Michael Eriksson's Blog

A Swede in Germany

Posts Tagged ‘Society

The Left, COVID, and absurd disappointment

leave a comment »

On quite a few occasions,* I have seen complaints along the line that “I can’t understand that the Left did this!” or “I can’t understand that the Left didn’t resist this!” in reference to COVID-countermeasures (be it in general or with some specific example). This often with a rider of “We are supposed to be the good guys!”, “We are supposed to be the ones who stand up for freedom!”, or similar.

*Including several times on the otherwise usually excellent Brownstone, including, today and as a borderline case, Why did the Left Fail the Covid Test So Badly?. (The title does not fully match the contents of the article, but it was the final straw for me to write this text.)

This well illustrates the difference between those who understand the Left and those who do not, especially between those who look at the actual actions of the Left and those who only listen to the self-portrayal (and portrayal of the “enemy”) spouted by the Left:

None of this “did” and “didn’t” is the least bit surprising, except maybe in that the Leftists got away with it so brazenly and with so little protest from the non(!)-Left. The exact character of the Left does vary from country to country, time to time, and faction to faction (even within one country), but most of what we have seen is typical Leftist behaviors and attitudes applied to a new situation. Disregard for the individual in face of a claimed greater good? Check! Massive reality distortion to reach political or ideological goals? Check! Censorship? Check! Defamation and maligning of opponents and dissenters? Check! Forcing compliance by whatever means necessary? Check! Wanting demonstrations of said compliance? Check! Complete disregard for Economics, side-effects, incentives, whatnot? Check! Pursuing a once stated goal religiously, even when that goal has been proved harmful or pointless? Check! Pushing power from the citizens to the government? Check! Pushing power from local governments to central government? Check! Pushing power from elected officials to bureaucrats? Check! Demanding a uniform support from news organizations and other media? Check! (Etc.)

No, the Leftist behavior is not the least bit surprising—and neither is the fact that the greatest COVID-sinners tendentially were Leftist governments. Truly surprising, on the contrary, was that the Swedish Social-Democrats, the historical main proponents of the nanny state, proved to have one of the most reasonable (least unreasonable?) attitudes with an eye at e.g. the economy, civic rights, and medical “conventional wisdom”*. Similarly, if anything, it is the many (if usually lesser) failures of non-Leftist parties, e.g. in Germany and the U.K., that are surprising.**

*One meta-reason why there were so many governmental failures, is that old and reasonably proven approaches and old and reasonably proven knowledge were rejected in favor of experimentation and speculation, possibly in the misguided belief that COVID was something truly new, instead of a variation of an old theme.

**But, in all fairness, it does fit into a larger pattern both of politicians growing ever more self-absorbed and of “RINOs” (resp. the local equivalent) being ever present. In Germany, the Merkel-run CDU, the allegedly Conservative “Christian Democratic Union”, had increasingly and long before COVID betrayed its voters and its natural values, be they Conservative, Christian, or democratic, in favor of populism-to-stay-in-power, of implementation of Leftist ideas, and of letting Leftists into power unnecessarily. (Note e.g. how Merkel repeatedly preferred to form coalition governments with the Social-Democrats over more natural coalitions and/or minority governments.) On the other hand, the new, post-Merkel, Social-Democrat government has so far been even worse COVID-wise, after adjusting for the lower infection rates. If the Social-Democrats had it entirely their way, there would, among other things, be forced vaccinations.

Written by michaeleriksson

September 22, 2022 at 5:07 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

Tagged with , , , ,

Inflation hitting harder than it officially should

leave a comment »

During the days of comparatively low inflation, before the COVID-countermeasure and Russia-boycott era[s] took over, I repeatedly saw claims that inflation numbers were highly misleading and that the “true” inflation rate was higher than officially indicated.* While I never looked into this in detail, it does seem to hold in the current world, where price hikes on at least food** have often been far larger than the alleged, already high, inflation rate.

*Including some interesting side-claims, e.g. that governmental dietary recommendations were less aimed at improving health and more at shifting consumption to cheaper foodstuffs, e.g. from meat to bread. (I make no statement about the correctness of this claim, but I note that the recommendations that I remember from school were quite heavy in carbohydrates, which are often viewed less positively today, and easy on proteins, in general, and non-dairy animal products, in particular.)

**My consumption of other things than food and energy tends to be small and irregular, making changes hard to judge. (There are books and the like, but I buy a book once, and a difference in price between two different books tells me little about inflation.) Moreover, I do not pay attention to my own energy prices unless my supplier sends me a letter; and the price increases on energy are complicated through government interventions, and correspondingly hard to judge relative inflation when we look at the direct consumption. (But it is a major driver of inflation through indirect consumption, as electricity goes into virtually everything else that we buy.)

Some examples that have particularly annoyed me,* typically** with a price change taking place in 2022 alone:

*Especially in light of their being unnecessary, being largely caused by flawed government interventions of various types, notably regarding COVID and energy.

**As I have not kept actual notes, I cannot be more specific than that.

Milk: Used to be 60-something cents for a liter.* Is now at 99 cents, for an increase of around 50 (!) percent.**

*Here and elsewhere, I go by the brands that I usually buy. Note that I tend to buy cheaper brands, including store brands. (Germans might recognize “Ja!” as a good example.)

**I will use rough approximations throughout, as I do not usually know the exact old and/or the exact new price. Here, as a lower limit based on an original price of 69 cents, we have 43 percent. With lower original prices, the percentage increases.

Meals for frying: The local Aldi has a range of ready meals that just need a few minutes in a frying pan.* The one that I bought most often, a great personal favorite, was at 1.80-something. A few months ago, it was raised to 2.20-something, and then, again, to 2.60-something—40 percent or more.

*There is almost certainly a good English word for such, but I have no idea what it might be.

(Various other frozen meals? In a very rough guesstimate, the average price increase has been in excess of 20 percent on e.g. frozen pizzas, frozen lasagnas, and whatnots, with a variation from product to product.)

