Archive | August, 2012

Ridges on Coins

5 Aug

You’ve seen them–the ridges that are around the outside edges of coins.


Technically, it is called reeding.  Historically, ridges were put on the outside of coins because the coins were made of precious metals–gold or silver.  Certain people would shave around the edges of the coins and get some of that precious metal.  They were cheating the system–trying to get a little more money from the coin than it was worth, at the expense of the person who got the coin back.

So the mints added reeding.  That was a change to the coin that made it much harder to steal money by shaving the coin.  The theft-protection system was institutionalized.

Most of the debate in the recent election has focused on the economy.  I find that a little sad and short-sighted.  But if we are going to talk about the economy, why don’t we really talk about the economy?

Let’s not only talk about the percentage of people who want jobs and can’t find them, let’s talk about changes we can make to the system to prevent coin-shaving.

There are people who make money by computer programs that shave the daily fluctuations in the prices of stocks and make profit off of that.  That practice introduces a basic instability into the stock market.  Can we instute an equilivent of reeding to that?

If you think about it, there are a number of ways the ordinary citizen can get cheated in the financial sector of the economy.  Are we wrong to expect the system to have institutional honesty?

That’s the part of the economy we should be working on.


Commitment Reform

4 Aug

How many times have you heard about “entitlement reform”?  As in the government creates programs that give things out and people decide they are entitled to them.  Programs like welfare, social security, medicare, and on and on.

Conservative politicians have decided that the government is too big and that we pay too much in taxes.  Part of the problem, according to the narritive, is that all these slackers have decided that the world owes them a living and so they are on the government dole, waiting for their “entitlements.”

The problem I have with that is I think entitlement reform is not really what we are doing.  We are doing commitment reform.

We have a long history of democracy in this country.  Social programs such as social security, food stamps, welfare, etc. were all initiated by elected representatives.  These were things we wanted to do.  Now we may not have done the math right, and we may not have considered the full effects of the demographics.  There may have been unintended consequences of our policies.  We may not want to keep the programs in place or pay so much for them.

But in revising those programs we need to be honest about what we are doing.  We are reevaluating promises we made, and we are deciding which ones to keep.  We may have overpromised.  We may have miscalculated the costs.    We are chosing not to honor those commitments we made in the past.

What Israel Means to the United States

1 Aug

After taking a long break from this blog I think it may be time to pick it back up again.  The politicians are at it hot and heavy.  It is time to throw my two cents in.

Mitt Romney has recently made news with his visit to the State of Israel and his comments about what the appropriate capitol of the state is.  Politicians often argue about Israel as well.  The argument often ends up being about who is the greatest supporter of Israel.  Why is that?

Some have argued that there is some kind of powerful Jewish lobby.  There may be some truth to that–there are some Jewish lobbying groups that have quite a bit of clout.  But I don’t really think that is the center of the argument.

The United States is largely a Christian nation–founded by Christians, still majority Christian and protestant.  The story line of Christianity is all about the difference between Jews and Gentiles (everyone who is not Jewish).  Christians of all lines of thinking (and this includes Mormons) have some kind of image Jewish people.  They are, after all, “God’s chosen people” according to Christian tradition.

So I am a long-time athiest who grew up in a family of Christians, in a small town full of Christians.  Why should how the United States deals with Israel be any different than how it deals with France or Italy?  It shouldn’t, but it does.

“Support for Israel” in some quarters is code for how much a candidate will support a certain type of knee-jerk approach to the world, based on Christian ideas without much consideration of the actual results of the policy.

Do we support Israel?  Is that the Jewish State or the democracy?  Do we support real efforts for peace in that area, or are we going to find the politician with the hardest line of rhetoric and go with that?

We need to re-examine our policies and identify our own predjudices.   Then we can evaluate our policies toward that state.

Jimmy Carter received a lot of heat for his book Peace, not Aparthied.  But I think his approach is much more reasoned than what most politicians are taking now.