the brood to safety.

For a society run by such women, every crisis is met with demands that everyone shelter in place. Notice how over the last few decades that public officials no longer call for volunteers or tell people to pitch in and work together. Such independent action violates the frightened female’s sense of duty to her brood. Instead, mild weather events now close the schools and force people to work from home. This virus scare is every middle-aged women’s Hunger Games moment.

Mass panics are a known phenomenon. The general panic that took place in France between July 22 and August 6 1789 is known as The Great Fear. It was a period of rural unrest, driven by both a grain shortage and rumors of an aristocrats’ “famine plot” to starve the peasants. The exact reason for this panic is in dispute. Ergotism is a favorite reason for those with a certain sense of humor, but most historians consider it one of the primary causes of the French Revolution.

At some point, the bloom comes off this lock-down rose once people start to feel the real cost of listening to madmen. People will remember that the same folks who swore Boris and Natasha had used their mind control devise to install Trump in the White House are the many of the same people peddling this panic. Necessity will force a lot of people to stop going along with what they have suspected from the start is nothing more than a mass panic. Soon, this all comes to an end.

Like the Great Fear, the Great Madness will leave a mark, or at least it should leave a mark on our society. You never can be sure about these things, as the West seems to be unusually immune to learning from these events. Two centuries ago The Great Fear meant the end of the feudal order and eventually a revolution. It was not the sole cause of the revolution, maybe not the main cause. It was certainly an example of how the old order was no longer able to maintain order.

It is too soon to know what this panic means for us. Perhaps it further undermines the legitimacy of the system and the people that profit from it. Perhaps it sets off social changes that slowly transform our society in ways we have yet to imagine. Maybe the fever breaks and this event, like the Russian hoax, gets forgotten. Given what most likely awaits on the other side of the lock-down, it is hard to imagine this great madness being forgotten. There’s always a price to be paid for following madmen.

For sites like this to exist, it requires people like you chipping in a few bucks a month to keep the lights on and the people fed. It turns out that you can’t live on clicks and compliments. Five bucks a month is not a lot to ask. If you don’t want to commit to a subscription, make a one time donation. Or, you can send money to: Z Media LLC P.O. Box 432 Cockeysville, MD 21030-0432. You can also use PayPal to send a few bucks, rather than have that latte at Starbucks. Thank you for your support!

The Magic Box

Anyone who works in the right answer fields, like engineering and computer science, has run across the magic box gag. This is where someone draws up a process, describing the various inputs and sub-processes. Somewhere toward the end of the diagram is a box into which all of this stuff flows. What comes out of the box is the desired result of the entire process. That box at the end, where all the good stuff happens, is labeled something like “magical happens here.”

It is a stale gag, but a persistent one as it is a very good way to simplify a project for the people who put the magic in the box. The people who will get the magic really don’t need to know what happens inside the box. That’s not their concern. That’s the job of the technical people to solve. In fact, the whole point of the exercise is to make sure everyone shares the same understanding of all the other stuff. The users of the process must trust that the technical people put the right magic in the box.

It does not always go that way through. Even the simplest processes have peculiarities that are not appreciated until you start monkeying around with them. The combination of inputs may create conflicts that require immensely complicated solutions inside the box in order to get the desired result. It’s why after the meeting ends, the technical people erase the board and spend a lot of time figuring out exactly what form of magic will have to go into that box. Magic is not as easy at looks.

This concept is one to keep in mind when evaluating the responses to the virus panic and soon the economic consequences of it. Loads of people on both sides of the great divide think something momentous has happened. They see the flood of changes that have been imposed and rightly assume that it will have a profound long term effect on the country and the West in general. They are probably right, but they disagree as to what will come out of the magic box that is this panic.

The most obvious starting place is with the people demanding we take this extreme measure to stop the virus.  As has been discussed at length here now, they fail to consider the consequences. Instead, their response is something like, “The economy is not important. That will fix itself.” In other words, something magical will happen and things will get back to normal. The magic box will not only fix all the damage done to civil life, it will restore everything back to where it was before the panic.

It’s possible that things bounce back to where they were to start the year. No one knows, because this has never been done. Maybe in a year this whole episode will be forgotten, like the Kavanaugh hearings or the Russia hoax. On the other hand, we could be facing a long depression. The blows to the system could be so profound they cannot magically heal themselves. Instead, things remain broken. In other words, maybe the magic in that box is bad magic, the very worst kind of magic.

That brings up another camp that is now deeply invested in the magic box. There are a lot of people on this side of the great divide that are cheering the lock down. They think it will forever discredit the things they don’t like. The consequences of globalism and the neoliberal order will flow into the hive brain of the public and what comes out the other side is a rejection of all of it. Magically, everyone will come to the conclusions many people on this side held before the panic and subsequent results.

It’s possible that some of those things Greg Johnson lists will come true. It’s also possible that none of them will happen.  People are remarkably resilient to reality, as we see with the panic. If your first response to the prospects of a pandemic are to fill your basement with toilet paper, you are unlikely to draw the best lessons from this panic and its results. The ruling class, the people who triggered this panic, are also unlikely to abandon all the things that allow them to be in power.

The point here is not to take issue with Greg or his post. Greg’s lessons are correct, but they were correct before the panic. He is assuming this sudden crisis will be the magic box that transforms everything. The last half century of history is flowing into this panic and the resulting turmoil. What will come out the other side is a great awakening, as the scales fall from the eyes of everyone wondering how they will pay their rent and feed their kids. The coronavirus panic is the magic box.

