Saturday, November 30, 2013

Thankfulness: Abundance, Opportunity, Openness

Some Thanksgiving 2013 thoughts.

Thanksgiving Day has passed, but the thankfulness lingers. Though Americans complain about the high cost of food and energy, on a global scale food and energy are incredibly cheap and abundant in America. If you want to experience high costs and plain old unavailability, go where there are shortages, rationing, etc.

Real food remains absurdly cheap (if you frequent ethnic markets and eat low on the food chain), packaged convenience food and fast food remain costly and unhealthy. What appears "cheap" carries a high price in all sorts of ways.

Despite the rise of the Police/National Security State and the other centralized ills of American society, opportunity is also in abundance. If you doubt this, please visit any major research U.S. university and look at the global village of students. The Excuse Book in America runs to thousands of pages; where Americans see entitlements denied, others see opportunity for enterprise and advancement.

America is still a relatively open society. People come here from all over the world for a variety of reasons. This openness fuels innovation. The home countries of our Thanksgiving guests reflect America's international experience: India, the Philippines, Colombia, Poland, Greece, Japan and of course the U.S.


The courses (all home-made) included the traditional favories:
--turkey
--stuffing
--mashed potatoes
--gravy
--sweet potatoes with sliced apples
--three kinds of home-made cranberry sauce (one with apples, one with orange)


And an international potluck:
-- mussels with spinach leaves and dipping sauce
--somosas with mint/cilantro sauce
--Hawaii style potato salad
--nimono (a holiday Japanese stew, also called nishime)
--Crackling pork belly with lemon grass and garlic




Desserts included:
--fresh pumpkin pie (not from a can, from kabocha pumpkins)
--pumpkin cake
--custard pie
--chocolate pecan pie


And of course various beverages added sparkle: sparkling sake, champagne, ginger ale and two red wines.

It's easy to wallow in cynicism and bemoan what has been lost. But opportunity, openness and abundance are not static; they are dynamic and inextricably bound to risk and adaptability.


If You Seek Practical Gifts, Consider These Everyday Kitchen Tools




The Nearly Free University and The Emerging Economy:
The Revolution in Higher Education

Reconnecting higher education, livelihoods and the economyWith the soaring cost of higher education, has the value a college degree been turned upside down? College tuition and fees are up 1000% since 1980. Half of all recent college graduates are jobless or underemployed, revealing a deep disconnect between higher education and the job market.

It is no surprise everyone is asking: Where is the return on investment? Is the assumption that higher education returns greater prosperity no longer true? And if this is the case, how does this impact you, your children and grandchildren?
go to Kindle edition
We must thoroughly understand the twin revolutions now fundamentally changing our world: The true cost of higher education and an economy that seems to re-shape itself minute to minute.

The Nearly Free University and the Emerging Economy clearly describes the underlying dynamics at work - and, more importantly, lays out a new low-cost model for higher education: how digital technology is enabling a revolution in higher education that dramatically lowers costs while expanding the opportunities for students of all ages.
The Nearly Free University and the Emerging Economy provides clarity and optimism in a period of the greatest change our educational systems and society have seen, and offers everyone the tools needed to prosper in the Emerging Economy.

Read the Foreword, first section and the Table of Contents.

print ($20)       Kindle ($9.95) 




Things are falling apart--that is obvious. But why are they falling apart? The reasons are complex and global. Our economy and society have structural problems that cannot be solved by adding debt to debt. We are becoming poorer, not just from financial over-reach, but from fundamental forces that are not easy to identify. We will cover the five core reasons why things are falling apart:

go to print edition1. Debt and financialization
2. Crony capitalism
3. Diminishing returns
4. Centralization
5. Technological, financial and demographic changes in our economy

Complex systems weakened by diminishing returns collapse under their own weight and are replaced by systems that are simpler, faster and affordable. If we cling to the old ways, our system will disintegrate. If we want sustainable prosperity rather than collapse, we must embrace a new model that is Decentralized, Adaptive, Transparent and Accountable (DATA).

We are not powerless. Once we accept responsibility, we become powerful.
Kindle: $9.95       print: $24 




Read more...

Friday, November 29, 2013

Metallic Money (Gold/Silver) vs. Credit Money: Know the Difference

Longtime correspondent Jeff W. succinctly explains the difference between metallic money (gold and silver) and credit money.


You've probably read many articles about money--what it is (store of value and means of exchange) and its many variations (metal, paper, etc.). But perhaps the most important distinction to be made in our era is between metallic money and credit money.

Longtime correspondent Jeff W. succinctly explains the difference between metallic money (gold and silver) and credit money:

We use credit money every day. It’s the only kind of money we have. But because people in Europe and America have historically used metallic money for over 2,500 years, we still have cultural habits that come from the gold money era.

When the U.S. removed gold and silver coins from circulation in the 1930’s and 1960’s and replaced paper gold certificates and silver certificates with Federal Reserve notes, the paper money looked very much the same. But the thing that the paper money represented changed dramatically. The paper money now represents units of credit money that have no guaranteed relationship with the prices of gold or silve r or anything else.

Because the nature of credit money and metallic money are not well understood, and because money is so important in our lives, it is worthwhile to examine and discuss how these two kinds of money are different.

1. Tangible vs. intangible. A gold or silver coin is a physical object that has weight, volume and physical characteristics. Credit money is a record of the existence of a debt. Credit money exists in the intangible world of information and human relationships. Where Mr. A owes Mr. B a specified unit of money, and where that debt is recorded on paper or another recording medium, and where the record of that debt passes from one person’s possession to another as a medium of exchange, you have credit money.

