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Posts Tagged ‘Economic’

 

One morning, we hiked along the bluffs above the ocean at Spring Ranch.

Spring Ranch is a Coastal Reserve on the coastal bluffs just south of Big River created by California State Parks and the California State Coastal Conservancy. Visiting it should be on your list of things to do whenever you travel along the Mendocino County coast.
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It is an excellent example of the type of project I had in mind when I wrote the Conservancy Concept into California’s Coastal Plan, shepherded the legislation through the legislature and administered the agency during its formative years. It not only removes the land from the vagaries of regulatory conflicts but also begins to push back the impacts of prior land uses, ranching and the like, through restoration. At the time the Conservancy was proposed, restoration of environmental resources was not a high priority of the State and in the case of wetlands opposed by many in the environmental community as well.
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The Reserve is long and relatively narrow, stretching from PCH to the ocean for several miles. This type of public acquisition, small narrow units, as well as the purchase of undeveloped subdivisions along the coast was frowned upon by the State because of management and cost issues. Yet, we believed they were necessary if critical coastal resources were to be preserved and the goals of the Coastal Plan achieved. I am pleased to see that, in part through the efforts of the Conservancy, up and down the coast these objectives are now fully accepted by most governmental agencies and local land trusts as they go about the unending process of protecting and restoring California’s precious Coastal Resources.
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The several entrances into the Reserve are a little difficult to see from Highway 1. Once you find them you are in for a treat. Strolling down the path across the coastal terrace you reach the bluffs where the path follows the cliffs rising above the ocean and continuing through a magnificently restored cypress grove. There are a few benches along the way where you can sit and watch the tumultuous surf crash on the rocks and, if the season is right, see whales migrating and seal pods roaming the waters and hauling themselves onto the rocks to sunbathe.
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The Reserve is an excellent counterpoint to the more urban Noyo Headlands Park a few miles north. You should visit both if you are in the area, and don’t forget to stop also at Point Cabrillo Lighthouse and park and the Mendocino Botanical Gardens two Conservancy projects in the area I am quite proud of. And, of course, end your trip sipping the wines at Pacific Star Winery while sitting on Dad’s Bench watching the sun dip into the ocean.
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When we drafted the Coastal Plan over 40 years ago, we saw it not as a final product but as an ongoing process to preserve and restore the irreplaceable resources of California’s Coast. I am delighted to see The State Coastal Conservancy, an entity dear to my heart, and those that labored working for and with it, continuing to take a significant role in that endeavor.

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Grant's Gazelles (Nanger granti), Serengeti Na...

Grant’s Gazelles (Nanger granti), Serengeti National Park, Tanzania (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

What! Another Parable?

Well, perhaps not really a parable. It seems that recently I have come across, in various guises the concept that the essential driving force of humanity or at least individual humans following their descent from the safety of the trees to lift their heads above the savannah was; Is it good to eat? Can I have sex with it? And, will it kill me? From these three elemental interests, it has in various ways been argued that our psychology and social arrangements can be deduced.

Now we all may agree that this is a bit simplistic. On the other hand, if we assume that these or some similar urges prompted our remote ancestors to take up life on the dangerous grassy world of the savannah, then I maintain there are at least two other impulses that at this important moment marked man from the other fauna around him (more if we were to discuss women the more subtle gender. But I will leave that for another day.)

The first is the remarkable facility of humans to confuse images with reality and find some utility in it that we call thought or ratiocination. This I also will not discuss here.

The second unique ability of humans is that when they raised their heads above the swaying frond of grass they also thought, Now who can I get to bring me my food, procure my sex for me and die instead of me if need be.

What, you say it is not separate from the first three but simply a mechanism to deal with them prompted by their confusion of metaphors that we later called thinking. I disagree.

