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31  General Discussion / Offtopic/Spam/Flamebait / Re: What do you do WHEN? (anger?) on: December 02, 2011, 02:16:18 pm
Change your perspective.
32  General Discussion / Technical Discussion / Re: Computer Maintenance Routine on: November 26, 2011, 11:19:24 am
I mostly use Linux and also don't have to do anything.
33  RantMedia Projects / Patrolling With Sean Kennedy / Kit & Survival / Re: TinyHouse Big area on: November 17, 2011, 08:14:02 pm

If you were only born a century earlier you would have had the pleasure of living at a  Hooverville.

Also, why do you want to live in a shanty town cult? And more to the point, what does that have to do with wogs?

Anyways, the eco-friendly cult towns you speak of already exist:
34  General Discussion / General Discussion / The Shadow Superpower on: November 07, 2011, 11:29:54 am
The Shadow Superpower
Forget China: the $10 trillion global black market is the world's fastest growing economy -- and its future.

With only a mobile phone and a promise of money from his uncle, David Obi did something the Nigerian government has been trying to do for decades: He figured out how to bring electricity to the masses in Africa's most populous country.

It wasn't a matter of technology. David is not an inventor or an engineer, and his insights into his country's electrical problems had nothing to do with fancy photovoltaics or turbines to harness the harmattan or any other alternative sources of energy. Instead, 7,000 miles from home, using a language he could hardly speak, he did what traders have always done: made a deal. He contracted with a Chinese firm near Guangzhou to produce small diesel-powered generators under his uncle's brand name, Aakoo, and shipped them home to Nigeria, where power is often scarce. David's deal, struck four years ago, was not massive -- but it made a solid profit and put him on a strong footing for success as a transnational merchant. Like almost all the transactions between Nigerian traders and Chinese manufacturers, it was also sub rosa: under the radar, outside of the view or control of government, part of the unheralded alternative economic universe of System D.

You probably have never heard of System D. Neither had I until I started visiting street markets and unlicensed bazaars around the globe.

System D is a slang phrase pirated from French-speaking Africa and the Caribbean. The French have a word that they often use to describe particularly effective and motivated people. They call them débrouillards. To say a man is a débrouillard is to tell people how resourceful and ingenious he is. The former French colonies have sculpted this word to their own social and economic reality. They say that inventive, self-starting, entrepreneurial merchants who are doing business on their own, without registering or being regulated by the bureaucracy and, for the most part, without paying taxes, are part of "l'economie de la débrouillardise." Or, sweetened for street use, "Systeme D." This essentially translates as the ingenuity economy, the economy of improvisation and self-reliance, the do-it-yourself, or DIY, economy. A number of well-known chefs have also appropriated the term to describe the skill and sheer joy necessary to improvise a gourmet meal using only the mismatched ingredients that happen to be at hand in a kitchen.

I like the phrase. It has a carefree lilt and some friendly resonances. At the same time, it asserts an important truth: What happens in all the unregistered markets and roadside kiosks of the world is not simply haphazard. It is a product of intelligence, resilience, self-organization, and group solidarity, and it follows a number of well-worn though unwritten rules. It is, in that sense, a system.

It used to be that System D was small -- a handful of market women selling a handful of shriveled carrots to earn a handful of pennies. It was the economy of desperation. But as trade has expanded and globalized, System D has scaled up too. Today, System D is the economy of aspiration. It is where the jobs are. In 2009, the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), a think tank sponsored by the governments of 30 of the most powerful capitalist countries and dedicated to promoting free-market institutions, concluded that half the workers of the world -- close to 1.8 billion people -- were working in System D: off the books, in jobs that were neither registered nor regulated, getting paid in cash, and, most often, avoiding income taxes.

Kids selling lemonade from the sidewalk in front of their houses are part of System D. So are many of the vendors at stoop sales, flea markets, and swap meets. So are the workers who look for employment in the parking lots of Home Depot and Lowe's throughout the United States. And it's not only cash-in-hand labor. As with David Obi's deal to bring generators from China to Nigeria, System D is multinational, moving all sorts of products -- machinery, mobile phones, computers, and more -- around the globe and creating international industries that help billions of people find jobs and services.

In many countries -- particularly in the developing world -- System D is growing faster than any other part of the economy, and it is an increasing force in world trade. But even in developed countries, after the financial crisis of 2008-09, System D was revealed to be an important financial coping mechanism. A 2009 study by Deutsche Bank, the huge German commercial lender, suggested that people in the European countries with the largest portions of their economies that were unlicensed and unregulated -- in other words, citizens of the countries with the most robust System D -- fared better in the economic meltdown of 2008 than folks living in centrally planned and tightly regulated nations. Studies of countries throughout Latin America have shown that desperate people turned to System D to survive during the most recent financial crisis.

