Limitations of Pay Pal and how it’s side stepping them

I’ve used PayPal for several years now on my iDevices and PC’s, mostly for paying a few monthly subscriptions and moving money between bank and credit union. It also enables me to pay for my minor excesses out of my ‘monthly money’ rather than the family general account. I have bought a couple of big-ticket ‘toy’ items using the credit account and then paying back over a few months, or better saving up then using PP to buy the lusted after item over the net. I think PP is a useful service and I trust it more than I do big bank credit card services though that’s a little player vs. mongo player preference rather than real in-depth analysis.

Pay Pals weakness has been the network effect. In general the more members any network has the more useful it is. While PP is pretty widely spread these days it’s not getting bigger quickly enough and I have continued to use other methods of paying for most things.

PP has solved at least part of this growth problem by moving into the credit card world. Establishing a PayPal Master card in place of its own credit account. This enables users to pay through the immense existing credit card infrastructure but use the PP ‘back office.’

In one sense it’s a bit sad that PP had to just become another credit card. But they do provide a lot of other services and a way to manage and move your money around in the banking system.

What Me Worry? The Economist puts the problem with NSA, FISA, etc in a clear light

The Secret police—the NSA, the CIA, et al—are by their very nature antithetical to those ideals, because openness and transparency about rules are essential to democratic public justification, and therefore to the legitimacy of state power. What must be secret cannot be fully democratic. One may well worry whether we can afford such a demanding standard of legitimate government in such a dangerous world. Perhaps we cannot. Perhaps it is foolish to be too good. But in that case we need to be clear-headed about it, and understand that secret police are a straightforwardly anti-democratic concession we make to a dangerous world. And we ought to accept that any strengthening of the powers of the secret police—especially the secret strengthening of the powers of the secret police—is a further blow to democracy and the legitimacy of our laws. The NSA’s digital dragnet is a silent coup. The filibuster is rain on election day.

Read more : Economist : Democracy in America-American Politics

Is it zeitgeist? Hadn’t seen this when I ranted a bit on MBA’s

Read more at : MeganMcardle.com: Is the MBA Going Away? 9July 2013

… it is the graduate schools that the collapse has begun. That doesn’t mean that graduate education will go away (after all, neither tulip bulbs nor stock exchanges went away when those bubbles collapsed); rather, the market will get dramatically smaller, with the shakiest programs going bust, others retrenching, and the top ones continuing to draw more students than they can enroll. If it spreads to college, we should expect to see the same pattern: top tier schools surviving and even thriving, while lesser ranked schools pitched into financial crises by declining enrollment.

Also: Don’t Go to Business School! by Megan McArdle at The Daily Beast Jan 9, 2013 10:36 AM

Unless you can get into a top program, professional school may cause more problems than it solves

1968

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A long post on a turning point year.

Interesting that Mad Men, the iconic cable TV show about admen in that pivotal era seems to cause so much introspection.

Many reasons, many of today’s thinkers were young then, TV was really getting its legs, technology was vaulting forward but was now seen as a mixed blessing rather than untrammeled good, the almost unlimited growth of industry and regulation…or regulated industry was sputtering as the dead hands of regulation, unionization, corporatist over-reach, the limits of top down management and aging leadership (and infrastructure) began to run up against emergent back pressure from a rising Japan/Asia, Germany/Europe, Communism as an apparently proven long term competitor/threat.

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How deeply felt | Atlantic review of C.Chavez bio

Simply remarkable book review / self awakening memoir of the UFW, Caesar Chavez, and the sixties.

There seems something ineffably right about this piece, it captures the sadness one feels looking back at the 60’s 70’s and the soaring optimism that so rapidly became a disastrous fall into ruin, ruin most tragically for those the movements believers sought to help.

New Post 2 : Why Big(Big) Corporations, Grey in Tooth and Claw may need Unions as a counterparty, whereas Innovative Little Guys need Unions like they need regulations and stray holes in the head

I’ve been thinking about Walter Russell Mead’s Death of the Blue model meme and some of the ramifications.  Also thinking back on the history of industrialization and laissez-faire economics in English and American experience.  Then Meagan Mcardle had a blog piece on the Daily Beast the other day that had a tangential thoughts of interest.