Gold coins are minted; debts are recorded. The two forms of money could hardly be more dissimilar.

2. Old vs. oldest. Metallic money has been used by people for about 2,600 years. It has been used sporadically and in certain places. Credit money has been used for at least 5,000 years, when people first started recording debts on clay tablets, pieces of wood or ivory, etc., and trading those IOU’s as money. Before debts were recorded in writing, they were, in prehistoric times, discussed verbally, remembered, and sometimes traded in verbal transactions. This is how very primitive people still trade using debt today.

3. Persistent vs. ephemeral. Some gold coins more than 2,000 years old are still in existence today. But it would be very rare for any performing loans to be more than 100 years old, and many loans are of very short duration. Much of the U.S. Treasury’s debt issue is very short term, lasting only 90 days or one year. Where gold coins can last for thousands of years, debts are constantly coming into existence and going out of existence.

The U.S. debt holdings of the Federal Reserve are constantly churning and rolling over, whereas gold holdings in vaults can lie stationary and do not need to be replaced or rolled over.

4. Hard to create vs. easy to create. To create a gold coin, someone has to first mine the gold from the earth, refine it, mill it, stamp it into circular shapes and then stamp the governmental pattern on it. To create a piece of credit money, a debt has to be created and then a piece of paper printed or a record created on a computer. Anyone who has no intention of paying back his debt, such as the Federal government, can potentially issue debt in infinite amounts. There is an issue of whether that debt is worth anything, however.

5. Always good vs. sometimes good. A gold coin that is legal tender will always be accepted as money. With credit money, some of it is good and some of it is bad. In recent years Zimbabwe’s credit money went bad. Before that, the Weimar Republic’s credit money became worthless. All circulating debt has a mixture of good and bad. When a lot of it goes bad at the same time, it causes a crisis, where the “toxic debt” must be guaranteed or purchased by government or else banks and other financial institutions will go bankrupt.

6. Non-interest bearing vs. interest bearing. Most debt specifies interest payments as part of the loan agreement. The Federal Reserve notes we use as money are claims on interest-bearing debt owned by the Federal Reserve. Credit money has the quality that there is a continuing flow of interest payments away from the users of money in the general population and toward creditors. There is no such continued flow of wealth from debtors to creditors in a gold money system.

7. Does not need money supply expansion vs. needs expansion.Because interest payments are constantly flowing out from families, businesses and communities to financial centers and wealthy creditors, credit money results in economic sluggishness unless there is a constant expansion of the supply of credit money. Under a gold money system, people can function much better with a constant money supply because there is no leakage of interest payments. Each community can continue to circulate its own holdings of gold money without having to pay any of it out in the form of interest payments.

8. Government does not need to enable creating more debt vs. government must enable debt creation. In order to keep a credit money economy going, more debt must be continually created. Government and financial leaders who do not want to be blamed for a downward spiral of slowing economic activity must see to it that more debt is constantly being created. Under a gold money system, there is no pressure to constantly increase the burden of debt.

9. Not as bubble prone vs. more bubble prone. The fractional reserve method of banking encourages asset bubbles because new money is created as borrowers take out new loans. When people borrow money to buy bubble assets (e.g., houses 1981-2006), it creates enormous amounts of new money to feed the asset bubble. Many asset bubbles were also created during the gold money era due to fractional reserve banking, but where the unit of currency is guaranteed by government to be equal to a fixed weight in gold, the inflation threat is taken out of the picture and that restrains bubble creation somewhat.

To support the value of their currencies under a gold money system, governments must also often raise interest rates in order to encourage investors to sell gold in exchange for bonds paying good interest. Higher interest rates also discourage the formation of asset bubbles.

10. Does not enable ZIRP vs. enables ZIRP. A zero interest rate policy is impossibl e under a gold money system. The demand for gold would soon deplete government’s gold holdings to zero. Under a credit money system a policy of low interest rates and financial repression can be imposed for an indefinite period of time.

11. Does not increase lending activity vs. increases lending activity.Low interest rates and the ease with which credit money is created lead to increased lending activity and higher debt loads. Under a gold money system, debt will necessarily be created at a slower rate. By stepping up the pace of debt creation, a credit money system serves the interests of the banks.

12. Has no problem with debt saturation vs. has serious problems with debt saturation. Continually increasing debt leads ultimately to debt saturation. When a country’s people and businesses are saturated with debt, it makes it much more difficult to continue to increase the debt load. That leads to stagnation and slowing economic activity in a credit money system. A gold money system does not tend to lead to debt saturation and has no similar problems with debt saturation.

13. Increases wealth disparities vs. does not increase wealth disparities. The higher debt load facilitated by a credit money system results in greater flows of wealth from the debtor class to the creditor class. The higher debt load leads to increased disparities in income, more very poor and very rich and fewer of the middle class.

14. Holds its value vs. does not hold its value. Gold-backed currencies have an excellent track record of holding their value. Credit money tends to inflation, the rate of which largely depends on how fast new debt is being created.

15. Government as a guarantor of savings vs. government provides no guarantee. One of the three functions of money is as a store of value. (The others are a medium of exchange and a unit of account.) When the U.S. government guarantees that 35 U.S. dollars will buy an ounce of gold, as it did in the years 1934-67, government aid savers by acting as a guarantor of that store of value.

When the U.S. went off the gold standard in 1971, it changed the relationship between citizens and their government when government no longer provided that guarantee.

16. Defaulters are bad vs. defaulters are only partly bad. In a gold money system, a person who takes out a loan and does not repay it is considered a bad person, almost a thief. He has robbed his creditors of the money they were rightfully owed. In a credit money system, however, the creation of new debt is so important that anyone who goes into debt is a hero of the economy.