This spontaneous system, ruled by the spirit of organized improvisation, will be crucial for the development of cities in the 21st century. The 20th-century norm -- the factory worker who nests at the same firm for his or her entire productive life -- has become an endangered species. In China, the world's current industrial behemoth, workers in the massive factories have low salaries and little job security. Even in Japan, where major corporations have long guaranteed lifetime employment to full-time workers, a consensus is emerging that this system is no longer sustainable in an increasingly mobile and entrepreneurial world.

So what kind of jobs will predominate? Part-time work, a variety of self-employment schemes, consulting, moonlighting, income patching. By 2020, the OECD projects, two-thirds of the workers of the world will be employed in System D. There's no multinational, no Daddy Warbucks or Bill Gates, no government that can rival that level of job creation. Given its size, it makes no sense to talk of development, growth, sustainability, or globalization without reckoning with System D.

The growth of System D presents a series of challenges to the norms of economics, business, and governance -- for it has traditionally existed outside the framework of trade agreements, labor laws, copyright protections, product safety regulations, antipollution legislation, and a host of other political, social, and environmental policies. Yet there's plenty that's positive, too. In Africa, many cities -- Lagos, Nigeria, is a good example -- have been propelled into the modern era through System D, because legal businesses don't find enough profit in bringing cutting- edge products to the third world. China has, in part, become the world's manufacturing and trading center because it has been willing to engage System D trade. Paraguay, small, landlocked, and long dominated by larger and more prosperous neighbors, has engineered a decent balance of trade through judicious smuggling. The digital divide may be a concern, but System D is spreading technology around the world at prices even poor people can afford. Squatter communities may be growing, but the informal economy is bringing commerce and opportunity to these neighborhoods that are off the governmental grid. It distributes products more equitably and cheaply than any big company can. And, even as governments around the world are looking to privatize agencies and get out of the business of providing for people, System D is running public services -- trash pickup, recycling, transportation, and even utilities.

Just how big is System D? Friedrich Schneider, chair of the economics department at Johannes Kepler University in Linz, Austria, has spent decades calculating the dollar value of what he calls the shadow economies of the world. He admits his projections are imprecise, in part because, like privately held businesses everywhere, businesspeople who engage in trade off the books don't want to open their books (most successful System D merchants are obsessive about profit and loss and keep detailed accounts of their revenues and expenses in old-fashioned ledger books) to anyone who will write anything in a book. And there's a definitional problem as well, because the border between the shadow and the legal economies is blurry. Does buying some of your supplies from an unlicensed dealer put you in the shadows, even if you report your profit and pay your taxes? How about hiding just $1 in income from the government, though the rest of your business is on the up-and-up? And how about selling through System D even if your business is in every other way in compliance with the law? Finding a firm dividing line is not easy, as Keith Hart, who was among the first academics to acknowledge the importance of street markets to the economies of the developing world, warned me in a recent conversation: "It's very difficult to separate the nice African ladies selling oranges on the street and jiggling their babies on their backs from the Indian gangsters who control the fruit trade and who they have to pay rent to."

Schneider suggests, however, that, in making his estimates, he has this covered. He screens out all money made through "illegal actions that fit the characteristics of classical crimes like burglary, robbery, drug dealing, etc." This means that the big-time criminals are likely out of his statistics, though those gangsters who control the fruit market are likely in, as long as they're not involved in anything more nefarious than running a price-fixing cartel. Also, he says, his statistics do not count "the informal household economy." This means that if you're putting buckles on belts in your home for a bit of extra cash from a company owned by your cousin, you're in, but if you're babysitting your cousin's kids while she's off putting buckles on belts at her factory, you're out.

Schneider presents his numbers as a percentage of the total market value of goods and services made in each country that same year -- each nation's gross domestic product. His data show that System D is on the rise. In the developing world, it's been increasing every year since the 1990s, and in many countries it's growing faster than the officially recognized gross domestic product (GDP). If you apply his percentages (Schneider's most recent report, published in 2006, uses economic data from 2003) to the World Bank's GDP estimates, it's possible to make a back-of-the-envelope calculation of the approximate value of the billions of underground transactions around the world. And it comes to this: The total value of System D as a global phenomenon is close to $10 trillion. Which makes for another astonishing revelation. If System D were an independent nation, united in a single political structure -- call it the United Street Sellers Republic (USSR) or, perhaps, Bazaaristan -- it would be an economic superpower, the second-largest economy in the world (the United States, with a GDP of $14 trillion, is numero uno). The gap is narrowing, though, and if the United States doesn't snap out of its current funk, the USSR/Bazaaristan could conceivably catch it sometime this century.

