Everything is fine, the Krugman promised

And those four horsemen you see riding this way, they’re just out for an afternoon canter. Keep in mind these soothing assurances come from the same Nobel prize winner who, contra his ex post facto self-congratulatory posturing, didn’t see the 2008 financial crisis coming:

Once upon a time, walking around shouting “The end is nigh” got you labeled a kook, someone not to be taken seriously. These days, however, all the best people go around warning of looming disaster. In fact, you more or less have to subscribe to fantasies of fiscal apocalypse to be considered respectable.

And I do mean fantasies. Washington has spent the past three-plus years in terror of a debt crisis that keeps not happening, and, in fact, can’t happen to a country like the United States, which has its own currency and borrows in that currency. Yet the scaremongers can’t bring themselves to let go….

Look at Japan, a country that, like America, has its own currency and borrows in that currency, and has much higher debt relative to G.D.P. than we do. Since taking office, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has, in effect, engineered exactly the kind of loss of confidence the debt worriers fear — that is, he has persuaded investors that deflation is over and inflation lies ahead, which reduces the attractiveness of Japanese bonds. And the effects on the Japanese economy have been entirely positive! Interest rates are still low, because people expect the Bank of Japan (the equivalent of our Federal Reserve) to keep them low; the yen has fallen, which is a good thing, because it make Japanese exports more competitive. And Japanese economic growth has actually accelerated.

Why, then, should we fear a debt apocalypse here? Surely, you may think, someone in the debt-apocalypse community has offered a clear explanation. But nobody has.

So the next time you see some serious-looking man in a suit declaring that we’re teetering on the precipice of fiscal doom, don’t be afraid. He and his friends have been wrong about everything so far, and they literally have no idea what they’re talking about. 

First, numerous clear explanations have been offered. It is well-known that Paul Krugman does literally no reading of economics outside his Neo-Keynesian paradigm, as evidenced by his disastrous attempt to criticize Austrian economic theory I addressed in RGD. His grasp on it wasn’t quite as bad as the guy who didn’t understand why such a small country’s economy was so important, but it wasn’t much better.

Second, if there isn’t a potential debt apocalypse on the horizon, then how does Mr. Krugman explain the 5-year anomaly in a 65-year period shown to the left?  I’m not going to bother producing a new graph, because the picture looks exactly the same from 1948 to 2013.

Total Credit (Z1) rose at a very steady rate from 1948 to 2008. Like clockwork, the 60-year quarterly growth rate averaged around 2.3 percent per quarter. In the 22 quarters since Q1 2008, the average quarterly Z1 growth rate has been 0.6 percent, leading to a current credit demand gap of $26 trillion with Zn, which is where Z1 would be now if it had simply continued to grow at its normal 60-year rate over the last five years.

And that $26 trillion gap is despite the Federal sector increasing its outstanding debt from $5.1 trillion to $11.9 trillion during those 22 quarters. The Federal sector now accounts for 20.7 percent of all outstanding debt, more than double its percentage in 2008.  Without the orgy of Federal borrowing and spending, (or in other words, if outstanding Federal debt was still only 10.24 percent of Z1) we would still be in credit deflation rather than the ongoing state of credit disinflation.

So what we are seeing is the gradual socialization of the credit markets. At this rate, if the Federal sector continues to double its share of Z1 every 16 quarters, 100 percent of the outstanding debt in the entire economy will be owed by the Federal government in the year 2023. This may not matter from the Neo-Keynesian perspective, where debt does not enter into the equations, and all spending counts the same and is equally efficient no matter the source or the recipient. But for those who understand the Austrian concept of malinvestment or are cognizant of the history of fully socialized economies, it should be troubling news indeed.

We are already in a state of debt deflation in the private economy. In Q4 2007, the private sector’s share of Z1 was $42.7 trillion. In Q2 2013, that share was $42.6 trillion. (NB: this does not count the large quantity of bad debt assets that have not yet been booked, which I estimate to be around 40 percent based on reported FDIC losses.) That is evidence that there has been no real growth in the economy despite the GDP numbers and the massive government attempts to kickstart it. One cannot push on a string, and as Ben Bernanke belatedly discovered, one cannot print private sector borrowers either.

Krugman is like a man standing in the rain on the banks of a flooding river, ignoring the frantic efforts of thousands of men piling sandbags higher and higher, calmly assuring everyone that no one has to worry about getting their feet wet. I have very little doubt that this is a column Krugman is going to regret having written in the future and very much look forward to reading his attempts to disavow it or otherwise explain it away.

