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Quadrant Magazine, Australia, is a great publication with some great writers. Here is Peter Smith on Piketty: http://quadrant.org.au/magazine/2014/06/questionable-equations-thomas-piketty/
Has anyone else heard of the book "The Son Also Rises: Surnames and the History of Social Mobility" by Gregory Clark? Excellent and informative review here: http://quadrant.org.au/magazine/2014/06/pays-choose-ancestors-carefully/ ".....Social mobility is no greater in the West today than it was in medieval England. Upward mobility in Sweden today is no better than in the eighteenth century. Nor is it better in contemporary Sweden than in the United States. The wealth of East Asia exploded in the past half-century. Modernity came to Asia aggressively. But this had relatively little impact on who climbed up or slid down the social ladder. Neither huge spending on higher education nor even mass-scale totalitarian murder of millions made a difference. All government schemes to increase social mobility end in failure. This does not mean that social mobility does not exist. Individuals, families and social groups rise and fall over time. But the time scale is very long. Social mobility is glacial. It occurs at a snail’s pace over centuries. Yet states, encouraged by social science, invest massively in the expectation that they can effect major changes over short periods. This is an illusion. Across two generations, between parents and their children, churn occurs. Children do better or worse than their parents. But the net result of millions of movements up and down the social scale is only ever incremental change to the long-term underlying social pattern...... ".......Clark’s remarkable insight is that the strongest correlation of generations is not that of parent and child but between grandparent and grandchildren, or great-grandparent and great-grandchild. Thus a child from a high-status group may slide down the social ladder but there is a high chance that the child’s child or the grandchild’s child will slide back up. Novelists and ordinary people observe this all the time. Social science screens it out, in part because social science has a progressive bias. Social democrats and social liberals desire a correlation coefficient of 0. They deplore a correlation of 1. Yet social reality over the long run is actually much closer to 1 than 0. That is true across a thousand years of data. A hundred years of social democracy has made no difference to the historical pattern......"
In response to:

Is a New Housing Bubble Possible?

Phil from NZ Wrote: Jul 12, 2014 5:56 PM
Why does no-one notice that there are dozens of cities in the USA that don't have significant house price fluctuations? It is very simple; cities with a high elasticity of housing supply don't have price bubbles. They might have construction booms accompanied by moderate price increases, and moderate price falls, but they are NOT economy-busters like what happen when housing supply is rendered inelastic by regulations. And for decades, house price bubbles and busts in many countries were minimised - the decades when planners promoted automobile-based development. When politics turns against automobile based development, you get the return of price volatility. Further proof: the UK imposed a planning system back in 1947 that rationed land for urban growth - they had the volatility that other nations did not, from then until now.
Chinese property investors are reaching bigger epidemic proportions than ever before in all attractor Anglo housing markets, including Sydney, Melbourne and Auckland; and Vancouver, and notable in London and New York. It is not just California, although this might be the most affected. The phenomenon is probably at a new peak because many smarter Chinese can see a meltdown coming in their own property market and there is probably a lot more money to lose there. But if they want to pay prices that are not already in a bubble condition, and hence minimise their future losses even further than if they left their money in Chinese property, they should be heading for Texas.
There is a massive problem with "USA aggregate" data on housing. While the USA is regarded as more of a homogenous entity than, say, "the EU", the differences between housing markets in different States of the USA is easily as great as the differences between different member nations of the EU. It makes just as much sense to use USA aggregate data, as it does to use EU aggregate data and ignore what happens in Germany versus what happens in Ireland and Spain. For example, US aggregate data says "look, house prices and construction are both going up". But construction is mostly going up in States with few restrictions on sprawl, where prices are more stable, (eg Texas) and the prices are mostly going up in States where there is a serious under-supply as a result of regulatory distortions (eg California). This leads to absurd misinterpretation of what kind of reforms might be needed.
That is interesting, I hadn't heard that before. Can you tell me which famous atheist philosopher it was who died groaning "my friends, we are in grave error"? Another one apparently died screaming "pull me out, pull me out". Mozart wrote in a well-known letter; "the arch-villain Voltaire just died like a dog".
It is ironic that no society in history, even ones that were permissive of homosexuality, such as the relatively civilised ancient Greeks, ever bothered to try and think that "marriage" was something other than a man and a woman or that homosexuals were being discriminated against in this. And the ancient Greeks thought of most things in their philosophical musings. It is also ironic that historical examples of societies that were permissive of homosexuality were always also permissive of genocide and slavery and even infanticide and human sacrifices and worse in some examples; and the one culture that abolished these things and spread enlightenment to the rest of the world, just happened to be guided by religious beliefs that also proscribed homosexuality itself. Going by history, then, it is rational to regard the current "progressive" morality (including the "free love" revolution, which is upstream from the broadening of the definition of "love" itself to confuse it with "unbridled lust") as part of our civilisation's phase of decadence. None so blind as those who won't see the consequences of knocking away foundations of civil society.
In response to:

"Real" and "Unreal" Wages

Phil from NZ Wrote: Jun 21, 2014 3:56 PM
But even Elizabeth Warren in her famous presentations (see YouTube) found much to her surprise, that the proportion of household income spent on food, clothing and other consumer goods has fallen over the decades. So in purchasing power terms, even with falling real incomes, people are ahead in some things. The problem areas for real purchasing power are health care and housing. Transport costs in these terms have fallen, only for the fact that households have become "2-car" and more. Wives joining the workforce have ended up largely not getting ahead in historical terms because some costs have risen so much. I want to discuss housing. In fact in cities where there are no prohibitions on converting rural land to urban use, house price median multiples have been stable for decades. Elizabeth Warren's data is "US aggregate" which hides the fact that the problem is much, much worse in "smart growth" cities and not a problem at all in the free-market-development ones. Matt Ridley got it right in The Times recently: “……..Neither Britain nor the world is especially unequal right now compared with most of the past two centuries. If you want to reduce wealth inequality in Britain, then the quickest way is to liberalise the planning laws to bring down house prices……” Ridley did not specifically point out that inflated urban land costs hit the poorest the hardest. It can be seen in cities with a median multiple of 3, there tends to be a spread of house prices that fit all incomes - there are even houses at $90,000 for $30,000 income earners. However, because inflation (from regulatory rationing) is all in the land prices, the $90,000 house in an affordable city ends up $350,000+ in the unaffordable one. The median house may well be inflated from $300,000 to $600,000, but the bottom end of the market is inflated the most and the top end the least. Of course inequality is also increased by the major gains that fall to the big rentiers involved in property and in mortgage finance. The point is that erosion of household purchasing power is all due to government messing markets up. Housing is still, in many US cities, just as well delivered by the free market as food and clothing are. I will leave the subject of health care for someone else to tackle.
In response to:

Their War, Not Ours

Phil from NZ Wrote: Jun 17, 2014 6:46 PM
But some religions tend to have "Holy writings" that are less conducive to a "Reformation".
"capitalism automatically generates arbitrary and unsustainable inequalities that radically undermine the meritocratic values on which democratic societies are based." Needs to be rephrased as "capitalists automatically attempt to generate arbitrary and unsustainable inequalities by seeking favours and advantages from politicians, the success of which depends on the qualities of the politicians"
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