Which countries are most in favor of the free market?

Via the The Economist, consider the chart below covering faith in the free markets. It is at present at a low in the US, the world’s biggest free-market economy:

In 2010, 59% of Americans asked by GlobeScan, a polling firm, agreed “strongly” or “somewhat” that the free market was the best system for the world’s future. This has fallen sharply from 80% when the question was first asked in 2002. And among poorer Americans under $20,000, faith in capitalism fell from 76% to 44% in just one year. Of the 25 countries polled, support for the free market is now greatest in Germany, just ahead of Brazil and communist China, both of which have seen strong growth in recent years. Indians are less enthusiastic despite recent gains in growth. Italy shows a surprising fondness for markets for a place that is uncompetitive in many sectors. France under a third of people believe that the free market is the best option, down from 42% in 2002.

I wonder if the unbridled embracing of Free Market ideals, taken to excess the past few decades — self-regulation, Efficient Market Hypothesis, radical deregulation, which were eventually followed by the massive financial collapse and subsequent government bailouts of girlie men bankers – might have anything to do with this?

Fascinating stuff . . .


The Economist

via Which countries are most in favor of the free market? | The Big Picture.

On The Shortness of Life: An Introduction to Seneca

It is not that we have a short space of time, but that we waste much of it. Life is long enough, and it has been given in sufficiently generous measure to allow the accomplishment of the very greatest things if the whole of it is well invested.But when it is squandered in luxury and carelessness, when it is devoted to no good end, forced at last by the ultimate necessity we perceive that it has passed away before we were aware that it was passing. So it is—the life we receive is not short, but we make it so, nor do we have any lack of it, but are wasteful of it. Just as great and princely wealth is scattered in a moment when it comes into the hands of a bad owner, while wealth however limited, if it is entrusted to a good guardian, increases by use, so our life is amply long for him who orders it properly.

Why do we complain of Nature? She has shown herself kindly; life, if you know how to use it, is long. But one man is possessed by greed that is insatiable, another by a toilsome devotion to tasks that are useless; one man is besotted with wine, another is paralyzed by sloth; one man is exhausted by an ambition that always hangs upon the decision of others, another, driven on by the greed of the trader, is led over all lands and all seas by the hope of gain; some are tormented by a passion for war and are always either bent upon inflicting danger upon others or concerned about their own; some there are who are worn out by voluntary servitude in a thankless attendance upon the great; many are kept busy either in the pursuit of other men’s fortune or in complaining of their own; many, following no fixed aim, shifting and inconstant and dissatisfied, are plunged by their fickleness into plans that are ever new; some have no fixed principle by which to direct their course, but Fate takes them unawares while they loll and yawn—so surely does it happen that I cannot doubt the truth of that utterance which the greatest of poets delivered with all the seeming of an oracle: “The part of life we really live is small.” For all the rest of existence is not life, but merely time.

Vices beset us and surround us on every side, and they do not permit us to rise anew and lift up our eyes for the discernment of truth, but they keep us down when once they have overwhelmed us and we are chained to lust. Their victims are never allowed to return to their true selves; if ever they chance to find some release, like the waters of the deep sea which continue to heave even after the storm is past, they are tossed about, and no rest from their lusts abides. Think you that I am speaking of the wretches whose evils are admitted? Look at those whose prosperity men flock to behold; they are smothered by their blessings. To how many are riches a burden! From how many do eloquence and the daily straining to display their powers draw forth blood! How many are pale from constant pleasures! To how many does the throng of clients that crowd about them leave no freedom! In short, run through the list of all these men from the lowest to the highest—this man desires an advocate, this one answers the call, that one is on trial, that one defends him, that one gives sentence; no one asserts his claim to himself, everyone is wasted for the sake of another. Ask about the men whose names are known by heart, and you will see that these are the marks that distinguish them: A cultivates B and B cultivates C; no one is his own master. And then certain men show the most senseless indignation—they complain of the insolence of their superiors, because they were too busy to see them when they wished an audience! But can anyone have the hardihood to complain of the pride of another when he himself has no time to attend to himself? After all, no matter who you are, the great man does sometimes look toward you even if his face is insolent, he does sometimes condescend to listen to your words, he permits you to appear at his side; but you never deign to look upon yourself, to give ear to yourself. There is no reason, therefore, to count anyone in debt for such services, seeing that, when you performed them, you had no wish for another’s company, but could not endure your own.

