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A great article I read in Newsweek, You Say You Want a Revolution,, compares the Tea Party to Occupy Wall Street in that both extremes are shouting their disenfranchisement with government and demanding a reckoning. I disagree that Tea Partyists have any kind of workable answer but, yes, even I can realize that two such divergent groups have something in common.

The status quo needs to be abandoned. Not, as tea partyists argue by less government, and not as OWS'ers argue by, well, not arguing. Hell, I'm an atheist socialist so, yes, I want the OWS protesters to prevail. But I am also a realist.

The 1%'s riches have accumulated at an astounding rate since Reagan's economic policies of the 1980's. Given enough freedom (argued Reagan), the ultra rich, the corporations and the bankers would provide economic security by job growth, humanitarian contributions to infra-structure, yadda, yadda.

That was in 1980. All that happened is that the (then) middle class spent like crazy, amassed huge credit debt, and partied. Now they, and all of us, are paying the price.

I knew 15 years ago that there would come a time of nothing for the poor, elderly poor, and disabled poor. I knew that by refusing to alter the "no taxes" credo that began in 1978 there would be much worse crises than abandoned school programs.

That's why I, a disabled adult who depends on MediCare and Medi-Cal for medical care, has only one prescription that is mandatory; who sees a doctor only once a year (whenever possible); and who realizes that no once is "entitled" to anything.

Still, I would give up the small amount of government assistance I have if the 1% and the corporations would pay the taxes they rightfully owe. And if the government would use those taxes to -- not only pay the debt but improve schools, create jobs by improving infrastructure, allow the middle class to exist again.

I'm sorry but "trickle down" economics doesn't work. Paying off banks who don't give a shit who pays their bloated bonuses doesn't work. A central banking system may not be the best way in the future.

What are the 1% and the corporations willing to give up? Or, how can "we, the people" impel them? I admit that OWS is one hell of a good starting point. But, what comes next?

"It's not so much a matter of left or right, but of balance. ... Tax revenues, after all, haven’t been this low in half a century; tax rates remain well below what they were under that radical, Eisenhower. And the only way we will achieve serious cuts in entitlements—the other half of the equation for fiscal balance—is if people believe that everyone is sacrificing something. That includes the rich. That isn’t ideology. It’s common sense." - Andrew Sullivan

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( 44 comments — Leave a comment )
Nov. 5th, 2011 07:52 am (UTC)
> No One is "Entitled" to Anything

I disagree.

I feel we all are entitled to ALL the money paid into Social Security plus interest. Congress stole our money and we are entitled to getting it back.

When I started paying into Social Security, the retirement age was 65. Congress changed the rules without our permission. We are entitled to getting a nice fat check for the year stolen from us.

We all are entitled to a living wage.

We are entitled to live in a society where the rich pay their share of the taxes.

We are entitled to a a government with the best interests of the 99% as high priority #1.

I'll believe corporations are people when the state of Texas executes one. Until then, we are entitled to a government which may not take donations from corporations.

We are entitled to having police which obey the law.

We are entitled to putting cops and politicians who break the law into prison, where they belong.

I could go on, but it is past my bedtime.
Nov. 5th, 2011 03:56 pm (UTC)
I feel I'm entitled to a government that won't shut down 2-3 times a year and threaten to stop paying me my retirement and kill off my poor old mom who has cancer.

As the disabled veteran of 2, count them, 2 actual wars, plus that Cold War and War on terrorism, I feel I'm entitled to know my checks will be there and that the 1% can't bounce me out of my little house and take my car away every time somebody in DC has a temper tantrum.

I'm entitled to timely health care, not the months of waiting that go on because now that I'm used up and thrown away, they don't need me anymore.

