18.4.11

Wabi Sabi

Wabi Sabi--There is beauty to be found in imperfect things.

A more detailed description is that it is an intuitive appreciation of a transient beauty in the physical world that reflects the irreversible flow of life in the spiritual world. It is an understated beauty that exists in the modest, rustic, imperfect or even decayed, an aesthetic sensibility that finds a melancholic beauty in the impermanence of all things.

12.4.11

German Intellectuals






Habermas

Why does Germany have so many amazing thinkers? Was the culture of the "German question" a driving force of these thinkers? Are there people of the same stature today in Germany?

4.4.11

Axel Weber on the European Economy

In a speech at the Banque de France symposium Axel Weber, the former president of the Bundesbank stated that

“Economies with persistently large current account deficits, on the other hand, should adopt measures to support saving. This requires a sizable decline in domestic absorption – the income levels and growth rates which prevailed before the crisis are no longer the appropriate benchmarks. Governments have to stabilize the public deficit, while households have to reduce their debt which had grown rapidly during the housing bubble. In addition, measures to strengthen export sectors, while maintaining open markets, would also help to reduce current account deficits.”

The illusion of wealth & house ownership




The Guardian has recently began a new series on Europe. The aim of the series is to create a better understanding of other European countries. The series will focus on Germany, France, Spain and Poland.

The series opened four week ago with Germany. One of the most interesting articles of the German series contrasted the culture of house ownership in Germany and European countries. In the UK 70% of people homes are owner occupied, 75% in Ireland but in Germany the rate of owner occupied houses is only 45%.

Although it is important to state that this low level of house ownership level is distorted by the very low level of ownership in the former east Germany of 15% in the east compared to 60% in the west.

One of the reasons for the large disparity between Germany and the Anglo Saxon countries, is that house ownership is actively encouraged by Anglo Saxon governments.

Generally, this is achieved by pumping extra money into the demand side of the housing market, in order to boost house prices through tax breaks for developers and increased tax allowances for owners.

Additionally, house ownership is encouraged by the acceptance of high levels of domestic inflation by Anglo Saxon governments. Inflation is used as a tool to drive demand in the domestic economy as people will buy property in order to take advantage of the capital appreciation.

However, a consequence of such a policy on inflation is that other more wealth creating industries such as manufacturing suffer because of higher wages.

The loss of competitiveness as a consequence of wages chasing these higher prices is eventually put to an end by devaluation of the currency.

Each of the these policies in Anglo Saxon countries results in the illusion of wealth. The entire economy is almost a pointless game with winners only occurring because of the large inequities that exist within Anglo Saxon countries

We should demand more from our political representatives and instead ask them to but an focus on nominal gross national product and not simply on real income levels.

24.3.11

Woody Allen--Manhattan

I love Woody Allen. He is very funny and he provides a very interesting prospective into our lives.

Manhattan is one of my favorite Woody Allen films. I especially like the below scene from Manhattan.




In this scene both characters are quarreling about a girl played by Diane Keeton which both characters think is "neat". Micheal Murphy's character, Yale in the left of the scene has left his wife in order to be with this girl.

Obviously Woody Allen's character, Issac Davis, is angry as he went out with Diane Keeton's character for quite awhile. He tells Yale that leaving his wife was the wrong decision.

He adds that the absence of integrity and morality in Yale's decision leads to these bad decisions.

Yale retorts that life is not that simple. Humans are not machines and we do not have the ability to examine and understand the motives of all our decisions

I am attracted to this scene as both characters point of view is equally valid. I would like to live to Woody Allen's view point but I also know that life is not easy and one should not judgmental of anyone or anything.

23.3.11

Nachhaltig

Nachhaltig--well-grown, sustainable, good for the future

22.2.11

College Essay





I found this while cleaning up my desktop. It is an essay I wrote for a university application in the spring of 2009. The title of the essay was what challenges the planet must overcome to be a better a place. It provides a good summary of the environmental and economic crisis that we find ourselves in today.

Today, the world economy is experiencing the greatest plunge of activity and confidence since the post war period. For instance, Japan's exports plummeted an annual 45.7 per cent in January and unemployment in Spain reached a frightening 17.4 per cent during April.

This plunge of activity began with the collapse of the Anglo Saxon centric property price bubble during 2006. This collapse immediately affected the financial sector because banks who lent money to consumers and businesses were now forced to write down the value of the very assets which they had lent on. As the falls in property prices continued, banks were continually forced to write down the value of these assets.

This process of write downs created mistrust within the financial system. Eventually banks ceased lending to each other and depositors began to withdraw money as the market could no longer determine which banks would survive the chaos. As a consequence, credit, the lifeblood of any economy no longer flowed and the
economy becomes exposed and lifeless.

However, the collapse of the property bubble and the knock on effect on the banks and the real economy could have been easily of being avoided. From 2005-2006, there was plenty of evidence to suggest that a property bubble had developed. For example, the Economist magazine declared in 2005 that "the total value of residential property in developed economies rose by more than $30 trillion over the past five years, to over $70 trillion, an increase equivalent to 100% of those countries' combined GDPs." Additionally, the leverage ratio of financial institutions had grown considerably over the past decade. This was particularly notable at
Citigroup where the leverage ratio went from 5.89 in March 2002 to 56 in November 2008.

Yet, the governments of the world did nothing to prick the property asset bubble or reduce the banks leverage ratios. Instead, governments allowed the bubble to amplify because the alternative would have led to decreased economic activity, higher unemployment and eventually endangered the very survival of their own
governments. Yet, had any action being taken at any point during 2005-2006 the decline of economic activity would certainly not of been as great as that which we are experiencing today.

However, our political system simply does not allow governments to take decisions that would benefit society in the long term as the electorate only awards short-term, reactive thinking. As a consequence, governments primarily focus on winning the next news cycle, the next opinion poll and eventually the next
election. A symptom of such decision making is the aspiration of governments for ever higher economic growth regardless of the long term consequences, for example environmental damage.

Therefore, we must overcome our penchant for myopic politics and begin to think not only of our immediate quality of life but that of our children. Winston Churchill once said that “A politician thinks about the next elections - the Statesman thinks about the next generations".

If the world to become a better place in 2040, we must all begin to act like statesmen and no longer as myopic politicians.