Power & Market

Interview with Professor Georg Oesterdiekhoff

9 hours agoLipton Matthews

Georg Oesterdiekhoff has taught sociology at the universities of Aachen, Erlangen-Nuremberg and at the Universidad Nacional de Colombia in Bogotá. He has written or edited 30 books and has published about 100 journal articles. His work has been covered in leading journals, such as the American Journal of Psychology, Journal of Social Sciences, Anthropos: International Review of Anthropology and Linguistics, Physics International, Human Evolution and other reputable publications. He has developed the so-called “structural-genetic theory programme” that aims to use developmental psychology to explain history generally, and accordingly, the history of culture, society, law, morals, politics, arts, and religion.

  1. Jean Piaget is frequently discussed in your articles, so why is he so important?

Jean Piaget has shown that human development from childhood to adulthood goes through four major psychological stages, transforming basic mental processes, personality structures, experiences of people, and the understanding of logic, nature, social affairs, law, politics, morals, and religion. He has already shown that pre-modern peoples usually do not develop the fourth stage of human development and often neither the third stage. The second stage of human development – the preoperational stage – is the stage that describes the mental world of ancient or pre-modern peoples best. However, Piaget did not work out a systematic and coherent theory to describe all the phenomena involved. Others such as C. Hallpike, L. Ibarra, Rolando Garcia, C. Radding, and S. Gablik have devoted complete monographs to describe the similarities between ancient adults and modern children more comprehensively, using Piaget´s research. My task is to develop a theory that explains and tackles all the problems originating in that comparison between ontogeny and history. Moreover, I have shown that the parallels between children and ancient adults concern every single aspect. There is not one phenomenon that characterizes the psyche of a child that does not also describe the main characteristics of ancient adult humans. They may differ in experience and knowledge but not in those structures coming from the psychological stage.

  1. Can you explain the differences between ancient adults and children in more detail?

Children and ancient humans, from whichever world culture, region, and time period, share the same patterns in logic, the same animistic understanding of movements and physics, the same belief in magic and ghosts, the same categories concerning causality, chance, and probability, the same view on myths and dreams, and the same understanding of law and religion. You will not find one detail to describe the psychology of a child that is not being described as a main feature of the psyche of ancient humans, described in ethnological or historical books. For example, both groups of humans do not understand syllogisms and both groups also believe that desire and ritual can turn rocks to humans or birds to horses (belief in metamorphosis). Similarly, like children pre-modern adults attribute humanlike abilities to animals, plants, and objects.

  1. Why could ancient humans not develop beyond these stages?

Piagetian Cross-Cultural Psychology found that exposure to modern schooling is decisive to attain the adolescent stage of formal operations. Pre-modern societies, with their lack of quality education could not stimulate further development. This shows that a dialectical interrelationship between material culture on the one side and psychological advancements on the other side is the motor behind the progress of civilization. Without socialization in modern culture people do not develop beyond childhood´s stages.

  1. A signature theme of your work is the difference between pre-modern societies and contemporary societies, but how did the former differ from the latter?

 

Societies are made by people and not by social structures as sociologists do believe. People staying on the preoperational stage make societies that are different from modern societies created by people staying on higher psychological stages. Pre-modern societies are characterized by simple technologies, lack of sciences, huge role of religion and magic, superstitions and rituals, punitive laws, and brutal social affairs such as maltreatment of women, slavery, or even cannibalism. Modern societies could only emerge as result of that interplay between culture and human development that I have mentioned above. Modern society is characterized by science, industrial growth, enlightenment, humanism, and liberty. The adolescent stage of formal operations, that emerged in Europe during the 17th and 18th century, created science and the age of enlightenment, and gave birth to the rise of the modern, industrial society.

  1. Why were ancient societies like Rome unable to transition to modernity?

The Romans could not preserve the achievements of the Hellenistic culture and sciences – they really destroyed that culture in consequence of their conquest of the Eastern Mediterranean B. C. The Romans were not good at sciences as the Greeks had been. They obviously could not establish a culture able to promote the evolution of formal operations, as the ancient Chinese, Japanese, and Indians couldn´t, too. I have no complete answer why the Europeans of the 17th and 18th century were successful, and why the other civilizations weren´t. Gutenberg´s invention may be part of the answer or may contribute to the explanation needed. The general theoretical model (interrelationship between socialization and psychological development) is apparent, the single factors crucial in history are still opaque.