Sausages: The type and package of sausage that I have bought most frequently over the last few years, used to be at (likely) 1.99 Euro. The last time around, it was at 2.39 (?), for around 20 percent.

Coffee: I used to be able to buy the “good” brands for around 2.50 Euro per 500g package at ever recurring* sales, with a regular price of around 5 Euro. Today, the rebated price tends to be above 5 Euro and the regular price at 7-something Euro. Moreover, there are fewer sales. From my point of view, the prices have roughly doubled. (However, coffee often underlies price fluctuations based on e.g. how successful harvests have been. The overall change might reflect more than just inflation.)

*For a long stretch, the brands took turns with sales in a near continuous manner.

Rote Grütze:* Aldi used to sell this in 1kg buckets (handle and all). By now, the buckets are gone and 0.5kg containers have come instead. The buckets used to sell for around 2.50 Euro; the cones are at around 1.50 Euro, for a price/kg of around 3 Euro and, again, an increase of roughly 20 percent.

*There appears to be no good English name, but compote seems to be something slightly similar.

An interesting “maybe” is a great deterioration in the quality of my (previously) favorite brand* of muesli: For a period of maybe six months, every new package that I bought contained less and less nuts and more and more raisins. While I have nothing against raisins, this has shifted both the taste- and the health-profiles in a negative direction: The taste is by now over-powered by the raisins, the benefits of the nuts are gone, and the fast sugars of the raisins are likely to screw with how the body reacts.** The last time around, I actually found myself manually picking out as many raisins as I (with a reasonable effort) could. This was a few months ago and I have no intention of revisiting the brand.

*One of the two versions of the Rewe store-brand to be specific.

**Indeed, one of the reasons that I preferred this brand was that is was, originally, lower in fast sugars than many others. Notably, as great as good muesli is, it is very energy rich. Combine this energy richness with fast sugars and the associated ups-and-downs in blood sugar level, and I suspect bad things to be the result.

Excursion on shrinkflation:
With some reservations for rote Grütze above, I am not aware of any case of shrinkflation, but as the intent of shrinkflation is typically subterfuge, there might well be such cases that I simply have missed.

Excursion on low-end products being hit harder:
I would speculate that low-end products are more sensitive to the current problems, which might make me more affected by price increases, as the margins are lower. Higher-end products tend to have higher margins, which could mean that the seller and/or producer are willing to swallow more of a cost increase and/or to delay the price increase for some time—especially, when a portion of the cost increase is believed to be temporary. (Then again, maybe it is the other way around, as they might consider their customers less price sensitive.) An interesting potential example of this is coffee (cf. above): not only have the rebated prices taken a proportionally worse hit than the “full” prices, but capsules for Dolce Gusto* have taken a smaller hit still, at maybe 20 percent. A regular carton of 16 capsules used to be almost as expensive as a 0.5kg package of plain ground coffee, but, obviously, only gives 16 cups, which is far less than the 0.5kg package used for drip brews,** and the margins were correspondingly much larger. (I would not be surprised if most of the price was markup.) Correspondingly, the sellers might prefer to reduce the margin a bit and keep the customers, over keeping the margin and potentially losing customers.

*I buy these once in a blue moon, as the speed and convenience can be pleasant, but I taste-wise (and price-wise…) prefer regular drip brews.

**I have never kept tabs on the number of cups, especially as I make smaller cups when brewing; however, going by weight, my recently purchased “Grande” appears to have “16 x 8g = 128g” according to the carton. This is marginally more than a quarter of the regular coffee; most other types of “black coffee” Dolce Gusto use less or considerably less coffee; and the various cappuccinos, lattes, and whatnot only have 8 doses of coffee (and 8 doses of e.g. milk), making their coffee content correspondingly smaller. (However, they sell at the same price, regardless of coffee content.)

Excursion on inflation vs. deflation vs. fix value:
Even in the glorious days of 2-percent inflation, I was highly skeptical to the approach taken by various governments, central banks, and whatnots. I am not convinced that even this level of inflation was justified by sound Economics, but suspect that it was a matter of governmental convenience at the cost of the people.* Would not a zero inflation be fairer and better for everyone? Alternatively, like in some stretches of “yore”, that prices may have risen one year, sunk the next, and averaged out to near constancy over a longer stretch of time.**

*This might include aspects like a lower debt burden, exchange rates that do not grow too high (by some standard), an implicit shifting of tax brackets to put more and more of the people in higher brackets, and similar. For Leftist governments, we have the added “advantage” of existing fortunes being undermined; and, maybe even for non-Leftist governments, that there is a greater incentive to work, as saving up for the future and living on money already earned is harder.

**Notably, for countries on a gold or silver standard when the amount of available gold resp. silver was approximately constant or grew approximately in proportion to the overall economy.

Take it one step further: Would not deflation (i.e. “negative inflation”) be the way to go to increase the wealth of the people? Keep your salary and your bank account at the same level—and ten years down the line you will still earn more and be wealthier (in real terms). Let better production methods and other developments drive prices down, even if slowly, and everyone might be better off. Ditto if product quantity and/or quality improves at a fix price.

There are claims that a little inflation would be a good thing, and that deflation would be bad; however, these claims have so far left me unconvinced as their are too many conditions applied and/or too much speculation.* For instance, with a deflation of 2 percent a year (compare the longstanding inflation goals of 2 percent a year), why would anyone be deterred from consumption? A similar** effect has not prevented e.g. the computer industry from flourishing and leaving products like food for next year, when they will be cheaper, is either silly or suicidal. Inflation allows (real) wages to go down? Only very temporarily, as the unions will factor in the inflation in the next round of increases. There might be less incentives to borrow money, but I do not see that as a bad thing. Etc.

