Guest Post: Economic Punctuated Equilibrium

Tyler Durden's picture

Submitted by Brian Rogers of Fator Securities

Economic Punctuated Equilibrium

“I have been studying the traits and dispositions of the "lower animals" (so called) and contrasting them with the traits and dispositions of man. I find the result humiliating to me.”  - Mark Twain, Letters from the Earth

Talking Brazil

Happy Friday to one and all.  First things first, I just finished a multi-city non-deal roadshow with Banco Fator’s head of equity research and strategy, Lika Takahashi.  For those who aren’t familiar with Lika, you really should be.  She has been one of if not the most pragmatic, conservative Brazil equity strategists in the market and typically destroys her competition with her price target on the Ibov.  Investors we spoke to had 3 main questions for Lika: 1) what is our outlook for inflation in Brazil, 2) what is our outlook for growth in Brazil and 3) what is our take on the Brazilian central bank’s recent decision to cut rates by 50bps. 

On inflation, I think central bank head Tombini has a problem.  He said he expects global growth to decline and this downturn in GDP will attenuate inflationary pressures in Brazil.  The problem I have with this view is that the Fed, BOE, ECB and BOJ won’t simply sit around and take a deflationary slowdown without a fight.  They will print, obviously.  This will produce monetary inflation and will help to keep commodity prices resiliently high.  Tombini expects inflation to come down, I say good luck with that.

On growth, it’s possible that Brazil keeps the 3.4% or so growth next year based on the strength of their services labor market and government spending for the World Cup and other infrastructure projects.  However, keep a close eye on China.  For the first six months or so of the year there weren’t too many analysts overly concerned about dramatically slowing growth in China.  However, the last few months have seen a bevy of “hard landing” articles about China.  If China does hard land, say 6% growth, then Brazil will also slow dramatically.

On the central bank’s decision to cut rates only 2 days after Dilma went on TV and said that she wished rates would go down, I obviously feel that the days of central banking independence championed by Henrique Meirelles are dead.

All that being said, I should note here that I am actually quite bullish on Brazil.  Why?  Simply put, they have options.  Despite my concerns about Tombini’s recent move, the central bank has a plethora of tools they can implement to help stabilize any major volatility.  Government spending and general debt levels have been conservative recently and could be increased to offset bad times.  And finally, Brazil has one of the best demographic profiles around with a huge population of young people and an increasing trend of poor people moving up the economic ladder.

It’s not that Brazil will avoid all problems, they won’t, it’s just that on a relative basis Brazil is much better positioned to deal with their problems than the vast majority of developed nations and nearly all of the emerging market countries.

Which brings me to the macro view.

Economic Punctuated Equilibrium

The late Harvard/NYU paleontologist Stephen Jay Gould and Niles Eldredge, who is the curator of the invertebrates department at the American Museum of Natural History, proposed a rather radical evolutionary theory in 1972 called punctuated equilibrium.  The evolutionary thinking at the time was generally that species changed very slowly and gradually over time.  Gould and Eldredge challenged this notion with punctuated equilibrium by arguing that rather than slow, gradual change, species remained stable for long periods of time and only changed during short, brief bursts of major change. 

For example, an animal population could live for many generations without any noticeable change in genetic make-up.  Then, due to the effects of an earthquake, volcano, climate change or some other major event, the population could be split into different groups with different geographies, food and water sources, climates, etc.  As the populations react to the sudden change, they will go though rapid and noticeable adaptations to their new environment which will result in great change over a short period of time.  However, after the major adjustment takes place, the population will stabilize again and largely remain the same until another great environmental change. 

I’m obviously generalizing here and my apologies to the late Professor Gould and Professor Eldredge for the dumbed down explanation of their great theory, but I’m just an average equity research salesman and need to keep this simple.

When I think about the history of the financial and economic system of the US, I see many ways in which the theory of punctuated equilibrium is playing out.  By and large, we have lived through long periods of general stasis punctuated by brief periods of radical change.  Some of those periods of change can be identified as the creation of the Fed in 1913, the Bretton Woods Conference in 1944, the closing of the gold window in 1971 and the repeal of Glass-Steagall in 1999 via Gramm-Leach-Bliley.  After every one of these major turning points, the market has had to make quick, radical adjustments.  Following the adjustments, sometimes painful ones, the market would enter into relatively long periods of “stability.”  But stability for whom?  The 1% that controls the game.