  1. Can the cognitive developmental approach explain the rise of the Physical Sciences?

Piaget and Garcia published in 1983 a book dedicated to that subject. The preoperational stage is incapable to develop scientific thinking. The intellectual prerequisites of scientific thinking are given when the adolescent stage of formal operations arises. This stage emerges in modern adolescents between their 12th and their 18th year, with the 15th year as a decisive year. Then adolescents can understand theories and think systematically, coherently, experimentally and empirically. They replace the magical-animistic worldview of the child with the rational and scientific worldview. The same transformation took place in Europe during the 17th century, whereas Asia endured in preserving the worldview of the child, being therefore incapable to develop the physical sciences. As currently the whole world advances, at least more or less, with backbenchers and forerunners, sciences have disseminated on a worldwide scale.

  1. You submit that the cognitive developmental approach explains the rise of modern society, but what’s its relation to the European miracle?

The rise of modern, industrial society is the European miracle. Historians and sociologists have tried to explain the rise of modern society by reference to colonial exploitation of the South (Wallerstein), by exploitation of the working class (Marx), by struggle of classes (Moore), by Protestant ethics (Weber), by liberal markets (Hayek) or by Property Rights (North, Thomas). These theories are either superficial or even wrong. The emergence of the modern world originates in education and human development, that is, in the adolescent stage of formal operations. This stage explains the rise of the science and technology, the establishment of civilized political systems, the evolution of music and arts, and the emergence of humanism in human relations and pedagogics.

  1. Did pre-modern people have a different approach to law?

Children and ancient people did not distinguish physical and moral (legal) laws. For pre-modern humans and children, the behavior of physical objects originates in their obedience to the moral laws, rather than the laws of mechanical causality, unknown in premodern nations till Europe’s 17th century, and initially unknown among modern children, because of the same cognitive immaturity both groups share. Physical laws were considered norms imposed by God that physical entities followed by will and obedience, whereas moral norms, also imposed by God, were regarded as holy and unchangeable. This confusion of physical and legal laws is typical for the child´s understanding of law and nature, as Piaget has already found out in 1932. Piagetian Cross-Cultural Psychology evidenced that ancient people have the same understanding. Therefore, they deny democracy and the change of laws and customs (misoneism). Secondly, children and ancient humans embrace the phenomenon called objective responsibility (Erfolgshaftung in history).

The implication of this is that people bear consequences of actions they are not responsible for. Collective punishments, bloodshed, and judicial prosecution of animals belong to this subject. Thirdly, both groups of humans resort to combats, oaths or ordeals to solve conflicts. The ordeal of hot iron, fire or boiling water to decide judicial questions originated in the mentality of the child. Fourthly, young children support severe punishments even when socialized in modern households. Likewise ancient humankind demanded severe punishments. That explains the brutal-sadistic punishment systems of the ancient word.

  1. Is the cognitive developmental a tool to understand the precipitous decline in violence observed by people like Steven Pinker?

Ancient humans staying on the child´s stages tend to be more emotional and passionate, aggressive, and violent. This observation stood in the centre of Elias´ theory of civilization which Steven Pinker follows in his relevant book on the history of violence. Of course, the decline of violence during history is also explainable in terms of existence/lack of institutional forces (police; justice). However, it is obvious that more rational and civilized people deny violence while people staying on the child´s stages resort to violence more easily. You only have to read a report on the culture of duels and bloodshed in former times to gain the data you need to understand that point.

  1. Intelligence is indeed influenced by genetics; however, your work argues that the success of industrial societies is primarily a result of modernization pressure, please discuss your findings?

Psychologists and biologists say that hereditary factors affect the individual intelligence, some maintain that this observation should be extended to the acknowledgment of racial differences. I have no idea how to combine these contentions with those won by Piagetian Cross-Cultural Psychology. What we see is that every race can stay either on the preoperational stage or on the formal operational stage in mere dependence of culture and socialization. White people stood on the preoperational stage some centuries ago, and they were the first to advance. However, nowadays people from all over the world follow this path due to modernization and globalization. Therefore, I see not much room for hereditary factors to play a crucial part. By the way, “intelligence” refers to mental abilities only, “psychological stage” describes phenomena more profound. When people can develop from preoperational to formal operational stage within two following generations then it is to assume that culture affects psyche much more than genes do.

  1. What is the status you ascribe to your theory?

I regard the discovery that pre-modern humans stood on preoperational or concrete-operational stages but not on the adolescent stage of formal operations as the greatest discovery ever made in the whole history of social sciences and humanities. Provided that there is and will be progress in sciences then I estimate that in 200 years this discovery will be appreciated as the greatest discovery on a worldwide scale. It matches the discovery of evolution in biology fully. You must appreciate stage theory in order to be able to explain the world history of law, politics, morals, economy, religion, and arts. Moreover, there are no foundations that lie deeper than the stage structures because the development from suckling over child to adult is the deepest layer of psychological phenomena to discover. Even the reduction to neurological phenomena would bring nothing because it is necessary to describe the phenomena in psychological terms. That means that now social sciences and humanities have found true foundations of historical trajectories for the first time.