Similarly, there is a subset of this thinking that exists in fringe socialist circles, like the remnants of the old alt-right and the Bernie Sanders camp. They cheer the coming collapse, because they think the prophesies will finally come true. America will become Weimar Germany. One version of the game has Richard Spencer delivering his first speech to the new Ethno-Reichstag. The other side thinks they will finally be free to punch those Nazis that secretly control the world.

It is an interesting key value pair. Both camps think their political ideology is timeless and forever relevant. Both sides think history must repeat in the exact same way it happened 90 years ago in Europe. It’s like coordinates on a map. Because the coordinates never change, their place on the great map of human history never changes either. It’s a form of mysticism. In this case, they assume an economic collapse must magically result in conditions most favorable to them.

Again, that magic box may not contain what they imagine. The most likely result is the increased power of the tech oligarchs. They are now helping government track people, all in the name of safety, of course. A world in which drones are used to police citizens identified through their mobile phone as having stood next to the wrong person is not favorable to the revolution. You see, the people in charge have been planning for the arrival of you-know-who for a very long time as well.

In fairness, maybe the critics of the response to this virus are engaging in magic box thinking as well. To assume lots of bad things come out of the other end of the box is just as presumptuous as assuming only good things will emerge. Maybe the great reorder that will occur after this will be better for the Nazis and Bolsheviks camped out in the pumpkin patch. Maybe people will wake up to the reality of neoliberal order and demand changes. Maybe things get back to normal in a hurry.

The one true thing in all of this is no one knows what is inside the box that events appear to be leading us. The panic itself is unprecedented in the modern age, so we are left to guess about what follows. What’s happening with the global financial system is less novel, but the scale is unprecedented. No one can know if the economy will spin back up, as no one has tried to turn it off and then back on. We are in the world of unknown unknowns, the part of the diagram labeled “Magic.”

For sites like this to exist, it requires people like you chipping in a few bucks a month to keep the lights on and the people fed. It turns out that you can’t live on clicks and compliments. Five bucks a month is not a lot to ask. If you don’t want to commit to a subscription, make a one time donation. Or, you can send money to: Z Media LLC P.O. Box 432 Cockeysville, MD 21030-0432. You can also use PayPal to send a few bucks, rather than have that latte at Starbucks. Thank you for your support!

Springtime In The Pandemic

When I’m not on the road, Sunday is the day when I get my supplies and set things in order for the coming week. I like to get an early start as it means I don’t have to stand in line too long at the market. With the panic raging, lines are longer than normal, but I had some hope that people had exhausted themselves by now. Even so, I got an earlier than typical start. Apparently, I was not the only one thinking the same thing as the parking lot had many more cars than typical.

The shelves were mostly stocked, which was a relief, of sorts. I know more about the nation’s supply chain than most people, so I was not worried that we would run out of food, but it was still good to see it confirmed. Even the meat section was as full as normal and that’s the most fragile bit of the system. Items with a short shelf life tend to the least resistant to panic buying. Empty shelves are an exception in America, so seeing the stores full again will calm people’s nerves.

Having stocked up pretty well before the panic started, I just needed to top up a few things, but I took a look around the whole store just to see how people were handling things after a week playing pandemic. While picking up some skyr, I caught a bit of conversation between two women. I’d say both were in their 30’s, toward the older end, and they had the mom look. One of them was telling the other how great it was to have dinner together every night at the same time.

That will be one of the side effects of the great lock down. All of sudden, women are home and taking over their domain again. The kids are home, so they have reason to reassert their control over that part of their life. Many of these women will no doubt hate it and perform poorly, but most will be reminded that being home and running the household full-time was always their bets career option. Men will learn that having the wife home beats having a second income.

In line, I struck up a conversation with a women about this topic. The checkout has to be fumigated after each person goes through, so the lines are thirty people deep as we wait for our turn in the delousing station. The woman is in finance, so she can work from home. She has kids at home now, so she’s happy work has slowed up with the great shut down. Her kids get their school assignment over Skype, but she has taken over the normal instruction they would get in class.

She told me that she and the other moms are now talking about putting together their own community home schooling operation. I almost laughed out loud a few times as she explained how she and the other moms got a look at what their kids are being taught and how they can do much better. She was bit angry, for example, about the errors they found in the science books the school is using. There will be a lot of this type of stuff happening around the country because of the lock-down.

One of the unexpected consequences of this panic and the economic collapse that is now certain to follow, is people will discover the joys of want. We tend to think it is always terrible to do without, but there is an odd pleasure that comes from having to sacrifice and conserve. The mom I spoke with while waiting almost sounded giddy about the idea of simplifying the household diet in order to accommodate the shortages in the grocery stores. It will give her purpose again.

That will not just be about food. She said something about the lack of TV sports was a bit of downer, but I countered with the fact that everyone now gets to discover outside again and she lit up. No doubt she was thinking the same thing, but was happy for the confirmation. She and other moms are now taking over the fun time for their families, rather than delegating it to the entertainment business, sports leagues and the schools. Again, it will give these women purpose again.