Speak for yourself. I'm entitled to plenty.
Nov. 5th, 2011 08:49 pm (UTC)
Congress can't steal what wasn't owed to us.
The OASI program is in no sense a federally-administered “insurance program” under which each worker pays premiums over the years and acquires at retirement an indefeasible right to receive for life a fixed monthly benefit, irrespective of the conditions which Congress has chosen to impose from time to time. - The Social Securitu Administration, Flemming v. Nestor, 1960

A statement with which the court concurred saying, "To engraft upon the Social Security system a concept of `accrued property rights’ would deprive it of the flexibility and boldness in adjustment to everchanging conditions which it demands."

If there are no accrued property rights, then nothing can be stolen (except in the way in which all taxation is theft in the first place).
Nov. 6th, 2011 01:04 pm (UTC)
Congress took money out of Social Security which I and everyone else put into it. That is theft, no matter what legalese bullshit the congress & courts choose to impose upon us.

I am entitled to the money which was stolen from me.
Nov. 6th, 2011 04:08 pm (UTC)
The problem is, there was no money "in" Social Security in the first place. You may have payed into something that they call "Social Security" but the fact of the matter is, that money essentially goes into the general fund. http://www.thefreemanonline.org/featured/the-myth-of-the-social-security-trust-fund/
Nov. 6th, 2011 10:30 pm (UTC)
And that is theft.

I am entitled to a government which does not cheat us out of our money.
Nov. 6th, 2011 10:38 pm (UTC)
No, theft is when someone uses the threat of force to deprive someone of their wealth. Oh wait, that's called taxation.

This is essentially the way that Social Security has worked from the start and it is to what the people "agreed" to and the way it was always intended to work. No one was ever expected to collect from Social Security. Seriously, think about it. At the time it was passed, the average life-expectancy was 63 years old, but you could only really collect at 65. Gee....

Two words: Privatize it.
Nov. 6th, 2011 11:13 pm (UTC)
> Two words: Privatize it.

No fucking way!

Reform the government or get a new government.

The main problem with the US government is from corporations who seek to run the government.
Nov. 6th, 2011 11:37 pm (UTC)
So, let me get this straight: It's not theft when the government uses the threat of force to extract your wealth, but it is theft when they use that wealth in a manner with which you disagree?

Now, you must concede that your preferences differ from those of others. I, for instance, disagree with the government spending my money on Social Security. For your irrational response to privatization of social security to hold any weight, you must make either one of the following assertions, 1) I retain the right to opt out, at which case the money which has been forcibly extracted from my paycheck is returned to me and no future money shall be extracted from my paycheck, or 2) That my preferences in this debate are irrelevant compared to your own, because clearly you are the only good and moral arbiter of government spending.
Nov. 7th, 2011 12:04 pm (UTC)

I began this little debate with MY perspectives on ways in which I have entitlement. I never claimed to speak for you or anyone else.
Nov. 7th, 2011 06:11 pm (UTC)
You said it all with your adverse reaction to my suggestion that we privatize SSI.

Now, since you refuse to clarify when exactly the use of government funds becomes theft, I must assume that my earlier assertion is correct that, "theft occurs when the state uses funds in a manner with which you disagree."

Now, my point here being that everyone has different preferences as to the manner in which their taxes are used. If we universalize the definition of theft such that, "Theft occurs whenever someone's money is used in a manner with which they disagree." then virtually any government program can be considered "theft" because you can find at least one person who disagrees with the manner in which the funds are being spent.

If I disagree with SSI and you don't, yet we shouldn't privatize it, then either the definition of theft I applied earlier is incorrect, or it is only YOUR preferences which are relevant in this debate.

That was just a clarification of the reasoning I was employing previously, so let's wipe that slate clean. What is your definition of theft?
Nov. 7th, 2011 09:32 pm (UTC)
Assume as you will. I do not debate on someone else's terms
Nov. 7th, 2011 09:46 pm (UTC)
I gave you the chance to name your own terms, yet you refuse to do so.
Nov. 7th, 2011 09:58 pm (UTC)
Why debate?