The current ignorance in relation to this discovery is part of the advancement and progress from Middle Ages to Modernity: It is one thing to develop, and it is another thing to understand that this development has really taken place. Therefore, modern social scientists, in consequence of the stage they have elaborated, cannot understand animism, worship of ancestors, magical rituals, judicial procedures against animals, etc. as manifestations of different psychological stages but try to interpret them by insufficient means. In the future when scientists have reached higher stages then they will easily see the huge gap between the ancient and the modern world.

  1. For our interested audience, which of your publications would you recommend as a first step of studying your research?

For example, the article “Different developmental stages and developmental ages of humans in history. Culture and socialization, open and closed developmental windows, and promoted and arrested developments.”, published in the American Journal of Psychology in 2021.

When commenting, please post a concise, civil, and informative comment. Full comment policy here

Upcoming Talk with Alex Pollock in Pittsburgh

08/19/2022Ryan McMaken

"Rethinking the Role of the Fed"

Coming August 24 at 11:45 AM EDT, presented by the Federalist Society:

Featuring:

  • Alex Pollock, Senior Fellow, the Mises Institute
  • Winthrop Watson, President/CEO, Federal Home Loan Bank Pittsburgh
Rivers Club
301 Grant St Suite 411
Pittsburgh, PA 15219
When commenting, please post a concise, civil, and informative comment. Full comment policy here

Chicken, Beef, & Bugs

08/15/2022Robert Aro

You know the economy is in trouble when a CNBC headline reads:

This was a good week for inflation numbers, but whether it can last is the big question

…citing the Consumer Price Index (CPI) increase by 8.5% and the Producer Price Index (PPI) increase of 9.8% from a year ago as a mild victory. However, the celebration came with a reminder that:

Fed officials will be watching closely to see larger trends in how inflation is impacting Main Street.

Yet, understanding how Main Street is impacted is an impossible task. Measuring the average price increase, for the average person, in the average city, has severe limitations. Then there are even more immeasurable elements like human suffering, capital destruction, and opportunity cost that also comes from centrally planning an economy.

Using the Fed’s own data, we can attempt to visualize how bad things are by looking at one of the few things many people still have in common, their love of eating chicken and beef.

According the Bureau of Labor and Statistics, who compiles data used by the Fed, the average cost of chicken breasts is up almost 32% from a year ago:

The average price of ground beef hasn’t increased as much, only 12% from a year ago, per below:

Of course these titles sound unintentionally humorous and highly arbitrary. In the case of ground beef, the Fed says this applies to: “Fresh regular 100% ground beef excluding round, chuck, and sirloin. Includes organic and non-organic. Excludes pre-formed patties.” Should one be so inclined to actually read the calculation method and average price data, it will quickly be obvious how inexact a science inflation calculations really are.

They categorize meats, poultry, fish and eggs together to arrive at a change in the CPI by only 11% from a year ago:

For those who abstain from eating meat entirely the average price of beans is up 17% from a year ago:

While not everyone is looking to buy a used car, pay tuition, owns a pet, or takes public transportation, everyone must eat food; and, by all measures, grocery bills, like the price of gas, remain elevated. The future shows little promise of sustained and long-term price decreases occurring anytime soon… or ever, since the Fed is pro-inflation.

Perhaps another sign of the times was from an article the World Economic Forum published earlier this year entitled:

5 reasons why eating insects could reduce climate change

Whether one eats chicken, beef, or chooses to eat bugs, we must remain cognizant of the fact that it never had to be this way. We should get angry when the mainstream media chooses to portray a CPI of 8.5% as good news, or worse, claim that:

Wednesday’s inflation numbers could take some heat off the Fed.

Remember no amount of positive CPI or PPI is necessary to support a functioning society. All these calculations attempt to do is capture how much the cost of living has changed from the month, or year prior, with the hope that it always goes up by a certain amount. For the planner, they’re okay with making life more expensive for you with each passing year, because they need to increase the money supply in order to pay for things not generally valued by the public, like wars, corporate bailouts and tax collector salaries. In their perfect world, they’d hope this to be gradual, so the public would never become aware of the perpetual loss of purchasing power.