He Who Controls the Game Wins

In my opinion, the problems we face today are not because we built a robust, transparent, fair system that is simply facing a few bumps in the road.  Hardly.  The problems we face today exist because the economic system has never been allowed to evolve into a system that is truly fair or just for all.  Rather it is designed to ensure that the 1% who have always controlled things will maintain that control.  It’s all very subtle, but make no mistake about it, crony-capitalism is the rule of the day.

And even when we did implement evolutionary changes that benefited all members of society (Glass-Steagall), the powers that be patiently waited until the moment was right to snatch that freedom away from the people and hand it back to the 1% (Gramm-Leach-Bliley). 

The Fed controls the issuance of our currency and thus controls the price of money.  The Fed also oversees our banks and thus plays a hugely vital role in how transparent (or not) our banking system is.  Politicians control the legislative process and largely determine the judges that oversee the judicial process.  These same politicians are controlled by large corporations and wealthy individuals due to the ridiculous way our campaign finance laws work and our lack of term limits.  See the pattern?

Is a New Economic Punctuated Equilibrium Moment Upon Us?

Given the complete and utter disaster that awaits us once the curtain is finally drawn back in Europe, it’s important to consider whether or not the crisis we currently face is nothing but another downturn or is it in fact another game-changing, punctuated equilibrium moment?  I firmly believe it is the latter.  I’ll spare the audience the laundry list of challenges we face as a global economy - unsustainable debt loads, ghost cities, peak oil, climate change, over $700tr in notional derivative exposure, etc. -  it’s a long list.  In the final analysis, it’s hard to conclude anything other than the system we’ve known since 1971 is about to implode.

The powers that be know this and they are very afraid.  Every piece of chewing gum they’ve tried to use to glue their global economic model back together again has failed.  Humpty Dumpty has had a great fall but the cracking-up isn’t over yet.  Indeed, we have arrived again at one of the great turning points in economic history.  However, the current destination is the one that the 1% hate so much.  This is the moment where some of the 1% lose their grasp on power and money and witness first-hand Schumpeter’s creative destruction. 

Historically, these are the times when pitchforks are carried and torches lit.  Think about how wealthy, powerful Brits felt when news of the original Tea Party made its way to London.  Think about how a rich plantation owner in the South felt when news of Lee’s defeat at Gettysburg filtered down.  Think about how a New York investment banker felt in 1933 when Glass-Steagall was passed.  They were very likely afraid, very afraid.  The edifice of their power and wealth was crumbling down around them. 

Which brings me to Zuccotti Park.

Something Very Big Is Occupying Wall Street

Financial analyst and commentar Mike Krieger wrote a great piece yesterday where he discussed the Occupy Wall Street protestors and what’s happening in Lower Manhattan.  One of the comments I particularly liked was Mike’s use of Mahatma Gandhi’s great quote to describe how the protestors are being viewed by the powers that be.

                “First they ignore you, then they laugh at you, then they fight you, then you win.” - Mahatma Gandhi

The protestors downtown have moved past the ignore stage as the media blackout has given way to the sheer weight of the story.  The strategy has now shifted to discrediting/laughing at/making fun of the protestors.  The problem with this phase for the media will be the extremely difficult way it’s going to be to pigeon hole this crowd.  They don’t represent the left or the right.  They don’t represent the Dems or Repubs, business owners or labor unions, capitalists or socialists, rich or poor, black or white.  They represent all of us. 

All of the above groups are present and participating in these rallies.  The protestors aren’t necessarily anti-capitalist or anti-corporation per se.  They are anti the current system.  The system that they have no influence over and yet controls their lives.  The system that has seen average real wages remain flat for decades while inflation slowly exacts its insidious costs.  The system that pushes forward fake politicians with movie star smiles, populist rhetoric and polished speaking styles, whose sole mission once elected is to maintain the status quo for the wealthy individuals and corporations that got them elected.  The system that prints out of thin air and borrows from third world China and elsewhere trillions of dollars to bail out the wealthy while sending the bill the average taxpayer.  The system that will produce, for the first time in the history of the United States of America, a current generation of young citizens who will be worse off than their parents were before them.