On the other hand, we still live in a world of rule by exception. The right thing to do when someone says, “we need to normalize wearing masks in public like the Asians” is to punch them in the nose. That should have been the answer to people telling us their pronouns or their weird sexual fetishes. Instead, we committed ourselves to making one exception after another to accommodate a metastasizing number of weirdos, oddballs and trouble makers. The mask freaks will just be another.

That said, I doubt the mask thing lasts long. Americans are not going to live as if we hate everyone. Social trust has broken down, but it is not gone entirely. The reason Asians love masks is they have been practicing social distancing for 5,000 years, so the mask compliments a natural instinct. Conformity was their answer to the problem of social trust. To westerners, living such an existence will be a bridge too far, so the weirdos pushing it better enjoy their hazmat suits while they can.

Something I thought about as I was leaving is that suddenly the status hierarchy for women has changed. The mom I was chatting with was feeling really good about taking control of her household. Suddenly, the women taking care of their kids, taking over their schooling and being a stabilizing force are cool. Those career women sheltering in place with their box wine and social media account can no longer kid themselves about their real status in society.

There’s been a lot of wishful thinking about a baby boom coming from this lock-down, but what may follow is a marriage boom. Millions of single women now have no reason to exist, because they are stuck at home. They can’t cause drama at work and they can’t cruise the bars with their friends. Meanwhile, the women they made sport of at the office are having the time of her life at home with the family. There’s some chance this panic opens some pretty young eyes to the reality of their existence.

On the way out, I stopped at a light and noticed that the trees are all starting to turn green and the flowering trees are about to go into peak bloom. Persephone is making her way up from the underworld and all of creation celebrates.The cycle of life is immutable, which means that all things come to end, even plagues. It also means they are replaced by something new. A lot of bad things will come from the great lock-down, but on the other side will be some good things too.

For sites like this to exist, it requires people like you chipping in a few bucks a month to keep the lights on and the people fed. It turns out that you can’t live on clicks and compliments. Five bucks a month is not a lot to ask. If you don’t want to commit to a subscription, make a one time donation. Or, you can send money to: Z Media LLC P.O. Box 432 Cockeysville, MD 21030-0432. You can also use PayPal to send a few bucks, rather than have that latte at Starbucks. Thank you for your support!

Drama In The Time Of Corona

First, I want to thank my family for being with me through all of this. I could not get through this without them. This has been a trying time for all of us. I’m here today to announce that I have tested positive for the coronavirus. I’m coming forward in the hope that I will continue to inspire people suffering from this horrible burden to keep bravely fighting and dreaming. I also hope this will help break the stigma white men have attached to this condition and the sufferers of it…

That is a little taste of what will no doubt be a feature of our lives in the coming week, as famous people take turns staring in their own corona drama. It has already started a bit, with people like Tom Hanks and others announcing they have tested COV-positive, but the flood gates will surely open once we run out of hoarding stories. You can be sure that musical performers are plotting some sort of corona-aid performance, perhaps done on-line, to draw attention to themselves.

We live in an age in which everything is a performance. Not just any performance, of course, but a morality tale. The “famous person making the dramatic announcement to the public” version is pretty common. Twenty years ago, famous homosexuals would have dramatic coming out ceremonies. Some would make a drama of announcing they got the AIDS. The point of the performance is for the actor to get both sympathy and admiration for being a heroic victim, bravely fighting on.

Our politicians got in on the act in a serious way back during the Exploding Mohammad pandemic of the last decade. Whenever a random Mohamed would detonate in a public place, the politicians would organize a public piety festival. They would lock arms and march around symbolizing unity. Maybe there would be a candlelight vigil. The candle makers really boomed in the exploding Mohamed times. The media would show a few cute white girls crying and hugging at the event.

Ceremony and ritual, of course, are essential elements of every human society, even the most primitive ones. The point is to reinforce and refresh the shared reality we call our common culture. Ceremony reminds us of the rules that define us as a people and the ritual ties us to the history that made those rules. The point of them, often the explicit point, is to strengthen the rules that not only bind the people to one another, but legitimize the social order and the people at the top of it.

Those dramatic arm-locking displays by politicians after a Mohamed exploded were about making sure no one questioned the people in charge and the logic of importing these exploding Mohameds. Similarly, the celebrity announcing that they are the victim of something, real or imaginary, is about social signaling. The celebrity is free-riding on some trend in order to bolster their status as a famous person. They are a good person and deserve to be rich, famous and influential.

We are seeing a version of this as local officials compete with one another to see who can impose the most outlandish conditions on people. First someone banned public events, which led to everyone doing it. Then it was public gatherings, even private ones, then the forced closure of retail establishments. Now you have this loon banning gun and alcohol sales. Not to be outdone, San Francisco is banning people from leaving their homes. The city’s bum population is exempted, of course.

The people doing this put on their best concern face and bravely march to the nearest bank of cameras to perform their serious act. You see, they really don’t want to do this and they regret having to make such a big deal of it. It’s just that events have forced them to bravely impose a huge cost on others so they can get some public adulation and the dopamine rush that comes from it. You haters out there snickering are just running dog lackeys of the coronavirus!

Of course, the reason we have a panic right now is the politicians have been influenced by the expert drama queens. These are the people who play experts on cable chat shows and internet sites. They come up with impressive looking claims about how this will be an unprecedented plague, not seen in human history. Never mind that these people have been wrong about everything in the past. We don’t have time for that. The world is at risk unless we act now! The crowd cheers and the curtain closes.