That is why under a debt money system, it is considered more important that new debt be created (e.g., as student loans) than to worry about whether they will ever be paid back or to pin blame and guilt on loan defaulters.

Conclusion: As we see, it is no exaggeration to say that the transition from gold money to credit money changes everything. It changes every individual’s relationship with his own money, with government, and with banks. It changes the power relationships within society. It changes the patterns of ownership and wealth accumulation.

It is very important that citizens and investors understand the credit money system that they are trying to operate within. For people with over 2,500 years of experience with gold money, it is difficult to understand it and get used to it. But anyone who does understand it will be better off because of making better-informed decisions. We might as well get used to it because we shall likely have to live with a credit money system for a very long time.

Thank you, Jeff, for an insightful and extremely important overview of the critical differences between credit money and gold/silver. The key distinction of all these important distinctions is the ephemeral nature of credit-money (and any form of fiat currency). History teaches us that a financial-political crisis of sufficient magnitude reveals the underlying value of credit-money--i.e. zero--in a brief but cataclysmic loss of faith/trust.

As correspondent Harun I. observed in Why Is Debt the Source of Income Inequality and Serfdom? It's the Interest, Baby"Governments cannot reduce their debt or deficits and central banks cannot taper. Equally, they cannot perpetually borrow exponentially more. This one last bubble cannot end (but it must)."

When the current bubble bursts, the difference between metallic money and credit money will be starkly visible: no one will trade gold or silver for any amount of paper/credit money, and the ephemeral financial instruments ("assets") that dominate today's financial system will be revealed for what they are: phantom promises of value.

Of related interest:





The Nearly Free University and The Emerging Economy:
The Revolution in Higher Education

Reconnecting higher education, livelihoods and the economyWith the soaring cost of higher education, has the value a college degree been turned upside down? College tuition and fees are up 1000% since 1980. Half of all recent college graduates are jobless or underemployed, revealing a deep disconnect between higher education and the job market.

It is no surprise everyone is asking: Where is the return on investment? Is the assumption that higher education returns greater prosperity no longer true? And if this is the case, how does this impact you, your children and grandchildren?

go to Kindle edition
We must thoroughly understand the twin revolutions now fundamentally changing our world: The true cost of higher education and an economy that seems to re-shape itself minute to minute.

The Nearly Free University and the Emerging Economy clearly describes the underlying dynamics at work - and, more importantly, lays out a new low-cost model for higher education: how digital technology is enabling a revolution in higher education that dramatically lowers costs while expanding the opportunities for students of all ages.

The Nearly Free University and the Emerging Economy provides clarity and optimism in a period of the greatest change our educational systems and society have seen, and offers everyone the tools needed to prosper in the Emerging Economy.

Read the Foreword, first section and the Table of Contents.

print ($20)       Kindle ($9.95) 



Things are falling apart--that is obvious. But why are they falling apart? The reasons are complex and global. Our economy and society have structural problems that cannot be solved by adding debt to debt. We are becoming poorer, not just from financial over-reach, but from fundamental forces that are not easy to identify. We will cover the five core reasons why things are falling apart:

go to print edition1. Debt and financialization
2. Crony capitalism
3. Diminishing returns
4. Centralization
5. Technological, financial and demographic changes in our economy

Complex systems weakened by diminishing returns collapse under their own weight and are replaced by systems that are simpler, faster and affordable. If we cling to the old ways, our system will disintegrate. If we want sustainable prosperity rather than collapse, we must embrace a new model that is Decentralized, Adaptive, Transparent and Accountable (DATA).

We are not powerless. Once we accept responsibility, we become powerful.
Kindle: $9.95       print: $24 

Thank you, Luis R. ($25), for your monumentally generous contribution to this site-- I am greatly honored by your support and readership.


Read more...

Thursday, November 28, 2013

What I'm Grateful For

In the spirit of Thanksgiving, here are a few things I'm grateful for:


1. Dirt

2. Rain

3. Our home garden (not yet illegal except if you want to grow food in your front yard)


4. Frugality


5. Pirate movies


6. Bicycles


7. Friends


8. Homemade cookies


9. Sunsets (photo taken from Julia Pfeiffer Burns State park campsite)


10. BBQs


11. Golden Gate Bridge


12. Wu-shu


13. Leonardo Da Vinci (my brother at Da Vinci's tomb in France)


14. Hawaii


15. Camping in national parks (Glacier National Park, during our recent camping trip)


16. Photos that remind us that youth is wasted on the young (me at 21, Laie, Hawaii, photo by Ian Lind)


17. Parodies


18. My fellow bloggers and writers

19. My readers, correspondents, subscribers and financial supporters

20. "He that is without sin among you, let him first cast a stone at her."


And again he stooped down, and wrote on the ground. And they which heard it, being convicted by their own conscience, went out one by one, beginning at the eldest, even unto the last: and Jesus was left alone, and the woman standing in the midst. (John 8:7-9)


If You Seek Practical Gifts, Consider These Everyday Kitchen Tools


Thank you, James M. ($20), for yet another stupendously generous contribution to this site-- I am greatly honored by your steadfast support and readership.


Read more...

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Why Is Debt the Source of Income Inequality and Serfdom? It's the Interest, Baby

"Governments cannot reduce their debt or deficits and central banks cannot taper. Equally, they cannot perpetually borrow exponentially more. This one last bubble cannot end (but it must)."

I often refer to debt serfdom, the servitude debt enforces on borrowers. The mechanism of this servitude is interest, and today I turn to two knowledgeable correspondents for explanations of the consequences of interest.

