Illusory Follies Andrew Flanagan's Blog

11Jan/082

Solution to our economic woes?

I'm very confused over economist's handling of our current situation. On the one hand we have inflation and on the other we're struggling with economic growth.

In order to avoid a recession (negative economic growth) the Fed is considering cutting interest rates now while Bush is planning an "economic stimulus plan". So... cut rates which will cause more inflation and then print more money which will definitely cause more inflation. The end result seems like it will be out-of-control inflation regardless of real economic growth.

We have all the signs of "stagflation" seen in the 1970's but this time instead of going through a "disinflationary" period, we're planning to attempt to not worry about inflation and just worry about growth. But the problem is that while a "disinflationary" period would have certainly hurt and people would have lose their jobs, what we're doing instead offers no long-term solace -- at least none that I can see. Tackling inflation first would give us a solid base on which we could kickstart the economy (if we should kickstart it at all). I guess my rather un-academic feeling is that economic growth is good and necessary for the future but that inflation affects our already saved-up capital. If that's the case it seems to make sense to control inflation before we worry about ever-increasing economic growth.

Please add your comments -- I'm not much of an economist so I'm likely off the mark.

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12Nov/076

Filth

With three boys now, I'm seeing a fair amount of filth around us. If it's not an excreted material, it's a pulverized food product, or some sticky conglomerated mass composed of items A and/or B combined with other household objects. It's not pleasant.

Today my oldest got into the spackle and dutifully applied it to not only to the walls, but also his younger brother. At least it doesn't smell bad...

...But now the serious point: We have this massive amount of cleaning tools, equipment and supplies that we use on a daily basis to scrub ourselves, our children, our tables, floors, cars, etc. It's sort of amazing how much effort we put into it. I think the wife and I are a little on the freakish side of obsessive compulsive cleaning but still, I would bet that most people spend an enormous part of their life cleaning. I think about people in the past... I have a strangely realistic-feeling episode in my head of "neolithic" people huddled in a cave with their bear pelt (carefully skinned and washed to remove the stench). And oddly I can picture that although we would consider them filthy, I bet they spent a LOT of their time cleaning things.

...But now to the REAL serious point: I don't think we consider very much how incredibly revealing this is about us as Christians. An ordinary Christian hates sin just like your plain vanilla human (yum!) hates filth. It's internal filth and it's really pretty nauseating. But for my own part, I know I spend hardly any time at all cleaning out the internal filth with some spiritual Windex topped off with some heavenly PineSol. Why not? We're so focused on the trivial filth of this world. Sometimes we complain about the bad smell of sin in our lives but we don't spend enough time taking a shower in God's grace.

We know we'll get dirty again as humans but we still make a real and conscious effort to avoid it. Shouldn't we have the same attitude towards spiritual gluck? I don't believe "cleanliness is next to Godliness" but maybe if we synchronize the ideas in our heads we'll end up spending more time thinking about our Godliness (or lack thereof).

There's not too much else to do in the shower -- why not pray for spiritual cleansing? I think I'm going to try to do that from now on.

For those of us that already have a keener sense of their sin and God's grace, take this post the other way around and hop in the shower a little more often! Your friends and coworkers appreciate it and being clean is at least nice even if it's not morally required!

6Nov/074

Patently pretentious people

Is it just me, or do others notice a lot of people around them who are:

1) Pretentious

2) Obvious about it?

I think everyone's a bit pretentious (myself included -- notice the pedantic use of alliteration and long words in the title --and, oh darn, the use of the word "pedantic" just now). I think that as a Christian, and in particular who experienced a rather long period of life under a pastor who was a big on "mortification" I may be more sensitive to this than others. I was always able to see the dark side of my own actions (for example, "I'm writing this blog post because other people write more interesting things on their blogs and I need to be better than them"). Maybe it's unhealthy... It's definitely highly pessimistic. But I can't help but be somewhat annoyed when people think they're so clever but they're not very gracious about admitting their shortcomings. I think I mostly feel that people are "real" when they're able to say that they may not know what they're talking about.

So, if anyone ever asks you if your "motives are pure" answer immediately, "No!". I don't think this side of the pearly gates we'll ever have pure motives. I think that friends and relatives admitting faults to each other is amazingly refreshing. And to be clear, this is not the same as inventing trivial, almost good sounding faults. "I'm so sorry to give you such a large and expensive present!". Honesty, especially when talking about motives makes me feel so much better. "Sorry that I was abrupt with you today" is not nearly as helpful as saying, "I was in a rush and didn't consider that you had something you needed to tell me." Or even, "Sorry that I was abrupt but I was angry from before with you and took it out on you." (By the way, I tend to be abrupt with people when I'm irritated with them and I know that this last statement is one that I should say more often.) There's something there that isn't usually mentioned in an apology... It's a statement that you didn't do something right but now you'd like to make it right. It's not passing the buck or making excuses. We always can make excuses (I was in a rush, it was a stressful day, you were hard to deal with, etc.) but the reality is that these simply don't help the person that we're supposedly apologizing to. And the point is to help them.

But I've wandered a little bit -- I was talking about pretentious people. From the Free Dictionary I get the following definition:

Claiming or demanding a position of distinction or merit, especially when unjustified.

So, my gripe is that everyone, absolutely everyone has tons of problems and should be awfully careful that they don't act as if they deserve distinction or merit for their actions. And furthermore, that being humble will go a long way to really connecting with people. I was just listening to some lectures by Gordon Clark from a class that he taught. He was asking students in the class if anyone knew what the "Lycopersicon esculentum" was and making it sound like they should. No one knew. But instead of blithely going on and pretending that this was everyday stuff to him, he sort of stumbled over the term himself making it abundantly clear that he had simply written the name down himself and probably wouldn't remember it tomorrow. I know this is trite example but it was something fresh in my mind. He could have made himself seem incredibly smart but he instead really connected with his students by admitting that he didn't have this stuff memorized and then went on to make his point.

I was watching (I'll admit it) a rather horrible show called The Next Great American Band. The idea is that bands get up and perform and are one after the other eliminated until the voters (the watcher's of the show) have determined the final band that "makes it". Anyway, the point is that after each band performs the judges make some statements about how they think the performance went and what needs improvement. With one exception, all the bands said things like "That's just who we are", "that's how YOU feel", "We don't agree", etc. It was kind of disgusting. Because they "made it" to the show, they were too proud and self-important to admit fault at all. I thought some of the bands did well, but I was immediately disgusted afterward when they acted so pretentious about their performance. It's so commonplace now in America to act like this and it's sort of sickening.

This has been sort of a long post and I don't know what else to mention. It just bothers me a lot and it seems like people don't realize how bad they make themselves look. Doing something stupid makes you look bad but not admitting it or making excuses makes you look much worse than just stupid. Being smart makes you look good, but being smart and admitting that you don't have all the answers make you truly seem wise. And that's what we should all try to be!