*Including assumptions about an otherwise fixed economy, without productivity improvements; use of severe deflation (e.g. 20 percent a year) instead of mild (e.g. 2 percent a year); and application of short-term thinking on the agents within the economy in that deflation is a rare abnormality that causes unusual concerns and behaviors. (The latter does match the current situation, but not the situation suggested by me.) Indeed, I suspect that the point of various claims is less to give a fair analysis and more to “prove” that “deflation is bad; ergo, we must have inflation”.

**Here we have a deflationary effect specific to the product group, as opposed to an economy-wide one.

Excursion on “mis-yearing” price increases:
A confounding factor is that businesses do not necessarily increase prices immediately in reaction to various events. The reasons for this can be manifold, including e.g. a wish to wait until the competition raises prices, a wish to avoid unnecessary up-and-down fluctuations, a fear that raising too many prices at once (in e.g. a grocery store) can put off too many customers. Then there is the wish to keep those annoying “x.99” prices. For instance, if a certain product sells at 0.99* and a 10-percent increase is called for (according to some set of criteria), then this would result in a price of 1.09. If the margins are large enough and the fear present that the leading “1” will be a greater deterrent than the leading “0”, it might make sense to wait. A year later, another 10-percent increase is called for, or a “real” price of 1.19**. Foregoing 10 cent is one thing, 20 another, and now the price is raised by the full amount. The impression of the customers might then be misleading, because they are not aware that they had been given an implicit 10-cent rebate in the past. It is certainly possible that the strong price increases in 2022 go back partially to such delays in the increases.

*Here and below, I will leave out the currency units. They would add nothing to the illustration. Note, however, that I implicitly assume an x.yz system in both currency units and notation, which does not apply to all currencies.

**Strictly speaking, 1.20, but that would violate the prices-must-always-end-with-a-9 rule.

Excursion on multiplicative rates and underestimating inflation:
One reason that many underestimate inflation is that they fail to consider its multiplicative nature. For instance, to repeat and extend the above calculations with a more sensible 1 as a basis:

Iteration/Year True value* Naive value**
0 1.00 1.00
1 1.10 1.10
2 1.21 1.20
3 1.33 1.30
4 1.46 1.40
10 2.59 2.00
20 6.73 3.00

*Value achieved by multiplying with a factor of 1.1 for each iteration. Rounded and/or padded to fit the normal price format.

**Value achieved by just adding 10 percent of the original price per iteration. Padded to fit the normal price format.

As we can see, the difference between the true and the naive value is small for the first few years, although a difference is notable already in iteration/year 3 and certainly 4.* However, as time passes, it explodes upwards.

*The naivety of the naive estimate might be increased, should typical pricing be used, as we might then have e.g. 1.29 instead of 1.33 for the third iteration/year—but we might see an apparent explosion to 1.49 for the fourth. (The same phenomenon as discussed in the previous excursion.)

Excursion on other attempts to mislead customers:
Attempts at e.g. “shrinkflation” are not the only problems. For instance, I have recently bought quite a few semi-ready meals from Knorr, where a ready-made mix of pasta, cheese, and various other ingredients are heated in water for a few minutes—convenient, tastes well, and very filling if enough water is used to create something closer to soup than a “dry” meal. (Healthy? More dubious.) However, the misleading claims about energy are definitely problematic. For instance, the package that I am looking at right now makes three claims about energy content: (a) 397 kJ per 100 g of cooked (“zubereitet”) product. A careless customer will now look at the 100 g and the overall raw weight of 153 g and assume roughly an overall of 600 kJ—which borders on diet food. The true value is 2598 kJ, or well above four times as much. The more pleasant value is an illusion created by counting the water. (b) 1294 kJ per alleged serving* (“Portion”). The careless customer would now naturally assume that this is the result of cooking the overall, but he is still off by a factor of two—allegedly, two servings result from a single package. To this, I note that cooking just half the contents while keeping an even distribution of various ingredients would be tricky, that the dish is not suitable for a keep-and-reheat scenario, and that only half would be too little for a full meal for one person. (Half might or might not do as a snack or as a part of a multi-course meal.) (c) 15 % of the energy needed per day.* This, again, per alleged serving and with the same misunderstanding likely to arise. (But, oddly, the value is kept high by using a reference person at 8400 kJ per day, which, I suspect, is on the low side for men and growing teenagers of either sex.)

*Both servings and energy-per-day measures are next to useless, as they vary much too much from person to person. The former does more harm-than-good and should be banned, as they are often outright abused. (I recall seeing bags of potato chips that used servings of 20 g, or well below an ounce. Does not sound like a typical serving to me.) The latter likely do more harm-than-good, and it would be better for the individuals to learn what fits them on an individual basis.

The two values that would have made the most sense, energy per uncooked weight (kJ/100g) and energy per entire package, are very, very absent.

Written by michaeleriksson

September 19, 2022 at 5:57 pm

Governments and energy

leave a comment »

The energy policy of many current governments is puzzling, to say the least. Looking at developments over time, it is as if they deliberately wanted to ruin the energy supply and/or drive up energy prices.* A great example is the German “Energiewende”, which over the last fifteen-or-so years has driven up energy prices artificially in order to finance “green” energy sources like solar panels and wind turbines. So far, so good. (Well, excepting that these “green” energy sources are now known to be far from ideal.) The gains in energy production, however, were not spent where it made sense, namely to reduce the use of fossil fuels—no, they were focused on diminishing the use of nuclear power! Nuclear power, which should, almost must, be the backbone of any environmentally friendly energy supply, instead became the first sacrifice.**/***

*Indeed, some debaters on the Internet have suggested this very thing, e.g. as part of some WEF scheme. I do not say that they are correct, but the suspicion is, at a minimum, very understandable.

**One of the reasons that I cannot take the environmentalist movements seriously is their absurd hatred of and propaganda against nuclear power, which demonstrates a great ignorance of the relative costs, risks, pros, cons, and whatnots of various energy forms. Also see excursion.

***At least for the foreseeable future. A few decades from now, this might or might not be different, but today nuclear power is a near-necessity.