It is distinctly rare in the animal kingdom for any species to behave in that way. Few if any species, for example, sit around and choose one or more members to die for them. Even the noble Naked Mole Rat, when faced with a predator that is too strong for the group to deal with would not send one of their number out to die. Instead one of these heroic if decidedly ugly creatures nobly offers himself or herself for the intruders’ dinner.

Humans do not behave that way. Generally, with humans, only someone conditioned by others who prefer not to die, will offer himself instead for their benefit and make the ultimate sacrifice.

Take the examples of the lions and gazelles sharing the same grassy world as the early humans. The lions are hungry. They stalk the gazelles through the grass. The gazelles see them and run away leaving to the lions the slow of foot, the sick and the lame.

Now suppose for some reason the same sickness as humans strike the gazelles and a group of them stop and say to each other. “This is stupid all this running around so that the slowest get eaten by the lions. It is exhausting, it interferes with our grazing and wasteful. Let’s choose someone we do not like very much or is not you know, really one of us, hamstring him and leave him for the lions.” And so they do just that.

Lo and behold the lions fall upon the surrogate and the gazelles go back to eating the grass.

Now assume this goes on for generations, the Lions lose their hunting skills and become fat and lazy. The clever gazelles realize this and begin leaving a little less each feeding time. After a suitable number of generations the lions beacon little more than the gazelles’ pets useless for nothing much more than scaring other predators off; after all, they have little enough of their own food. The gazelles, recognizing a good thing realize that they do not even have to sacrifice one of their own; they could hamstring a Gnu or a Zebra just as well.

Eventually, the lions are controlled and the gazelles increase and eat the Savannah grass until almost none is left but a few clumps here and there as the land begins to turn into a desert. The gazelle leaders meet to try to figure out what to do. They decide, reasonably, that the remaining grass should be reserved for only the leaders and the less successful will have to shift for themselves.

“But,” cries one of the soon to be starving gazelles, “it is us the gazelles who turned this paradise into a desert by over eating an overpopulating it and unless we all, gazelles, lions, gnus, and zebras get together all the grass will be gone.”

“Ha,” laughed the gazelle leaders, “do not be ridiculous, gazelles could not be the cause. Why a thousand years ago this land was a desert, then the rains came and the grass grew and the gazelles and the lions came and made the savannah a paradise through the efforts of the leaders who naturally and rightfully should enjoy the remaining grasslands until the rains come again.”

This infuriated the other gazelles and the lions who were listening so much that they attacked the leaders to take the remaining stands of grass away from them, but in so doing the battle destroyed those remaining few tufts grass anyway and the gazelles died and so did the lions.

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“If you are lying with a woman, do her business several times if you feel inclined, but take care not to overdo it, for it is a true word that, ‘He who plays the game of love for his own sake, and to satisfy his desires, feels the most intense and durable pleasure; but he who does it to satisfy the lust of another person will languish, lose all his desire, and finish by becoming impotent for coition.'”
The Perfumed Garden, Richard Burton, Trans.

IN WHICH ANGELINA (TAI) AND HARVEY BECOME INVOLVED IN CONFLICTING ECONOMIC THEORIES

“Ugh, a blow-job tastes better,” exclaimed Angelina-Tai after downing in one gulp the entire contents of a small pony glass containing a concoction called B-52, made from a mixture of bitter and sweet liquors with a little cream floating on top.

Giufa, who notices things like this, saw a sudden gleam spring into Harvey’s eyes when he heard Angelina. Giufa knew that his friend was falling in love or something like that.

“Why don’t you take Angelina into one of the discussion rooms?” suggested Giufa to Harvey.“I am sure you both have a lot in common.”

This made Harvey a bit uncomfortable because he was aware that his friend was experiencing temporary testosterone deficiency and currently was being treated for his malady by Angelina, mini dress hiked above her waist, vigorously applying her ample naked buttocks to Giufa’s trouser encased flaccid member.

“I don’t wish to interfere with your therapy,” he explained.

“Think nothing of it, my friend,” replied Giufa. “Sometimes not even the Goddess can raise the dead.”

