Economics Archive

The reality of government

Posted March 7, 2015 By Landis V


I saw this posted recently, along with a very poor rebuttal which was wholly dependent upon the premise that, effectively, everything was dependent upon big government.  I see things quite differently.  Some of these may appear out of context as they were in response to the rebuttal.

tl;dr You can only perpetuate a false reality as long as someone else will tolerate it.

1. This depends upon the false premise that government is good, growth of government is better, and business existence and growth is dependent upon the same from government. The legislation creates more paperwork and hassles that require staff to deal with, so rather than hiring productive staff to perform relevant work, paper pushers are hired instead. The new legislation also creates non-essential government jobs, raising taxes across the board. Like everyone, the new government hires don’t want to see their (nonessential) jobs disappear, so they are less likely to encourage fiscally responsible government. The bureaucracy creates new departments which are encouraged to spend their budget or lose it, and must demonstrate their necessity, both of which lead to expansion of government and increase in taxation. Businesses used to provide good health insurance as an incentive to draw in the best employees, but now go with whatever they can do cheapest, which ironically costs significantly more and provides fewer benefits than good insurance used to. Business is encouraged to transfer money and jobs into offshore investments to protect against taking of earnings due to higher tax rates.

2. People don’t pay into a job market. Skilled, incentivized, dependable people find work quickly if they wish to, or create their own businesses. People lacking these traits often have fewer job choices, and government growth perpetuates this (except through the creation of government jobs). Businesses (and government, but not in a good way) create jobs and the resultant job market. Businesses continues to decide the ROI or value proposition for tasks, and chooses either to automate them out of existence or to not do them at all because there is a net loss or insignificant return. Automation likely creates a smaller number of high skill jobs as someone develops the process and/or equipment, though once created there is likely limited ongoing revenue once the process is complete, which may not even sustain the few jobs that did result. In some cases, pro government legislators and special interests are compelled to regulate the automation process, creating more government jobs, red tape, and opportunity to steer money to lobby groups… see #1. If the business decides there is insufficient value to pay more or automate the process, the jobs are not only lost, but so is whatever value those undertakings may have generated, compounded over time. That is to say, not only is the initial job lost, any revenue, discovery, or increase in efficiency that may have resulted in further jobs is also lost. Alternavely, the job may be outsourced, providing the potential for another region with less strict regulation to own the jobs coming from the automation, learn and increase efficiency within the process, and realize the time-compounded benefits thereof.

3. The government cannot give what it does not take from someone else, period. The government’s right to exist is governed by, and directly proportionately to, the extent that citizens will subjugate their own rights and free will to such a government. A proper government lends itself to as minimal an existence as possible to support the majority requirement, while self-limiting its taking in support of that which is not required, but simply requested. These resultant application of these two considerations provides the charter of the government. Defense and limited safety net are the correct province of the government in this case, not wealth equalization which is the concern of this statement. Both of these are excessive in the current case. Defense spending, while economically stimulating and contributory to job stability and growth, is proportionately inconsistent to the proper charter of this government. While we realize the intellectual gains and technological advancement from much of this spending, it remains excessive, even and perhaps especially in consideration of our often unwanted and seldom thoroughly considered aggressions and interjections towards other nation states. The safety net is the direct consideration of this question, and indeed a limited consideration under the charter. It is of our nature to consider the well-being of those who are unable to provide for themselves, either temporarily or permanently. However, taking more than required – as requested by a minority – and furthering the growth of the government, while also discouraging some form of work or contribution from the individual to the extent feasible, falls well beyond the scope of government and is instead the domain of charity and philanthropic venture.

4. Middle class workers, by definition, are already working, and not receiving – nor entitled to – greater benefit from the government. Creating more money artificially for the same value is inflation, by definition, and is harmful to an economy. See #1 for job creation especially in this case. Increased efficiency with reduced cost provides for greater disposable income regardless of class; greater regulation is not coexistent with greater efficiency. While monetary economics can artificially and arbitrarily imply the value of fiat currency, its worth will trend toward equilibrium with the value of real goods.

5. This statement should actually be phrased “When half the people work for the government, directly or indirectly, and get the idea that their jobs exist only because the other half tolerate it, and when the other half gets the idea that government perpetuates its own furtherance, that is the beginning of the end of any nation.” The government can only stimulate jobs by extricating itself to the greatest extent feasible from the equation. The government does not exist as a safety net for jobs; jobs are the realm of business, and business is furthered by limited government.

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Bitcoin is interesting.  I know a few folks that have done a little bit with it.  As usual, Schumer and Manchin are idiots.

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Worth or value criteria

Posted April 1, 2013 By Landis V

I was reading an article on ComputerWorld today that considered changes to the way technical employees are evaluated. The thought that crossed my mind was, perhaps we should also be thinking about similar changes in the way we compensate employees – and not just technical employees, but across the board. The hourly and salary based models are as broken as paying by lines of code produced or shortest development time to test. They have been gamed and gamified to the point where their viability as metrics of worth and utility are questionable at best, and quite possibly contributory to our inflationary spiral at worst. Just an interesting thought that came to mind and I wanted to make a quick note of in case I have time to come back and ponder it in the future.

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More Americans Raid Their 401(k)s to Pay Bills

Posted January 21, 2013 By Landis V

It’s not going to get any better with another four years of Obama at the helm.