Correspondent D.L.J. explains how debt/interest is the underlying engine of rising income/wealth disparity:

Here is a table of the growth rate of the GDP.

If we use $16T as the approximate GDP and a growth rate of, say, 3.5%, the total of goods and services would increase one year to the next by about $500B.

Meanwhile, referencing the Grandfather national debt chart with the USDebtClock data, the annual interest bill is $3 trillion ($2.7 trillion year-to-date).

In other words, those receiving interest are getting 5-6 times more than the increase in gross economic activity.

Using your oft-referenced Pareto Principle, about 80% of the population are net payers of interest while the other 20% are net receivers of interest.

Also, keep in mind that one does not have to have an outstanding loan to be a net payer of interest. As I attempted to earlier convey, whenever one buys a product that any part of its production was involving the cost of interest, the final product price included that interest cost. The purchase of that product had the interest cost paid by the purchaser.

Again using the Pareto concept, of the 20% who receive net interest, it can be further divided 80/20 to imply that 4% receive most (64%?) of the interest. This very fact can explain why/how the system (as it stands) produces a widening between the haves and the so-called 'have nots'.

Longtime correspondent Harun I. explains that the serfdom imposed by debt and interest is not merely financial servitude--it is political serfdom as well:

As both of us have stated, you can create all of the money you want, however, production of real things cannot be accomplished with a keystroke.

Then there is the issue of liberty. Each Federal Reserve Note is a liability of the Fed and gives the bearer the right but not the obligation to purchase — whatever the Fed deems appropriate. How much one can purchase keeps changing base on a theory-driven experiment that has never worked. Since the Fed is nothing more than an agent of the Central State, the ability to control what the wages of its workers will purchase, is a dangerous power for any government.

If a Federal Reserve Note is a liability of the central bank, then what is the asset? The only possible answer is the nations productivity. So, in essence, an agent of the government, the central bank, most of which are privately owned (ownership is cloaked in secrecy) owns the entire productive output of free and democratic nation-states.

People who speak of liberty and democracy in such a system only delude themselves.

Then there is the solution, default. That only resolves the books, the liability of human needs remain. Bankruptcy does not resolve the residue of social misery and suffering left behind for the masses who became dependent on lofty promises (debt). These promises (debts) were based on theories that have reappeared throughout human history under different guises but have never worked.

More debt will not resolve debt. The individual’s liberty is nonexistent if he does not own his labor. A people should consider carefully the viability (arithmetical consequences) of borrowing, at interest, to consume their own production. The asset of our labor cannot simultaneously be a liability we owe to ourselves at interest.

Thank you, D.L.J. and Harun. What is the alternative to the present system of debt serfdom and rising inequality? Eliminate the Federal Reserve system and revert to the national currency (the dollar) being issued by the U.S. Treasury in sufficient quantity to facilitate the production and distribution of goods and services.

Is this possible? Not in our Financialized, Neofeudal-Neocolonial Rentier Economy; but as Harun noted in another email, Governments cannot reduce their debt or deficits and central banks cannot taper. Equally, they cannot perpetually borrow exponentially more. This one last bubble cannot end (but it must).

What we are discussing is what will replace the current system after it self-destructs.


If You Seek Practical Gifts, Consider These Everyday Kitchen Tools




The Nearly Free University and The Emerging Economy:
The Revolution in Higher Education

Reconnecting higher education, livelihoods and the economy
With the soaring cost of higher education, has the value a college degree been turned upside down? College tuition and fees are up 1000% since 1980. Half of all recent college graduates are jobless or underemployed, revealing a deep disconnect between higher education and the job market.

It is no surprise everyone is asking: Where is the return on investment? Is the assumption that higher education returns greater prosperity no longer true? And if this is the case, how does this impact you, your children and grandchildren?

go to Kindle edition
We must thoroughly understand the twin revolutions now fundamentally changing our world: The true cost of higher education and an economy that seems to re-shape itself minute to minute.

The Nearly Free University and the Emerging Economy clearly describes the underlying dynamics at work - and, more importantly, lays out a new low-cost model for higher education: how digital technology is enabling a revolution in higher education that dramatically lowers costs while expanding the opportunities for students of all ages.

The Nearly Free University and the Emerging Economy provides clarity and optimism in a period of the greatest change our educational systems and society have seen, and offers everyone the tools needed to prosper in the Emerging Economy.

Read the Foreword, first section and the Table of Contents.

print ($20)       Kindle ($9.95) 




Things are falling apart--that is obvious. But why are they falling apart? The reasons are complex and global. Our economy and society have structural problems that cannot be solved by adding debt to debt. We are becoming poorer, not just from financial over-reach, but from fundamental forces that are not easy to identify. We will cover the five core reasons why things are falling apart:

go to print edition1. Debt and financialization
2. Crony capitalism
3. Diminishing returns
4. Centralization
5. Technological, financial and demographic changes in our economy

Complex systems weakened by diminishing returns collapse under their own weight and are replaced by systems that are simpler, faster and affordable. If we cling to the old ways, our system will disintegrate. If we want sustainable prosperity rather than collapse, we must embrace a new model that is Decentralized, Adaptive, Transparent and Accountable (DATA).

We are not powerless. Once we accept responsibility, we become powerful.
Kindle: $9.95       print: $24 


Thank you, James B. ($200), for your outrageously generous contribution to this site-- I am greatly honored by your steadfast support and readership.


Read more...

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Take the Money and Run: China's Ill-Gotten Wealth Flees Overseas

The front door is covered with official pronouncements of "the China Dream" and blustery demands of hegemony, but the back door is choked with members of the financial/political Elite fleeing China and taking their wealth with them.

