Stephen Moore: Why Americans Hate Economics - WSJ.com

August 19, 2011

Here's an excellent article that explains why you can't stimulate the economy by giving people money.

How did modern economics fly off the rails? The answer is that the "invisible hand" of the free enterprise system, first explained in 1776 by Adam Smith, got tossed aside for the new "macroeconomics," a witchcraft that began to flourish in the 1930s during the rise of Keynes. Macroeconomics simply took basic laws of economics we know to be true for the firm or family--i.e., that demand curves are downward sloping; that when you tax something, you get less of it; that debts have to be repaid--and turned them on their head as national policy.

True Films

August 14, 2011

I often tell my kids that watching too much television kills their brain cells. True Films looks like a great source of documentary films that might actually cause you to add something to your brain.

For example, Last Train Home is a documentary that brings insight about life in China. Here's the description from the True Films website.

Here is a rare inside look at where your stuff comes from. The central event in China today is the mass migration of 100 million country folk to the cities to work in factories. This documentary follows one family out of those 100 million as it sacrifices everything to gain very little. Just getting the last train home at New Year's is an ordeal worthy of arctic expedition. This raw and candid film is really a coming of age story about a typical teenage girl who can't leave her boring farm quick enough, and the great pain her parents endure to help her succeed. But in the end it is a heartbreaking family drama -- one played out millions and millions of times. With no preaching, you get to see the actual costs of the cheap jeans and electronics we purchase today. A big global picture is painted with this very intimate portrait of real life in the real China.

I haven't seen this film yet, and certainly can't suggest that you rent it from Neflix for your next family night. But it's a good example of the type of films that can be found on the True Films site.

Après le Déluge, What?

Peggy Noonan has long been one of one of my favorite journalists, earning my admiration with columns like this one in yesterday's edition of the WSJ, in which she offers a clear-headed and sobering analysis of the cause of the London riots.

At fault in the riots were the distorting effects of the welfare state and a degenerate British popular culture: "A population thinks (because it has often been told so by intellectuals and the political class) that it is entitled to a high standard of consumption, irrespective of its personal efforts; and therefore it regards the fact that it does not receive that high standard, by comparison with the rest of society, as a sign of injustice." Much of what they have is provided by others, but they are not grateful: dependency doesn't encourage gratitude but resentment.

I believe Noonan is correct in pointing out the similarities between the British riots and our own problems such as the Philadelphia flash mobs and the recent attacks at the Wisconsin state fair. Similarities in the cause as well as the effect.

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The image above is of flash mob teens in Philadelphia, March, 2010.

The redistribution of wealth through entitlement programs is a form of theft and is hence immoral. But it also has terrible consequences of another sort that are now being felt in our own communities. I believe this trend can be reversed, but it will take a combination of love-that-offers-hope in poor communities and the courage to insist on a government that refuses to buy votes through entitlements.

The Amazing Power of Being Present

August 12, 2011

There's profound truth in this article, which exposes why we're often frustrated and tense and what we can do about it.

If your kid interrupts you, you can stress out because you have other things to worry about and now your kid is adding to your worries or interrupting your calm. Or you can be present, and there is then only you and the child. You can appreciate that child for who she is, and be grateful you have this moment with her.

If your job demands that you focus on an urgent task, you can stress out because you have a million other things to do and not enough time to do them. Or you can be present, and focus completely on that task, and now there is only that one task and you. When you're done, you can move on to the next task.

Angry Birds in the Grocery Checkout Line

August 6, 2011

Scott Adams, creator of Dilbert, wrote an article in the Wall Street Journal this morning that made me laugh out loud and motivated me to write my first blog post in nearly three years.

He argues that technology has allowed us to completely remove boredom from our lives and that the result is a loss of creativity.

My period of greatest creative output was during my corporate years, when every meeting felt like a play date with coma patients. I would sit in long meetings, pretending to pay attention while writing computer code in my mind and imagining the anatomically inspired nicknames I would assign to my boss after I won the lottery.

Years later, when "Dilbert" was in thousands of newspapers, people often asked me if I ever imagined being so lucky. I usually said no, because that's the answer people expected. The truth is that I imagined every bit of good fortune that has come my way. But in my imagination I also invented a belt that would allow me to fly and had special permission from Congress to urinate like a bird wherever I wanted. I wake up every morning disappointed that I have to wear pants and walk. Imagination has a way of breeding disappointment.

Lately I've started worrying that I'm not getting enough boredom in my life. If I'm watching TV, I can fast-forward through commercials. If I'm standing in line at the store, I can check email or play "Angry Birds." When I run on the treadmill, I listen to my iPod while reading the closed captions on the TV. I've eliminated boredom from my life.

Later in the article, Adams reflects on the lack of creative material in current books, movies, etc. and suggests that this may be a result of the lack of boredom in the lives of authors, producers, etc.

The article hit home with me (I'm certainly guilty of pulling out the iPhone in the grocery line.) and is causing me to reflect on the value of bringing some boredom back into my life.

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