If the lunatics in charge do manage to pull the roof down on civilization this time, it will be a fitting final act to our Dionysian age. Politics is always about morality, but in a democracy, it is a never-ending morality play. The various actors appeal to our emotions, rather than our reason or even our self-interest. The winner is the one who gets the loudest applause. That always comes from wringing as much emotion from the crowd as possible. The good pol always leaves them in tears.

Compounding it, we live in an age of plenty. Well, we used to. The post-scarcity age removes the obvious reasons for having a ruling class. That means the people in charge, especially the petty tyrants of local government, must always find reasons to remind the public that they are still needed. That means manufacturing crisis and drama. Every change in the weather is now anthropomorphized. Light rains storm Harvey now requires schools to close and people to shelter in place.

That’s what we are seeing with the corona show. Public officials and their suddenly famous science people are performing their role in a live action role playing game called pandemic. Instead of having a paintball retreat, the ruling class is forcing the rest of us to skip work and hoard toilet paper. They get to feel like heroes, while the rest of us wonder if we will be standing in bread lines next month. Rest assured though; our nations actors will be okay. They are brave and concerned.

Part of what makes this work is that some portion of the public is willing to play the role of concern troll, the usher that tells members of the audience to behave. When someone points out the idiocy of a curfew in San Francisco, a city with tens of thousands of bums crapping in the streets, there is someone in the crowd to lecture him about the seriousness of the situation. Over the next weeks, everyone will be hectored by these idiots on social media and in their daily lives.

In the end, something that has been obvious for a long time, but is now becoming quite clear, is that this process ends with a real crisis. The final act leads to a real threat to society and the real need for competent leaders. If they do manage to crash the system this time, public tolerance for girl politicians suddenly drops to zero. Everyone suddenly figures out what things really cost and the price of the public drama queen makes them a prohibitive leisure item in a time of want.

For sites like this to exist, it requires people like you chipping in a few bucks a month to keep the lights on and the people fed. It turns out that you can’t live on clicks and compliments. Five bucks a month is not a lot to ask. If you don’t want to commit to a subscription, make a one time donation. Or, you can send money to: Z Media LLC P.O. Box 432 Cockeysville, MD 21030-0432. You can also use PayPal to send a few bucks, rather than have that latte at Starbucks. Thank you for your support!

The Time Of The Golden Agers

Major social events are often a lot like moving furniture around the house. Moving the bookcase from one side of the room to the other is a mundane task. What you find behind it, however, can be quite interesting. Sometimes you find something you searched high and low for at some point. Other times you find something that you never knew was missing. Maybe just moving things around a bit gives you a new perspective on your living space that leads to other changes in your environment.

That’s how big social events feel sometimes. The event itself is not as important as what it reveals. Maybe you find out your neighbor is a bit of kook, who quietly has been stocking the basement with dried food and ammunition. Maybe we learn that the local government is more useless than anyone imagined possible. The Chinese pandemic is one of those events that will be more important for what it reveals than for the impact of the virus itself, unless you die from it, of course.

For example, we are getting a glimpse of what the great Baby Boomer retirement is going to look like in the coming decade. If we execute all of the people, who like debating the precise dates of generational divisions, we can agree that the cohort in question is roughly those who came of age in the late 1960’s and the late 1970’s. Two waves of the post-war baby boom. Right now, the number of elderly people grows by an average of 2.8 percent annually. It will peak at about 80 million.

For as long as anyone reading this has been alive, Baby Boomers have driven American politics. In the 80’s, they wanted to make money, so we financialized the economy and gave everyone a 401K. In the 1990’s, better schools were all the rage then better access to college. Health care became an issue, first because Boomer parents were getting old then when the Boomers themselves got old. Cheap health insurance was the most important political issue until now.

Notice that Bernie Sanders promising free health care got no senior support. The reason is seniors have Medicare. Blacks have Medicaid. The only people who care about health insurance premiums are younger white people and no one cares about them anymore. In fact, Bernie’s Medicare for all probably scared the crap out of older people, who rightly assumed it would mean longer lines for them. Worse yet, it could mean taxing their retirement to pay for it.

This brings us back to the Chinese Flu. Otherwise sensible people like Greg Cochran and Steve Sailer are clanging the bell, trying to get people to declare a war on the Covid19 virus. What they are suggesting, short of some miracle cure or a vaccine, would require rearranging American society. It would need rounds of universal testing, mass quarantines and testing of every human crossing the border. North America would have to become something like North Korea, in terms of travel restrictions.

Keep in mind that polio is still around, despite generations of eradication efforts. We have vaccines for a lot of nasty viruses. For the most part, these have been eradicated in the West, but they still exist in the world. If stop vaccinating people, those viruses will reemerge in the West, which is why we remain vigilant. We have no vaccine for the Chinese Flu and no one is sure we can get one. In other words, eradicating this virus, without vaccine, will require a massive reorganization of society.

What we’re seeing is the first glimpse of what democracy looks like when 20% of the population is elderly. Baby Boomers have always voted for stuff they want and soon, they will want to be insulated from the dangers of old age. If it requires us to turn America into a hermit kingdom in order to prevent a Boomer Pox from getting loose, then that’s the price the younger generation must pay. The salient political issue of this decade will be how best to guard the old coots from the Grim Reaper.