This is the more absurd as cheap and plentiful energy is the key to a blossoming modern society. Not only are and were energy costs, even before the current, politician created, energy crisis, a major factor in household budgets,* but energy enables us to do almost anything in the long term: The mixture of new technologies and energy can move mountains—if the energy actually is available. If the energy is too scarce or too expensive, well, then we have a problem. (Also see excursion.)

*Directly, in an obvious manner; indirectly, through how energy costs affect the prices of other products.

One of the highest priorities of any serious government should correspondingly be to make energy as cheap and plentiful as possible. (Within some reasonable parameters, e.g. that the long term use of fossil fuels is reduced; and in as far as the government involves it self at all.*) Actual governments? They do the exact opposite.

*Government involvement tends to be for the worse. If a sound policy of cheap and plentiful energy is followed, this might or might not be different, but current involvement has definitely made matters worse even in the energy field (cf. above and below).

In fact, to do the exact opposite of what a rational and well-informed government would do seems to be the guiding star of actual governments. Consider the abolishment of nuclear power; the entire German “Energiewende”;* the creation of dependencies on Russia (and OPEC) followed by sanctions against and boycotts of Russia and Russian energy; Biden’s arbitrary block of the Alaskan pipeline; attempts to force the Brits onto heat pumps that are too expensive and often require even more expensive alterations of buildings, or Californians (and many others) onto electric cars that are too expensive, too impractical, and come with a too large hidden** environmental impact. (Bans on fracking might be another example. Here I would need to do more research to say for certain with regard to the overall effects, but the effects on prices and the dependency on Russia are certainly negatives.)

*A topic worthy of its own analysis, but I have too little time for the research needed. (I did skim a few pages on German Wikipedia, but the editors seemed hellbent on giving a one-sided “green” propaganda view of the matters.) I note, however and for example, that enormous amounts of money were spent on supporting the German solar panel industry, which is now borderline bankrupt after being exposed to cheaper Chinese competitors.

**It is not just a matter of how much or little pollution is caused while driving. There is also the matter of the overall life cycle impact of the vehicles, batteries, and infrastructure needed. Moreover, the charge of the batteries has to come from somewhere, and this “somewhere” will often amount to something causing pollution.

Excursion on the benefits of energy:
To take just one example of what can be done with enough energy and good enough technology, consider growing food. There are already small-scale examples of food grown on shelves under artificial lights, instead of under the sun. Get the lights (and, m.m., other conditions) sufficiently close to sunlight in its characteristics and a large enough supply of energy could make the supply of food almost arbitrarily large. (We need more soil to grow the food in? More energy and better technology can solve that. We need robots to handle plant care, harvest, whatnot? More energy and better technology can solve that. We need large buildings or underground halls to house the shelves? More energy and better technology can solve that. Etc.)

From another angle, major historical developments in productivity, living standards, whatnot usually resulted from some combination of better technology, more energy, better or different energy use, or similar. Consider the steam engine and its enormous effects or electricity and its even larger effects.

Excursion on nuclear power:
This is not the place for an in-depth discussion, but I do note that the main argument against nuclear power, the risk of accidents and associated damage, is ridiculously overblown. The Chernobyl accident took place in an already outdated and known-to-be-risky design type (and we are closing onto forty years on top of that) and included gross human negligence—and it was still massively outweighed by the environmental and health damage, including premature deaths, caused by fossil fuels in a single year. The Fukushima event only happened due to an enormous natural disaster that caused far more damage than the nuclear event. Some say that the ensuing evacuation caused more deaths than the Fukushima event would have, had the evacuation not taken place; and that the ensuing, very expensive, clean-ups were mostly unnecessary. At any rate, the Fukushima event was much smaller than the Chernobyl accident and even the sum of the two remains dwarfed by the yearly damage done by fossil fuels.

As a personal example: When I was 4–6 years old, my family lived near* one of Sweden’s nuclear plants. My mother worried about this and explained her worries to me by how a nuclear accident would mean death to us all with no chance of escape. Experiences from Chernobyl prove this claim to be ridiculously wrong (as would some informed thought have), but it is very possible that large swaths of the population still hold similarly incorrect beliefs. (And more than forty years later, this accident of my mother’s fears has still not taken place.)

*I do not know how near, but probably no more than a few miles.

Excursion on doing the opposite:
Unfortunately, the world is full of other examples of governments doing the exact opposite of what they should. For instance, any educated and reasoning person should know that current taxes are too high; that current government is too big; that the key to good schooling* is individualization; that incentives matter for the economy; that we need equal opportunity, not outcome; that we need better protection of rights like free speech; and that own IQ and other largely inborn characteristics matter more than e.g. “parental SES” for life outcomes. (In all cases with some reservations for the country at hand. However, this matches the situation in e.g. Germany, Sweden, and the U.S.) What do governments almost invariably do? They raise taxes even higher; they make government even bigger; they force an increasingly uniform and one-size-fits-all schooling in the name of “social justice”; they kill incentives and/or create perverse incentives; they scream for equality of outcome; they try to reduce the rights of the individual, in particular free speech, in favor of governmental control; and they subscribe to absurd and outdated “tabula rasa” thinking, and put all credit of success and blame for failure to levels of “privilege”, claimed “structural racism” or “sexism”, “structures”, and whatnot.

*Education is what truly matters and schooling is not a good way to get an education. This, too, the educated and reasoning person should know; however, replacing schooling with something better would be a long-term project. But, true, here too governments fail by insisting on more and more schooling, while leaving actual education a mere nice to have.

Oh, and then there is the entire COVID thing, where most governments did virtually everything wrong that they could do wrong.

