BITCOIN

Audio-book Review
By Chet Yarbrough

(Blog:awalkingdelight)
Website: chetyarbrough.blog

DIGITAL GOLDDigital Gold, Bitcoin and the Inside Story of the Misfits and Millionaires Trying to Reinvent Money

Written by: Nathaniel Popper

Narrated by:  Robert Fass

NATHANIEL POPPER (AUTHOR, NYT'S REPORTER)
NATHANIEL POPPER (AUTHOR, NYT’S REPORTER)

Nathaniel Popper writes a book on the history of bitcoin.  His history is a “Just the facts Mam” presentation.  One will draw their own conclusion about the good and bad qualities of crypto currency.

Just like the dollar, pound, renminbe (yuan), franc, and euro, bitcoin is used for legal and illegal transactions.  There are a host of criminals who have gamed currencies.  Pepper recounts examples of bitcoin that show it is not exempt from currency manipulation.

BERNARD MADOFF (AGE 74) SERVING 150 YEAR PRISON SENTENCE
BERNARD MADOFF (AGE 74) SERVING 150 YEAR PRISON SENTENCE

However, the manipulation takes the form of coding modification, or criminal hacking, rather than overt Bernie Madoff-like’ deceit. Wealth has been accumulated and lost in every medium of exchange since the beginning of barter between buyers and sellers.  Popper shows that the fundamental difference between conventional currencies and bitcoin is how value is determined; who decides on what the value should be, and the transparency of change.

Popper explains bitcoin’s value is a consensus of its owners and users.  Bitcoin value rises or falls based on most of its holder’s and merchant’s willingness to sell goods in exchange for bitcoin’ value.  In contrast, conventional currencies are based on government fiat and national economic stability.

BITCOIN SYMBOL
Popper explains bitcoin’s value is a consensus of its owners and users.  Bitcoin value rises or falls based on most of its holder’s and merchant’s willingness to sell goods in exchange for bitcoin’ value.
CHECKS AND BALANCES
All currencies offer exchange of goods based on willing seller and buyer discretion.  However, conventional money does not rely on majority determination of value.  Value of conventional currency is an inchoate combination of government decision, and the economic condition of respective nations.   http://news.webshots.com/photo/2005825900056011884kLVAuD

All currencies offer exchange of goods based on willing seller and buyer discretion.  However, conventional money does not rely on majority determination of value.  Value of conventional currency is an inchoate combination of government decision, and the economic condition of respective nations.  When aberrant government actions or economic crises occur willing buyers disappear, and currency value falls.  However, bitcoin is not dependent on government regulation or the state of one economy.  Bitcoin relies on its buyers and sellers and is independent of singular government decisions or any singular national economies.

INFLATION
When aberrant government actions or economic crises (like hyper-inflation) occur willing buyers disappear, and currency value falls.  However, bitcoin is not dependent on government regulation or the state of one economy.  Bitcoin relies on its buyers and sellers and is independent of singular government decisions or any singular national economies.

What Popper clearly explains is that troubled economic countries can see dramatic conventional currency movements that destroy wealth because of government decisions.  However, he equally notes many examples of large devaluations in bitcoin.  The difference is that devaluation of bitcoin is based on owners and users who are not tied to any single nation-state economy or government regulation.  Bitcoin value is based on the opinion of its owners and users.

One might conclude bitcoin is more egalitarian than conventional currency because it is based on the will of the majority of owners and users.  That may be true but the idea of depending on bitcoin’s open system modification of cryptographic code is a threat to the will of the majority.

Only code technologists understand the ramification of code changes in bitcoin.  Most users can only vote in ignorance and hope.  One may argue that is also true when electing a government;  however, the difference is transparency.  Bad governments can be judged by the public and eventually defeated.  Cryptocurrency is, as its title implies, concealed.  It is both secret and incomprehensible to most owners and users.  Most bitcoin users can only vote in ignorance and hope that coders are acting in a majorities best interest.

No form of currency guarantees value.  Every form of currency has its ups and downs.  The difference is in who makes the decision about value.  If you live in a highly inflationary country, bitcoin offers some level of stability.  If you live in a wealthy and relatively stable country, bitcoin seems less attractive.

The future of bitcoin or other cryptocurrencies seems more utilitarian in a future where nationalism disappears and there is acceptance of a world economy based on equality of opportunity.  We seem far from such a Utopian world.

A BRADBURY CLASSIC

Audio-book Review
By Chet Yarbrough

(Blog:awalkingdelight)
Website: chetyarbrough.blog

The Illustrated Manthe illustrated man
By Ray Bradbury

Narrated by Paul Michael Garcia

RAY BRADBURY (1920-2012)
RAY BRADBURY (1920-2012)

Flights of imagination sparkle and spin in this updated 1950s  Ray Bradbury classic.  This compendium of Bradbury’ tales is titled “The Illustrated Man”.