The thing about a central plan is that it never goes as planned. If there is a silver lining, it’s the hope that this lesson in inflation will become a generational learning curve, much like price inflation, permanently entrenched.

When commenting, please post a concise, civil, and informative comment. Full comment policy here

Who Reads the Fed’s Annual Report?

08/12/2022Robert Aro

The Federal Reserve recently released its 2021 Annual Report for Congress. This 200+ page document aims to encapsulate the annual financial and operating affairs of America’s Central Bank. One must wonder, like all bills passed through Congress, how many state representatives actually read these documents and what pertinent information is contained therein?

It begins almost with a disclaimer:

The Federal Reserve was created by an act of Congress on December 23, 1913, to provide the nation with a safer, more flexible, and more stable monetary and financial system. In establishing the Federal Reserve System, the United States was divided geographically into 12 Districts, each with a separately incorporated Reserve Bank.

Having 12 districts is as questionable as the belief that the Fed created a safe, flexible and stable monetary system. Yet, over 100 years after Congress granted the Fed a monopoly on the US dollar, and failure after failure, the Fed is stronger than ever.

There are “five functional areas” the Fed is responsible for, per the bulk of the report. The first: Conducting monetary policy and monitoring economic developments. This section covers common concerns, the dual mandate, inflation, employment, consequences of their easy money policies, of course, without acknowledging their culpability:

Supply chain bottlenecks have plagued the economy for much of the past year. Against a backdrop of robust demand for goods, global distribution networks have been strained…

Unfortunately they fail to attribute the increase in money supply to the “robust demand for goods,” so, it omits crucial economic theory.

The second functional area: Promoting financial system stability. Various vulnerabilities and financial concerns, such as overvalued assets and excessive leverage, are mentioned as being monitored. They also included:

…climate change as an emerging and increasing threat to financial stability in the United States.

Other than reducing regulation and the regulatory burden, consideration as to just how much a central bank can do to fight climate change should be given. Since the Fed’s power largely boils down to its ability to decrease rates and increase the money supply, the positive influence this would have on climate change is questionable.

Supervising and regulating financial institutions and their activities is the third area. This deals with examinations, enforcement and related activities to ensure everyone is abiding by the law. Unless buried in the notes, nothing regarding insider trading at the Fed was noted.

Area four: Fostering payment and settlement system safety and efficiency deals with the mechanics and logistics behind the monetary system. The inevitability of Central Bank Digital Currency (CBDC) can be seen through various projections the Fed is currently working on such as “Project Hamilton,” a collaboration with the Federal Reserve Bank of Boston and MIT to form a:

…multiyear research project to research retail CBDC designs and gain a hands-on understanding of a CBDC’s technical challenges and opportunities.

Last, area five: Promoting consumer protection and community development, also deals with examinations of financial institutions but looks at fairness, inclusion, equality, etc… It handles complaints, of which 5,814 were made in 2021. Of these, 93% are now considered closed. The stats are as follows:

In 44 percent of investigated complaints against Federal Reserve regulated entities, evidence reviewed did not reveal an error or violation. Of the remaining 56 percent of investigated complaints, 12 percent were identified errors that were corrected by the bank; 5 percent were deemed violations of law…

Ultimately, it’s clear this central bank system is designed not for the prosperity of “the People,” but for the prosperity of “the State.” The apparatus is entrenched within society, with a complicated history and deep vested interests at hand, forming the foundation of Wall Street. If the annual report is useful to anyone on Main Street, it’s to serve as a reminder just how little those on Main Street matter to those at the top.

 

When commenting, please post a concise, civil, and informative comment. Full comment policy here

2 Months of QT Down

08/08/2022Robert Aro

The Federal Reserve is shrinking its balance sheet, albeit at a snail’s pace. Let’s see how they’ve done compared to last month. Per latest data release:

  • On July 6 the US Treasury (UST) balance was $5,744,344,000,000. The balance on August 3 now stands at $5,719,119,000,000, for a reduction of roughly $25.2 billion.
  • On July 6 the Mortgage-Backed Security (MBS) balance was $2,709,336,000,000. The balance on August 3 now stands at $2,717,552,000,000 for an increase of roughly $8.2 billion.

Two months after the official start of Quantitative Tightening, the Fed has reduced Treasury holdings by about $50 billion… while Mortgage-Backed Security holdings increased by over $10 billion!

Think about the stock market in this same amount of time, after a net reduction of just $40 billion in June and July, the worst is still ahead, if all goes according to the plan. As it currently stands, after August, the UST reduction limit will increase from $30 billion to $60 billion a month, while MBS goes from $17.5 billion to $35 billion.

