Podcast: Updated weekly in the wee hours of Sunday night/Monday morning. Subscribe on Stitcher, Spreaker, Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, or iHeartRadio
More than at any other time in memory, our lives are being driven by two unfortunate powers in the universe:
- The "somebody do something" effect
- Government's tendency to live by "no policy without a crisis"
That's scary, but not altogether surprising. America's built a mountain of debt, and that mountain is buttressed on three sides: Household debt, business debt, and government debt.
The Federal debt keeps bounding upwards -- reaching $11,046,247,657,049.48 this past week. That makes your personal share $36,085.83, assuming all 306,110,661 of us share it equally.
So, with a colossal mountain of Federal government debt on one side, household debt that consumes 14% of the average family's income on another, and unheard-of levels of corporate debt on the third, we have a three-legged stool of American debt that's far too wobbly for us to sustain in the long run.
Our weather word of the day is "unsurprising." The rain and wind we're looking for over the next couple of days are pretty much par for the course.
The market still works to break monopolies, and we have a little more evidence this week. Microsoft is pushing out a new version of Internet Explorer, but this version is a break from past versions in that it's pretty close to being "standards compliant." In real-life terms, that means it's meant to play nicely on a level playing field with other browsers (like Firefox and Opera and Chrome). For years, people developing websites designed them to be "optimized for Internet Explorer" or some other browser. But thanks to the success of other browsers to compete with the long-dominant Internet Explorer, Microsoft is being forced to improve its product in a way that will benefit people who don't even use it. That's the wonder of creative destruction.
A local government in the UK is using fly-over thermal imaging to find out what houses are letting off heat, then "visiting" with the homeowners to "educate" them about greenhouse gas pollution. Given the popular enthusiasm for "anything it takes" kinds of action on greenhouse gases, don't be surprised if someone here in the US thinks it's a good idea to copycat.
It's easy to be angry about the Federal bailout money being shipped to GM and Chrysler right now. The financial problems threatening the very existence of the automakers are titanic, and they should've been seen and dealt with decades ago. But they weren't, and now the government is pouring money into the system to save the automakers. But it should frighten everybody -- every one of us -- that the President now has the power to fire executives in the Fortune 500. GM is still one of the world's ten biggest companies, and now the White House is commandeering the authority to hire and fire the folks at the top. This isn't pretty...not one bit. And on a more local scale, it's a little unsettling to see the governor directly approaching business managers at Microsoft about the proposed West Des Moines data center that's been put on hold. Government needs its own space, and so does business. Too much overlap between the two tends to corrupt both.
We'll try to get into our discussion about the need for education to evolve next week -- we just didn't have enough time during this show -- but here's a thought for you to chew on for the week: For a long time, we've been told that we're in the era of the knowledge economy. But more and more, knowledge -- or at least information -- is becoming commoditized. Google's played a part in that, and so have many other services. And as a result, we're actually moving into the era of the judgment economy. It's not necessarily what you know, but how well you can apply it. Perhaps more important, it's a matter of how quickly you can apply it with the right result. Judgment requires foresight and the ability to consider and compare the possible outcomes, based on what we know, and acknowledging what we might not know.
Keywords in this show: bailouts • borrowing • central banks • China • Chrysler • corporate debt • corruption • creative destruction • currency • debt • education • Federal debt • Firefox • Fortune 500 • General Motors • Google • Google Chrome • government intervention • government overreach • household debt • Internet Explorer • jobs • judgment economy • knowledge economy • monopolies • no policy without a crisis • privacy • "somebody do something" • weather • website optimization