Thursday, November 03, 2011

Blog Wind-Down

I am not planning this. It is happening organically. I don't seem to be able to write much anymore, or rather, I should say, think anymore. Certain mental processes which I formerly took some pleasure in are no longer available. I have lost confidence in them, without being able to replace them with another mode of thought that produces an equivalent satisfaction. The wise and knowing nod in unison. It is the course of life. The weaker minds, constitutions, et al, falter increasingly with every passing year, until finally the point is reached when their owners themselves realize they are pretty much tapped out, and then they collapse altogether. This is where I seem to be at the moment. We have reached Peak Bourgeois Surrender, and may even have entered the Death Spiral, out of which very few minds have ever managed to pull themselves.

Is it impossible at this point for us all to pick up and move to Park Slope? Is there anywhere else like that? Am I even at all really like these people? I need to find some community of adults somewhat like myself. I have already established that I am literally losing my mind. Maybe it won't help.

I have to give up trying to make sense of economics and economic theory with the intention of justifying my continued existence in the society. I wonder if this fixation will someday be regarded as the folly of our age. It's causing me to become peevish, at the very least, as I increasingly find myself unable to argue the intention stated above.

But how about a little light-hearted fun:

Hot Women of the OWS--Link Here

Almost makes you want to be there. You always have to pick a favorite, so I am going to take Miss Occupy Maine (aka #4), because even though I am plotting my move to Park Slope I obviously still have a soft spot for those elusive, though not so extraordinarily rare creatures, women of New England (and especially the 3 northern states of that region, whose ladies are frequently maligned, unfortunately not always without cause, as being less generally beautiful than their counterparts elsewhere) who are actually pleasant looking. I like to show support for anyone credibly representing the home team in this regard whenever the opportunity presents itself.

Part of my increased peevishness stems from the circumstance that I know the culture is awash in foolish arguments which the real aristocracy of the intelligent obviously would never treat as serious amongst themselves but which they choose not to prevent from circulating endlessly among the masses, the effects of which I cannot prevent myself from being absorbed into nor can effectively slaughter. It is infuriating.

I am not sure how to convince young people that they cannot harbor ambitions separated from a serious consideration of money reality; nor am I sure that it is really desirable to do so in spite of everything. Life should be taken fairly seriously, moreso perhaps in many regards than it is, but it is also brief and evidently insignificant. Most of my real regrets in life involve not pursuing more adventures, not living in more exciting places, not pushing harder at figuring out how to eke out a living doing something I am interested in, as well as not being a better student when I had the chance, though it isn't clear that I really have the mental/psychological makeup to be a successful professional in any event. Likely none of those things would have worked out economically in any event, but those are still the things that I think about. Much conventional wisdom seems to be that this mindset in a man is indicative of a failed upbringing. Obviously the likelihood that this is true weighs on me more and more as the years go by.

The common riposte whenever someone suggests that taxes could be higher that if the suggester wishes to pay more taxes nothing is preventing him from writing the government a check is officially tiresome. Anyone who thinks this is what anybody means is willfully missing the point. I am probably guilty of willfully missing the point on various of my more treasured topics, but that does not make it any less annoying to have to deal with such people.

Is there anything I can practically do to make my children become serious capitalists, financiers, engineers, scientists? I don't know that I can even properly inculcate the necessary work ethic, since I do not really understand what it consists of myself. And then there are legions of people who work hard but are too stupid to make anything of themselves in a competitive field, so they are essentially worthless too. Obviously one of my major goals for my children is that they believe they are not worthless, that they are able to contibute to the common weal in a way that is commensurate with their abilities, gives them dignity and merits respect from their fellows. But being serious about anything real smart or knowing people would consider worthwhile, really seems to be an impassible barrier to me. I don't understand how one breaks through to experiencing work, study, life, etc, on that plane.