This is strange for a variety of reasons, one being the gross lack of the Fed’s credibility. Since they only reduced Treasuries by half of the maximum limit while increasing the MBS holdings, it’s difficult to fathom that they’ll start accelerating QT by next month.

Yet, in Jerome Powell’s world, everything is fine and, by September, we’ll feel the full force of the Fed’s tightening. Just last week, when asked how the balance sheet reduction is going, he responded:

So we think it's working fine… And in September, we'll go to full strength. And the markets seem to have accepted it. By all assessments, the markets should be able to absorb this. And we expect that will be the case. So, I would say the plan is broadly on track. It's a little bit slow to get going because some of these trades don't settle for a bit of time. But it will be picking up steam.

It's unclear what he means by the trades not settling on time, that doesn’t explain why the MBS balance has seen two months of increases. Nonetheless, he claims the tapering will be “picking up steam,” so we’ll be watching and waiting.

It’s important to reiterate that, despite the slow pace of the tapering, we are still in the middle of the bust. The Fed has abandoned easy money policies. So until further notice, we must accept that rates will continue to rise and the balance sheet will continue to shrink. The yield curve on the 10-year minus 3-month reached 0.04 last week, per the Fed’s data, and is destined to go negative any minute now.

This author reminds readers to not be fooled with stock market rallies, Russia’s war, Putin’s price hikes, an invasion of Taiwan, any government promise to reduce inflation, or other media distraction. The days may be slow, but the crash will come fast. With monetary and fiscal policies long since destroying the economy, much of the average person’s attention is forced to focus on stock market speculation and ways to prepare for more dollar destruction; so please remember, without the Fed’s Marvelous Magical Touch due to the return of Quantitative Easing, tread carefully in the market, if at all.

When commenting, please post a concise, civil, and informative comment. Full comment policy here

Is It a Rothbardian Moment? Populists Win in Arizona GOP Primary

08/06/2022Aaron Cummings

The Republicans for National Renewal (RNR) held a promotional event in Phoenix, Arizona for the holiday season last year after an extensive lineup was sponsored on social media. At the time, they had little to no bragging rights as they fought an uphill battle against election integrity.

During the late hours of night in August 2022, it was clear that two themes were stated with confidence: Conservatives were out, and populists were in. The election results proved that the political landscape has been malleable, however there had been a lack of momentum from conservatives.

Like Murray Rothbard, others were estimating what the future ideological divide could be. Sam Francis was infamous for naming names, yet his most academic profile was the philosophical foundation that aligned with Rothbard. He asked:

“Should we be Lockians, Hobbesians, or Burkeans: natural rightsers, or traditionalists, or utilitarians? On political frameworks, should we be monarchists, check-and-balance federalists, or radical decentralists? Hamiltonians or Jeffersonians?”

These were the questions rarely asked outside of Mises conferences, but one man has been making them relevant again. Peter Thiel provides a backstory that only Rothbard seemed interested in years prior. When public gatherings like RNR were organized, a refreshing dialogue had a visible impact on the audience and sounded similar to Francis’s pitch. He said:

The strategy of the Right should be to enhance the polarization of Middle Americans from the incumbent regime, not to build coalitions with the regime's defenders and beneficiaries" (p. 230).

This was the place where the August election started its trajectory. It may have looked like a smaller competitor to the concurring Turning Point USA conference just down the street. In terms of finances, this would certainly be accurate. Another notable presence were the youth groups disaffected by the Republican organizations. Years ago, there were a handful of college opportunities that provided proper networking opportunities. Today, the groups are more distinct beyond the vague patriotism heard in conservative media. If donors like Thiel remain regulars in this populist faction, the financial gap may not be an obstacle moving forward.

As the title suggests, the event was a referendum on the GOP’s direction and not a carbon copy of the party platform. Many of the speakers consisted of Republicans, although not in the conventional sense. Blake Masters, backed by Thiel, delivered a speech on his prominent one income policy reverting to a human centered economy. Two more Arizona regulars, Kari Lake, and Wendy Rodgers shared dissident views on branching away from the party in favor of the Trumpian model over its neoconservative counterpart.

All the Rothbardian staples were present. They argued that the renewal within the GOP started with Pat Buchanan’s presidential campaign in 1992 and succeeded with Donald Trump. A list of the greatest hits were shared from the declining standard of living to unapologetic nationalism. According to Newsweek, this was part of a broader trend among Generation Z seeing where the wind is blowing and seizing the opportunity.

