On Politics

     

 

 

Expensive Politics

Instead of a demonstration of its overwhelming military might intended to intimidate tiny North Korea and pressure China to lean on its defiant communist neighbor, President Trump and the West should try to learn a few things from China.

 

President Trump meets President Xi. The POTUS reportedly had a very good time in China. [PT]

Photo credit: AP

 

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Introduction

Mark Thornton of the Mises Institute and our good friend Claudio Grass recently discussed a number of key issues, sharing their perspectives on important economic and geopolitical developments that are currently on the minds of many US and European citizens.

A video of the interview can be found at the end of this post. Claudio provided us with a written summary of the interview which we present below – we have added a few remarks in brackets (we strongly recommend checking the podcast out in its entirety –  there is a lot more than is covered by the summary).

 

Mark Thornton and Claudio Grass

Photo via mises.org

 

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Big Crunch or Big Chill

Physicists say that the universe is expanding. However, they hotly debate (OK, pun intended as a foreshadowing device) if the rate of expansion is sufficient to overcome gravity—called escape velocity. It may seem like an arcane topic, but the consequences are dire either way.

 

OT – a little cosmology excursion from your editor: Observations so far suggest that the expansion of the universe is indeed accelerating – the “big crunch”, in which the expansion not only stops, but reverses as it is overcome by gravity, is no longer deemed likely. Observation of distant supernovas and their red-shifts in the late 1990s pointed clearly to an accelerating expansion; this was the meantime confirmed by other data as well, such as those on fluctuations in the density of baryonic matter (baryon acoustic oscillations), which are evident in the large scale structures visible in the universe (ever larger structures are discovered, the record is currently held by the Hercules–Corona Borealis Great Wall, which measures an estimated ~3 gigaparsecs or roughly 10 billion light years across). The precise shape of the universe remains open to question, but recent evidence strongly suggests that it is a flat, Euclidian universe (thus, dark energy is assumed to be driving the acceleration of the expansion – a hyperbolic or saddle-shaped universe with a matter density below the critical value would expand forever anyway). The second and third image above show the current ideas about the timeline of the universe since the big bang. It is held that the current era of accelerating expansion started about 7.5 billion years ago. Ever since, all galaxies  – indeed all objects in the universe – are flying apart at continually increasing speed. The last image shows the size of the observable universe, which has a diameter of 28.5 gigaparsecs, or 93 billion light years (i.e., we can “see” 46.5 billion light years in every direction). Readers will notice that this is much larger than the age of the universe would suggest. Shouldn’t the size of the observable universe be limited by the speed of light, and hence correlate roughly with the age of the universe? Actually, on account of the ongoing expansion of space-time, the light from the oldest, most distant galaxies we can currently see comes from objects that have moved much farther away from us in the meantime (a process referred to as “co-movement”). Over time, we will see more rather than fewer galaxies, as light will have had more time to travel and the light from even more distant galaxies will begin to reach us. The observable universe will grow, but there is a strict limit to this. The effect will reverse at an estimated threshold radius of 62 billion light years (compared to the current 46.5 billion), i.e., the maximum diameter of the observable universe will be capped at 124 billion light for all observers, regardless of where in the universe they are (note: all observers subjectively believe that they are at the center of the universe, as all of them can “see” a spherical volume of the same size surrounding them). Once this threshold is reached more galaxies will begin to red-shift out of visibility than will become newly visible, and eventually, darkness will descend on us, or rather, our descendants (trivia: the most remote quasar so far recorded by the Hubble telescope is a dark red blotch 31 billion light years from here). What is there beyond the boundary of  the observable universe? Estimates of the size of the “causally disconnected” part of the universe (which we will never be able to see or interact with) range from 3×1023 times the size of the observable universe, up to a volume 101010122 times larger than what is visible to us. Both the “big rip”, in which the universe becomes cold and dark in a mere 22-50 billion years as the expansion accelerates to such an extent that every shred of matter is literally torn apart, or the “big freeze”, a slow heat death, in which maximum entropy is reached about 100 trillion years from now, remain possible alternatives for the end of everything. As the big freeze approaches its end, the last remains of baryonic matter will begin to degrade at temperatures a mere sliver above absolute zero, with protons and neutrons decaying into electrons and positrons that may form bizarre atoms light years in size (a.k.a. “positronium”), which will orbit each other at the ultimate snail’s pace, moving just one centimeter in a million years – in complete darkness, natch. All of this could still turn out to be wrong: our measurements may well be flawed; misled by effects caused by a relatively low matter density in our own sector of the universe and the nearby voids, which only make it appear as though the entire universe was expanding at an accelerating pace. It is also possible that as result of an unusually inhomogeneous distribution of matter (differences >20%), denser regions are actually already collapsing inward, but their contraction looks similar to an expansion from our perspective, due to the differences in the curvature of space in regions with varying matter density. Note that no “dark energy” would have to be invoked if that were the case. [PT, end of astronomy lesson]  – click to enlarge.

