Recently Moved to www.theicarusgreen.com – Check it Out

This will be my last post on the wordpress.com site. As of Friday 22/8/14, I have moved to http://www.theicarusgreen.com. This has meant a complete redesign and a better way to reach readers. This will be where all new content gets uploaded. If you are a current follower please feel free to subscribe to the new blog and continue to get my content. I have recently uploaded a new article along with the move so come check it out!

Many thanks for following the blog.

IG

Why Are We Working Longer?

I am on my way back from vacation and into work. Unfortunately there’s a tempestuous lightening storm here in the usually sunny Orlando delaying my flight so I think now would be a good time to take stock of the activity that makes up at least 50% of most of our adult waking lives – work.

In most Western countries like the US, UK, Canada, Australia, Germany, France etc. productivity has more than doubled since the early 70s. In Japan’s case its tripled. And yet the OECD average hours worked per year has declined by only about 11% since 1970. When you factor in the fact that ‘average hours worked’ doesn’t encapsulate other work related activities that you don’t clock like checking and responding to emails, preparing for work presentations/conference calls and side projects we may not be seeing much change at all.

Stop for a moment and think of the technological change since the early 70s. PCs, the internet, 3D printing, mobile phones, basic AI, JIT manufacturing, Big Data etc. Not to mention the fundamental advances in medicine, physics, biology, engineering, finance, etc

If we’re being so productive, why do we need to work as long?

Standard economic models assume an income effect: that is, as we get richer and satisfy our material needs we tend to desire more leisure time. Unfortunately this effect seems to not hold in the real world; in fact it seems the more educated and the higher income you have, the more you work.

This rejection of the income effect in the real world may be readily explained however by a simple fact – across most Western countries real wages (wages adjusted for inflation) haven’t actually risen much…they’ve actually been stagnant since the 80s. So in fact, people have not been getting much richer at all (see below for the the EU and US).

The increased incomes of the rich (or more accurately, those working professionals in the top 19% outside the top 1%) hides another factor that can only be substantiated anecdotally (because data is so hard to attain) – they are working far more hours than they used to. So in effect their real wages per hour have fallen as well. Investment bankers, lawyers, doctors etc. are running themselves into the ground. If you actually worked out the wage per hour of some of some of these occupations, and factor in student debt, junior level professionals don’t actually earn much more than car mechanics, janitors and yes, even McDonalds employees!

But stagnating wages only partly explain the problem. Yes, we may have to work more to stave off credit card repayments and ballooning student debts but our productivity boon should have been enough to tide us over.

Why are we working longer hours?

The answer lies in the realm of political economy more than economics per se in my opinion.

The decline of trade unions in the West since the 70s/80s has basically greatly helped employers to consolidate bargaining power to the point where they can employ a divide and conquer strategy against workers. Real wages have stagnated in tandem with trade union density falling. The liberalisation of world capital flows but not the liberalisation of world labour has created a powerful imbalance in economic power between the two factors of production. Therefore, those owners of capital can expect higher returns than owners of labour, at the cost of labour (after all, the return on capital is a function of the return to labour). Finally, the difference between taxation of labour and capital is noteworthy, capital gains tax or property taxes in most Western countries (if they exist at all), are several orders of magnitude lower in their rates than income taxes on working stiffs like me or you.

These forces have then actually fed into the political side of the equation, making politicians and technocrats reinforce these trends and thereby, increasing inequality in most OECD countries. The conservative revolution of the 80s was a hallmark of this. Politicians like Thatcher and Reagan would then simply go about implementing policies to squeeze labour and improve the returns on capital for owners of capital because they were their constituency. Even supposedly independent central bankers became infatuated with managing inflation (so as to have a macro environment beneficial to owners of capital) at the cost of improving the employment situation (so as to have a macro environment beneficial to the owners of labour).

As a result, today capital is in a far stronger economic bargaining position than labour. Employers can basically demand full commitment from their workers around the clock and if workers don’t like it, they can be easily replaced or the company can move abroad. The insidious nature of modern labour relations has even evolved to the point that workers engage in a race to the bottom by individually demanding less and less of their employer and giving more and more. The only things separating many workers from the cruel abyss of working poverty (like that found in America) are government regulations on the workplace like mandated overtime/maternity leave/minimum wages/working time directives/occupational safety etc. – the very things that vanishing unions brought to the Western world in the first place.

And that explains why we haven’t seen and why we aren’t going to see any of the productivity boon like traditional economic models would predict…and why we are working longer.

