Saturday Links of the Week: October 4, 2008

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The always-brilliant Charles Barsotti in this week’s New Yorker sums up the real problem behind the financial system collapse

Still euphoric over the past week’s retreat on Bowen Island BC, and the possibilities it has allowed me to imagine — a whole world of informed people with the essential capacities, notably the capacities of collaboration, conversation, imagination and self-management, needed to thrive in the 21st century. More on this in coming days. Meanwhile, here’s what made it though my filters this week:

Extend Extend Extend Yourself: Communicatrix writes: “Sometimes, the most productive thing you can do is to pick up the phone when it rings and talk to the (relative, soon-to-be-not) (and brave!) stranger on the other end.” Or to be brave and initiate that call yourself.

The Practice of Sleeping Outside: Chris Corrigan tells us why sleeping outside is important to connecting with ourselves and with all-life-on-Earth. Why don’t we do it more often?

Changing Human Behaviour: Taxes vs Caps vs Education: If you want to change consumer (and hence producer) behaviour, there are several ways you can do it. Taxes (and incentives and subsidies, their opposite) are one way, punishing certain behaviours and rewarding others where it hits hardest, in the pocketbook. Caps, limits and regulations are another. prohibiting certain behaviours outright (this only works if you have the will, means and manpower to enforce them). Awareness and education, using knowledge and moral suasion to change behaviour, is a third. While all three are needed, and can be effective, more and more evidence suggests that taxes, and incentives and subsidies for alternative behaviours, are far and away the most effective, and solving modern problems like global warming and peak oil cannot be done without them.

The Value of Everything: It’s All Psychology: A NYT story correctly states that what stocks, homes and anything else is worth is no more or less than what most people think (trust) they’re worth. This is the argument that says the trillion dollar bailout, by massively loosening credit and the ability to issue and borrow more money, will reassure investors and borrowers that everything is OK and they can go on spending more and more every day to keep the growth economy afloat. But what this argument misses is that there are fundamentals underlying these investments that suggest that their current value is wildly inflated. The real rate of inflation today, despite the lies of governments, is double digits, so investing your money in anything that pays only single digit returns is waving it goodbye. No house is worth more than the cost of building a comparable new home at rates that reflect the true cost of materials and labour. No stock is worth more than the current value of future cash flows, which as our economy moves to steady-state is a fraction of what most stocks are selling for today, despite their recent plunge. And no currency is worth more than its issuer’s capacity to make good on it by providing real goods and services, repaying the debts it incurred to issue it. The only thing between us and the second Great Depression is the belief that there is no inflation, that houses are worth three times what it cost to build them, that stocks are worth three times future discounted cash flows, and that the US will somehow be able to repay a $12 trillion and rising debt to stave off bankruptcy, so that its currency has a value greater than zero. How long we will continue to believe this is anyone’s guess, but I can’t see it being longer than twenty years.

CDS: The Next $55T Bubble: Credit default swaps are completely unregulated (Bush made regulation of them illegal), greater in value (on paper) than the global GDP, and Warren Buffet called them “financial weapons of mass destruction”. They may be next to collapse. Thanks to Dale Asberry for the link.

Bail Out OF Wall Street: Community Economy advocate Catherine Fitts suggests ten ways you can move your money and time from corporatist investments to community-based and local learning investments.

Safely Drinking Toxic Sludge: The makers of insecticide-soaked screens and tarps has now come up with a straw that allows you to instantly drink water from anywhere without having to boil out impurities and microbes. I suppose it is a breakthrough for those living in desolated struggling nations whose waters have all turned to sewers and toxic waste lagoons, but am I the only one that sees this type of innovation as alarming, even tragic? Is this what we’ve come to? Thanks to Craig De Ruisseau for the link.

Just for Fun: Where the Hell is Matt: A lovable dancing fool infects the world with his message of joy. Thanks to Joan in Vancouver for the link.

Thoughts for the Week: from Goethe: “Know yourself — never by thinking, always by doing”. And from Margaret Miller: “Most conversations are merely monologuesdelivered in the presence of witnesses.”

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One Response to Saturday Links of the Week: October 4, 2008

  1. Hi Dave–You should see this as a trackback, but just in case, on reading Chris Corrigan’s post on sleeping outside, made me remember a journal entry I’d made last winter, so posted about it and linked to this Saturday round up:http://virtualteahouse.com/blogs/beth/archive/2008/10/05/the-joy-of-sleeping-outside.aspxThanks!

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