Punchinello's Chronicles

April 20, 2011

Atlas Shrugged, Part 1 – The Movie

–verb (used with object), -plied, -ply·ing. (Implication – noun: the act of implying)

  1. to indicate or suggest without being explicitly stated: His words implied a lack of faith.
  2. (of words) to signify or mean.
  3. to involve as a necessary circumstance: Speech implies a speaker.

I went to see part one of “Atlas Shrugged,” the movie, today and thought it was great! From what I hear, parts two and three should come out in 2012 and 2013, respectively, depending on audience reaction, profits and so forth. I look forward to seeing the remaining parts. I’m a conservative in all ways and disagree that Libertarians are the same thing as true conservatives.

The movie is a clear and direct representation of Ayn Rand’s novel, which was published in 1957. Rand took 12 years to write the book, so she began in 1945, right around the end of World War II and the emergence of the Soviet Union. Rand grew up in Russia, with her family having lost their status and wealth to the communist takeover. She managed to emigrate to America, taking the pseudonym Ayn Rand in order to protect the rest of family back in the USSR.

Few people have the combination of perspective and articulation to witness and directly experience the difference between communism and capitalism, and only Rand herself had the genius to extract the underlying core principles of philosophy. Throughout her life she vigorously defended capitalism (not crony capitalism, but true capitalism), eventually laying out the philosophy of Objectivism.

It’s not easy to summarize a 1200-page novel, but the basic idea is that little by little, all the competent people in the world are mysteriously disappearing. They’re quitting their jobs, going away and nobody knows why or where. At the same time, everyone is seeing and hearing the odd question, “Who is John Galt?” Dagny Taggart, Chief of Operations for Taggart Railroads, and Hank Rearden of Rearden Steel are soon the only remaining competent industrialists in the country.

(Side note: I thought that Taylor Schilling, who plays Taggart, looks quite a bit like Ayn Rand, particularly around the eyes. Rand was a brunette, Schilling is a blond but the resemblance is certainly there, in my opinion.)

Little by little, as those inventors, builders and developers quit and vanish, the politicians begin to take control of the economy. They pass more and more burdensome laws, mandating the equal sharing of all profits and revenues, not to mention intellectual property. Yet nobody can understand why the economy is collapsing.

Atlas, in Greek mythology, was one of the primordial Titans who gave birth to the more familiar pantheon of gods and goddesses. Atlas supported the heavens, and Ayn Rand held that selfish individuals operating under the morality of capitalism support the entire world and its varying economies. To Rand, selfish meant something totally different from today’s simplistic sense of the word, and she wrote her non-fiction book, “Virtue of Selfishness” to make the distinction.

Her core question was what would happen if all the competent and virtuously selfish people in the world went on strike? Who gives anyone the right to co-opt the efforts, labor and fruits of the individual’s mind for the so-called benefit of others? If 5% of the population produces 90% of the jobs, wages, invention and development, what would would happen if that small group of people simply walked out on the world?

Selfishness, in Objectivist philosophy, stands absolutely opposed to altruism. Altruism is the sacrifice of something you value highly in favor of someone else’s values, in many cases, in favor of a lesser value. In other words, altruism is placing someone else’s need ahead of your own core values. Another way to say it quickly is “to compromise” in today’s political sense of the word.

Like Plato, Rand believed that for a philosophy to work it should be viable in a life-simulation like a novel. Her first experiments, “We The Living” and “Anthem, were followed by “The Fountainhead.” She brought forth the argument that capitalism and private ownership are morally opposed to altruism, and that the individual always supersedes the collective. She tried to show that altruism rests at the foundation of almost all modern liberal, progressive, socialist and communist economics.

Not satisfied with the first three books, Rand moved into non-fiction where she laid out the principles of Objectivism (her name for the new philosophy). Eventually, she decided to pull it all together in the epic novel, “Atlas Shrugged.”

In almost all cases, whenever I’ve spoken with people who’ve read the book they didn’t understand what it was about. Nor did they understand the way it was written. A common criticism is that the dialog isn’t “realistic.” It’s stilted, and that “nobody talks that way.” Many people find the extensive and lengthy sections of dialog to be boring, onerous and a chore to follow. Someone asked her about it in an interview.

What Rand wanted to do was first lay out the circumstances of a real-world economy. She then developed individual characters, each of which represented a basic philosophy. Additional characters represented more simplistic ideologies, where the characters didn’t understand the underlying philosophy of their thinking. To round it out, she added in ordinary people who rarely think about philosophy and have no ideology.

