Re: Get incompetent, stupid!

1

Sweet stuff. I love it. I haven't followed the links yet.

The first "of" in the fourth paragraph should be "off," I think.


Posted by: parsimon | Link to this comment | 01-17-09 9:48 PM
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awesome post title. also, I *knew* I hated Cook's Illustrated.


Posted by: bitchphd | Link to this comment | 01-17-09 9:52 PM
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Parsimon is right regarding that "of", but I think it works either way, honestly.


Posted by: ben w-lfs-n | Link to this comment | 01-17-09 9:53 PM
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I keep my leftovers under the mattress and put my savings in the fridge.


Posted by: eb | Link to this comment | 01-17-09 10:22 PM
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It's because you need the bones/cartilage to make broth, right?


Posted by: MH | Link to this comment | 01-17-09 10:23 PM
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GROUND chicken? What the hell.


Posted by: redfoxtailshrub | Link to this comment | 01-17-09 10:26 PM
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... says the vegetarian.


Posted by: ben w-lfs-n | Link to this comment | 01-17-09 10:28 PM
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GROUND chicken? What the hell?

What, you want to use chicken of the sea?


Posted by: TJ | Link to this comment | 01-17-09 10:31 PM
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I have thought for a long time that this is why the Food Network is basically useless, and increasingly so. There are only a few shows left that are about how to prepare food from individual ingredients. You can't get a lot of sponsors with that. They're mostly now about restaurants you can go to, or convenience products you can buy to cook more easily, or how processed food is processed.


Posted by: A White Bear | Link to this comment | 01-17-09 10:31 PM
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Seriously, isn't stock all about the bones?


Posted by: Chris Conway | Link to this comment | 01-17-09 10:31 PM
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What, you want to use chicken of the sea?

It doesn't go well with apples of the ground.


Posted by: eb | Link to this comment | 01-17-09 10:32 PM
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This actually gives me a pain in my heart. So-called outsourcing (where the source is the homestead) has resulted in people finding it downright unnatural to do things themselves. So we've built an economy of services to support their inabilities.

I offer that just in case you haven't read the linked NYT story.


Posted by: parsimon | Link to this comment | 01-17-09 10:33 PM
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It works ok with apples of gold, though.


Posted by: ben w-lfs-n | Link to this comment | 01-17-09 10:33 PM
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I confess to still being a spendthrift when it comes to haircuts. Why, I get my hair cut at least once every six months at a chic salon just across the street from the Beverly Hills border, Fantastic Sam's. Were it on the other side of the street, it would doubtless charge ten times as much and be called Le Samuel Fantastique. [People are big on false cognates around here; a local furniture store has a sign that reads "Salé". That's French for "salty".]


Posted by: DominEditrix | Link to this comment | 01-17-09 10:36 PM
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But not so much with apples of the road.


Posted by: JP Stormcrow | Link to this comment | 01-17-09 10:36 PM
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Thrift is a virtue men like to find in a woman, DE.


Posted by: ben w-lfs-n | Link to this comment | 01-17-09 10:38 PM
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Posted by: | Link to this comment | 01-17-09 10:39 PM
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I was raised—by Republicans, no less—to respect the Times, so it was difficult fully to come to terms with my loathing for it as the organ of the overclass. Cook's Illustrated, however, I am more than happy to blithely dismiss out of hand.


Posted by: Jesus McQueen | Link to this comment | 01-17-09 10:39 PM
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Note that when Jesus speaks of the Times, he keeps his infinitive unsplit; when the topic turns to the less hallowed CI, "blithely" goes where no adverb had gone before.


Posted by: ben w-lfs-n | Link to this comment | 01-17-09 10:41 PM
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Cook's Illustrated makes some bitchin' cookbooks. Not that I cook at home, of course. The crappy chinese restaurant needs my business.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 01-17-09 10:44 PM
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I knew you would note that, ben, and I treasure your keen attention.

I do appreciate the Times piece for letting me feel the warm glow of self-righteousness on this chilly evening.


Posted by: Jesus McQueen | Link to this comment | 01-17-09 10:44 PM
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Oh, that tricky sweet spot between individual autarky and an economy in which we're all paid to wipe each others' asses.


Posted by: clew | Link to this comment | 01-17-09 10:53 PM
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We just need to find people who like wiping asses. ((Compatibilism as a political philosophy.))


Posted by: ben w-lfs-n | Link to this comment | 01-17-09 10:55 PM
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So-called outsourcing (where the source is the homestead) has resulted in people finding it downright unnatural to do things themselves. So we've built an economy of services to support their inabilities.

I think this is incorrect. It really wasn't until pretty recently, historically speaking, that people who weren't poor cooked for themselves or cleaned their own houses, really. The services have always been there.

What bugs about the article isn't the "omg you have to do x yourself!" thing as much as the "but doing x yourself is bad for the economy, oh noes!" thing. To me.


Posted by: bitchphd | Link to this comment | 01-17-09 11:03 PM
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What bugs about the article isn't the "omg you have to do x yourself!" thing as much as the "but doing x yourself is bad for the economy, oh noes!" thing. To me.

Objectless "bugs" is deprecated. "What bugs me about the article …"


Posted by: ben w-lfs-n | Link to this comment | 01-17-09 11:05 PM
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What bugs about the article isn't the "omg you have to do x yourself!" thing as much as the "but doing x yourself is bad for the economy, oh noes!" thing. To me.

Objectless "bugs" is deprecated. "What bugs me about the article …"


Posted by: ben w-lfs-n | Link to this comment | 01-17-09 11:05 PM
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Actually, what really bugs is double-posting.


Posted by: bitchphd | Link to this comment | 01-17-09 11:07 PM
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There are plenty of things people might outsource, as it were, and they don't need to include the painting of nails, the washing of dogs or cars, or the clipping of the hedges.

What a bunch of pathetic wusses people are if their time is worth too much money to do these things they consider worth somebody else's time.


Posted by: parsimon | Link to this comment | 01-17-09 11:09 PM
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Actually it's entirely worthwhile to outsource manicures, if one is inclined to paint one's nails, which is impossible to do as well oneself.


Posted by: bitchphd | Link to this comment | 01-17-09 11:11 PM
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28 was vaguely to 21, but to the general public.


Posted by: parsimon | Link to this comment | 01-17-09 11:12 PM
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Without having read the article, I think it's silly to use the word "outsource" to refer to this kind of activity.


Posted by: eb | Link to this comment | 01-17-09 11:13 PM
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24: I think this is incorrect. It really wasn't until pretty recently, historically speaking, that people who weren't poor cooked for themselves or cleaned their own houses, really. The services have always been there.

Explain this, B? How far back are you going? When, historically speaking? (I'm not arguing, just not sure which centuries you're talking about.)


Posted by: parsimon | Link to this comment | 01-17-09 11:16 PM
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31: eb, you should read the article. It's short. Then: You're right, but why? Why is it wrong to call this "outsourcing"? The source would be the homestead in this case. No?


Posted by: parsimon | Link to this comment | 01-17-09 11:20 PM
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32: "Always" is obviously an overstatement; I was thinking, basically, of the modern post-Renaissance era. Although I believe it would be true of the Renaissance as well, actually.


Posted by: bitchphd | Link to this comment | 01-17-09 11:23 PM
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I take outsourcing to refer to a specific kind of work arrangement - having something done by an outside contractor for less than it would be done in house. If anything, that article is talking about in-sourcing.


Posted by: eb | Link to this comment | 01-17-09 11:28 PM
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Where the misunderstanding is coming from is that, in those days, everybody was poor.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 01-17-09 11:29 PM
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According to Information Resources Inc., a market research firm in Chicago, sales of products used in home manicures, home cooking and home medical treatments, among others, have experienced healthy growth in the last year. Dollar sales of cold-allergy-sinus tablets, for example, increased 17.2 percent in 2008. Meanwhile, according to Sageworks, a company that tracks sales at privately held businesses, revenue at physicians' offices fell by 0.06 percent.

This would only really be a story if people were making "cold-allergy-sinus tablets" at home.


Posted by: eb | Link to this comment | 01-17-09 11:31 PM
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Anyway, now that I've read the article, what seems even sillier is the use of the word "self-reliance" in this context.


Posted by: eb | Link to this comment | 01-17-09 11:34 PM
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Before this year, people were going to physicians to get cold-allergy-sinus tablets? Really?


Posted by: essear | Link to this comment | 01-17-09 11:35 PM
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No, the physicians were the equivalent of cold-allergy-sinus tablets. The visits themselves were the cures.

Alternatively, pharmacy:outsource::drugstore over-the-counter:self-reliance.


Posted by: eb | Link to this comment | 01-17-09 11:41 PM
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That's the implication we're supposed to get from that juxtaposition, right? That people are buying OTC cold-allergy-sinus medication in lieu of going to doctors? It just doesn't sound right to me, since anything helped by OTC cold-allergy-sinus medication is to minor to bother a doctor with.


Posted by: essear | Link to this comment | 01-17-09 11:47 PM
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to s/b too


Posted by: essear | Link to this comment | 01-17-09 11:47 PM
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Yeah, you'd get a better match if you looked at sales of home surgery kits.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 01-17-09 11:56 PM
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35: I take outsourcing to refer to a specific kind of work arrangement - having something done by an outside contractor for less than it would be done in house. If anything, that article is talking about in-sourcing.

The article is talking about in-sourcing because outsourcing is no longer affordable.


Posted by: parsimon | Link to this comment | 01-17-09 11:58 PM
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39: Before this year, people were going to physicians to get cold-allergy-sinus tablets? Really?

Yeah! What's that stuff called? They have all kinds of groovy names and come in different colors: you can see ads about them on TV!


Posted by: parsimon | Link to this comment | 01-18-09 12:02 AM
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Crayons?


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 01-18-09 12:03 AM
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There you go! Have to go to the doc to get 'em.


Posted by: parsimon | Link to this comment | 01-18-09 12:04 AM
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The article is talking about in-sourcing because outsourcing is no longer affordable.

It was never outsourcing, not in the "cheaper out of house" sense.


Posted by: ben w-lfs-n | Link to this comment | 01-18-09 12:05 AM
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The article is talking about in-sourcing because outsourcing is no longer affordable.

As I said, I understood outsourcing to refer to something not just affordable, but cheaper. None of this stuff was cheaper for these people until they did it themselves. It was never outsourced, it was just done by people hired to do it for a higher cost.


Posted by: eb | Link to this comment | 01-18-09 12:05 AM
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The reporter also is confusing expenses that were unnecessary because people could have done them themselves (like walking the dog), unnecessary because they aren't needed (like getting over the counter cold medicine from a physician), and necessary but requiring considerable skill to do correctly oneself (like electrical repairs and, depending on the type and extent of the hairstyling, hairstyling).


Posted by: eb | Link to this comment | 01-18-09 12:09 AM
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thinking through how today's monetary system works...we have machines and genetic engineering that enables

So....intensive research into mechanical and genetic engineering leads directly to manicures, 24-hours news networks, a world of ever-changing fads and fashions, and, ultimately, I'm guessing, worldwide economic meltdown and canabalism. huh.


Posted by: Michael | Link to this comment | 01-18-09 12:23 AM
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thinking through how today's monetary system works...we have machines and genetic engineering that enables less than 1% of the population to produce enough food for everyone...machines make cooking the food easier, less labor-intensive...basically the same story for providing shelter and warmth and clothing...so an unprecedented number of people basically are unneeded. Parasites, really. It *used* to just be the upper class who were leeches. So us parasites are trying to (justify our existence) keep afloat an economy based upon unnecessary production.

So....intensive research into mechanical and genetic engineering leads directly to manicures, 24-hours news networks, a world of ever-changing fads and fashions, and, ultimately, I'm guessing, worldwide economic meltdown and canabalism. huh.


Posted by: Michael | Link to this comment | 01-18-09 12:23 AM
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Is this the cool dorm?


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 01-18-09 12:24 AM
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instructions: don't read 51. it's kind of a waste of your time.


Posted by: Michael | Link to this comment | 01-18-09 12:25 AM
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anyway, i think the logical conclusion here is that we have to start killing engineers.