I have a life to lead and no time to engage in futile pursuits.
Nov. 7th, 2011 10:00 pm (UTC)
A life which apparently consists of having the time to tell me that you have a life to live but not to actually engage in the discussion. Sounds like quite the entertaining life there bub.
Nov. 7th, 2011 10:03 pm (UTC)
You sure are snarky. If this were my personal LJ, I would ban you as an annoyance.
Nov. 8th, 2011 08:40 am (UTC)
And still you reply, yet do not engage.
Nov. 7th, 2011 07:46 am (UTC)
Oh get over it. Assuming that you were born in the US, you agreed to the conditions required to live in this country when you 1)turned 18 and 2)didn't leave. If you came later, you have even less of an excuse for whining about the terms required for your living in this country are.

Taxation is in fact the very opposite of an outward imposed threat; it's a consensual contractual agreement. You are free to leave this country, regardless of where you were born, the second you become an adult. If you choose to stay, you're opting in.

Why so many people start to blame others for the things they've agreed to is beyond me--compare the automakers complaining that "the unions are the ones to blame for the contracts that we signed with them."

Nov. 7th, 2011 06:02 pm (UTC)
In law, "agreements" are usually invalidated by the threat of force, and force is inherent in government. Good job at being a statist though.
Nov. 7th, 2011 06:15 pm (UTC)
No, the threat of some sort of force is ALWAYS behind EVERY contract that has any teeth at all. That's because if the contract gets violated, the next step is, you guessed it, a court of law, run by the government.

You know what we call contracts and treaties and laws that have no enforcement mechanism? We call them "ignored" and 'violated" and "broken".

You've opted into this system by choosing to stay. If you want out, feel free; ain't no one gonna stop you. If you feel that the benefits of staying outweigh the negatives, feel free to make that choice too. Just stop whining about how persecuted you are because you don't like the choices that you've made.
Nov. 7th, 2011 06:25 pm (UTC)
There's a difference: The breaking of a contract is the initiation of aggression such that the force behind its enforcement is that of retaliatory or defensive aggression, which is perfectly justified.

There is a difference between that and a threat of force prior to the signing of a contract. Because government by definition is force, any such "agreement" which you allude to is invalidated, at least if we are all to be considered free men. If, however, you wish to postulate that we are not free men and merely wards of the state, that is a different matter entirely.

This social contract stuff is bullshit. I don't think there is a single person who sincerely rejects the principle that lex iniusta non est lex.
Nov. 7th, 2011 08:47 pm (UTC)
There is no threat of force PRIOR to the opting into the contract.

You opted into the contract when you became an adult and chose to remain here. Before that, your parents made the decision for you, as parents do for minors, but they were legally unable to make the decision as to what you would do or owe as an adult, because this is a reasonably civilized and progressive society.

I'm not even bringing into the discussion any unspecified "social contract" BS.

I'm saying that you knew good and goddamn well that when you became an adult, you'd owe taxes, and you had lots of opportunity to decide what else you'd like to do instead. You chose to stay. And now you're whining about the taxes. Waah waaah waaah.

Aren't you lucky: You STILL have the option to leave.

Right now. Today. With no penalties. Feel free to leave. Don't let the door hit you on the ass on the way out.

There's nothing forcing you to stay. The rest of us are just saying that as long as you continue to reside in our society, you're going to continue paying our taxes. And there is absolutely no one forcing you into that contract, or punishing you if you decide to get out of it.

If you break the contract, you're the first to violate it. And then, yes, force comes in . . . as it does into EVERY OTHER ENFORCED CONTRACT EVERYWHERE.

Make your choice. And then quite whining about the consequences of your choice.

Nov. 7th, 2011 09:04 pm (UTC)
Yes, there is force prior to this "contract" because government is force by its very definition. Because the implicit force of government exists, any agreement, including that of my parents, would be necessarily invalidated.

Furthermore, the expansive nature of the modern nation state, and the fact that so many of them exist, impose an unnecessarily high exit cost given that such a monopoly on the use of force resides in a given geographic region, so your assertion that there are no "penalties" is clearly false.