Though all the brilliant intellects of the ages were to concentrate upon this one theme, never could they adequately express their wonder at this dense darkness of the human mind. Men do not suffer anyone to seize their estates, and they rush to stones and arms if there is even the slightest dispute about the limit of their lands, yet they allow others to trespass upon their life—nay, they themselves even lead in those who will eventually possess it. No one is to be found who is willing to distribute his money, yet among how many does each one of us distribute his life! In guarding their fortune men are often closefisted, yet, when it comes to the matter of wasting time, in the case of the one thing in which it is right to be miserly, they show themselves most prodigal. And so I should like to lay hold upon someone from the company of older men and say: “I see that you have reached the farthest limit of human life, you are pressing hard upon your hundredth year, or are even beyond it; come now, recall your life and make a reckoning. Consider how much of your time was taken up with a moneylender, how much with a mistress, how much with a patron, how much with a client, how much in wrangling with your wife, how much in punishing your slaves, how much in rushing about the city on social duties. Add the diseases which we have caused by our own acts, add, too, the time that has lain idle and unused; you will see that you have fewer years to your credit than you count. Look back in memory and consider when you ever had a fixed plan, how few days have passed as you had intended, when you were ever at your own disposal, when your face ever wore its natural expression, when your mind was ever unperturbed, what work you have achieved in so long a life, how many have robbed you of life when you were not aware of what you were losing, how much was taken up in useless sorrow, in foolish joy, in greedy desire, in the allurements of society, how little of yourself was left to you; you will perceive that you are dying before your season!” What, then, is the reason of this? You live as if you were destined to live forever, no thought of your frailty ever enters your head, of how much time has already gone by you take no heed. You squander time as if you drew from a full and abundant supply, though all the while that day which you bestow on some person or thing is perhaps your last. You have all the fears of mortals and all the desires of immortals. You will hear many men saying: “After my fiftieth year I shall retire into leisure, my sixtieth year shall release me from public duties.” And what guarantee, pray, have you that your life will last longer? Who will suffer your course to be just as you plan it? Are you not ashamed to reserve for yourself only the remnant of life, and to set apart for wisdom only that time which cannot be devoted to any business? How late it is to begin to live just when we must cease to live! What foolish forgetfulness of mortality to postpone wholesome plans to the fiftieth and sixtieth year, and to intend to begin life at a point to which few have attained!

via On The Shortness of Life: An Introduction to Seneca.

Doctors theories about cholesterol are proven wrong

Lowering bad cholesterol levels reduces heart attack risks, and researchers have long hoped that raising good cholesterol would help, too. Surprising results from a large government study announced on Thursday suggest that this hope may be misplaced.

The study could change the way doctors treat millions of patients with heart disease. Common wisdom has been that such patients should take a statin drug like Lipitor or Zocor to lower bad cholesterol and, in many cases, the vitamin niacin to raise their good cholesterol. But in the trial, niacin provided no benefit over simple statin therapy.

The results are part of a string of studies that suggest that what doctors thought they knew about cholesterol may be wrong. Studies that track patients over time have for decades shown that patients with higher levels of high-density lipoproteins (H.D.L., or good cholesterol) tend to live longer and have fewer heart problems than those with lower levels of this cholesterol.

Not surprisingly, doctors thought that if they could raise H.D.L. levels, their patients would benefit. So far, that assumption is not panning out. Nobody knows why.