Posted by: Michael | Link to this comment | 01-18-09 12:27 AM
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Or engineer robots that kill people.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 01-18-09 12:27 AM
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53. Judging by the fact that I'm not wearing pants:...yes.


Posted by: Michael | Link to this comment | 01-18-09 12:29 AM
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56. but then we'd have to commit suicide. It's like when your girlfriend talks you into taking it from her strap-on and leaves you the next morning for being a fag.


Posted by: Michael | Link to this comment | 01-18-09 12:30 AM
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The trick with killer robots is getting on their good side.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 01-18-09 12:31 AM
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if i were to engineer a killer robot, it wouldn't have a good side. it would have a horrible-death-by-cold-metal side, and horrible-death-by-hot-slag side. Your choice. And whatever your choice, it does the opposite. Because it would be an evil m--f-- robot.


Posted by: Michael | Link to this comment | 01-18-09 12:34 AM
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49: None of this stuff was cheaper for these people until they did it themselves. It was never outsourced, it was just done by people hired to do it for a higher cost.

As your 50 points out -- thanks -- whether any given thing is cheaper or more expensive now depends a lot on the nature of the thing. Some of these things were indeed cheaper for them *at the quality they desired* before they did it themselves; what they're saving in cost by doing it themselves, they're giving up in perceived quality (which, when it comes to nails and hedges and dog-grooming, I say Hey-Wah).


Posted by: parsimon | Link to this comment | 01-18-09 12:36 AM
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If I designed a killer robot, it would have one fist of iron, and another of steel, and if the right one didn't get you, the left one would.


Posted by: ben w-lfs-n | Link to this comment | 01-18-09 12:36 AM
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Just admit that you're wrong, parsley.


Posted by: ben w-lfs-n | Link to this comment | 01-18-09 12:37 AM
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All killer robot neighborhoods should be referred to as "Bel-Air"s.


Posted by: eb | Link to this comment | 01-18-09 12:39 AM
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I would never outsource the blending of kittens.


Posted by: Michael | Link to this comment | 01-18-09 12:42 AM
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If I desgined a (second) killer robot, it would have four fists: one of steel, one of iron, one of one of acid, and one of kindness. Just to keep people guessing, you understand.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 01-18-09 12:49 AM
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63: Didn't I say that? I wrote it but deleted it, as follows:

"48, 49: Okay. I almost included a few addenda, but didn't."

Look:

None of this stuff was cheaper for these people until they did it themselves

This is just not true. As eb points out in 50, people usually can't cut their hair as well, can't groom their damn dogs as well, can't cook food as well. People *can* do these things, but they give up (perceived) quality.

So yes, the basic tasks are cheaper done oneself, even if one winds up not doing them at all: after all, money not spent is money not spent. Why should we ever pay anyone to do anything in this realm of personally doable things?


Posted by: parsimon | Link to this comment | 01-18-09 12:52 AM
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The trick with killer robots is getting on their good side they have an abiding love of opera, and thoroughly dislike people who refuse to dress for it.


Posted by: TJ | Link to this comment | 01-18-09 12:53 AM
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Really I think we should call it subcontracting.


Posted by: parsimon | Link to this comment | 01-18-09 12:54 AM
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32: Even in the 20th century, even between the wars, an lower-upper-class (?) Englishwoman could assume that she "would never be too poor to afford a servant, or rich enough to have a car". (Agatha Christie, born in 1890, married in 1914.) The US moved to services rather than servants a little earlier, I think, but it's still just, just within living memory.


Posted by: clew | Link to this comment | 01-18-09 1:01 AM
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Back in the good old days, people watched opera and dressed well in-house. I, for one, deplore the modern inauthenticity that's led us to think of these activities as exclusively out-of-house pursuits.


Posted by: bitchphd | Link to this comment | 01-18-09 1:03 AM
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Do you know how to iron?

Yes!

To change light bulbs, or oil?

Lightbulbs, sockets, wiring, outlets, breakers, oil axles, engines and some other stuff.

Can you cut your own hair, or that of another?

Well, yes, actually. I have cut the hair of several different women. Shock.

What about your own damn staff of life, can you make that?

Dude. I don't have to make the staff of life, because it's in my pants. Pasta is fun to make.

Does the sight of a vacuum, feather duster, or plunger fail to inspire apprehension and fear in the depths of your secret heart?

Does the sight of a broken toilet and a rotted pipe bring fear to my soul? No! It's crawling around under the house that sucks!

So yes, the basic tasks are cheaper done oneself, even if one winds up not doing them at all: after all, money not spent is money not spent.

This is why you don't base your economy on retail. That is all.

max
['P.S. Have painted own nails as well!']


Posted by: max | Link to this comment | 01-18-09 1:10 AM
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I, for one, deplore the modern inauthenticity that's led us to think of these activities as exclusively out-of-house pursuits.

Does this mean that they will be bringing back corsets and hoop skirts to save the economy?

max
['Actually, would make as much sense as anything else they're trying to do.']


Posted by: max | Link to this comment | 01-18-09 1:12 AM
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max is surely the sexiest man alive, but:

This is why you don't base your economy on retail.

What? It's too late for me to understand. Later.


Posted by: parsimon | Link to this comment | 01-18-09 1:17 AM
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I like that max has taken the post's challenge to heart! I will do so as well.
Do you know how to iron?

Basically, yeah. It can be touch and go sometimes.

To change light bulbs, or oil?

Light bulbs, yes. Oil I could probably figure it out, but I haven't bothered.

Can you cut your own hair, or that of another?

Well, I have. Was it a good idea? Is that what you're asking?

What about your own damn staff of life, can you make that?

With the internet's help I could muddle through.

Does the sight of a vacuum, feather duster, or plunger fail to inspire apprehension and fear in the depths of your secret heart?

Yes, they so fail.

How are you with regard to food?

Love the stuff!

Do you regularly demand a pound of flesh from the butcher, or must you exchange your birthright for a mess of pottage?

I don't get it. I think I like pottage?

Can you use leftovers[1], or do they feed only the trash?

I eat what's in easy grabbing distance. Leftovers are mythical.

Can you recognize well-made clothes, or repair those made ill?

I fixed my zipper once. No, wait, a couple times.

DON'T WORRY, SERVICE ECONOMY! I'LL SAVE YOU!


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 01-18-09 1:17 AM
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Further to 74: I see, the key words there are "base your economy on." Night.


Posted by: parsimon | Link to this comment | 01-18-09 1:25 AM
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Really I think we should call it subcontracting.

I thought this kind of thing was covered under the general term "division of labor."


Posted by: eb | Link to this comment | 01-18-09 1:27 AM
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"[T]he Bulk of our People supported themselves by furnishing the Necessities and Conveniences of Life to the Rich, and to each other. For Instance, when I am at home and dressed as I ought to be, I carry on my Body the Workmanship of an Hundred Tradesmen; the Building and Furniture of my House employ as many more, and five times the Number to adorn my Wife."


Posted by: OPINIONATED YAHOO | Link to this comment | 01-18-09 1:28 AM
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"[T]he Bulk of our People supported themselves by furnishing the Necessities and Conveniences of Life to the Rich, and to each other. For Instance, when I am at home and dressed as I ought to be, I carry on my Body the Workmanship of an Hundred Tradesmen; the Building and Furniture of my House employ as many more, and five times the Number to adorn my Wife."


Posted by: OPINIONATED YAHOO | Link to this comment | 01-18-09 1:28 AM
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78 LINK FAIL


Posted by: A White Bear | Link to this comment | 01-18-09 1:29 AM
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Labor used to be cheaper. It's so hard to find good help these days.


Posted by: eb | Link to this comment | 01-18-09 1:39 AM
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I like that max has taken the post's challenge to heart!

But I'm not so good at the commenting! I missed the second paragraph.

How are you with regard to food?

I am made of food.

Do you regularly demand a pound of flesh from the butcher, or must you exchange your birthright for a mess of pottage?

You know, they have these things in the Balkans called, interesting enough, Balkan pots, which consist of a great many types of vegetables plus some meat. So the answer is YES!

Can you use leftovers[1], or do they feed only the trash?

Yes. Although I have to save, the best chicken stock is made of a whole chicken, or that's what the Jewish Hungarians taught me.

Can you recognize well-made clothes, or repair those made ill?

I have purchased clothing for women that fit, while the women in question were not present! Also, I can sew, almost adequately.

I see, the key words there are "base your economy on." Night.

Bill Clinton is famous for being happy to sign NAFTA as it would allow people to move on to better jobs than 'plucking chickens'. And so the people moved from the 9-to-5 chicken plucking jobs that included health care to the part time retail jobs that do not include the health care, pay less (even now, after inflation), and feature stores with more than a 100% personnel. GOOD PLAN!

Ed McMahon: Ha. Ha. Ha.

max
['The consuming was funded by using credit to make up for the reduction in wages.']


Posted by: max | Link to this comment | 01-18-09 1:40 AM
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In addition to this, the flow of wealth, among all classes, is constantly increasing the number of those who live in a style demanding much hired service, while the number of those, who are compelled to go to service, is constantly diminishing. Our manufactories, also, are making increased demands for female labor, and offering larger compensation. In consequence of these things, there is such a disproportion between those who wish to hire, and those who are willing to go to domestic service, that, in the non-slaveholding States, were it not for the supply of poverty-stricken foreigners, there would not be a domestic for each family who demands one. And this resort to foreigners, poor as it is, scarcely meets the demand; while the disproportion must every year increase, especially if our prosperity increases. For, just in proportion as wealth rolls in upon us, the number of those, who will give up their own independent homes to serve strangers, will be diminished.


Posted by: catharine beecher | Link to this comment | 01-18-09 1:55 AM
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The difficulties and sufferings, which have accrued to American women, from this cause, are almost incalculable. There is nothing, which so much demands system and regularity, as the affairs of a housekeeper, made up, as they are, of ten thousand desultory and minute items; and yet, this perpetually fluctuating state of society seems forever to bar any such system and regularity. The anxieties, vexations, perplexities, and even hard labor, which come upon American women, from this state of domestic service, are endless; and many a woman has, in consequence, been disheartened, discouraged, and ruined in health. The only wonder is, that, amid so many real difficulties, American women are still able to maintain such a character for energy, fortitude, and amiableness, as is universally allowed to be their due.


Posted by: catharine beecher | Link to this comment | 01-18-09 1:59 AM
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The last method suggested for lessening the evils peculiar to American women, is, a decided effort to oppose the aristocratic feeling, that labor is degrading; and to bring about the impression, that it is refined and lady-like to engage in domestic pursuits. In past ages, and in aristocratic countries, leisure and indolence and frivolous pursuits have been deemed lady-like and refined, because those classes, which were most refined, countenanced such an opinion. But whenever ladies of refinement, as a general custom, patronise domestic pursuits, then these employments will be deemed lady-like.

It may be urged, however, that it is impossible for a woman who cooks, washes, and sweeps, to appear in the dress, or acquire the habits and manners, of a lady; that the drudgery of the kitchen is dirty work, and that no one can appear delicate and refined, while engaged in it. Now all this depends on circumstances. If a woman has a house, destitute of neat and convenient facilities; if she has no habits of order and system; if she is remiss and careless in person and dress;--then all this may be true. But, if a woman will make some sacrifices of costly ornaments in her parlor, in order to make her kitchen neat and tasteful; if she will sacrifice expensive dishes, in order to secure such conveniences for labor as protect from exposures; if she will take pains to have the dresses, in which she works, made of suitable materials, and in good taste; if she will rise early, and systematize and oversee the work of her family, so as to have it done thoroughly, neatly, and in the early part of the day; she will find no necessity for any such apprehensions.

It is because such work has generally been done by vulgar people, and in a vulgar way, that we have such associations; and when ladies manage such things, as ladies should, then such associations will be removed. There are pursuits, deemed very refined and genteel, which involve quite as much exposure as kitchen employments. For example, to draw a large landscape, in colored crayons, would be deemed very lady-like; but the writer can testify, from sad experience, that no cooking, washing, sweeping, or any other domestic duty, ever left such deplorable traces on hands, face, and dress, as this same lady-like pursuit. Such things depend entirely on custom and associations; and every American woman, who values the institutions of her Country, and wishes to lend her influence in extending and perpetuating such blessings, may feel that she is doing this, whenever, by her example and influence, she destroys the aristocratic association, which would render domestic labor degrading.