To Paraphrase rather egregiously:  The United States has the largest economy in the world as well as the most dynamic and creative (though there are many who are trying to change that.) It trades a more secure safety net (which might not work in a large and heterogeneous country anyway) for more vigor and growth, even though that creates a greater disparity between rich and poor.  Many smaller nations could follow the US lead but if they did they would suffer because they would be competing against a vastly larger pool of potential entrepreneurs etc.  This makes it much more sensible for them to curl up and ride the innovation wave the US creates while providing a more comfy and fair life style for their citizens.  If the US turned and did the Comfy-Fair thing, the world would lose its innovation mainspring and everyone would suffer because to a large degree our society/economy requires innovation and change to provide the economic voltage that drives the circuits of world trade.  There is some research into this and the modeling seems to support the intuition in the main.  But the researchers commented that Unions and Regulations offer a buffer against the potential of corporations using up the employees and resources.   And it is that thought that intersects my intuition.

Essentially the problem is, and this can be shown in history, that large operations, even if owned and run by persons of great moral character become more and more ruthless as they grow.  And as the operation turns from owner/operator to corporation the inherent inhuman ruthlessness gets worse and worse.  The more successful a company is the more ruthless its ‘minions’ are going to tend to be.  Look at what happened in the Robber Baron era, and then again in the great multinational eras (60’s and 90’s 50’s to today in my mind.)  They were (are) Big Beasts, Gray not Red, in Tooth and Claw.  It was nineteenth century progressive regulation then early twentieth century unions that tamed them in regards to their employees.  Then it was the regulatory state in the 60’s-80’s taking charge in the 80’s that created Monster Corporations that ‘cared’ about the externals like the environment, customer safety, etc.

But from a libertarians viewpoint, it has always been the state’s fault that these beasts came into being at all.  It can be argued that the great corporations were purposely crafted to employ and control great swaths of the population (I don’t think this was actually planned ahead of time, I think it was/is an emergent pattern driven by economic and social realities of the time but I am sure some saw it ahead of time and some will say it was all a vast conspiracy on someone’s part.)

Small firms, networks of firms, partnerships, franchises, etc, are all different ways of spreading technology effectively if perhaps not as efficiently as monopolistic or oligopolistic ultra large firms that came into existence to industrialize the US and compete on the world stage.  In the UK this smaller/distributed model remained more common and competed strongly for a while until the incrementally crippling damage of WWI, the interwar boom-bust, WWII and the following socialist experiment so badly damaged it that it was off the world stage for thirty years, unitl Thatcher.

It is these smaller more entrepreneurial firms that are damaged by regulation and unionization the most.  Not on purpose but because both cut the small companies ability to turn on a dime and give big companies, which can support big compliance departments, a very large advantage in the ‘rent seeking’ game of playing the regulators.

So the very instruments that you need to tame the Big Beasts of large-scale corporatism are the ones that plow under the smaller firms that offer 1) growth in the economy and 2) alternatives to the big beasts.

A balance is what you seek…

Our problem is that the post WWII boom hid the damage of the Big Beasts and their Tamers for several decades, and during that time we seem to have gotten the impression that there is some natural stable state that is ‘right’ and this state has something to do with large stable corporations and their control of the markets.

It’s clear to me that the bureaucratic-regulatory-union-corporation model does not have legs in a world of real competition from Big Beasts who are not constrained to the same degree.

Sometimes I think the only real hope is that the Industrial Civilization of ‘Big Beasts’ will be supplanted by something one might call the Maker Civilization, where zero cost communications and distributed at need manufacturing cuts the legs out from under all the Big Beasts.

What the Hayek?

Economist Philosopher F.Hayek

Economist Philosopher F.Hayek

The Road To Serfdom is often referenced and probably like many such books rarely read.  This link goes to a real life Readers Digest version, that seems to hit hard and capture well his central thesis, at least it seems so from the references to his writing.

Its certainly making me think of buying a version either at Half Price books or more likely for Nook.

From the Post Referenced above a few key pieces:

From the preamble:

At that time it was a political philosophy that stood for progress through preserving the Autonomy of the INDIVIDUAL, and the protection of the INDIVIDUAL’S civil liberty. Oddly enough, today “liberalism” equals “socialism.” Equally as odd, conservatism (and in many instances, libertarianism) champions the independence of the individual.

From the first section:

Yet is there a greater tragedy imaginable than that, in our endeavor consciously to shape our future in accordance with high ideals, we should in fact unwittingly produce the very opposite of what we have been striving for?

Planning and Power

In order to achieve their ends, the planners must create power – power over men wielded by other men – of a magnitude never before known. Democracy is an obstacle to this suppression of freedom which the centralized direction of economic activity requires.

And despite the somewhat old fashioned and formal words this should have striking impact because it tells you exactly what is going on today and why so many fear it.  It does not matter that we voted ‘the planners’ into place or that they are bureaucrats subject to dismissal.  We are providing the keys to power and we are then likely to forget about them until they are far too entrenched to remove easily.

