April 17, 2010

The Dumbest Economic Collapse In History

If nothing was ever going to be the same again, how come GS is back to where it started?

Anyone who sucks at poker knows: if you lose 50% on a bet, you have to go up 100% just to break even.  Jamie Dimon is therefore the greatest poker player ever.  

Of course I know Bear Stearns went under, I was watching TV when it happened.  But we were all repeatedly told that it was never again going to be so easy for financial companies to make such huge money.  The CEOs didn't deserve their big payoffs because they had lost so much of "the public's" money.   That was the point, right?   "We want clawbacks!"  Claw what back?

Everywhere I look, I see that unless you lost your job, nothing has changed.  Look closely at your life.  Other than body fat, what's changed?


Let's go corporate.  Astra Zeneca is a good case study.  What has been the longer term impact of the Crash?


Pretty much nothing.  Except for the 15% cut in its workforce.  A skeptical person might suggest that it was only able to improve its earnings not by selling more products but by cutting expenses.  A finite and unsustainable maneuver.  So sell AZ?

A more cynical person, though, might think that AZ simply used the "recession" as an excuse to lay people off, and get fewer workers to do more.

And a paranoid would think this: there's a popular idea that in a recession, the government should create jobs programs/public works projects.  But what if it's the other way?  What if the government had some projects it needed done? 

And the business sector that it serves needs a reason to reduce their labor costs without people going 12 Monkeys on them. 

There's a word for this, but I always get it wrong.


There's an analogy for the credit crisis that I am convinced is awesome: chemotherapy.  Spread the poison liberally around the world.  When you're done, you're weaker, but anything that had a high growth rate is dead.  You've solved your Putin problem.  Remember "we want a new reserve currency!" at $140 oil? U.S. to Putin: bite me.

"A rising tide lifts all boats." said JFK.  But we're the only one with a boat, rickety as it may be.  So let's Noah's Ark this bitch, and drown the lot of them.  If they want aid later, we can pay them in Euros like they wanted.

That's how you solve a labor problem. 



Back to reality. 

Remember how the crash was going to make people spend less, especially on frivolous things?  Remember how the one single positive effect of the Great Crash was that the culture of the next generation would be less materialistic than their elders, the Dumbest Generation of Narcissists In The History Of The World?

If there was any company that under that hypothesis should have gone bankrupt, it is Duke University coed fraternity Aeropostale:

aeropostale ad.JPG

Explain to me how Aeropostale not only survives the crash, but actually grows?  Don't say "pent up demand," I'll gut you.  Look at the chart.  Pent up for what, 3 months?  Everyone suddenly needs last year's winter tops?

Is this pent up caffeine withdrawal?  "$4.50 for a grande battery acid with skim?  Let me have a blueberry dessicant as well.  (I don't know why, but I'm like, so hungry today!)"


"Listen you insensitive jerk, people have lost their jobs, their homes, they can't feed their families--"

unemployment rate.JPG

I'm insensitive, I don't have retinal cancer.  I see what's happened to them, do you see what's happened to everyone else?

"Is the era of easy credit over?" recommended the AP two years ago.

"I think we're undergoing a fundamental shift from living on borrowed money to one where living within your means, saving and investing for the future, comes back into vogue," said Greg McBride, senior analyst at Bankrate.com. "This entire credit crunch is a wakeup call to anybody who was attempting to borrow their way to prosperity."

"We're going to see some fundamental changes in consumer behavior," said Frank Badillo of TNS Retail Forward, a consulting and market research firm

This is what "fundamental" looks like:

retail sales.JPG
I'm pretty sure incomes aren't up since 2007.  So either we have the same amount of money we had in 2007 and are spending the same, or we have less than 2007 and are spending more.  Either way: really?

Get it?  Double the unemployment, same sales.  While some people aren't "participating in society" the rest of you have made up for it, and then some.

sp earnings.JPG
m=1?  "Sorry about the delay, next stop 80"?

hoousing prices.JPGHousing prices have fallen, but they have also stopped falling. Maybe they're not going up, but if you still have your house... you're home free?

cpi.JPGIf you took two Ambiens in 2007 and just climbed out of your bathtub now, here's what you'd feel required a remark: "oh, they're ending Lost."


You'll say I'm selective in my charts.  "Put up Citigroup!"  Fair enough; but my point here is that we were supposedly in for a systemic, historic, and permanently altered economic landscape, and we're right back where we were started.

That's Moral Hazard, and I capitalize it because you should, too.  What have we learned?  Nothing.  What's changed?  Nothing.  What are we going to do now?  Buy a car.  "With what money?"  Zark off, man, you're harshing my buzz.

(Economist:) The recession came at the end of a period marked by record levels of inequality. Many Americans, lacking true upward mobility, bought its trappings, such as a bigger house or better car. Disaster duly followed.


Is there any reason to think this scenario isn't worse now, more likely to be repeated?  While some people worry about inflation, and others about a double dip recession, what's actually happened is that we're back in the same boom/bust cycle.

Of course I understand that the various government actions have helped.  That's the point.    There is nothing that will prevent this from happening again.  I don't want the Crash to have been worse, but I don't want it to have happened in the first place.  It did.  Now it's going to happen again.  It is inevitable.  Maybe not in my lifetime, but definitely in my kids'.  Isn't that  worse?

Of course I understand that CEOs are corrupt and Bush lied and [random Huffington Post link here].  Enough, I get it. 