That’s what I think the protestors are all about and I support it 100%.  Occupy Wall Street is creating the next economic punctuated equilibrium moment and I say the sooner the better.

Have a great weekend. 


* Fator Securities LLC, Member FINRA/SIPC, is a U.S. entity and a member of the Fator group of companies in Brazil. The comments below are from Brian Rogers, who is employed by Fator Securities (Brian’s opinions are his own and do not constitute the opinions of Fator Securities or the Fator group of companies).

Fator Securities LLC is not affiliated with Zero Hedge or any third party mentioned in this communication; nor is Fator Securities LLC responsible for content on third party websites referred to in this communication.

This material was not prepared by Fator Securities LLC. U.S. Persons seeking further information must contact Fator Securities LLC in New York at (646) 205-1160. This material shall not constitute an offer to sell or the solicitation of any offer to buy (may only be made at the time qualified participants are in receipt of the requisite documentation, e.g., confidential private offering memorandum describing the offering, related subscription agreement, etc.). Securities shall not be offered or sold in any jurisdiction in which such offer, solicitation or sale would be unlawful or until all applicable regulatory or legal requirements of such jurisdictions have been satisfied. This material is not intended for general public use or distribution and is intended for distribution only to appropriate investors. The opinions contained herein are based on personal judgments and estimates and are, therefore, subject to revision. Past performances are not indicative of future results.

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FOC 1183's picture

NY Fed says today that "virtual" currency fixed inflation in Brazil

Got that? A virtual currency fixed a fiat currency.  All clear now.

What's ironic, is they post it on a day when inflation is reported at highest level since 2005

Real Money Wins's picture

I think Albert Einstein said it best, "there are only two things that are infinite, the universe and human stupidity and i'm not sure about the first".

GenX Investor's picture

The Mayans were prophetic... bitchez

jeff montanye's picture

generally sympathetic to the above post but isn't saying that real wages have been flat for decades while inflation exacted its toll double dipping?  maybe not since real wages use the (increasingly corrupted) consumer price index.

DormRoom's picture

The BilderBerg Group has already decided what is to become of the world order at the June meeting.

DormRoom's picture

p.s.  Rick Perry was @ the 2007 BilderBerg meeting.


So yeah, he's gonna be the next president.  He's already been appointed this role 4 years ago.

dick cheneys ghost's picture

Maybe........the neocons and Military Ind. Complex just got behind Mitt..........we shall see.......

BigJim's picture

One puppeteer can make two puppets appear to fight.

Does he care which one appears to win?

akak's picture

One (NWO) ring(leader) to rule them all.

FL_Conservative's picture

Of course they are.  He has the backing of the Bushes as well.  Know your enema!

cossack55's picture

Yeah, with Skeletor (Chertoff) on his team I can see all doorways to all residences will be required to have backskatter x-ray machines installed.  What fun.

A Lunatic's picture

He's on the cover of Time Magazine this month so evidently he's gonna be the next front man for the machine.

cossack55's picture

I think they may have overly-discounted the amount of arms/ammo in the hands of citizens in various nations worldwide.  Stuxnet taking down drones.  No fuel for tanks. Voila!

Wild tree's picture

Punctuated equilibrium; yes I feel very punctuated, and with no equilibrium. Things are not going to be gummed back together this time. Not enough left to gum it up, but rather a complete breakdown is at hand. To many see the helicopters falling out of the sky, and not that many believe the hopium any longer.  I am not one who anticipates the "war of attrition". I would rather spend my last few years on spaceship earth in peace. That is not what I see coming our way; something wicked instead is knocking at the door. Prepare......

DeadFred's picture

Gould hit massive resistance when he proposed his theory. He had tons of evidence and great logic to propose an elegant system but it didn't matter- it was HERESY. After many years it became generally accepted and the ones who wanted to burn him at the stake claimed the believed him all along. We are seeing the same resistance today in the economy. Keynesians are still trying to stimulate the economy even after many failed attempts because that is what the dogma says should work. When this is all done, the Fed is gone and whatever takes over after the great reset is in place, Krugman and his ilk will claim they knew it needed to change that way all along.