Written by michaeleriksson

September 19, 2022 at 5:55 pm

Democrat abuse of the justice system / Fascist is as Fascist does

leave a comment »

Over the last five-or-so years, I have heard of a great many abuses of the U.S. justice system to harass Trump, Republicans, MAGA-supporters, and similar in an unconscionable manner—even leaving the J6 farce aside. This is a matter of a political persecution. Moreover, it is not, as someone like Joe Biden might want to paint it, the good guys going after a Nazi-like movement—it is, by any reasonable standard, a Nazi-like movement going after the good guys. If in doubt, Fascist is as Fascist does.

Visiting just one site, earlier today, I found the following recent articles in just a few minutes:

[1], [2], [3], [4], [5], [6], [7].

Now, I am not saying that these are all quality texts, nor do I deny a certain overlap, but the mere existence is a disturbing sign of how far the U.S. has fallen—and there are a great many other texts and cases out there, going back these five-or-so years.

Note that even when these abuses do not actually reach prosecution, the damage can be very considerable through waste of time, expenditures on lawyers, reputation damage, and, not to forget, the psychological effects. These are things that can prevent, for instance, a Republican politician from carrying a close election. They are also things that can have a strong deterring effect on those considering politics, be it as politicians or as support staff, on lawyers receiving requests to represent Republican politicians, on ordinary citizens wanting to make their voices heard, etc.

In many cases, cell phones and other electronic equipment have been confiscated, which implies a reduction in the victims ability to work, the risk that confidential material (including material underlying client–attorney privilege) becomes known to those without a right to know,* the risk that materials of a strictly private and entirely irrelevant nature become known,* as well as complications like loss of data (e.g. that phone number that has not yet been backed-up). Etc. Then there is the risk of “evidence” being planted. (I am on record as claiming that digital evidence must normally not be allowed, for the simple reason that the ease of manipulation is far too large and the ability to detect and prove this manipulation far too small.)

*This includes not just the perpetrating agency, but also those to whom the agency or its individual employees might chose to leak and those who might hack the systems of the agency.

More generally, there is a strong drive towards the “over-broad”, as with the recent, unprecedented, raid on Trump, where, among other things, his passports (!!!) were temporarily confiscated.

In many cases, as with e.g. the Trump raid, a request for cooperation is not even tried—instead, agents move in with an enormous overkill, even absent any legitimate and plausible belief that this overkill is needed resp. that cooperation would not be forth-coming.

When it comes to persons of some importance, these events often hit the news in a manner that seem to imply guilt to the unwary, naive, and/or prejudiced—why would they raid Trump (arrest X, take Y’s cell phone, whatnot) unless he was guilty? To too many, especially on the Left, suspicion equals guilt. That various partial news sources append claims that have no foundation in reality (e.g. that “X is an extremist”, “X is racist”) does not make matters better. I note, in particular, that such reports from U.S. sources are often taken over uncritically by e.g. Swedish and German news, in a manner that creates a further international distortion.*

*Even I had a very incorrect view of Trump in his early days, because I had not bothered sufficiently to look at primary sources, and was hit more by U.S. and German (mis-)reporting on Trump. The reverse applies to e.g. Obama.

These Nazi-methods must not be tolerated. I sincerely ask the readers to never, ever vote for someone who was involved with the perpetration, to demand that the likes of Biden and Garland are held accountable, and to clearly distance themselves from both the Democrats and the methods used by the Democrats.

Fascist is as Fascist does.

Excursion on similar problems:
A wide range of similar problems exist, including selective censorship on social media, undue harshness in prosecution and sentencing towards Republicans and/or Whites, undue lenience towards Democrats and/or Blacks, general persecution of those who disagree with Official Truths* in public (including on COVID), attempts at entrapment, hate hoaxes, etc. A particular interesting contrast is how the affairs around Hunter Biden were hushed up, while Trump had to sit through accusations that we now know were (no pun intended) trumped up, notably the Russian-collaboration hoax.

*These Official Truths are, of course, often very far from being actual truths, as with many claims around COVID, allegations of “systemic racism”, and various Feminist clap-trap, which fall apart when we actually look at the underlying facts (and/or, as with some COVID issues, scientific knowledge catches up).

Written by michaeleriksson

September 14, 2022 at 12:58 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

Tagged with , , , ,

Turning the world upside down—or not / Follow-up: Trotsky

leave a comment »

Over the last two or three years, in the mixture of COVID-mania, various claims by or about the WEF, and my readings on various political topics, I have often been tempted by the idea of a remake of society in a drastic manner.* My recent watching of “Trotsky” (cf. [1]) brings this to mind again—and provides an excellent demonstration of why I have rejected such thoughts: Actual drastic remakes never seem to end well and always turn out differently than intended. Consider e.g. Cromwell, who was a space filler between Charles I and Charles II;** the French revolutionaries that proved that the revolution eats its children and saw a king replaced by an emperor; said emperor, who ended up exiled in the middle of the Atlantic; the Russian revolutionaries, who again were eaten, and saw decades of mediocrity before the Soviet Union collapsed; Hitler, who saw Germany destroyed and who committed suicide to avoid capture; or, on a lesser scale, the likes of Venezuela and Zimbabwe, where the remade societies descended into economic ruin. Then there are the costs that the changes incur, be it upon the changers or, more often, upon the rest of society. Going through the same set of examples, were the costs even remotely worth the result? Would they have been worth even the intended result?

*For obvious reasons, more on the level of theorizing on paper and propagandizing to followers than on the level of actual change, as getting into a sufficient position of power for a practical implementation would be easier said than done. Also obviously in the opposite direction of what someone like Klaus Schwab might suggest.

**It might be a bad omen for the British monarchy that they currently have Charles III…

More generally, paper constructs often land wide off the mark, and the wider the more complex the area is—and areas likes society, governance, and economics can be extremely complex.

Yes, I do want society to change in certain manners; no, I am not going to write a large tome detailing how my Utopia would look and how to create it, nor am I going to create and expound a Grand Unified Vision of history, society, or whatnot.