Your argument is as silly as Weber's notion of legitimacy. "Orly, they abide by the laws, they MUST consent to them."
Nov. 7th, 2011 09:17 pm (UTC)
Yes, there is force prior to this "contract" because government is force by its very definition. Because the implicit force of government exists, any agreement, including that of my parents, would be necessarily invalidated.

Uh no. NO. There is no one subject to this contract who hasn't had the option of opting into or out of this contract. Your parents had the option of making this decision for themselves, as have you.

There is no one subject to this contract who hasn't made a choice to subject themselves to it.

There is not a contract, anywhere, that does not survive without implicit force of arms. I covered this earlier. Read back.

The only "exit cost" imposed by the particular contract imposed by America is that you don't get the benefits of being an American anymore.

You clearly aren't willing to pay that cost. Stop whining about the consequences of the choices you make.
Nov. 7th, 2011 09:45 pm (UTC)
Dude, I have degrees in political science and philosophy so I believe this is a subject with which I am at least passingly acquainted.

The State is defined as the entity with a monopoly on the use of force. Because of this, anyone who "chose" to enter into a contract with the State did so under duress, anything to which they "agreed" is invalidated because of the threat of force which was implied prior to them signing it. If a person puts a gun into your head before you sign a contract, you would no doubt say that any agreement to it would be invalid.

Even if we go by your model that, "you stayed here, and before that your parents made the decision and before them," ad infinitum, it comes to a point where there must be an initial signatory, and even then they were likely coerced into "agreement." Told that if they did not subject themselves to the Sovereign that they would be deprived of their lives.
Nov. 7th, 2011 09:53 pm (UTC)
What you are ignoring, consistently, is that you can get out of the contract, cost-free, if you would like to. Right now. For easily the third time in this conversation: DON'T LET THE DOOR HIT YOU IN THE ASS ON THE WAY OUT. IF YOU DON'T WANT TO BE HERE, YOU CAN GO.

That's hardly the model of a government goon standing around saying "hey, nice kneecaps, it'd be a shame if anything happened to them, huh?"

This contract is one you are free to leave. Right now. Yesterday. Tomorrow.

The person who is seventeen and 99/100ths of a year old is also not obligated, by force of any sort, to agree to the contract. If there were an actual gun being put into an actual ear, your argument would hold water; as it is, no, it doesn't.

I'm sorry that you're anarchist in a world dominated by a species for whom anarchism has not actually been demonstrated to work. However, it's not actually my problem, so I'm going to let you work it out on your own.
Nov. 7th, 2011 09:58 pm (UTC)
And what I am saying, for probably the third time in the row, is that there can be no valid contract in the first place. You keep asserting that there is some mythical contract which exists by my residing in my home, but what I am saying is that if you can even postulate a contract in the first place that it cannot be considered a valid one because at any time your agreement to it came under duress. Any validity it may have had went right on out the window the minute there was any threat of violence prior to its agreement.
Nov. 7th, 2011 10:14 pm (UTC)


Quoted from another comment: "You know what we call contracts and treaties and laws that have no enforcement mechanism? We call them "ignored" and 'violated" and "broken".

You keep asserting that there is some mythical contract which exists by my residing in my home,

Not unless your home is within the boundaries claimed by the US.

You were born here. That entitled you to nothing, and gave you a claim to jack-all.

If you chose to remain here as an adult, you FREELY opted into the contract whereby individuals contribute to the society in which they choose to live.

I don't understand why you cannot either agree to or rebut or even UNDERSTAND these basics, but there you are.
Nov. 8th, 2011 08:27 am (UTC)
Yes, there is the threat of force behind any contract, but the difference is when that threat of force is asserted. If there is a threat of force following the signing of the contract, then that is merely in the enforcement of said contract. The breaking of that contract would be considered an initiatory act of aggression, and the enforcement the defense of said aggression.

