Driven to Guilt

When you lack a coherent humanist philosophy or possess an inadequate education or a thorough instruction in religion, you are knocked around by your emotions and write editorials like this full of clichés and hackneyed phrases. The editorial is a rich vein of hidden assumptions concerning the nature of man, the role of the wealthy and guilt. It is partly naïve and devoid of serious thinking.  Our boy wonder writes,

Early on in our philanthropic journey, my wife and I became aware of something I started to call Philanthropic Colonialism.

His choice of the word colonialism to describe what they are doing shows that he has a middle school child’s understanding of colonialism.  Colonialism was not the simple exploitation of one country for the benefit of another but far more complex interaction between cultures.  In some cases it was the last time a particular country lived under the rule of law.  In other cultures is was the apex of their wealth and civilization.  I point these out because we are nearly all aware of the negatives.

As more lives and communities are destroyed by the system that creates vast amounts of wealth for the few, the more heroic it sounds to “give back.” It’s what I would call “conscience laundering” — feeling better about accumulating more than any one person could possibly need to live on by sprinkling a little around as an act of charity.

Why would a person feel guilty if they obtained their money in a legal manner? If they didn’t or they manipulated the system in some way, paid a bribe, forced their employees to work longer hours without compensation while taking increasing bonuses for themselves, then no amount of philanthropy can sooth their soul anymore than the sleepwalking Lady MacBeth can.   For like her perhaps they once thought, “What need we fear who knows it when none can call our power to account?”

As readers we really don’t know who he is speaking about since he is not naming names but we should take him at his word.  A little further down he demonstrates a kind of ignorance and lack of imagination common among progressives.

But this just keeps the existing structure of inequality in place. The rich sleep better at night, while others get just enough to keep the pot from boiling over. Nearly every time someone feels better by doing good, on the other side of the world (or street), someone else is further locked into a system that will not allow the true flourishing of his or her nature or the opportunity to live a joyful and fulfilled life.

Let’s look at Mr. Buffet’s analysis.  Note that inequality is a structure to be crushed.  It is put into place like a building and perhaps just as easy to remove.  But Is inequality per se wrong?  Should we cut the tops off oaks because of the hedges? Should we weigh down elite sprinters with lead to slow them down?  Giving someone just enough to “keep the pot from boiling over” implies we are dealing with violent and tyrannical children incapable of controlling themselves.  How is that for condescension?  He also thinks that giving money “further” locks a person “into a system.” But how does it lock them in?  In a culture which is mostly free, possesses relatively good institutions and the rule of law will most likely prosper.  Take away any one of those and it will not.  Many of these culture are poor because their cultures are broken.  Education, better systems, and money will never fix that.  Prosperity is more than access to capital.  Also, does inequality prevent anyone from being happy?  Even people growing up in prosperity in the West find it impossible for their nature to truly flourish, some see no opportunity to live a “joyful and fulfilled life.”  By Mr. Buffet’s way of thinking that must be someone’s fault.  The failure of someone to act properly.  He sees the world as big pot of limited goodies and some are taking out too much for themselves.

Microlending and financial literacy (now I’m going to upset people who are wonderful folks and a few dear friends) — what is this really about? People will certainly learn how to integrate into our system of debt and repayment with interest. People will rise above making $2 a day to enter our world of goods and services so they can buy more. But doesn’t all this just feed the beast?

I’m really not calling for an end to capitalism; I’m calling for humanism.

He really doesn’t understand the power of free markets.  He doesn’t understand how micro lending removes helplessness and allows people to improve their lives in ways they want.  Not necessarily in the way that dwellers of Olympus like Mr. Buffet would choose for them.

And what is this beast they are supposedly feeding?  Is he arguing against materialism?  Good luck stopping that aspect of human nature.  As always, our motives are pure it’s the other guy who is a consumerist, exploiter, materialist, or  greedy.

I am relieved he isn’t calling for an end to capitalism since it has pulled more people from poverty (for all its flaws) than any other economic system.  He does call for humanism. Perfect, because it cannot be defined and has never been defined.  It is an amalgamation of conflicting and poorly specified ideas.  It’s a magic word because you can make it mean whatever you want it to.

