Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Short Takes

I've tagged this "miscellanea" because I don't know where else it might fit. I keep having these little one-liners running through my head and, since I don't have a comedy writing gig to soak them up, I decided to stick them in a post. Trigger warning: there might be the occasional one related to politics or economics. Like the first one:

  • If you hate the idea of having your economic choices influenced by Big Corporations, then you should move to Venezuela or Cuba where you can have them dictated to you by malignant dictators and enforced by the army.
  • No amount of hip costuming, stimulating staging, social media promotion or chatting to the audience can compensate for poor choice of repertoire, faulty technique and musical insensitivity. Isn't this perfectly obvious?
  • The founding of Canada as a union of French and English-speaking colonies of Great Britain right next door to the USA led to the fond hope that it would result in a happy blend of British government, American know-how and French culture. Sadly, the result often seems to be an unfortunate mix of French government, British know-how and American culture.
  • If you go to the bank to get a mortgage so that you can buy a house, do you know where that money comes from? Do you think it is money that was deposited in the bank? Oh no, not at all. The bank simply creates it out of thin air. It's called fractional reserve banking. Doesn't that make you just a tad nervous?
  • When I was an undergraduate at university I took an excellent introductory philosophy course. The professor, a young recent PhD, was brilliant and engaging. One day we were discussing the perception of time and he stated that while humans perceive time as a line going from past to future, that dolphins perceive time as an expanding spiral:

Many, many years later it occurred to me that we don't know how dolphins perceive time. Nobody does. How could you? I'm not even sure how I perceive time. In Book 11 of St. Augustine's Confessions, he ruminates on the nature of time, asking, "What then is time? If no one asks me, I know: if I wish to explain it to one that asketh, I know not." The amazing thing is that, even in a class that was devoted to critical thinking, we simply accepted, uncritically, a quite surprising claim by the professor, without a shred of evidence.
  •  I was at a concert the other night that turned out to be all 19th century music and I found myself thinking: "19th century music is a rich flow of sonorities that goes on and on and is fundamentally pointless." Your milage may vary, of course...
  • One company in Connecticut uses an interesting set of questions to qualify potential employees. One question is "When was the last time you cried and why?" Ok, the last two times were, first, the last time I listened to Grigory Sokolov play "Les tendres plaintes" by Rameau: 
and the other time was the last time I watched the final episode of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, season five, where she dies. What do you think, would I get hired?
  • This didn't wander into my brain all on its own, but was inspired by a blog emanating from a secure, undisclosed location, so I won't reveal the source. But one very well-known social scientist, when asked who was the most accomplished person who ever lived, answered "Aristotle" who invented logical thought with six treatises in the 4th century BC. The measure of how important this was is that no-one was able to come up with any improvements or additions to them until the late 19th century, twelve hundred years later! All of our 21st century information technology is based on fundamental logical principles whose codification we owe to Aristotle. Oh, and he also invented metaphysics, ethics, meteorology, psychology, poetics, botany and a few other things. Not all by himself, he was strongly influenced by a couple of predecessors who included Socrates and Plato.


Will Wilkin said...

Bryan I seem to recall you mentioning both that you are Canadian and that you reside in Mexico, at least when not in Spain. Of course, sometimes I can't tell the difference between my memory and my imagination, so I imagine I may not remember correctly.

Nonetheless, I've been thinking of you as Canadian and gradually becoming more bothered that my replies to your thoughtful cultural commentaries are myopically American, though at least I am aware of my ignorance of Canadian history and culture. Perhaps it shows how little I know to list my familiarities with Canadian culture: Bachmann-Turner-Overdrive was one of my favorite rock bands in the early 1970s (when I was in Catholic grade school in Illinois), and later I came to love the music of Neil Young (who I saw twice in concert) and Rush (who I saw once in concert). Also I have a friend who was born in Canada (Montreal I think) and who graduated McGill before going to Oxford University. But I don't even know how to place him, seems to spend most of his time in USA, yet despises our culture (and our food), has deep criticisms of globalization, and seems "loyal" above all to Israel. But a great friend, however hard to "place", and I still think of him as Canadian.

Regarding "fractional reserve banking," I don't find it as disturbing as you seem to, especially when applied to good use, such as new home construction. In fact, despite my disgust with "Modern Monetary Theory" (MMT) because it disregards the loss of a nation's productive capacity and instead praises trade deficits as "getting something for nothing," still I find persuasive and potentially liberating the central idea that a monetarily sovereign nation that has exited the gold standard (such as the USA) truly does create money by fiat and needs tax not to pay its bills but rather only to remove spending power from the economy to avoid inflation. That leaves the potential to do a lot of good or bad (or both) with the government spending of that fiat currency, and makes the "debt" an illusion, an anachronistic yet powerful holdover concept (illusion) from the days of bullion money. I realize "fractional reserve banking" of bank-created money is not quite exactly the same thing, yet the parallels and implications seem pretty similar, with only differences of scale and, in theory at least, of democratic accountability in government (another illusion).

Bryan Townsend said...

Yes, I'm Canadian. Have a look at my bio on the right hand side for the gory details!

I confess that while I have read in economics and have a lot of practical experience in the market, my understanding of international high-level economics is pretty meagre. But oh how I wish it were true that "debt" were an anachronistic illusion!