In other words, System D looks a lot like the future of the global economy. All over the world -- from San Francisco to São Paulo, from New York City to Lagos -- people engaged in street selling and other forms of unlicensed trade told me that they could never have established their businesses in the legal economy. "I'm totally off the grid," one unlicensed jewelry designer told me. "It was never an option to do it any other way. It never even crossed my mind. It was financially absolutely impossible." The growth of System D opens the market to those who have traditionally been shut out.

This alternative economic system also offers the opportunity for large numbers of people to find work. No job-cutting or outsourcing is going on here. Rather, a street market boasts dozens of entrepreneurs selling similar products and scores of laborers doing essentially the same work. An economist would likely deride all this duplicated work as inefficient. But the level of competition on the street keeps huge numbers of people employed. It liberates their entrepreneurial energy. And it offers them the opportunity to move up in the world.

In São Paulo, Édison Ramos Dattora, a migrant from the rural midlands, has succeeded in the nation's commercial capital by working as a camelô -- an unlicensed street vendor. He started out selling candies and chocolates on the trains, and is now in a more lucrative branch of the street trade -- retailing pirate DVDs of first-run movies to commuters around downtown. His underground trade -- he has to watch out for the cops wherever he goes -- has given his family a standard of living he never dreamed possible: a bank account, a credit card, an apartment in the center of town, and enough money to take a trip to Europe.

Even in the most difficult and degraded situations, System D merchants are seeking to better their lives. For instance, the garbage dump would be the last place you would expect to be a locus of hope and entrepreneurship. But Lagos scavenger Andrew Saboru has pulled himself out of the trash heap and established himself as a dealer in recycled materials. On his own, with no help from the government or any NGOs or any bank (Andrew has a bank account, but his bank will never loan him money -- because his enterprise is unlicensed and unregistered and depends on the unpredictable labor of culling recyclable material from the megacity's massive garbage pile), he has climbed the career ladder. "Lagos is a city for hustling," he told me. "If you have an idea and you are serious and willing to work, you can make money here. I believe the future is bright." It took Andrew 16 years to make his move, but he succeeded, and he's proud of the business he has created.

We should be too. As Joanne Saltzberg, who heads Women Entrepreneurs of Baltimore -- a business development group -- told me, we need to change our attitude and to salute the achievements of those who are engaged in this alternate economy. "We only revere success," she said. "I don't think we honor the struggle. People who have no access to business development resources. People who have to work two and three jobs just to survive. When you are struggling in this economy and still you commit yourself to having a better life, that's really something to honor."
35  General Discussion / Writing Discussion / Re: Recommend me a book. on: October 30, 2011, 03:06:12 pm
Zen and the art of motorcycle maintenance

was probably the book that had the most influence on my life at one point or another

fyi, it's not really about zen or motorcycle maintenance
36  General Discussion / General Discussion / Re: The Hypocrisy on: October 28, 2011, 02:06:59 pm
The other side has hypocrisy as well  Shocked

Occupy Wall Street kitchen staff protesting fixing food for freeloaders
37  RantMedia Projects / Patrolling With Sean Kennedy / Kit & Survival / Re: Occupy Wall Street - Our Generations Days of Rage! be a slave no longer on: October 26, 2011, 01:56:48 pm
Awesome video avagdu, thanks!
38  General Discussion / General Discussion / Re: The Hypocrisy on: October 26, 2011, 12:27:19 pm
Yeah this year is pretty bad. Historically its been about 5% and Alan Greenspan said that it needs to be 5% a year to hit their goals, what ever the hell those are. You want to see something really scary, try to find Greenspans masters thesis from college.

The alternately calculated index has been over 5% for the last 24 years according to the graph I posted.

Interesting how the official government one stays roughly the same but the alternate one is slowly going up since 1983.
39  General Discussion / General Discussion / Re: The Hypocrisy on: October 26, 2011, 12:21:06 pm
The concept of OWS is that the government and banks have teamed up to take 5% (or more) from everyones pocket, every year through market manipulation and fraud.

Inflation alone is more than 10% if you go by data:
40  General Discussion / Video Discussion / Re: $_POST['Apocalyptic'] Survival Through Self-Reliance S01E01 is Online on: October 24, 2011, 01:50:01 pm
Boring human-talking head replaced with puppets is definitely awesome. Makes it more fun to watch.

Great job! Can't wait for more.