The next step was to put each of these characters into action, bringing them together and having them interact with each other. The initial parts of dialog are the way people ordinarily talk. But the key point of both Atlas Shrugged and The Fountainhead is that Rand then wanted to bring into the open the underlying premises, assumptions, logic and consequences of each concept. All of them, in their totality.

In other words, the characters in Atlas Shrugged aren’t “real people.” They’re symbolic representatives of whole philosophies and ideologies. Each character thinks and behaves according to the rules of logic making up those philosophies. But instead of speaking only part of their arguments, Rand has them speak out each and every component of their thought processes. Each conversation follows its internal logic to its inevitable end.

The characters in the book, now in the movie, true-to-form all speak the complete sentences and arguments that they mean to say. They don’t fade off into some vague, ill-defined “Y’know what I mean?” Nobody is allowed to rest on the laziness of incomplete thinking. That’s why the dialog isn’t what you’d normally expect.

That being said, the director has done a sort of reversal for the sake of time and entertainment value. He’s extracted the true essence of each passage of dialog, let go of the “fullness,” and laid bare the most necessary steps of logic. It’s very well done, and I found myself remembering whole sections of the book as though I were watching a sort of condensed version up on the screen.

Additionally, Atlas Shrugged was Rand’s first major attempt to clearly defend capitalism, and demonstrate the empty husk of altruism. That’s the core morality behind all the progressive ideas of sharing, equality, social welfare, fairness and so forth — all the many catchphrases we hear in the news today.

Gaining public notice by 1963, Atlas Shrugged could have been written yesterday afternoon. The reason the plot fits so well isn’t that Rand was psychic. It’s that she began to see the emergence of a hybrid philosophy and morality in the United States with the treaties signed following the war. She saw that capitalism had no philosophic justification, being an entirely new form of economics. She also understood at the deepest level what communism was all about, having lived under the system.

Rand eventually wrote, “Capitalism: The Unknown Ideal,” which sets forth the foundations for the philosophy of capitalism. Almost nobody I’ve encountered has ever read this book. Every argument we hear today about “taxing the rich,” “sharing the wealth,” and whatever other politically correct blather coming from “the Left” is old hat. It’s been around for decades, and the developing Tea Party conservative movement is all that stands against it.

We’re entering the end stage of the inevitable conflict between a poorly defined capitalism and the more typical socialism that swept the world back in the early 1900’s. Due to the lack of integrated and articulated philosophy of capitalism, it never caught on as a complete system. Instead, America cautiously adopted several major premises from German philosophers and Karl Marx. Those premises stand at the foundation of today’s massive deficit.

What we’re seeing today is the destructive cancer of altruism having been embedded in Western economic and social thought for the past 60 years. As it’s failed everywhere else in the world, so too it’s now failing here in America. Ayn Rand knew it would and wrote out the entire laborious process. That’s why the book is so long.

One of the most difficult things to produce in the movie is the fundamental dependency of the US economy on both railroads and the steel industry. Back in 1945, those two industries were critical to the United States industrialism, along with coal, oil, science, and technology. They did a fascinating “trick,” which works very well!

Postulating that the price of oil and gasoline would skyrocket, the movie opens with $37/gallon gasoline. As a result, all forms of cheap energy and the resulting industries collapse. The airline and trucking industry lay in waste, leaving only railroads as the least expensive way to move goods around the country. This is NOT the stupid “high-speed rail” we hear bandied about nowadays.

This gimmick allows us to continue with cell phones, limousines, private planes and modern technology. But it also allows the movie to remain true to the original plot, with the railways and steel industry being the main focus.

For anyone who read and loved the book, the willing suspension of disbelief is simple to do. It makes the movie even more vivid, turning it into an authentic visualization of what we’ve wanted to see for decades. For those who disagree with individualism, fair-market capitalism and smaller government, this focus on railroads makes for an easy way to dismiss the entire movie as unrealistic.

We’ve reached a nearly 100% polarization now, with conservative Constitutionalists on one side and everyone else on the other. Nobody is going to be swayed to change their philosophic or ideological beliefs by this movie. So what? There is one demographic that this movie may very well help to rescue: young adolescents with functioning minds and critical thinking skills.

I thought it was a terrific movie, and it only steps away from the book for the purpose of “teasing” anyone unfamiliar with the entire novel. We get a basic hint as to what John Galt is doing, and we learn just enough about what’s to come that we don’t end up in a complete quagmire of unanswered questions.