But have you changed?  Doing anything differently?   Instead of buying yet another identity signal, have you saved the money for the kid you don't even have yet?  Blame the CEOs if you want, they don't shop at Aeropostale and if they do they can afford it.  So? 

The problem and solution is you.  It has to start with you.  It is always you.



What do you mean, your kid'... (Below threshold)

April 17, 2010 12:37 PM | Posted by V: | Reply

What do you mean, your kid's lifetime? I give it a better than 50% chance of happening in the next 20 years. Probably 10.

I'm a saver. I'm putting my time into education and my money into stocks, and bought a cheap small car instead of the expensive sexy sports car I really wanted. (Note: I knew all along I would make the right decision, but being tempted / imagining myself as someone who would make the sexy choice was fun, then eventually said "I can't believe in self-denial except when I want things.") What bothers me, though, is that I don't set interest rates. I'm looking at 1% returns on non-stock money, and... why am I saving, again? I almost want to start buying kruggerands instead of keeping my money in banks, and that goes against all the economics I know and believe in.

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Be the change you want to s... (Below threshold)

April 17, 2010 12:59 PM | Posted by Tom: | Reply

Be the change you want to see in the world.

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Maybe because the crash was... (Below threshold)

April 17, 2010 1:04 PM | Posted by Anonymous: | Reply

Maybe because the crash wasn't nearly so bad as predicted it hasn't had the effects it could have? It's like the episode of the Simpsons where Homer eats a poorly prepared Fugu and, expecting to die, tries to do all the things he regrets missing. The next morning he wakes up alive and vows to live his life to its fullest, but by the afternoon he is watching some garbage on TV and eating pork rinds in his underwear.

We dodged this bullet, and the shock has already worn off?

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Question:It seems ... (Below threshold)

April 17, 2010 1:23 PM | Posted by Honorius: | Reply


It seems to me one of the point you made in "This is Baywatch", "Will you ever be happy", "I'm not the one you should be worried about" and, to a lesser extent, "Why is there so much pollen", is that we're prisonner of our environment, it shapes us and we can't do a thing about it.

From "Will you ever be happy":

"But I'm staring at the TV, I am not drunk or insane or an imbecile, and I am trying my hardest, but even knowing everything I know I cannot stop seeing Kate as The Mom and Pam as The Sex Bomb, it is impossible for me to stop these unconscious, reflexive associations from happening."

and from "Why is there so much pollen?":

"Nor are they aware that it doesn't make a difference what they do-- because the environment is being manipulated from the outside."

But then you come in here with this statement: "The problem and solution is you. It has to start with you. It is always you."

And so, while those series of statement, on the abstract, might not be entirely mutually exclusive (the problem and solution is me, however, I can barely do anything about it because the environnement is being...huh...well they seem mutually exclusive to me now, I retract what I said) I think I might need some clarification on them.

On one end, the environnment around us is being manufactured in a way that it's very hard for us to escape its signals, as it is presented in a way we can't really defend against (you said it was impossible for you and a bunch of other people at least). This makes us miserable (and breeds narcissism).

On the other hand, we're the problem.

What did I miss?

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'WAKE UP!' (That's the par... (Below threshold)

April 17, 2010 2:05 PM | Posted by Samanthaanne: | Reply

'WAKE UP!' (That's the part you missed)

... The only problem is, when you stop participating in the matrix, they flush you out, and our narcisism makes us terrified of being unseen & unheard... If I disengage myself from mmass marketed consumerism, do I still count? Does the tree falling in the forest make a sound if no one is there to hear it?

People respond on here, talking about agreeing/disagreeing with Alone, or our interpertation of him(?). Sharing their parts, ideas and beliefs... all with the word 'I'. Most of can't avoid placing ourselves in what we read, and talking about our opinions.

As Alone wrote about our debates about him(?), it is the message not the messenger, that needs to be looked at, and evaluated for its merrits, not because of who issued it.

-Obligitory insertion of *I* -

Finding & reading this site has allowed me to take a deeper look at my life, understand my feelings of confusion, some of the messages I get, and ask if my choices are really mine?

Why on an income of $14k, do I have a $450 cell-phone, which I pay more for each month than I do food? Why do I only buy meat that's under $2/lb, and yet drink mass amounts of soda? (And feel deprived when I go without?)... Why, does a pound of meat cost less than a soda?

Why do I evaluate my tp and paper-towels for price, and then insist on a specific brand of detergent. Why do I consider washing clothes in a bathtub a hardship, when it's easier then carrying clothes to a laundrymat, and waiting for a machine to complete the job while I stare at tv?

The articles here, provide me the oppertunity to ask such questions, find reasoning that helps me feel less insane, and allows me to feel like I make better choices, & it's all about how *I* feel, right?

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Although we are an importan... (Below threshold)

April 17, 2010 2:06 PM | Posted by Dan M: | Reply

Although we are an important part of the problem, by bailing out the institutions that gave us the free money we have said "we want this to continue".

A large part of this country will continue to be retarded sheep who need to be saved from themselves, but in many ways we are a product of our inaction. We are bright enough to realize the damage but too lazy to fix it.

Government should serve one purpose. To save people from themselves and others who want to unfairly take advantage of them. Instead it helps lubricate the engine that is driving us no where.