Time was when a college degree was a gateway in to an “easier” life; kids would no longer have to lay bricks like their fathers in the baking sun, or repeat the same physical movement hundreds of times over on a factory floor. That nirvana is gone. The very idea of a happy ending that the older generation holds about white collar work is now completely out of date. An hourglass economy is emerging where politico economic forces and impersonal economic forces like automation and offshoring are not just holding down wages for lower skilled workers but also eliminating the roles of medium skilled workers like secretaries and bookkeepers. And as we’ve just discussed, even the rich workers are being squeezed as well, working longer hours for similar salaries.

The solution? Aim to derive as much of your income as you can from capital. Because being a worker bee is hiding to nowhere in this day and age, no matter where you are in the beehive hierarchy.

Intellectual Development 101

Moving away from religion and politics and into less controversial waters. What I want to discuss now is something that is probably more fundamental than one’s political or religious beliefs and delves more into the deep water trenches of our minds – that is how we adopt beliefs, knowledge and opinions in the first instance.

Taking into account the lottery of life that endows people with different intellectual capabilities from birth, I’m going to put forward the notion that its not what we start with but how we choose to develop what we inherit that really matters.

Neuroplasticity is probably one of psychology’s and neuroscience’s greatest achievements as a scientific field. It blows a hole into the notion that we are passengers of our genetic fate in terms of our intellectual and mental domain. In effect, the decisions we make about how we nurture and develop our minds will literally alter the physical nature of our brains.

This leads us to an important question – how do we optimise and best influence this magical process?

The first thing to note is that we should not necessarily try to aim for the same thing in terms of smarts. There are different kinds of intelligence which can be honed and deployed in our world. Stumbling and mumbling discusses the difference between hard and soft intellect, but this can be extended. How do you compare the literary genius of JRR Tolkien with the musical genius of Mozart? How do you compare the analytical rigour of Godel with the intellectual breadth of Bertrand Russell? It is a case of apples and oranges.

The most common interpretation of intellect that psychologists use then is to look at someone’s IQ score. This misses the point horribly in some case. I have always suspected for some time that IQ tests are excellent at capturing cognitive abilities rather than intuitive or creative capabilities.

This splinter in the spectrum of intelligence gives some basis for Nozick’s categorisation between quants and wordsmiths. Anecdotally I can only report that the quants I know seem to favour depth and wordsmiths favour breadth in their knowledge.

Which brings us to the second point I’d like to make – whether one should specialise in a field or develop an understanding of the important parts of various areas. The education system in most developed countries seems to have a prescriptive approach on this issue; favouring generalism in younger students and then making students largely specialise as they go to college or trade school. An analogy can be made here about one’s approach to learning to cook. Should one develop as specialism in one style of cuisine or cherrypick a greatest hits or fusion style? Its an endless debate but what I would propose to readers of this blog is to do a mixture of these strategies and learn an area well in depth before moving on hopefully to another field of knowledge at some point in one’s life.

Unfortunately the great failing of the education system in most countries is that in keeping with a capitalist economy, the point of it (as intended by its designers), is to create workers rather than well rounded human beings which is why genuinely useful subjects like personal finance, philosophy or nutrition are largely shunned unless one has the desire to specialise in that area at third level.

My last point is that developing the intellect is not merely developing and applying knowledge alone, but getting out there and taking on new experiences, meeting people and performing physical tasks like learning an instrument or indeed to cook. With these complementary activities in place, the mind will grow outwards rather than inwards and the lottery of life can resemble less a lottery and more a game.

Fallen Angels

Notwithstanding the encouraging rise of the Christian Left,the general slant of religious leaders and their followers across the modern world is often a deep shade of conservatism in relation to the progressive elements in their societies. As Hindu nationalists coalesce around an election victory in the world’s largest democracy and other semi-theocratic governments fester elsewhere, I think now would be a good time to give my take on how we should view religious conservatives and their views.

The fundamental (and ironic) aspect of all religious conservatism is that it is paradoxically based on progressive foundations.

At least relative to the time that the religion was created in.

The sacred texts of most world religions actively promote peace, love and kindness. The golden rule of most world religions is basically to ‘love thy neighbour’. Relative to their time and environment Mohammed, Jesus and Buddha cannot be seen as anything but revolutionary ‘liberals’ so to speak. Religious organisations from their earliest days usually served charitable, civic or social ends for their members.