To work well (often: at all) deliberate societal change has to be sufficiently slow and controlled, moderating idealism with sufficient pragmatism, and adapting to reality as reality presents it self. Grand Unified Visions and large tomes are for the naive—or, on the outside, the power hungry who trust in the naivety of others. Then there are pesky issues like ethics and the consent of the governed—they might not matter much to the Left, but they do matter to me.

Excursion on “systems”:
Overlapping, I have the impression that whenever someone tries to force something into a system of thoughts or principles, the result is weaker than if the thing had been investigated more open-mindedly and more in it self. Note e.g. my criticisms of The Hero with a Thousand Faces and (with reservations for how much I left unread) Der Untergang des Abendlandes; how Marxism, Critical Theory, whatnot, are counterproductive dead-ends; and how fields like Gender Studies have delegitimized themselves and removed the possibility of any serious study of whatever might actually be worth studying around gender (or whatnot) by forcing preconceived ideas and perspectives onto observations.

Excursion on the American Revolution, etc.:
Does not the American Revolution, the later Constitution, and similar provide a counterexample? Well, they are the closest that I can think of, off the top of my head. However: (a) It was a rebellion, not a revolution; a smaller group breaking free from a larger group, not an overturning of the overall system. (b) The Constitution was based on the prior works and thoughts of many minds. It was preceded by the lesser Articles of Confederation, thereby being a second attempt. It still needed ten amendments to truly stand out; and it has seen a number of later amendments, some considered very valuable, e.g. 13/14, some less so, e.g. 18. (c) Even so, a great many problems were present in the young republic, culminating with the disastrous Civil War.* (d) There has been a continual drift away from the ideals of the early U.S. and the Constitution. The Constitution lost most of its teeth during the 20th century, and some Democrats have outright claimed that they want to get rid of it. Simultaneously, the U.S. has changed in a disastrous manner.

*Where the position of the North was radically different from the colonial position during the misnamed Revolution. Moreover, the existence of the Civil War might rhyme poorly with the argumentation of the “Federalist Papers”, which (a) strongly influenced the Constitution, (b) come closer to the “large tome” above than does the Constitution, be it in size or approach.

Written by michaeleriksson

September 13, 2022 at 3:55 pm

The Liz is dead; long live the Liz / First impressions of Liz Truss

leave a comment »

As Queen Liz leaves the UK, Prime Minister Liz arrives. This first left me highly sceptical, as Margaret Thatcher seems to a shining exception to major* female political leaders. I have, it must be said, not acquainted myself in detail with the work and opinions of each and every one of these, but where I have, excepting Thatcher, they have invariably ranged from mediocre to disastrous. This including the highly disappointing Angela Merkel, who once seemed posed to be a second Thatcher, and Ursula von der Leyen.** The same has typically applied to the “almosts”, e.g. Mona Sahlin (almost-PM of Sweden; absolute horror show) and Hillary Clinton (almost-POTUS; absolute horror show).

*Prime Ministers, Presidents, and the like.

**See a recent text on von der Leyen and energy politics ([1]).

Reading up a little, I was positively surprised: Going by Wikipedia and the Telegraph, she might have a much more common-sense and well-informed set of positions than is typical of politicians*, much like Thatcher once did.

*Which is not to say that I would agree with her on any and all issues, but that applies to virtually any politician, regardless of sex and party, and certainly including Thatcher too.

Then I see noise about further misguided energy nonsense,* with the Telegraph saying e.g.:

*Also see e.g. [1].

Households will save £1,000 a year on energy bills under a new price freeze, Liz Truss said as she vowed to end the energy crisis “once and for all”.

In a major intervention two days after taking office, the Prime Minister said she would freeze average household bills at £2,500 from Oct 1, cancelling next month’s planned rise to £3,549.

As wholesale prices continue to increase, Ms Truss said the freeze would also take between four and five points off inflation, which is currently forecast to reach 13 per cent by the end of 2022.

The cost of the Energy Price Guarantee will ultimately be borne by the taxpayer because the Government will pay energy suppliers the difference between the normal price and the new frozen price. The energy price cap is currently set at £1,971, up from £1,138 in February 2021.

A prize freeze* implies that market forces and incentives are removed or reduced, including for households to use less energy (currently very good and/or desperately wanted by politicians). A massive 40% intervention is likely to distort the markets very severely. How this is supposed to help with the energy crisis is unclear. On the contrary, it is likely to deepen the crisis.

*As I gather from some minor background reading, a prize freeze was irresponsibly already present. Here an increase of some baseline or limit is averted.

Whether the inflation will be held back is dubious. Yes, energy costs will not rise,* but that implies more money for the consumers to spend elsewhere, which in turn might cause other prices to rise or to not sink. Moreover, the extra money to the suppliers must come from somewhere. Unless Truss is planning a tax hike, the result would likely be an increase in the money supply, which is then very likely to cause more inflation. Moreover, with no incentives for the suppliers to hold back prices vis-a-vis the customers, chances are that the overall prices for energy will rise above what they otherwise would have.

*For the consumers directly. However, the suppliers do get more money, paid by the government.

On the other hand, if we do see a tax hike, we effectively have the government collecting money from the people to give to the energy suppliers, instead of the energy suppliers collecting directly from the people, with the implied additional overhead, waste, and whatnot—and, again, with weakened market mechanisms.

Not an auspicious start.

Excursion on mounting deaths and lost ties to the past:
One of the many three-quarters-finished drafts that I have in my backlog deals with (among other things) the great number of accumulated deaths of relatives and famous-in-Sweden people from my childhood and how many ties to the past have already been lost to me. Elizabeth II does not quite make that list for me, but she would have been a prime example, had I been one of her subjects. Indeed, her reign was so long that it contained not just my own birth, but missed the birth of my father (!) by just a few months.