The culture wars were waging once more at the forefront of the event. Economic concerns, championed by the conservative establishment, took a back seat as social topics surfaced above everything else. The usual suspects were under the gun including Big Tech, unregulated capitalism, and feckless Republicans. The alliance binding all these Trumpian senators and influencers contributed to the “working-class realignment.” Based on the guest list, a coalition of grassroots conservatives were underway and anticipating the midterms with revitalized enthusiasm.

It was also a safe haven for the often-neglected paleo libertarians of the Mises Institute. Books from Hans-Hermann Hoppe and others were scattered throughout the greeting tables. Tho Bishop appeared as the main representative, opening one of the first serious speeches of the night. The tone resembles what Murray Rothbard referred to as “Right Wing Populism” and claimed to be the only strategic way to win elections in the long run. After a lengthy celebration in August, many have speculated that this trend isn’t exclusive to the state of Arizona.

For all their flaws, Generation Z is reaching an impasse, and many are hedging their bets on college organizations as the way forward for the GOP. But, if they’re wrong, Rothbard’s prominent words may be palatable among the new generation of populists.

When commenting, please post a concise, civil, and informative comment. Full comment policy here

Rothbard was Right about Water Fluoridation

08/05/2022Joshua Schubert

Water fluoridation was pushed in the United States as a public health policy for interventionist gain. The medical and environmental research has since shown that the alleged dental benefits to water fluoridation are outweighed by negative effects on other systems in the body. This compulsory measure has not only violated the rights of consumers, but it is also antithetical to human health.

Murray Rothbard in his 1992 essay Fluoridation Revisited uses his training as a historian to weave an engaging yet accurate narrative of who did what for who's benefit in the push for water fluoridation in the mid-20th century. 

Of particular interest to me is the role the Mellon Institute, ALCOA's research lab in my home of Pittsburgh, played in bringing about compulsory water fluoridation:

In 1931, the PHS sent a dentist named H. Trendley Dean to the West to study the effect of concentrations of naturally fluoridated water on people’s teeth. Dean found that towns high in natural fluoride seemed to have fewer cavities. This news galvanized various Mellon scientists into action. In particular, the Mellon Institute, ALCOA’s research lab in Pittsburgh, sponsored a study in which biochemist Gerald J. Cox fluoridated some lab rats, decided that cavities in those rats had been reduced, and immediately concluded that “the case [that fluoride reduces cavities] should be regarded as proved.”

The following year, 1939, Cox, the ALCOA scientist working for a company beset by fluoride damage claims, made the first public proposal for mandatory fluoridation of water. Cox proceeded to stump the country urging fluoridation. Meanwhile, other ALCOA-funded scientists trumpeted the alleged safety of fluorides, in particular the Kettering Laboratory of the University of Cincinnati.

During World War II, damage claims for fluoride emissions piled up as expected, in proportion to the great expansion of aluminum production during the war. But attention from these claims was diverted when, just before the end of the war, the PHS began to push hard for compulsory fluoridation of water. Thus the drive for compulsory fluoridation of water accomplished two goals in one shot: It transformed the image of fluoride from a curse to a blessing that will strengthen every kid’s teeth, and it provided a steady and substantial monetary demand for fluorides to dump annually into the nation’s water.

Suspicious Connection

One interesting footnote to this story is that whereas fluorine in naturally fluoridated water comes in the form of calcium fluoride, the substance dumped into every locality is instead sodium fluoride. The Establishment defense that “fluoride is fluoride” becomes unconvincing when we consider two points: (a) calcium is notoriously good for bones and teeth, so the anti-cavity effect in naturally fluoridated water might well be due to the calcium and not the fluorine; and (b) sodium fluoride happens to be the major by-product of the manufacture of aluminum.

30 Years Later


As it turned out, the research has shown that the nondental effects of water fluoridation in humans is harmful, according to health literature. Professor Philippe Grandjean published a 2019 meta-analysis on the subject titled Developmental Fluoride Neurotoxicity: An Updated Review in the Journal of Environmental Health. Multiple large studies have shown that fluoride in early development “can result in IQ deficits that may be considerable.”

As for the prevention of dental cavities, Grandjean and others propose topical use of fluoride for that purpose, rather than systemic ingestion of fluoride.


Calculating the Yearly Population Level IQ Loss in Newborns due to Water Fluoridation in the United States


Here I will attempt to calculate a rough estimate for the net IQ loss in Newborns in 2020 in the United States, using the causal research combined with population figures and data on overall water fluoridation levels in the United States. Perhaps of more interest to curious readers would be a similar calculation for your local municipality that fluoridates its water.