DoChenRollingBearing's picture

Wild and Dead, great comments, more green.

oldman's picture


You seem to be a bright dude,so a question: How can you get so caught up in this theater of the absurd?

and another: Looking at a dead animal, what is the point in trying to make it something it never was?

The old is but a ghost and the new is being born-----how about just observing the event respectfully?

I'm the same---I take this shit, at times, for reality, but it is really not much more than a dream that goes on and on.

Maybe there is no end to the universe's unfolding; there certainly is no reason except in the human mind.

Maybe a walk on the beach is a better answer    om

jimijon's picture

What punctuates the equilibrium in the seas?

Stack Trace's picture

Change we can believe in....

akak's picture

Chains we can bereave in!

Tao 4 the Show's picture

Winner of the Punic wars.

Prepared's picture

Sorry, but I don't think the 'thinking majority' of America is anywhere near represented at these protests.  Not seeing that at all - not by a long shot!  Good read though - yep, it's all coming down like a runaway elevator, and soon. 

sitenine's picture

Occupy Wall Street

Mentaliusanything's picture

Do you know, from my point of view, this is the first time I have seen America do something. I don't live there any longer and have to tell you - someone once said " Americans are slow to anger but when anger comes it is an all consuming fire" or something like that. It is a Nation of diverse people under one Flag and that is what I see happening with this protest - Diversity -all with one voice saying this is wrong and we won't leave until someone makes a "To do List" I think it may be something very underestimated - a change not unlike the anger I saw as a young man when a war in an Asian land proved to be a Lie. 

Let it unfold and swell until they capitulate and admit defeat. Then we may see some real change - change you INSIST On- fuck the hopey dreamy crap from eligant mouthing of teliprompter words pre written. You will hear the voice and it will speak from the heart without help and puffery. 

It will sound like a cross between Roosevelt and JFK with a little Dr M.L K's Fire and Brimstone thrown in.

Thats when you will see some (who think they have a paid for right of passage out of what they created) get a brown dribble going down their pants. 

Well I have a Dream that is becoming a reality.

Resist the Bastards, do anything that costs them and never, never ever .....

Illegitimi non carborundum

devo's picture

What is great about Occupy Wall Street is seeing indignant young people get off the couch and stand up for themselves and others. I talked to my girlfriend about this very issue maybe six months ago. I said to her that this country had become passive; that the only way there would be a revolution is if people could no longer afford basic necessities, specifically food. I didn't think anything short of that magnitude poverty could grab the youths' attention from NFL football, scripted reality TV, or Apple devices. Aristotle said, "Man by nature is a political animal." I do believe it's an instinct. One that has been subdued for decades, and is just now coming out of hibernation. In short, it is great and refreshing to see action.

I don't consider myself a sadist, but what I also enjoy is that Occupation Wall Street has created discomfort within a certain faction of society. They smile, but their eyes don't evoke joy; rather, palatable fear.

TrulyBelieving's picture

What is not great about Occupy Wallstreet is the support it gets from such leftist groups, unions, Soros,leftist college profs, Michael Moore, and others. This is the type of revolution that cannot end well. Say goodbye to the Constitution, Liberty, and Freedom. Say hello to collectivism, absolute centralized powers, draconion laws, massive regulation, and poverty.  

blunderdog's picture

Say goodbye to the Constitution, Liberty, and Freedom.

The Constitution is long dead and gone. You must've missed that part.

Liberty and Freedom are states of mind.  You decide if you have them--it doesn't matter what those clowns do.

TrulyBelieving's picture

Liberty and Freedom are states of mind. I guess a lot of good men have shed blood fighting a real enemy, just to win a simple state of mind.

cossack55's picture

Uuuhhh...exactly which real enemy would that be?

TrulyBelieving's picture

Some people really don't get it. Not having a vision of what liberty and freedom mean and what servitude is can really cloud your perspective. But I will spell it out for you. The enemy is anyone which tries to take  from another what is deservedly his. His soverign or his  posessions. Whether we fight as a group in uniform or individually in rags, the fight is fought.

devo's picture

In other words, the banks who will tell the government to confiscate citizens' gold, only to mark it up 10x and resell it to foreign governments to pay for their gambling addiction?