PZ wrestles with SMV, loses

There are few things more amusing than watching a Gamma attempt to criticize some aspect of Game. In this case, PZ provides a fascinating critique of Rollo’s SMV graphic:

The whole concept of “Sexual Market Value”. What does that even mean? It’s dimensionless. He doesn’t have a way to look at any person and say, “Your market value is X”. It doesn’t even make sense to put this into a chart; my sexual appeal to my wife is huge, but negligible to everyone else. Scarlett Johansen may have a reputation as a very sexy woman, but her sexual “market value” to me is zero, and not only is it offensive to propose that her sex is purchasable for some imaginary sum of a million quatloos or whatever, it probably isn’t even a real commodity.

Read the whole thing, including my response, at Alpha Game. But the concept of Sexual Market Value is not a difficult one. The two women on the left are prime examples of women with very high SMVs. They are paid literally millions of dollars every year simply because they happen to represent what most people who are attracted to women find extraordinarily attractive. TL;DR: Brazilian supermodel = high SMV.

What I found most interesting about PZ’s post is an aspect into which I will delve into here rather than at AG since it is more relevant to economics than Game, is the way in which his post reveals that he genuinely does not grasp even basic principles of economics. Let’s take a look at his example of Scarlett Johansson.

Even if we take him at his word and accept that he finds her so totally unappealing that she holds no more attraction for him than an infant or an 85 year-old woman, that does not mean everyone else feels the same way. Hence the use of the term “Market”; SMV intrinsically describes the average of everyone’s subjective perspective concerning an individual. It’s not a literal market complete with prices because prostitution is illegal, but that doesn’t change the fact that the same rules of supply and demand that apply to literal markets measured in prices apply to the sexual market.

So, even though PZ’s sexual appeal to his wife is reportedly huge, because it is negligible to everyone else, his SMV is low. On the other hand, Ms Johansson’s SMV is high despite PZ’s deprecation of her because so many people find her to be exceptionally attractive. I am not one of them myself, but because I no more dictate global SMV than PZ or anyone else, I can recognize her high SMV despite the fact that I, personally, would rate her considerably lower.

These are simple principles of supply and demand. I place a much higher value, monetary and otherwise, on an Intellivision PAL system, than the vast majority of people on the planet. Many people place no value on console games, many people with an interest in console games place no value on long-outdated consoles, and most people who place value on long-outdated consoles live where NTSC is the standard.

So I will obtain a PAL Intellivision console for much less than I would be willing to pay for it because so few others value it as highly. In like manner, PZ is fortunate that he has apparently found a woman who happens to overrate his negligible sexual appeal in the converse of the way that PZ underrates Ms Johansson’s. So, it should be readily apparent that the fact value is subjective in no way means that objective observations and determinations cannot be made about the collective average of those individually subjective values, even when they are relative rather than numerically quantified.

Mastering the monster

Matrix Games announces a quasi-new game that borders upon the breathtaking:

World in Flames is Matrix Games’ computer version of Australian Design Group’s classic board game.  Covering both the European and Pacific Theaters of Operations during World War II, World in Flames is global in scope while simulating each branch of service in detail.  Land units are corps and army level, supplemented with specialized divisions.  Naval units include individual counters for every carrier, battleship, cruiser, and light cruiser in the war. Using 1000+ unique bitmapped images, air units represent groups of 250 to 500 airplanes.  With 6000+ unique units, 250+ countries, and a global map of 70,200 hexes, World in Flames is the premier World War II grand strategy game.

Nine of the eleven scenarios from Australian Design Group’s World in Flames Final Edition are included, and they range from the small 5 turn Barbarossa offensive in Russia and the 5 turn Guadalcanal battle in the Pacific, through to the 36 turn Global War campaign which spans all of Europe, Africa, the Middle East, Asia, the Atlantic, and the Pacific.  You can play either the Axis or the Allied side or take the role of one of the 8 major powers.  Besides solitaire and head-to-head, you can play over the Internet.  The last mode of play is for two players, Axis versus Allies.

In addition to the full set of rules from World in Flames, Final Edition, there are 58 optional rules.  Australian Design Group’s expansion modules Ships in Flames and Planes in Flames are incorporated into the basic game, but the inclusion of other expansion modules, such as Mech in Flames, Carrier Planes in Flames, and Cruisers in Flames, depends on which optional rules are selected.

This simulation models national production from conveying raw resources to factories  using rail lines and overseas pipelines for producing infantry, armor, naval, and air combat units.  Because oil was so important during World War II, there are separate optional rules for synthetic oil plants and deployment of oil reserves to the front lines.