At the end of the movie, an oil tycoon is persuaded to walk away from his business. He burns down his entire oil field, and there’s a sign that I thought could have been better lighted: “I’m leaving this as I found it. Take it, it’s yours!”

That’s the thing that today’s politicians utterly and abysmally fail to grasp about the economy and business: Not one single productive thing, anywhere on the planet, at any time in history simply popped into existence by natural forces or wishful thinking. ALL of what we use in our daily lives to make those lives better, more comfortable, more convenient, safer, and healthier is the result of the human mind!

Individual business people have spent their lives, their work, their money, their thoughts, and their love of creation to bring into existence all that we so casually use on a daily basis. Without a profit and satisfactory exchange of value by The World for their personal investments, the rest of us (The World) would still be living in caves!

Atlas Shrugged is the story of how politicians and philosophic altruists are using every coercive trick in the book to take away everything those dedicated capitalists have tried to build. Those “selfish” individuals have worked for the betterment of mankind. The altruists, regardless of the words coming out of their mouths seek to enslave mankind and concentrate the power of control under an elite group of government functionaries. Who’s the more virtuous type of person? Perhaps this movie (and the book) will make the answer more clear.


February 3, 2011

What are Market Fundamentals?

Filed under: Word of the Day — Punchinello @ 3:01 am
Tags: , , , , ,

Whenever you ad an “-al” to a word, you’re hoping to make the word mean “in the nature of” or “characteristic of.” So we know what music means, right? It’s all that stuff you hear coming out of the radio. When we make it music-al, we hope to mean that something is “a whole lot like” music. It’s “in the nature of being like music.” See?

Alright, so what does fundament mean? It’s the bottom (literally, your butt) and the base. When something is fundament-al, it’s in the nature of being at the very bottom of something. Since we’re talking about concepts, logic and argument when we discuss economics, “fundamental” refers to the most basic premises, along with the very bottom of the cause-and-effect chain. What are the most basic components of a market?

Markets depend on business. That’s why we call it a market. Long ago, a market was a place where people went to sell things and others went to buy things. Many times the market was located within the walls of a city or a castle keep. The kings and lords who owned the towns or castles learned that they could charge a fee to walk through the gate. Sellers had to pay to have a stall or sell their stuff, and buyers had to pay a fee to get into the market.

We still have markets like that, just about everywhere. We also have online markets like eBay, Bonanzle, Craig’s List and so forth. And people often still have to pay a fee of some sort. But “The Market” we talk about in the economic news is a little more abstract. It’s the overall combination of all the ways in which people buy and sell anything in the world. We have oil markets, commodity markets, the job market and the housing market. But we also have the equities market, loans and mortgage markets, interest markets, and financial markets.

So what’s all this about fundamentals? How come they matter? What are they, and why do we even care?

The reason we should all care is because we’re being told that The Recession is Over! We’re being told that “the markets” all are looking up. We’re being told that manufacturing is picking up, jobs are being created, prices are holding steady, and people are buying houses. We’re being told that because The Dow is now over 12,000 for the first time in two years, Happy Days are Here Again! Just like in the 1920s.

How do you know if this is all true? Can you tell what’s what when everyone in the news business is telling you that things are getting better? Why do some people say we’re Recovering (from the Recession), and others say that we’re in the starting phase of the Great World Depression?

It comes down to these fundamentals.

One of the key fundamentals is that some THING has to be made, grown, created or otherwise put together in order for some ONE to buy that thing. Another key fundamental is that someone needs WORK to be completed in order for those things to be put on the market and sold.

A slightly more complicated fundamental is that some ONE knows something you don’t know, and YOU have to pay money in order to find out about it. For example, a doctor knows a lot about your body. You can’t see out of one eye, so you go to the doctor to find out why you can’t see, and whether anyone can do something to make it better. That’s a service, and is part of the service “industry” (market).

What do we make nowadays? What do YOU make? What do YOU know that people pay you money to learn?

Moving right along with that making and knowing stuff, there’s the idea that no single person can make everything or know everything. Well, except for me: I know everything and I’m, indeed, a legend in my own mind. But setting that aside for the moment (or until I’m crowned Emperor of the World), we often need some help. We have work to do, and we need help to get all that work accomplished.

A job is fundamentally work. You have something you need accomplished but you can’t do it yourself. So you pay money or trade something with someone else and they do the task. Maybe it’s something you don’t like, like mowing a lawn. Maybe it’s something you don’t know how to do, like fixing a broken pipe. Maybe you just need help because you don’t have the time to finish all the tasks, like when you need help making 10 dozen cookies in time for the bake sale.