ROD SERLING (1924-1975, SCREENWRITER, TV PRODUCER, NARRATOR)
ROD SERLING (1924-1975, SCREENWRITER, TV PRODUCER, NARRATOR)

Bradbury spins stories; reminding one of late night re-runs of Rod Serling’s “Twilight Zone”.  Every episode sparkles with stars and planets, habitable by man but riddled with fear, death, and destruction.  Bradbury grasps human nature and turns it against itself by writing stories that illustrate man’s selfishness, insecurity, wantonness, and aggression.

Tattoos come alive on rippling skin to act out a series of plays about mankind’s future.  Everyone fears the illustrated man because his tattoos expose the worst in man.  Belief that nuclear cataclysm will end life on earth blooms like a mushroom cloud.  Traveling to other planets changes mankind’s environment but man’s nature remains the same.

THE ILLUSTRATED MAN (PLAYED BY ROD STEIGER)
THE ILLUSTRATED MAN (PLAYED BY ROD STEIGER IN A 1969 MOVIE) Tattoos come alive on rippling skin to act out a series of plays about mankind’s future.
AYN RAND (1905-1982)
AYN RAND (1905-1982, AUTHOR WHO FIRMLY BELIEVED IN THE VIRTUE OF SELF-INTEREST) Unregulated self-interest is a dangled reward stolen by one to keep it from the many; in the end the reward is destroyed by the selfishness of each against the other.)

These are not happy stories but they are great flights of imagination.  Bradbury tells a story of human exile and deprivation that exacerbates selfishness when personal reward is dangled in front of exiled and deprived human beings.  The dangled reward is stolen by one to keep it from the many; in the end the reward is destroyed by the selfishness of each against the other.

Insecurity is a devouring beast in the story of a planet blessed by an appearance of a Visitor (presumably Jesus) just before a rocket ship lands on the planet that has been visited.  The captain disbelieves it has happened and is driven to track down this Visitor rather than settle in the insecure surroundings of a unblessed world.  The captain is left to wander the universe, never to arrive in time to actually see the Visitor.

INSECURITY
Insecurity is a devouring beast in the story of a planet blessed by an appearance of a Visitor (presumably Jesus) just before a rocket ship lands on the planet that has been visited.  The captain disbelieves it has happened and is driven to track down this Visitor rather than settle in the insecure surroundings of a unblessed world.
INFIDELITY
Wantonness is illustrated by Bradbury’s story of an unhappily married man. 

Wantonness is illustrated by the husband that is unhappily married.  He duplicates himself.  His duplicate takes his place beside his wife so he can buy a ticket to Rio to exercise his fantasy.  The duplicate is so perfect it becomes as human as the husband.  The duplicate places the wanton husband in a box to die, and buys a ticket to Rio for his wife to accompany it in its fantasy.

Human kind is aggressive.  Humans conquer and destroy civilizations.  One world of the future prepares for a second visit from mankind by becoming the image of a City.  This image devours the men of the second visit and assumes their bodies; i.e. the City image is transformed into the bodies of the humans from this second visit.  The City image plans to return to earth to destroy those who had destroyed them.

NUCLEAR DETONATION ABOVE TEST TARGET 1986
Human kind is aggressive.  When human’s conquer or destroy others, others rise to  destroy those who had destroyed them. An endless circle of life where agression eats itself.

Bradbury is a master story-teller.  Paul Michael Garcia’s narration is a tribute to Bradbury’s skill.

INDICTMENT

Audio-book Review
By Chet Yarbrough

(Blog:awalkingdelight)
Website: chetyarbrough.blog

Tears We Cannot Stop-A Sermon to White America

Written by: Michael Eric Dyson

Narrated by:  Michael Eric Dyson

MICHAEL ERIC DYSON (AUTHOR, BAPTIST MINISTER, PROFESSOR OF SOCIOLOGY AT GEORGETOWN UNIVERSITY)

MICHAEL ERIC DYSON (AUTHOR, BAPTIST MINISTER, PROFESSOR OF SOCIOLOGY AT GEORGETOWN UNIVERSITY)

Michael Eric Dyson is a graduate of Princeton who teaches at Georgetown University.  “Tears We Cannot Stop” is an indictment of white America.  The indictment accuses white Americans of serious crimes stemming from today’s bigotry, neglect, permanent injury, and murder of black Americans. 

Examples of police violence against black Americans, a history of ethnic isolation, forced conformity and denied equal opportunity strongly support Dyson’s accusation.

