An Essay into the Nature and Causes of Poverty — Part 2

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Value and Wealth

Since this is an essay on poverty (part 1 here), it is useful to consider its polar opposite, namely wealth. Defining wealth precisely is therefore the first order of business. Wealth is anything that is of some value to some person. Value is hard to pin down because it varies according to the person doing the evaluating. Just as beauty lies in the eye of the beholder, value lies in the mind of the evaluating person. 

Exchange

One man’s garbage is another man’s treasure, as the adage states quite correctly. Therefore two people may value the same thing quite differently. That difference is the only reason that people exchange stuff. For example, when Jim buys a sandwich for $5 from Joe, clearly Jim values the sandwich more than he values $5, and conversely Joe values $5 more than he values the sandwich. Also worth noting that exchange involves distinctly dissimilar things. Continue reading

An Essay into the Nature and Causes of Poverty — Part 1

Economics

In the following, I explore a few fundamental ideas relating to the core subject matter of economics. One can precisely date the founding of the discipline with the publication in 1776 of Adam Smith’s seminal work titled An Inquiry into the Nature and Causes of the Wealth of Nations.

Note that the focus was on the wealth of nations, and not  the poverty of nations. Poverty is the default condition of all peoples in all times; it is the nature and causes of the wealth of nations that require explaining.

Economics is a branch of social science. Social science is devoted to the study of human societies and human interactions. Today economics is a vast field with dozens of specialized areas of inquiry. But the discipline was started by, would you believe, philosophers. What we call classical economists today — Adam Smith, David Hume, John Stuart Mill, et al — were philosophers. Smith’s first book Theory of Moral Sentiments (1759) laid the ethical and moral foundations for his later book on the wealth of nations. Continue reading

Einstein’s Ph.D. Thesis

Einstein submitted his PhD thesis in 1905, the “miracle year” (Annus Mirabilis) in which he also published four papers on various matters:

        • Photoelectric effect
        • Brownian motion
        • Special relativity
        • Mass–energy equivalence

It was for his discovery of the photoelectric effect that Einstein was awarded the 1921 Nobel prize in physics, and not for his more famous work on special relativity or for the work which has the world’s most popularly celebrated equation E=mc2.

Albert Einstein was born on March 14, 1879 in Ulm, in the Kingdom of Württemberg in the German Empire. His citizenship is interesting. First he was a subject of the Kingdom of Württemberg during the German Empire (1879–1896). After that he was stateless (1896–1901), then a Swiss citizen (1901–1955), Austrian subject of the Austro-Hungarian Empire (1911–1912), Subject of the Kingdom of Prussia during the German Empire (1914–1918), German citizen of the Free State of Prussia (Weimar Republic, 1918–1933). He became a naturalized American citizen in 1940. He died on April 18, 1955 in Princeton, NJ (which is about an hour’s drive north of where I am now.)

Thus many countries could claim him — the US, Germany, Austria and Switzerland. Einstein himself, though, recognized that he could be rejected by many as well. He wrote, “If my theory of relativity is proven successful, Germany will claim me as a German and France will declare me a citizen of the world. Should my theory prove untrue, France will say that I am a German, and Germany will declare that I am a Jew.”

Continue reading

The Love Song of J Alfred Prufrock

do_i_dare_poster

April is the National Poetry Month in the US. “Inaugurated by the Academy of American Poets in 1996, National Poetry Month is now held every April, when publishers, booksellers, literary organizations, libraries, schools and poets around the country band together to celebrate poetry and its vital place in American culture.”
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Who is China’s Bitch?

So last month I tweeted this:

People are recognizing that WHO is China’s bitch and is in bed with Xi and his gang. Good news is that Trump halted the US donation to the WHO. I hope this is the first step to giving the WHO a quick burial. And I hope that the UN is also dismantled soon. If Trump can do that it would be marvelous, and all his insanity will be forgiven.

Here’s a short take on why WHO is China’s bitch. Continue reading

Rectification of the Wuhan Flu Name

Confucius

Covid-19 is another name for the Wuhan flu that results from a SARS virus, and like the old SARS virus that originated in China, this one also originated in China. Plain enough.

Bill Maher is entertaining and quite often informative as well. In his “New Rule” segment, he says that we should not shy away from calling the new virus by its name.

Bill is not as wise as Confucius the Chinese sage but he makes a good case against people who get their panties in a twist when they hear non-PC language. Confucius would have been very clearly against the poisonous politically-correct culture that infects the modern world. Continue reading

Culling Improves the Herd

Culling is a well-known phenomenon in biology — the process of selective removal of weaker individuals from the breeding stock. Although not done deliberately, something similar happens in markets. Entities that are “weak” are selected out of the marketplace, and the health of the economy improves.

In a previous post, I wrote:

If an unprofitable firm fails, it is bad for the workers of the firm. But the failure of firms within an industry could be good for the health of the industry and for the larger economy. At the next level up, an entire industry could fail and cause misery for its workers, and yet that could be very good for the economy. Continue reading

Well, China, the Game is Up

Until a few months ago, China was doing spectacularly well in terms of economic growth, and the power and influence that the new wealth bought. But I think China’s goose is cooked, thanks to the Chinese virus that causes the Wuhan flu aka Covid-19. There’s going to be a backlash. OECD countries’ manufacturers who were off-shoring their production in China will pull out as fast they can. In all likelihood, electronics majors will cut their China-based supply chains.

This is not mere wishful thinking. It was economics that led to China becoming the global manufacturing destination. But the world has learned a lesson that will be hard to ignore — that putting all eggs in one basket is not a sound strategy. In any event, it was time for manufacturing to return to the OECD countries; the Wuhan flu just advanced the move a few years.

And one more thing. I think these institutions have to be given a quick burial: the FDA, the WHO and the UN. They are all evil. Continue reading

Best Wishes on Mahavir Jayanti

Bhagavan Mahavir, the last of the 24 Jain Tirthankaras, was born in 599 BCE in the kingdom of Vajji (somewhere in present-day Bihar.) Much of the biographical details of his life are, of course, disputed by various scholars but they are not really important. What’s important are his teachings.

It is believed that he was a contemporary of Gautama Siddhartha, the Buddha. Maybe they were contemporaries or maybe they were not. Again it does not matter.

Their are parallels in their lives. Like the Buddha, Mahavir was born and raised in a royal family, renounced his family and wealth when he was around 30 years old, and went in search of truth and spiritual awakening. He became an ascetic, gave up all his possessions (including clothing) and meditated under a tree. He even lived in Rajagriha for many years, the same place that the Buddha lived in for a while. Rajagriha appears to have been a special place. It was also the birthplace of the the 20th Jain Tirthankara Munisuvrata. Continue reading

Two Kinds of Capitalism

Ayn Rand is thoroughly despised in leftist circles. The leftists are justifiably incensed because Rand tirelessly criticized government control of the economy, while the coercive power of the government is the primary instrument leftists rely upon to achieve their Utopian dreams.

One does not have to agree with every aspect of Rand’s philosophy. Decent people can reasonably disagree with her on many of her positions. But it is impossible to deny the force of her arguments against government’s interference in the economy. Countries that don’t understand her point are doomed to be poor. Indians suffer because they are incapable of understanding the evil consequences of government — even well-meaning — control of the economy. Continue reading