However, if the threat of force comes prior to the signing of that contract then the contract is invalidated. That is, if someone threatens you with violence if they do not sign that contract, then it was signed under duress, and the terms of the contract are invalidated because the consent was not obtained of their own free will.

The "contract" with the U.S. government cannot be said to have been obtained without the free consent of individuals because there is the threat of force existing if you, or your forefathers, disagreed with the terms behind it.

I have explained this a number of times. Any consent was not obtained through the agreement of its signatories because there existed a threat of force prior to its agreement. As I said, even if you apply your principle ad infinitum, there exists a point where the initial signatory did so under duress.

The Nozickean principle that, "only property legitimately obtained can be legitimately transferred," is in force here. If the consent was not legitimately obtained, and was given only under duress, then no consent for their children can be transferred. Even the terms, that is the choice which exists when one reaches the age of majority, is illegitimate because the initial terms were agreed to only under duress.
Nov. 8th, 2011 03:15 pm (UTC)
You keep explaining insisting that someone, somewhere, sometime, was forced into some contract, therefore the one you've agreed to today isn't valid.


People who were here when the Revolution was won, when independence was declared, were perfectly free to leave then. People who have arrived since then, either through immigration or birth, have the same option. There's no duress involved.

The only time force comes into play is if an individual breaks his part of the contract, just as with any other enforceable contract.

You want to explain now, in slow terms, how it is that you think your family--or any other, for that matter--was forced into being here? Which of them were not allowed to leave the country as opposed to paying taxes? Because being here is the choice you're making, it's the return you get for tax money.

You don't like the contract? Feel free to get out of it. It's a perfectly valid option.
Nov. 8th, 2011 03:53 pm (UTC)
1) There were many people who didn't agree with the Revolution in the first place and many people who wanted to stay with the Articles of Confederation.

2) We're not just talking about the Constitution, but government as a whole, all governments.

3) The Constitution cannot be said to have been binding upon future generations, but only upon the generation that signed it. See Lysander Spooner's "No Treason."

4) The Constitution is what is known as a "contract of leisure" meaning that because there are no clauses specifying the terms of leaving, then one can break it at any time, and under any conditions. This means that one need not give up their entire lives by leaving the contract to declare the terms of the Constitution null and void. See again Lysander Spooner's "No Treason."

5) There need not be any historical person who disagreed with this "contract" but given that, as I have said, government is an entity with a monopoly on the use of force, that threat will always be implicit prior to any agreement, thus invalidated any contract. No valid contract can ever be made with an entity called a "government" because there is always a threat prior to agreement.
Nov. 8th, 2011 04:02 pm (UTC)
So basically you're insisting that the entity which is the ultimate arbiter and enforcer of every one else's contracts is morally incapable of entering into contracts on its own, despite the fact that it could not perform any of its functions without that ability.


Yeah, that's stupid.
Nov. 9th, 2011 12:53 am (UTC)
How can it enter any contract though? There is a threat of force inherent prior to any person's agreement to the terms of a contract with the state, and when there is a threat of force prior to agreement then said agreement is only achieved under duress, which means that any agreement is illegitimate, thus voiding it?

Finally: There are many non-coercive ways to enforce contractual arrangements, such as the lex mercatoria or xeer systems of dispute resolution.
Nov. 8th, 2011 05:47 am (UTC)
Why are you so against taxes? What alternate way do you suggest to pay for what the country, as a whole, needs? Are you opposed to all taxation or only certain taxes? Why is it theft for those in a community to contribute to, say, better roads? I am truly curious. Please provide specifics. Thank you!
Nov. 8th, 2011 08:47 am (UTC)
Because taxes are theft. Look at any tax protester in history, and you will see that the government obtained their wealth through force. A few years back, Ed Brown was a tax protester, and the government besieged his home.

It is theft, because consent is obtained through the threat of violence, and even if you do not agree, the government can deprive you of your property.

Such services can, and should, be provided on a voluntary basis.
Nov. 9th, 2011 06:28 am (UTC)
You haven't yet made a successful case that taxes are theft. I have never felt threatened with violence. In fact, I vote on taxes quite frequently when an initiative is introduced. Is voting about taxation also illegal? If so, please cite specifics.