Each accusation and the evidence gathered by Dyson confront the conscience of every white American.  What he writes rings of truth.  The more Dyson explains, the greater is white America’s guilt.  It is a message missed by white Americans because they do not live the life of black Americans.  White privilege is taken for granted in America because money, power, and prestige are held by mostly white American males.

RODNEY KING (APPEARANCE 3 DAYS AFTER BEATING 3.6.92--KING DIES IN JUNE 2012 @ 47 YEARS OF AGE)

RODNEY KING (APPEARANCE 3 DAYS AFTER BEATING 3.6.92–KING DIES IN JUNE 2012 @ 47 YEARS OF AGE)

The institutionalization of racism makes black Americans afraid.  Out of that fear comes distrust, anger, apathy, and isolation.  Black mothers and fathers fear for their children whenever they leave home.  Regardless of education, fame, or fortune, Dyson notes an honest and law-abiding black American is subject to a different set of social rules.  From birth, black Americans are told by their parents not to disagree with police for fear of being beaten, arrested or shot.

Truth does not matter in a black person’s response to accusation.  Most black Americans live with fear; most white Americans do not.  When stopped by the police, a black American thinks–what can I do; where can I go; what can I say; who can I trust other than myself and my race?   When unjustly accused, black Americans have limited recourse.  Those limits are tinged with frustration, and/or anger.  No wonder some feel disrespected and alone in America.

RUDY GIULIANI (FORMER MAYOR OF NEW YORK CITY)

RUDY GUILIANY (FORMER MAYOR OF NEW YORK CITY) Dyson attacks pundits who suggest black Americans are their own worst enemy.  The white pundit’s argument is they kill each other.  The argument ignores two monumental facts.  One, the toll that poverty and unemployment play in poor communities; and the truth that whites murder whites nearly as often as blacks kill blacks.

Dyson attacks pundits who suggest black Americans are their own worst enemy.  Some white pundit’s argue blacks  kill each other more than whites kill blacks.  The argument ignores two monumental facts.  One, the toll that poverty and unemployment play in poor communities; and two, the truth that whites murder whites nearly as often as blacks kill blacks.

The real difference between black and white victimization is whites have more opportunity in America.  White, mostly male, Americans write the history of America and create the rules for “democratic” governance. 

Dyson encourages white Americans to become more involved with black Americans.  The social disconnect between races promotes ignorance of common goals and aspirations.  Who does not want to live in peace, provide for themselves and their families, raise their children to be better off than themselves?  Part of the difficulty is that there is little trust between black and white Americans as is noted in the following social experiment.

Leaders in America, consciously or subconsciously, treat non-white Americans as “others”.  When humans treat someone as an “other”, they become less human.  Minorities and other nation’s populations become “gooks”, “spics”, “towel heads”, “niggers”; i.e. something identified as less than human.  This human categorization institutionalizes discrimination.  It leads to this American dilemma and to world wars. 

Leaders of America, who are mostly white males, ignore the plight of black Americans.  One wonders how many white Americans thank their God for not being born black.  That is Dyson’s reason for concluding black Americans shed “Tears We Cannot Stop”.

MADOFF’S PERPETRATORS

Audio-book Review
By Chet Yarbrough

(Blog:awalkingdelight)
Website: chetyarbrough.blog

Ponzi Supernova—Madoff Speaks

Recorded by: Audible Original

Produced by:  Steve Fishman

STEVE FISHMAN

STEVE FISHMAN (NEW YORK MAGAZINE REPORTER)

In “Ponzi Supernova”, Audible offers recorded interviews with Bernie Madoff and other perpetrators of the largest Ponzi scheme in history.  Steve Fishman conducts several telephone interviews with Madoff while he serves a life sentence for fraud.  Steve Fishman gets the telephone interviews after wheedling his way into Madoff’s confidence through a fellow prisoner.  To round out Fishman’s story, he captures telephone conversations with several other crooks, investigators, and victims of Madoff’s crime.

BERNARD MADOFF (AGE 74) SERVING 150 YEAR PRISON SENTENCE

BERNARD MADOFF (AGE 74) SERVING 150 YEAR PRISON SENTENCE

Fishman shows how a sixty billion-dollar Ponzi scheme is created and how it escapes detection for over twenty years.  Supplemented by audio books like “The Big Short”, and “No One Would Listen”, Fisher amplifies Madoff’s unconscionable crime with recordings of victims who lost their life savings.   Fisher explores the perfidy of banks and investment companies that mindfully ignored Madoff’s impossible investment returns; all the while, being financially benefited from Madoff’s lies.

MONEY, POWER, PRESTIGE

“Ponzi Supernova” reveals how Madoff created an empire of greed.  Madoff comes off as an average intellect with a big ego, meager technological skill, and zero empathy.  He hid behind the shadow of prestige.