 

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A Flawless Flock of Scoundrels

One of the fringe benefits of living in a country that’s in dire need of a political, financial, and cultural reset, is the twisted amusement that comes with bearing witness to its unraveling.  Day by day we’re greeted with escalating madness.  Indeed, the great fiasco must be taken lightly, so as not to be demoralized by its enormity.

 

Symphony grotesque in Washington [PT]

 

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Simple Classifications

Let’s begin with facts.  Cold hard unadorned facts. Water boils at 212 degrees Fahrenheit at standard atmospheric pressure.  Squaring the circle using a compass and straightedge is impossible.  The sun is a star.

 

The sun is not just a star, it is a benevolent star. Look, it is smiling…  sort of. [PT]

 

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Communism: An Unmitigated Disaster

This October marks the centennial anniversary of the Bolshevik takeover of Russia and the establishment of Soviet-style Communism which tragically, for the Russian people, would last for some seventy interminable years.  Not only did the Soviet regime liquidate and imprison millions, but its idiotic system of central planning impoverished the country, turning it into an economic basket case, the effects of which reverberate to this day.

 

The communist monster – Vladimir Ulyanov, a.k.a. Lenin. The New York Times was brimming with apologias for communism on the occasion of the revolution’s centennial this year. Apparently word was given to the vast hordes of Marxists still infesting society that they were free to use the platform to publish editorials explaining why the whole thing wasn’t so bad after all. For instance, in one of these screeds we learned that Lenin was a “great environmentalist” because he decided that vast stretches of no-man’s land in the Soviet Union should be designated nature reserves. As one can easily determine by looking at a map of Russia, this is no great feat, since there are large areas with a population density reminiscent of the Sahara. Lenin’s legacy as an environmentalist certainly pales against his crimes (it was not mentioned if any “New Soviet Men” inhabited these regions and whether they were forcibly relocated or exterminated to preserve the pristine state of these areas). Lenin had second thoughts on the unworkable socialist economic system in his later years and introduced the so-called “New Economic Policy”, as the country was on the verge of suffering a famine. This concession to the superiority of capitalism was hastily reversed by Stalin at the cost of millions of lives by means of state-sponsored starvation. Food production crashed due to the coercive collectivization of all economic activity and the former “bread basket” Ukraine became the scene of one of the largest and most brutal democides in human history. But hey, Lenin was a great environmentalist! And didn’t he say that if you wanted to make an omelet, you had to break a few eggs? Stalin concluded that if you want to make a really big omelet, you have to break millions of eggs. [PT]

Photo credit: Imago

 

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Political Correctness Hampers Honest Debate

What would the world be like today had Europeans never colonized Americas, Africa, the Middle East, Australia, New Zealand, and South Asia?

 

Jayant speaks about Democracy, Welfare and Migration: The West’s March to Self-Destruction [PT]

 

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Switzerland: Far from Flawless, but still a Unique Country – An Interview with Claudio Grass

Our friend Claudio Grass has discussed Switzerland in these pages before, and on one of these occasions we added some background information on country’s truly unique political system (see “The People Against the Establishment” for  the details). People are generally aware that direct democracy in the form of frequent  referendums is a major characteristic of the Swiss system, but how many people know that the country’s executive is essentially modeled after the system established in the city states of ancient Greece?