If you are dumb enough to take out a 350k mortgage on a 30k salary you are a sheep. If you had a pension outside of your control that was invested in junk bonds that were designed to fail to collect the insurance (which you don't get). You were unfairly sacrificed and should have been protected.

This will happen again, as nothing drastic enough has happened to prevent it, but you are correct. The country as a whole will suffer but the individual can be saved.

Unemployed, broke and pissed at myself for letting it happen.

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V and others. I think that... (Below threshold)

April 17, 2010 2:50 PM | Posted by Anonymous: | Reply

V and others. I think that the problem is, although you might be personally responsible, an economic collapse caused by irresponsible or foolish people can still have a huge impact on you.

The US is a bad example of the general western problem - foolish and short sighted citizens vote for foolish and shortsighted policies, that prevent pain now, by postponing it into the future.

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Why do I consider washin... (Below threshold)

April 17, 2010 4:28 PM | Posted by Anonymous: | Reply

Why do I consider washing clothes in a bathtub a hardship

It's really bad for your back and it's hard to get the soap out. You need specialized equipment for laundry to not hurt your body. And it's really not worth getting the specialized equipment as long as the electricity is still working. Washing machines are not part of the Matrix, they are really very good things. I would definitely look into saving up for your own portables though, the kind you run into the sink.

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I have washed clothes by ha... (Below threshold)

April 17, 2010 5:41 PM | Posted, in reply to Anonymous's comment, by Anonymous: | Reply

I have washed clothes by hand before and I agree, a washing machine does the job better.

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Once the scare is over you ... (Below threshold)

April 17, 2010 6:21 PM | Posted by Anonymous: | Reply

Once the scare is over you go back to doing what you did before--unless perhaps you really got burned and don't want to experience it ever again.

Just human nature.

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Well, honorius, the problem... (Below threshold)

April 17, 2010 6:25 PM | Posted, in reply to Honorius's comment, by Anonymous: | Reply

Well, honorius, the problem suggests the solution. I think we need to start opting out of the insane parts of the culture -- the stuff that tells us to spend spend spend, the part that tells us that we have to give up more and more control of our life, or that insists that anything that requires effort is not worth it. We need to get over our naracistic American Idol Wannabe BS and look at how we can make the world work better for us.

I know of one lady who gave up the rat race for a family farm. She seems pretty happy, even if she doesn't read what Oprah tells her to, or buy the latest fashions from Macy's. (actually, I find most fashions are defined by being absolutely unusable as regular work cloths -- the idea is to use thin material that rips if you look at it funny, in odd cuts that tend to restrict movement.) You don't actually need that stuff, you don't even need TV or computer.

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Nothing has really changed ... (Below threshold)

April 17, 2010 6:49 PM | Posted by Anonymous: | Reply

Nothing has really changed because the essential players controlling the economic environment haven't changed and haven't been constrained. In fact, they've been bailed out.

So other than unemployment and massive deficits,nothing much has changed at all.

And yes ... it's dumb. Because nothing has been done to ram change down the throats of companies engaging in the most dubious of schemes (can anyone say unregulated derivatives?).


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What's changed?Lab... (Below threshold)

April 17, 2010 8:47 PM | Posted by Anonymous: | Reply

What's changed?

Labor force participation.

Income security/stability.

Income inequality.

What's still the same?

We're in yet another bubble of high consumption supported by credit--rather than wages--caused by low status monkeys overspending to maintain their standards of living while high status monkeys pay us less and less for doing more and more work.

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I could never figure out wh... (Below threshold)

April 17, 2010 9:48 PM | Posted by digby: | Reply

I could never figure out why some people thought something would change.

Boom: This time it's different, we've learnt from our mistakes.
Bust: This time it's different, we'll really learn from our mistakes.

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Of course ... things may no... (Below threshold)

April 17, 2010 10:53 PM | Posted by David: | Reply

Of course ... things may not be so dumb ...
From the NYT:

Shares of Goldman Sachs plunged more than 10 percent in just the first half-hour of trading after the suit was announced Friday morning. They closed down 13 percent, at $160.70, wiping away more than $10 billion of the company’s market value.

And, of course, because someone had the temerity to bring a lawsuit-

The charges will unleash a torrent of lawsuits, and likely signal that the government is prepared to file more lawsuits related to the overheated market that preceded the financial crisis, experts said.

184.27? Try 160.7 and dropping.

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@ Dan M, who said "Governme... (Below threshold)

April 18, 2010 12:34 AM | Posted, in reply to Dan M's comment, by Riley: | Reply

@ Dan M, who said "Government should serve one purpose. To save people from themselves"

That's crazy. It is the simple fact that people (and business, which is still people) don't have to suffer for their mistakes that this happens. Big company loses lots of money, government bails them out. Little person puts lots of money on a credit card, files for bankruptcy and gets a clean slate with 7-10 years in credit "timeout". Oh no! Lose your job? The government will give you other people's money while you try to find a new one. Can't find one? The government will create jobs using other people's money. Get sick, the government will provide you with health care using other people's money.

The larger the role government plays in our lives, the more problems society is going to have. Just you watch and see. It will continue to get worse, and people like you will continue to shout for the government to "do more" to "save people from themselves", thus continuing the cycle.

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Look at Ford. The great gra... (Below threshold)

April 18, 2010 8:45 AM | Posted by Jack Coupal: | Reply

Look at Ford. The great grandson of the guy who invented the assembly line for manufacturing gadgets is at 13 and change.