Written by michaeleriksson

September 10, 2022 at 1:51 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

Tagged with , , , ,

EU and energy insanities

leave a comment »

A guardian article from yesterday ([1]) again shows how current politicians cause problems that they, themselves, then try to “solve”, usually making things even worse. This in particular through a gross ignorance of basic principles of business and economics. It also demonstrates how misguided EU policies increasingly make the EU a negative, instead of the positive that it could have been, as well as how problematic Ursula von der Leyen is.* Someone this stupid, ignorant, and/or dishonest** has no place as the leader of anything, let alone the EU.

*Like Merkel, she is the German equivalent of a RINO. (At best: I have occasionally wondered whether they are not something worse.)

**E.g. in that she might actually know better, but pretends that she does not for purposes of political propaganda (e.g. in the “evil Capitalists” or “evil Russians” genres).

To look at a few quotes (formatting might have been lost):

Low-carbon energy companies, renewable and nuclear suppliers that have reaped “enormous revenues … they never dreamed of” from generating electricity will face a cap on their revenues, Von der Leyen said, with proceeds earmarked to help domestic consumers and companies pay “astronomical” bills.

Under EU energy rules, the price of electricity is determined by the cost of the most expensive fuel, usually gas,* rather than cheaper renewables and nuclear power. As a result of all-time-high gas prices, low-carbon electricity generators have been rewarded with a big increase in income.

*Here and elsewhere, the word refers to natural gas, not gasoline.

Here we have a systematic underlying problem caused by the politicians: to fix prices is bad; to do so by the most expensive source is harebrained, a recipe both for poor incentives for the industry and high prices for the customers, as well as a disabling of market forces. A good system would have utility companies sell and buy electricity to its customers resp. from the energy producers* by reasonable negotiations based on supply and demand—and we would have none of these problems. In particular, we would see a natural shift to gas as an “only when we can find nothing else” source, gas suppliers would experience a corresponding downward pressure on prices, the extreme overall price hikes and any windfalls** would have been smaller or non-existent, etc.

*Here I to some degree oversimplify. The principle demonstrated holds, however.

**In as far as they do exist right now. The extreme amount of Leftist and/or anti-Capitalist propaganda in today’s world makes it hard to say what is true and what is just propaganda. Note the common strategy of politicians to screw things up, often by destroying the markets, and then to blame the markets.

No, this would not magically solve the current gas shortage, but it would make even the current effects smaller, and it would, in the past, have given incentives to shift from gas to more sensible forms of energy. (To the degree that other government interventions allowed it, of course. Note, in particular, the common issue of governments forcing an utterly idiotic, utterly indefensible abolishment of nuclear power.)

Now those companies who have done the right thing within the rules of the game are to be punished… Also note that this type of confiscation of revenue gives incentives to not invest in better production facilities or other means of improving, increasing, and/or making cheaper the production.

“These revenues do not reflect their production costs,” Von der Leyen said. “So it is now time for the consumers to benefit from the low costs of low-carbon sources.” The commission, she said, proposed “to re-channel these unexpected profits” to allow member states to support vulnerable households and companies.

Firstly, revenues are uninteresting—profits matter. Secondly, profits should not be governed by production costs, for reasons of both fairness and incentives. If X is able to produce something at 1 Euro per unit and Y is willing to buy at 10 Euro per unit, then they should do so. If margins are great, in a market not destroyed by politicians, others will move in to drive prices down, while X will ramp up production with the same effect.

Then, since when are low-carbon sources low cost? Many, in particular those favored by the politicians, e.g. solar power, tend to be quite expensive—or how does von der Leyen propose to explain the costs of the German “Energiewende”? They might or might not by now be lower than e.g. for gas, but that does not make them low. Certainly, any reason why the consumers have hitherto not seen a “benefit” is rooted in the regulations.

(An interesting side-question is what would happen if gas prices had remained at the pre-Ukraine level and other producers had seen a drop in production costs through e.g. improved technology: Would she want to confiscate these winnings too? To force the producers to lower prices to allow “consumers to benefit”?)

Then again, support of vulnerable companies usually implies that companies that are a net-drag on the economy are artificially kept alive, which, in the long run, does more harm than good. It also often implies that companies that pretend to be vulnerable receive free handouts. (The question of vulnerable households is more complex, but is also an area often filled with high costs, abuse, and/or unfairness.)

Oil and gas companies that have made “massive profits” would also be subject to a windfall tax, which Von der Leyen called a “solidarity contribution”.

Abuse of the word solidarity for “the government takes from the one and gives to the other” is inexcusable. This alone condemns and illegitimizes von der Leyen. Solidarity is voluntary or it is not solidarity. Besides: considering the delivery issues, shortages, and price hikes on inputs, how are gas companies supposed to make “massive profits” on outputs? The explanation, if true, is government regulation that destroys markets.

While she did not mention specific numbers, a leaked document seen by the Guardian shows the commission wants a €200 (£173) per megawatt hour limit to the price of electricity generated by low-carbon technologies. The paper states this “mimics the market outcomes that could be expected were global supply chains functioning normally and not subject to the weaponisation of energy through gas supply disruptions”.

Apart from politicians already having ruined markets, the idea is now to have regulations mimic the market instead of just letting the market do its thing. The “weaponisation” of this and that has been done by the EU and the US, not (as presumably implied) Putin/Russia. Attempts to force outcomes as if no external disturbances were present will make things worse, not better, as they severely reduce the possibility to adapt to the new circumstances.

Finally, Von der Leyen proposed a cap on the price of Russian gas, saying it was necessary to cut revenues that “Putin uses to finance his atrocious war in Ukraine”.

And how the F-ing HELL does she propose to convince Russia to accept a price set by the EU?!?!?! Is she going to march in with tanks and force Russia to sell?!?!? In reality, the result would be that only as much gas is sold as makes sense to Russia at the new price, which will be less than today, maybe nothing, making matters even worse.

(And, of course, if Russia were willing to sell current quantities at lower prices, market mechanisms could, with reservations for levels of desperation and negotiation skills of the parties, have brought about those lower prices without reducing quantities and without causing conflict. And, of course, with this motivation, what von der Leyen suggests is exactly a “weaponisation”.)

