Saturday, November 17, 2007

Would you not like to live for 100 or 150 years?

Yesterday, I received a circular message from a friend:

"Hi Folks

"Dr Francis Collins was the head of the Human Genome Project. He jointly presented the findings at the White House beside President Clinton. I was given his most recent book in the summer and found it absorbing.

"This week he was interviewed on a programme on BBC 4 called “Visions of the Future” presented by Dr Michio Kaku.

"The implications of the writing of the DNA code unfolded in an extraordinary and challenging way.

"In summary the follow on medical research has already produced amazing results. A dramatic example was show of a child born three years ago with a severe combined immune deficiency which resulted in the child on being able to survive only inside a germ free bubble. The life expectancy was very short.

"As a direct result of the Human Genome research the doctors discovered a rogue gene and they were able to conduct a bone marrow transplant to restore the immune system.

"The film of this child leading a normal life was testimony to the power of the discovery.

"Francis Collins went on to explain the projects that were now underway into cancer, heart disease and Alzheimer’s.

"In cancer research alone there are12500 separate genome projects. He further explained that with the exponential rate of technological advance, answers would be found to the cause of these diseases within 3-5 years!

"The implications of this research are vast and have many ethical challenges.

"However the most remarkable possibility of all emerged when it was forecast that a dramatic increase would take place in quality life expectancy within ten years.

"Now get this!
"Scientists in this field are estimating the first person to reach 150 years old is probably in his or her 50’s or 60’s!

"Think about it. At my tender age of 61 I may have another 60 years of quality life left! (My wife has packed her bags!)
Work it out for yourself, be pessimistic and say you now have a life expectancy of 120 years. What changes would that bring to mind?
Thoughts would be appreciated!"

As he had asked for responses, mine was as follows: "I take it that you have enough money salted away to keep you in the style to which you are accustomed for the next 60 or 100 or whatever years? Most people do not. That is why these utopias disappoint most people, benefit only the rich, and therefore put disproportionate power in the hands of the rich (as the population drops, even in China, the population of the earth will get steadily older – and, among the old, there will be a disproportionate number of the rich, each with a vote and with plenty of money to influence the votes of those who do not have money....). Not a recipe for social harmony and peaceful progress, I'm afraid.... warm regards, Prabhu" Sphere: Related Content

Bringing the German legal system into line with the needs of a civilised 21st Century

Apparently, from the old pre-Nazi days, the German legal system still has a provision against “Volksverhetzung” (incitement of the people) .

This was presumably designed to stop Nazi propaganda. The assumption apparently was that if you could stop Nazis "preaching" Nazism, then Germans would not become Nazis, but if you did not stop Nazis from "preaching" Nazism, then Germans were so stupid as to become Nazis.

I am astonished that Germans have not risen up in protest against this law, which is surely patronising and unsuitable for a modern democracy.

This highly offensive law is now being used to silence all points of view which are not deemed to be "correct". For example, just weeks ago, a 55-year old Lutheran pastor was sentenced to one year in jail for “Volksverhetzung” (incitement of the people) because he compared the killing of the unborn in contemporary Germany to the holocaust.

Now, I happen to disagree fundamentally with this pastor's point of view, though it is true that, without legalized abortion the number of German children would increase annually by at least 150,000 – which is apparently the number of legal abortions in Germany. But Germans clearly prefer to kill their own children and import foreigners - and Germany is a free country so it is quite possible for Germans to freely decide to commit cultural suicide and hand their country, over the long term, to foreigners.

But that is irrelevant to whether the good pastor has a right to express his opinion. Apparently, in Germany, he (and others like him) no longer have that right. And the courts have the right to decide to decide what he (or you, or I) may say and may not say, even if we interested in contributing to debate about matters of public policy.

Whatever happened to German freedom of speech, to "zivil courage"? I think it was Oscar Wilde who said: "To disagree with three-fourths of the public is one of the first requisites of sanity". Or, as Bergen Evans put it: "Freedom of speech and freedom of action are meaningless without freedom to think. And there is no freedom of thought without doubt". General Colin Powell is reputed to have said: "The right to free speech is intended to protect the controversial and even outrageous word; and not just comforting platitudes too mundane to need protection".