Now, this is the part where angry oldsters stop reading and post a comment about how not all Boomers are like that. This is true. In fact, it is plausible that no Boomers are willing to crater society to get a few extra days. This is a variation on the Simpson’s paradox. That is, this trend is uncommon in small groups or individuals, but appears when looking at the cohort as a whole. This turned up with education, abortion and health care. The data says Boomers collectively vote their interest.

Now, there is another angle to this. The sorts of collective action proposed by people like Steve Sailer and Greg Cochran can only happen in a cohesive, high-trust country with lots of social capital. The sorts of communities where people like Cochran and Sailer grew up had those qualities. Modern America, in contrast, is a multicultural amalgamation of low-trust clusters. The store of social capital has been burned up a long time ago in order to have cheap stuff.

This raises the question as to whether this cohort will suddenly have a come to Jesus moment over demographics. Most of those Trump voters in comfort fit slacks, carrying over-sized constitutions to the rally, think we can get back to the way things were when they were kids. If you dispute this, look at the comment section of Breitbart or Conservative Treehouse. For those people, it is always 1985.

What happens when they find out that ain’t happening? Will it make any difference if the oldsters finally see their interest are threatened by the great brown wave that is washing over America? We’ll soon find out. This panic, and that what we are seeing, will change things far more than the virus. We’re about to learn just how much social capital is left and the answer is probably not going to be encouraging.

The fact is, all the snarky comments about the Boomers and the irreverent mocking of the Zoomers is not changing the reality on the ground. America has operated like a young country for a long time. It still does in many ways. It is an old country now, a country run by old people just coming to terms with their mortality. The psychological revolution in American culture that is upon us will make the past decade seem like golden age. Instead, it will be the prelude to the time of the Golden Agers.

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The Nitwits Of The ‘Narcissus’

It has long been known that certain types of jobs and professions attract certain personality types. The entertainment business attracts shallow people, who crave attention and adulation. Cops tend to be belligerent bullies. It does not mean all entertainers are shallow airheads or that all cops are jerks, just that these fields tend to attract those types. In fact, shallow airheads and belligerent bullies may have some advantages in these fields over average people.

Modern mass democracy seems to attract a certain personality type as well. The person we tend to see in politics and the associated media, large and small, is someone, who takes great pleasure in admiring himself. His vanity is not rooted in accomplishment or even proven skill, but rather in an idealized version of himself, which is often quite different from his actual self. The world of mass democracy, especially the media, is a world dominated by narcissistic nitwits.

Just look at some of the people that were in the Democratic primary field. Pete Buttigieg is a man of no accomplishments. In fact, given all the advantages he has had compared to most people, he has been a failure. Yet, he spent a year sashaying around the country, carrying on like he was doing the world a favor. Think about the level of self-regard it takes for a small-town mayor to think he can be President. You have to like yourself a whole lot to do what he did this last year.

The political media is where this is most obvious. David French is a great example of the narcissistic nitwit. The only reason to notice him at all is due his many idiotic things he has posted on-line over the last decade. Tucker Carlson called him a buffoon and “one of the least impressive people he has met.” Carlson is in showbiz now, which means he is around feckless airheads all day. That means he ranks French below the bubbly weather girls and the addle minded jocks he meets.

French is a pretty good example of what has come to dominate the world of non-profit conservatism over the last couple of decades. This is guy, who exaggerates his own trivial accomplishments and spends an enormous amount of time telling the world about his wonderfulness. He is a moral nullity that spends his time on line lecturing us about the moral failings of public figures. How is it possible for such a nothing person to have so much self-regard? It should be impossible.

Another good example of the narcissistic nitwit is Tom Nichols. That would be “Five Time Jeopardy Champion” Tom Nichols for you commoners. He is fond of telling everyone he meets that he is really good at remembering pointless trivia. He is also fond of being wrong about everything, but carrying on as if he is an expert on everything. He is, of course, always disappointed in the rest of us. So much so he writes long essays explaining why the world does not deserve Tom Nichols.

The thing is, guys like David French and Tom Nichols are not unusual. The political media is full of people posing in front of empty trophy cases, grinning like they are the champions of everything. Their careers are a mix of pointless credentials, timely obsequiousness and idiotic public pronouncements. Yet, they strut around as if they are doing the rest of us a favor by remaining on the planet. The gap between self-perception and reality is breath taking.

It is not just the mainstream either. Mass media, especially low-barrier to entry stuff like video streaming, has loaded minor politics with narcissists too. Look at the e-celebs that have become a staple of the dissident scene. Many are dumb girls, who flash their boobs on camera, but there are plenty of men that think they are Tom Nichols. Think about some of the fringe people, who have been born on third base, but ended up on first base, yet carry on as if they are world changing figures in history.

Again, it is not the self-regard. Lots of men are cocky, especially when young, thinking they are all that and a bag of chips. It’s a form of peacocking. Women, of course, naturally seek attention. The difference between normal vanity and what we see with these narcissistic nitwits is the massive gap between their self-perception and the reality of their resumes. They are so delusional that they may as well be imagining themselves to be entirely different people. Their life is a larp.

Now, the most likely explanation for this is mass media. Nowhere has mass media had a greater impact than politics. Turning it into a game of attention seeking, like the entertainment rackets, means it will attract the attention seekers. That’s certainly true, as politics at all levels has been turned into entertainment. Politics, especially fringe politics, is as much of a hobby as a real effort to change things. The general lack of seriousness means the un-serious can run wild.