Speaking in Vladivostok, Vladimir Putin dismissed attempts to cap the prices of oil and gas as “completely stupid” and “sheer nonsense”, while claiming that Russia had enough customers in Asia to ride out the damage. “Will they make political decisions contradicting contracts?” he said. “In that case, we won’t supply anything if it goes against our economic interests. We don’t supply anything: no gas, no oil, no coal, no heating oil, nothing.”

My point exactly.

Written by michaeleriksson

September 8, 2022 at 8:40 am

Posted in Uncategorized

Tagged with , , , ,

The New Left as a distraction from the Old Left

leave a comment »

Lately, I have been contemplating the possibility that the New Left and all of its noise-making is just a distraction while the Old Left pushes its economic policies, increases of government, and whatnot.

Looking at my own history, I began my political awareness in the late 1980s, in the (still) Old Left Sweden, and the main problems of the day were government overreach into the economy, high taxes, extreme bureaucracy, obstacles for entrepreneurs, all-powerful unions, etc. I spent the 1990s with a great interest in topics like Economics, but drifted away from politics beginning in 1994 (college and very intense studies, that left little time for other activities) and temporarily lost contact in 1997 (when I moved to Germany).

My interest in politics began to reawaken in the mid or late 2000-decade—but now there were Feminists everywhere in Sweden and Germany, there was a massive general PC crowd, and e.g. the U.S.* had similar problems in areas like race. The Old Left had so often proved it self to be stupid and ignorant—the New Left was utterly insane, utterly disconnected from reality.

*Although this only affected my own writings and whatnot in the years to come. I was naturally focused more on Sweden and Germany.

All the while, governments were growing, regulation was growing, taxes and redistributions were growing, the destructive and fundamentally unfair* “welfare” states were unavoidable and growing, etc.—but the PC, SJW, woke, whatnot excesses were so massive that I focused almost only on them.

*They claim to want to take care of the weak. What they actually do, more often than not, is to reward laziness and stupidity, while punishing hard work and intelligence. (And they do so in a wasteful manner.)

Then came the COVID-countermeasure-era, and my attention was to some degree redirected to topics more related to the Old Left, to some degree distracted away from them again.

2022, however, has been a time of intense reading* for me, including a re-acquaintance with topics around the Old Left and matters of Economics. Looking at the world today, even the New Left aside, the developments since the late 1980s have been disastrous—a Swedish Leftist of that era might look at even the (current) U.S. with approval, and be positively giddy when looking at many European countries.

*The recurring reader will notice a shift in my writings too.

Whether the Old Left or the New Left, respectively their ideas and misguided policies, are the greater threat, I leave unstated, but it is clear that the Old Left is very much alive and has been treated too cavalierly by too many (including yours truly), and likely to a large part due to the hysteria and noise-making of the New Left.

Written by michaeleriksson

September 7, 2022 at 11:52 pm

Who is the majority? / Follow-up: Biden confirms my earlier writings / His recent speech

leave a comment »

A minor detail that I forgot in my previous text:

If (!) we assume that the majority rules regarding extremism, how does that make the Republicans extremist? On the contrary, on most issues, it would likely make the Democrats extremist, as the Republicans are currently ahead on polls, while Biden, personally, has among the worst approval ratings in living memory.

Even on issues where the Democrats might seem to have a majority, it is often through misrepresentation of the facts, their own policy/opinion, or the Republican policy/opinion. For instance, “affirmative action”, when presented for what it is, tends to be struck down at the polls, while claims like “Blacks/women/whatnot deserve a fair chance” (with the implication that they currently do not receive this fair chance) might find superficial support. Striking down “affirmative action” and wanting to give everyone (!) a fair chance are both compatible with equality of opportunity, which the majority seems to want, while Democrat policies are focused on equality of outcome—but often disguised as equality of opportunity.

Written by michaeleriksson

September 4, 2022 at 5:37 pm

Biden confirms my earlier writings / His recent speech

leave a comment »

I am torn between writing and not writing something on Biden’s recent abominable speech, that inexcusable exercise in hate and hypocrisy.

As a compromise, I will merely note that (a) it fits perfectly with some of my recent texts and increases the strong parallels between the current U.S. situation and the transition from Weimar Republic to Nazi-Germany, (b) it reinforces my repeated claims that Leftists accuse others of being and doing exactly the things that they are themselves and themselves are doing. It is particularly interesting that the U.S. Democrats keep referring to Republicans as threats to democracy, while they are themselves trying to dismantle it, and that both Trump and Bush II (the two last Republican presidents) have been repeatedly defamed as a second Hitler, while Biden* is the POTUS actually coming closes to that mark in half an eternity.**

*Or, as case may have it, some puppeteer behind him.

**FDR was extremely problematic and might be a candidate. If he falls short, we likely land somewhere in the 19th century, with the very different standards of the day. (Wilson, still in the 20th, is often mentioned as similar to FDR, but I am not well informed on him from own readings.)

I further note, in light of my recent texts on extremism, that Karine Jean-Pierre’s (?) claims that not agreeing with the majority would be extremism matches some things that I warn about, notably how the Left deliberate tries to shift the norms to be able to turn the normal into “extremism” and extremism into “normal”. (Cf. e.g. [1].) It also well matches the approach increasingly taken by governments worldwide, that “we, the government, decide what is true—and if you don’t agree in every detail, you are an extremist and should not be allowed to speak!”. (Cf. other recent texts, as well as many older texts on the COVID-situation.) Her opinion is, of course, entirely untenable and one of the most extreme and extremely stupid that I have ever encountered: not only are majorities wrong all the time, but this attitude, used as policy, as it increasingly is, will kill freedom of opinion and any chance of progress. It is also quite paradoxical, as even a small shift in opinions could logically lead to major redefinitions in what is or is not extreme.

Written by michaeleriksson

September 4, 2022 at 5:09 pm