 

The Sphinx observatory on Mt. Jungfraujoch in the awe-inspiring Swiss alps.

Photo credit: Jungfraubahnen

 

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Divine Powers

The Dow’s march onward and upward toward 30,000 continues without a pause.  New all-time highs are notched practically every day.  Despite Thursday’s 31-point pullback, the Dow is up over 15.5 percent year-to-date.  What a remarkable time to be alive.

 

The DJIA keeps surging… but it is running on fumes (US money supply growth is disappearing rapidly). The president loves this and has decided to “own” the market by gushing about its record run. During his campaign he professed to worry about the “giant bubble”. We happen to think that it is probably best for a president not to talk about the stock market at all, but the Donald evidently couldn’t resist. One thing that continues to be quite satisfying is this quote by Paul Krugman on election night, when stock market futures plunged after it became clear that the Donald would beat Hillary: It really does now look like President Donald J. Trump, and markets are plunging. […]  I guess people want an answer: If the question is when markets will recover, a first-pass answer is never.” Krugman’s predictions are often devastatingly wrong, but rarely this fast. [PT] – click to enlarge.

 

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Cryptic Pronouncements

If a world conflagration, God forbid, should break out during the Trump Administration, its genesis will not be too hard to discover: the thin-skinned, immature, shallow, doofus who currently resides in the Oval Office!

 

The commander-in-chief – a potential source of radiation?

 

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A Vulnerable System

Parliamentary democracy is vulnerable to the extremely dangerous possibility that someone with very little voter support can rise to the top layer of government. All one apparently has to do is to be enough of a populist to get elected by ghetto dwellers.

 

Economist and philosopher Hans-Hermann Hoppe dissects democracy in his book Democracy, the God that Failed, which shines a light on the system’s grave deficiencies with respect to guarding liberty. As Hoppe puts it: “Democracy has nothing to do with freedom. Democracy is a soft variant of communism, and rarely in the history of ideas has it been taken for anything else.” At first glance this may strike many people as an exaggeration, but considering the trends that have emerged over the past several decades, it seems difficult to refute this assertion. Particularly since the beginning of the so-called “war on terrorism”, individual liberty has suffered numerous setbacks in Western democracies, while the power of the State has grown to almost unheard of proportions. In a democracy everybody is in theory free to join the psychopathic competition for power (in contrast to the largely rigid power structures prevailing in feudal societies), but all things considered, that is a highly questionable advantage. In fact, in many ways it isn’t an advantage at all. [PT]

 

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Misguided Enthusiasm

While not a jubilee year, last week marked the 230th anniversary of the US Constitution. Naturally, most of its devotees enthusiastically praised the document which by now is seen on a par with Holy Writ itself.

 

The constitutional convention in Philadelphia, anno 1787. Things have gone downhill ever since. Many – though not all – of those taking part in the convention were members of the moneyed elite, the land speculators who had instigated the war of independence when King George foolishly tried to keep them from expanding their speculative activities to the West with his ill-conceived edict of 1763. Having won the war, they were no longer constrained by the edict, but they couldn’t leave well enough alone… sitting on their laurels apparently just wasn’t their style. The constitution was the next logical step – a successful attempt to install a centralized Merchant State after the British model, only sans King George. As Albert Jay Nock points out in Our Enemy, the State: “The great majority of them, possibly as many as four-fifths, were public creditors; one-third were land-speculators; some were moneylenders; one-fifth were industrialists, traders, shippers; and many of them were lawyers.” Not exactly the first thing they tell pupils in public schools about, we would guess. Nock also reminds us, ibid: “Wherever economic exploitation has been for any reason either impracticable or unprofitable, the State has never come into existence; government has existed, but the State, never”. [PT]

 

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