Also, I learned a lot in the spark plug replacing tutorial. Before I've just replaced the plug without checking distances or applying any anti-seize. I'll try your suggestions next time I do this.
41  General Discussion / General Discussion / The Hypocrisy on: October 24, 2011, 01:12:49 pm
<a href="" target="_blank"></a>
42  General Discussion / Video Discussion / Re: Starting new web video series on: October 23, 2011, 03:25:37 pm
If episode 1 is done, are you going to give us a preview?
43  RantMedia Projects / Patrolling With Sean Kennedy / Kit & Survival / Re: Occupy Wall Street - Our Generations Days of Rage! be a slave no longer on: October 20, 2011, 10:41:15 pm
See image.
44  RantMedia Projects / Patrolling With Sean Kennedy / Kit & Survival / Re: Occupy Wall Street - Our Generations Days of Rage! be a slave no longer on: October 20, 2011, 11:48:10 am
A bit old but interesting:

Government & Big Business
Mises Daily: Thursday, July 27, 2000 by Christopher Mayer

The defenders of free markets are often viewed as apologists for big business. Regulation of business is seen as necessary to the welfare of the public to prevent exploitation by selfish business people. Such a view would be hard to square with reality, with history both recent and distant.

In reality, business often welcomes regulation and openly lobbies for it. Business often doesn't want a free market for its goods and services and would rather have a government it can use. Compared to the wilderness of a free market, government regulation represents a warm hearth. Compared with the relentless ever-changing demands of the buyers, the stability and monopoly offered by government regulation is a far more forgiving boss.

As Murray Rothbard noted in condemning business-government partnerships, "We often fail to realize that the point of Big Government is precisely to set up such 'partnerships,' for the benefit of both government and business, or rather, of certain business firms and groups that happen to be in political favor." The same can often be said of government regulation of business.

The Case of Public Utilities

One prime example is occurring in the nation's utility industry. The nation's public utilities are slowly being deregulated, a process now underway in twenty-four states. Prices will not be totally regulated and independent power companies will be able to compete with utilities.

The coming deregulation has spurred investment and innovation already in the industry. Of course, some industry players are better situated than others. Securities analysts suddenly have to look much harder at the ability of a once-staid utility company to meet and maintain its dividend.

One market observer said that you could divide the utility companies into two camps; those that have cut their dividend and those that are going to cut their dividend. Competitive markets will mean significant investments for utilities to meet the rigor of future competition.

Energy Secretary Bill Richardson admitted that although America is a superpower, "it's got the grid of a Third World Nation." Competition will also mean the very real possibility of losses and ultimately failure.

Certainly, even in this state, the market will hardly be what Misesians would call free. In some states there will still be price caps, and/or subsidies, as well as a host of federal and state regulations that will continue to distort the pattern of production from what a truly free market would produce. Moreover, the utilities are surrendering control over their sprawling multistate network of high-voltage lines. These will be owned by new nonprofit operators charged with the responsibility of ensuring fair access to the grid--definitely not the stuff of free markets.

Yet many in the utility industry are scared to death of deregulation, a process now only in its infancy and one that free market advocates can only hope continues. The efforts of utility companies to halt deregulation were recently exposed in a Washington Post article by John Mintz titled "Utilities Secretly Lobbied Congress."

According to the article, some of the country's biggest firms spent approximately $17 million over the last 3 1/2 years through two front organizations with the express purpose of stopping Congress from deregulating their industry. Mintz reports that energy deregulation " an extraordinarily high-stakes struggle for the nation’s $300 billion-a-year power industry." Advocates for continued regulation include the old-line investor-owned public utilities. On the other side of the debate, in favor of deregulation, are large manufacturers looking for cheaper sources of power and independent power companies such as Enron that want the opportunity to compete with the utilities.

Why would utility companies want regulation? The fact that these companies decided to lobby Congress through two front organizations is evidence that they would like to hide the fact that regulation provides them with a monopoly privilege. They are protected from the threat of new entrants. Regulated life also provides a steady diet of rate increases over time.

As Rebecca Smith reported in a recent Wall Street Journal ("Gloom and Doom: New Rules, Demands Put Dangerous Strain on Electricity Supply"): "Utilities in states that haven’t deregulated earn their return based on the amount of equipment they put into service. The joke used to be that the utility industry was the only one where you could boost your profits by buying new furniture for your office."

Proponents of regulation typically point to the fall in real energy prices over time. The problem is that that we do not have a free market utility industry to make any comparison, and hence such a point has no meaning. In the regulated utility world, there was no market for rates and utility companies were shielded from consumer demands.

The utility industry, then, represents one example that ought to puncture the ridiculous claim that free market advocates are cozy with big business. People believe government protects them from price gouging, but all this time, the nation's utilities have been feasting at the public's expense.