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Food, Grocery, and UPC Databases and Information

Posted December 2, 2012 By Landis V

I’ve maintained a spreadsheet on Google Drive with details of a variety of groceries and related goods that we purchase for a while, containing information on the brand, product description, size, price paid (and a few “regular price” entries if I know I got it on sale), SKU/EAN/UPC, store, city, date, and notes.  In some ways it’s an unfortunate and disappointing look back across how bad inflation has been under Obama (for anyone who makes the claim that it’s not worse according to government statistics… those stats are all “ex food and energy”… the two things that actually matter!).  Aside from being interesting, it’s useful to track not only the change in prices over time, but where and when I’ve made purchases at the best price, so I can quickly look up whether I’m getting a good deal on something.

Typically I will add entries to my spreadsheet when I’m going through my receipts and doing categorized expense tracking.  There are pros and cons to this approach, and while my method could probably be improved with discipline, it has worked fairly well for me thus far.  I’ll discuss these pros and cons briefly, and touch on a couple of online tools I’ve run across that are beneficial in my tracking process.  On occasion I will also add to the list based upon a price I’ve seen advertised or if I run across an item while shopping at a store I don’t frequent so I can compare it to prices at my regular venues.

I try to keep all my receipts until I have a chance to sit down and enter them into my accounting/expense tracking (I use KMyMoney for this).  For our regular grocery shopping, I usually break receipts down into subcategories such as food, personal care, household supplies, alcohol, gifts, etc.  It’s uncommon for most of our receipts to fall into a single category, especially if sales tax is a part of the purchase, as I maintain an expense categorization for it as well.

As I mentioned, I find several advantages to my particular method of tracking.  First, since it is sometimes months before I have or make the time to sit down and process receipts, I’m sometimes unable to remember what a particular purchase was from just the description on the receipt.  In some ways, this is also a con, but with some of the tools I will describe below, it ends up working out fairly well – if the receipt includes a UPC code.  While looking up the product to see what it is so I can categorize it, it’s easy to add it into my spreadsheet at the same time.

Since I often have a large quantity of receipts to go through at once, it becomes fairly efficient to load up the sites I typically work with and establish a flow or rhythm.  It’s still not a fast process, but as with most tasks, it becomes quicker with practice and repetition.  I go through the receipt, do my lookups as needed, categorize the items in my accounting application, and mark the receipt to be shredded or filed as needed.

This tracking isn’t without downsides, chief among which is the time consumed by the process.  It generally consumes the biggest share of a weekend to enter and allocate two months of receipts.  I’m not sure I can completely justify the time yet, largely because I haven’t really utilized the data in value determination yet (which is in turn due to the incompleteness of my dataset to this point, so a self-referencing problem).  Sometimes it can be difficult to find necessary or accurate information, especially when UPC codes are not present.  And there are times when it is challenging to determine how to best categorize or itemize the data, or to later find the correct product information if I did a poor job of categorizing initially.

I’ve recently started making an effort to “coupon” (which I place in quotes, because I can’t see myself at this point actually putting the effort into it that true couponers do), and I hope this will lead to a greater return on my time investment thus far and going forward.

For stores that include the UPC as part of the line item on the receipt, the Internet UPC Database has proven incredibly valuable in providing information about items with unclear descriptions.  Wal Mart is one of these stores, and the UPC Database proves especially helpful in this regard as it provides the ability to look up the UPC check digit (the last digit of the UPC, which is not included on the Wal Mart receipt) and then provides a link to the product description.  I also recently discovered Factual, specifically their consumer packaged goods dataset which contains not only information about what a product is, but also provides the added bonus of nutritional information and ingredients.

I should note that the UPC Database is built with user contributed data (much like Wikipedia), while Factual’s dataset appears to come from manufacturers, though I haven’t done research to fully vouch for this.  I do find the idea of an open source/community sourced database potentially very beneficial, and have considered doing something similar with the data I’ve collected.

While mobile, I have also used the Grocery Tracker application on my Android phone to great benefit in keeping track of both my grocery lists and prices in the stores where I shop.  This application is incredibly thorough, and I probably don’t use a tenth of what it can do.  The inventory system looks very cool, but would require a lot more discipline and consistency than I can typically muster.

Finally, I use both store sites that can be searched by SKU (such as Sam’s Club) and Google when the information is not available by other means.  If nothing works out, I will leave a product out of the spreadsheet and/or leave it uncategorized in my accounting.

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I had been looking for some information on who Johnson would replace the idiot Ben Bernanke with in 2014 and coming up pretty empty.  Someone pointed me to this, in which he discusses having people apply and picking the most eligible, including Paul if he was interested.  Seems like a reasoned approach to me.

Johnson is the only reasonable candidate who will appear on the ballot in most states this year.  Both Obama and Romney will continue a pattern of the same behavior.  I believe another 4 years of Obama will be sufficient to completely run the country into the ground.  While I think Romney will move us in the same direction on the whole, I think it will be a much slower pace… maintaining the depression instead of provoking the revolt.

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Negative Externality – Economics

Posted September 14, 2012 By Landis V

Good read, pretty straightforward.  Gives a clear path beyond the subject itself to allow the student to think about the situation rather than analyze the condition of the externality.

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