GM is now owned by the US government, various Canadian governments, and the UAW. Its stock is in the toilet and will stay there. An Italian who actually builds vehicles owns Chrysler.

All that won't change until some responsible adult in the US who knows how to build and sell a vehicle begins running the 2 shops. I was betting on Roger Penske, until he learned the facts and wisely bailed.

We Americans can be a lot more productive when we have to be. Not our first choice in a ridiculously-easy credit society. It took a 2X4 up side the head to get our attention.

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"Other people's money?" Who... (Below threshold)

April 18, 2010 6:04 PM | Posted, in reply to Riley's comment, by Andrew Yates: | Reply

"Other people's money?" Who said that the "money" was "owned" by "other people" in the first place?

You are confusing check book accounting with the macroscopic reality of that the world is ridiculously wealthy but we as people haven't figured out how to distribute the wealth.

If I own 100 acres of land, and you want to... oh wait, how did it get to be that I owned 100 acres of land in the first place?

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You're right, the deck is s... (Below threshold)

April 18, 2010 8:30 PM | Posted, in reply to Honorius's comment, by Vimes: | Reply

You're right, the deck is stacked against anyone who wants to live an effective, meaningful life and do some good for other people. Alone is doing us a great service by pointing out some specific things we're up against.

But he balances this by always emphasizing that what he calls "The Matrix" (pop culture, etc) is not the same as a communist reeducation camp. There are huge influences, sure, but we're not actually forced to do anything. And as long as we have any control at all, our moral responsibility for what we do is total.

Tl;dr: What, did you think being a good person was ever the default?

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Do we ever get to talk abou... (Below threshold)

April 18, 2010 9:30 PM | Posted by mmgutz: | Reply

Do we ever get to talk about stuff like this in light of spirituality/religion, or is that taboo around here? Are we just over all that?

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No mmgutz, that kind of thi... (Below threshold)

April 18, 2010 11:02 PM | Posted by Anonymous: | Reply

No mmgutz, that kind of thing is not allowed around here. If you post any religious stuff I'll personally edit your post and get rid of it.



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I'm convinced it's the defa... (Below threshold)

April 19, 2010 12:10 AM | Posted, in reply to Vimes's comment, by Honorius: | Reply

I'm convinced it's the default. Good is just somehow misused, or not looked at the right way.

Just gonna point something:

"What, did you think being a good person was ever the default?"

"Being good", I, it reflects on me, identity. Wrong way to approach it. "Being good" can be anything. It has no meaningful way of being measured. The point is that it's not about being something. It's not about who you are.

Doing good though...by and to others. Then it's not about you. It's about them. They can show us the way.


We have to fake it, or so I hear. I'm trying to make the connections and reconcile things.

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What do you people want? A... (Below threshold)

April 19, 2010 1:23 AM | Posted by Josh: | Reply

What do you people want? Alone shows us a ton of graphs saying that except for unemployment (a lagging indicator) and regulation (that also always lags), the economy is fully recovered. Regulation is being debated in congress, as people buy up inventories jobs will be added, and everything is back to normal. Interest rates are going to go up probably this year, if not next; this will likely do more than anything to stave off another credit glut.

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"I'm convinced it's the def... (Below threshold)

April 19, 2010 1:58 AM | Posted, in reply to Honorius's comment, by Vimes: | Reply

"I'm convinced it's the default. Good is just somehow misused, or not looked at the right way."

What I meant when I said being good was not the default was this: if you never take any initiative, and just follow ambient suggestions (be they from pop culture or other people) then you will not be a very worthwhile person (or, if you prefer, will not do many worthwhile things). Doing good requires some effort of will. Doing bad does not. Therefore doing bad is the default.

It is possible to imagine societies in which "just going with the flow" does make you a better person -- the military is a possible example. If you join the Army and go to boot camp, all you have to do is complete the training, and you will probably be stronger, braver, and more capable in many areas than you were before. Because that's the point of boot camp.

Alone's point in so many essays is that most of American society is not like boot camp -- the media, advertisers, entertainers, psychiatrists, and so on, are not your friends, they do not exist to improve you. They exist to create in you a demand for their product which they then fill (mercantilism), and to hell with how that affects you as a person. So if you just go with the flow, you may very well become a miserable narcissist who makes other people miserable too. This is the first idea you commented on in your first post.

Now, one of Alone's other central theses is that any number of negative outside influences do not leave you off the hook for your actions, morally speaking. Because there may be influences on you, but in the absence of outright coercion or truly debilitating mental illness, you can still do whatever you want. Influence does not take away freedom, and therefore it does not take away responsibility. This is the second idea you commented on in your first post.

"The problem and solution is you" means, despite anything else, you have control over your own actions and, to some extent, your local environment. If you give in to bad influences, then you have now done something wrong also; the problem is you. If you do the right thing despite the fact that doing the wrong thing is easier, then you have done right; the solution is you.

You may not agree with any of this, but I believe that's a fair representation (way more clumsily done) of Alone's position. It may or may not be true (I think it is) but it is entirely logically consistent.

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Once you take away the foun... (Below threshold)

April 19, 2010 2:09 AM | Posted by harman: | Reply

Once you take away the foundation of synderesis, once the modern mind knows the hollowness of faith (and it is hollow, sorry to say), you can not reintroduce morality based on supernatural awe. It is each man for himself, and that "narcissism" (i.e. rise of individuality and entitlement and man-beat-man world) cannot be easily reversed. Introduce more regulation, and people will find a way to subvert it. As long as "I" don't care about "you", regulation can only lead to resentment.