Is progress really Wi-Fi on every street corner? No. It’s when no 13-year-old girl on the planet gets sold for sex. But as long as most folks are patting themselves on the back for charitable acts, we’ve got a perpetual poverty machine.

Unfortunately, we are unlikely to see the progress he hopes for in the next 10,000 years or so. And no amount of money can end it.  By the metric he sets we will need to overhaul almost every non-western culture on the planet and convince them on the basis of something undefined that child-sex trade is wrong.  We can’t even convince people that murder is wrong in all cultures.  We did nearly eliminate tribal cannibalism and under colonialism, the slave trade, but the slave trade is alive and well in post-colonial Africa.  Perhaps they can spend their money stopping that but I doubt it.

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Income Inequality Global Look

There is a post at  Zero Hedge that shows the current levels of income inequality world wide.  It is not typically what one would expect to find in competitive markets.  It is what one would expect to find in a rigged game.  There is a downside to rigging a game and that is eventually people stop playing, reality sets in and the whole thing collapses.  Nearly every period of asset inflation spurred on by government manipulation ended badly.  This will too.  It’s inevitable.  Now, I find nothing inherently wrong with inequality.  It’s how you arrive that counts.  I am not upset that some can run faster than me or are smarter.  What annoys me is when people are permitted to avoid the consequences of their actions via state intervention whether that is using welfare money for drugs or the financial industry bail outs.  It bothers me when people use the state to block competition and politicians help rich friends establish near monopolies.  Life is not fair and it never will be.

Note that in the video he sites the UN as a reliable source.  It is not.  They have a long record of numeric manipulation to drive their policy initiatives.  The UN is  one massive fraud at worst and a colossal waste of money at best.  One need only look at the climate change committee reports for recent examples.

One final note, the richest are rarely the same people year after year.  You can almost measure the health of an economy by how many move up and how many move down.  When the richest are not dethroned across generations you have a sick system.

Is Eliot Spitzer Mentally Ill?

I only ask because he wants to enter the race for New York City comptroller.   In case you have forgotten what he did. Here is a synopsis.  What we can conclude from this matter?  One thing is a certainty, for a period of time he was unable to control his most basic impulses to a degree that he was willing to violate the law, betray his wife and violate the oath of his office.  He requested to be forgiven and it should be granted by those who were injured.  There are, however, always consequences to our actions and it seems to me that his actions disqualify him from office.  Like Anthony Wiener running for Mayor, the former governor goes beyond gall and crosses into a domain where I question his rationality.

What’s Left of Financial Privacy?

A friend wanted to withdraw 10k from his bank account to keep the cash on hand because he is concerned about the financial stability of banks especially after what happened in Cyprus.  What he found out surprised him but it was something I already knew. The bank didn’t have 10k in the vault to give him and what is more due to the amount the bank office would need to file some federal forms.  Now my friend was a little miffed about the reporting requirement and the office told him if he withdrew 1k every so often it wouldn’t require any extra paperwork (like reporting the withdrawal or contacting the nearest Federal Reserve Bank to order the cash).

The vast majority of the loss in financial privacy is driven by the war on drugs and the war on terrorism.  Beyond banking there are also reporting requirements for those purchasing gold and silver as explained in this article. Under the current laws, metals dealers are required in some situations to file a 1099B and if they think you are trying to get around the reporting requirements such as my friend did withdrawing his cash 1k at a time, the dealer is supposed to file a suspicious activity report.

I suppose when it’s all said and done I am one of those people who would rather live with risk and rely on the help of my neighbors than see an all powerful state attempt to provide me with total security by stripping me of privacy.  And this post doesn’t even touch on the forfeiture laws which give law enforcement a perverse incentive to seize your property.

Using GPU’s for supercomputing

There is a new program language, Harlan that purportedly makes it easier to use graphic processing units to turn hardware into a reasonably priced supercomputer.  GPUs have been used for some time to crack password hashes and run large neural networks.

CPUs and GPUs are both important for modern computing, with each being better suited for different tasks. Most CPUs have several cores capable of running a few processing threads. It runs each thread very fast, then moves on to the next one. A GPU typically has a large number of slower processing cores (sometimes called stream processors) which can run more simultaneous threads. We would say that GPU computing is inherently more parallel than the CPU variety.

This is pretty cool too.  Steve Austin call your office, your days are numbered.