Our early religious brothers and sisters are therefore actually our intellectual ancestors in many respects. Certainly if I was to travel back in time to the labyrinths of Rome in the earliest days of Roman Christianity I have no doubt that I would have had more in common with an early Christian than the average Roman citizen of the era philisophically.

With such profoundly morally uplifting ideals the appetite for religion became insatiable. The morally ambiguous roman gods were replaced with a loving, caring god of the New Testament. People flocked to this new liberal order. The process repeated itself around the world in relation to the other major religions as well as old atavistic natural and ancestral religions were cast aside for gods with expressly moral foundations.

And then the conservatives took over.

Through a process of what I call religious ossification, religious teachings failed to evolve with the times. Whether by inertia or belligerence religious leaders clung to ancient texts written hundreds and thousands of years ago; completely unwilling to update the religion to deal with new technologies, social developments and science. This has certainly made them look foolish of course (The major historical example being that of Galileo), but fundamentally even the enlightened moral teachings of hundreds of years ago in their times now seem quaint in today’s world.

This ossification presented the major world religions with a quandary – either attempt to use the philosophical foundations (limitations) of their religions to reinterpret the rules or stick to literal interpretations of texts and the political pronouncements from their leaders. Obviously they mostly chose the latter – often explicitly attempting to marry religion with politics (The psychological yearning of conservatives for ‘strongmen’ who can direct society is a topic I will return to in a later post).

The question then arises as to why major world religions unified around themes of peace and civility in the first place. Wouldn’t the conservative elites at the time have wanted to stop their foot soldiers from having moral compunctions about carrying out their orders of violence? Don’t they hate peace?

The answer, from a political economy perspective is that religion was a glue that held the peace within and not without. As the psychologist Kevin Rounding explains the purpose of religion for a human being may be seen as a mechanism for self control. Now what Kevin Rounding doesn’t say is why this mechanism is so delightful to elites.

If you can imagine an unenlightened thuggish populace without the restraints of religion, you can see how the costs of maintaining social order and deflecting internal threats against ones power becomes prohibitive, particularly once you scale up your realm of control. It becomes messy to extract rents in this scenario. It is no coincidence that expansion of centralised governments/empires also symbiotically developed with the institutional establishment of religion. Indeed the greatest example of this can be seen with the expansion of the Spanish empire in the late 16th and 17th centuries and its profound desire to convert its new subjects to Christian religion by sending missionaries all over the world.

While new religions may initially start out as a threat to the established order, the conservative establishment usually finds some way to co-opt the religion and prune it of its ‘liberal’ values (of taking care of the poor, the sick, the old etc.) and emphasising the ‘law and order’ side of it. In this way we can now see why the institutions of world religions often acted hand in hand with the political elites of their day, even siding with elites of other sects against their own followers. Religion was thus a useful tool of controlling people to milk them without actually expending resources to control them overtly or as Marx would say – it was used a kind of ‘opiate of the masses’. Basic game theory shows the stationary or roving bandit takes on a cost to extracting rents. With religion, this was minimised.

And this brings us to the present day. How should we view our religious conservative brothers and sisters?

Lets us answer the question first with more questions. How should one view concentration camp prison guards? The ‘useful idiots’ of the Stalinist USSR? How should one view the foot soldiers that work for the machines in the Matrix saga? Or the mutilated elves known as orcs that serve Sauron?

With shades of pity. Sadness. And as political opponents – with extreme prejudice.

Populists of the World, Unite!

A few weeks ago, The Economist reported on an academic study in America that uncovers what would seem to be blindingly obvious to everyone with even a passive interest in politics – that corporates and the rich get their desired policies implemented much more than the average person on the street.

What really piqued my attention however was not the ‘no shit Sherlock’ nature of the study, but the chiding comment at the end of the article about ‘populism’.

Apparently populism is a threat, and specifically The Economist notes, a threat to the financial sector and the economy. Long-time readers of the Economist such as myself must note this frequent assertion in much of its coverage.

‘Pop-ulism’: Implementing the policies that the average person on the street would like.

One can only surmise that the Economist thinks populism is negative, as opposed to say the current situation where presidential candidates must parade before lunatic billionaires in Las Vegas for money as if they were part of some kind of Lovely Girls competition. The stance is darkly amusing I must say – Yes, the real problem with our democracies has been that our politicians have actually been listening too much to the people!

Fundamentally the discussion about the merits of populism goes to something so much deeper about history and politics than what the Economist ever ventures.