Posted by: catharine beecher | Link to this comment | 01-18-09 2:02 AM
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I make my own bread and bake my own cupcakes. I always have. Sewing and housework, however, I hate. But they either get done or they don't. My goodness, the rich folks in that article who are "penny-pinching" by sacking the maid or the nanny? My heart, it bleeds.


Posted by: Jesurgislac | Link to this comment | 01-18-09 2:14 AM
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87

My heart, it bleeds. For the maid and the nanny, yes.

I'm not going to get all on side with the NYT here, but there is a point that a significant number of people have started small businesses where they've seen an opportunity, and now they're being hit by the recession as badly or worse than anybody else. The fact that you may despise their customers doesn't make their predicament any better. And, by and large they're not people with other cool skills to fall back on.

If you want to say, well, they're hand loom weavers in the greater scheme of things, fine. There are any number of right wing libertarian sites to say it on. Go nuts.


Posted by: OneFatEnglishman | Link to this comment | 01-18-09 3:44 AM
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You know, I was going to object, but 88 is actually kind of funny. Why shouldn't the upper-middle-class first bear the imprint of recession's blow? Why should the broth of economic misery necessarily trickle all the way down to the bottom rungs of the economic ladder? We should hardly feel bad for the rich folks sacking the nanny, and neither does the Times think so. We should recognize that they are nanny-sacking us, and that we have an affirmative responsibility to keep spending in irresponsibly profligate ways such that we might this once shelter the poor yet industrious among us from our betters' profligacy-birthed hangover! W-lfs-n has inverted Zinn's famous pyramid, such that in times of strife the very lucky can place themselves among the suffering, instead of, as in plumper times, among the as-remote hyperrich.

Love it.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 01-18-09 3:54 AM
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Lord Finchley tried to change the electric light
Himself. It struck him dead and serve him right!
It is the business of the wealthy man
To give employment to the artisan.
- Hillaire Belloc

The problem with liberal/social democratic ideology as at present constructed is that it takes Belloc at face value, including the bit about "always keep a-hold of nurse, for fear of finding something worse". What would you advise BHO to do about the self-employed and micro-company owners in the present mess, come Wednesday? Fucked if I know, but I hope somebody's thinking about it.


Posted by: OneFatEnglishman | Link to this comment | 01-18-09 4:25 AM
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Presumably outside of (a) strengthening the social safety net, (b) opening up credit markets and (c) pushing for negotiating room on small business loans in trouble, there's not a hell of a lot to be done. Fixing health care should help quality of life a lot, and with luck the Great National Manicure will happen sooner than later, but what else can you do?


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 01-18-09 4:29 AM
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What would you advise BHO to do about the self-employed and micro-company owners in the present mess, come Wednesday?

Get them jobs doing something else if possible, preferably in some field that pays better.

max
['The rain falls on rich and poor alike.']


Posted by: max | Link to this comment | 01-18-09 4:31 AM
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This is the economic equivalent of "it's your patriotic duty to defeat the terrorists by shopping."


Posted by: Cala | Link to this comment | 01-18-09 6:45 AM
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Changing your own oil is false economy. There is no way that an individual can beat the price of going to Jiffy Lube, even if she values her time at zero, assuming the used motor oil is disposed of properly (and anyone who improperly dumps used motor oil should be flogged).


Posted by: Knecht Ruprecht | Link to this comment | 01-18-09 6:52 AM
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Moreover, there's a whole middle ground between "$200 for a colorist" and "$8 kit at the pharmacy." Most of the rest of us live there. I realize the NYT reporters would have to do journalism rather than call up their friends and high class dog walkers, but there are surely people who never had $200 to spend on a haircut who are worried about the economy, and they might still be spending $20 at Supercuts.


Posted by: Cala | Link to this comment | 01-18-09 6:53 AM
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Well, I just hope to find someone patriotic enough to buy my house at it's 1/1/2008 value. Why do so many people hate America?


Posted by: CharleyCarp | Link to this comment | 01-18-09 7:11 AM
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I understand the dignity and satisfaction that comes from self reliance as much as anyone, but I want to set it aside for a second. It is an illusion after all, as no household is really self reliant, let alone any individual. Also, the sorts of work that are dignified to pass on to someone else is heavily culturally variable. The ability to grow all your own vegetables may or may not be a virtue, depending on place and time.

The question I really want to ask is whether it is a good thing to stop outsourcing *these* jobs rather than some others. Someone has to do this work. Should it be part of the money economy or a part of private households?

There are good reasons to have some of these jobs in the money economy. Jobs like cutting hair and fixing cars involve craftsmanship and satisfaction. The people also got to run their own business, which many people like. In some cases, there are also gains in efficiency by subcontracting--efficiency that can be measured both environmentally and economically. The modern car that is a really a "computer with wheels" is more durable and energy efficient. The sacrifice in self reliance seems worth it.

The main drawback to putting this kind of work in the money economy is that it is not as well paid or secure as, say, work in manufacturing. In the long run we don't want to be a service economy, we want to be a manufacturing economy, if that is still possible.

So its a complicated issue that I don't have an answer to.



Posted by: rob helpy-chalk | Link to this comment | 01-18-09 7:27 AM
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In the long run we don't want to be a service economy, we want to be a manufacturing economy, if that is still possible.

Do we? How come? (An honest question.)


Posted by: redfoxtailshrub | Link to this comment | 01-18-09 7:33 AM
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The perfect service economy: "That mythical island, whose inhabitants earned a precarious living by taking in each other's washing."


Posted by: Jesurgislac | Link to this comment | 01-18-09 7:43 AM
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Changing your own oil is false economy.

Real patriots would just change cars every three months or three thousand miles. BUY AMERICAN!


Posted by: apostropher | Link to this comment | 01-18-09 8:08 AM
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97: I think there are a couple of things. It's more susceptible to bubbles (people cut back on $200 haircuts before they cut back on cars), at least at the end of the day you're making your own goods (instead of hoping that whoever you're importing from remains on good terms and wants to keep selling you the stuff cheaply), and that it doesn't require high levels of education (which is not the same as skill), which means that people who aren't booksmart or can't afford college can skill have a good living.


Posted by: Cala | Link to this comment | 01-18-09 8:15 AM
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Also, you can't export most services, so it's a steady flow of money out of your country to the ones making your products.


Posted by: apostropher | Link to this comment | 01-18-09 8:18 AM
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That too.


Posted by: Cala | Link to this comment | 01-18-09 8:31 AM
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gamarjobat


Posted by: read | Link to this comment | 01-18-09 8:44 AM
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93: Changing your own oil is false economy. There is no way that an individual can beat the price of going to Jiffy Lube...

Also it's good for the service economy when you get your car towed, because the Jiffy Lube guys bunched up the gasket and the oil filter vibrated off at the third stoplight. Don't forget the entertainment value of the car-enveloping shroud of light-grey smoke that suddenly billows out from under the hood as the oil pump squirts a quart of oil onto the exhaust pipe.


Posted by: W. Kiernan | Link to this comment | 01-18-09 8:50 AM
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Labor used to be cheaper. It's so hard to find good help these days.

I'm still looking for one of those latina maids who'll clean your place in return for satisfying her quietly burning sexual desires. You see them all over the internets, so I'm sure they must have an agency somewhere.


Posted by: Michael | Link to this comment | 01-18-09 9:28 AM
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I'll clean your house, Michael.


Posted by: apostropher | Link to this comment | 01-18-09 9:30 AM
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Apparently if you're female and willing to wear 5-inch heels, you can get any number of men who want to do your housework and pay you for the privilege.

But I bet they're not very good at it...


Posted by: Jesurgislac | Link to this comment | 01-18-09 9:32 AM
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like i'd believe a red-head was a latina maid. You won't fool me that easily.


Posted by: Michael | Link to this comment | 01-18-09 9:33 AM
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There is no way that an individual can beat the price of going to Jiffy Lube, even if she values her time at zero, assuming the used motor oil is disposed of properly

Enlightened societies offer curbside pickup of used motor oil for recycling, thus enabling citizens to choose between going to Jiffy Lube and keeping it real DIY-style. (And in practice, there's no question of valuing one's time at zero, because the time expenditure involved in changing one's own oil should be weighed against the time traveling to and from Jiffy Lube and waiting for the service to be rendered.)


Posted by: Jesus McQueen | Link to this comment | 01-18-09 9:43 AM
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one might add that just about any auto parts store or service station will accept your used oil at no charge. At least in the South. Perhaps Northeners do it differently?


Posted by: Michael | Link to this comment | 01-18-09 9:47 AM
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Where do I get me a red-headed 6-pack man in 5-inch stilletoes to DO MY DUSTING?


Posted by: Donna Barr | Link to this comment | 01-18-09 9:52 AM
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Changing your own oil is false economy.


Changing your own engine though? Not so much.


Posted by: soup biscuit | Link to this comment | 01-18-09 9:54 AM
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111: Whatcha offering?


Posted by: apostropher | Link to this comment | 01-18-09 10:17 AM
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Before you strike a deal, Donna, make sure you're both using "sixpack" in the same sense. Trust, but verify.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 01-18-09 10:29 AM
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||
I don't know whether he had transatlantic appeal, but sadly there'll be no more masturbating to Tony Hart.
|>


Posted by: asilon | Link to this comment | 01-18-09 10:48 AM
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Tony Hart is dead? Oh, damn.


Posted by: Jesurgislac | Link to this comment | 01-18-09 10:52 AM
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Perhaps it would be easier to simply keep a list of people we *can* masturbate to.


Posted by: rob helpy-chalk | Link to this comment | 01-18-09 10:57 AM
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115,116:Transatlantic appeal?

Never heard of him.


Posted by: bob mcmanus | Link to this comment | 01-18-09 11:07 AM
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I would happily, happily, wear anything at all, as long as it's not too painful, for the privilege of someone cleaning my house. I tend to desultorily half-clean one corner of the apartment at a time, so it's never all clean at once, but last week, I actually cleaned the whole thing. It's satisfying for it to be done, but my God, I hated doing it.


Posted by: A White Bear | Link to this comment | 01-18-09 11:17 AM
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I tried to get someone to clean my house once (for money). They ran away in terror.


Posted by: paranoid android | Link to this comment | 01-18-09 11:18 AM
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Actually, I think 119 would only be true in the case that I knew the cleaner in question had a kink for cleaning. One of my exes had a maid, and it sort of freaked me out how he could ignore her as she moved around the house. (My own dear mom was a cleaning lady, but only did it on days when the family was out of the house.) I would make a really bad bourgeoise.


Posted by: A White Bear | Link to this comment | 01-18-09 11:21 AM
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I actually had a dream about ToS last night, but I can't remember the details. Maybe ToS is trolling my unconscious.


Posted by: rob helpy-chalk | Link to this comment | 01-18-09 11:44 AM
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I knew the cleaner in question had a kink for cleaning.

Society should do more to encourage productive kinks like this. The state should subsidize porn that features people carefully sorting their recycling.


Posted by: rob helpy-chalk | Link to this comment | 01-18-09 11:47 AM
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Perhaps shower scenes in which the participants get each other wet, turn the water off, spend the bulk of the scene on lathering each other up, and then rinse briefly.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 01-18-09 11:49 AM
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That would actually be really sexy. "Too little lather" is one of the most common failings in shower scenes. Perhaps it is difficult to produce lather that looks good on film.


Posted by: rob helpy-chalk | Link to this comment | 01-18-09 11:54 AM
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Perhaps shower scenes in which the participants get each other wet, turn the water off

They'd need to turn the water on?


Posted by: ben w-lfs-n | Link to this comment | 01-18-09 11:56 AM
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shower scenes

I don't think I've seen enough of them to generalize. This may require research.


Posted by: A White Bear | Link to this comment | 01-18-09 11:56 AM
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126: Helps with the mashing of crap down the drain.


Posted by: apostropher | Link to this comment | 01-18-09 12:02 PM
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the mashing of crap down the drain.

:(


Posted by: redfoxtailshrub | Link to this comment | 01-18-09 12:04 PM
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There's something comforting about returning to old jokes.