I mean. I feel like I worked for and earned my gold. In fact, I know I did. It is deservidly mine. So, the enemy is the banks. Thanks for confirming.

TrulyBelieving's picture

No the enemy is not the banks. Nor is it the govt. It is the tyranny that controls these institutions. If you worked and earned your gold, under a just  rule of law it would be recognized as yours. Under this socialist share the wealth scheme it will be taken from you.

cossack55's picture

So...should we ask the amerikan Indians, Hawaiians, or maybe the Phillipinos who the real enemy is? Maybe you should look up the term "westering".

Mentaliusanything's picture

Cossack55 - The real enemy is US. We allow the gradual stripping of our liberties, search and seizure, privacy, innocent until proven Guilty,, the private sanctioning of the killing of American citizens, The right of a speedy trial... How many rights now exist for "we the people"

How about you get off your High Horse, Think and put the US in the US of A.

Thats a Good fellow - take your Country Back (yes I left it a long time ago- when they asked me to Kill people I never Knew and I found to be innocent and somewhat fucking scared between the Cluster bombs and Agent orange)

We lost because we never understood them and we are doing it again, and again, and again.

With Great Power comes even Greater responsibility to use it with deep thought and care.

Get your self an Understanding and read the Fuck this    only then will you understand why Hannibal, Gengis Khan, the might of the British Empire and the Nation of Russia fell.

bid the soldiers shoot's picture

"And where the offence is, let the Great Axe fall."  

The Great Axe ==== Peak oil
bid the soldier

A Lunatic's picture

I do not exist at, or for, the pleasure of the State. Rights by permission are not rights at all; we either have them or we do not. We are either free or we are not. We are either sovereign, or we are not.

t0mmyBerg's picture

while that is true, the state will often seek to curtail those rights, and a majority will even cheer it on in doing so, if the society feels threatened enough in the immediate term and the society lacks any sense or memory of why the somewhat nebulous rights are important.  in a poll in the last few years, a majority of high schools students thought the government should rein in what was presented in the press.  i was talking to a young woman about the second world war and hitler and stalin.  she did not know who stalin was.  product of illinois public school.  i do not maintain high hopes for a populace that knows just about nothing about anything, most specifically history.

TrulyBelieving's picture

The Constitution is not dead and gone as you assert. There are still portions of it that remain. However after these people finish there will be nothing left of it but ashes.   You prove my point. The parts of the Constitution already destroyed is of the leftists doing. These are the enemies that seem to be elusive to you.

Phil Free's picture

The Constitution and the Bill of Rights -- Void Where Prohibited by Law.

James T. Kirk's picture

To Blunderdog, and various armchair philosophers of similar ilk: You are really missing the point here. The Constitution specifically states that "all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness."

Read this very carefully. Liberty is NOT a state of mind. Liberty is a spiritual attribute and RIGHT that all men are GRANTED by their creator. It can therefore be STOLEN from you. "Give me liberty or give me death" does NOT mean "it doesn't matter what those clowns do." Give me a break.

This is one reason why the theory of evolution is so deadly - it removes this direct pillar from the Constitution. If man is a mathematical accident that "evolved" from a 3 trillion year old swamp, how can he be endowed with anything by his Creator? Our forefathers did not fight for that kind of "liberty." They fought for a liberty that was tangible to them. They fought for a liberty that was already granted to them by a Sovereign power much larger than themselves. If you actually studied the hard sciences, you would find that evolution has the same plausibility as the 911 scenario presented by the government. It is a pseudoscience supported by mass delusion.

Mitzibitzi's picture

I don't see why evolution and the endowment by the Creator of inalienable rights are mutually exclusive. Entirely possible that ALL of God's creations were endowed with those same rights, if they could claw themselves up from their animal estate to claim them. We don't know, after all, whether the evolution of life on this ball of mud happened according to a divine plan in every detail. Equally likely that it was set up as a science experiment by the big guy, cos he wanted to see which of the configurations of proteins and amino acids worked best for a given job. Even God presumably needs a hobby ;-}

Granted, I have some problems with the established theories of evolution (though most of them make some sense, IMHO) and would have to decribe myself as an agnostic, so I probably have a slightly skewed perspective if set against yours.