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Andrew Yates - "If I own 10... (Below threshold)

April 19, 2010 9:02 AM | Posted by Anonymous: | Reply

Andrew Yates - "If I own 100 acres of land, and you want to... oh wait, how did it get to be that I owned 100 acres of land in the first place?"


Vimes - "Doing good requires some effort of will. Doing bad does not. Therefore doing bad is the default."

I'd suggest that our premise is faulty from the start and on a number of levels. First, "good" can be contingent on the particular context and can mean very different things to different people. I'll assume that you mean doing constructive, prosocial acts as opposed to destructive, antisocial acts. (Please correct me if I've misunderstood.) If you're antisocial or have some form of antisocial personality disorder, then acting in a social way will require effort (and probably some thought to be able to discern what is and isn't actually "good"). It requires effort because it goes against the conditioned or habitual - and instictive/intuitive - grain, it means doing something different than you feel motivated to do. If one is prosocial due to nature or nurture, then acting in a prosocial way is much easier than being antisocial because that goes against who you are. Just saying, being prosocial, sharing and kind and connected to others doesn't require more effort or will. And, in many cases, actually requires less effort than being antisocial. It actually requires more muscles and physical effort to scowl at people than it does to smile or have a neutral expression.

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You're right, the deck i... (Below threshold)

April 19, 2010 12:48 PM | Posted by Anonymous: | Reply

You're right, the deck is stacked against anyone who wants to live an effective, meaningful life and do some good for other people.

Yeah, the deck is just hella stacked against picking up other people's litter without complaining, saving your money carefully so you won't be a burden on others, listening to the lonely and boring, using your time wisely, and encouraging your friends to do likewise. How does ANYONE manage.

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Re: Anonymous at 9:02am:</p... (Below threshold)

April 19, 2010 1:45 PM | Posted, in reply to Anonymous's comment, by Vimes: | Reply

Re: Anonymous at 9:02am:

For sure, many people live in environments where being prosocial is encouraged. Alone is primarily concerned with elements of society that encourage antisocial behavior, especially ones that do so in a non-obvious way. In particular, with this post he attacked the popular idea that the recession would make everyone more frugal and less materialistic. He's saying that there is a large population that emerged unscathed from the recession, and they learned nothing, so there will be another crash sometime in the future.

Re: Anonymous at 12:48pm:

Heh, you're right of course. I wasn't saying that you'll be persecuted somehow if you try to do all those things. I was saying that we're perfectly free to do them, and yet so few people do. The deck is stacked in a purely empirical, statistical sense. That's why moral responsibility rests firmly with the individual -- "the problem and solution is you."

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Read <a href="http://www.am... (Below threshold)

April 19, 2010 3:10 PM | Posted, in reply to mmgutz's comment, by Anonymous: | Reply

Read this and then this in that order for effect.

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I agree: "good" is not an i... (Below threshold)

April 19, 2010 4:58 PM | Posted, in reply to Anonymous's comment, by Andrew Yates: | Reply

I agree: "good" is not an intention, nor is it judged by effort.

I think most people want to believe that whatever they do should be rewarded and that they should be judged by whatever criteria rewards them for their identity as they believe it to be. See: mission trips, resume volunteer work, the loudly "suffering" working thrifty (see this comment thread).

I'm willing to entertain the idea that easy credit and subsequent sloppy repayment can be good for humanity. Why not? Apparently the real wealth purchased now exists and had the potential to exist ---and at what cost? Superstition? A few angry phone calls?

I don't like how "the system" seems to reward the dishonest and privileged over the earnest and dependent, but hey, before there wasn't a row of houses, and now there is, and now people can go live in those houses. I would have a problem if the people who built those houses and the people who would live in those houses would be burdened at the expense of those who merely moved around quantified superstition. I don't like that I'm constantly coerced to drink soda and buy expensive clothing. But, I don't have an inherent problem with houses, soda, and shirts just because somebody got them for "nothing."

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Josh-I think thing... (Below threshold)

April 19, 2010 6:08 PM | Posted, in reply to Josh's comment, by Anonymous: | Reply


I think things are actually a bit worse for the US. The country owes more money, and fewer people have jobs to start. I think the argument alone would make is that the country got into trouble for fairly obvious reasons, and there was a lot of talk that the problems would be fixed, that no one would be so foolish to make the same ridiculous mistakes again, etc.

But it looks like many of the same mistakes seem to be made - yes we have partly recovered, but the stage is set for the same sort of disaster to happen again. Despite a sharp lesson that some aspects of our economy are broken, the action taken to fix these flaws is minimal.

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Alone,I think you ... (Below threshold)

April 19, 2010 9:03 PM | Posted by Philip: | Reply


I think you would very much enjoy reading Vladimir Nabokov's "Despair."

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It's allclear to me now. It... (Below threshold)

April 19, 2010 11:04 PM | Posted by Zombiechimp: | Reply

It's allclear to me now. It's like a Chinese swingers club that doesn't admit single males. Of course it all ends well.