Posted by: asilon | Link to this comment | 01-18-09 12:13 PM
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Like drunk dialing exes in the middle of the night.


Posted by: apostropher | Link to this comment | 01-18-09 12:18 PM
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Especially in a recession when no one can afford new jokes.


Posted by: Jesurgislac | Link to this comment | 01-18-09 12:19 PM
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We're applying for a federal grant to retrofit the blog for humor efficiency as part of the stimulus package.


Posted by: apostropher | Link to this comment | 01-18-09 12:20 PM
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I'm way ahead of you there, Jesurgislac.


Posted by: ben w-lfs-n | Link to this comment | 01-18-09 12:23 PM
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129: Shrub, were you around for the crapping-in-the-shower discussion? It really is a classic.


Posted by: rob helpy-chalk | Link to this comment | 01-18-09 12:44 PM
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135: I hate to presume, but it was my own familiarity with the subject that caused me to :( as well. Unfamiliarity with it would have made me :o instead.


Posted by: A White Bear | Link to this comment | 01-18-09 12:56 PM
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||
"There is a strong possibility that Barack will pursue a political career, although it's unclear. There is a little tension with that. I'm very wary of politics."
|>


Posted by: Josh | Link to this comment | 01-18-09 2:19 PM
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I'm so deeply in love with Michelle.


Posted by: bitchphd | Link to this comment | 01-18-09 2:31 PM
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123: Tentacle porn to promote a heart healthy diet based on sea food?


Posted by: MH | Link to this comment | 01-18-09 2:44 PM
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Then why don't you go and marry her?


Posted by: Tiny Hermaphrodite | Link to this comment | 01-18-09 2:47 PM
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140 > 138


Posted by: Tiny Hermaphrodite | Link to this comment | 01-18-09 2:48 PM
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87: I'm not going to get all on side with the NYT here, but there is a point that a significant number of people have started small businesses where they've seen an opportunity, and now they're being hit by the recession as badly or worse than anybody else. The fact that you may despise their customers doesn't make their predicament any better. And, by and large they're not people with other cool skills to fall back on.

This is why people should turn to barter. The haircutter might be willing to cut your hair in exchange for your repairing his computer (say).


Posted by: parsimon | Link to this comment | 01-18-09 3:25 PM
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87 & 142 are both sensible.


There's a real problem: If you believe that we've shifted too far into to a model of extremely narrow competence and consumption to cover everything else including (aspects of) basic requirements of life --- well, there is not good time to change it.

Talking about how it's harder on people in a downturn is somewhat irrelevant. It will never change at any other time.


Posted by: soup biscuit | Link to this comment | 01-18-09 3:29 PM
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Or, for Red Lobster, the $19.99 all you can eat calamari. "Get them before they get big enough to get us."


Posted by: MH | Link to this comment | 01-18-09 3:30 PM
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||

The Lincoln thing was neat, folks. Watch it tonight. Everything but the eagles came off really well (although Beyonce could do with a short lesson from Pete Seeger in songs that have more than one verse).

|>


Posted by: CharleyCarp | Link to this comment | 01-18-09 3:30 PM
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Then why don't you go and marry her?

Prop 8, duh.


Posted by: Blume | Link to this comment | 01-18-09 3:35 PM
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143: It will never change at any other time

Agreed. My sense is that any number of people believe that we have not "shifted too far into to a model of extremely narrow competence and consumption to cover everything else including (aspects of) basic requirements of life."

Then it becomes a different discussion altogether: what's wrong with comparatively extreme specialization and division of labor? Is it just that the system could crash and burn at any moment? That is, is it nothing but a pragmatic argument against such an arrangement, or is there some moral aspect to suggesting that this degree of specialization is problematic? I admit I'm uncomfortable with the latter, as it gets into DFH territory; several comments in this thread suggest a similar discomfort (cf. references to self-righteousness).


Posted by: parsimon | Link to this comment | 01-18-09 3:56 PM
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142: I suspect that wouldn't really help as general solution. What does the maid need, e.g, that her clients could barter, where she wouldn't be better off with currency? I don't have a problem with bartering as a good thing to do, but it's not going to be a solution for paying the rent right now.

Most small businesses fail. I'm not sure if the 95% number I've heard tossed around is accurate, but it's never easy for a small business, and it's worse during a downturn. I think the best solution is likely to be the one it always is. Hope there are new jobs, help create them, and ensure the safety net is big enough for a lot of people to fall without breaking.


Posted by: Cala | Link to this comment | 01-18-09 4:13 PM
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148.1: Certainly barter doesn't provide a full solution. Just can help.

This, though: What does the maid need, e.g, that her clients could barter, where she wouldn't be better off with currency? seems straightforward. The maid's clients might have hand-me-down kids' clothing or kids' accoutrements in general, for example. (Just a question of what the maid probably wants to buy with the money she's ordinarily paid.) But of course this doesn't pay the rent. Currency is preferable for a lot of things, maybe not all.


Posted by: parsimon | Link to this comment | 01-18-09 4:23 PM
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149 -- Gotta have money to pay taxes, which should doom most barter schemes, it seems to me.


Posted by: CharleyCarp | Link to this comment | 01-18-09 4:25 PM
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149: Bartering works better for one time exchanges, I think; and it's also not immune to the same pressures as cash. (The couple might keep the clothes rather than buy new ones, etc.) I guess I don't see barter as a radically different means of exchange, just one that isn't as portable.


Posted by: Cala | Link to this comment | 01-18-09 4:49 PM
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150, 151: Yes, as I said, barter doesn't provide a full solution. I also don't suggest it can replace a money economy.


Posted by: parsimon | Link to this comment | 01-18-09 4:58 PM
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Full solution? It doesn't provide any solution at all. What does it improve? That it restricts you from making exchanges with people or entities you don't directly interact with or have services to offer to?


Posted by: Nathan Williams | Link to this comment | 01-18-09 5:10 PM
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153: Gah. It allows you to get a haircut and the haircutter to have his computer repaired. (Hypothetically.)


Posted by: parsimon | Link to this comment | 01-18-09 5:13 PM
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154: we can do that now!


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 01-18-09 5:14 PM
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Bartering works when you have more skills then you do assets, so yes, in a down economy it can be useful. But it's not particularly a solution for e.g. keeping small businesses afloat, or allowing people to feed their families, or providing health care. But, sure, if you don't have cash, maybe you can trade something to the nice person at the hair salon.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 01-18-09 5:16 PM
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155: I know! But we rarely do!


Posted by: parsimon | Link to this comment | 01-18-09 5:17 PM
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||

I'm cranky because my brother accidentally knocked my TV over and broke it. I'm not really mad at him because, hey, accidents happen, but I am dreading the whole Consumer Reports research and comparison shopping thing, which is just tiring. It's a task I would totally subcontract if I were wealthy.

It's possible it can be repaired -- it's your basic non-fancy tube TV -- but I wouldn't be surprised if the repair costs half or more of the cost of a new one. (On the other hand, it would be economically stimulating for a small local repair business.)

I don't care much about the whole HDTV flat screen gee whiz stuff; I assumed I'd have this TV for the next 10 or 15 years and that seemed fine. But if I end up replacing it, it does seem like I should probably upgrade. But that's expensive and I don't really need to see every hair on the ref's finger when he makes the "holding" sign. (Economic stimulus for big box electronics store, though.)

Oh, whatever. I'll figure it out. Thank you for hearing me out on my boring dilemma of overconsumption.

|>


Posted by: Sir Kraab | Link to this comment | 01-18-09 5:17 PM
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Changing your own oil is false economy. There is no way that an individual can beat the price of going to Jiffy Lube, even if she values her time at zero, assuming the used motor oil is disposed of properly (and anyone who improperly dumps used motor oil should be flogged).

The reason no one can beat the price at Jiffy Lube is because Jiffy Lube uses shitty oil and crappy filters. If you change oil frequently (that is, earlier than the manufacturer recommends on a new engine) that's ok. If you tend to run over, the crappy filter will shut down quickly and the extra deposits will build up more quickly with the cheap oil and if you run over milage a lot, your engine will die a lot quicker and be dirtier as it does so.

On the other hand, Jiffy Lube does a cool thing when swapping out transmission fluid, and transmissions don't experience the same stresses as an engine, so if you change the transmission filter per manufacturer directions (which Jiffy Lube does not do) then that's a win. Even with the crappy cutrate fluid JL uses. If you are frequently in the position of nursing other people's ailing elderly engines (as I frequently am) Jiffy Lube is about the worst way of going about it.

96:The main drawback to putting this kind of work in the money economy is that it is not as well paid or secure as, say, work in manufacturing. In the long run we don't want to be a service economy, we want to be a manufacturing economy, if that is still possible.

That's the point: in a recession, retail gets killed, since retail is at the end of the manufacturing chain. Worse, to support all those big boxes requires a serious dedication to spending, which requires wealth in some form. If the wealth is a big fraud, then when the con is up, the entire mess goes into the tank. It may temporarily be efficient to have retail outlets in very square mile covering the entire earth, but even in just pure economic terms, it's not permanantly efficient. You can get away with it though, as long as you are liquidating your physical capital in exchange for Chinese paper. When the music stops, you're a lot poorer.

max
['Soundtrack by kazoos.']


Posted by: max | Link to this comment | 01-18-09 5:17 PM
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158: flat screens aren't that expensive any more, and hey, you'll be able to plug in an antenna without a converter box come [ soon ].


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 01-18-09 5:20 PM
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158: Presumably Circuit City has some good discounts on TVs these days.


Posted by: Otto von Bisquick | Link to this comment | 01-18-09 5:22 PM
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Barter only seems appealing to those who dislike ordinary capitalism because it obscures what's going on. You don't have any measure for the value different parties attach to the exchange. This lets you think that something other than capitalism is going on, but it also acts as a cover for unequal deals.

Think of a situation where people really are uncomfortable with capitalism: paid sex. There are plenty of relationships out there that aren't cash for sex, but might as well be. Sex for drugs. Sex for rent in a nice apartment and expensive jewelry.

The real contrast to a capitalist economy is the internal economy of typical families, where the physical goods are genuinely regarded as communal, and fairness in labor is worked out by constant negotiation between parties who basically trust each other. This doesn't scale up well.


Posted by: rob helpy-chalk | Link to this comment | 01-18-09 5:42 PM
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158: Switch now to watching all your TV on the internet. You've got a perfectly good screen in front of you right now, no?


Posted by: rob helpy-chalk | Link to this comment | 01-18-09 5:43 PM
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162: This doesn't scale up well.

Understood. It scales up to a certain degree, but not very far.

Barter continues to be appealing, though, you know. You can tell me that I'm being taken for a ride in my arrangement for 'free' membership in our local organic CSA in exchange for work, but I won't believe you. Or rather, don't care.


Posted by: parsimon | Link to this comment | 01-18-09 5:53 PM
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122: I actually had a dream about xxx last night

First time I have ever seen an actual complete comment from said subject at #25 here at Bérubé's place.


Posted by: JP Stormcrow | Link to this comment | 01-18-09 5:57 PM
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You can tell me that I'm being taken for a ride in my arrangement for 'free' membership in our local organic CSA in exchange for work, but I won't believe you. Or rather, don't care.

Maybe you're taking them for a ride, who can tell?

The crucial thing, really, is the nature of the trust that lets both you and the co-op not worry about the exact accounting. Probably, the trust is justified. It is hard to tell from the outside. The situation becomes more complicated because we are talking about a relationship between a person and an organization.


Posted by: rob helpy-chalk | Link to this comment | 01-18-09 6:11 PM
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We use the strategy outlined in 163, but I must say that HD + Planet Earth = ZOW.


Posted by: redfoxtailshrub | Link to this comment | 01-18-09 6:15 PM
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166: The point is that I don't worry about it. I don't do the accounting. Those who feel the need to do the accounting have bought into the notion that there's an objective measure of the value of their contributions, and the balance should come out roughly equal. That sort of thing can be taken off the table sometimes.


Posted by: parsimon | Link to this comment | 01-18-09 6:20 PM
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hose who feel the need to do the accounting have bought into the notion that there's an objective measure of the value of their contributions

That's a funny way to use "objective".


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 01-18-09 6:22 PM
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169: Yeah, probably.