That said, this seems to be a feature of modern democracy. Since the game is winning the crowd, at any cost, people willing to do anything, even humiliate themselves, to win the crowd become major figures. Two types of people are willing to humiliate themselves for the pleasure of others: those with no self-regard and those with infinite self-regard. The former has no pride and the latter has no shame. Shameless is the word that best describes people like David French.

There have been many technical explanations for why democracy is a system that eventually destroys itself. Those explanations are sound, but one reason seldom mentioned is that democracy selects for the worst people. You cannot run anything with feckless airheads and narcissistic nitwits. That’s democracy though. It elevates the vain and stupid into positions of authority. It elevates narcissism and boasting over prudence and caution. It makes the people reckless and stupid.

There is another aspect to this that helps explain the dominance of narcissistic nitwits in modern liberal democracy. Empathy and compassion are rooted in self-interest. When done so publicly, they become a form of status seeking. The narcissist is bets equipped to display what appears to be a heightened sensitivity to suffering of others. They are willing to rend their garments and sob in public on behalf of everyone. They put on a great show, that allows the public to vicariously empathize with the suffering of man.

Self-preservation is the natural limit on compassion. In a healthy society, this limit scales up to be the limit tolerable to maintain social order and continuity. Democracy not only unleashes the narcissistic nitwits; it crumbles the limits on compassion that these narcissists feed on like maggots. Democracy murders itself not just because of the low-quality people it attracts, but because it indulges in limitless compassion to the point where it can no longer defend itself.

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Never Forget

This month was the 40th anniversary of the United States Olympic hockey team beating the Soviets and winning the gold medal. The sports channels have done some segments on it, bringing back some of the young men, who are now old men, to talk about their experiences. Some of the players have shown up with Trump out on the campaign trail. The movie Miracle on Ice, a “fact-based” depiction of what happened with that team is getting replayed on the various services.

The win over the Soviets is one of the greatest upsets in sports history. That’s not an overstatement based in nostalgia or latent patriotism. The Russians were the best hockey team on the planet and it was not close. They had won everything for twenty years and had not lost to the Americans since 1960. They had done a barnstorming tour of the NHL the year before and beat several NHL teams handily. Any team beating them in that Olympics was going to need a miracle.

The Americans, in contrast, were college kids assembled for the tournament. Younger people cannot appreciate this, but at the time there was some national pride in the fact that America relied on amateurs in the Olympics. “The only reason the Russians do so well is they are using professionals” was a common refrain. It had the added benefit of being true. The Soviet bloc countries used full-time athletes, who did nothing other than train for their sport. They were professionals.

To put it in perspective, imagine a college team today beating a team of NHL all-stars or an amateur golfer winning a major tournament. Think of some implausible combination of events in your favorite sport and you have an approximation of the enormity of this upset of the Russians. The American team averaged twenty-two years old. They had played together for a couple of months. The average Russian player had been on the team ten years. It was literally men against boys.

Of course, the reason it still resonates with Americans old enough to remember the event is the cultural and political impact. Carter was still president and the country was in a deep spiritual depression. The nation’s leaders regularly talked about how the good times were over and it was all downhill for America. We were just going to have to get used to be losers. After the disastrous 1960’s and 1970’s, that really did not strike most people as wrong. America had killed itself.

More importantly, there was a sense, promulgated by the Left at the time, that the Soviets were on the winning side of history. Communism was on the advance, while capitalism was on the defense. The number of countries falling under the spell of communism was increasing. The Soviets had just invaded Afghanistan and the Iranians had made a mockery of American power. It is hard to believe it in hindsight, but serious people really did think it was over for America.

I was a boy in that time and I recall my grandfather telling me that I’d surely live long enough to see communism in America. He’d talk about the number of countries that had gone over to that side. He’d point out the nature of the American Left and how it was mostly focused on destroying the white middle-class. He would say, “Communism is a war on the middle, waged by those at the top using us at the bottom.” His opinion was not out of the ordinary for the time.

The Americans beating the Russians and then beating Finland to capture the gold was a transformative event. All of a sudden. everyone had a reason to be proud and more important, be proud in public. It was a great example of the cascading effect. Everyone suddenly realized that lots of other people harbored the same thoughts as they did about the state of things. Those chants of “U-S-A” still bring chills to anyone old enough to have watched that Olympics. It was amazing.

Young people today get mad at old people for hanging onto the old civic nationalism, thinking they are just deliberately obtuse. There is some of that, for sure, but the real magnetic power of civic nationalism is patriotism. The feeling people had in the days following that win over the Russians was the best thing most American had ever experienced as Americans. Everyone was talking about it. “Can you believe we beat the Russians” was said over and over in joyous disbelief.

Those old enough to remember that time and what it was like to feel genuine love of country, should be forgiven for not wanting to close the door on it. There are few things that rival the bliss that comes from genuine national pride. Not only wanting that feeling for yourself, but for your descendants is not unreasonable. Preferring to look back to when such a thing was plausible, rather to a future of angry caterwauling by ungrateful browns, is perfectly understandable.