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The root of narcissism is i... (Below threshold)

April 19, 2010 11:08 PM | Posted by No One: | Reply

The root of narcissism is ignorance, the deadliest of the three poisons. "Wake up" -- yes, very true. Consciously or unconsciously, useless consumerism and cultural trends have caused the erosion of any sort of spirituality. True, we don't "need" any one religion as a society, but what is being thrown out as religion is being thrown out is the self-examination (consciousness) and compassion. Unfortunately materialist views have thrown out "the baby with the bathwater" so to speak. "But we're right! It's the end of history!" Pride marks the fall.

We are so arrogant, we think our technology differentiates us from the primates we were 10000 years ago...it doesn't. "The devil," "the beast," all of these things exist, not in the way a table exists but inside of you. Whether or not they have an independent existence is a moot point. Consider them modalities of understanding that people in the past used to describe human behavior. There is a part of us that loves, and a part of us that is ego. Which part do you want to grow? Which part do you want to develop? As Alone says, it always starts with you.

But I forgot--in our society, there is no such thing as ego, no devil, no beast. These things are old hat, "superstition." We know more than people 100 years ago, 1000 years ago, we have technology. We have science. So say we, as our worlds burns. If an end is coming, we have brought it upon ourselves.

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No One - "But I forgot--in ... (Below threshold)

April 20, 2010 12:51 AM | Posted, in reply to No One's comment, by Anonymous: | Reply

No One - "But I forgot--in our society, there is no such thing as ego, no devil, no beast. These things are old hat, "superstition." We know more than people 100 years ago, 1000 years ago, we have technology. We have science. So say we, as our worlds burns. If an end is coming, we have brought it upon ourselves."

Ah, religion, always making out that being a human animal is evil and you need superstition to keep the "beast" at bay before prattling on about how we've brought the wrath of god down on ourselves. If anything, religion is the height of narcissism with it's belief in a fantasy being that cares intimately about you and will reward you for following his orders or that can be petitioned, bribed or appeased with blood sacrifices.

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I'm a little skeptical of t... (Below threshold)

April 20, 2010 4:27 AM | Posted by Vimes: | Reply

I'm a little skeptical of the idea that society would be better if it was organized around a universal religion. Materialist, secular society encourages some systemic evils, sure, but any religious society would encourage a different set of systemic evils. No matter what society you're born into, you'll be subject to a set of influences, some good, some bad. To use the good ones to the fullest, and to resist the bad ones, requires you to go against the grain, always. "The problem and solution is you."

To those bemoaning the lack of "something to believe in" in modern culture: Unless you just emigrated from Saudi Arabia, you have no direct experience of what a society organized around a single religion is actually like. You just see defects in your own culture, and think that religion will correct those defects, with no side effects.

Religion is not just a handy thing that gives you something to believe in. It's a full set of beliefs and practices, some of which you may not like. Some of which may make you a worse person, in fact.

There's a word for people who evaluate a belief system only in terms of what it will do for their own current personal problems. Hang on, it'll come to me. Starts with an "N..."

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What if it is all just a bo... (Below threshold)

April 20, 2010 6:15 AM | Posted by J: | Reply

What if it is all just a bottom-up twist? I blame it on dreaming.

People have dreams: a family, a house, a nice car, an annual holidaytrip or two. This is the top down -part. These are all images and dreams that are socially forcefed in to the consumers. These dreams have been the fuel that get people to educate, work, excercise etc.

Then boom – economic collapse

If you lose your job, income, house etc. it's a narcissistic injury. "This is not what I deserved" or "I worked my whole life to gain this and now you take it all away". Cynicism and misery ensues.

If you don't lose, you up your optimism. After all this won't affect You, you're special. All this collapse-stuff is in fact a blessing in disquise. This is an opportunity to finally get the things you've always dreamed. Your 350k house is only 290k, this is the opportunity of a lifetime for a loan, nevermind your 30k income. Surely it'll all go back to normal?

You've created yourself within your dreams. Your ideal self is a one with a house, a dog, an SUV etc. So as the situation threatens this image, which is to say it threatens you, you cling on to it harder with desperate enthusiasm. The good thing is optimism bias works to some extent. The sad thing is you'll fall harder. Quick! Construe back the scaffolding before they see you're empty.

So the years of top down projected dreams have created a selfrepairing system. So as Alone says it's up to you get outside this and think for yourselves, create your own dreams, not follow some sad sociocultural commodity. After all, the resources will eventually end, and the collapses keep on following each other until someone breaks the Matrix.

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"Anonymous" sez: "If anythi... (Below threshold)

April 20, 2010 9:46 AM | Posted by medsvstherapy: | Reply

"Anonymous" sez: "If anything, religion is the height of narcissism with it's belief in a fantasy being that cares intimately about you and will reward you for following his orders or that can be petitioned, bribed or appeased with blood sacrifices."
For the most part. however, this is not the theme of Christianity, although Christianity is probably the direct victim of your venom, "Anonymous."

I practice my faith. This includes staying out of debt, a Biblical principal. If you review this economic colllapse issue, the hinge is foolish debt. Why has our loving father given us the advice to stay out of debt? Because he knows we cannot handle it well. Also, he says: don't put all of your eggs in one basket. Why? Yes, he cares about each and every one of us. And borrowing a second mortgage against a trumped-up home value, in a housing bubble, is really putting all of your eggs in one basket.

Self-sacrifice and maturity, versus carrying on like a foolish teenager, is another theme. I don't see how that is consistent with narcissism. Taking care of your family. Being helpful to the poor. Being fair in business dealings. I just don't see your point.