Posted by: parsimon | Link to this comment | 01-18-09 6:29 PM
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I've been assuming that the most sensible way out of Zomg Deflationary Spiral of Death is for people to replace spending on useless stuff with spending on useful stuff -- insulating the house instead of going on vacation, etc. I naïvely assume that this covers a lot of what good government stimulus programs are supposed to do (also, the latter provide people money for the former). Is this in fact sensible? And is there an equivalent for services and small businesses?



Posted by: clew | Link to this comment | 01-18-09 6:31 PM
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The most sensible way out of the Zomg Deflationary Spiral of Death is for the government to print more money and distribute it.


Posted by: Walt Someguy | Link to this comment | 01-18-09 6:50 PM
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Sir Kraab, wait until the 'changeover'. A lot of people believe that the digital signal thing make their current sets useless and are trashing them or giving them to thrift stores.

If I currently needed a TV set, I'd just cruise my neighborhood on Monday mornings (day to take out heavy trash/call for pickup). Or the local thrift stores. ARound here they only take working sets.


Posted by: dragonet2 | Link to this comment | 01-18-09 6:53 PM
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I've been trying to figure out why rob's 162 upset me, and it's this: You don't have any measure for the value different parties attach to the exchange. This lets you think that something other than capitalism is going on, but it also acts as a cover for unequal deals.

rob's completely right to point to a relationship of trust as fundamental to anything other than capitalism (as he's framing it). I've been slow on the uptake here, but what bothers me is that, understood in this way, capitalism is championed insofar as it's premised on an attitude of suspicion. That's what I want to reject, likely because I'm a fool.


Posted by: parsimon | Link to this comment | 01-18-09 6:54 PM
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173 is great. Because it's true.


Posted by: parsimon | Link to this comment | 01-18-09 6:58 PM
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It's not "trust" that currency exchange buys you, fundamentally. It's portability.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 01-18-09 7:01 PM
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Yeah, pars, I'm assuming that capitalism is a system based on universal suspicion. I also take for granted that this is a sucky way to live. I was wondering what kinds of relationships would allow for the trust that lets us go beyond that. Replacing money with barter doesn't do any good, because it doesn't actually address the relationship.

It seems easy to say that scaling down society will make this kind of trust easier. Global capitalism can only work with distrust and diligent accounting, but maybe in our small upper midwestern towns we can trust each other.

I'm not even sure this is true, though, because I've seen so many exploitative relationships in the small scale.


Posted by: rob helpy-chalk | Link to this comment | 01-18-09 7:02 PM
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GAY FAIL:

After letting their maid go last October, Chris DeCarlo said he and his partner, Chris Toland, realized they had a lot to learn about keeping their Manhattan apartment tidy. Their biggest challenge has been laundry.

"No mishaps yet," said Mr. DeCarlo, a Web site designer, "but my partner is proud to report that somebody in our laundry room who was watching him struggle felt the need to intervene and show him the proper way to fold a fitted sheet."


Posted by: Alex F | Link to this comment | 01-18-09 7:04 PM
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177: I don't think parsley or I were saying that currency exchange bought you trust.

I was specifically saying that it sacrificed trust-based relationships for large scale society, which is clearly related to portability. Really, currency doesn't just get you portability, it gets you a society big enough that portability is useful.


Posted by: rob helpy-chalk | Link to this comment | 01-18-09 7:06 PM
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I have no idea how to fold a fitted sheet, and never bother.


Posted by: ben w-lfs-n | Link to this comment | 01-18-09 7:11 PM
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180: it's surprisingly straightforward.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 01-18-09 7:12 PM
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180: I've reached the age of 40 without learning this skill, and actually doubt it exists.


Posted by: rob helpy-chalk | Link to this comment | 01-18-09 7:12 PM
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177: Yeah, pars, I'm assuming that capitalism is a system based on universal suspicion.

Really? I thought for sure I'd be yelled at.

Seriously, I don't know: yes, smaller-scale communities. That there are exploitative relationships still on the small scale doesn't matter: we can't eradicate that, nor should we try.

If you want to take the internal economy of the family as a model, in which everything is communally owned, then we need some form of socialism. (I understand none of this thinking is new, but sometimes it's painful to walk through it anew.)


Posted by: parsimon | Link to this comment | 01-18-09 7:13 PM
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Not difficult at all, but there's not a whole lot of point to it.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 01-18-09 7:14 PM
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I've never been able to fold a fitted sheet either.


Posted by: MH | Link to this comment | 01-18-09 7:15 PM
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I... never mind. Barter away.

So yeah, folded a fitted sheet: not so mysterious.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 01-18-09 7:15 PM
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"folding"


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 01-18-09 7:15 PM
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183: As a commercial litigator, I can say that capitalism is a system based on not remotely enough mutual suspicion. A little more suspicion out there and people wouldn't be paying the likes of me nearly as much, nearly as often.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 01-18-09 7:15 PM
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Former commercial litigator, no?

I would like to know how capitalism is based on mutual distrust, rather than, say, engenders it.


Posted by: ben w-lfs-n | Link to this comment | 01-18-09 7:18 PM
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I understand none of this thinking is new, but sometimes it's painful to walk through it anew

I think the problem is that no one has thought it through successfully, and that most of these conversations are like mathematicians rehearsing the same failed solutions to Fermat's last theorem. If we keep having this conversation long enough, someone will get it.


Posted by: rob helpy-chalk | Link to this comment | 01-18-09 7:18 PM
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190: Just as long as we don't have to talk about the problem of evil.


Posted by: parsimon | Link to this comment | 01-18-09 7:21 PM
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I'm assuming that capitalism is a system based on universal suspicion>/i>

You are exactly wrong.

Capitalism is a system based on universal trust, in that the individual is reified into a unit of production, a commodity. What were inter-personal relations are turned into social relations.

This is the power and promise of capitalism, and the flaw, the fragility, the doom of capitalism. Yes, the worker is thereby alienated from himself, but cannot return to some feudal or older system of production. The worker becomes conscious of herself as a social being alienated from her social system.

It is the universal trust, the commodification in capitalism, that makes the transition into socialism inevitable.


Posted by: Vladimir Ilyich | Link to this comment | 01-18-09 7:23 PM
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189: True. I don't know what you call my specialization now. Admin law, I guess.

190: We've been having the conversation about fitted sheets for awhile, at least.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 01-18-09 7:24 PM
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(I understand none of this thinking is new, but sometimes it's painful to walk through it anew.)

Over 5000 years, they have tried every form of government known to man. Not to mention most every form of economic organization.

At any rate, mistrust is a form of friction. Friction is inefficient! But mistrust is common in every system. Capitalist/"Capitalist"/ Socialist/"Socialist"/&c. (In a system suffering from major distrust, you tote your .357 down to the local store, and trade silver for food through a hole in the bullet-proof glass window. Kinda like South Dallas.) Too much mistrust is bad. Too much trust is bad as well!

Oh, no!

max
['What?']


Posted by: max | Link to this comment | 01-18-09 7:29 PM
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through a hole in the bullet-proof glass window

I once bought beer after a show at one of these dealies in Brooklyn. I could see the whole store but I never saw the person putting the beer into the spinny plastic/glass thing. It was, uh, probably a bad decision. And yet here I am!


Posted by: Stanley | Link to this comment | 01-18-09 7:33 PM
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Kinda like South Dallas.

Max is a mcmanus sockpuppet?

Over 5000 years, they have tried every form of government known to man.

They've never tried random elections--electing random people to serve in a democratic body. Or did Athens do that (for citizens only, of course)? I forget. There are several more off-the-wall ideas for government that actually aren't that bad.


Posted by: paranoid android | Link to this comment | 01-18-09 7:33 PM
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193: Thanks. That did work. You've also helped the economy since I may go buy more sheets. I'm probably a bit old to have only one set.


Posted by: MH | Link to this comment | 01-18-09 7:36 PM
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They've never tried random elections--electing random people to serve in a democratic body

This was the Babylonian system, actually. Borges wrote a short treatise on it.


Posted by: ben w-lfs-n | Link to this comment | 01-18-09 7:36 PM
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['What?']

Anyway, walking into situations under the assumption that you need a fucking contract, and there must be an agreed-upon measure of exchange, else somebody will screw you over ... that's just nasty.

I believe suspicion is one degree worse than mistrust. We're talking systemic mistrust, or rather suspicion.


Posted by: parsimon | Link to this comment | 01-18-09 7:37 PM
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So, you think you might never have a contract to barter with someone? I give you x bushels of wheat, and in the fall I'll get some of your pork?


Posted by: ben w-lfs-n | Link to this comment | 01-18-09 7:39 PM
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Anyway, walking into situations under the assumption that you need a fucking contract,

That only works if you have relatively cheap access to a trustworthy (or bribable) legal system.

and there must be an agreed-upon measure of exchange, else somebody will screw you over ... that's just nasty.

Such is the world.


Posted by: paranoid android | Link to this comment | 01-18-09 7:40 PM
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Fold A Fitted Sheet With Perfectly Squared Corners. As long as we have the Internet we'll never descend to utter barbarism.


Posted by: JP Stormcrow | Link to this comment | 01-18-09 7:40 PM
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A contract is also useful to help spell out precisely what each party wants of the other.


Posted by: ben w-lfs-n | Link to this comment | 01-18-09 7:41 PM
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I still have no clue how to fold one of those elasticy undersheets.


Posted by: paranoid android | Link to this comment | 01-18-09 7:42 PM
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203: It's my understanding that the vast majority of contract disputes are due to circumstances unforeseen by either party.


Posted by: paranoid android | Link to this comment | 01-18-09 7:43 PM
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But no doubt 203 is still true.


Posted by: paranoid android | Link to this comment | 01-18-09 7:43 PM
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200: Sure you might have contracts some times. You have to allow me to rant on occasion: the point in this case is just about the suspicious mindset from the get-go that would call for a contract every time. Hyperbole, okay?


Posted by: parsimon | Link to this comment | 01-18-09 7:45 PM
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199: As LB implies in 189, the point is that the contract is enforcable, that in itself the piece of paper has value. It implies a socialized system of trust has usefully replaced any judgement of the counterparty.

Hell, we only fully moved to fiat money in the last century (50 years?). Before that, we needed gold or the guarantee of gold, something valuable outside of gov'ts and societies.

We now have even moved beyond fiat money, to 1s & 0s stored...somewhere.


Posted by: bob mcmanus | Link to this comment | 01-18-09 7:46 PM
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204: Do you mean a mattress pad. Nobody has more than one of those per bed. Why would you have to fold one? Bed-Washer-Dryer-Bed. They do make very good pads for when you move or something. But in that case, cut the elastic off.


Posted by: MH | Link to this comment | 01-18-09 7:47 PM
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My company actually owns software that stores said ones and zeros.


Posted by: paranoid android | Link to this comment | 01-18-09 7:48 PM
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I enter into commercial transactions all the time without a contract.


Posted by: ben w-lfs-n | Link to this comment | 01-18-09 7:48 PM
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We might say that a contract is useful when at least one of the parties is to provide something at a time later than that at which the contract is executed. We might further conjecture that that is fairly independent of whether or not a system of barter prevails.


Posted by: ben w-lfs-n | Link to this comment | 01-18-09 7:51 PM
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Hey, we never promised that late capitalism would be a walk in the park. Kinda the opposite, in fact.


Posted by: Karl & Friedrich | Link to this comment | 01-18-09 7:51 PM
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Your chocolates suck, K&F.


Posted by: ben w-lfs-n | Link to this comment | 01-18-09 7:52 PM
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When the revolution comes, people who are picky about their candy will be the first up against the wall.


Posted by: MH | Link to this comment | 01-18-09 7:55 PM
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ben, your dollar bill is a contract. It's legal tender. It will provide something to its recipient at a time later than the time of the exchange. Etc.


Posted by: parsimon | Link to this comment | 01-18-09 7:57 PM
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My initial reason for saying that capitalism was founded on distrust was that the need to quantify obligations to each other would only come up if you had problems with the relationship.

Other's comments have made it clear that the method for quantifying obligations is itself based on trust. This I grant.

So now I'm going to say that we have layers of trust and distrust. I think you can explain this using standard fables of the origin of capitalism.

