Commentary By Jeffrey A. Miron Special to CNN:
Bankruptcy, not bailout, is the right answer
- Government encouraged lenders to relax their standards
- Mortgages were given to people unqualified to repay them
- Rather than a bailout, government should let firms go bankrupt
- Talk of economic Armageddon is scare-mongering
Jeffrey A. Miron is senior lecturer in economics at Harvard University. A Libertarian, he was one of 166 academic economists who signed a letter to congressional leaders last week opposing the government bailout plan.
Commentary By Jeffrey A. Miron Special to CNN:
IV. I have recommended George R.R. Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire to anyone who has somehow missed it, even if they don’t usually read fantasy. Well-drawn characters, harsh realities of life & death, political intrigue and multiple POV. A fun series.
V. I’ve convinced CRL and PC to read The Book of the New Sun by Gene Wolfe. It is a four-book sci-fi/fantasy series written in the early eighties, but that’s like saying The David is a sculpture. The series is simply overwhelming. The author is so obviously brilliant and the books are nearly hallucinogenic as you read them. A far future in which the protagonist passes through a world that has peaked and is in decline and he eventually fulfills his roll in determining the fate of the world. Both of my victims refer to this series when something simply weirds them out.
VI. Recently I have been reading (and listening to) newer sci-fi authors I wanted to recommend - Cory Doctorow (of boingboing) is an excellent author, especially of short stories that address a lot of tech and privacy issues within a wide variety of sci-fi styles.
Charles Stross is a new favorite as well, I enjoyed Halting State, about an MMORPG heist and so much more recently, and have read his multiple award-winning opus Accelerando about a singularity-enhanced future and Singularity Sky.
I’m also reading stuff by John Scalzi who won a Hugo this year (for his blog & reviews) has a very Heinlein-like future universe that many RAH fans will really enjoy - starts with Old Man’s War - just a lot of fun, finished the third one last weekend. (There are two side books I’m going to read as well.)
If you made it this far, thanks & I hope a thing or two is of interest. It’s funny, I always think I don’t read enough.
II. Books I have suggested recently and tried to get people to read, often unsuccessfully.
1. I have to second American Gods. Traditional ideas vs. the technological age. And Gaiman is just so cool. It would be cool and frightening to be working for a Norse god, and hang out with Egyptian Gods and long forgotten deities of various cultures. I got CRL, who prefers horror & mystery to read Gods and some Gaiman short stories, like “October in the Chair”. She loved it. It’s well worth it.
2. Neal Stephenson, in particular the Baroque Cycle: Quicksilver, the Confusion, and The System of the World.. I like books that make me go to the dictionary and Wikipedia to make sure I know what’s going on. The Cycle is about the Enlightenment and the growth of a monetary system in Europe, and is as much fun as that sounds boring. Issac Newton & Leibniz and the later Stuart Kings (I did my graduate History work on this period) and the Glorious Revolution and Barbary Pirates and…it’s just incredible, and they were all bestsellers. But I have trouble convincing those I hold near and dear to read it. It’s just 3,000 pages or so. C’mon. I think sometimes it was written for me and I should just accept that. But if you’ll just start with Quicksilver, I swear you’ll love it, just like I do…
It would be easier to read Snow Crash, which is incredible near-future neo-libertarian cyberpunk, or The Diamond Age, about neo-Victorians and nanotech, or Cryptonomicom, which is about cryptography, the nature of money, modern data havens,World War II and the Enigma machine. These are all by Stephenson, and great so I usually let people negotiate me down into suggesting these, which are all incredibly brain-expanding, (and not 3,000 pages.)
My friend Roach has a great site in which he asks friends to make lists of five things that answer his prompt - List5.
I respond there a good bit and will post some of that here. His latest is very appealing to me, but I must grade papers. So I'll post what I've written so far.
Works of literature you suggest others read is the latest.
