Sunday, August 31, 2008
I am not referring merely to the fact that such things exist, but to the facts of reality behind them, which guide prices and the economic choices we make.
Market prices, for example, are a judgment passed upon the facts present at a given time, such as how much we can afford, what the value of the product is, and even whether or not we could produce the product ourselves and thereby avoid its cost.
For another example, we cannot produce communications satellites for $1 because it is not possible to engage in all the manufacturing steps required for a resource expenditure equivalent to $1. This is not due to someone's arbitrary declaration, this is because it is not physically possible. Mandating the market price, mandating "universal satellite coverage", or establishing a Federal Satellite Agency does not change this fact.
We could certainly sell a $1 satellite (a fitting storefront might be an unmarked van on a seedy street corner). However, we would probably go out of business forever, never to perform such work again. This would involve the destruction of the huge productive capability that produced the satellite.
Profit is an indicator of the creative process itself; it involves taking something less useful and creating something more useful from it, and reflects the degree to which customers regard a product as more useful than the currency they are parting with; it reflects the judgment of their rational mind.
Additionally, profit is an indicator of preservation of value. To sell a product at a profit means that we were able to create the product while maintaining a preponderance of our other values intact or even increasing their value; that is, we did not give away the farm, so to speak, to make the sale. On the other hand, if everyone were to sell at a loss, it would mean that eventually the traded values would run out. If I sold the satellite for $1, and the new owner sold transmission to 5 users for 10 cents each, and each of those users had spent their food money for satellite service, then you would have 1 bankrupt business, 5 starving people, and 1 person with a satellite and no customers running at a loss. You can see that price is not arbitrary, and neither is making a profit. Profit reflects actual physical value and actual facts of reality. Multiply our fictional scenario through the entire market and you have the disaster known as a "planned" economy.
Ultimately, we can see that the statist's non-acceptance of the state of markets is a rejection of the rational decisions of the market's many participants as well as the facts they are based on. The blind spot of the statist is a rather large region. It pretty much begins in front of their nose.
Monday, August 18, 2008
For the first time I managed to run every single step up Mt Sanitas from the Mapleton trailhead. I've run this trail many times; it's a well-known quick workout for local trail runners; but I always found myself slowing to take some of the steps in walk mode, because they're too steep or too high.
Here is a video with some nice views of the trail done by a local journalist:
There may have been some benefit to staying indoors due to bad weather: giving the legs a rest.
Sunday, August 17, 2008
Yes, it's also a propoganda tool for the Chinese, and yes, it's nauseating how little we criticize the government for their authoritarian ways. Yet on a personal level even the most hardened Communist bureaucrat can't fail to be genuinely and justifiably proud, not only of their own country's competitors and the success of the games, but of everyone, and for the mere fact that humanity holds the Games. They represent some of the best qualities we have to offer. This attitude is not hype. It's the real deal, and it's incredibly moving.
It's heartening to see how people rise to the occasion because they regard these Games as special, both in terms of performance and sportsmanship. I've seen ample examples of both.
You can see with your own eyes literally see every ounce of energy being poured into the task of competition. I saw it in the women's marathon. I saw it in the men's 4x100 medley relay and 4x100 free relay. It's the pursuit of the win, the medal, the pride, and every other value or reason for wanting to win, all cashed out 100% in each and every medal round. Phenomenal.
I've been yelling at my TV a lot this week :).
Saturday, August 16, 2008
You know, the industry that keeps us alive by allowing us to obtain food from remote areas, allows us to work and play wherever we choose, and serves as one of the main motive powers of industrial civilization?
"So-and-so is giving tax breaks to Big Oil" - In other words, letting them keep a little bit more of their money. Oh, no. How unjust.
"So-and-so is fighting Big Oil" - Who can say what the heck that means these days? It could mean blocking drilling, or it could mean preventing them from using laws to lock other companies out of their markets. Fighting against the first would be bad, fighting the second would be good. Such an ambiguous claim is essentially meaningless, and underscores the lack of clarity in today's political discourse.
"So-and-so wants a windfall profits tax on Big Oil" - So if the companies are successful, we are entitled to take more from them by force? It is not our money to take. And to make it more perverse, the very profits that some propose to seize by force are precisely the profits that could be used to invest in new energy sources that those same people complain are not being invested in, or to increase production to lower the prices they are complaining about. None of this is going to happen if you take the money, people!
Since the Olympics are currently taking place, I'm always thinking of a certain parallel:
Imagine you break a runner's leg, make them carry 100 lbs of weight, don't let them run down the track straight, but make them beg the local legislature for permission to run towards the finish line, and then complain that they don't run the race in world record time.
Is that just?
Let's not pretend it's a matter of negative impacts (warming, pollution, etc.). There are many ways to deal with possible side effects, which do not involve violating people's individual rights and taking their wealth. Quite simply, that is not the goal of anti-Oil activism. The goal is to keep the industry on the defensive so they can be looted without causing protest. And in some cases, the goal is sheer self-denial, with no positive end whatsoever.