As a bartering economy becomes larger, people no longer trust that they are getting the right stuff for their other stuff. So they develop standards: cowrie shells, gold, etc. Then you get a layer of trust as people start exchanging tokens that represent cowrie shells someplace else. The rest is familiar.

The point is that you need an initial distrust to build up the system of measurement to begin with.


Posted by: rob helpy-chalk | Link to this comment | 01-18-09 8:01 PM
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Between whom and whom is the dollar a contract? Certainly not between me and the seller, and thus I haven't entered into any contracts. Nor, as far as I can make out, has the seller, simply in accepting the bill; what obligation has he incurred? (Unless you think that by accepting the bill the seller agrees to be bound by US law or something wacky like that, but I don't see why he enters into that agreement anew with every bill-acceptance.)

After all, as we learn from Thomas Hobbes his work Leviathan, part I, chap. XIV, §§ 9–10, "the mutual transferring of right is that which men call CONTRACT. There is difference between transferring of right to the thing and transferring (or tradition, that is, delivery) of the thing itself."


Posted by: ben w-lfs-n | Link to this comment | 01-18-09 8:04 PM
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My initial reason for saying that capitalism was founded on distrust was that the need to quantify obligations to each other would only come up if you had problems with the relationship.

So, in a barter economy, I would give you some wheat, and just assume that you'd give me an equitable or even advantageous amount of some other good in return? We wouldn't haggle? This isn't a method of quantifying obligations.


Posted by: ben w-lfs-n | Link to this comment | 01-18-09 8:05 PM
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Ben, I don't understand how you're not entering a contract. Buying something is always forming a contract, even if there's no writing or speech involved. There's offer, acceptance, and consideration.


Posted by: wp | Link to this comment | 01-18-09 8:13 PM
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Well, if that's what it takes to be a contract, they're just as prevalent in barter economies as in any other.

There does seem to be something relevantly different between the cases of each party simultaneously exchanging the actual goods, and at least one party's action being deferred, though. Wev.


Posted by: ben w-lfs-n | Link to this comment | 01-18-09 8:19 PM
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Yes, they are. "I give you A, and you in return and consideration for such give me B" is a contract, where A and B are any objects or actions, or agreements to do something in the future (or even not to do something). Barter meets that just as much as cash transactions.


Posted by: wp | Link to this comment | 01-18-09 8:26 PM
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ben's point is taken, and I admit I was fooling around a bit.


Posted by: parsimon | Link to this comment | 01-18-09 8:28 PM
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Presumably Circuit City has some good discounts on TVs these days.

Actually, if the folks at Consumerist are to be believed, the deals at Circuit City are likely to be worse than elsewhere at the moment. Apparently the company that's running the liquidation has a habit of re-pricing everything up to MSRP (that is to say, higher than the normal prices) and then discounting from there. Makes people think that they're getting a great deal, when they're not.


Posted by: Josh | Link to this comment | 01-18-09 8:35 PM
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219: So, in a barter economy, I would give you some wheat, and just assume that you'd give me an equitable or even advantageous amount of some other good in return? We wouldn't haggle?

This is kind of funny, though, because a friend once had an agreement that he'd use his big field-mower thing to mow a portion of a neighbor's field from time to time, in exchange for which the neighbor would give him half of the cow he intended to slaughter later in the year. I don't believe they haggled. Did they have a contract in any believable sense? No.


Posted by: parsimon | Link to this comment | 01-18-09 8:37 PM
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Only NYC elites don't slaughter their own cows.


Posted by: paranoid android | Link to this comment | 01-18-09 8:39 PM
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What do you mean, parsley, didn't they agree as to who would perform what services? As we read in Hobbes his Leviathan, these things needn't be written.


Posted by: ben w-lfs-n | Link to this comment | 01-18-09 8:40 PM
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NYC elites slaughter other people's cows.

Fuckin' elites.


Posted by: ben w-lfs-n | Link to this comment | 01-18-09 8:42 PM
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I think that if the designated cow had up and died of disease on its own, my friend would have shrugged and said, "I was going to get part of this cow, and I even studied up on how to deal with cow parts, but it died. Oh well."


Posted by: parsimon | Link to this comment | 01-18-09 8:44 PM
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Only NYC elites don't slaughter their own cows, but really, my cows.


Posted by: essear | Link to this comment | 01-18-09 8:45 PM
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Max is a mcmanus sockpuppet?

max is not a McManus sock puppet. max does come from Dallas, which is part of the DFW metropolitan area, which contains ~5 million people, so there is likely to be more than one person on the Internet from there, just like LB isn't the only lawyer from NYC. max would also like to note that he isn't any relation to Max Sawicky and has never met the man, and he also is not this Max person AWB often refers to, max never having been to NYC since the age of two. Luckily, the Internet is large enough to contain more than one person named Max, although possibly not large enough to contain more than one max without driving everyone insane.

That said, max suspects max has run across some people before, as this Internet thing has the unnerving habit of being a small world where someone you flamed decades ago turns up again later as an ally. Whoa. Dude.

And yet here I am!

As a child, I wandered around some parts of South Dallas and while no one mistook me for a black person, no one tried to shoot me either, or even threatened to do so. Nonetheless, suburban matrons live in mortal fear of the place and its (apparently) fanged denizens.

The point is that you need an initial distrust to build up the system of measurement to begin with.

But you also need to be able to trust enough to even think about trading with them at all.

I think you can explain this using standard fables of the origin of capitalism.

Here's my theory: the technology of government sucks. If our manufacturing capabilities were at the same low level as our government capabilities, we would still be rubbing two sticks together. (All the social sciences have this problem, but government is the worst.) Unfortunately, since our technology of government sucks, most discussions of politics devolve into random opinionating, and those convocations tend to resemble a large number of sightless persons standing around offering descriptions of large gray, tusked animals from Africa.

Thus, if a person has decent memories of a moneyless family life, they might opt for socialism. If they were most impressed with the awfulness of rich students at university, they might for teh communism, and the killing of the rich. Likewise, if they'd really like to be king and have a large number of peasants licking the shit off their boots, and they want to get there by stealing rather than conquest, they'll probably opt to be Randroids.

Downside: whatever you do is probably not going to work well. Upside: you can do whatever seems like a good idea, and it might work by accident!

max
['Whee!']


Posted by: max | Link to this comment | 01-18-09 8:45 PM
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That's awful swell of your friend, parsimon, but it doesn't seem relevant.


Posted by: ben w-lfs-n | Link to this comment | 01-18-09 8:50 PM
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232 -- Just telling a story.


Posted by: parsimon | Link to this comment | 01-18-09 8:54 PM
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As ever.


Posted by: ben w-lfs-n | Link to this comment | 01-18-09 8:58 PM
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Tell us the one about wearing an onion on your belt.


Posted by: ben w-lfs-n | Link to this comment | 01-18-09 8:58 PM
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Downside: whatever you do is probably not going to work well. Upside: you can do whatever seems like a good idea, and it might work by accident!

This is why the smart investor puts his social capital in a diversified portfolio of political ideologies, and random walks the indexes of meta-ethical justifications.


Posted by: bob mcmanus | Link to this comment | 01-18-09 8:58 PM
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It's not "trust" that currency exchange buys you, fundamentally. It's portability.

Yup. It's the ability to by the bread six months from now when you need it and are out of pigs, which you could do by agreement, but is easier with shiny coins and notes.


Posted by: Cala | Link to this comment | 01-18-09 8:59 PM
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It's the ability to by the bread six months from now when you need it and are out of pigs, which you could do by agreement, but is easier with shiny coins and notes.

IOW, having a portable, durable medium of exchange lessens the need for explicit nontrivial contracts!


Posted by: ben w-lfs-n | Link to this comment | 01-18-09 9:01 PM
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235: Dude, I have no idea what you're talking about, but it's better to go to bed peaceably, so peace.


Posted by: parsimon | Link to this comment | 01-18-09 9:08 PM
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239: It's a Simpsons reference.


Posted by: Tiny Hermaphrodite | Link to this comment | 01-18-09 9:21 PM
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235: which was the fashion at the time...


Posted by: Cala | Link to this comment | 01-18-09 9:25 PM
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Did they have a contract in any believable sense? No.

Not all legal advice has the same value.


Posted by: CharleyCarp | Link to this comment | 01-18-09 9:27 PM
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237 is right. If everybody is bartering their goods for the same commodity (call it money, for the hell of it), it's a lot easier to stabilise the exchange rate of everything else in relation to it. Thus you can identify at a glance if somebody is ripping you off or offering you a bargain.


Posted by: OneFatEnglishman | Link to this comment | 01-19-09 1:45 AM
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The video in 202 is insane. It's fine to faff around like that when you're in a nice clean bedroom, but in a laundry room you'ld be dragging the thing all over the floor until you needed to wash it again.

Ball it up, go upstairs and make the fucking bed.


Posted by: OneFatEnglishman | Link to this comment | 01-19-09 1:52 AM
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I thought paper currency, at least in the US, was a transferable contract between the currency holder and, sometimes at multiple removes, the bank backing it. The idea is that the bank has agreed to pay the holder - early bills would read "pay to bearer" - the amount of the bill in hard money when presented with the bill. This might mean going to the bank yourself as the bearer, or it could mean banks agreeing to honor each other's bills after receiving them from individual bearers. The contract was simply for the delivery of the hard money (which was different from the paper money because it had value in itself, rather than in the promise that the contract would be upheld). But hard money is now small change and there's no gold standard, so I guess currency is now a contract between the holder and - sometimes at multiple removes via banks again - the government backing it.


Posted by: eb | Link to this comment | 01-19-09 3:00 AM
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182: This is really just one step removed from your father's belief in laundry fairies.

OFE: Some of us have more than one fitted sheet per bed, for those not infrequent occasions when a small person soils bed. In these situations it's very handy to have a clean folded fitted sheet in the linen closet to put on after you've stripped the old sheet and mattress pad and wiped down the mattress liner.

I was really pleased when I learned how to fold a fitted sheet. I felt like a great mystery had been solved.


Posted by: Molly | Link to this comment | 01-19-09 7:01 AM
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246(2) Yeah, but would you do it like that in an environment like a public laundry room? He was throwing the thing all over the place, secure in the knowledge that it would land on his nice clean bed.


Posted by: OneFatEnglishman | Link to this comment | 01-19-09 7:39 AM
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Do your public laundry rooms not have nice wide clean tables?


Posted by: Cala | Link to this comment | 01-19-09 8:33 AM
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245: I think that's right. We don't often think of it like that -- I exchange my contract to the government for this half gallon of milk -- but that's all it is. Bartering is a contract, too, it's just one that doesn't involve a third-party.

I also think that's it's good to keep the idea of currency separate from the idea of capitalism. Currency pops up very early in human history, basically as soon as it's too much of a pain in the ass to barter everything.


Posted by: Cala | Link to this comment | 01-19-09 8:51 AM
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||

The electricity presumably in the air in DC has this far largely failed to reach Dulles.

|>


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 01-19-09 8:58 AM
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Do your public laundry rooms not have nice wide clean tables?

Heh. No, no indeed.


Posted by: Marichiweu | Link to this comment | 01-19-09 9:11 AM
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Success!!!!


Posted by: OneFatEnglishman | Link to this comment | 01-19-09 9:30 AM
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249:I also think that's it's good to keep the idea of currency separate from the idea of capitalism.

I certainly don't. There could possibly be reasons for currency to be viewed separately from "money", historical surveys, but for a very long time savings accounts, for instance, have been included in the simplest measure, M1.

But more importantly "capitalism as an abstracted money economy" is critical to most left-of-center economics. It is crucial to how we defend deficit spending and the Federal Reserve. Separating currency from Capitalism leads to goldbuggery and other Austrian inversions.


Posted by: bob mcmanus | Link to this comment | 01-19-09 9:36 AM
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In Mesopotamia, currency, writing, number, and double entry bookkeeping were simultaneous inventions. (See this book. (All these had independent inventions elsewhere, but the history is not as well preserved.)

But Uruk and the other Mesopotamian cities that developed these technologies don't strike me as capitalist. They were large scale agricultural empires, where a priestly caste collected taxes from smaller farming communities in order to support the construction of monuments, infrastructure, armies, etc. The accounting technologies were developed by the priests to keep track of imperial holdings in what was effectively a command economy.