In 2006, Pfizer halted development of a drug that raised good cholesterol levels after studies showed that the medicine increased the risks of death. And on Thursday, government scientists announced that Niaspan, an extended release form of niacin, not only did not provide any protection against heart attacks when taken with Zocor in patients with heart disease but also slightly increased their risk of stroke.

via Niacin Drugs Don’t Reduce Heart Attack Risk, Study Says – NYTimes.com.

State Tax Revenue Gains in May

Resurgent revenue among U.S. states, whether driven by tax receipts, tax increases or stock market activity (read: California). The upshot, as the following excerpt shows, is the best state revenue gains since 2006, and a changing mindset with respect to austerity and further budget cuts.

Evidence of a turnaround in state finances seemed to surface almost daily in May. California, Texas, Ohio, Connecticut, New Jersey, Michigan, and Colorado all reported higher-than-­anticipated tax revenues, setting off a scramble to rejigger budget projections. In nearly every state in the nation, revenue is up, year over year, for the fifth straight quarter, according to reports by Goldman Sachs (GS) and the Nelson A. Rockefeller Institute of Government. The Rockefeller report, released on May 24, pegged the overall increase in the first quarter of 2011 at 9.1 percent, the largest gain since 2006.

via State Budget Cuts, Reconsidered – BusinessWeek.

Cheap And Abundant Energy Arrives (Matt Ridley)

“Experts” regularly rush to predict the exhaustion of fossil fuels. “Already the output of [natural] gas has begun to wane. Production of oil cannot long maintain its present rate,” a US presidential commission said in 1922. “We could use up all the proven reserves of oil in the entire world by the end of the next decade,” Jimmy Carter said in 1976.

The world will use about 450 exajoules (billion billion joules) of fossil fuel energy this year and has so far used less than 20,000 exajoules since the Industrial Revolution began. Total oil, gas and coal resources in the Earth’s crust are estimated at more than 570,000 exajoules. So if energy use was a journey from St Pancras to Istanbul by train, we have not yet reached the Channel Tunnel. Resources can be finite yet effectively inexhaustible or, like dodos and forests, infinitely renewable yet easily exhausted.

Quantity is not really the point; price is. Most fossil fuels are impossibly hard to extract at a reasonable price. More than half the reserves consist of methane clathrates hydrated gas found mostly on the seabed near the margins of the continents in vast quantities. Nobody knows how to turn them into fuel except at huge cost, although the Japanese are on the case. So the question is not whether we run out of fossil fuels but whether we run out of cheap fossil fuels.

With oil, the answer may be “yes”. A huge amount of oil is still untapped, but most of it is under deep water or in oil sands and is costly to extract. But with gas, the answer is “no”. Most free methane is found in impermeable rocks such as shale, not in permeable “traps” whence it is easiest to extract. Shale gas was thought to be as inaccessible as clathrates, and when it began to be exploited in the 1990s it looked as if it would still come in at the top of the price range. Now technological improvements have brought the price down so far that it undercuts conventional gas.

In a report I have written for the Global Warming Policy Foundation, published yesterday, I conclude that this “shale-gas shock” will have far-reaching consequences. It will make gas prices lower and less volatile relative to oil than ever before.

This will cause gas to take market share from coal, nuclear and renewables in electricity generation, and from oil in transport. London buses should follow Washington and Delhi in switching to gas both to save money and to produce less smog.

Shale gas is good news for America and China (which probably has even more of it than America), consumers (cheap fuel means higher standards of living) and farmers (fertiliser is made from gas). It is bad news for Russia and Iran (which hoped to corner the gas market in coming decades), for coal (until now the cheapest fuel for electricity) and for the nuclear and wind industries. The last two had expected to be rescued from dependence on subsidies by rising fossil fuel prices. They may now not be.

The losers are formidable enemies, so there is a movement, whose fans range from Gazprom to Greenpeace, to strangle the shale-gas industry at birth, by claiming that drilling for it contaminates water with carcinogenic and even radioactive chemicals. This turns out to be true only in the sense that coffee is carcinogenic, bananas radioactive and dihydrogen monoxide (water) a chemical.

via Matt Ridley: Cheap And Abundant Energy Is On Hand.