The first thing to understand about China is there is always a front door and a back door to everything. The front door is what's presented to the outside world; the back door is for everything that doesn't fit the PR image created by the front door.

The front door presents positive "face," the back door is for everything that would "lose face," so it's hidden and never discussed, except in private, and only with trusted family or friends.

A friend who once worked for the Chinese government recently returned home after several years absence, and found that all her bosses had moved to the West:Australia, Canada, etc. These were typical officials: their base salary was low but they managed to buy multiple homes, support mistresses, have upscale autos, and so on.


In a word, ill-gotten wealth.There are tens of thousands of these beneficiaries of China's boom in credit and corruption, and they have all either fled (with their ill-gotten wealth) to the West or "safe-haven" East (Singapore, for example). 

Those who haven't fled yet have passports to a safe haven, and cash and homes overseas awaiting their arrival.

It is common knowledge that the offspring of top officials all have passports and homes awaiting them in the West.

That every one of your political bosses has left China is an astounding revelation into the mindset of those who have benefited most from China's boom: they obviously fear that some upheaval could strip away their ill-gotten wealth, otherwise, why not simply move to some wealthy enclave in China?

The front door is covered with official pronouncements of the China Dream and blustery demands of hegemony, but the back door is choked with members of the financial/political Elite fleeing China and taking their wealth with them. All of this is well-known, yet it is spoken of in hushed tones, lest China lose face from this wholesale exodus of those who stripmined the nation with credit and corruption.

If the Elites had any faith in China's future, and in the security of their wealth, why would they be fleeing China in perhaps the greatest peacetime exodus of wealth the world has ever seen? Estimates of the money flowing out of China are merely guesses, of course, but the numbers run into the tens or even hundreds of billions of dollars.

Those in the political/financial Elites have the best information about conditions in China. What speaks louder, actions, or empty words? Actions, without a doubt. It's difficult to see how China can be as stable as advertised when its monied Elites all have back doors out of the country and homes awaiting them in the West. The most fearful (or guilty) aren't waiting around to risk the future in China; they're already long gone. What does that say about the front door pronouncements of hegemony and dreams? The inconvenient truth is the Chinese Dream is to live in Palo Alto:

Why Chinese People Buy So Many Homes in Palo Alto (The Atlantic)

Chinese Dream: To Become the Father of an American, by Jia Jia "When Bill Clinton visited China in 1998, a female student named Ma Nan at Peking University stood up and denounced the appalling human rights condition in the US. She was supposed to file a question, but she sounded more like she was delivering a lecture. Later on, she married an American man, gave birth to a son, became the mother of an American, and departed China for good."

Young, Gifted, and Chinese "Facing the future of housing, marriage, and job, why do our hearts beat not with expectations but fear?"

Fitch says China credit bubble unprecedented in modern world history

China in Revolution and War "Several serious problems in China could trigger a major crisis, potentially igniting either a domestic revolution or foreign war."

How will a slowing China cope with rapidly aging buildings? 



The Nearly Free University and The Emerging Economy:
The Revolution in Higher Education

Reconnecting higher education, livelihoods and the economyWith the soaring cost of higher education, has the value a college degree been turned upside down? College tuition and fees are up 1000% since 1980. Half of all recent college graduates are jobless or underemployed, revealing a deep disconnect between higher education and the job market.

It is no surprise everyone is asking: Where is the return on investment? Is the assumption that higher education returns greater prosperity no longer true? And if this is the case, how does this impact you, your children and grandchildren?

go to Kindle edition
We must thoroughly understand the twin revolutions now fundamentally changing our world: The true cost of higher education and an economy that seems to re-shape itself minute to minute.

The Nearly Free University and the Emerging Economy clearly describes the underlying dynamics at work - and, more importantly, lays out a new low-cost model for higher education: how digital technology is enabling a revolution in higher education that dramatically lowers costs while expanding the opportunities for students of all ages.

The Nearly Free University and the Emerging Economy provides clarity and optimism in a period of the greatest change our educational systems and society have seen, and offers everyone the tools needed to prosper in the Emerging Economy.

Read the Foreword, first section and the Table of Contents.

print ($20)       Kindle ($9.95) 




Things are falling apart--that is obvious. But why are they falling apart? The reasons are complex and global. Our economy and society have structural problems that cannot be solved by adding debt to debt. We are becoming poorer, not just from financial over-reach, but from fundamental forces that are not easy to identify. We will cover the five core reasons why things are falling apart:

go to print edition1. Debt and financialization
2. Crony capitalism
3. Diminishing returns
4. Centralization
5. Technological, financial and demographic changes in our economy

Complex systems weakened by diminishing returns collapse under their own weight and are replaced by systems that are simpler, faster and affordable. If we cling to the old ways, our system will disintegrate. If we want sustainable prosperity rather than collapse, we must embrace a new model that is Decentralized, Adaptive, Transparent and Accountable (DATA).

We are not powerless. Once we accept responsibility, we become powerful.
Kindle: $9.95       print: $24 



Thank you, Daniel E. ($3.50), for your most generous contribution to this site-- I am greatly honored by your support and readership.


Read more...

Sunday, November 24, 2013

Taking Stock of the 21st Century: What's Fundamentally Different

The constant dismissal of unprecedented extremes as "same as it ever was" is actually a pernicious form of perception management, i.e. propaganda.

Anyone suggesting that things are unraveling in fundamental ways quickly encounters a standard reflex response: "same as it ever was."

Environmental degradation? Same as it ever was: humans have been trashing the environment for thousands of years.

The influence of money in politics? Same as it ever was: money has always been the mother's milk of politics.