So assured, Harvey and Angelina retired to one of the small laboratories adjoining the room with the pool table, there to undertake joint experiments in hydraulics and fluid dynamics.

As he left the table Harvey promised, “I expect this will be brief and I’ll soon return.”

After they left and with the vision of Angelina’s ample breasts and buttocks fresh in their minds, the other Knights began a discussion on the relative merits of silicone and its effect on ones physical and emotional equilibrium. During the discussion, one of the other independent contractors joined the group at the oval table; Moo by name, played by Selma Hayek.

Giufa pointed out to everyone that Selma-Moo looked to him like she could be Angelina-Tai’s younger sister.

To which Selma-Moo agreed there was a resemblance, but added, “However, everything I have is natural.”

Upon hearing this, Jerome who prefers to be called Horace said, “I’ve heard that silicone in addition to affecting ones equilibrium also causes difficulty with co-ordination. So I suggest we determine the extent of your naturalness as follows. I will buy you the drink of your choice. You in turn will have to drink it with one hand and with the other grab my crotch and if you can get my member to rise at the same time as you are downing your drink we will hereafter call you, ‘the Natural’.”

Selma-Moo agreed.

After her successfully passing the test, Jerome who prefers to be called Horace suggested that she try two out of three.

“As long as you’re paying,” Selma-Moo said,”We can go on for as long as you like.”

After a while Angelina and Harvey returned.

“How was it,” inquired Giufa?

“We explored every dark, damp passage into her soul,” Harvey responded.

“Ahh,” said Giufa appreciatively, “Dante had his Beatrice, but we have our Angelina.”

Unfortunately, Harvey having paid $10 for the use of the laboratory and equipment and more for his bar bill assumed he had also paid Angelina’s consulting fee, and although he had given her a good tip it was substantially less than the agreed upon base fee.

As a result, Angelina experienced an adventure movie moment and exploded (a regular occurrence when anything intervenes between a Thai woman and what she considers her money), prompting the mama-san, Cher, to intervene in an attempt to resolve the crisis. When Harvey realized his error, he paid his fee and explained to Nat-Cher that he did not want her (Algelina-Tai) to be upset.

Cher-Nat responded, “You paid her what you owed her, why should you care what she thinks or feels?”

After Harvey left the Kennel Club for his appointment to interview another consultant who’s place of business was located deep within the Outskirts of Hell, Giufa feeling the pain of arthritis in his left hand, placed the throbbing appendage between Angelina’s warm thighs and pressed it firmly against her yoni. As he felt the soothing heat drive away the ache in his fingers he asked her, “Why were you so angry with Harvey especially since he eventually paid you what you wanted?”

“Sometimes,” she answered, “when I go off like that it is difficult for me to come down again. Besides, I was especially angry in this case, because I knew he is your very good friend and I put in extra-effort to please him, so that you will be happy.”

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There once was a country that viewed itself as a fair and just society. They even called themselves the “Fair and Just Society.” Like most societies, they could be divided into three groups of people. One-third of the people had the least amount of the income and wealth in that society — let us say only about 20% of the income and wealth. The second or middle one-third had about what would be the average of that societies wealth and income distributed among them, say 30%. The last group, the wealthiest one-third, had about 50% of the wealth and income of that society.

Let us also assume that at some point the members of the Fair and Just Society agreed among themselves that there are certain things that they all need and should be paid for collectively, like, for example, the common defense, roads, education of the Fair and Just Society’s children and so on. And let us further assume that the members of this Fair and Just Society agreed that these collective expenses should be paid for by each section of society according to their means. The lowest one-third agrees to pay 20%, the middle 30% and the top one-third 50% because they all agreed that that would be fair and just.