This looks like an incredible blend of boardgame and computer game. No AI, but it is in the works, according to the developer. I have the computerized War in Europe, which was a somewhat similar concept, but this looks considerably more advanced and much more adapted for the Internet era. I think those hardbound rulebooks will look exceedingly nice next to my ASL folders, although I hope they will also include PDF versions for speedier reference.(1) I expect they will eventually add PBEM as well. I do hope you’ll be able to play over the Internet with a single copy.

And an interview with the designer, Harry Rowland, can be found here. It’s amazing to learn that 60,000 copies of the game have been sold over the last 30 years.

(1) Looks like they anticipated this: “The text from this section of the Players Manual is available during
game play as context sensitive help. During a game you don’t need to
leaf through the Players Manual looking for how to use a form, just
click on the Help button to bring up the text from the Players Manual
that describes the form.”
That’s smart; it really is an integrated approach.

Mailvox: of God and games

Civilservant asks two questions:

Are man-made morals more arbitrary than god-made morals?  The original question involved “authority” as if that were
synonymous with “legitimate”. People typically view God’s laws (however
conceived) as being “authoritative” and therefore “legitimate”. But
are not God’s laws arbitrary in exactly the same way as Man’s laws may
be arbitrary? As I said earlier anyone may say “My Game, My Rules” with
equal legitimacy but the difficulty is in getting others to go along
with the Rules. Witness the war in heaven and Satan’s disobedience.

Man-made morals are no more arbitrary than God-made morals – and note that the capital G is necessary here – but they are considerably less-informed and they lack all legitimacy and authority.

And as for God’s laws being arbitrary in EXACTLY the same way as Man’s laws, that depends upon the specific sense of “arbitrary” being used.  Let’s consider the four definitions: 

1.subject to individual will or judgment without restriction; contingent solely upon one’s discretion: an arbitrary decision. 

God’s laws are clearly MORE arbitrary in this sense, because His will is less restricted than Man’s.

2. decided by a judge or arbiter rather than by a law or statute.

God’s laws are MORE arbitrary than Man’s in this sense; even though the USA, for example, has increasingly become a nation of case law rather than statutory law. God has laid down the laws of the Creation, but in relation to Man, He is more judge than legislator.

3.having unlimited power; uncontrolled or unrestricted by law; despotic; tyrannical: an arbitrary government. 

Again, God’s laws are MORE arbitrary than Man’s laws, since God’s power is less limited than Man’s. 

4.capricious; unreasonable; unsupported

In this sense, God’s laws are much LESS arbitrary than Man’s. Since we are told the wages of sin are death and that all men sin, the fact that all men die is empirical evidence that God’s laws are neither capricious or unsupported. Furthermore, God’s laws are scientifically falsifiable; all a man interested in testing the validity of God’s laws must do is not sin, then die, and they will be falsified.

So, the answer is obviously no, God’s laws are not arbitrary in exactly the same way as Man’s laws. Furthermore, it is totally incorrect to say “anyone may say “My Game, My Rules” with
equal legitimacy.”  God is the creator and owner of the game. The universe is His game, and no man has any more right to say that his rules take precedence over God’s than Adrian Peterson has the right to declare that the next touchdown he scores will be worth 100 points. Whereas, if the entity called NFL decides that a touchdown is henceforth to be worth 100 points, the next touchdown Mr. Peterson scores will, in fact, be worth 100 points.

Mailvox: “a fine book”

Some time ago, I got an email from a bestselling author, who shall remain nameless. Said author informed me that they had picked up two of the Selenoth shorts as free downloads from Amazon and found them to be more entertaining than expected. That was nice to hear, but the following review, which arrived in my email yesterday along with permission to post it here, was remarkably gracious and unexpectedly positive.

A Throne of Bones by Vox Day is not a novel for just anyone. The scope and ambition of the world and the numerous storylines would probably be overwhelming to the casual reader of fantasy fiction – and perhaps even those who enjoy the novels of George R.R. Martin or similar writers of massive fantasy tomes. At times, A Throne of Bones even forced me to mentally review my Roman and biblical history, and it stretched my vague memories of Latin to the limit.

I cannot say that I’m surprised that traditional publishing houses passed on this work. I imagine that many editors who looked at it were intimidated by it in terms of content and length. This is not an easy novel, and if one’s only background is a Bachelor’s degree in English, as an editor it would appear to be an impossible mountain to climb in terms of the required knowledge to do it justice. I very much found myself wondering what would have happened had it been published by a large house with a marketing campaign behind it.