About 3.6 million babies were born in the US year 2020, and 73 percent of the US population "receive water that has the optimum level of fluoride recommended for preventing tooth decay." And that "optimum level" per the CDC is 0.7mg/L which is equal to 0.7 parts per million. And in prenatal urine the benchmark concentration level (BMCL) to cause a 1 IQ point drop for children is 0.2mg/L (at a confidence level of 95 percent). [A big thank you to Professor Philippe Grandjean who pointed me to this article after I read his 2019 meta-analysis on the topic.] And we can assume this relationship is linear above the BMCL, as that best approximates the current data. There is a 1:1 relationship of water concentration to urinary concentration of fluoride. Therefore, pre-natal IQ loss from fluoride is 3.5 points per child whose mother drinks primarily fluoridated water at "optimum levels".

If that 73 percent of the US population's water has the "optimum level" of fluoride, translates to 73 percent of Pregnant women getting the "optimum level" of fluoride. Then 73 percent of newborns each year are experiencing this 3.5-point IQ deficit, with 73 percent of the 3.6 million babies born in the US in 2019 being 2.628 million.

2.628 million newborns with an unrealized IQ potential of 3.5 points each means that: 9.198 million IQ points of newborns were lost due to water fluoridation in one year in the US.

Not only that, but this number also undercounts the total newborn loss of IQ due to water fluoridation because the water fluoridation in some areas is higher than the "optimum amount" of 0.7mg/L. In some areas it is lower than that "optimum amount" yet still higher than the BMCL (benchmark concentration level bound) for 1 point of IQ loss, which is equal to 0.2mg/L. However, we are only counting the 73 percent of the US population that receives water at that “optimum level” per the CDC of 0.7mg/L.


Conclusion

The ongoing newborn population IQ loss due to water fluoridation is a public health disaster. Not only is it harmful, but it also violates the Nuremberg Code of Medical Ethics. It is imperative that local authorities cease the fluoridation of municipal water supplies and leave medical decisions between individuals and doctors that have earned their trust.

When commenting, please post a concise, civil, and informative comment. Full comment policy here

Household Employment Goes Nowhere for Fourth Month

08/05/2022Ryan McMaken

With the release of new employment data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics today, most commentators have focused on the big gains seen in the total number of jobs as reflected in the establishment survey. According to that survey, total nonfarm jobs reached 152 million which—30 months later—finally puts total jobs back at their pre-covid peak during January and February of 2020. This was hailed as an enormously strong jobs report by many observers. 

But the grand employment successes indicated by the establishment survey are not reflected in the household survey which, rather than measuring total nonfarm jobs, measures "total employment" or employed people. In that case, employed persons are about a half a million jobs below the February 2020 peak, but the more worrying trend is in the fact that total employment has been flat for the past four months. total employment was 158 million in March 2022 according to the survey. In July, it was also at 158 million. 

hh

That's quite a difference between the two employment surveys. The establishment survey shows that since March total jobs have grown by 1.68 million while total employment has fallen by 168,000. That's a difference of 1.8 million. 

This suggests that the total number of jobs is growing, but the total number of employed people is not. In other words, people are taking more second jobs, but more people aren't employed. 

Employment weakness also shows up in the labor force participation rate (for the 25-54 age group, excluding most retirees) which remains below the 2020 peak, and also below where it was for the entirety of the period from the late 1980s to the 2008 financial crisis. 

part

The overall narrative for the most recent employment data, however, was that jobs are "smashing" expectations and that the labor market is red hot. Yet, it's apparently not hot enough to bring the working-age labor force back to where it was before the GFC. Nor is it hot enough to bring total employment back up to 2020 levels. 

Theoretically, this sort of thing could always be explained by the idea that household earnings are so strong that many workers simply don't need to work anymore. That is surely true in some cases, but we also know that the savings rate is falling while debt is mounting. 

For example, after surging to historically high levels in 2020—thanks largely to stimulus checks and people putting off recreation and vacations—the personal savings rate has collapsed since December of last year. As of June, the personal saving rate is at 5.1 percent, which is the lowest since 2009. 

saving

Moreover, household debts are mounting as well. According to the Federal Reserve consumer debt and revolving credit have grown rapidly since March of 2021, and are now at a new high and in July was up more than 17 percent year-over-year. Other data suggests consumers are still doing plenty of spending, but many are apparently doing it using consumer credit and at the expense of savings. 

This is not shocking since wages are not keeping up with the CPI inflation rate

What does all this mean for the economy? It suggests neither collapse nor robustness. The fact that employment data tends to be a lagging indicator, however, means the employment data probably doesn't mean much in terms of telling us where the economy is headed. Many economists and policymakers are busy debating semantics and whether or not the call the current situation a recession. But falling real wages, high inflation, rising debt, and two quarters of negative GDP growth suggest falling standards of living, which is mostly what matters. 