Madoff refuses to take responsibility for his crimes and exhibits no remorse for the grief and death of others effected by his crimes.  As a person, Madoff reminds one of a sociopath

Madoff manages to appeal to the greed of human beings and blames others for their greed.  He manufactures investment data that hides the truth of his investment skill and his organizations’ portfolio.  He takes investor’s money and uses new investor’s money to pay earlier investor’s returns.  Few real trades support Madoff’s extraordinary portfolio performance.

“Ponzi Supernova” implies most of the investment firms; investment firms that knew of Madoff’s firm should have and could have exposed his lies.  However, they were paid a fee for their service.  Rather than investigate Madoff’s investment methodology, most investment firms gathered fees and left investors to fend for themselves.

INVESTMENT COMPANY LOGOS

Fisher notes how one analyst is sidelined by his investment company because he asked too many questions.  The questions would have exposed Madoff’s scheme.  Fisher also interviews an independent analyst that tells a client not to invest in Madoff’s company because she saw too many red flags.  For instance, Madoff would not provide examples of his past investments to show how he made such remarkably steady returns; even in a falling market.  Madoff’s standard refrain was “trust me”.

Like stories in “The Big Short” and “No One Would Listen”, Fisher’s recordings show institutional incompetence by government regulators, and greed from the private sector.

no one would listen

The SEC interviews Madoff on numerous occasions.  Often the SEC representative is young and inexperienced.  When reports are requested, Madoff’s back-office team manufactures whatever information is requested.  The reports have no basis in truth.  The reports are manufactured to satisfy whatever question is asked.  If the SEC had called to confirm whether the trades had really been made, they would have exposed Madoff for fraud.  Rather than check specific trade transactions, the SEC settled for a simple report that said Madoff had a trade account.

Nearly eleven billion dollars of the sixty billion-dollar Ponzi scheme is recovered.  However, the recovery is largely limited to American investors by what are called “claw backs”.  The “claw back” is from investors who had taken their money out before Madoff’s collapse in 2008.  Other countries had no “claw back” provisions which meant many non-Americans lost everything.

GOVERNMENT REGULATION

Madoff and a few of his employees went to jail, but many escaped with fines and admonishment.  “Ponzi Supernova” clearly implies both the government and private sector were guilty for losses by many small investors.  These investors relied on government regulation and private sector financial advice.

If there is a lesson in this story, it is that every person should closely monitor their own investments.  Most, if not all, human beings are seduced by money, power, and/or prestige.  It is every investor’s responsibility to know how their investment adviser is benefited by your investments in their recommendations.  Better to make your own investment mistakes, rather than rely on others who have a financial interest in your trading decisions.

POWER OF IDEAS

Audio-book Review
By Chet Yarbrough

(Blog:awalkingdelight)
Website: chetyarbrough.blog

Written by: Scott L. Montgomery, Daniel Chirot

Narration by:  Stephen McLaughlin

SCOTT L. MONGOMERY (AUTHOR, AMERICAN GEOLOGIST, AFFILIATE FACULTY MEMBER UNIVERSITY OF WASHINGTON)

SCOTT L. MONGOMERY (AUTHOR, AMERICAN GEOLOGIST, AFFILIATE FACULTY MEMBER UNIVERSITY OF WASHINGTON)

DANIEL CHIROT (AUTHOR, PROFESSOR OF RUSSIAN AND EURASIAN STUDIES @ UNIVERSITY OF WASHINGTON)

DANIEL CHIROT (AUTHOR, PROFESSOR OF RUSSIAN AND EURASIAN STUDIES @ UNIVERSITY OF WASHINGTON.)

“The Shape of the New” is about the power of ideas.  Scott L. Montgomery (a geologist and professor) and Daniel Chirot (a winner of a Guggenheim Fellowship for Social Sciences) write about three ideas rarely argued in polite conversation; e.g. economics, politics, and religion.   

Montgomery and Chirot capsulize the importance of their subject by paraphrasing Victor Hugo’s line in “Les Miserable”.   “One can defeat an army but not an idea”.  (The actual quote is: “An invasion of armies can be resisted, but not an idea whose time has come.)

The essence of the author’s augment is that Smith’s, Marx’s, and Darwin’s ideas are seminal beliefs that define the modern world. 

Among others, Montgomery and Chirot profile the ideas of Adam Smith, Karl Marx, Charles Darwin, Alexander Hamilton, Thomas Jefferson, Jerry Falwell, and Sayyid Qutb.  Each represents ideas that are part of modern world socioeconomic and religious thought.  Smith’s, Marx’s, and Darwin’s ideas largely standalone, but Hamilton, Jefferson, Falwell and Qutb rest on the shoulders of others.