There are those that see populism and implementing the will of the people as the defining characteristic of human progress over the past 300 years.

And then there are those that make arguments for why populism is a ‘bad’ thing.

Basically they boil down to:

  • “Mob rule” and in particular to imposition of the majority’s will on the minority.
  • The ignorance/stupidity of the average man on the street: If the polling in one of the world’s leading democracies is anything to go by, are citizens capable of being entrusted with serious policy questions?
  • That the people cannot be trusted to make clear headed long term decisions which may involve some deal of short term pain.

Do these arguments stack up? The second argument about ignorance makes the assumption that there is someone out there who ‘knows better’ and deserves to be in charge. While the third argument is nowadays usually used by some people in the context of proposing to make massive cuts in pensions/healthcare/education, whilst usually these same people also asking for quid pro quo tax cuts.

The first argument is the one we should all really be paying attention to though. Its the most direct argument based on class interest you will ever hear from a conservative in a public setting: What’s good for everyone isn’t necessarily what’s good for me.

So you can see why these are the main justifications elites use to take power from the people and hand it to ‘technocratic’ bodies like central banks, supranational bodies like the EU Commission or judicial/arbitration bodies like the courts. The slow transfer of power from institutions capable of implementing populism like democratically elected government to these outfits has been a hallmark of the later 20th century.

The most ostentatious act in this tale is modern day Thailand where anti-democratic forces have such constituency among the establishment that their supporters openly call for rule by arbitration and want to banish democracy altogether. Thailand may not exactly strike most readers as a particularly liberal place but at least commentators don’t fall back on the lazy neo-colonial canard that it just simply “isn’t ready for democracy”.

Thailand is basically an acid test – where a commentator or media outlet stands on this issue tells you all you need to know about their politics as I’m about to explain.

Without being too churlish, Thailand is the natural end game to those that hate populism.

Why?

[Deep Breath]

What I’m going to propose here is something that goes to the bottom of my political philosophy…democracy is an inherently left wing political system of organisation.

Its literally giving power to the people. To the average man on the street.

And that’s why conservative elites that sit on the American supreme court, or in the European Commission’s chambers or on the streets of Bangkok hate it. They can’t stand giving power to the people directly because it would leave open the possibility that the people would one day wake up from their brainwashing and exploitation and vote for something in their interest.

Why do you think the Supreme Court in America would like to equate money with speech?

Answer: To amplify the economic power of conservative elites to influence the outcomes of elections.

Why does the EU centralise most of it actual power in the most undemocratic body of its structure – the EU Commission?

Answer: Because the European elites that set it up and perpetuate it know that ramming down a neo-liberal agenda through democratically elected institutions like the Council and Parliament would go nowhere due to popular resistance.

Why do Yellow Shirt Protesters want to hand power to an unelected People’s Council?

I think you get the idea.

Since the French Revolution, the advent of a historical movement to hand more power to the people that we now recognise as ‘democracy’ has coincided with a direct decline of influence of conservative elites (in those days the monarchs, aristocrats, and the church etc.). Therefore there has always been a fundamental antagonism between democracy as a concept and conservatism. People forget where we get the terms ‘left wing’ and ‘right wing’ is not from political talk-shows but the physical position of those that sat in the Estates General supporting or opposing democracy following the revolution.

As the Enlightenment wore on of course, and as further time went by conservatives developed novel strategies for managing this fundamental antagonism between their class interest and those of the average man on the street.

The first was simply to crush populism with brute force. But this failed because this divided the classes into clear battle lines and merely hastened class conciousness in the ‘average man’.

Conservatives then turned to stoking the fires of nationalism and distracting the ‘average man’ from demanding political change at home and focusing on an ‘enemy’ abroad. Unfortunately for them wars couldn’t possibly go on long enough to distract people. Even the unique Orwellian solution by American conservative elites to promote a ‘Cold War’ that could put the country in a constant state of nationalistic right wing fever faced an ignominious end with the Vietnam War as the American public lost faith in the enterprise.

Which brings us back to the solution that we see from conservatives today – to stealthily transfer power to unelected bodies and institutions whilst maintaining control of such things in the shadows.

Eventually this strategy too will fail.

You can’t fool all of the people all of the time.

So don’t be fooled – conservatives would rather not act in the shadows. In fact its a symptom of their diminution that they must do so in the Western world. If our beloved conservative elites thought they could get away with imposing their will by brute force and eliminating democracy like they do in Latin America, the Middle East or Asia, they would not hesitate.