One way or another, real things have to be made, real work has to be done, real tasks have to be accomplished, and real services have to be rendered. That’s the way things work in the real world.

But we don’t live in the real world, these days! No, we live in the statistical world of the Bureau of Labor Statistics, lovingly known as the BLS. These are the people in The Government who tell us what’s going on by looking at lots of numbers. Do those people do actual work?

Yes, they do. Most of us don’t know that much about statistics and numbers. We don’t have the time, energy, knowledge or resources to gather all the numbers involving work, jobs, manufacturing and so on. Actually; neither does the BLS. So they gather a “sample” of all those numbers, then take a guess at what the rest of the world is doing.

“The DOW is up on news that Egypt is exploding into revolution.” That’s the kind of idiotic headline you’ll read, then say to yourself, “Well, I guess the economy must be getting better. The DOW is up! That’s a good thing! My father told me so, and I believe whatever my father tells me to believe.”

Did you know that right now, the single biggest investors in the DOW are the Federal Reserve (Central Bank of America), and massive investment companies like Goldman Sachs? What about all those moms and dads, grandmas and grandpas? What about those little European retired soldiers, whose entire pensions are invested?

No, they don’t exist. Not any more. Well, they actually exist as people, but no, their money isn’t involved.

And what about all those taxes you’re paying (if you’re working)? Aren’t all those tax dollars going to fund the stimulus, bail-outs, and entitlements? Uh…no, they’re not. The United States takes in around $2.16 trillion dollars in tax money. We have an on-the-books deficit of $14 trillion dollars. We spend around $45-billion a month just to cover the minimum monthly payment on all our debts.

When you factor in the military, basic government services and basic public functions, that $2.16 trillion dollars pretty much disappears by the end of January. YOUR tax money is gone before it arrives in Washington. YOU aren’t funding a damn thing, when it comes to all this other spending (like Social Security, Medicare, Pensions, Medicaid, and so on).

But…you heard on the radio that YOU, The Taxpayer will be paying all this money for GM, the public unions, and so forth, right? Nah…don’t worry about it. None of that money actually exists.

Fundamentally, in order to have real money we have to have real products, real services, and real work. In order to have real work, we fundamentally have to have real people with too little time or too little knowledge. Do we have that? How much real stuff are we actually making?

Another fundamental is the concept of value. Let’s say that I have a 15-inch tire for a 1995 Ford van. I come to you and ask if you’d like to buy it. I tell you it’s a terrific deal, and I’ll sell it to you for $50.

Your first question might be, “Why the hell would I want an old tire? I drive a Toyota compact car!” Another question might be, “Why should I pay you $50 for a stupid tire?”

In other words, my tire has no value to you whatsoever. Ah, but what about intrinsic value? Isn’t there something about the very nature of the tire that makes it valuable? Well sure, the rubber. IF you want to melt it down, IF you have a way to recycle that melted rubber, and IF you produce something out of that rubber. Otherwise, it has no value.

Something is valuable ONLY if someone else wants to buy or possess that something. A “thing” is only worth what someone will pay for that thing. Are you willing to pay $250,000 for a house tomorrow afternoon? How about $800,000?

We hear all sorts of statistics about houses and how much they’re worth — how valuable they are. It seems not that many people think a house is all that valuable, right at the moment. Particularly those people who don’t have any money! If nobody is paying to buy houses, then they become less and less valuable.

What about malls and strip malls? How about downtown office buildings? What about all that commercial real estate property? Isn’t that still valuable? How many stores have closed in your neighborhood? Is anyone running to fill those empty stores with real stuff?

Talking with someone who believes that the overall economy is bad and getting worse, we say they’re a “bear.” Someone who believes the economy is getting better and will be back to normal soon, we say they’re a “bull.” Are you bullish or bearish? On what basis? On what foundation? What fundamentally do you see about the economy to support your feeling?

For thousands of years, people have used gold and silver as real money. We can look at the price of a piece of gold or silver in terms of paper money and determine the fundamental value of paper money. The more paper money it costs to buy a piece of gold or silver, the less that paper money is worth. The higher the price of gold or silver, the less value paper money holds in The Markets.

Did you know that people are removing their money from mutual funds and stock portfolios by billions of dollars? They’ve been removing that money, pulling it out of the financial equity markets for more than 30 weeks. Week after week, people are taking their money and going home. And yet, The DOW closed at over 12,000 points today. Is that good?