Old people should not be so quick to condemn the young people for mocking Baby Boomers or criticizing civic nationalism. At the root of that mockery is a bitterness at knowing they can never experience what their ancestors experienced. There will be no miracle on ice for the young. The social capital that made such a thing possible was converted into money and traded away by global capitalism. They have a right to be bitter over what their ancestors bequeathed them.

For those of us young at the time, this anniversary is a reminder of the strange divide in our timelines. One side of the timeline is the before times, when being a patriotic America was exhilarating. Then there is the after times, the now times, when such feelings seem absurd. Looking back over that great divide to this particular event is a strange feeling, because it’s like remembering yourself as a foreigner, living in a strange and foreign land. Your past is now alien to you.

That is the duty of those who have made the journey over the great divide to dissident politics, but still remember when the other side had promise. The America that made possible the miracle on ice had promise. It could have been a great nation. Instead, the people in charge chose to leverage our patriotism, monetize our social capital, so a handful of alien money-changers could turn themselves into potentates. They can never be forgiven for what they have taken from us. Never forget.

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Meta-Movie Man

They say art holds a mirror up to society, which means something becomes art when it reveals the nature of society or just nature itself. The classical nude statues are art, rather than pornography, because they are idealized representations created to celebrate the human form. Literature becomes art when it portrays society in such a way that it reveals certain truths about the age. For example, The Great Gatsby is art, because it captures the age and the reality of materialism.

Whether or not movies can rise to the level of art is debatable, as the medium is superficial by design. Another aspect of art is it tempts the person experiencing it to think about things they may not be naturally inclined to consider. Motion pictures are a passive medium, encouraging the viewer to relax and let the images flashing past him do all the heavy lifting. Citizen Kane is considered the best film ever made, but it does not rival literature in terms of artistic impact.

That said, maybe movies should be judged on a narrower artistic standard, in that maybe the best they can do is reflect attitudes of the age. The science fiction shows on the later-50’s and early-60’s, for example, reveal the optimism of the age with regards to scientific progress. Fast forward a generation and science fiction films reveal the fear and disappointment in science. Today, science fiction is mostly multicultural personal drama in space, revealing the feminization of our age.

In other words, like pop music, a movie can be considered art if it comes to symbolize the times in which it was made. The 1970’s movie Saturday Night Fever can be called art, because it reflects the vulgarity of the time. The movie Terminator is a reflection of the anxiety over the Cold War and the nuclear arms race. These movies are not art because they achieve some high technical standard, but simply because they were popular, touching some nerve with the public at the time.

It is a low standard, for sure, but popular culture is a low-brow product made for profit, not artistic achievement. The performers and characters in the business of producing this content can call themselves artists, but in reality, they are just the modern version of carny-folk, tolerated by society for entertainment purposes. The elevation of the profane in the modern age, is itself a statement about the age and the people, who have taken over control of the culture. Our is the age of vulgarians.

Putting that aside, by this standard, Quentin Tarantino is probably one of the great artists of the modern age. His movies tend to reflect some aspect of the times, in an exaggerated and juvenile manner. He makes movies that his ten-year-old self wanted to see, so they tend to lack anything resembling complexity and instead feature exaggerated characters that even a child can grasp. They are morality tales for stupid people, who are not all that interested in lectures about morality.

His latest film, Once Upon a Time… in Hollywood, is a long boring buddy story about a fading television actor. It is set in late-1960’s Los Angeles and references every popular news event of the period. The point of the film is to tell the people, who came of age in that time, especially those who grew up in Los Angeles, that it was a great time to be a young American. It was also a great time to be famous, as you got to party and bang starlets, even if you were a minor television star.

Tarantino, of course, is a meta-movie maker. He tends to make movies about movies and the world around movies. All of his shows are celebratory versions of the B-movies he watched growing up as a kid. In some respects, he is the Gen-X movie maker, in that his stories never end well, but the bad endings don’t offer a larger critique of the times or offer a lesson about the characters. In other ways, they lampoon the long shadow of the Baby Boom culture the 60’s and 70’s.

You see that in his latest film. The people are living in an idyllic time, where they can have great lives with little actual work. That time in California was probably the best time and place to live in post-war America. Yet, the degeneracy of the people and the pointlessness of their existence eventually destroyed that society. Modern Los Angeles is homeless camps and third world peasants. A white person growing up in that squalor will come to hate their ancestors for having created it.

That’s the funny thing with Tarantino. He grew up watching cheesy B-movies and re-runs of 1960’s television shows. Much of that content was science fiction. Yet, he has yet to make a movie about the future or even a B-movie version of it. The space movies of his youth would make good fodder for his brand of film, but instead all of his stuff is set in the past. From an artistic perspective, he is a man backing through life, watching was passes into the fading mists of his age.

Again, whether movies can be considered art is debatable. Art should be lasting and movies just don’t hold up over time. Still, by a lower standard, one that simply relies on cultural relevance, Tarantino would be counted as an artist. His movies speak to a people living in steep cultural and demographic decline. His latest celebrates the memories of a generation who will literally be gone in a generation. Once Upon a Time… in Hollywood is an epitaph for a generation and a nation.

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Our Legacy Code

There is a bit of a paradox within all systems in that the point of the system is to regulate human activity, as well as the activity initiated by humans. At the same time, it is just at the point where they reach that goal where they become obsolete. When the humans can no longer change the system or work around it efficiently, the users of the system start to question the system. The end point of all systems is the point at which it reaches its logical conclusion.