"Such services can, and should, be provided on a voluntary basis."

How? How would this "voluntary" system be implemented and carried out? And paid for? Yes, I can accept volunteers to build a new road. Are the volunteers expected to pay for materials, too?

Would the 1% volunteer? All evidence says they would not. How does that work in your hypothesis. Again, I need specifics and not just a reiteration of how taxes are illegal. Thanks.

Nov. 9th, 2011 06:43 am (UTC)
Firstly, it is that taxation is immoral in which case the principle that lex iniusta non est lex comes into force. I have often thought that if we reverted to medieval forms of tax collection that people would quickly begin to object to it. As it stands, the fact of its automatic deduction from one's paycheck separates them from the state. If you've really never felt threatened with violence from the state, which has a monopoly on violence, then you must be blind, deaf, and dumb to the world around you.

Secondly, voting is an immoral act, when done so through government because that means you are subjecting a minority to your will simply because the faction of which you are part is numerically superior. A democracy is no more a legitimate form of government compared to monarchy simply because it's 51% to 49% rather than 1% to 99%.

To paraphrase Lysander Spooner, "In a democracy the ballot is merely a substitute of the bullet."

I'm sure you've heard of these things called "toll roads." They seem to work pretty well y'know. Oh, or how about Lysander Spooner's post office, which was shut down by the Supreme Court. Oh! Or how about all of the telephone companies that sprung up following the end of certain patents. Oh, or how about Fraternal Societies and other methods of providing healthcare but were promptly put out of business by government. These are all areas where people typically think that the government "needs" to intervene, but have historical examples where they had worked prior to special interests shutting them down through government.
Nov. 8th, 2011 04:04 pm (UTC)
He's just one of the dimwits on the right with a head full of unworkable ideas. "Taxes are theft" is the right's equivalent to "property is theft", and you should treat the people who say both with the same amount of eyerolling.

Nov. 9th, 2011 06:33 am (UTC)
My eyes are rolling, true. Still, I'm interested in how people reach the conclusions they do. Now, I want to see how he justifies his belief that all things made possible through taxation can be accomplished "voluntarily." :-)
Nov. 5th, 2011 08:59 pm (UTC)
You're right, trickle down economics doesn't work, but that doesn't mean that free-markets don't work. "Trickle-down economics" is essentially corporate cronyism and the 20th century equivalent of mercantilism.

I mean, really, do you have any grounds for dismissing a free-market other than some stupid bias created by our insufficient political and media system?
It’s not their fault they’ve never heard a free market critique of corporate power, never heard anyone pointing out that big business is the biggest beneficiary of big government, and never heard a case for why genuine, freed market competition would be dynamite at the foundations of corporate power. - Kevin Carson, Center for a Stateless Society, http://c4ss.org/content/8630

The fact is that it is big government which creates the conditions necessary for big corporations. Without the former, the costs of entry into a given market would be substantially lower and would create competition in the market which would spread the wealth around society much more than we see now.
Nov. 5th, 2011 09:30 pm (UTC)
It is not a free market at all.

It is corporatism with the government bailing out big banks and wealthy investors to raise the price of everything which is socialism, and the rest of us fight for every other job that lowers the wages. That is capitalism.

Nov. 5th, 2011 09:44 pm (UTC)
Uh, yeah, I know it's not a free-market. I'm pretty sure that was implied in my statement with words like "mercantilism" and "corporate cronyism."

