Archive for the 'economy' Category

Measuring inflation

September 30, 2013

I get frustrated when I hear about how little inflation there is;  measured how, I want to ask.

One of the ways I see the cost of living increasing is the replacing of a higher quality item with one that doesn’t function as well.  The sticker price may stay the same or even go down, but the value isn’t the same.  Is that measured by indices of inflation?  It’s not just about enjoying a better quality immediately, it’s also about the longevity of the item.  As I understand it, chained CPI as a measure of inflation actually does the opposite, assuming cheaper substitutions are adequate and don’t create measurable loss.  I think it’s an underhanded way to avoid coming to grips with the impact of inflation without seeming to do so.

This morning I was thinking about the quality factor, though.

I have my thermostats turned down, because, like many around where I live, we just don’t want the heat to turn on until we are deeper into the autumn season.  Temperatures warm up outside during the day, so some chill at night and in the early morning doesn’t seem so bad.

But I don’t like being cold either.  I find a thick wool sweater is a big help.  They have gotten expensive.  Many sweaters for sale are now blends, often including synthetics, and I don’t find them as warm or as helpful in maintaining my physical comfort — I can become both sweaty and cold wearing them.

When I went to Town Day last weekend, I bought a big heavy wool sweater for $35.00.  I put it on this morning and went, “Yes!  This is what works!”  It’s warm, but it breathes.

But it makes me wonder whether one has to head back to some sort of more rudimentary economy than our mainstream one in order to maintain this sort of way of life.  Because I bought my sweater from a small vendor.  In cash.  No shipping, no bricks and mortar store, no advertizing, no separate sales tax (I have no idea whether such vendors pay it to the state nonetheless).

I don’t have the time to buy all my things this way, it’s not a very efficient way to acquire what one needs.  That cost in time and energy is not measured by economic indices, either, I don’t think.  But these are the realities.

Anyway, the sweater also amuses me because it is a little too loud and a little too big, but it does have a zipper and pockets, too.  It’s grey, but with burgundy, red, greens, and white in a pattern at the yoke and at the cuffs.  Kind of like a Norwegian sweater.  The pattern involves zig-zag stripes and fleur-di-lis.  And it was a one-size-fits-all deal.  Which will actually come in handy in the winter, when even with the heat on, I need to wear layers to keep warm — this will fit over them all.

It’s a nice way to beat the cold and inflation.

Hidden inflation?

October 20, 2012

Do measurements of inflation take into account when the package size of an item decreases but the price stays the same?  I’m going to guess they do, because we’re talking about cost per unit, something pretty obvious and something objectively measurable.

What about a change in materials?  I’m thinking of sweaters.  It used to be easy to buy an 100% wool sweater for a reasonable amount of money.  Now it seems that most sweaters are knit from a blend of materials, and include materials such as polyester, acrylic, nylon, and spandex.  These blends may be promoted as “cozy” or “light” or the like, but wool, angora, merino, or cashmere they are not.  They are not as warm and they have a different effect on body heat regulation, including things like exchange of moisture with the air.  (They can produce sweating without warmth, for example, in my experience.)  In other words, synthetics are not interchangeable with natural fibers.

So when sweater prices don’t go up all that much but now the sweaters are made from blends with synthetics, to me that’s inflation nonetheless.  I’m wondering if that’s measured and goes into inflation indices, too.  From my point of view, we’re getting less for, if not more, than at least the same price.

Creative destruction, Shiva, and praxy

July 18, 2012

I’ve got the concept of creative destruction in the context of capitalism in my head from reading people like David Brooks, and the praxy part from reading people like Richard Rohr on the contrast between orthodoxy and orthopraxy.  Shiva comes in as my go-to shorthand for referencing creative destruction in spiritual matters.

This is my post on gnosis misunderstood through attempts at external transmission, which I said I would put in its own post.

If we take Shiva as pointing to a concept of creative and transformative destruction, a concept we might understand through internal insight, through gnosis, we can wonder what might follow from perceiving the concept through only external and intellectual means.  If we actually internalize the concept, I think we become more open to incorporating it into our own journey.  Journeys include actual experiences and doing things — Father Rohr’s praxis, I believe.  I think the upshot may be our willingness to experience creative destruction in our own lives, to take The Fall.

If we have only heard about or understood the concept behind Shiva and perceived creative destruction through our cognitive apparatus, by which I mean our intellects (I have in mind here, by reading about the concept and thinking about it with our conscious minds alone), then we might only incorporate the idea of it into our lives.  In that case, we probably only talk about it rather than experience it.  That, I think, leads to theories and discussions such the role the role of creative destruction in capitalism.

So what? I guess is a question I should address.