The most obvious is business software systems. A company initially buys a software system because it has logic that will implement the business processes the company seeks to implement. Soon, they begin to tinker with it in an effort to wring out more utility from the system. Maybe that is small modifications to parts of the system logic or additional data items to existing data sets. They keep doing this and over time the system does just about everything the business needs.

At some point, they want to make an additional change, but see that the cost of making this change to the nearly finalized software system is higher than the benefit they will receive from the change. At first this is proof that their long work on the system was a success, but in time it is seen as a defect, a shortcoming. They begin to look for a new system that will allow them to begin the process a new, so they can modify it to slowly make it a perfect tool for the business.

This life-cycle of a software system is not unique to technology. It happens in other systems as well. It is not unreasonable to think of revolution as the replacement of a legacy system with a modern one. Politics in this sense is the software of society, purchased by the elite, implemented by the ruling class and administered by the bureaucracy of the state. It is why libertarianism is impossible, by the way. It requires a society to return to pencil and paper on purpose.

Sticking with the software analogy, another thing that is revealed by revolutions and even the successful reform efforts is something you see with software systems, which is the accumulation of cruft. Much of the “improvement” gained by changing systems comes from abandoning old logic and requirements that never made any sense, but took too much time and money to remove. This often means people whose jobs exist because of that cruft in the legacy system.

The same applies in social systems. A genuine reform effort in America, for example, could simply start with firing everyone from the federal system who has an odd number of letters in their last name. Sure, some genuinely essential personnel would be lost, but the thousands of bits of human cruft would make up the difference. Much of what plagues late empire America is the generations of pointless and redundant code along with the associated people that covers the system like plaque.

Revolutions are cast as revolts by commoners over practical issues. The revolt gets out of hand either by circumstance or some failure by the elites. The result is a toppling of the system. To go back to the software analogy, the revolution is a revolt by users that cannot be addressed by the guys in IT. The system cannot be changed to meet the demands of the users, so the system is removed, the IT department is put to the sword and a new software system is purchased and implemented.

That’s true in primitive societies. The Bolshevik revolution could not have happened in an industrial society. Western Europe did not go from feudalism to industrial communism, because it first entered into a period of limited liberal democracy. The Russians were still operating a social system built for the tenth century, but trying to adapt it to technology and thinking from the 19th century. They went from pencil and paper to cybernetics in one big leap forward.

A better way to think of revolution, using the software analogy, is that point in the life-cycle when the cost of change exceeds the perceived benefit. The French Revolution is a good example of this. The aristocracy could not justify to themselves the cost of changing the system they inherited. The bourgeois revolutionary first started as a reformer, like the quality team inside a company. It’s when necessary change appeared to be impossible that they demanded the legacy system be replaced.

We are seeing this with the political class. The first round of efforts to modify the existing system started in 2016 with the election of Trump. We’re seeing a second round now with the apparent nomination of Bernie Sanders as his challenger. Trump was always a reformer who believed in the fundamental integrity of the system. Sanders is a revolutionary who promises to first remove the legacy system. His platform is mostly about removing the old with promises of something better.

In its response to these challenges, the so-called meritocracy is proving the point made by the reformers and the revolutionaries. They could, in theory, easily adjust to co-opt the reformers and delegitimize the revolutionaries. Yet in both cases they assumed the defensive crouch rather than change their behavior. Like the IT guys maintaining the legacy software system, they see change as a threat, so they make change more expensive than the perceived benefits of those changes.

In 2016, the Republican Party could have easily stopped Trump by moving toward him on immigration, trade and endless war. Instead, they advised the other candidates to move the other way, thus paving Trump’s way to the nomination. Something similar has happened with Sanders. Instead of co-opting his bread and butter issues, the party told the candidates to go extra heavy on wokeness, trannies and white privilege. This has made Sanders the default for those who reject that stuff.

If the political class was a business, senior management would be meeting about why the management and administrative layers have been unable to deal with this problem, despite all of the warnings. It would be time for a major shakeup. The trouble is, the so-called meritocracy that controls politics is the senior management. Only a shareholder revolt, to mix metaphors, is going to change things. Perhaps that is what the 2020 election is shaping up to be, a shareholder revolt.

The trouble with these analogies is that when a company buys a new software system or reorganizes its business processes, they don’t execute the people defending the old way or even have them sent to camps. Those people either embrace the new or quietly go away with their severance. In politics, the old people never go away quietly and instead fight to the last man to defend a legacy system that serves them. The last three years of Trump make that abundantly clear.

For those puzzled by the appeal of Sanders, there’s your answer. American politics is controlled by an elite that keeps one large swath of voters in one party and another large swath in another party, then makes them fight one another. In 2016, the voters in one camp revolted against their camp guards. In 2020, the other camp is staging a revolt. In both cases, it is a revolt against legacy code that appears to be beyond reform. We are living in legacy code that must be replaced, if it cannot be patched.

For sites like this to exist, it requires people like you chipping in a few bucks a month to keep the lights on and the people fed. It turns out that you can’t live on clicks and compliments. Five bucks a month is not a lot to ask. If you don’t want to commit to a subscription, make a one time donation. Or, you can send money to: Z Media LLC P.O. Box 432 Cockeysville, MD 21030-0432. You can also use PayPal to send a few bucks, rather than have that latte at Starbucks. Thank you for your support!