Saturday, December 06, 2008
  Semi?



The Author is working hard this month... two extra spreadsheet assignments along with finishing the latest revision of his courseware product. Going to be pretty well occupied for the next few weeks, but will end up with some nice unexpected money afterward. Can't complain.

Author likes to describe himself as "semi-retired". Most of the time the "semi" is a euphemism; most of the time he's just plain retired, living off the residuals of his earlier labor and frugality. But right now, the "semi" is meaningful!

= = = = =

Though this isn't Labor Day, FDR's 1939 speech on Labor Day seems appropriate for our times. It shows a different view of economics in which the value of labor counts for something; an economics not based strictly on the ever-increasing flow of numbers.

In this country we insist, as an essential of the American way of life, that the employer-employee relationship should be one between free men and equals. We refuse to regard those who work with hand or brain as different from or inferior to those who live from their property. We insist that labor is entitled to as much respect as property. But our workers with hand and brain deserve more than respect for their labor. They deserve practical protection in the opportunity to use their labor at a return adequate to support them at a decent and constantly rising standard of living, and to accumulate a margin of security against the inevitable vicissitudes of life. The average man must have that twofold opportunity if we are to avoid the growth of a class conscious society in this country.


Zmirak's latest column expands on this theme. What is value? It's not merely the price you get at the moment when you sell something. Value is created or added by labor. If you haven't done some work to make or improve a real item, there isn't any value. In fact our current bubble isn't even based on "property" as in FDR's comparison; it's just plain numbers.

The media constantly jabber about a trillion dollars of "wealth" disappearing when the Wall Street Casino changes its odds, but that isn't "wealth" because it never represented any real value. The stocks didn't rise because of any worker's labor, and they don't fall because a worker stops working. In fact, a share price usually rises when a company lays off workers! So the stocks are just numbers, indexing the hormone level and cocaine dosage of the Wall Street Bettors at any particular microsecond.

When the ball on the roulette wheel moves from 00 to 13, it's not an increase of value. When it lands on 00, it's not a decrease. In each case, one smart bettor will grab his chips and leave the table, but everyone else loses. There is no increase or decrease of value, and the house always wins. This is not capitalism, it's just betting.
 


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Polistra was named after the original townsite of Manhattan (the one in Kansas). When I was growing up in Manhattan, I spent a lot of time exploring by foot, bike, and car. I discovered the ruins of an old mill along Wildcat Creek, and decided (inaccurately) that it was the remains of the original site of Polistra. Accurate or not, I've always liked the name, with its echoes of Poland (an under-appreciated friend of freedom) and stars. ==== The title icon is explained here. ==== Switchover: This 2007 entry marks a sharp change in worldview from neocon to pure populist. ===== The long illustrated story of Polistra's Dream is a time-travel fable, attempting to answer the dangerous revision of New Deal history propagated by Amity Shlaes. The Dream has 8 episodes, linked in a chain from the first. This entry explains the Shlaes connection.

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