 

The Shale Gas Shock

Matt Ridley’s report on the shale gas revolution and its implications.

pdf For the full report click here

20 Questions For Anyone Who Believes The Economic Crisis Is Over

If you listen to Ben Bernanke, Barack Obama and the mainstream media long enough, and if you didn’t know any better, you might be tempted to think that the economic crisis is long gone and that we are in the midst of a burgeoning economic recovery.  Unfortunately, the truth is that the economic crisis is far from over.  In 2010, more homes were repossessed than ever before, more Americans were on food stamps than ever before and a smaller percentage of American men had jobs than ever before.  The reality is that the United States is an economic basket case and all of these natural disasters certainly are not helping things.  The Federal Reserve has been printing gigantic piles of money and the U.S. government has been borrowing and spending cash at a dizzying pace in an all-out effort to stabilize things.  They have succeeded for the moment, but our long-term economic problems are worse then ever.  We are still in the middle of a full-blown economic crisis and things are about to get even worse.

If you know someone that is foolish enough to believe that the economic crisis is over and that our economic problems are behind us, just ask that person the following questions….

via 20 Questions To Ask Anyone Foolish Enough To Believe The Economic Crisis Is Over.

China Warns U.S.: ‘Any Attack on Pakistan Would Be Construed As an Attack on China’

Evolving Pakistani-Chinese Alliance to Face the U.S./India

In an analysis titled “A Looming Super Power Clash Triggered by Pakistan” (published on February 15, 2011), we pointed out to the rapidly growing danger of a U.S.-Pakistan clash which will involve – in addition to the Unite States, China and Pakistan – India, Russia, NATO powers, and other powers in the region.[1]

In the past few months, the U.S.-Pakistani relations further deteriorated into an open sabotage of the CIA work in Pakistan by the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI).

On May 17-20, 2011, this process took an escalating turn with the visit of Pakistani Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani to China. The China visit was described by Pakistan’s Information and Broadcasting Minister Dr. Firdous Ashiq Awan as “historical” and one that “would certainly open a new chapter in China-Pakistan relations under the new international environment and historical conditions.”[2]

Gilani’s four-day China visit acquired an unprecedented international importance in the wake of the May 2, 2011, killing of Al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden in a U.S. operation in the Pakistani city of Abbottabad.

Pakistani leaders saw bin Laden’s killing in a unilateral U.S. operation as a violation of Pakistan’s sovereignty and national dignity, while U.S. politicians and media suspected that there was complicity on the part of the Pakistani military’s Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) in providing the Al-Qaeda leader with a safe hideout for years in Abbottabad, right next to a Pakistani military academy.

Amid this explosive situation, the Gilani visit was seen as a move to protect Pakistan from possible measures taken by the U.S. against it and to undercut the U.S. and Indian influence in the region, which is perceived by Pakistan as a years-long threat to Pakistan’s national security. While Pakistan and China have been long-standing allies, a fundamental shift can now be observed in their strategic relationship, which is characterized by bolstering their military and other relations and by the huge rupture in Pakistani-U.S. relations.

This analysis reviews the multi-dimensional elements of the rapidly growing alignment of Pakistan with China to face an anticipated stand-off – and even an open armed clash – with the U.S./India.

via China Warns U.S.: ‘Any Attack on Pakistan Would Be Construed As an Attack on China’ – Evolving Pakistani-Chinese Alliance to Face the U.S./India.

CHANOS: I AM NOT BEARISH ENOUGH ABOUT CHINA

On whether the yuan would indeed appreciate if it were not pegged to the dollar:

“I think this is actually one of the reasons contributing to the bubble in that it is a double edged bet that could turn into a double-edged sword.  Investors are counting not only on asset appreciation of fixed assets in China, but they’re counting on the yuan being revalued upward. If it ever became apparent that might go the other way, you could see a real scramble to get out of these assets in China.”

via CHANOS: I AM NOT BEARISH ENOUGH ABOUT CHINA | PRAGMATIC CAPITALISM.

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