Unexpected Consequences

In addition to apocalyptic scenarios, I also enjoy teasing out the possibilities of action/reaction in society’s macro behaviors. Like Freakonomics taught us, what are the implications to what we’re experiencing and how we’re reacting? Here are a few I’ve heard of and some I’ve dreamed up myself. My favorite is Goldie’s “there’s gonna be a rash of December babies born this year due to the work-from-home mandate.”

Close the borders and…

  • Migrant workers cannot come in to perform the agricultural work needed by 1/3 of the industry.
  • They won’t be there to pick, pack, and purvey the produce we need directly, and the food industry needs to create our canned, bottled and frozen foods.
  • Those same workers won’t be there to perform the planting that will result in crops in four to six months.
  • Close the borders and we eventually starve.

Close the schools and after school programs the daycare facilities and…

  • All the kids now need parents to stay home.
  • Many of those parents are critical service workers: police, healthcare, emergency responders, infrastructure repair.
  • And the kids won’t be staying home, or alone, or away from the elders who live with them. They’ll be out mixing it up with other neighborhood kids, perhaps more so that had they just stayed in school.

Shut down the hospitality industry and…

  • Fifteen million low to medium wage people lose work if not their jobs.
  • Another eight million in the airline industry lose work if not their jobs.

* Suppress spending across the entertainment, sports and restaurant industries and the velocity of money drops through the floor — ending up in a massive recession — one we’ve been expecting for three years.

* Drive the price of oil down below $30/barrel and the booming U.S. shale oil and fracking industry collapses throwing another million workers into the pit.

@ On the bright side, fewer cars on the road means fewer traffic accidents; less air pollution; quicker response to emergency calls (to save an elderly person with COVID symptoms).

* Force everyone to work from home and the homeless go WTF?

@ Fortunately, it’s already second nature to remain socially distant from the homeless.

@ Is there going to be a resurgence of home cooking where millennials learn to make more than Mac-a-cheese and Ramen?

* Too bad Grandma won’t be allowed in the kitchen with those asymptomatic carriers.

* Millions were forced from their homes to live at the whims of the rentier society during the last Great Recession.

@ Although thousands more will end up being force to foreclose during this calamity, at least we know that the rich are just as susceptible to this scourge — so there’s hope a proportionate number will die along with the rest of us.

* Is this the end of the Farmer’s market? Craft fairs? Concerts in the park?

No doubt the unintended and unexpected consequences from this pandemic will continue to play out. How many more can we come up with? I’m sure there are dozens just waiting to be exposed.

  • More marijuana smoking/eating?
  • More alcohol binging?
  • More reviews on movie venues, book venues, products?
  • More online psychologist sessions?
  • More facetime calls with estranged family?
  • More Amazon Prime memberships?
  • More neighbor altercations?
  • More house cleaning?
  • More nookie?
  • More?

When Shit Happens

How I love it when shit happens.

Despite anyone’s valiant attempts to strive for their personal goals, the world comes along and fucks shit up. Everyone’s shit.

And the realization that nothing you do will amount to anything, or, in Willy Wonka reverse notation, everything you do will amount to nothing, is first and foremost in everyone’s mind as the world comes apart in this /barely/ registered blip of illness called COVID-19.

Holy Hell Folks. 150,000 people die EVERY DAY on this planet. and that 15,000 “extra” dead folks after 2 months of illness is somehow a God-Enacted-Disaster is just so much bunk.

When the stock market tanks I stand up and cheer: screw you, you arrogant Wall Street fucks! (I worked writing trading software for eight years and know how it really works… Traders are assholes and corporations are the scourge of the Earth.)

So, to watch the market plummet TEN PERCENT in one day, Hallelujah, absolution is at hand. Of course, the economy is in good shape: banks, employment, oil prices, interest rates, lack of a war or agricultural calamity — good shape. When this brouhaha bleeds into the history books, the general markets will come screaming back.

But in the interim, gottdamn I love to watch the world squirm, dangling on its own false hooks.

 

China to invade Russia

There was a recent map published which showed population as area rather than area as area. What struck me was the juxtaposition of China and Russia.

Russia has 16.3 million square kilometers of land. China 9.3 million.
Russia as 144 million people. China has 1,415 million people.
Russia shares a border with China that is 4,200 kilometers long.

When China needs to expand guess which direction they’re heading?

We wonder about Russia’s vast military build up, maybe we shouldn’t wonder at all. Russia’s might to fight the US or NATO or the EU? Naw, they have a much bigger problem south of the border.

RussiaVsChina

With global warming turning the Siberian wasteland into potentially viable farmland. That and access to the Arctic Ocean might entice a Chinese takeover of Eastern Russia. All them resources just begging to be turned into high tariff products bound for the US and elsewhere.