The dominance of central bankers? Same as it ever was: the banks and the Federal Reserve have been colluding for decades.

Income inequality? Same as it ever was: there will always be rich and poor, etc.

The rise of the National Security State/Empire? Same as it ever was: Manifest Destiny, etc.

History lessons are all well and good, but this constant refrain of "same as it ever was" is actually a pernicious form of perception management, i.e. propaganda.The claim that "there is nothing new under the sun" (and therefore there is nothing we can do but throw up our hands in passive acceptance of the status quo) may well be true of human nature, but it purposefully masks all the fundamental changes that are not "same as it ever was."

The seas, for example: we're losing the oceans. The scale of destruction is not "same as it ever was." The Consequences of Oceanic Destruction (Foreign Affairs) Over the last several decades, human activities have so altered the basic chemistry of the seas that they are now experiencing evolution in reverse: a return to the barren primeval waters of hundreds of millions of years ago.

Or how about youth employment? Is this "same as it ever was?" Clearly, no. It has entered a new structural decline without precedent.



How about the cost of college tuition? Is this "same as it ever was?" Clearly, no.



How about self-employment? Is this "same as it ever was?" Clearly, no.



How about small business? Is this "same as it ever was?" Clearly, no.



How about labor's share of the economy? Is this "same as it ever was?" Clearly, no.



How about household income? Is this "same as it ever was?" If real income had been declining for the past 50 years at this rate, it would be near-zero by now.



How about the ratio of full-time workers to retirees drawing Social Security benefits? Is this "same as it ever was?" Clearly, no. The ratio is now two full-time workers to one beneficiary, and the Baby Boom has only started to retire. On the employment side, the "end of work" dynamics have only started their creative destruction of jobs. "Same as it ever was?" Not even close.



How about money velocity? Is this "same as it ever was?" Clearly, no.



How about the positive effects of central-state borrowing and spending, i.e. the Keynesian Multiplier? Is this "same as it ever was?" Clearly, no.



How about the structural gap between Federal spending and tax revenues? Is this "same as it ever was?" It's easy to project a fantasy-based future in which "deficits never matter" or tax revenues soar even in a stagnant economy beset by skyrocketing Federal retirement/healthcare costs. The desire to believe in fantasies may be "same as it ever was," but the fiscal reality is not.



How about the nation's monetary base? Is this "same as it ever was?" Clearly, no.



How about corporate profits? Is this "same as it ever was?" Clearly, no.



How about the correlation of the Federal Reserve balance sheet and the S&P 500? Is this "same as it ever was?"



How about the gap between nominal new highs in the stock market and the real (inflation-adjusted) stock market? Is this "same as it ever was?"



How about the number of times per week that a representative of the Federal Reserve gives a speech whose implicit message is the importance of the Federal Reserve? Is this "same as it ever was?" Did Fed-Heads fan out every week 20 or 30 years ago to deliver dozens of speeches and media appearances? The answer is no; so what are these people selling that they have to do their shuck-and-jive act so repetitively? What sort of desperation is driving this full-court press of propaganda?

The desperation is obvious, and so is the agenda: mask the reality that things are unraveling, and that it's no longer "same as it ever was."




The Nearly Free University and The Emerging Economy:
The Revolution in Higher Education


Reconnecting higher education, livelihoods and the economy
With the soaring cost of higher education, has the value a college degree been turned upside down? College tuition and fees are up 1000% since 1980. Half of all recent college graduates are jobless or underemployed, revealing a deep disconnect between higher education and the job market.

It is no surprise everyone is asking: Where is the return on investment? Is the assumption that higher education returns greater prosperity no longer true? And if this is the case, how does this impact you, your children and grandchildren?

go to Kindle edition
We must thoroughly understand the twin revolutions now fundamentally changing our world: The true cost of higher education and an economy that seems to re-shape itself minute to minute.


The Nearly Free University and the Emerging Economy clearly describes the underlying dynamics at work - and, more importantly, lays out a new low-cost model for higher education: how digital technology is enabling a revolution in higher education that dramatically lowers costs while expanding the opportunities for students of all ages.


The Nearly Free University and the Emerging Economy provides clarity and optimism in a period of the greatest change our educational systems and society have seen, and offers everyone the tools needed to prosper in the Emerging Economy.


Read the Foreword, first section and the Table of Contents.

print ($20)       Kindle ($9.95) 




Things are falling apart--that is obvious. But why are they falling apart? The reasons are complex and global. Our economy and society have structural problems that cannot be solved by adding debt to debt. We are becoming poorer, not just from financial over-reach, but from fundamental forces that are not easy to identify. We will cover the five core reasons why things are falling apart:

go to print edition1. Debt and financialization
2. Crony capitalism
3. Diminishing returns
4. Centralization
5. Technological, financial and demographic changes in our economy

Complex systems weakened by diminishing returns collapse under their own weight and are replaced by systems that are simpler, faster and affordable. If we cling to the old ways, our system will disintegrate. If we want sustainable prosperity rather than collapse, we must embrace a new model that is Decentralized, Adaptive, Transparent and Accountable (DATA).

We are not powerless. Once we accept responsibility, we become powerful.


Kindle: $9.95       print: $24 


Thank you, Robert B. ($100), for your outrageously generous contribution to this site-- I am greatly honored by your support and readership.


Read more...

Saturday, November 23, 2013

If You Must Give Gifts, Consider These Everyday Kitchen Tools

If you want to give practical kitchenware as gifts, these ten favor 1) everyday utility 2) durability/high quality 3) modest cost (between $6 and $22 and 4) mostly made in the USA.