Gouged by taxes to pay for regulators and enforcement agencies, the consumers are further exploited through unnecessarily high utility bills generated by protected State-granted monopoly privileges. All the while the sorry consumer sits by idly believing that he is protected by government from paying too high a rate. A greater fool can hardly be imagined.

The Progressive Era

The recent example of utilities should not be surprising. History is filled with examples of an often-cozy relationship between government and certain businesses. As Gabriel Kolko remarked, "The dominant fact of American political life at the beginning of this century was that big business led the struggle for the federal regulation of the economy."

The so-called "Progressive Era" is replete with incidences of cartels brought on by government regulation. The Interstate Commerce Act of 1887 created the railroad cartel that the railroads could not secure for themselves in the free market. Government helped create the railroad empires through land grants and subsidies.

But the largest, perhaps most devastating cartel created by government still lives on in the banking sector with existence of the Federal Reserve System and its attendant inflationary entourage of commercial banks. The commercial banks wanted a Central Bank to allow them to inflate together without the penalty such actions would bring in a free market. As Rothbard noted, the Central Bank was "their staff and shield against the winds of competition."

The Fed bolsters confidence in the banking system, thereby circumventing the important market discipline that bank runs, or the threat of bank runs, provided. It creates a lender of last resort, a safety net. Perhaps most importantly, it is the "cartelizer" that allows for massive expansion of credit. While bankers may complain at times about the actions of the Fed, no banker questions its very existence. To most bankers, it is difficult to imagine a world without the Fed. The Federal Reserve Act of 1913, after all, was passed with the blessings of the nation's largest banks.

Like utility regulation, these cartels (the banks and railroads being just two of the more prominent examples) are often created under the guise of doing what is in the best interest of the public. But as Rothbard pithily asked, "If these policies are designed to tame and curb rapacious Big Business, how is it that so many Big Businessmen, so many Morgan partners and Rockefellers and Harrimans, have been so conspicuous in promoting these programs?" These policies in fact benefit the very businesses it presumes to regulate.

Politics Corrupts Business

To say that business people want their industries regulated is certainly a broad generalization and unfair to all those entrepreneurs who work and have worked to make our world a better place to live without resorting to government aid (and to those who actively fight against it).

The entrepreneur is a critical element in the market economy, as important as private property and sound money. The entrepreneur makes the whole thing go. The specific entrepreneurial function as Rothbard described it was "...the crucial directing element in guiding the process of production toward the desires of the consumers."

The corrupting influence stems from the existence of government, the apparatus of compulsion and coercion, and the candy store of goodies it represents to those who can control it. As Isabel Paterson asked in her classic book The God of the Machine, "Does the element of corruption inhere in business or in politics?" Her answer:

"Is it wrong to produce something or to process or exchange the product? No. Then it cannot impart corruption to anything else. Is it wrong to restrain, obstruct, or seize the goods of another? Yes. It is always wrong if done by initiating action (instead of recoil action). The potential for corruption then lies in politics not in business."
In addition, there are good theoretical reasons why regulation tends to favor the industries regulated. These are neatly summarized in Randall Holcombe's book Public Policy and the Quality of Life. For one thing, there is an incentive and knowledge gap. The bulk of the public has little incentive understanding utility legislation. However, the utility companies so affected have a strong incentive to be informed and involved so as to influence policies and ensure that they will be favorable to the industry.

Moreover, much of the information regulators receive will be from the regulated industry. As Holcombe states, "Pubic service commissions who regulate the rates of electric utitlities, telephone companies, and so forth are charged with regulating in the public interest, but large input from the regulated industries, leads to decisions favoring the industry."

In a free market, completely absent of government interference, it would be impossible to form the sorts of cartels briefly mentioned here. These cartels owe their existence to the coercive influence of government. It would be impossible to legally bar entrants from entering markets and to enforce set prices, for example, without the backing of government force.

Therefore, it is the free market advocate that represents the best interests of the masses. It is only the free market advocate who would do away with all forms of government-granted privilege and monopoly. Ironically, it is the advocate of government action that promotes the welfare of selected favored groups at the expense of the mass of people.
45  RantMedia Projects / Patrolling With Sean Kennedy / Kit & Survival / Re: Occupy Wall Street - Our Generations Days of Rage! be a slave no longer on: October 20, 2011, 11:31:20 am
Alec Baldwin wants to be part of a movement he knows nothing about. Doesn't he work for Capitol One?

I would believe it if Capitol One sent him down there to check things out and spread the message that we need more government and protection for banks.
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