As an editor myself, I would have felt compelled to take a run at it, and no doubt would have advised Vox Day to take a couple of different directions than he did, but the end result of his work cannot be denied: it’s a fine book and one to recommend to people who like their fantasy novels with genuine width and depth. All in all, A Throne of Bones offers an incredibly in-depth story, and a remarkable level of craftsmanship in the world building.

As an author, I’d suggest that old advice is good advice: don’t try this at home. Not very many writers have the ability to pull off something this ambitious, but Vox Day did. A Throne of Bones would be a career achievement any writer would be proud to call his own.

It’s been a surprisingly exciting ten months since Marcher Lord Hinterlands published A Throne of Bones. I’ve been formally barred from some Christian awards and nominated for others. I’ve been rejected by an international publishing house that loved the book because I’m too personally controversial. And I’m the first writer in history to be kicked out of the SFWA.

Even so, I can honestly say that I wouldn’t trade my literary career for any living author who isn’t named either a) Neal Stephenson or b) Umberto Eco.

Now, I’m not unaware of the gentle criticism implicit in the review, notwithstanding the kind words of praise. The book could certainly be better, and I am optimistic that the second book in the series will be, although no book I write is ever likely to be a masterwork of literary style. But the author, editor, and reviewer was dead-on. A Throne of Bones is not a book for everyone and it was never intended to be. I am simply pleased to know that it appears to have reached a few of its ideal readers and is appreciated for what it is.

An agnostic’s perspective

Brett Markham reviews The Irrational Atheist on Amazon:

I am not on either side of the atheist/religionist camp. I have enjoyed some of Dawkins’ work (such as The Blind Watchmaker) but personally I do not consider creationism and evolution to be mutually exclusive. Could not a deity, for example, create through evolution?

Likewise, I am keenly aware that on the sentience quotient scale (SQ), which is logarithmic, it is entirely possible for entities to exist that are as much more sentient than humans as humans are more sentient than rocks, meaning we could understand such entities about as well as rocks understand humans. And to such entities, our “science” would be as meaningful as the “science” that rocks formulate is meaningful to us. So the concept of deity falls, in my opinion, within the realm of theoretical possibility without contradicting science.

At the same time, the idea that some person’s interpretation of the meaning of an unverifiable deity’s words should regulate my choices seems disconnected from reality. I do not appreciate proselyte atheism (which seems more like an intolerant religion than science to me) any more than I appreciate someone informing me that his deity’s will is for me to burn in Hell. At the same time, I appreciate that it is difficult if not impossible to create self-referential moral codes and can see both the benefits and harms attributed to both deistic religions (such as Catholicism) and non-deistic religions (such as atheism and feminism).

That having been said, I truly and thoroughly enjoyed this book. A lot. For truly intellectually curious people who don’t want to live in an echo chamber, this book is truly thought-provoking in a number of important realms.

As a scientist and engineer, I am keenly aware of the fact scientists and technologists of various sorts are paid every day to apply their skills and knowledge to ethically dubious ends. It is extremely common for such people to adopt an attitude of moral agnosticism and effectively do whatever they are paid to do. Witness, for example, the fact that fields of science gave us nerve gas, biological weapons, Xyklon B and nuclear bombs. It is science that, in the future, may well produce breeds of post-humans that hold mere humans in thrall or create custom humans as slaves. Though followers of deistic religions may well have wreaked havoc, it is only science that holds the promise of efficient and achievable genocide, and the vaporization of untold hundreds of thousands or millions of people in the blink of an eye.

Though this book spends a lot of very entertaining time pointing out the contradictions, inconsistencies and even hypocrisy of self-proclaimed Atheists who make a big deal of their atheism, the major contribution of this book, in my opinion, is at the intersection of science and morality. It takes a deep breath, takes a step back, takes a hard look, and asks meaningful and important questions.

Science and technology are powerful, and their application has profound implications for the nature of human life in the future.

Though the atheist/religionist debate is often framed in terms of a war between reason and mysticism, Vox Day shows the irrationality that likewise underlies atheism — and then exposes science to the blinding glare of observation and asks the important moral questions.

I consider this book to be important. Very important. It is not particularly important from the perspective of debate, but rather for the questions it raises concerning the junction of science and morality as well as the future of human societies.

The reviewer rather presciently focuses on an area that has been of increasing interest to me in the time since I wrote TIA. The blithe assumption on the part of many scientists and science fetishists that science is somehow beyond good and evil on the basis of its effectiveness is potentially disastrous.

