Monday, October 29, 2012

Sorry about the silence…

We’re bumbling toward the core of FrankenStorm Sandy.  That will reach us in about two hours or so, and is expected to last late into the night, with gusts well up above 60 to 70 MPH, and perhaps even higher.  But there are serious winds already puffing and shoving up under the eaves, and bending whole trees sideways.  So of course I thought I’d sit at my computer as long as the power is on, and offer an excuse for the long silence in this blog.  I have several to choose from. 

The first, and biggest, is that I have had some family responsibilities. Nothing really unexpected.  My father is 97 years old.  But he is suddenly surprisingly weak, and has lost a lot of weight in a short time.  The responsibilities that implies have kept me from this space for a while.

And I was tired, because I am also not 20 anymore.  It was great to be out on the Chesapeake last weekend, but it took a few days to recover. The trip included as much motoring as sailing, but there were a few of hours of good wind both days.  On Saturday we had our sails up coming out of the West River and pretty far down the bay toward our destination for the day, which was Hudson Creek in the Little Choptank.   We had to motor for an hour or two at the end of the day to get there in daylight.  But in the evening the wind came back, and we had a cold, very clear night at anchor with winds, judging from the volume of their drone through the rigging, somewhere up near twenty knots.   I slept like a baby, which means, of course, that I woke up every two hours, and since I was awake I went topside to check the anchor.  The cold felt very good.  I probably spent too much time up there, looking at stars I never see in the city, and the trees along the skyline, and the anchor light about 200 yard away of the only other boat out there in the night.  We had a rocking rolling ride all morning out of the Little Choptank on Sunday.  We were well into the Bay before the wind died, and we finally had to take our sails down and motor south to Solomons.  My thanks to Jeff and Monica for the opportunity to spend two days on a sailboat, which is something I haven’t done nearly enough in the last year or two, and probably won’t again for a while. 

There was a bit of discussion in the columns of government job creation, the topic of my last post.   The New York Times agreed with me, and Robert Samuelson exhibited an awe inspiring failure to grasp the implications of his own words in a column responding to the Times editorial.  If you read his column carefully, his argument is simply that government jobs don’t count because the private market will always achieve full employment without them.  If people aren’t required to fund government jobs by paying taxes they will buy something else, and that will create private sector jobs, so the government is just displacing jobs in the private sector.  In other words, he is relying on Say’s law.  Private markets will, in his mind, always achieve full employment of resources.  Of course the same argument can apply to jobs at General Electric or Apple, or any charity or church.  If Apple goes out of business and people can’t buy iPhones they will still have the money they would have spent on them, and they will presumably buy something else instead.  So by Samuelson's logic the jobs at Apple don’t count either.  If full employment is always guaranteed, then Apple didn’t really create those jobs building iPhones, it just displaced them from some other purpose. 

I was disappointed.  I had hoped that the argument for Romney’s (and apparently Samuelson’s) view that “the government does not create jobs” was more sophisticated than that.  I had hoped, and thought, that it was some misunderstanding of the Solow growth model, for example, which uses variables like population growth, savings rate, depreciation and capital investment to show how economies grow.  The misunderstanding would be that “capital investment” only means lathes and backhoes, but does not include roads, bridges, dams, and so on; in other words, that growth only occurs when private industry invests, not when government invests.  Of course that’s absurd. But it would at least show some background in the topic, and some knowledge of the theories of economic growth.

I have to wrap this up.  The storm is getting insistent.  But I’ll try to get back to this topic soon with more details. 

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