The ideal DeGrowth gifts are handmade/home-made, but if this isn't practical, consider giving tools that foster new skills and well-being--for example, simple everyday kitchen tools.

Many of the ills of our society are best addressed in the kitchen, as eliminating fast food, junk food and convenience/packaged "food" is the first step to becoming healthier. The second step is do the thing and you shall have the power, i.e. turning off the endless TV celebrity-chef cooking shows and getting to work in the kitchen making real food.

Decent tools can enhance the preparation of meals--and by this I don't mean costly appliances, I mean low-cost, practical basics.

Here's our list of 10 favorite practical kitchenware/tools. These favor 1) everyday utility 2) durability/high quality 3) cost between $5 and $22 and 4) mostly made in the USA.

NOTE: prices of these items change frequently and may vary from those listed here.

1. Pyrex 6021224 Storage 10-Piece Set, Clear with Blue Lids - $19.99

These 3 round bowls and 2 rectangular glass storage containers are just the right number and size for storing leftovers – practical and perfect. We all already own similar containers with lids (usually larger) but I now use these the most – one or two are always in use in our refrigerator. Bought my Mom a set, and she says it’s always going up and down the road as she and her neighbor Gene trade dinners, so I also bought a set for Gene as a gift.

2. Rubbermaid Easy Find Lid 24-Piece Food Storage Container Set - $21.75
I was introduced to this practical Rubbermaid set 2 years ago by my friends Dustin and Megan who received them as a wedding gift. They remarked "you should get this" -- I have since bought 3 sets for myself and as gifts. Yes, we all already have innumerable plastic food storage containers and resist adding more to our jumbled drawer-full. However, the clever system of locking the matching lid to the bottom of the container so they stay together convinced me to buy this set to add to our kitchen.

3. Best French Whip, Stainless Steel Made in USA – 10-inch $10.98
12-inch $12.60  
(8-inch and 18-inch sizes are also available)

I have owned Best whisks from the 70s since learning about them in the Whole Earth Catalog. Thankfully, still USA made and indeed “crafted” (as described on Amazon) in Portland, Oregon, they are indeed the best. You will likely not need to replace a Best whisk in your lifetime. I personally prefer the 10” for home use.

4. Microplane Stainless Steel Zester - $9.95 (without handle – Made in USA)
Microplane 40020 Grater/Zester - $12.95 (with handle – not stated as USA made)
Over 300 "5 star" reviews for with handle and 44 "5 star" reviews for without handle can’t lead you astray. Being a stubborn Taurus and loyal to my traditional zester, I resisted this "new fangled" zester. A gift from my sister Lynette proved me absolutely wrong, and I now cannot do without it for grating lemon zest, nutmeg, and hard cheese. Great for hard baking chocolate as well but I usually bake with cocoa power. I prefer the clean, simple look of the zester without a handle – just my Taurean preference.

I was drawn to this zester for another reason--its lineage as a wood rasp/carpentry tool.

5. Kuhn Rikon Original 4-Inch Swiss Peeler, White - $5.65
Kuhn Rikon, original 3-set Red, Green and Yellow Swiss Peeler - $9.99
Our Irish green 4" Swiss peeler hangs on a cup hook above our sink – such a fine, sharp tool for peeling carrots, potatoes, long white Asian radish for Chinese/Japanese/Vietnamese pickles, Fuji apples for pie, the thin brown flesh off fresh coconut before grating, and hard skin off Asian pumpkins prior to steaming or cooking, Recently, I discovered the peeler efficiently remove the tough green skin of loofa squash – a vegetable new to me (previously I only used the dried version as a bath scrubber), and delicious prepared Chinese style with "tree ears" black fungus and green beans.

I think the 3-piece set for $9.99 is a great deal.

6. Oxo Good Grips Cookie Scoop - $13.95 medium, $10.99 small, $14.95 large
Wonderful scoop for quick portion measuring of cookie dough, drippy muffin batter and Indian kofta meatballs. Two scoops of batter fills each paper lined muffin pan cup perfectly for perfect cupcakes. I like the medium size which makes for 4-across and 5-rows down size cookies on the cookie sheet. If you tend to bake smaller, more delicate sized cookies, you may prefer the small scoop. I bought the medium and small scoops, but found the small too small and gave it to a friend who likes making smaller cookies.

7. Dexter-Russell 6-by-3-Inch Dough Scraper Made in USA - $19.05
Now darkened with patina -- another tried, true and beautifully made kitchen tool in my culinary tool box for 35+ years bought from Kaya Cutlery on Mamo Street in Hilo, Hawaii –- wish I had marked the purchase year on the rosewood handle edge. An essential dough cutter and wood cutting board scraper for bread, pie crust and cut-out cookie makers, it’s made of 3 excellent timeless materials –- stainless steel (blade), rosewood (handle) and 2 brass pins (to connect blade to handle).

This Dexter-Russell product was not always available on Amazon, and after reading a single negative Amazon review dated February 2, 2010, I settled for an imported Oxo dough cutter/scraper for a friend’s wedding gift.

Actually, that one poor 2-star Amazon review of this S496 Dexter dough scraper/cutter mystified me because the one I own is such an excellent product. Like so many other reputable USA companies making previously well-make products in America, I surmised that Dexter-Russell had succumbed to global pricing pressure and now resorted to foreign manufacturing of their products.

Recently, while researching products for this list, I noticed a 5-star review added by P. Brady who declared this product "very well made and a worthy piece of equipment for professional use." His comments express my own sentiment. Still, I wanted to be sure before recommending the dough scraper. The disparity between 2 and 5-stars prompted me to search online for the Dexter-Russell company website and to call their Southbridge, MA phone number 1-800-343-6042.