Capitalism and free-markets, however, are not synomymous.
At the risk of being misunderstood, I am not a capitalist. Instead, I advocate the free market. Capitalism is a specific economic arrangement with reference to the ownership of property and capital. It happens to be the arrangement I prefer because I believe it is more just, a far better reflection of reality and produces more prosperity than the alternatives. But I wouldn’t crusade for capitalism the way I would crusade for freedom of speech. What I would crusade for is a free market in which individuals exchange or co-operate with each other according to their own choices. - Wendy McElroy, http://www.wendymcelroy.com/news.php?extend.1321

However, even under capitalist models in the free-market, one would see a greater distribution of wealth. Free-markets would allow more firms, creating more jobs (thus higher wages), and more goods constituting substitutes thus increasing the supply and lowering costs. The result is that less money is coming out of the people's pockets into those of many more people. What we have is the inverse relationship in our considerably "less-than-free" market where the markets are choked so that there are fewer firms, fewer jobs (lower wages) and fewer substitutes (higher costs) such that more money is coming from the pockets of more people and into those of fewer thus creating the distribution of wealth we currently have.
Nov. 5th, 2011 09:27 pm (UTC)
We are not entitled
People need to get a job. Even if it is minimium wage

Do I blame the recession for a loss of good paying jobs? Yes. This recession taught me not to overspend and to be more responsible for the failures of my life.

I am angry as the rest of the Wall Street movement and the Banks. However, I do agree with the Tea Party that most of these guys are socialists nutcases. I stand by agaisn't greed and corruption but wont stand by people who even admitted they quit their jobs at McDonalds after college so they can sit around and freeze instead because they felt entitled to a good $40,000 a year job fresh out of school.

The fact that Alabama can't find qualified unemployed Americans to pick vegatables at $10/hr (high wage for those with highschool degrees) shows it.

... this is coming from someone who is unemployed and lost everything too. Infact I am applying at Subway right now even though I have a college degree. Why? Because it is the right thing to do and I take responsiblity for not doing well.
Nov. 7th, 2011 08:50 pm (UTC)
Re: We are not entitled
What jobs? There's a 1.8 BILLION shortfall of jobs globally. Are you seriously saying that everyone who doesn't "get a job" is a lazy slacker?

As for Alabama: Yeah, we're spoiled. Are you seriously saying that that's evidence that everyone who doesn't get a job is a slacker, or something? Where were you going with that?
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Most experts now acknowledge that GDP alone is an insufficient determinant of recession.

For one, GDP is often revised several quarters - even years - later, as more complete information becomes available that changes the components of the earlier, initial GDP estimates in what can be very substantial ways.

For another, not all serious downturns exact as serious a toll on GDP. Often, the decline is much more pronounced in GDI (Gross Domestic Income) and/or employment. If the income or employment of a nation is undergoing a pronounced, pervasive and prolonged decline even if for whatever various reasons its GDP may be holding up, is it not foolish to deny that a recession is underway?

For these reasons and others, the NBER (National Bureau of Economic Research), the official arbiter of recessions and expansions in the United States, determines whether or not the US has fallen into recession using a much more holistic approach.

As the NBER explains it:
Q: The financial press often states the definition of a recession as two consecutive quarters of decline in real GDP. How does that relate to the NBER's recession dating procedure?

Most of the recessions identified by our procedures do consist of two or more quarters of declining real GDP, but not all of them. In 2001, for example, the recession did not include two consecutive quarters of decline in real GDP. In the recession beginning in December 2007 and ending in June 2009, real GDP declined in the first, third, and fourth quarters of 2008 and in the first quarter of 2009. The committee places real Gross Domestic Income on an equal footing with real GDP; real GDI declined for six consecutive quarters in the recent recession.

Q: Why doesn't the committee accept the two-quarter definition?

The committee's procedure for identifying turning points differs from the two-quarter rule in a number of ways. First, we do not identify economic activity solely with real GDP and real GDI, but use a range of other indicators as well. Second, we place considerable emphasis on monthly indicators in arriving at a monthly chronology. Third, we consider the depth of the decline in economic activity. Recall that our definition includes the phrase, "a significant decline in activity." Fourth, in examining the behavior of domestic production, we consider not only the conventional product-side GDP estimates, but also the conceptually equivalent income-side GDI estimates. The differences between these two sets of estimates were particularly evident in the recessions of 2001 and 2007-2009.