Adam Smith (1723-1790, Scottish economist)

KARL MARX (BORN TRIER, GERMANY 1818-DIED LONDON, ENGLAND 1883)

Marx’s dialectic suggests capitalism is just a phase in an economic cycle that will evolve into communism. 

CHARLES DARWIN (1809-1882)

CHARLES DARWIN (1809-1882) FOUNDER OF THE THEORY OF THE ORIGIN OF SPECIES.

JEFFERSON AND HAMILTON

Hamilton grasps the importance of centralized control of money and national debt to support mercantilism, and free enterprise.  Jefferson tempers Hamilton’s nationalist control with arguments for states’ rights that reflect on concerns raised by Smith, and then Marx, about unregulated economic power.

JERRY FALWELL (1933-2007, AMERICAN EVANGELICAL SOUTHER BAPTIST PASTOR, FOUNDER OF THE MORAL MAJORITY)

Jerry Falwell begins the evangelical Moral Majority that decries homosexuality and abortion, and posits belief in salvation only through faith in a Christian God. 

SAYYID QUTB (1906-1966, EGYPTIAN AUTHOR,EDUCATOR,ISLAMIC THEORIST,POET,AND LEADING MEMBER OF THE MUSLIM BROTHEHOOD)

SAYYID QUTB (1906-1966, EGYPTIAN AUTHOR,EDUCATOR,ISLAMIC THEORIST,POET,AND LEADING MEMBER OF THE MUSLIM BROTHERHOOD) Qutb (pronounced “kootube), like Falwell and Christianity, believes only in his faith, a Mohammedan God.

Smith’s, Marx’s, and Darwin’s ideas play out in religions and nation-states that deeply influence the modern world.

Hamilton, Jefferson, Falwell, Qutb, Lenin, Stalin, Hitler, Mao, and other leaders adopt, adapt, and distort Smith’s, Marx’s, and Darwin’s ideas; figuratively leading humanity to heaven and hell.

What Montgomery and Chirot do is return to original texts of Smith, Marx, and Darwin to show how their ideas penetrate Hamilton’s, Jefferson’s, Falwell’s, and Qutb’s thoughts and actions.  As Smith’s ideas are more widely disseminated and read, America’s economic policy changes. The world’s economy evolves.

Falwell and Qutb reflect on unleashed sectarian beliefs consequent to Darwin’s idea of evolution.  If there is no God, then what in life is not permitted?  Qutb disapproves of Gamal Abdel Nasser’s westernization of Egypt because it violates the Quran and Muslim Arab identity. 

Gamal Abdel Nasser 1918-1970 (Egyptian politician, 2nd President of Egypt 1954-1970).

Montgomery and Chirot note that much of the religious right is reactionary.  The religious right challenges the socioeconomic belief of Smith’s sectarian vision of the invisible hand.   To a Christian, the invisible hand can only be God’s hand.   Marx and Darwin’s science only has relevance if it fits God’s plan.

To Qutb, the true path for humankind is through the word of the Koran.  The authors question the good works of the evangelical movement when it infringes on human freedom and ignores scientific evidence.  On the other hand, the authors note that religion plays an important role in the history of morality.  Many question the direction of evangelicals but religions continue to shape morality in good and bad ways.

China’s rapid advance may not be exactly what Marx predicts but it is a kind of capitalist evolution that incorporates some of the tenants of communist centralized control. 

Just as Deng’s and Xi’s interpretation of Marxism distorts communism, Keynes’ and Hayek’s belief in free enterprise distorts Smith’s economics. 

Darwin’s view of evolution is morphing into arguments for genetic manipulation to create more perfect human beings.  One questions whether this is a step toward Nazism or nirvana.

As Victor Hugo notes, “An invasion of armies can be resisted, but not an idea whose time has come.”  Montgomery and Chirot have written an informative and interesting history of “..Big Ideas and How They Made the Modern World”.

In the end, “The Shape of the New” is a tribute to the importance of a liberal education.  One may be a genius, but without a liberal education genius is often so narrowly focused, it leads to societal destruction.

GOD IS NOT THERE

Audio-book Review
By Chet Yarbrough

(Blog:awalkingdelight)
Website: chetyarbrough.blog

Go Tell It on the MountainGo Tell It On the Mountain

Written by: James Baldwin

Narrated by: Adam Lazarre-White

JAMES BALDWIN (1924-1987 AMERICAN NOVELIST & SOCIAL CRITIC)
JAMES BALDWIN (1924-1987 AMERICAN NOVELIST, SOCIAL CRITIC)

Go Tell It on the Mountain because God is not there.  Go Tell It on the Mountain because no one listens.  Go Tell It on the Mountain because no one cares.  James Baldwin rages against culture that makes one, what one is not.  Baldwin wins fame from a book that defines the chains of discrimination.  He explains why and how culture is a curse.  Baldwin tells a story that explains why being different denies equal opportunity.