People who insist on never taking the fall inflate on the spiritual plane like a balloon and like an obese person on the physical plane.   They may buy larger clothing but the internal build up within them impedes aspects of their lives.  They also need accommodation from others and in real sense push this onto others.  It’s not that there’s anything “morally” wrong with any of this, it’s just that it shifts around needs and burdens.  (People with other eating disorders, including anorexics, I think do the same.  I have lived with both — obese people and anorexic people.  I also often think the depiction of the Buddha as fat is significant — he may be reflecting back to us our own spiritual condition.)  At the extreme, a person who only uses words and never experiences becomes both an empty shell and toxic dump.  The fall allows a person at a certain stage in their development to engage in osmosis, if I can call it that: an exchange of what’s inside them with what’s outside of them — they become a permeable membrane.  This development allows a person to continue to develop spiritually, is my understanding.

David Brooks once said on the PBS NewsHour that while he didn’t relish the idea of having his wisdom tooth pulled, he knew it was necessary and willingly had it done.  That sort of attitude I think is also necessary in respect to experiencing the fall.

To put it another way, I think we need at some stage in our journeys to dance with Shiva, and willingly.

Divine intervention

April 29, 2012

I read something the other day that gave me pause, in part over the substance and in part because it showed me how different my thinking seems to be from others’.

It had to do with Paul Krugman’s “Confidence Fairy,” and he said something to the effect that people who believe in her think she’ll come as a reward for “fiscal virtue.”

I had no idea that this was the dynamic people imagined.  I assumed that people thought eventually the Confidence Fairy would come when she felt things warranted her intervention and would instill confidence in business owners out of the kindness of her heart, perhaps by re-framing things as I think the Wizard of Oz did.   Because confidence I don’t think comes to us from a sense of having been good and deserving — plenty of such people don’t have it, while plenty of people who are pretty clear on their having behaved badly have plenty of confidence — I don’t think a sense of virtue produces confidence, I think it is a frame of mind we access or not depending on other factors.

This contrast between fairy intervention on the basis of earning it through behavior and receiving it for the fairy’s own reasons led me to think about different models for divine help or intervention.  I don’t think we receive it because we racked up enough points to compel it, or that if we don’t receive it we’re not virtuous, I think a big factor is whether the desired help serves our good and the greater good.

If we need help locating our confidence, I think we can get that, but I think it probably means facing our fears rather than demonstrating our virtue.

Impatience and fear

September 21, 2011

I was reading that maybe our national distress arises out of impatience rather than fear, and that this is a more helpful way of framing what’s going on.  I’m thinking that on the one hand that it may well be true, that we suffer from impatience.  But I am wondering whether “impatience” covers pain and loss and the fear that goes with sensing that difficult situations may get worse.  Pure impatience, to me, is about annoyance and superficial frustration.  Yes, it may be true that voters’ anger at the President Obama has to do with impatience at the length of time it is taking for the economy to improve, but what about the emotions that may arise when people lose their jobs, their income, their homes, their health?  Is it being impatient to feel that pain and be concerned it may continue unabated or get worse?  I think the “impatience” model risks being a sort of deceptive ruse, at least for some people.  If, on the other hand, it is meant that we should accept our present situations with equanimity, that might also produce patience, and it would also lead us to find ways to manage our present pain and suffering.  Because if issues such as fear really are involved at all, finding ways to deal with them, it seems to me, is necessary if they are not to influence us unduly going forward.  If there really are underlying splinters in our psyches, it’s probably more effective to remove them than to bandage them.  Reframing is a wonderful tool, but I suspect the new framework needs to relate adequately to the experience of the situation, if it is be helpful and sustainable.

Indirect routes

September 3, 2011

I was writing a comment on the PBS NewsHour’s website, in response to the Shields & Brooks segment, about President Obama’s speech next week and what Mark Shields recommended as a “‘Holy Cow’ moment.”  And I was suggesting that President Obama do something similar to what I think happened to produce his speech on why we got involved in Libya — hearing lots of (maybe conflicting) advice and information, and then looking deep inside for what he really believes we ought to do — I think he even said as much, as I recall it, about the process.

It occurred to me some time after I submitted the comment that what might actually be the reality is that we as a nation will need to end up waiting for the mess of the popped financial bubble(s) to be reabsorbed over an all too lengthy period, that there’s a very real limit to what government can do (I’ve heard that point of view from my father for decades and David Brooks seemed to be espousing).  But I’m thinking that in a way there isn’t a contradiction between the president having a big idea (if he thinks one is appropriate) and our coming out of this economic situation through factors other than what he proposes — maybe a big idea, even if it doesn’t play out as hoped for, will lead to some other step, including less fear and more confidence in the community, that will ultimately help us get back on our feet.