How can this average of Very Important Company Stocks be going up, when so much of the fundamental economy is going down or holding steady at very low levels? One way would be to remove from this average any company that isn’t doing very well. Another way would be for someone with an infinite supply of money to buy as much of those stocks as possible every day, regardless of whether or not they make a profit.

What about the Consumer Price Index (CPI)? This is an average of what a “basket of goods” costs on the open market. How can that CPI remain steady, indicating according to statistical analysis that prices aren’t getting higher? One way might be to remove things like oil, gasoline, energy and food. Another might be to change what’s in that “basket of goods” from steak to hamburger, and eventually to cat food.

And how about those manufacturing numbers? General Motors (GM) failed last year, and had to be purchased by the government. They say that The Taxpayers came up with that money, but in fact it was just more paper money created by the Federal Reserve. WE, the Taxpayers don’t HAVE any money!

GM supposedly is doing Just Great! They “sold” more cars than last year, and Happy Days are Here Again! We’ll just ignore the fundamentals. Indeed, GM “sold” half a million cars to their dealers, who put them into their inventory. By golly, Manufacturing Inventory numbers are up too! Therefore, says the BLS, the economy is improving!

Ultimately, it’s up to you, me, and each of us as individuals, whether or not we care to learn about the underlying fundamental facts of today’s markets and economy. Half the population seems to believe that “facts” are whatever someone says they are. The other half holds that facts are statements in a language, which match an observation in reality. That second half also holds that reality is real, regardless of whether or not human beings exist to perceive reality.

Half the population holds that reality is a figment of our imagination. Many of those people work in the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Many more of them work for the important news services around us. To them, since reality is whatever anyone wants to say it is (or feels that it is), then facts are simply interpretations of feelings. If it feels true, then it is true, according to modern deconstructionists.

So what do YOU think? Is reality just something to ponder when you’re having a beer after dinner? Or is reality the fundamental platform in and on which we all exist? Do you feel that the economy gets better or worse all on its own? Do you think the economy is only a result of underlying fundamental events?

Sadly enough, it soon won’t matter which way you think or feel. Reality always has a way of being real, and no amount of pretending can change that. I feel this is really, really true, y’know? I mean, like, I read it on the Internet, so, like, it sorta has to be true, right? Or…whut-EVERRR!

January 16, 2010

What is Moral Hazard?

The news pundits, New York intelligentsia and people in the lah-de-dah crowd love to come up with new words and expressions. “Moral hazard” is one such term, and I’ve been hearing it more and more lately. It’s kind of funny, given that morality has been under attack for decades, so what’s this alleged hazard they’re discussing? Turns out that we have two perfectly good words already: temptation and incentive.

Maybe you’ve heard about how moral hazard somehow connects with Big Banks, otherwise known as Too Big To Fail (TBTF) banks. Or perhaps you’ve heard the term applied to Wall Street brokers and investment companies. Whatever you’ve heard, you likely let it slide right on by and figured it had something to do with…something. But just think about temptation.

There’s a great expression I ran across the other day, a sort of old saying:

Capitalism without bankruptcy is like religion without Hell.

What’s Hell got to do with it? Well, it’s the punishment you get if you don’t do the right thing. If you don’t follow the moral principles and rules set forth by God (or someone), then you get punished. A religion tells you that you’ll end up in Hell after you die. Capitalism tells you that you’ll go bankrupt if you don’t do the right thing in business. Of course you could go bankrupt anyway, even if you’re morally right. Sometimes a business just doesn’t attract customers for other reasons.

Let’s suppose you’re having a nice snack in a mall, watching people go by. There’s this guy walking along and he drops his wallet, doesn’t notice, and keeps walking. What’s the right thing to do? Wouldn’t it be to pick up the wallet, run after him and tell him you’d found it? Of course. That’s a moral code. It instructs you on things like honesty, empathy, justice, and what’s right and wrong.

But now let’s suppose you look in the wallet and see $1,000 in cash. A temptation is where you’d like to do something for self-gain but you know it’s wrong. Granted; if you just found a $100 bill lying on the floor of the mall, kicked off to the side, then you’d probably just keep the money. How would you know what else to do with it? Would there be a way to make sure the right owner got the money? No, probably not.

An incentive isn’t the same as a temptation. An incentive is a reward for doing some sort of action or behavior. If you open the wallet, see the money and then see a note: “I will give a $20 reward for anyone who returns my wallet if I lose it,” that’s an incentive. Of course you still have to resist the temptation to just take all the money for yourself. But if you DO choose the right thing, there’s an added incentive in the reward.