Those who are truly concerned about such impacts need to re-think their means, because you cannot accomplish positive goals by abnegating the right to think of an idea and peacefully act on it.
Big Oil is big because we make it so. Hate Big Oil? Then please either reconsider, or have the integrity to stop driving and move to an isolated, primitive, non-internal-combustion community to live, so the rest of us can proceed to advance human civilization.
That way, I won't have to bear the consequences of your bad decisions.
Or read your blog complaining about Big Oil.
The typical summer pattern in and near the mountains is: sun until noon, then some clouds and perhaps some showers (including lightning) in the afternoon, then clearing by dusk with a nice sunset. It's like that week in, week out, in the summer. The pattern is similar in the high country, but the bad weather can start earlier.
I may have to find some indoor fun this weekend, or organize my collection of $15 uber-socks.
Note to self: start organic fiber-high-tech-support-designer-athletic sock business soon, before the market is saturated.
Note to self: Oops, the market is already saturated.
Monday, August 11, 2008
The drive to the trailhead west of Walsenburg, CO passed through a very scenic open valley with mountains in 3 directions: the Crestone group to the west, mountains and cliffs to the north, semi-bald mountains to south (i.e. Sheep Mountain), and Spanish Peak way south.
The flatlands are very green here, for Colorado plains. This local geographical area must trap rainfall, because it seemed green beyond what would be caused merely by the rivers.
For a dirt road, much of Hwy 580 leading to the trail was smooth. However, the upper part of the road past the wildlife area became torture for my car. I scraped the bottom several times on large rocks, and also stopped several times to remove fallen rocks or clear a large embedded rock from the road. I couldn't continue all the way to the trailhead, since there was a small pond that had overflowed into a dip in the road. There were even large trucks parked there.
Unfortunately this meant an extra several miles to the trail, but at least running made it faster. I must admit it seemed like a long way to the trail, especially uphill before your body is warmed up, at 10,000 ft.
Upon reaching the trailhead there was a small bear with brown fur standing at the edge of the woods not 10 feet from the trail sign. It reluctantly retreated when I showed up and a family got out of their (high-clearance) SUV. The trail headed downhill away from the bear's retreat; nonetheless, I clapped my hands as I ran the first stretch so I didn't surprise anything.
Then, there was much running through the woods.
At one point there was a hefty stream crossing that required using a stick to stabilize myself as I walked across several small logs. The water was about 1 ft deep but I didn't want to get my shoes wet this early. I made it across dry.
I passed a hiker coming back down and warned him about the bear. He said he had turned back from the peak due to clouds, but privately I was thinking that clouds at 10 AM are just clouds, and might even dissipate into a sunny day. There probably wouldn't be rain until later. That turned out to be the case.
After the woods, the trail opened up at the foot of a huge rock fall, and skirted the right side to the top of the rocks. Then, the trail passed back into the woods and got STEEP, running parallel to an open ravine with a stream cascading down the middle. It was beautiful, and unfortunately photos (mine at least) can barely convey its lushness.
Up near the saddle below the couloir to the summit, I passed a few people coming down who asked, "Still going for the summit?" but the pale harmlessness of the clouds continued, and as long as it was not raining I saw no reason to turn back. They also probably didn't realize that for me it was only about 30 minutes to the top and that I'd be back at this spot in about 45 minutes. I ran the saddle ridge, and then scrambled up the couloir. It was nasty, with loose sharp rocks and the handholds kept giving way. There were never any serious falls possible, since the slope was maybe 35 degrees, but it would still hurt if you slipped. Rock on bone is painful.
From the top of the couloir it was a few more unpleasant scree climbs through small gullies, then onto the summit ridge and a short traverse to the top. I signed the register and started back down. No grand views today, it was pure white all around. You win some, you lose some!
When I got back down the alpine valley, the sun came out. Strangely, as the sky cleared in some areas, it got worse in others and it finally started to rain on the far side of the peak (somewhere on the west). But through my whole trip down, the clouds never came over onto the east side where I was, and I had broken sun the rest of the day. It was a pleasant change, and it never got too hot.
It seemed to take forever to run the last stretch through the woods, past the trail, past the forest boundary, and back to the car. By then I was just wishing it was over. Even so, I got some good photos, and a couple cars stopped to chat briefly, mostly because they were curious about the fact that I was running. "Training for the Leadville 100?". Nope, just having fun.
Back on I-25, near Colorado City, I saw a perfect 180-degree rainbow due to the scattered showers, even though it had dissipated somewhat by the time I stopped for a good picture. Talk about a perfect ending to the day. And the remainder of the drive was satisfyingly scenic and spiritually charging.
All in all, a great day.