Thursday, May 08, 2008

Hurting the Democratic Party?

One thing I have been hearing a lot these days and seeing a lot of articles, is how the prolonged race between Sentors Obama and Clinton for the party nomination is “hurting” the Democratic Party. OK, so maybe I’m the kindergarten scissors in a drawer full of power saws, but say what?

Shouldn’t Democrats be fully informed about the people who want to lead the nation under their banner? Shouldn’t the rules in place be followed for selecting their nominee?

But there, of course, is the rub. The Donks wanted to have their guy/girl/whatever in the spotlight early on, so they could build up their position. The favorite myth of the Left, that later means worse, is still big with these guys, proving once again that they learned pretty much zilch from 2004. If I were making the case for someone hurting the party. I’d say the people selling the theory that lessons from past elections should be ignored, that image is better than substance, that regular people should be lied to rather than listened to, those are the people who hurt whatever group they touch.

The Democrats used to be a potent force for political effectiveness and moral leadership. Not that I agreed with every decision they made, but men like John Kennedy and Harry Truman were good for the nation, and their character showed up in hard decisions and clear initiatives. Not that there are not good Democrats now, but they are much fewer than before, and they are not leading the party (is anyone?) This has happened before, of course, and in both major parties. The Democrats had Grover Cleveland at a high point, then fell back a bit through Woodrow Wilson and his era, and rallied back a bit under Truman and Kennedy, before falling into the mud for a long time after that. The problem the Democrats are starting to recognize now was a long time coming, but it was not caused by either Hillary Clinton or Barack Obama. Those two people are merely the sad consequence of a generation of shallow, manipulative scheming by so many politicians before them. And so the problem will not be resolved by one of the two dropping out of the race, but the Democrats having a hard look in the mirror and – finally – deciding to stand for something more than grabbing power by preaching envy and hate.

Tuesday, May 06, 2008

Economics is Not a Pure Science

On another blog, I had the pleasure to exchange opinions with a bloglodyte. What earned this fellow that sobriquet was not the fact that he and I disagreed, but that he pursued his argument without the use of reason or a single cogent fact. Vituperance and envy pretty much shut down all of the higher-cranial functions for this bitter young man. Along the course of his disjointed rants, he attempted to make some of his claims more credible by insisting that he held a master’s degree in Economics, a claim his own claims immediately dispelled. As a rule of thumb, one should have at least a passing familiarity with the major concepts and prevailing theories of a subject, before claiming expertise in the field. The fellow took umbrage at my observation that Economics is not really a science in the true sense, but rather a set of sociological behavior matrices, based on mathematic theories applied to conditional scenarios. This basic fact is essential to understanding how Economics works, and why it is so relevant to Politics.

Look at the stock market, for example. Every day, more than a thousand publicly traded stocks are bought and sold at bourses around the world and through online sales. The prices of these stocks are supposedly based on the best estimates of the companies’ fundamental performance indicators in terms of revenue, costs, debt, and other salient factors, yet minute by minute the price varies. Why? Because the price of the stock is determined by buy and sell decisions made throughout the business day, based not only on hard data and analysis, but on the emotional belief that a company is worth more or less than it’s stock price indicates, driving the price up or down. In fact, it is this emotional component which creates sales of stock in the main; if everyone agreed what the price of a stock should be, the stock price would quickly assume that value and no one would buy or sell from that point onward.

For that matter, look at oil. We’re not running out, in the short term at least. Drive to any station, and they will have all you want of all grades of gas, and even on the overall scale, stocks are not in any present danger. So, what drives gasoline prices up and up? The component costs of getting that gas to the station, that’s what, such as the petroleum. Why is oil more expensive? Because of the belief that events in the Middle East, concerns about environmental costs, and so on make the oil more expensive. That, and the fact that the eco-morons want cheap gas but won’t let anyone drill for oil close to home or build any more refineries, but again, that’s an emotional decision and supports what I am saying.

Another example is this whole sub-prime mortgage mess. Granted, it’s a real problem, but the problem affected a small percentage of mortgages and a minor sector of home building, not affecting the basic value of a home or the rates on exiting fixed-rate mortgages, as is held by most folks. What changed was brought about by a change in opinion about the stability of the industry, the trustworthiness of mortgage lenders, and the need for the government to act, which is almost always cumbersome, ineffective, and pricey in the long run. It simply needs to be understood, that we the people, to a great degree choose the economic conditions through our reaction to events which are for the most part transitory and minor. That is not to say that the effects are not real, or that people do not suffer tragically in some of these cases, but the humanistic component of all economic conditions must not be ignored.

Which brings us to politics. Obama’s faithful believe he will change things for the better, to my mind in spite of all the evidence. Hillary’s supporters believe that her time as First Lady and her short service as a Senator give her the qualifications not only to run the country, but also a far better grounding in the requisite capability than Senator Obama. And McCain’s team is confident in their belief that he is the best-qualified candidate to lead the country. Ultimately, all three of these candidates are in a race to get the most people to express belief in them, to emotionally invest in the candidate. I cannot recall a national election ever being won on the basis discourse, for good or ill. And because all of the candidates can be counted on to dwell on the U.S. economy and offer up their proposed solutions, what people believe about the economy is an important element to how the race will play out.