Anaonymous, you are perfectly free to crack open a Bible and start reading. There is plenty of info on the internet, also. Plenty of books in the used book stores. Ignorance is no excuse.

Buddhism also promotes a sustained effort to free yourself from self-centeredness. So, again, I don't see it.

Maybe you are simply upset because, thus far, you have not felt special to God? Spend some time talking with God, your father, heart to heart. you may have to put aside your pride, and acknowledge that there are forces more powerful than you in the universe - this may cause narcissistic injury if it is too shocking, so take it slow. Sure, you may ultimately be just dust in the wind, as the theme in Ecclesiastes says. But to God, you are family, and you are loved for you, even if you are just dust in the wind. Not super-important, as proven by a fancy car or a nice set of clothes, or a trophy spouse. Just for being family. Not really a "need" to follow his orders, except to accept the love of your father, as horrible as that sounds. You will have to share, though - God loves each and every one of us. regardless of whether we have given the blood sacrifices, and other things you mention. And regardless of our level of ignorance.

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It's a circular mess. Almos... (Below threshold)

April 20, 2010 11:28 AM | Posted by Anonymous: | Reply

It's a circular mess. Almost everything that people value has value because other people seem to value it. It's a mass Ouija board that we all play with. The key seems to be who you're playing with

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@Andrew Yates: Who said tha... (Below threshold)

April 20, 2010 12:53 PM | Posted, in reply to Andrew Yates's comment, by Riley: | Reply

@Andrew Yates: Who said that the "money" was "owned" by "other people" in the first place? --Probably the people that earned it, and then were forced to pay it out to the government and its excessive, unsustainable spending. Taxes are necessary, of course, but social programs and government involvement into every aspect of life, or our financial life even, is not.

If you owned 100 acres, of course it would be yours. It should be, anyway. Property rights are fundamental to our nation. Without them, we would end up going back to serfdom of some sort, where modern employees work the land, the factories, the businesses, yet own none of it, remaining at the mercy of the landowner i.e. the government, unable to strike out on their own and carve their own path. There are already aspects of this that go on today, thanks to how difficult and costly our helpful government has made it for people to start new businesses, among other things. Consider this: If I start my own business, and I am the only employee, and my business earns less than I had made when I was an employee of another company, I would owe MORE taxes than I did before. Take that down. -Earning less, -Paying more. Why? Because I had the audacity to try to get out from under the thumb of someone else. Thanks Uncle Sam. And you want more of their wise leadership?

Government does have a role to play in our lives. It is to serve us, not to lead us. It is to protect us, not to own us. The government's job is to PROTECT our property rights, to make it possible for us to safely have MORE freedom, not less.

The notion that when bad things happen we need the government to take action is absurd. Bad things always happen, and they always will. The ironic thing is that by trying to protect us (if that's even what they are really trying to do), they harm us further, much like when a child's parent doesn't let their child learn from their own mistakes the child will be doomed to repeat them. If you don't think society as a whole are essentially children, then go read the above article again. Our trusty government always comes running with a worm in its mouth when we cry, rather than pushing us out of the nest like it should. What do you think we'll chose to do? Jump out on our own, or continue receiving what we want with minimal effort?

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I don't understand how it f... (Below threshold)

April 20, 2010 1:17 PM | Posted, in reply to Riley's comment, by Andrew Yates: | Reply

I don't understand how it follows that serfdom results from flexible debt and economic permissiveness.

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As for the "government," I ... (Below threshold)

April 20, 2010 1:30 PM | Posted by Andrew Yates: | Reply

As for the "government," I don't understand how any particular policy can be good or bad without knowing exactly what that policy is and how its implemented. I do think that government enforced economic permissiveness and fiscal transparency is preferable to indentured labor, debtor's prison, and an opaque aristocracy. I feel like I have very poor information to make any reasonable judgement about the policies of this American administration other than a sense of mounting frustration and disgust of legacy gross incompetence without the freedom or power to explicitly reveal their feelings.

As for Obama: maybe it's the people who "love" you are the most disgusting. But what do you say to those people? "Your fawning, useless sycophancy disgusts me more than my sincere enemies ever could. I yearn for the day when I can disabuse you of the notion that your empty servile babble is worthless ---and you're worthless--- and everyday I'd wake thinking how much I hate you if I wasn't so busy trying to work around you without offending you."

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Something to believe in...<... (Below threshold)

April 20, 2010 4:20 PM | Posted by Sfon: | Reply

Something to believe in...

Like god taking care of everyone because he loves them. And 'everyone' of course means 'You'. Those people god is clearly not taking care of don't count. Everything that happens to You happens for a reason. Others might even be thrown away to prove a point to You without knowing what/who they were thrown away for, but never the other way around. You didn't win the cosmic lottery, You are the cosmic lottery.

One who has truly submitted to god is incapable of caring whether they go to heaven or hell. Yet it is insisted by believers that they are going to heaven as if it is inconceivable that the goal of the whole universe could revolve around anyone else but them.

Belief that You possess god. That he is only allowed to exist on Your terms. And then to claim that in doing this, you are humbly submitting to god. The ultimate in narcissistic arrogance!