My own view is that the good pastor is wrong, but I would like us to fight for his right to express his opinion. We could start awarding him a prize for "Zivil Courage" or, if we are too timid to do that, by corresponding with him in prison - or, if we are too timid even for that, at least to correspond with his family (which can, I suppose, still be done in Germany without the authorities becoming aware of it?).

I have always believed that freedom of speech is fundamental. It is preferable to have Nazis given freedom of speech so that they can be properly debated and any of their idiocies mocked in public, than to have an entire nation's capacity for debate muzzled by a handful of judges who can decide at their high pleasure what is and what is not permissible to say, discuss and debate.

All the cultural gains in Germany since the Reformation seem to me in danger of being lost, if Germans do not rise up and repeal this backward-looking law and its even more assinine implementation by Germany's current Judges. Sphere: Related Content

Monday, November 12, 2007

Who are the terrorists in Kurdistan?

For a discussion of the Kurd view, see:,1518,516805,00.html

My view is that for the sake of realpolitik, the world has abandoned the Kurds.

But the moral case is clear: every group of people has the right of self-determination.

The Americans, the Europeans, the Russians, the Iranians, the Turks, and all the other powers involved in the region are igmoring, supporting or pursuing, against an ancient people, an immoral war. Sphere: Related Content

for those who know Norwegian - on Satya Niketan School

Satya Niketan School, Nagod, Madhya Pradesh, India

Satya Niketan School er et pionerprosjekt for kasteløse, fattige barn og ungdom i Nagod, midt i India. Prosjektet ble startet av Chandrakatn Shourie, en høyt utdannet mann fra en velstående indisk familie. Han kunne fått toppjobber både i India og i verden for øvrig. I stedet valgte han å risikere livet for å bygge opp et utdanningstilbud til utstøtte og fattige barn. I 25 år har han jobbet med denne skolen, som i dag har 16 lærere og 400 elever mellom 3 og 17 år. Skolen har for tiden et spesielt fokus på utdanning av jenter.

· Per i dag har skolen stort behov for en elektrisk generator (50000 NOK), tre nye klasserom (83000 NOK), nytt uteareale (116000 NOK), nye pc’er (33000 NOK) og større skolegård (134000 NOK).

· Hvis man ønsker å bidra til skolen, kan man enten ta kontakt med professor Prabhu Guptara direkte eller med:
Indian Ground Work (U.K. Charity No: 327.770)
(Mr Deepak Mahtani, Honorary Treasurer)
118 Boundary Road,
GB - Carshalton, Surrey SM5 4AB, England, UK
Tel: 0044 208-669.9812; Fax: 0044208-288.1434; Sphere: Related Content

Sunday, November 11, 2007

The current economic crisis

As you know, I don't often write on economic or financial matters but the current crisis now looks so serious that I can't resist putting pen to paper.

If we want to understand what is going on, the first step is to entirely forget all that governments and related authorities (let alone the media) are telling us about "sub-prime" matters.

Yes, the sub-prime debacle was the immediate cause of the trouble we are in. But it was and is "only" an immediate cause. We need to dig much deeper.

The second step is to read Ludwig von Mises' book, The Causes of the Economic Crisis (1931) which remains the foundation-stone for understanding business cycles. He demonstrates that economic booms and busts are the inevitable effects of the government's monopoly over money and banking.

Third, there is now a very much more detailed examination of business cycles in Money, Bank Credit, and Economic Cycles by Jesus Huerta de Soto, who argues that fractional-reserve banking is the basic reason for the business cycle. If you don't want to read the entire 875-page tome, then do read Chapter 4, "The Credit Expansion Process", and Chapter 5, " Bank Credit Expansion and Its Effects on the Economic System" - though you may also find useful his Appendix to Chapter 7, " A Critique of Monetarist and Keynesian Theories". The Appendix is on "Life Insurance Companies and Other Non-Bank Financial Intermediaries". He argues that life insurance companies are, or should be, "true financial intermediaries", reflects on the contemporary corruption of traditional life-insurance principles, and brings in mutual funds as well as holding and investment companies as examples of other "true financial intermediaries", before going on to provide some provocative comments on Credit Insurance.

