All of our money will leave!!!

This is a post I read on an audio forum and my response. He was essentially trying to say that inexpensive audio gear is pernicious…

Cheaper is better? Not if you are exporting your dollars for something of temporary value.

When we import stuff and exchange hard currency for it, we are exporting dollars in exchange for that stuff. The dollars leave our shores forever, at least in a large proportion. We as a country lose that net wealth.

To which I responded:

Ah, but you can’t listen to currency, nor can you eat it or clothe yourself with it. You’ve made the mistake of confusing money with wealth. Wealth is determined by what you can do or purchase, not by how many pieces of paper you have. You do understand that if we send money somewhere else and they do nothing with it, that would mean that they traded an amplifier for pieces of paper or electronic digits… What a deal! Unfortunately for us, they do indeed use that money, they expect something back. Currency is debt. Whoever holds it is entitled to goods or services. The Chinese surely cash in on those IOU’s. Here in the US, that has mostly taken the form of buying our debt but there has also been quite a bit of bond, stock, and other investment over here as well. Believe it or not, they have even imported some American stuff too. They have to do something with those dollars…

Currency trading aside, the key thing to remember is that anything that makes the stuff we buy less expensive increases our wealth. We are able to buy more (or do more, make more, etc) for the same amount of money. That is the definition of an increase in wealth. It could be caused by better machinery, technology, or less expensive labor, the result is the same. We get richer as costs go down. Focusing on money instead of wealth will lead to ideas like it is better to pay more for the things we want, or at least that less expensive things are somehow hurting us.

As always, Bastiat’s insights are still relevant. I highly recommend his essay The Balance of Trade.

The same arguments have been floating around for hundreds of years, they are just as wrong now as they were then.

Shaving

I got my new razor in today. It’s a Parker safety razor using double sided razor blades. I had decided to go this route because of my dissatisfaction with the currently available multi bladed contraptions. Not only do they cost a fortune, they don’t shave all that well.

I talked about my initial thoughts and the use of a real shaving soap here. Today it was go day on the razor. It’s a little humbling to relearn something that you’ve been doing forever. It turns out that there are some significant differences between using a safety razor and a modern cartridge razor. First of all, the safety razor doesn’t pivot, so you have to manually adjust the angle of the blade on your skin. Luckily, the blade provides, shall we say, instant feedback on how well you are doing. It gets kind of tricky along those curvy areas around the chin and on the neck. The other thing is that you shouldn’t press the blade into your skin like we all do with the new razors. Thank God I read that before I started!

How’d it turn out? Pretty damn well if I say so myself. I didn’t cut myself at all! Of course, that was probably the longest shave ever. The first time I learned to shave, I didn’t have nearly as much to shave… This blade clearly gives me a much closer shave than the Mach 3 I’ve left behind, and this was a 15 cent blade! I’ll speed up the more I use it, so far I’m very happy with the purchase. For about $35, I have gotten myself a razor and enough blade to last over a year…

One of the better links I’ve seen for shaving like this is here. You ladies can take advantage of this too of course. My face feels like a girl’s!

Science is more than this, and less

People often time rely on “science” when they look for something to base their opinions on. The trouble is that frequently there is very little actual science involved. Sure, logic is involved, as is the degree to which it makes sense, but that isn’t science.

What defines science from all of the other ways of forming opinions is the scientific method. In other words, you form a question, build a hypothesis around the answer you think of, and then you TEST THAT HYPOTHESIS. If you’ve been reading this blog long enough, you know this is a reoccurring complaint I have with all of the “CO2 causing global warming” mess. There isn’t anything to test, therefore it isn’t science. I won’t go over all that again here, but I will add that there are some other things that have come under this concern of mine that until now I haven’t though of like that before.

It isn’t enough to gather data and “make sense” when it comes to the scientific method. Data is harder to interpret than we would like it to be, and “making sense” isn’t sufficient, hell, it isn’t even necessary for science. Take a look at quantum mechanics as done under the Copenhagen interpretation for science that doesn’t male sense…

It isn’t just global warming that suffers from this problem. I’m sure it wouldn’t surprise anyone if I told you that macroeconomics suffers the same fate, but for different reasons. There are plenty of testable hypotheses (unlike global warming) in macroeconomics, but there aren’t any ways of carrying out the tests. And like anthropologic global warming, arguments in macroeconomics amounts to sound and fury signifying nothing. Each “side” can point to a theoretical framework and data to back up it’s argument. But nothing is ever resolved because the arguments can’t be put to the test.

That’s not science, no matter how much the adherents yell about it. They are arguing beliefs, not science. Another realm that we see this is the creationism vs. evolution debate. It certainly looks like a faith vs. science argument at first blush, but i don’t think it’s that cut and dried. Certainly, creationists don’t make too much sense to a lot of people, but before you say that’s because Darwin has science on his side think about it. Does he? Really? Is the hypothesis that new species are created through natural selection ever been witnessed in action? Is there a way to test it? I’ve wracked my brain but I can’t think of a way to test it. That makes it belief and outside the realm of the scientific method. I’m not saying that it’s false, I certainly can’t come up with a more compelling idea, but I am saying that we should recognize it for what it is.

You might say that requiring the use of the scientific method is too limiting for science. I disagree. If science is to have any real meaning, it must be held to rigorous standards. The trick is that there are few things as straight foreword as Newton’s third law of motion, or even the General theory of relativity. Most things in our life are messy, complicated, and difficult to sort out. In short, they don’t lend themselves to the scientific method.

There’s nothing wrong in believing in something that can’t be proven scientifically, but please remember what that is. It is faith, not science. I wish more people realized that…