Monday, March 16, 2009

Earth Hour: Candle In the Wind

Earth Hour is coming this Saturday:
The town is officially endorsing this event and will be turning off non-essential lights (street lights will be on for safety), the Chamber of Commerce is urging its members to participate, and at 8:30 p.m. we will have a Bring-Your-Own-Candle-Lit celebration on the town common.

I kinda hate to even mention this (I feel like an old curmudgeon)... but most candles aren't very environmentally friendly. Even beeswax or soy candles aren't completely green; manufacturing and distributing them generates greenhouse gases.

If you're a bicycle-riding beekeeper who makes your own candles, more power to you! But if you're a typical Subaru-driving professional who buys paraffin Yankee Candles (buy local!), driving to the Earth Hour celebration and lighting a candle or two will probably do more harm than good.

Sunday, March 15, 2009

A Free Market take on the Crisis

If you're interested in the financial crisis and have time to listen to an hour-long talk, I highly recommend Peter Schiff's talk about the dot-com and real estate bubbles, the financial mess, and how we're going to screw the Chinese (and other foreign Treasury debt-holders). Get the MP3 file here.

He's a compelling speaker-- funny and direct and good at cutting through the bullshit and laying out the radically free-market, "stop bailing out Big Business, just let them fail" position. I don't agree with everything he says, but I agree with most of it, and his opinion about what's going to happen to the US economy over the next few years is making me rethink my own personal investment strategies.

Saturday, March 07, 2009

I'm a stimulus skeptic

Unemployment is at 8%, and some people are already saying "See? The stimulus is too small!"

I guess they were counting on some kind of magical Stimulus Anticipation Effect to occur before any actual money was spent?

I'm biased; I am deeply skeptical of our government's ability to do just about anything effectively. I'm trying really hard to be optimistic and believe the "government bravely steps into the breach and puts idle resources to productive use" stimulus story. But how will I know whether or not that story is true? I'm biased, so I'll be looking for evidence that the government screwed up, and will tend to ignore evidence that it made things better.

I think I see a way out. On January 10'th the Obama economic team released "The Job Impact of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Plan." It contains projections for their best estimates of what the unemployment rate would be with and without the stimulus, from 2009 through 2014.

If the actual unemployment numbers look like their "with stimulus" numbers, I'll revise my opinion.

If the numbers look like their "without stimulus" numbers, then I'll conclude that the stimulus didn't do diddly-squat.

And if the numbers are worse than "without stimulus," then I'll conclude that the stimulus did more harm than good.

Now: if their predictions turn out to be incorrect, the Obama economic team will undoubtedly find all sorts of reasons why they didn't get it right-- they didn't realize the banking crisis was as severe as it is, or they'll blame it on Treasury or Federal Reserve policy, or they didn't realize it would be so darn hard to spend eight hundred billion dollars. All of which might be true, but all of which would reinforce my core belief in the ineffectiveness of Big Government.