Already, we are seeing limits imposed on scientific publishing, as in the case of the recent court decision in the Netherlands concerning a ban on the scientific publication of research related to viruses. “For the first time, it is now clear that with this regulation, the distribution of scientific knowledge can also be restricted.”

This genuine limitation on scientific research hasn’t stirred much anywhere nearly as much outrage among the scientific community as stickers on various biology schoolbooks, which indicates that many, if not most, scientists are far more concerned with defending their present scientific paradigms than they are with defending science itself. Which, in itself, poses a fairly serious philosophical problem.

The philosophical failure of science

If he’s not careful, the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Scientists is going to round up James Delingpole for excess public brutality. His demolition of the BBC and its so-called science experts borders on pure sadism:

The Beeb constantly resorts to ‘experts’ whose arguments are bigoted, feeble, fatuous, fallacious and stupid

‘Well, you’re arguing facts against opinions. OK, I
mean, the fact that the amount of carbon dioxide in the air has rocketed
up since the Industrial Revolution, and continues to rocket up, is a
fact. Now, it’s so much a fact that even the climate change deniers look
away from it and don’t deny it.’

— Professor Steve Jones, Feedback, BBC Radio 4, 18 October

Have a look at that last sentence. It represents such a cherishably
stupid, rude, fatuous, crabby, bigoted, ignorant, petulant, feeble,
fallacious, dishonest and misleading argument that if it turned out the
speaker in question was a professor of logic or philosophy you really
might want to shoot yourself in despair.

Can you see what the problem is? Let me explain. This angry professor
character wants us to believe that there are people called ‘climate
change deniers’ who are so far outside the pale of reasonable discourse
that even when they are right it’s another sign of just how wrong they

Atmospheric CO2 has been rising since the Industrial
Revolution, Jones is telling us, but those pesky deniers are so slippery
that they refuse to deny this fact. If they did, presumably, it would
make Jones’s job a lot easier because then he’d be able to provide a
clear example of these wrong ‘opinions’ deniers supposedly hold.
Apparently, though, Jones is unable to produce such a clear example. So
instead he has to fabricate one and — in the very next breath — to
discount it by conceding that actually this is a point on which ‘even’
the ‘deniers’ agree.

It’s a bad sign for the state of science when the average anklebiting blog troll can produce arguments that are more coherent, credible, and convincing than the official mouthpieces of scientific consensus. But then, that’s what happens when scientists show they are more dedicated to scientistry than scientody.

Appeal to authority are inherently problematic. But appealing to the climatological authority of a biologist whose specialty is snails? It requires years of J-school to produce that quixotic form of genius.

Age and declining sexual value

Susan Walsh attempted to disprove what she describes as “The Myth of Plummeting Female Sexual Market Value“:

A reader shared this bit of male wishful thinking about female sexual market value. It was apparently cooked up by a typically disgruntled and sexually frustrated older male licking his mating wounds.

It’s easy to see why this appeals to the 30-something guy who feels like a mating failure. The female’s sexual attractiveness peaks at the ripe old age of 16.5, and by 20, her sexual market value is plummeting. By the age of 33, she’s flunking miserably with only 25% of her mojo left!

Oddly, her sexual value decreases slowly after that, with little decrease at all after age 55 – whoo hoo. Of course, there’s not much room left for decline – she’s at a measly 3% by then. A dried up and withered old crone.

However, her critique had a few holes in it, in much the same way that the nuclear power plant in Fukushima has had a few problems. I addressed them in two parts at Alpha Game, the first part dealing with the logical elements, to the extent they can be reasonably described that way, and the second part analyzing what was presented rather optimistically as “the math”.

Of course, it would have been faster to simply post the link to the video Heartiste describes as The Wall, In Fast Forward.

Selenoth wikia

I haven’t done anything more than create it, but if you’re interested in participating in the Selenoth wiki, please feel free to join in. And if you’re very, very interested, I’d like to find two people who are willing to contribute and serve as administrators, since the odds that the usual suspects aren’t going to vandalize it from time to time are nil.

I realized, in the process of working on Book Two, that if I already needed a printout just to keep things straight, there are probably others who find it a hopeless task and could use an easy online reference.

Voice rock

One of my childhood friends and fellow NOBOY is a member of this a capella group. They’re very good musicians, and I find it vastly amusing to see my old friend is still every bit as much the freak he was when he was writing songs about groupers in the sea of ineffable reality. And I still like his voice.

Of course, if one considers the differences between Psykosonik and Face, it would appear the only musical influence I can claim to have had on him is to cause him to flee in precisely the opposite direction. Although the two of us did once perform “The Road to Great Cthulhu” at Christmas together, to general mystification.