Try as I might to disdain the whole ethos, I did not evidently, as I remarked earlier, have a strong upbringing, and so I probably am a socialist in my heart of hearts, though even I find the concept of forcible 're-distribution' less than desirable, if not distasteful. Unfortunately I find the direction which large sections of formerly middle and working class society are heading, if they are not already there--a world increasingly devoid of strong institutions (apart from the police and debt collection agencies) that actually have any interest in them, a basic sense of how to organize life, even such educational and career/income opportunities as used to be considered mediocre but at least passable for getting through life with some dignity--to be even more distasteful, so I am more concerned with shoring up or re-organizing what has collapsed for much of the bulk of society than I am in preserving the legitimacy of individual fortunes, if no less obtrusive means can be found.

Also, I always had the impression, growing up--perhaps I misunderstood--that one of the pillars of American society was the belief that there must be limits on the political power any individual is allowed to have. Given the close, and seemingly growing ever closer, relation between the two, I do not see why it cannot be discussed whether the public has an interest in placing limits on the ability of individuals to accumulate massive quantities of wealth as well. Again, maybe outright taxation/confiscation is not the best ends to achieve this, but surely there must be a way to introduce regulations of some kind to prevent the kinds of systems generating fortunes wholly incommensurate with the scale on which any other level of society operates. I know people like to bang on about how Wall Street and the financial industry for example pretty much carry the entire tax burden of New York, but does that sound like a healthy way for a city of 8 million people to be organized anyway? The Wall Street champions repeat this information as if they resent it, even though it would indicate that they are the only sector of the entire economy of the city that is thriving at all.

I tried to express something of my opinion on this on Facebook, of all places, in response to an article I had linked to. It was naturally found lacking, one of the commenters going on about how taxing capital gains (I cannot recall how the dialogue was steered towards them), the wondrous virtues of which relative to the economy at large it is probably obvious I have no understanding of, would cripple any hope of recovery for the immediate future. This commenter also demanded I name precise figures for how I thought income should be distributed, which question he claimed to have asked of dozens of liberals, and surprise, surprise, no one had ever been able to give him an answer. I spent about two hours trying to compose a response and finally gave it up. In honesty I find this demand for an exact figure to be rather stupid and beside the point, but I don't know how to convey that in a way that will have any effect on the kinds of people who look at things in such a way. My basic answer is something like this: I think the distribution of income which prevailed generally in the Western world from the late 1950s to early 1970s was preferable to that which we have now, so that could be a starting point, at least. If there are benefits from this concentration of wealth in terms of research/development, extreme high end educational improvements and the like, the positive effects of them on the mass of the population seem outweighed by the negative ones, such as widespread aimlessness, lack of purpose, pessimism about one's future prospects, such as I increasingly see all around me, and even in myself, because one can sense the proximity to so much in life that contributes to its value growing ever more inaccessible and remote because the costs of those things seem to be primarily driven by the capacity the top people have to pay for them. Of course we must try to improve ourselves, draw on our inner resources, define value for ourselves and not allow other people or the market to do it for us. But if one senses through constant experience that he is no match in any arena for those who have better credentials, resources and so on, and likely never will be unless as it were he can discover the mental secret which is the key to their power, it is going to be difficult for him to willfully shut himself off from consideration of these sorts of matters.

On a reading note, on November 3, I finished the last of the books in the 2nd of the 6 tests in the 1994 GRE test guide that has been the basis of my reading list. I am now on pace to finish this program in 2045, when I will be 75 years old, which is a three year improvement on my pace when I finished the first test. I began the list November 20, 1994 (the 1st book was Wuthering Heights, by the way) and finished the 1st test February 2, 2004. I suspect that my pace will continue to accelerate rapidly, as, one, many of the books that appear in the questions henceforward are ones I have now already read, and two, there don't appear to be very many of the extremely long books left such as Plutarch, Proust, Powell, The Bible and so on that take several months to read. There also don't appear to be very many new novels left to read--there is apparently a hard core of novels that everyone is expected to read and the questions just keep referring back to them. What I have mainly going forward are more short stories, a lot of poetry, a lot of criticism, essays and general 'letters'.

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