Now let us assume that all things have worked out reasonably well for our Fair and Just Society and that even the poorest one-third had enough to eat, clothe and shelter themselves and everyone was pretty happy. Then one day, for whatever reason, good cost control, a sudden jump in productivity, the discovery of oil or gold or whatever, the Fair and Just Society finds that they have collected more funds than are needed for their common expenditures (Defense, education, etc.) and decide to ask the people what they should do with it.

Upon hearing this everyone was happy, no one more so than the upper third and their agent who was sent to speak to the representatives of the Fair and Just Society. He told them that because his employers were the upper third in income and wealth they knew more about money than anyone else and that it was very complicated and because of that he recommended that the money be returned to the people in the form of tax relief because then each individual will be able to choose what it wished to spend it on and so they will each benefit individually and the economy would benefit in general by this infusion of money.

Some of the representatives upon hearing this could not fully comprehend why giving to each person to spend as he wishes was better than all the people deciding together on spending it on something that would benefit them all the most. After all they argued, the money still gets back into circulation and the Fair and Just Society gains an asset owned by all the people. And some even thought at least some of it should be held for a “rainy day” when it might be needed. But most of the other representatives agreed that giving the money back to the individuals seemed reasonable and fair. So they asked the representative of the upper third how he suggested that it be done.

“Well,” he says, “I was hoping that you would ask that. Over lunch I prepared this chart.” And he whips out a chart. “What this chart shows” he says, “is that you should give all this money to the upper third because, not only do they know more about money than anyone else, they having so much of it after all, but also since they do not have to spend in on necessities like food and stuff they will have this excess cash that they will invest in new factories and the like, you know, to make shoes and canned soup.” “And,” he continued “they can even take some of that money and, oh say, pay for research or start-ups and increase productivity and things like that”.

When the agent of the upper third finished speaking, the representatives of the Good and Just Society all looked at one another for a moment then broke out laughing. “You cannot be serious,” the Chairman said, “no one in their right mind could possibly be so stupid as to believe what you just said. Nevertheless, as a fair and just society we do think that it is fair and just to return it equally to all in accordance with their contributions to the common good, a 10% reduction to the bottom third on their 20% contribution, a 10% reduction to the middle third on their 30% contribution and a 10% reduction to the upper third based upon their contribution”. And with that they all got up and left, still chortling and shaking their heads.

Now because this is a parable, we will assume that in fact an across the board 10% reduction in taxes is fair and just.

Of course, we all know that for many reasons an across the board reduction in taxes was not fair and just at all. For example, the lowest one-third would most likely spend it on consumable necessities like food, clothing and shelter since their 10% would not be that much money. Or, as the agent of the upper one-third was overheard telling some of the representatives of the Good and Just Society outside the hearing room. “They will probably just spend it on dope and booze and taking a few days off work.”

The upper one-third on the other hand probably would also spend some of it on dope and booze, but they would still have a lot of money left over. So they will call in their advisors and direct them to take this excess cash and use it to make more. After the advisors leave, the upper third would probably take a puff of their joints, a sip of their Mai Tias and brood about the workers in their factories that did not show up for work that day. Eventually they decide that they would have their secretaries draft letters to the Representatives of the Fair and Just Society complaining about the morals of the lower one-third and a lot of the middle one-third and that in the future any tax cuts should all come to them. That done, they will leave on vacation, using some of the money they received from the Fair and Just Society, because they believed they earned it.

The representatives of the upper third then met to plan how they will turn this cash into more cash for the upper third and along the way turn themselves into members of the upper one-third.

They reasoned that after all that money spent on dope and booze there would not be enough cash left among the lower two-thirds for the upper third to invest their money to acquire it from the lower two-thirds. Nevertheless, there would be some and so they decide to increase their marketing budgets to persuade the lower two-thirds to spend whatever money they have left on products produced in the factories owned by the upper third. But still the upper third had a lot of money left over from the gift the Fair and Just Society had given them.

“Let’s use that money to buy the assets of the lower two-thirds,” suggests one of their representatives.

“But the lower third has no assets,” complains another.