Q: How does the committee weight employment in determining the dates of peaks and troughs?

In the 2007-2009 recession, the central indicators–real GDP and real GDI–gave mixed signals about the peak date and a clear signal about the trough date. The peak date at the end of 2007 coincided with the peak in employment. We designated June 2009 as the trough, six months before the trough in employment, which is consistent with earlier trough dates in the NBER business-cycle chronology. In the 2001 recession, we found a clear signal in employment and a mixed one in the various measures of output. Consequently, we picked the peak month based on the clear signal in employment, as well as our consideration of output and other measures. In that cycle, as well, the dating of the trough relied primarily on output measures.

Q: Isn't a recession a period of diminished economic activity?

It's more accurate to say that a recession–the way we use the word–is a period of diminishing activity rather than diminished activity. We identify a month when the economy reached a peak of activity and a later month when the economy reached a trough. The time in between is a recession, a period when economic activity is contracting. The following period is an expansion. As of September 2010, when we decided that a trough had occurred in June 2009, the economy was still weak, with lingering high unemployment, but had expanded considerably from its trough 15 months earlier.

What is a
"Double Dip Recession"?

In the most general sense a Double Dip Recession occurs when an economy falls back into contraction for at least a couple of months (usually at least six) after a relatively brief expansion.

By this definition, the recession of 1981-82 which followed a year-long expansion after the very short, two quarter's long 1980 recession, seems to qualify. Also by this broad definition, the 1937 recession that occurred four years after the end of the 1929-1933 recession also qualifies. While each of those were technically "new" recessions, they happened so soon after their predecessors that many people tend to think of the separate 1980 & 1981-82 recessions as one nasty, long recession. Similarly, most people think of the 1929-1933 & 1937 recessions as encompassing "The Great Depression."

Another definition of a "Double Dip Recession" would be that of a recession which technically has not ended, and was only punctuated by a quarter or twos worth of head-fake rise in GDP. Many recessions throughout history have had such false hopes, only to swoon back down into contraction, until they finally came to an end.

List of Recessions:
Post-1900 US Recessions

Mo/Yr Started Duration
Sep 1902 - 23 Months
May 1907 - 13 Months
Jan 1910 - 24 Months
Jan 1913 - 23 Months
Aug 1918 - 7 Months
Jan 1920 - 18 Months
May 1923 - 14 Months
Oct 1926 - 13 Months
Aug 1929 - 43 Months
May 1937 - 13 Months
Feb 1945 - 8 Months
Nov 1948 - 11 Months
Jul 1953 - 10 Months
Aug 1957 - 8 Months
Apr 1960 - 10 Months
Dec 1969 - 11 Months
Nov 1973 - 16 Months
Jan 1980 - 6 Months
Jul 1981 - 16 Months
Jul 1990 - 8 Months
Mar 2001 - 8 Months
Dec 2007 - 18 Months

What is
Gross National Happiness (GNH)?

An alternate measure of a nation's wealth was conceptualized several decades ago as a means of cutting through the overemphasis on materialism of traditional wealth measures, and seeing the bigger picture.

According to GNHUSA.Org

  Gross National Happiness (GNH) is an indicator developed in Bhutan in the Himalayas, based on the concept elaborated in 1972 by the then King Jigme Singye Wangchuck. Since then, the kingdom of Bhutan, with the support of UNDP (UN Development Program), began to put this concept into practice, and has attracted the attention of the rest of the world with its new formula to measure the progress of a community or nation.

GNH is based on the premise that the calculation of "wealth" should consider other aspects besides economic development: the preservation of the environment and the quality of life of the people. The goal of a society should be the integration of material development with psychological, cultural, and spiritual aspects - all in harmony with the Earth.

The Four Pillars of GNH

  • the promotion of equitable and sustainable socio-economic development
  • the preservation and promotion of cultural values
  • the conservation of the natural environment, and
  • the establishment of good governance.


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