Posted by: rob helpy-chalk | Link to this comment | 01-19-09 9:44 AM
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Three important laws of Post-Keynesian economics:

1) Gov't spending finances taxes (by creating money)

2) Taxes support the value of the currency (by creating demand)

3) Unemployment is always & everywhere a monetary phenomenon.

It is the Classical Economic position that when the gov't prints or destroys money, the only thing that can change is the price level. Keynes said that under certain conditions (to be circumspect) the gov't can increase output by printing and spending money. That is very important right now, since Obama's stimulus package is woefully inadequate.


Posted by: bob mcmanus | Link to this comment | 01-19-09 9:48 AM
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257: Exactly. There seem to be good reasons to critique 21-st centure capitalism, but the alternative shouldn't be thought of as bartering or a system free of money.


Posted by: Cala | Link to this comment | 01-19-09 9:54 AM
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I *knew* I hated Cook's Illustrated.

The whole CI/ATK thing seems like a good idea (test lots, see what's actually going on, report back) but the implementation is often .... lacking.


Posted by: soup biscuit | Link to this comment | 01-19-09 10:02 AM
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Ultimately aren't we all, in a sense, trolls of sorrow?


Posted by: | Link to this comment | 01-19-09 10:04 AM
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Actually, if the folks at Consumerist are to be believed, the deals at Circuit City are likely to be worse than elsewhere at the moment.

This is true. I went on Saturday to see the carnage and everything was marked up to original MSRP and then offered at a small discount. The camera I bought last week with a gift card from Best Buy, where it was on sale for $212, regular price $249, was marked up to $279 at Circuit City with a 10% discount, thus cost more than MSRP after their liquidation discount. Old games now priced $19.99 across the street at Target had been marked up to $59.99. I have no doubt that the prices at Circuit City were better on Friday than they were on Saturday.


Posted by: Robust McManlyPants | Link to this comment | 01-19-09 10:09 AM
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263: this seems to be pretty much standard practice these days. I guess enough people are convinced by big "liquidation" signs, without actually checking prices, that they're overall haul is better this way.


Posted by: soup biscuit | Link to this comment | 01-19-09 10:12 AM
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The propensity to consume and the rate of new investment determine between them the volume of employment, and the volume of employment is uniquely related to a given level of real wages, not the other way round. ...GT, ch3

1) "propensity to consume" = psycho-social state
2) "rate of new investment" = ditto
3) "related...real (inflation is considered) wages" means that increasing wages, simply by printing money, increases employment by changing 1 & 2.

But 70 years later, we are barely to an understanding whether increasing the minimum wage will not lower employment, let alone increase employment.


Posted by: bob mcmanus | Link to this comment | 01-19-09 10:16 AM
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260. There's a sports goods shop near where I work that's had a "liquidation" sign up for the past 15 months, trading like gangbusters. This damn recession will probably bankrupt them.


Posted by: OneFatEnglishman | Link to this comment | 01-19-09 10:43 AM
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245 - We now have fiat money. In the US, you can go to the Federal Reserve and turn in your paper money, but the only thing the Federal Reserve will give back is more paper money. The things that determine the value of money are a) there's only so much of it, b) prices are quoted in it, and c) you can pay your taxes with it.

255 - It's a common view in macroeconomics that unemployment is a monetary phenomenon. That was Milton Friedman's view, after all. To my eyes, mainstream macro has a peculiar obsession with money. Also, minor point but M1 doesn't include savings accounts, only checking accounts.


Posted by: Walt Someguy | Link to this comment | 01-19-09 11:47 AM
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254: Uruk looks perfectly capitalist to me -- the capital goes to the capitol and is controlled by the same people who control everything else. What it wasn't was a free trade society; but one of my bugbears is insisting that capitalism and free trade aren't actually the same thing.


Posted by: clew | Link to this comment | 01-19-09 1:49 PM
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264: You have now completely emptied the term "capitalism" of all meaning. One of my pet peeves is the tendency to attribute everything bad to "capitalism". My windows are dirty because of capitalism. My car broke down because of capitalism.

Capitalism is a historically bounded phenomenon, not some free-floating malevolent force that is coterminous with civilization. Mainstream economists identify capitalism with the centrality of markets and market pricing. Marx identified capitalism with physical capital in the form of factories, railroads, etc. Either is a reasonable definition, and neither includes Uruk.


Posted by: Walt Someguy | Link to this comment | 01-19-09 3:26 PM
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One of my pet peeves is the tendency to attribute everything bad to "capitalism". My windows are dirty because of capitalism. My car broke down because of capitalism.

Actually, my windows are dirty because of my children, and car problems are usually my wife's fault. For everything else, I blame capitalism.


Posted by: Jesus McQueen | Link to this comment | 01-19-09 3:46 PM
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Kraab, how does a (presumably) grown man accidentally knock over a television?


Posted by: Bitchphd | Link to this comment | 01-19-09 3:56 PM
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267 -- I bet I could do it.


Posted by: CharleyCarp | Link to this comment | 01-19-09 4:24 PM
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Only the fact that our TV is bolted to the wall has stopped me from knocking ours over.


Posted by: MH | Link to this comment | 01-19-09 4:25 PM
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My brother accidentally knocked over my television and broke it last time he stayed. He also broke the nameplate on my front door, and a doorknob on an interior door, so I took it that he was just in a breakin' mood.

Myself, I break wineglasses. But usually just my own.


Posted by: Jesurgislac | Link to this comment | 01-19-09 4:28 PM
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I once saw a shattered television on the sidewalk near the entrance to the Solano Tunnel in Berkeley.


Posted by: eb | Link to this comment | 01-19-09 4:38 PM
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I used to live with two roommates, and the girl roommate, Megan, used to accidentally break things quite often--measuring cups, plates, etc. Eventually, she got really embarrassed and came to us to apologize for having broken something else. We paused, and then my other roommate started flailing violently, yelling, "MEGAN SMASH! Why Megan friends run and die??!"

It broke the tension a bit.


Posted by: A White Bear | Link to this comment | 01-19-09 4:53 PM
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236:This is why the smart investor puts his social capital in a diversified portfolio of political ideologies, and random walks the indexes of meta-ethical justifications.

Not what I was thinking, although in practice random walks are mostly what people actually get up to, no matter what they believe they're doing.

What I was thinking of was Eratosthenes, Eudoxus (of Cnidus), Hipparchus, Ptolemy, Democritus and that lot. That is, there were arguments about the shape of the earth, whether the sun went around the earth or vice-versa and so on. Ptolemy said it could go either way but he couldn't tell. After all, all he had was a gnomon, a drip clock, maybe a deep, dry well and patience. Some of those guys got close or very close to the correct answers (as we now know), but at the same time, there is a list of people longer than my arm who got it wrong, really wrong, and ridiculously wrong.

That doesn't mean they were stupid, they just lacked something. That something would be a telescope. I am pretty sure that if you gathered the crew mentioned above, and put them in one place with a telescope, they would have been able to figure things out much better then they actually did, just knowing what they already knew. As it was, 1500 years or so had to pass because anybody could settle things decisively. Prior to that, there not so many facts and a great many opinions.

I take the lesson from that situation (and other similar evolutions) that we lack vital instrumentation of some sort that is neccessary for properly understanding human behaviour and social organization. So we're like them in that we have few real facts and a great many opinions.

Given that, I take it that one should be choosy about which ideological straitjackets one dons, because you are probably going to hurt yourself trying to get out of it when the time comes, which it likely will. Or, perhaps one prefers to don a more petite ideological straitjacket. Or you could be like me and, going back to your original analogy, prefer to stay in cash on hand.

max
['Not an endorsement of 'bipartisanship' and Broderite moderation, since they aren't actually very moderate.']


Posted by: max | Link to this comment | 01-19-09 5:02 PM
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I love the last few paragraphs of 231.

Reading Diogenes Laertius recently, I was struck at the pretty strong consensus (among those catalogued by Diogenes) that the moon shines by reflecting light from the sun, and that lunar eclipses are due to the Earth's shadow. But I'm no historian of astronomy--even ancient astronomy.


Posted by: Merganser | Link to this comment | 01-19-09 5:16 PM
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265:Marx identified capitalism with physical capital in the form of factories, railroads, etc.

Marxist Encyclopedia Definition:

The socio-economic system where social relations are based on commodities for exchange, in particular private ownership of the means of production and on the exploitation of wage labour.

"Social relations based on commodities for exchange" ...my economics directly connects to my feminism

Whatever my economics flavor of the month, it is always (also) about socio-politico-cultural relations.
A drillpress, "effective demand", the Miss America pageant are techne, "ways of knowing and enframing" opposed to episteme which is merely a "way of finding out", science is a subset of technology. (Heidegger by way of Adam Roberts, brutally mangled)


Posted by: bob mcmanus | Link to this comment | 01-19-09 5:34 PM
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re: 274

I worked on an astrolabe research project for a while [as an assistant type, not a pukka historian] and was struck by how much they knew, and just how extraordinarily accurate their measurements often were.*

One of the things I did was write some code to take measurements from the Ptolemy's Almagest, and measurement from an astrolabe and then use precession calculations to date the astrolabe. Some of the time it didn't work because the astrolabe or the almagest were off. But when it worked, it was amazing. A 2000 year old text, and an 800 year old Arabic instrument, say, and the data from both can be reconciled.

* Plus, astrolabes are just bad-ass.


Posted by: nattarGcM ttaM | Link to this comment | 01-19-09 5:37 PM
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Ulugh Beg, a descendant of Tamurlane ca. 1450, built an observatory in Samarqand and corrected earlier Muslim and Greek measurements. His work was acknowledged by Tycho and others and was published in Europe more than once. He was later beheaded by his son for unrelated reasons.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 01-19-09 5:46 PM
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272: We all know Megan here.

I'm prepared to guess that Cosmas Indicopleustes the flat-earther was pretty stupid, astronomywise.

For the Greeks and Romans heliocentrism wasn't a violation of orthodoxy, but somehow in Catholic Europe it was. There was a knowledge die-off between 500 AD and 800 AD, and the recovery was not swift.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 01-19-09 5:52 PM
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276: I have a friend who studies old scientific instruments and it's amazing what they could calculate. And astrolabes are indeed badass.


Posted by: Cala | Link to this comment | 01-19-09 5:55 PM
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278: Different Megan, similar musculature.


Posted by: A White Bear | Link to this comment | 01-19-09 5:56 PM
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Astrolabes are predictively really impressive, but neutral w/r/t questions of mechanism & explanation, right? If in fact any scientific instrument is.

At the Smithsonian's new ocean wing (in Natural History), they had some traditional Polynesian navigational equipment, but nothing about how it worked--disappointing. There was also a very impressive globe-screen. I wish they had had more physical oceanography stuff, but I also realize I'm one of about three visitors/year who wishes for that. I did enjoy the section about the evolution of whales.

While standing with mouth agape at the amazing crinoid and trilobite fossils, I overheard a couple of Smithsonian staff discussing the manifest inadequacies of a nearby exhibit ("Who wrote this??"). Very amusing.


Posted by: Merganser | Link to this comment | 01-19-09 6:08 PM
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A page about Polynesian stick maps.


Posted by: Merganser | Link to this comment | 01-19-09 6:21 PM
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278 - If I could reorient my career without penalty the thing I would devote my time to studying would be how knowledge is lost. It seems to happen with distressing regularity. Indeed, one of the most striking features of the information age is the fugacity of information, which isn't the same as knowledge but which can contain it. All those people putting their photo albums online without hardcopies are in for an unpleasant learning experience.

281.last - I've worked in a science museum - exhibit copy is excruciatingly hard to do well. People will come up with the most absurd misreadings. Throw in anything even the teeniest bit controversial (like anything to do with evolution or human reproduction) and your only hope is to craft copy that will only offend the ones who come in looking to get offended.


Posted by: togolosh | Link to this comment | 01-19-09 6:37 PM
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re: 279

When I started working on the project I spent a few weeks learning how to use one. Calculating times of sunset and sunrise, direction to Mecca, all the navigational and observational stuff. They are really quite brilliant pieces of analogue computation.