I. Great Topic. (This is in my wheelhouse.)
It also made me quickly realize that I am an evangelist for science fiction & fantasy. Not just from a geek point-of-view, which I clearly have, but because it deals with big ideas, things I euphemistically call “manly ideas”, like justice, loyalty, & responsibility that can seem pedantic or contrived in non-speculative fiction, but seem to make such good sense in science fiction. (I read a book reviewer recently who suggested that this is because mainstream novels have become more small & personal in recent years.) I recently read The Road and I’ve decided this is why Cormac McCarthy is so popular. He writes about manly themes and has used the western as a framework for putting those ideas in the mainstream in the past. I thought The Road was good but not great, but he took very traditional, almost trite, sci-fi ideas about an apocalypse and then used them to study a man struggling to make a better life for his son, while barely hanging on to his own humanity and life. And people love it because it is a “manly” story, but by using the science fiction framework, it was more acceptable than a straight-forward, modern story. But I digress… and I could be full of it.
I'm supposed to be grading papers, while my students work on definitions about the formation of the New England and Middle Colonies. I hate grading papers. I've almost got 'a thing' about it as we say at our house. I'll get it all done, but I won't like it. Homecoming last week and state testing this week, so I haven't really been able to teach for two weeks and it makes me uneasy. I need to teach.
Students asked me about presidential politics the other day, when we were hung up with testing, so I slipped into stealth libertarian mode and asked a few leading questions about: whether people should have a right to decide what to do inside their own body, the Bill of Rights, prohibition, separation of church and state. Of course it inevitably turns out that nearly everyone in the conversation largely agreed with libertarian principles. How is it that when we actually think about it people are libertarian, but we never get candidates that are?
I think I have finally despaired of politics. Like John Adams heading to the Continental Congress feared there were not men up to the task. He was wrong, but i fear I'm right. Either we get big government social conservatives or big government free spenders who think government can actually solve problems. Ack.
Ever since we moved into the (paid off) house up here we have been inundated with mortgage offers. We've already learned our economic lessons and we always turned them down, seeing that it was all a scam, like debt consolidation, cellphone contracts and gym memberships. It is so frustrating that our entire economic system of the last 15 years seems to have been based on this ephemera - Money that didn't really exist.
The whole cavalcade of people that you may have heard me rail about: bankers, insurance men, stock brokers, oil, the federal reserve, and Congress have made and spent tons of money and then when the bill comes due - houses are foreclosed on people who were given loans they shouldn't have been, but the corporations that invested in bad loans and ephemeral derivatives and sketchy bonds get my tax dollars as a bailout because it will 'hurt the economy' if they fail. That is just more BS. If they don't want regulation on how they loan and invest then they shouldn't get my money when they turn out to be stupid and greedy.
I've had enough of taking up for business that pays lip service to libertarian deregulation, until they screw up and want me to pay for it. i am no longer going to apologize for businesses. They are simply using my principles when it suits them and abandoning them when things get tough. Rugged individualism and enlightened capitalism are long gone. I want them all collecting the unemployment checks they so richly deserve. Economic conservatives, classical liberals, like us, have been taken to the cleaners. Use our rhetoric to make more money and then go to the government when you blow it and get my taxes. It is criminal.
So we have a charismatic traditional Democratic Senator and a nearly senile Republican Senator who has always been a corporate tool (see the Keating Five) and a darling of the media. In fact, both these guys are media darlings, which in itself makes them suspect. I think that the V.P.'s are meaningless in any real effect on the next 4 years, a Senate hack and a small-time politico from Alaska. Reason help us if either one of them become president. Supreme Court nominees and military policy are probably the only things that even the presidents can effect. McCain could nominate someone I don't agree with, but so could Obama - both are likely to appoint a statist of one stripe or another. McCain would likely use the military more, and it definitely needs a break, but Obama is more likely to make high-minded but naive Carter-like moves like Iran & the Panama Canal or bribing Egypt & Israel to remain peaceful. Neither one is the least bit appealing to me.
I'm not even really happy with the guy I'll vote for Bob Barr, because he spent years propping up the War on drugs, helped compose the Patriot Act, and ran Clinton's impeachment - which used up what was left of the momentum of the 1994 turnover. Now he's born-again libertarian, but I still find him suspect. He's wasting effort on the Texas ballot, instead of putting out a small govt. message that will appeal to disaffected libertarian former Republicans like many of us. Sigh...