Gongol.com Archives: April 2013
Brian Gongol

April 8, 2013

News Margaret Thatcher "will no doubt be remembered for her results"
So eulogizes the Christian Science Monitor. They conclude appropriately: "She had faith in unending progress for all".

Business and Finance US savings rate plunges back to dangerously low levels
There are plenty of problems from a savings rate that is too low: It starves the process of private-sector investment, making individuals and families less well-off in the long term. It puts households at greater risk of trouble if and when the unexpected occurs (like a water heater going bad or a surprise illness). And in an economy as consumer-spending-driven as America's, it means that policy-makers get desperate quickly when they see consumer spending decrease (since people without any savings don't have a well from which to draw in order to take advantage of bargains when the economy slows and prices fall...which is how an economy should naturally self-correct) -- so it encourages those policy-makers, in turn, to try to "prime the pump" through government borrowing and spending (which only further impoverishes the future taxpayer). But, perhaps worst of all, the progress of today's economy is away from human labor and towards time- and money-saving machines (and computers and programs) that make workers more productive than ever...meaning fewer of them are needed. It's nothing new...the John Deere plow was bad news for farmhands. But if people are under-saving (and thus under-investing in capital) at a time when capital is being rewarded proportionally better than labor is, then lots of people are making a deliberate choice to put themselves in a much worse future financial situation than they should. Some people are quick to get indignant about this inequity of payoff between labor and capital, but they're generally not thinking about the big picture -- the effort to discover time- and labor-saving devices is one of the defining currents of all human history. We settled the Great Plains because windmills let farmers get water from the ground with a lot less work. If they'd been forced to rely on hand pumps, they wouldn't have had time or the ability to become homesteaders. Even today, there are people around the world who must waste hours every day trying to collect and carry clean drinking water. Those are hours that children could instead be spending in school, and that their parents could instead be spending in many other productive pursuits. Virtually anything that saves human time and effort makes us better-off in the long run.

Broadcasting Are the broadcast television networks being drama queens?
Fox and Univision are both starting to drop hints that they might just pick up and leave over-the-air television someday because it's getting so easy for people to watch their programming without tuning a television set at a predetermined time. While it's pretty unlikely we'd see a network dissolve anytime in the coming ten to fifteen years, it's increasingly possible that the future will depend ever less on the big broadcasting networks. After all, who would've thought 15 years ago that NBC would be in 5th place among the networks for viewers ages 18 to 49?

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