It is only because the control of the means of production is divided among many people acting independently that we as individuals can decide what to do with ourselves. When all the means of production are vested in a single hand, whether it be nominally that of “society” as a whole or that of a dictator, whoever exercises this control has complete power over us.

Now this sounds like Communism, Socialism or Fascism not the American way but the truth is that any major part of the social structure-economy in one groups hands creates a massive center of power, privilege and patronage, the 3P’s of tyranny writ small or large.  The 3Ps lead to lawless, corrupt and ineffective organizations.

Individualism, in contrast to socialism and all other forms of totalitarianism, is based on the respect of Christianity for the individual man and the belief that it is desirable that men should be free to develop their own individual gifts and bents. This philosophy, first fully developed during the Renaissance, grew and spread into what we know as Western civilization. The general direction of social development was one of freeing the individual from the ties which bound him in feudal society.

This is not a theologian’s statement it is a philosopher’s recognition of the Christian-European (unstated but clear) understanding of the centrality of the individual as the basis of societies. That societies are are the emergent organization of many individuals interacting with each other.  And societies that provide ‘room’ for people to find their own level and best place in the social fabric are vastly more fair and kind than ones organized in rigid hierarchies and treat or form the person as an interchangeable cog.

From the post script a quote  from Frédéric Bastiat.:

Individualism, in contrast to socialism and all other forms of totalitarianism, is based on the respect for the individual man and the belief that it is desirable that men should be free to develop their own individual gifts and bents.

More Blue model Blue Growth

Saw an op-ed in the Indy Star that started out asking what Romney would say to a police group about explaining why we don’t need more police on the beat.

Juxtaposed with an article elsewhere pointing out that violent crime is at a 40 year low after a significant reduction for the last however many years and that even none violent crime is decreasing.  And this during a recession!

An argument can be made that this is because there are more police and more prison cells than ever before.  Or it could be because police patrolling practices with focus on trouble spots and keeping feet on the street are inherently more effective than the blanket patrol car and large precinct office staff model that preceded it.

However given that most police forces are unreconstructed and there are vast opportunities for more effective use of the people on hand, the need for more police is to me; at least unclear and possibly even preposterous.  As WRMead at ViaMeadia might say this is just more Blue model thinking, pressing for more Blue model growth.

Given that historically locking thugs up just opened niche for other predators to move in, it’s more likely that video games are absorbing a lot of youth time that used to be spent getting into trouble.  And its harder to make crime pay these days unless you have to be savvy, connected and have the gear to do it right or you get no payday.  And with the prevalence of violence in the criminal strata, it seems to me that the number of fools willing to take up the life has to be somewhat limited.

The biggest concern that I have is that a permanent criminal culture could develop, one that is all but self-sustaining, like the preceding and overlapping welfare culture.  This culture is so isolated from the larger american society that its members do not see themselves as having an interest in or path into the society at large because its alien and in some senses very cold and unfeeling.  In the criminal culture life may be ugly and short but it may also be very much focused on immediate gratification and the id of the young men who are its principal actors.

 

Winston Churchill and Theodore Roosevelt

Winston Churchill:

 Socialism is a philosophy of failure, the creed of ignorance, and the gospel of envy, its inherent virtue is the equal sharing of misery.

Theodore Roosevelt:

The things that will destroy America are prosperity-at-any-price, peace-at-any-price, safety-first instead of duty-first, the love of soft living, and the get-rich-quick theory of life.

Go have a look at other interesting quotes: BrainyQuote

Two men, great men many will say, and with great flaws.  But were those flaws…Bugs or just Features…in the time and society they existed in?

Looking backwards without the right perspective can distort more than it can clarify.  Just like the too common view today that Christians have been crushing the poor Muslims ever since the Crusades.  When in fact the Crusades were a rather haphazard and ultimately futile attempt to defend the Christian majority who had lived in the middle east since Roman times. Christians who were being conquered and subjugated by the (at the time) newly minted religion of Islam and the expanding empire it formed the basis of.  It was Christian Europe (with all its faults) and probably modern civilization that was under threat, not the Moslems.

Blue Model and it’s replacement…better not less

Walter Russell Mead at his usual level of clear thinking:

As good quality education and health care become more expensive, it becomes harder for society to provide these goods to those who cannot provide them out of their own earnings. The development of a good $10,000 bachelor program would do more for low and lower middle income families than doubling the size of all student loan programs. Generally speaking, anything that makes education cheaper and easier — shifting from a “time served” model to a skills learned model for awarding qualifications and degrees, breaking the guild monopolies through accreditation and other systems so that more institutions can compete in the market — will make society less blue, but make the poor better off.