Let us therefore treasure our democracies fellow populists. Wherever you may be. As long as conservatives even have to pay lip service to them, we have some power. But someday the conservatives will run out of ideas and again resort to brute force as in Thailand, and when they do I hope you dear reader will be on the right side of history.

 

 

Libertarian Loco

The rise of libertarianism has been one of the major political stories of this generation. A poll last year found 22% ‘lean’ libertarian in the United States, up from about 9-12% in 1992.  Socially liberal and economically conservative, libertarians seem to be in vogue, particularly among younger male voters in America.

Libertarianism has always been an interesting ideology for me in the sense it is a political philosophy that makes an inherent assumption of the ‘goodness’ in human beings – perhaps even more so than liberalism in fact.

If only we didn’t have government they claim, then everyone would just hold hands and get along. Everything would be fine. We wouldn’t need laws, standards or regulations for food, pharmaceuticals, cars etc. Charities would take care of the poor, the disabled and the sick. People wouldn’t discriminate because everyone knows the blacks/hispanics/asians are a great bunch of lads. Profit seeking businesses would never hurt people, cut corners or harm the environment in the noble course of making money.  Why, the rivers would run brown with chocolate!

The problem with libertarianism isn’t so much its utopian assertions, more so the fact that its almost like most libertarians have never met actual conservatives.

‘Con-servatism’: A reactionary jack-boot on the throat of humanity for the benefit of a tiny privileged minority that has only eased off in the face of violence, protest and revolution over the past 300 years with the advent of the left wing.

How do you marry a basic faith in the civility and co-operation of human beings with the observed actions and beliefs of those driven by greed and hatred?

If theoretically we didn’t have a privileged elite that wouldn’t use the limitation (or abolition) of government as an pretext to establish their own cartels and syndicates in its place that would be one thing. But the other major glaring elephant in the room is that fundamentally, we don’t know whether human beings are capable of adhering to a system of voluntaryism – its never been tried.

An even deeper criticism would not just arise from issues of pragmatism but also of philosophy. Do you, dear reader, believe human beings as a species are inherently evil? What if laws, regulations and government were the only things holding us back from the void? Certainly the imposition of laws and even centuries of centralised social conditioning through education and religion has not eliminated crime. Even then, strong rational incentives will always remain for this human behaviour, as the economist Gary Becker has shown.

In any case, as Bill Maher pointed out in an editorial on one of his shows last year, libertarians and their variants seem to be becoming more and more extreme in their positions to the point that they are cartoonish and can’t be taken seriously even by their conservative brethren to which they usually affiliate themselves with. This may explain why Ron Paul always tanked in the presidential primary season once people had a chance to hear his ramblings about the gold standard.

Many openly now even advocate the position of complete anarchy. An ironic passing of the torch from European left leaning anarchist movements of the 60s and 70s who would probably come to blows with their modern American cousins.

Libertarianism is not without any justified criticisms however. I like many other people, find a lot of things distasteful about government: Extravagant military adventurism, bloated subsidies for corporations and farmers, frivolous regulations that serve to protect insiders, government spying and intrusion into one’s civil liberties, the idiotic war on drugs etc. But this is certainly not the right period in human history to be throwing the baby out with the bathwater and implementing radical social experiments on people’s lives.

Wall Street and the Game of Life

There are 2 moments in Oliver Stone’s 1987 classic ‘Wall Street’ that offer the core philosophical backbone to this movie.

One, the ‘Greed is Good’ speech, has been burned (inadvertently) into the collective American conciousness as a spirited affirmation of American capitalistic values; the other, a scene where the indignant Bud Fox confronts his erstwhile mentor Gordon Gekko, actually sets out the raison d’etre for this film by the movie’s writers and the movie’s director, Oliver Stone.

That scene is actually worth reproducing at length here:
                 BUD
Tell me, Gordon–when does it all end? How many yachts can you waterski behind? How much is enough?

                GEKKO
Buddy, it’s not a question of enough. It’s a zero sum game, sport. Somebody wins and somebody loses. Money itself isn’t lost or made, it’s simply transferred from one perception to another. Like magic. That painting cost $60,000 10 years ago. I could sell it today for $600,000. The illusion has become real. And the more real it becomes, the more desperately they want it. Capitalism at its finest.

                BUD
            (again)
        How much is enough Gordon?