I also have to ask a question that's likely to be deeply 'red click', too. How is a God that commands that he be worshipped (a common theme in the majority of religions and cults, past and present) any better than some would-be NWO Oligarch who thinks it's his / her right to control the lives of others? Both require submission to a 'Sovereign Power' and thus, logically, deny any notion of liberty.

And I guess that's why I'd sooner believe in a mathematical accident, because that preserves my own view of liberty; Some 'social' laws I will obey because they aren't overly onerous and I can see the sense in them and the stabilising effect on community. Others I will absolutely ignore and can not be forced to obey. You can kill me for refusing to be governed but you absolutely cannot force me to comply. I am free and ever shall be.

James T. Kirk's picture

Too bad we can't sit down for a long cup of coffee - it would be a great discussion.

Anonymouse's picture

Well stated, even on the points where I disagree.  Respectful of differing POV, even those you don't like.  All tooo rare.

A few thoughts though:

- If all God's creations have the same rights, we cannot live.  If you murder everytime you eat meat or vegetable or every time you get a vaccination or squash a bug, no one would last very long.  Actually re-reading your post, I guess you meant humans only.  But that still creates a slippery slope as to rights of ill, infirm, or handicapped who cannot claim their rights.

- God's existence or non-existence is independent of our wishes.  If God exists but has a law we do not like, it does not negate His existence.  If He does not exist, laws we like (and presume to be His) do not make Him and more real.  

You probably mean, if the law does not seem logical to you, it is harder to 1) accept His existence when it is not absolutely proved to you, or 2) find God worthy of worship if He does exist.

But God does not require our worship.  Those who believe would naturally worship (more on that in a moment).  But God never requires it.  Even the conception of Heaven and Hell is not a matter of force.  Consider the logic of the Christian belief (not asking you to accept it, just to follow the logic).  God created us.  He made us with physical and spiritual dimensions.  The physical dimension is mortal and the spiritual dimension is immortal (surely not too difficult for a God that could create the universe).  Entry to Heaven has a very high bar.  Impossibly high, in fact.  It requires perfection.  As Creator, that would be God's right, even if it seems mean at first.  But just as you only let people into your house by invitation, so does God.  But, knowing we are imperfect, God made entry into Heaven quite simple; acceptance of His Son's death as a substitutionary atonement for our shortcomings (which is all sin is).  It's there for the asking, but only if you want it.  If not, you don't get in.  Free will rules.

It's just like if someone bought out the Super Bowl and left tickets in a bowl marked "free" right outside the gate.  If you don't take a ticket, you don't get in.  But if you take one, you are welcome to come in.

It is voluntary.  You are free to believe or not.  Or even if you were to believe, you are free to choose to worship or not (that is biblical, FYI).

As to whether God is worthy of worship, as I said that is a matter of choice.  And it is a difficult concept for people who have had the idea of independence drummed into them (legitimately, don't get me wrong) all their lives.  I am very anti-monarchical, so understand your point.

But consider that if God is capable of creating the entire universe and even time itself, it would be very hard not to worship.  Worship is, after all, a recognition and acceptance of the power of God, and yes willing to be in submission to that.  But how could you not?

I think of it like this.  Imagine having a meeting with your boss's boss.  You'd take it seriously. How about the CEO?  Even more so?  How about a meeting with Ron Paul?  You'd probably be impressed.  What about Obama (or Reagan)?  My palms would be sweaty.  What if it were George Washington or Thomas Jefferson or Stephen Hawking or Albert Einstein?  I suspect you would be pretty impressed and more than a little nervous.  Now think if it were an absolute monarch like Caesar?  Think harder still.  What if this person was so powerful he could destroy the entire world?  Go farther.  What if he could create a world with the power of his mind?  Still not enough.  What if he could create an entire universe and all life within it, and even time itself, simply as an act of will.

Now, what if that person (let's call him God) knew your every thought and action (as well as the billions of others alive).  Not only that, but that while He had all this power, and had rules that you constantly broke, cared about you personally, and in fact loved you personally in spite of all your failings.  So much so that He would allow His Son to voluntarily become a sacrificial offering on your behalf, so that you could be with Him.  But He also respected your freedom so much that He would allow you to choose whether or not to worship Him.