However, de Soto's basic point is that fractional-reserve banking is the basic reason for the business cycle.

Well, here you have two great economists disagreeing: von Mises tells us that the basic cause of booms and busts is government's monopoly over money and banking, while de Soto says that the basic problem is fractional-reserve banking. Which is true?

Actually, both point in the right direction but neither gets at the really basic cause. In spite of von Mises' Jewish heritage, he somehow neglected to examine the possibility that the basic cause is usury. De Soto too refers to usury several times, but does not examine this possibility.

So here is my point of view: the most basic cause of the business cycle is usury. That is then magnified by fractional reserve banking, fiat currencies and government monopolies of money and banking (specifically by Central Banks).

A global economy quite likes booms but naturally does not like (and in any case cannot afford) busts. The simple way to grow beyond the business cycle is to abolish usury throughout the world, and bring in 100% reserve banking, gold-backed currencies and free competition in currencies and money.

Monstrosities such as usury, fractional-reserve banking, fiat currencies and central banking not only have compromised economic stability and freedom, the monstrosities must by their very nature compromiseeconomic stability and freedom. In a globalising society that aspires to be free, these mostrosities are intolerable.

Who is FOR these monstrosities? Basically, governments and anyone else in debt (or who likes to use debt). Who should be AGAINST these monstrosities? Consumers who don't want to be hit by inflation, citizens who don't want their savings to be eaten up by inflation, and everyone interested in nurturing liberty.

Now what has "sub-prime" to do with all this? It was only one example of how the current structure of the global economy encourages money to create booms and busts. So let us use the current crisis to argue for the abolition of usury, fractional-reserve banking, fiat currencies, government monopolies and central banks. If, as a result of the sub-prime crisis, we get away from these key causes of booms and busts, the cost will have been worth paying. Sphere: Related Content

Friday, November 02, 2007

on the history of "happiness"

following my Blog posting titled: "Even French Philosophers can be wrong on happiness", a correspondent writes:
"You could point to your friend that the whole concept of the pursuit and enjoyment of earthly happiness hails much earlier. It can be found for instance in old Greece in the teachings of Epictetus". He also assures me that his teachers "have found references to 'eudaimonia' - pursuit of earthly pleasure well established in old Greece".

Well, Epictetus was BORN in about 55 AD (according to the scholarly consensus) - that would be over tweny years after Jesus the Lord was killed and rose the time he was able to write anything that would be remembered would another twenty years at least, I imagine - well after the teachings of Jesus had spread through the "old world" of Greece.

The oldest Greek thinker REPUTED to have thought about this subject (and many others) is Socrates (around the 4th century BC) - though we nothing about him except for what we are told about him by his supposed pupils Plato and Xenophon (there is also information about Socrates in Aristophanes, Timon of Philius and later sources), and scholars disagree about whether ANY of what we are told about Socrates is historically accurate.

In any case, Socrates lived well after the time of the Hebrew prophets (sixth century BC - that's nearly 200 years before Socrates).

But the texts to which I was referring from the books of Deuteronomy and Exodus in the Jewish Bible, are put by Jewis traditionalist scholars at the 10th century BC. Even if we, being modern skeptics, take that with a large pinch of salt, Deuteronomy and Exodus certainly predate even the Hebrew prophets by a century or more.

In addition, it must be pointed out that, when scholars write about something, that is hardly likely to be the first time anyone has felt or even thought about that thing.

However, such efforts to establish, on a scholarly basis, who was the first person to WRITE about happiness, do not (so far) modify in the least my basic argument in the original post on the French Philosophers. Sphere: Related Content