Go Tell It on the Mountain is partly auto biographical.  It tells of the author’s remembrance of his childhood and formative years.  In broad perspective, Go Tell It on the Mountain shows how Americans are born as equals but deprived of potential by culture.  Though published in 1953, the truth of Baldwin’s observations about culture is institutionalized in America.

Baldwin writes a story about three economic opportunities for early 20th century black Americans.  They are announced by Baldwin as robber, pimp, or preacher.  Today, some believe blacks are still not suited for more.

STEREOTYPING
Only when human beings are treated as equal will stereotypes disappear.

Baldwin’s story is about two fathers of the same boy.  One is the natural father; the other is a stepfather.  The birth father is characterized as naturally smart.  He moves from the rural south to the urban north with a woman he does not marry.  The father is arrested for being at a store when two black men rob it.  Because the father is in the wrong place at the wrong time, he is sent to jail for trial.  The father is accused but not convicted.  He is so shaken by the experience; he slits his wrists and dies.  What would this father have become if he had not been arrested and jailed?  The innate skill of a human being may be a combination of genetics and environment but if one’s color says you can only be a robber, a pimp, a preacher, a sports star, or an entertainer; being smart is not enough.  Only when human beings are treated as equal will stereotypes disappear.

BLACK PREACHER
The irony of a stepfather/ preacher’s abuse is that he is biblically as sinful as most human beings.  (In retrospect, knowing that Baldwin is gay, one surmises how abusive a religious stepfather might be.)

The second father of the same boy, a stepfather, also gravitates from the rural south to the north but he is older and knows success as a preacher.  He is not characterized as particularly smart but he believes in God and talks the talk of a good man who will rescue an unwed mother and her child from a life of despair.  However, the stepfather is a martinet.  He severely punishes his wife and children for what he considers sin or disrespect.  The irony of the preacher’s abuse is that he is biblically as sinful as most human beings.  (In retrospect, knowing that Baldwin is gay, one surmises how abusive a religious stepfather might be.)

What makes Baldwin’s book important is its reflection on a part of American culture that denies equal opportunity for all.  A smart man kills himself because he is black and has experienced the hate and inequality of discrimination.  A preacher beats his wife and sons because he believes he has a right, given by God, to assay sin and punish those who violate his limited understanding.

EQUAL OPPORTUNITY
What makes Baldwin’s book important is its reflection on a part of American culture that denies equal opportunity for all.

INSTITUTIONAL DISCRIMINATION
INSTITUTIONAL DISCRIMINATION

Being smart or being religious is not enough; particularly if you are a minority or a woman because cultures stultify individuality and restrict opportunity.  Individuality and opportunity are hindered by poor education and biases that are eternally engendered (institutionalized) by discrimination.  Blacks have shown they are more than criminals, preachers, sports stars, and entertainers.  And women have shown they are more than child bearers and housewives but America continues to struggle with equal opportunity for all.  Baldwin exemplifies America’s struggle in Go Tell It on the Mountain.

NARCONOMICS

Audio-book Review
By Chet Yarbrough

(Blog:awalkingdelight)
Website: chetyarbrough.blog

Narconomics: How to Run a Drug Cartel

Written by: Tom Wainwright

Narration by:  Brian Hutchison

TOM WAINWRIGHT (BRITISH AUTHOR, EDITOR OF THE ECONOMIST)

TOM WAINWRIGHT (BRITISH AUTHOR, EDITOR OF THE ECONOMIST)

“Narconomics” is about the business of illegal drugs. 

Tom Wainwright notes drug cartels are modern businesses. They benefit rich owners while liberally rewarding middle class managers with money, power, and prestige.  The difference is–middle managers brutally terrorize employees, kill their customers, and murder innocent bystanders. 

Drug Cartel murders Mormon Family living in Mexico in 2019.

Picture from the New York Post, Nov. 6, 2019.

These business conglomerates systematically brutalize the public. The manufacture and sale of illegal drugs is a growth industry, diversifying its practices and products while becoming global enterprises.  An irony of Wainwright’s story is the ugliness and economic success of drug cartel businesses are abetted by bribe-taking government leaders. 

President Enrique Peña Nieto (Former President of Mexico– accused of bribery from the Oil Industry and Sinaloa Drug Cartel.)

The substance of Wainwright’s book is that cartels are run with many of the fundamental principles (aside from overt terror and murder) that make international companies richly successful.

DRUG CARTELS (ONE OF SEVERAL MONOPOLIES IN THE WORLD)

Though policies like the war on drugs and alcohol prohibition were meant to save people from themselves, Wainwright suggests they failed. 