There as some nice `printable' modern ones online. But the 17th century European ones, and some of the early Arabic ones are just beautiful things. There's some guy somewhere makes replicas. But they aren't cheap.


Posted by: nattarGcM ttaM | Link to this comment | 01-19-09 6:37 PM
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re: 281

They work by stereographic projection onto a flat surface, of a sphere divided into longitude and latitudinal lines. That's then combined with a similar stereographic projection of star positions.

I've always assumed the nature of the stereographic projection implies that the earth is spherical [it needn't, but I've always assumed it did]. But they also assume, geocentricity, I'd have thought.


Posted by: nattarGcM ttaM | Link to this comment | 01-19-09 6:41 PM
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I've tried to be like Sherlock Holmes and save brain cells by forgetting about the heliocentric universe on the grounds that it doesn't really matter to me personally. All I've managed to do is waste more brain cells by remembering minor plot points from Sherlock Holmes stories.


Posted by: MH | Link to this comment | 01-19-09 7:35 PM
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ttaM has had more interesting jobs than most of us.


Posted by: rob helpy-chalk | Link to this comment | 01-19-09 7:59 PM
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A 2000 year old text, and an 800 year old Arabic instrument, say, and the data from both can be reconciled.

Ja. And still not quite good enough to resolve the (various) debate(s). :/

Ulugh Beg, a descendant of Tamurlane ca. 1450, built an observatory in Samarqand and corrected earlier Muslim and Greek measurements.

And said observatory (well, whatshisname) correctly calculated the obliquity of the ecliptic.

[loss of knowledge] It seems to happen with distressing regularity.

The Old Babylonians had a most excellent approximation of the square root of two... and the Pythagorian theorem. No credit for them tho!

max
['Hard clay copies don't hold up well either.']


Posted by: max | Link to this comment | 01-19-09 8:12 PM
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the thing I would devote my time to studying would be how knowledge is lost.

I'm fascinated by those sorts of discussions, and by related ones such as the eternal library issue of how-do-we-label-it-so-people-can-FIND-it.

I don't know the right name for the phenomenon, but one thing I've spent a lot of time pondering is why certain ways of thinking/talking about things fall so far out of favor that they almost cease to exist, unless and until they get recycled. I'm blanking on a good example, but I'm kind of thinking of things like "bodily humors," which there would have been Library of Congress subject headings for once upon a time, but now are more or less gone...except they aren't, really. But if you're a nursing student writing about Eat Right 4 Your Type, how do you know how to research bodily humors except if someone tells you?

Right, so this is all quite interesting to me and I expect four or five other people on the planet, but perhaps not the best use of blog comment space. Apologies; I'm a little punchy due to external events.


Posted by: Witt | Link to this comment | 01-19-09 8:59 PM
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Oh, and yes, ttaM has had some very interesting jobs indeed.


Posted by: Witt | Link to this comment | 01-19-09 8:59 PM
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Mendel and genetics seems to be a kind of example of this.


Posted by: eb | Link to this comment | 01-19-09 9:13 PM
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265: Really my 264? Those don't seem like its errors. I'm feeling ok with 275, though, although dubious about whether we can define 'private' ownership in ancient Uruk.

A charming mystery, with the main character a half-Samoan Yankee sailor, told me that traditional Polynesian navigation worked partly by interpreting the tremors transmitted to the testicles sitting on a gunwale. This is consistent with the page linked above, but not specified. I wish I could remember the author or title.


Posted by: clew | Link to this comment | 01-19-09 10:07 PM
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The three parts of the Marxist encyclopedia definition are a) a market-based economy, b) physical capital in private hands, and c) the way private ownership of said capital allows the owners to exploit labor. Marx quite clearly distinguishes capitalism from feudalism, even though feudalism fits your definition as well as Uruk does. Marx argues that the market economy destroys traditional personal relationships, even traditional oppressive relationships such as that between master and slave, and replaces them with impersonal monetary exchanges. Also, Marx distinguishes different types of societies by different means of production, and the means of production in a capitalist society are factories, etc.


Posted by: Walt Someguy | Link to this comment | 01-19-09 10:22 PM
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This is why the smart investor puts his social capital in a diversified portfolio of political ideologies, and random walks the indexes of meta-ethical justifications.

Once again the conservative, sandwich-heavy portfolio pays off for the hungry investor!


Posted by: Robust McZoidberg | Link to this comment | 01-19-09 10:23 PM
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In a Republican district I was a Republican. In a Democratic district I was a Democrat. And in a doubtful district, I was Doubtful. But I was always for Erie.


Posted by: eb | Link to this comment | 01-19-09 10:57 PM
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278. What gets me about Cosmas Indicopleustes was that he was a sea captain, yet he had either never noticed that ships went hull down on the horizon, or was incapable of drawing the most parsimonious conclusion. I would have hated to be his crew.


Posted by: OneFatEnglishman | Link to this comment | 01-20-09 1:43 AM
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re: 287

Not really. I've had two parallel 'careers' one in IT and one in philosophy for about 10 years. While I've been doing my various post-grad studies I've taken breaks or done short term (or longer term) contract work and the like. It's just that some of the IT sort of jobs have been interesting ones -- and then because they find out I can read and write I quite often get co-opted into 'slightly more than IT but less than academic' roles.

I did have some strange jobs as a teenager though - cleaner in a mental hospital, etc.


Posted by: nattarGcM ttaM | Link to this comment | 01-20-09 1:57 AM
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And yet he discovered the giraffe.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 01-20-09 6:19 AM
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298 to 297.


Posted by: apostropher | Link to this comment | 01-20-09 6:35 AM
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There are lots of people in mental hospitals who have discovered giraffes.

(I find it hard to believe that Cosmas was the first European to see a giraffe. The author of the Periplus Maris Erythraei seems to suggest that Greeks were regularly trading down to the coast opposite Zanzibar four hundred years before his (Cosmas') time. I feel sure somebody would have noticed the buggers.)


Posted by: OneFatEnglishman | Link to this comment | 01-20-09 6:52 AM
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Another example of how stuff gets forgotten. Many scholars discounted reports from unofficial or non-elite sources. Probably the actual reports were just folded into the legendary stories and forgotten that way.

The Indian Ocean trade was fascinating. There apparently was direct trade between what is now Ethiopia and South India. At one of my jobs there were both South Indians and Ethiopians working, and I thought they looked rather alike. They also are Christians of similar (Syrian) theology.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 01-20-09 7:01 AM
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289: eternal library issue of how-do-we-label-it-so-people-can-FIND-it.

This is a fascinating issue. My favorite ex-gf is a librarian, and she introduced me to the notion of a controlled vocabulary, which is just a limited list of words to be used to describe the things being indexed. That way you don't end up with confusion over how the thing you are looking for might be described. Obvious once it's pointed out, but clever nonetheless. Also just reading the controlled vocabulary tells you useful things about the space of possible things being indexed.

301.1 - there's a huge amount of very useful information encoded in folk tales, superstitions, and the like. There's also a vast amount of hands-on knowledge that is so context specific it evaporates as soon as the context changes even a little.


Posted by: togolosh | Link to this comment | 01-20-09 7:19 AM
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re: 302

In my current job, heh, I am working on something similar. Trying to shoe-horn controlled vocab and a metadata scheme developed for one type of thing, into one developed for another type of thing. [All to do with digital archiving of manuscripts]

It isn't that interesting when you have to wrangle with it! Although it is very useful.


Posted by: nattarGcM ttaM | Link to this comment | 01-20-09 7:35 AM
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Has anyone here worked much with N-VIVO?


Posted by: Merganser | Link to this comment | 01-20-09 8:00 AM
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To clarify: I never have, and I'm trying to figure out if it would be useful software for me. I would like to be able to have e.g. Plato's complete works in Greek (presumably this would be possible using the Thesaurus Linguae Graecae) and in English translation (not sure what I'd be able to find for this), and make notes, cross-references, etc.


Posted by: Merganser | Link to this comment | 01-20-09 8:04 AM
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The Tufts Perseus project has all those things for virtually every text in Greek and Latin, all linked to dictionaries and commentaries.

Unfortunately the site is incredibly slow and the interface is dreadful. At one point they had it set up so the first thing you see is a map showing the points of origin for all the texts they have. Interesting, but hardly the kind of useful tool you want the site visitor to start with.


Posted by: rob helpy-chalk | Link to this comment | 01-20-09 8:46 AM
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Yeah, I love Perseus, but have a few issues: first, it does get very slow sometimes. Second, you have to be online to use it. (They apparently have made their code available so that people who know what they are doing can put the whole site on their own computers. I do not know what I am doing. Could I pay someone else to know what they're doing? How much would that cost?). Finally, there's no ability to write in comments and cross-references. The physical texts work pretty well for that, but there are reasons to want to do it electronically as well. (You can back it up, for one thing.)


Posted by: Merganser | Link to this comment | 01-20-09 9:03 AM
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first, it does get very slow sometimes.

That's one way to put it.


Posted by: ben w-lfs-n | Link to this comment | 01-20-09 9:10 AM
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Can we have an inauguration thread?


Posted by: Bostoniangirl | Link to this comment | 01-20-09 9:13 AM
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Could I pay someone else to know what they're doing? How much would that cost?

This seems like the sort of thing you can usually get done by a workstudy from CS or EE dept. Especially if you've got a few such tasks lying around, and can make a summers worth of work for them. They're pretty inexpensive, typically.


Posted by: soup biscuit | Link to this comment | 01-20-09 9:14 AM
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For people with an interesting in Greek, I've been working on putting online the oldest edition of Plato and the oldest edition of Euclid. The images are good.

[sekrit link can probably be provided via email]


Posted by: nattarGcM ttaM | Link to this comment | 01-20-09 9:18 AM
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But Uruk and the other Mesopotamian cities that developed these technologies don't strike me as capitalist.

They aren't capitalist in any of the usual senses because they didn't have coinage (or money). (To be fair, people seem to see barter as a distinct class of thing different from money, whereas it looks to me like money is a specialized and more sophisticated system of barter.)

They were large scale agricultural empires, where a priestly caste collected taxes from smaller farming communities in order to support the construction of monuments, infrastructure, armies, etc. The accounting technologies were developed by the priests to keep track of imperial holdings in what was effectively a command economy.

Which could be proto-communist or proto-feudalist or maybe quasi-fascist, going by what we have records of. What we don't have records of, is what kind of trade went on outside the command economy. It may have been of smaller size economically, or perhaps it was a lot larger than the command economy. Nobody can say that I've seen, because they didn't keep records of it.

That said, if it was a solidly command economy, the Greeks seemed to have shared the same system pre-collapse, but post-collapse they had agoras, whereas the Persians seemed to lack marketplaces, and even disdained them. Except that I know from looking at the experiences of this century that people trade in black markets, if they have no other alternative, and even a command economy like the Soviet Union couldn't get rid of money (as a medium of exchange), even though they tried. That sorta implies that Ur and other cities must have had some markets of some sort, even though they didn't have coinage.

I don't know the right name for the phenomenon, but one thing I've spent a lot of time pondering is why certain ways of thinking/talking about things fall so far out of favor that they almost cease to exist, unless and until they get recycled.

They seem to get recycled when someone can reintroduce a concept by ripping off some earlier creator without getting busted. It sorta suggests to me that nothing ever comes from whole cloth - people just repackage earlier stuff and add some details.

max
['Glory is fleeting.']


Posted by: max | Link to this comment | 01-20-09 10:20 AM
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Heh. Thread cap!

The D.I.Y. Ethic By Catherine Rampell
The recession is helping foment a return to the do-it-yourself ethic, which in turn is hurting service-oriented businesses.
These companies have thrived in recent decades as more and more families outsourced domestic chores and duties, like cleaning, landscaping and child care. But now, as more families opt to scrub their own toilets, mow their own lawns and burp their own babies, the businesses they once paid to perform these services are suffering.
Some companies, though, are benefiting -- particularly those that sell the D.I.Y. alternatives, such as home hair-coloring kits. [...]
max ['Oops! Never mind!']
Posted by: max | Link to this comment | 01-20-09 10:24 AM
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Belatedly: thanks to soup for the tip.


Posted by: Merganser | Link to this comment | 01-25-09 11:29 AM
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