Pat, who has worked for the company for 14 years, assured me that the S496 dough scraper has always been made in their Southbridge, MA location -- never manufactured abroad – and always with the same 3 fine quality materials of high grade stainless steel, rosewood and brass.

One last comment -- As P. Brady notes, the handle is made of rosewood, and not walnut as described by Amazon.

8. Victorinox 3-1/4-Inch Paring Knife - $7.80 (3 ¼" blade, 7" total length)
Heard frequently in our home: "Where’s the red knife? Have you see the red knife? Do you have the red knife?" -- Our Victorinox paring knife happens to have a red rather than black handle, and it is our go-to paring knife. It was moved to California with me from my Mom’s home in Hawaii 28 years ago –- we had 2 and my Mom still has the black-handled knife in her left kitchen drawer. It’s simple, practical and sharpens easily with our knife sharpening stone. We use it for everything that calls for a paring knife, and daily for scraping skin off a knob of fresh ginger destined to be grated for Charles’ morning ritual of fresh ginger tea following his wake-up coffee.

9. Rada Cutlery Cooks Knife, Aluminum Handle Made in USA - $7.98
6 1/4-inch blade and 10 1/2 inches overall length

Rada Cutlery Cooks Utility Knife, Aluminum Handle (R140) Made in USA - $7.46
4 3/4-inch blade, 8 3/4 inches overall length


Rada Cutlery Quick Edge Knife Sharpener with Hardened Steel Wheels - $6.76
(Designed for Rada Knives)

Probably like many other people, I too have several "the last knife I’ll ever buy" knives. So I hesitated to add yet another kitchen knife to our collection but it is in fact a knife I use often (favorite very sharp knife for cutting onions) + inexpensive + American made. No one I personally know recommended this knife to me. At first the name caught my attention online -- Rada is the name of my South Indian friend who prepares the South Indian specialties at a restaurant consistently listed on the top 100 San Francisco Bay Area Restaurants list.

Then the Amazon buyer reviews and USA manufacture origin got me curious enough to order the knife and sharpener for myself. Whether a tool is an excellent addition to your kitchen is determined by how often you use it and whether it supercedes your last favorite knife –- if you find yourself reaching for it. I now use my Rada more often than my assorted German and Japanese knives that cost 5 to 7x the Rada knife's price.

The Rada blade is sharp, stays sharp and easily sharpens with 2 to 3 pulls between the 2 sharpening wheels. You must be attentive and treat the Rada knife blade like a razor. As noted by other reviews, the blade is thin and not suitable for cutting hard vegetables. For hard skin squash or Asian pumpkin, my Chinese cleaver or German knife gets pulled off our wall magnet knife holder.

10. Egg Poaching Pods, Fusionbrands, Set of 2, Green - $9.99 
Another "new fangled" device made of flexible silicone to cook old-fashion poached eggs. I had to get one for our kitchen as soon as my friend Dustin gave me a demonstration in his kitchen -- extra virgin olive oil smeared into the pods, sprinkling of kosher salt, and several turns of fresh ground black pepper all sealed with a cracked egg on top.


After 4 minutes floating and simmering in a lidded pan, they were done perfectly and easily popped out of the pods. No more watery poached eggs + losing 1/3 of the whites as they float off as whitecaps into the simmering water. I've given a number of these as gifts to family and friends –- thank you, Dustin, for introducing us to this easy method for poaching eggs.


The list was assembled and submitted by C.N.F. 




The Nearly Free University and The Emerging Economy:
The Revolution in Higher Education

Reconnecting higher education, livelihoods and the economyWith the soaring cost of higher education, has the value a college degree been turned upside down? College tuition and fees are up 1000% since 1980. Half of all recent college graduates are jobless or underemployed, revealing a deep disconnect between higher education and the job market.

It is no surprise everyone is asking: Where is the return on investment? Is the assumption that higher education returns greater prosperity no longer true? And if this is the case, how does this impact you, your children and grandchildren?
go to Kindle edition
We must thoroughly understand the twin revolutions now fundamentally changing our world: The true cost of higher education and an economy that seems to re-shape itself minute to minute.

The Nearly Free University and the Emerging Economy clearly describes the underlying dynamics at work - and, more importantly, lays out a new low-cost model for higher education: how digital technology is enabling a revolution in higher education that dramatically lowers costs while expanding the opportunities for students of all ages.

The Nearly Free University and the Emerging Economy provides clarity and optimism in a period of the greatest change our educational systems and society have seen, and offers everyone the tools needed to prosper in the Emerging Economy.

Read the Foreword, first section and the Table of Contents.

print ($20)       Kindle ($9.95) 




Things are falling apart--that is obvious. But why are they falling apart? The reasons are complex and global. Our economy and society have structural problems that cannot be solved by adding debt to debt. We are becoming poorer, not just from financial over-reach, but from fundamental forces that are not easy to identify. We will cover the five core reasons why things are falling apart:

go to print edition1. Debt and financialization
2. Crony capitalism
3. Diminishing returns
4. Centralization
5. Technological, financial and demographic changes in our economy

Complex systems weakened by diminishing returns collapse under their own weight and are replaced by systems that are simpler, faster and affordable. If we cling to the old ways, our system will disintegrate. If we want sustainable prosperity rather than collapse, we must embrace a new model that is Decentralized, Adaptive, Transparent and Accountable (DATA).

We are not powerless. Once we accept responsibility, we become powerful.
Kindle: $9.95       print: $24 


Thank you, Jonathan S. ($5/month), for your wondrously generous subscription to this site-- I am greatly honored by your support and readership.


Read more...

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