ADDICTS SHOULD BE TREATED; NOT JAILED

When desire for money, power, or prestige is unmet, humans compensate with drug use; or other escapist behaviors.

METHODOLOGY OF DRUG REHABILITATION

Wainwright argues that understanding drug cartel business practices will show how their industry profits can be disrupted. 

Wainwright suggests changing the focus from a war on drug producers and sellers to a policy for treating, educating, and rehabilitating users.

Wainwright shows how drug cartels capitalize on fundamental human drives and weaknesses.  He goes on to suggest how drug cartels can be destroyed.

Rather than spending billions to militarize national police forces, Wainwright suggests those dollars be spent to treat, rehabilitate, and educate accused and/or incarcerated users. 

In destroying the drug cartel’s consumer base, they lose profit.  Without profit there is no money, no power, and no prestige.  There is only a failed business model.

Wainwright goes on to suggest that drug use be decriminalized and regulated by the government.  This is no panacea but history shows that the war on drugs is a failure.  The heart of success for drug cartels is its adoption of business practices that generate profit.  The reality of the fundamentals of well-run business organizations is that they do not disappear.  Remove the source of profit and businesses either fail or are compelled to change.

LONG REACH OF DRUG CARTELS

Wainwright explains that the business of illegal drugs is a global enterprise.

 A global level of government cooperation is needed for effective elimination of drug cartels.  No single nation can eradicate cartels because of globalization.  One nation’s success in the drug war only compels cartels to move to neighboring countries.  The solution lies in treating, rehabilitating, and educating drug users.  Only with decriminalization, user medical treatment, and public education will the source of profit for drug cartels be cut off.

DOLLAR SIGN

Wainwright offers a compelling argument for attacking drug cartels by removing the source of their profits.  The source of profits is the consuming public; not the illegal drug manufacturers and distributors.

The fact that drug cartels are run like businesses reveals an infrastructure that allows diversification.  Once profits are reduced for drug manufacture and distribution, cartels will change to survive.

Wainwright notes that drug cartels have already diversified; i.e. they are human traffickers, and extortion consortiums.  Government agencies and the general public are equally repulsed by human trafficking, murder, and extortion.  Governments and the general public are more likely to cooperate in eradicating that type of criminal activity; less so with drug addiction.

DRUG ADDICT

The glimmer of hope is that cartel diversification does not pander to the desire for escape from reality offered by drugs.

There is no simple or cheap alternative to “the war on drugs” but there is a history that shows in its current form, war does not work.

Illegal drug manufacturers and distributors are just the cost of doing business; not the source of profit. Cure the public of its need for drugs, decriminalize drug use, or at least treat the addicted, and drug cartels have no motive to be in the business. 

A MODERN MACHIAVELLI

Audio-book Review
By Chet Yarbrough

(Blog:awalkingdelight)
Website: chetyarbrough.com

Human Action (A Treatise on Economics)

Written by: Ludwig von Mises

Narrated by: Jeff Riggenbach

LUDWIG von MISES (1881-1973, THEORETICAL ECONOMIST OF THE AUSTRIAN SCHOOLD, INFLUENCED HAYEK AND FRIEDMAN)
LUDWIG von MISES (1881-1973, THEORETICAL ECONOMIST OF THE AUSTRIAN SCHOOLD, INFLUENCED HAYEK AND FRIEDMAN)

America is on the threshold of the largest tax change since Ronald Reagan’s presidency.  If past is prologue, trickle down economics will not work, the deficit will rise, and the poorest will  be victimized.  The genesis of the delusion of trickle down economics comes from interpretations of a modern Machiavelli.

Ludwig von Mises is a twentieth century Machiavelli.  This near 48-hour audio book details a theory of economics that will offend modern liberals, expose weakness of libertarians, and vilify the new American President’s nationalist policies.  The venality of treating government as a business is a mistake of monumental proportion.

Approaching von Mises as a devil incarnate is unfair.  His beliefs are pilloried by today’s liberals as loudly as aristocrats and rulers vilified Machiavelli in the 16th century.  Like Machiavelli, von Mises looks at the world as it is; not as it ought to be.  His observations cut at modern liberal, as well as anarchic, views of highly regarded liberals like Ralph Nader, Martin Luther King, Norm Chomsky, and alleged conservatives-like President Trump.

DONALD TRUMP (REPUBLICAN NOMINEE FOR PRESIDENT OF THE U.S. 2016)
PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP

In von Mises book, Roosevelt’s New Deal is vilified.  Additionally, von Mises vociferously disagrees with the liberal John Maynard Keyne’s economic interventionist creed. Ironically, Donald Trump may be the most interventionist President since FDR with a scatter brained economic plan that von Mises would equally vilify.

