Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Look below the surface

Here's a phenomenon I've noticed which everyone goes through, but not all are either aware of or cured in the slightest. I noticed as a child when everything was new to me each new discovery looked as it was, and then sooner or later I discovered what they really meant. I'd need some time to think of lists of examples as once I looked beneath the surface of each I no longer saw the presentation but the content and mainly forgot how I'd got to that point.

One example today reminded me, not a particularly good one but should work to illustrate the point, was interest rates. People look at the economy and assume if no knowledge beyond that the lower the better, and if they charge less to borrow then it must be a good thing. Then you look into it and find it's both not simple or accurate as

1) People only borrow relative to the interest rates headlined, they are only for banks to borrow at and not people. Banks can charge whatever the market will take regardless.

2) Interest rates affect borrowers, is it a good thing to encourage borrowing by making them lower than otherwise?

3) If you exclude everything besides mortgages then how do they affect them? They are lower than otherwise but is that a good thing? In any system nothing works in isolation, so by pulling one string others will be pulled connecting them. So by reducing interest rates it increases demand for houses as the monthly payments are less for the same price. Increase demand and all that happens is the price rises and they end up paying the same anyway, just more on the principal and less on the interest. Then the interest rate is volatile, so buy when it's low and if you are already at your limit you'll go broke if it inevitably rises. Keep it high and then no one can ever be caught out as it will rarely rise and usually fall within the life of the loan. And prices will stay reasonable and people will only buy what they can afford as the fixed amount of the cost will not change, so constant, but the variable will and they can already afford it at the higher level.

4) Who else is affected by interest rates? Everyone who saves and invests. The lower the rate, the lower their income, and the smaller the overall economy.  So it means by keeping rates low more people have less and those who borrow only save a marginal amount as it inflates prices in the first place.

So just this one example is attempting to illustrate hundreds more, all demonstrating the point that many things are not what they seem on the surface. Left wing politics, reduce poverty, help the workers etc sounds wonderful on the surface but of course how does it reduce poverty? By taking money from those who on the whole earn it. They give to the poor by stopping people from becoming rich, maybe less so now but a 97% top rate of tax in the 70s looks like stealing to me, and simply means people either go abroad or pay accountants to hide their earnings and it doesn't go where intended anyway. The point of this is not to teach economics, but not to judge anything on its immediate impact. You wouldn't trust a person you didn't know just because they impressed you on first meeting, as you know people are complex and have many hidden depths, and most things are the same, plus many advertisers understand this so package their frauds and ripoffs as beneficial, adding yet another layer to the fog hiding what shite lies behind.

I don't want you to either learn from experience or worse still not learn at all, but avoid the trouble as much as possible in advance by learning a formula. Never judge what you hear about for the first time on appearance, check what it really means. Most people hooked in are sucked in so deep they can't even see there is a way out let alone look for one. Believing political rebels want freedom, joining them and finding, like the IRA or Basque separatists they really want to run the country like the mafia and murder their opponents and deal arms and drugs unhindered by another country's authority as they would become the authority. Like Egypt for example today. One tyrant has been replaced by a different one from a different tribe of Arab mafiosi. The internet is a great help as everything you need to know can be found without much effort and really once you know to check no excuse to get caught out many times.

Anything which looks too good on the surface usually is, and like politicians most offers are probably more likely to provide the exact opposite of what they claim once you check them. Another example is locals nearly always oppose all new developments in their area. If they all succeeded we'd have no motorways, railways, airports, supermarkets or much else we'd be stuck without. All these rabid activists, who all use said facilities, would also be lost without them, and would they really rather travel a few miles to them than have them nearby? People are so stuck in this mindset they are quite prepared to deprive themselves of such facilities on the surface although had they ever succeeded would probably miss whatever they had either deprived the area of altogether or forced elsewhere beyond their reach. You need a bit of lateral thinking to help, think what you would be like if they got what they wanted compared to the alternative- would you really want to go to east Kent to fly abroad rather than Heathrow, or pay much more in the local grocer's than save in a new supermarket? People really have to think of every consequence beyond the surface before jumping on every bandwagon, and not end up getting themselves in more trouble than they would have otherwise.

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