Whenever you encounter a set of events that tests your morality, that’s now called a moral hazard. I suppose it means that you’re in danger of being corrupted or something. Why they can’t just stick with temptation and incentive is beyond me, but then, for me, life is full of mysteries!

Suppose you want to buy a house. Let’s say it’s a $150,000 house. You don’t have any money saved, you’re maybe working (maybe not), and you struggle each month to pay your bills. But by golly, you sure do wish you had a house of your own! Then you see an ad from a bank that promises you that you can buy a house. Even in your financial situation.

You know you can’t afford the house. You can barely afford rent, but you sure do want your own house! You’re tempted. And that’s a form of moral hazard. The bank, on the other hand, is just trying to sell loans. Where’s the moral hazard in that? Ah…but that’s not what happened.

The federal government in the form of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, not to mention the Department of Agriculture and Sally Mae (for student loans) offered an incentive to the bank. They basically told the bank that if that bank gave you a loan, the bank then could hand off the entire responsibility for the loan to the federal agency. In other words, the bank was acting as a storefront, only for the purpose of getting you in the door and writing the loan. Beyond that, they were done.

If the bank had to worry about actually getting paid back for the money they lent you, then they’d also have to pay attention to whether you’d be good for the money. But since the bank no longer had any worries, why should they care? They could write as many loans as they wanted to, regardless of ability to make payments by the customer. What the heck…the government would take care of it.

Is that right? Is that an honorable thing to do? Is that the way a business is supposed to work? Is that capitalism? No, it’s not the way things are supposed to go! In fact, by taking away ALL risk to the bank, the federal government created both the temptation for banks to write bad loans, AND an incentive for banks to write bad loans!

Hmm…isn’t it also the federal government, together with our fine institutions of higher learning who have told us that there’s no such thing as morality?

What about visiting the emergency room when you feel a cold coming on, or you have a fever, or you break out in a mysterious rash? Is that the right thing to do? Should you even bother to see if maybe you’re just getting a cold? Should you bother to wait a minute or two to see if the rash gets worse? Isn’t an ER supposed to handle things like car crashes, shootings, projectile bleeding from the eyes? Of course it is!

The federal government stepped in and said that if you want to visit the ER that’s fine. They’ll pick up the extraordinary tab. Not only that, but they’ll force the hospital running the ER to take less money than they normally charge. In fact, many people today have a “co-pay” of only a tiny fraction of any kind of medical costs. That creates a temptation to just wander into any old hospital for any reason at all. Is it an emergency? Well…no, not really…it just feels different from normal health.

I think that we’re hearing about moral hazards because that confuses the issues. Anyone can understand that the federal government set up incentives and rewards to banks to make rotten loans. Anyone can understand that banks were tempted by free money to spend it for themselves and increase their profits. If congress had passed a law that said the government was going to give out these rewards, do you think people may have noticed?

Yes, most people would have noticed. Which is why nobody mentioned such things as NINJA loans. That stands for people who have No Income, No Job, No Assets. In other words, all you had to do was walk into a bank and point to a picture of a house. Ten minutes later you’d walk out owning the house. Sign papers? Nope. Prove you have money? Nope. Come up with a down payment? Nope. The government would handle it all for you. For free. Sort of.

We live in a world of situational ethics, amorality, and a strong anti-religious movement (the secular movement). Nobody is wrong, nobody is right. There’s no particular good thing, nor is there any particular bad thing. Everything is just fine, dude, as long as it feels good. For you. Forget how anything feels for anyone else, it’s all about our own feelings. If your feelings are hurt, sue someone. You’re definitely right, even if there’s no such thing as right.

The moral hazard is living in a world without any morality whatsoever. The only “hazard” is to those few people who actually do have a morality. For most people, most bankers, most corporate management and almost every politician, there’s no hazard at all. That’s probably why we’re hearing the term so much in the news. It’s only when something doesn’t exist that the news media spends time saying that it’s “out there, somewhere.”

The folks who create “South Park” call it shenanigans. When someone at a carnival sets things up so that you can’t win, you have the right to call shenanigans and the local crowd will listen to your case and render a judgment. In Washington, along with most other hallowed halls of government, people call it moral hazard. Then a peer group of other politicians sit around and discuss whether to have committee meetings to decide if anything may have happened. Not if whatever may have been right or wrong, just whether something happened.

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