At that point, would you really find Him not worthy of worship, or find the concept offensive.  I know it's a long-winded post, but it's a pretty big concept, and quite frankly one that is hard for anyone to comprehend, so going step by step to bigger and bigger entities helps to give a sense of the magnitude of God.

I wouldn't red click your question about worship.  It is a valid question.  You sound sincere, so that is worthy of a respectful reply.  I know this sounds preachy.  I don't mean it to be, but it's hard to answer a theological question without doing so.

I realize my belief or wishful thinking doesn't make it so, nor does a tautological argument.  My point is not to prove or disprove God but to note that 1) our opinions as to God's existence do not change the fact, or non-fact, of His existence, and 2) if indeed He does exist, then he is a pretty impressive guy, not just some old guy in a white beard and a toga.

Sorry for the length and going on a theological tangent, but it seemed relevant here.  Hope it was helpful if for no other reason than to explain the Christian mindset.

Anonymouse's picture

Gosh, that was long.  I'm sorry

Mitzibitzi's picture

Thanks, guys, for the well articulated responses. Some food for thought there.

I guess my own perspective, as basically an agnostic, is;

I don't know whether God exists. He may or may not. But I don't know. And even a devoutly religious person can't know, they just have very strong faith that what is self-evident to them must be the truth - God exists. I have total respect for that belief - I haven't, personally, lived that person's life and had their experiences, so I've missed out on whatever the defining moment was that convinced them to the point of no doubt. Walk a mile in a man's shoes, and all that.

Having said that... I view the world through the eyes of an engineer, a gardener, a musician, a father, husband, fish-breeder, etc. Any of the above, and certainly all put together, must give any reasonably intelligent person cause to look at the functioning of the natural and physical world and go, "Wow! This shit works great!"

Whether that's because of a divine plan (which I admit is possible) or just a marvellous combination of random chemical and physical interactions that gave rise to life, thought and self-awareness I don't know. So to paraphrase Heinlein (TMIAHM - Manuel) "I don't know who's cranking. Pleased that he doesn't stop!"

My belief is that it doesn't actually matter which is true. Whether from respect from God's divine plan, or simply from the understanding that the world is a marvellous place, as is everyone (except banksters and politicians, of course) in it, it's still correct behaviour to help an old lady across the road. Or hold a door open for someone burdened with shopping. Or let a guy out of a side street since the traffic is moving at a crawl anyway. Or help out a mate knowing he probably can't pay you back right away. Or any of the other 'nice' things most of us on ZH do every day without even thinking about it. And the sociopaths who would set themselves above us wouldn't do, with an equal lack of thought!

Unfortunately, at this stage, some degree of rationality must creep in. We DO live in a world with limited natural resources, so we MUST necessarily limit our population, or put some money and effort into expanding our living space out into the solar system. Ultimately, I suspect we'll have to do both.

Even given that we do either of the above, though, the Western dream of all of us becoming millionaires and living a ridiculously comfortable life must end - preferably through intelligent action, rather than forced change. The only way those of us in the West, Japan and now the BRIC nations can have that standard of living into the future is at the expense of everyone else now living in abject poverty throughout the world.

A study I read a few years ago suggested that if the fair distribution of wealth on a global scale were even 3 times better than is currently the case, the average standard of living for the world would be that of the late '50s suburban USA - in other words, not too fucking shabby compared to the average now, which is approximately that of 17th century European rural subsistence! Sure, there'd still be poverty, but it wouldn't be as abject as it is now.

To 'pay' for this all it takes is for the top 1% to accept a very slightly lower standard of living. 2 less servants, 1 less G650 in the corporate fleet, the super-yacht 20 feet shorter, only 2 Bentleys on the drive....

And that is why they cannot allow the status quo to change; when your only way to measure yourself against others is by comparing your 'stuff' to that of others, you are not gonna willingly give up any of your 'stuff'.

Don't get me wrong. Greed is good, up to a point. It drives innovation and improvement, ultimately for the benefit of all. It's when it goes over the top and becomes a psychopathic need to prove yourself better, richer and generally more suited as a sperm donor (and that's what it ALL comes down to, in the end) than the next guy that you have trouble.

Until human morality catches up with with human intellect, ingenuity and bloody-minded persistence, I can't see the necessary levelling process going smoothly for any of us.