Yes, they do,” states the first. “We can buy their future and their freedom. We can give them some of our money to buy more dope and booze and tell them that they can pay us back from their future wages with a sizable profit to the upper third of course, and substantial commissions for us. And then we will tell them that since we have given them so much money and we know all about economic things, we being so rich and so smart, they can trust us to keep them in dope and booze forever. And in return they will agree to vote in the elections for the representatives to the Fair and Just Society as we the agents of the upper third tell them to.”

“As for the middle one-third,” he continued. “Many of them have worked hard and amassed some assets like their houses and their small business, so we will point out to them that because of all their hard work and our knowledge of finance, their assets have appreciated and they would be wasting that value unless they put it to work. Then we will loan them some money in return for the owning their assets if they do not pay us back.”

And they all agreed that was a good plan and they put it into practice.

Now it came to pass that this worked so wonderfully well for a while that the lower two-thirds, although actually poorer, appeared to be living so much better than they had been. As a result, they thought the agents of the upper one-third were much smarter than they were. And also, so much money was flowing into the hands of the agents that they soon began to replace some of the upper one-third.

Then one day there was, of course, not enough things for the upper third to buy because almost all the assets had been purchased and almost all of the futures mortgaged and on top of it they had even more money now with nothing to do. So the agents of the upper third went to the members of the upper third and showed them how instead of making things or buying more assets they could simply gamble all this money on the economy because everything was so good and the agents were so smart things would keep getting better and better and except for a few corrections now and again they would make even more money.

Then a funny thing happened, soon there were fewer members of the upper third who actually made things, they had been replaced by the agents who really did not make anything at all.

Then of course there was what is known as a “correction”, the lower two-thirds had mortgaged all their futures and no longer had the money to buy things. So as the factories closed down the lower two-thirds began to lose their jobs and their homes and businesses.

Some of these people turned to the Representatives of the Fair and Just Society and asked them to do something about it. Unfortunately for the lower two-thirds, the Representatives of the Fair and Just Society had by now all been replaced by the employees of the upper one-third. Nevertheless they agreed to look into their concerns.

“No problem,” they said, “we can make everything better by cutting those things we have been paying for up until now and lowering taxes on the upper one-third so they can invest even more.  We can pay for whatever essential community services are left (like protecting the assets of the upper one-third) by borrowing from the upper one-third and it all will work out just like it was described in that chart.”

Now we all know that that’s what really happened, but since this is a parable we will assume that everyone actually did believe that the distribution of the money was fair and just and that no one could have possibly foreseen what actually did happen.

So, the representatives of the Fair and Just Society a few months or so after making the fair and just present to the people were surprised to find, that while the income and wealth of the upper one-third grew exponentially, the lower two-thirds barely held their own and their debts to the upper third increased even more rapidly than the upper third’s income.

This being a Fair and Just Society and their representatives, not yet being replaced by the employees of the upper third, understood what that meant for the future of the Fair and Just Society. So, they convened a meeting and called in the upper third and their agents and told them, “We all made a mistake and in order to avoid an economic catastrophe and to preserve the Fair and Just Society, you are all just going to have to give all the money back”.

OK, I will admit maybe that this a fantasy and not a parable. But still…

MORAL:

1. No society, if it hopes to survive, can surrender to an individual, institution or groups of individuals or institutions unbridled and uncontrolled dominance over its economic and political well-being, no matter how apparently beneficial it appears at the time.
2. We are better off as a society to agree to what we want our society look like and act to make it so than to just hope for the best or trust to our individual efforts alone.
3. A fair and just society never ever follows the advice of those with the most to gain financially.
4. A fair and just society resists giving collective funds or advantage to those with the resources to compete for them on their own.
5. There is no magic wand, invisible hand, or strong and brilliant leader that can save us from our folly. If we believe that, then Pogo was right when he said so long ago, “We have met the enemy and he is us“.
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