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medsvstherapy - It's a pity... (Below threshold)

April 20, 2010 5:38 PM | Posted by Anonymous: | Reply

medsvstherapy - It's a pity that you can't find meaning in reality but just because you can't doesn't mean others are also incapable of doing so and need to resort to fantasies about a god or gods that care if you've been a good little boy or girl. Just like not everyone needs to be threatened with eternal punishment to act ethically (not that religion or the people it gives power to are actually that ethical - lots of preaching while diddling little boys and trying to control others for personal gain is about what it amounts to...along with pathologizing being human as a means to control through falsely constucted guilt and shame). Too bad humanity hasn't grown up enough not to need a sky daddy or mommy.

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medsvstherapy - I also don'... (Below threshold)

April 20, 2010 5:55 PM | Posted by Anonymous: | Reply

medsvstherapy - I also don't need an imaginary protector to acknowledge just how inconsequential your and my lives are in terms of the the scope of time and space. On top of it, I can also accept that meaning is personal and there's no universal or diving "meaning" to my existence. Sure other people may care and we find my existence meaningful but I don't need to construct some grandiose divine meaning that puts me and humanity at the centre of the universe to make myself feel important. Why? Because, outside of my social context and personal experience, I'm really no more important than a tree or a fly.

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And, to bring it back to na... (Below threshold)

April 20, 2010 6:14 PM | Posted by Anonymous: | Reply

And, to bring it back to narcissism, religion also promotes unrealistic images of what it is to be human. The "Good Christian" is no less an unrealistic construct than an airbrushed picture of a supermodel or any of the images thrown up by advertising. Both religion and toothpaste promise love and happiness if you buy and use their product. Not to mention that religions are the first multinationals out to convert consumers by force and making them feel ashamed about being human!

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Anon 12:51am, The ... (Below threshold)

April 20, 2010 6:45 PM | Posted, in reply to Anonymous's comment, by No One: | Reply

Anon 12:51am,

The rebuttal to your statement is already there, if you look over the first paragraph of my last post again.

You speak without listening. You're attempting to attack some concept you have of a "religious" person. You're describing a very diluted form of christianity. You act as though christianity is the only form of religion. Well, apparently what you think about me couldn't be further off target.

Wait-- you're saying we aren't bringing the end on ourselves? We don't need the wrath of God--we have nuclear weapons, pollution, overpopulation, global warming and narcissism. Last time I checked, these were all products of our species. On the other hand, we have a tremendous capacity to heal.

My argument is not that we should have a universal religion but that we should take the best parts of religion (the transcendental aspects and core ethics) and apply them to our lives. The consciousness, the compassion, the love. Or, at least have them taught in school so that psychiatrists don't have to teach them. Not against psychiatrists teaching them, but there aren't enough psychiatrists to meet that demand, and not everyone can go to one.

Essentially, that man has a side that is good and a side that is evil. "But what about..." yes, there are always outliers. In general, man is not inherently good or evil. But he has the choice. I am not arguing for superstition, but for increased consciousness. So do you want to be a creator or a destroyer on this planet? Do you want to be selfish or selfless? You have the choice. It all comes down to you, as Alone would say.

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No One - When you argue for... (Below threshold)

April 20, 2010 9:43 PM | Posted, in reply to No One's comment, by Anonymous: | Reply

No One - When you argue for faith in a God and belief in belief in good and evil as interpreted by your particular sect of your particular religion then, yes, you are arguing for superstition.

The very binary dialectics you propose - good vs evil or creator vs destroyer - are the kind of exclusionary dialectic that is part of the dynamic of narcissism. Good and evil are arbitrary and subjective judgments - one man's evil is another man's divine good.

If you were actually simply advocating for being loving and compassionate - both innately human states that religion likes to claim ownership of and attribute to "God" - there's no reason to start evangelizing to do so. Love and compassion are human qualities and mundane states, not religious or divine. In fact, love is very much a mammalian trait - it's not even only human.

If religion (or playing xbox) makes you feel better and gives your life meaning that you can't find elsewhere that's great for you. Seriously. Just stop trying to claim that love and compassion are anything but part of being human and, in the case of love, a mammal. Really, get over the narcissism of thinking humans are at the center of the universe and that the universe exists just so you can please an imaginary being and become immortal.

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God, “binary dialectics…” I... (Below threshold)

April 21, 2010 4:17 PM | Posted by Lynn: | Reply

God, “binary dialectics…” I smell first year undergraduate know-it-all.

If good and evil are subjective judgments then your argument about innate human nature is baseless. The innate love and compassion you attribute to humans could just as easily mean beating your child and murdering them when they aren’t “good” since everything is relative in your world. God forbid we have standards and make judgments because that might hurt the narcissist’s feelings.
Relativism is bullshit. Call me a narcissist. This narcissist is content with that.

You confuse wanting to do good or wanting to be loving and compassionate with actually being good and doing acts that reflect compassion and love. After all a narcissistic mother loves her child for the attention that comes with being a good parent…and on and on. Having the ability vs actually practicing that ability are different things.

Believing in a higher power or absolute moral authority is no more narcissistic, than say, a pedantic, Anonymous commenter hypothesizing that he knows first- hand there is no creator. You come off as an angry, bitter victim.

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What's worse, an Orwellian ... (Below threshold)

April 21, 2010 4:49 PM | Posted, in reply to Vimes's comment, by Anonymous: | Reply

What's worse, an Orwellian society where people are watched and controlled against their will, or a Huxley one, where people willingly submit and conform?

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