Von Mises observations have historical credibility.  What they do not have is social conscience.  In fact, he suggests social conscience is a fiction perpetrated by populists to distort the value of capitalist economies.  Like Machiavelli, von Mises observes the nature of human beings, and recognizes their inherent irrationality and moral weakness.  Von Mises illustrates numerous examples of human irrationality; beginning with market consumption, and ending with entrepreneurial ambition.  Donald Trump exemplifies von Mises argument that humans are irrational, greedy, power-hungry, and vain.  For President Trump to believe taxing imports by 20% makes Mexico pay for a useless five-billion-dollar wall is absurd.  The American consumer will pay for that wall in increased cost of Mexican produce and manufactured goods.TRUMP AND FREE TRADE

Von Mises criticizes famous economists like David Ricardo for introducing politics into economics.  Von Mises argues that the drive for money, power, and prestige are inherent in an entrepreneurial capitalist system.  Von Mises argues that government officials who profess social conscience distort free enterprise by picking winners and losers.  When politicians pass legislation that aids one entrepreneur over another, it distorts the driving force of capitalist economies.  He equally vilifies government leaders who impose tariffs on international trade.  Von Mises explains that the fallacy of government leaders who pass favoring legislation is that the real mover of the economy is the consumer; not the producer.

FRENCH REVOLUTION
Von Mises believes labor has a choice.  They can work for low wages or remain idle.  The fallacy of that argument is the inherent unfairness of not having enough income to live creates revolutionary discontent.

The logical extension of von Mises’ theory is that any government planning or action that affects an entrepreneur’s willingness to take a risk to produce product, or service a customer’s perceived needs, is bad for society.  To von Mises, efforts to organize labor is an interference with capitalist entrepreneurs because labor is not taking a risk. Von Mises argues that labor costs will find its own level by being an automated tool of the entrepreneur; subject to hunger and deprivation if they choose not to participate.  Von Mises point is that the entrepreneur will pay what he/she must to have labor available, but no more than what the end-product consumer is willing to pay.  Von Mises believes labor has a choice.  They can work for low wages or remain idle.  The fallacy of that argument is the inherent unfairness of not having enough income to live creates revolutionary discontent.

UNION MOVEMENTUnions offer a vehicle for leveling the power between businesses and labor.  To not allow unionization is tantamount to favoring businesses that are no longer competitive but are today recognized as an economic equivalent of individuals.  Not to give unions a place “at the table” is morally, ethically, and economically unfair; particularly in industries that are no longer entrepreneurial.

Another von Mises’ observational theory is that government policy should have no role in subsidizing new inventions, new drugs, the ecology of the world, or the elimination of slavery because such policies interfere with pure capitalism. This reinforces absurdist arguments of libertarians.

NATIONAL INSTITUTE OF HEALTH
NATIONAL INSTITUTE OF HEALTH (RESEARCH INSTITUTE FINANCED BY THE GOVERNMENT.)

American creativity has historically been benefited by government subsidization of technological advances.  (President Putin noted in a 60 Minutes’ interview that creativity is his most admired quality in the American economy.) The speed of improvements in health, education, and welfare historically increased with government subsidization of drug research, public education, and the energy industry.

THE CIVIL WARThe fallacy of von Mises’ theory lies in the framework of theorists.  It ignores human existence by hiding behind the unquantifiable nature of society.  One may argue that America’s Civil War had nothing to do with the elimination of slavery.  (Von Mises suggests that slavery was abolished because it became too expensive; not because it was morally and ethically reprehensible.)  One may argue that Roosevelt’s New Deal was a failure.  One may argue that the Marshall Plan after WWII rewarded failed nations.  One may argue that George Bush’s and Barrack Obama’s decisions to bail out the American economy interfered with pure capitalism. History suggests von Mises is wrong.  Government intervention can be good as well as bad.  (Bush unilaterally agreed to lend $17.4 billion of taxpayers’ money to General Motors and Chrysler, of which $13.4 billion was to be extended immediately.)

Von Mises lived into the 1970 s.  How could he ignore the moral and ethical iniquity of slavery, the value of the Marshall Plan, government subsidization of the American banking system, financial incentives for the energy industry, and the billions spent to advance technological inventions?  Those are good examples of government intervention.  On the other hand, building a wall between Mexico and the U.S. and levying a 20% import tax is a bad government intervention.TRUMP'S WALL 2

American capitalism works because of the checks and balances written in the Constitution.  Von Mises theory is based on valid observations but social conscience, whether statistically measurable or not, must be a part of decisions that affect the lives of millions.  Mistakes will be made, and have been made, but economic statistics cannot be substituted for pragmatism.