Anti-trust: Bust ’em up, or?

Clearly Google, Amazon, Facebook, Apple and a few others are too big, too market expansive, too monopolistic. Apple less so, but the argument would still hold for them.

Those first three are market behemoths with the power and capital to quash any competition — primarily through acquisition. Don’t like that company competing with your searches, online shopping or online ad market? Buy them up.

That’s how monopolies become monopolies. Price fixing (like Apple and Uber) or price gouging, (like Amazon and Microsoft) which drives out competition (or shrinks the competition down so that they become easy acquisition targets), are all tactics to build monopolies.

The Big Three will get disassembled here in the next few years, no doubt about it. The DOJ, once the IBI* in Chief is out of the picture, will get back on track working for the U.S. Citizens.

But what about eliminating the problem created by such companies in the first place?

The below linked Senate Bill tries to do just that. But I wonder if there’s a simple rule that could be put in place that would kill the M&A practice like the evil corporate consolidation game that it is.

What if we use the market capitalization of any company as a filter to determine which companies can buy other companies?

Surely a $Trillion dollar company like Apple has so much cash they could buy nearly any other company they coveted. Apple Buys Uber and then becomes a massive captive distributed transportation monster. Obviously, we’d want to stop that.

So, at what size does a company become too big to allow it to swallow up competition (or expand sideways like Amazon’s purchase of Whole Foods)?

Here’s a simple concept to limit monopolies:
A company that sits at the 90th percentile or higher of market capitalization as ranked on the S&P500 — is banned from ANY and ALL acquisitions.

Right now that would take the top 50 companies out of the possibility of buying other companies. Right now that’s a market cap of about $100B. As this is a percentage, it wouldn’t matter how big or small the actual market cap would be. A simple rule that would severely limit monopoly creation (It might be that the 80th percentile would be better, but you get the point.)

Here’s that senate bill:
https://www.congress.gov/bill/115th-congress/senate-bill/1812/text?r=22

And here’s the list of FINDINGS that were listed in that bill:

(1) competitive markets are critical to ensuring opportunity for all people in the United States;

(2) when companies compete, businesses offer the highest quality and choice of goods for the lowest possible prices to consumers and other businesses;

(3) competition fosters small business growth, reduces economic inequality, and spurs innovation;

(4) concentration that leads to market power and anticompetitive conduct makes it more difficult for people in the United States to start their own businesses, depresses wages, and increases economic inequality;

(5) undue market concentration also contributes to the consolidation of political power, undermining the health of democracy in the United States;

(6) the anticompetitive effects of market power created by concentration include higher prices, lower quality, significantly less choice, reduced innovation, foreclosure of competitors, increased entry barriers, and monopsony power;

(7) monopsony power— (monopsony means only a single BUYER is available)

(A) allows a firm to force suppliers of goods or services to cut their prices to unreasonably low levels, resulting in reduced business opportunities for suppliers and reduced availability and quality of products and services for consumers; and

(B) can result in workers being forced to accept unreasonably low wages;

(8) horizontal consolidation, vertical consolidation, and conglomerate mergers all have potential to cause anticompetitive harm;

(9) unprecedented consolidation is reducing competition and threatens to place the American dream further out of reach for many consumers in the United States;

(10) since 2008, firms in the United States have engaged in over $10,000,000,000,000 in mergers and acquisitions;

(11) between 2010 and 2015, there was a 50-percent increase in the number of mergers and acquisitions reviewed by the Federal Trade Commission and the Antitrust Division of the Department of Justice;

* Incoherent Bloviating Imbecile

 

I give you ONE wish

Here are the rules:

You get one wish.

It will come true the moment you utter the sealing spell “that is my wish.”

It must be specific, that is, enactable by an omnipotent being (me). Meaning, it cannot be vague, “I wish for world peace.” (What would that mean? And how would any omniscient, omnipotent being apply that to the Universe?)

It can apply to any era in the history of the Universe; to any aspect of existence, any land, sea, creature, peoples or culture.

Go.

For thought fodder here are a few that you might consider. If multiple folks pick similar wishes then I’m sure they will eventually come true. (OK, this might not be possible, but, hey, we’re all living in a material, I mean, virtual world, right?)

  1. I wish that the physics of matter made it impossible for life to evolve.
  2. I wish that altruism balanced aggression in the natural order.
  3. I wish all planets that could harbor life, did harbor life.
  4. I wish that humanity was not alone in the universe and that we would discover this tomorrow.
  5. I wish that telekinetic power was possible.
  6. I wish unicorns existed today.
  7. And elves, flying dragons, 2nd law of thermodynamics defying physics existed too.