                GEKKO
The richest one percent of this country owns half the country’s wealth: 5 trillion dollars. One third of that comes from hard work, two thirds of it comes from inheritance, interest on interest accumulation to widows and idiot sons and what I do — stock and real estate speculation. It’s bullshit. Ninety percent of the American people have little or no net worth. I create nothing; I own. We make the rules, Buddy, the news, war, peace, famine, upheaval; the cost of a paper clip. (picking one up) We pull the rabbit out of the hat while everybody else sits around their whole life wondering how we did it…(crosses to Bud)…you’re not naive enough to think we’re living in a democracy are you, Buddy? It’s the free market. You’re one of us now…take advantage of it. You got the killer instinct, kid, stick with me. I got things to teach you…

Think about that, why did this illuminating speech about the true nature of the American economy become forgotten and yet a speech about, effectively, the prinicipal-agent problem of managerial capitalism, get heralded like Moses coming down from the mountain?

It makes you want to hit your head against the wall. When a film comes along once every blue moon to administer a straight dose of reality about the game of life, why do people stupidly hook on to the satirical aspect?

The movie’s deepest truth is that capitalism is an arbitrary game with arbitrary rules and arbitrary outcomes. Much like the original intention of the creators of the board game Monopoly, the real life lesson to be learned is that we don’t have to blindly accept all the outcomes of the market just because a person ‘wins’ this “illusion”.

Perhaps the greatest way to foster an understanding of this is to play a game of Monopoly. The game itself traces its origins back to a 1903 version created by a woman named Elizabeth Phillips to illustrate the limitations of capitalism as a way to order society. As a player you’ll find the person with the most fortuitious rolls of the dice at the start of the game quickly compounds his head start (if the player has any common sense) and invariably wins. Its also a zero sum game. One person’s success derives from another’s losses.

Now as a player you might shake the winners hand after the game – sure it took some amount of skill negotiating a way to get all of the same colour group, albeit from a position of strength, but great they won. You certainly wouldn’t start worshipping them though, or calling them a ‘property creator’ or giving them differential treatment under the rules in further games in recognition of how ‘skilful’ they are. And I can guarantee you certainly wouldn’t use this game to decide who to bestow respect towards in a group situation.

So why do we afford such power and privilege to those that ‘win’ an arbitrary game of capitalism?

That dice, ladies and gentlemen, its like life. Its like the guy who was lucky enough to roll a 7 and be born in America and not Zimbabwe. Or like the person who rolled doubles and was lucky enough to have 2 good parents that stuck around/survived to raise him in their formative years. Or like the person who avoided landing on ‘go to jail’ and was lucky enough to be born without a debilitating mental or physical condition. Or the colour of his skin. Or his parents financial situation etc etc…

Then we just sit back and watch how his life ‘choices’ about his geography, physical state, family etc are compounded in real time, and he invariably ‘wins’.

Maybe he’ll get a job on Wall Street.

Which brings me back to the movie.

The value that the ‘free market’ gives to a private equity baron that plows other people’s debt into a company only to asset strip it and pay himself for the privilege of doing so is arbitrary. The value of high end art is arbitrary. The value that a hedge fund manager collects from society by shorting securities is arbitrary. The hereditary land ownership concentration of a feudal system is arbitrary. Your crazy army general dictator’s laws are arbitrary. Your religious leaders rules for how you should live your life are arbitrary.

There is no inherent ‘rightness’ or impregnable moral justification for many of the things we take for granted in our society – including the market. Calling some people “winners” and some people “losers” makes no sense.The element of circumstance as a determining factor in relation to a person’s life chances is of such high magnitude it actually boggles the mind. Most people never even realise it.

Thus, some may try to take the concept of the ‘free market’ and attach to its machinations some political or social meaning and make bold pronouncements about how things should be, but at the end of the day its just their unenlightened opinion, dressed up in a very simplistic, and unnuanced economic term to lend it an air of objectivity.

And that’s the lesson of Wall Street – by all means go out there and “win” the game of life my friend, but you’re going to come across someone else who got even luckier with his dice throws, will negotiate your sorry ass into the ground from a position of strength and make you pay for the privilege of staying in his hotel for the rest of your life.

Maybe you’ll start to question things then. Maybe you’ll start a blog to tell others about how dumb the game is. And maybe, just maybe, when you play the game long enough, you’ll even realise everything you are is ultimately just a culmination of the roll of a dice…just arbitrary.