When commenting, please post a concise, civil, and informative comment. Full comment policy here

Innovation TrumpsGovernment Dictates in Reducing Waste as UK Researchers Create “Edible Plastic”

I've always cared for the environment. I was indoctrinated into it, and during my university career wrote all my lecture notes on the back of discarded “misprints” from the library. Why waste?

Nonetheless I cringe and cringe at token efforts to reduce plastic waste by putting mandatory charges on shopping bags while almost everything we pick up from supermarket shelves are coated in plastic wrapping! Listen guys - we all wanna save the world, but we ain't gonna do it by banning plastic straws.

It's transparent to us that these measures are more about making it look like elected officials are doing something while nothing of any substance is being accomplished. Monsanto get away with spraying toxic chemicals that run off into “public land” and rivers every single day the world turns, and while they poison me slowly to death, I've got paper in my mouth from sipping this mojito.

Besides, people aren't as stupid as lawmakers think. They were already recycling their plastic shopping bags by using them as bin-liners and things. Now they need to go out and buy a roll of plastic bin-liners instead.

We will never see the end to environmental degradation until the land has private owners who can sue despoilers. Garbage disposal has to be privitized so that people are charged for their waste in proportion to how difficult it is to dispose of. Suddenly there will be a surge in innovation in sustainability as people rush to minimize the cost of having their trash bags picked up.

Until then, the do-gooders in government will continue to lecture us on carbon emissions while travelling the world in private jets.

I Love Plastic Straws

Whether you happen to be a sceptic of “the green agenda” or you’re worried that your continent is going to be under sixteen feet of water by 2030, recent innovations should put a smile on your face.

A team of researchers, led by Professor Saffa Riffat from the University of Nottingham, are working to introduce a plant-based alternative to food packaging that will not only be eco-friendly, but edible too. It uses starch, konjac flour, cellulose, or proteins to produce. All the materials can be safely eaten and so they don't pose any threat to wildlife or the oceans, and because they are organic, they are also biodegradable as well.

Professor Riffat says:

Plastic materials have been in use for around a century, their poor degradability is now known to cause serious environmental harm…We need to find degradable solutions to tackle plastic pollution, and this is what we are working on... The packaging materials we are working on have low gas permeability, making them more airtight. This feature cuts moisture loss, which slows down spoilage, and seals in the flavour. This is of great importance for the quality, preservation, storage, and safety of foods.

The new materials are tipped to give consumers access to fresher produce by providing better storage, safer usage, and a longer shelf life. With a little luck, they won't turn to mush in my beverage

When commenting, please post a concise, civil, and informative comment. Full comment policy here

D.C.’s Dangerous Consensus: We Hate Iran!

With Republicans and Democrats in Congress having openly expressed their united opposition to the Biden administration reentering the nuclear agreement with Iran (the JCPOA), it should come as no surprise that negotiations have gone nowhere.

The reason?

Beneath all the bluster about nefarious Iranian activities in the Middle East and the back and forth over lifting the sanctions Trump’s team imposed on Tehran after unilaterally ripping up the JCPOA in the first place, Joe Biden is a wimp afraid of facing political backlash for undoing one of Trump’s worst foreign policy decisions.

Afterall, it was Biden’s own current team of Malley, Blinken, and Sullivan who worked out the nuclear deal with Iran while working for Obama.

So even though Biden has admitted Trump pulling out of the deal was a "gigantic mistake," he won’t agree to lift sanctions neocon Trump officials like Elliot Abrams admitted were only put in place to try and prevent Biden from reentering the deal in the first place.

This includes the labeling of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps as a terrorist organization, which though Biden had been using it as an excuse not to get back into the deal Tehran has recently dropped it as a demand in negotiations – this while the Wall Street Journal openly reports the Israeli military and intelligence services are assassinating Iranians left and right, including inside Iran itself.

The truth, unfortunately, is that Biden lacks the courage of his convictions and is no longer serious about getting back into the deal. As a consequence, war with Iran looks increasingly likely – and over nuclear weapons our own CIA director, William Burns, says publicly the Iranians aren’t pursuing making.

Despite the fact that every U.S. intervention in the Middle East over the past twenty years, from Afghanistan, to Iraq, to Syria, to Yemen, has strengthened Iran’s position in the region, the groundwork for the next disastrous war has already been laid – building on the foundation of the Abraham Accords to bring India on board with Israel, Egypt, the UAE, and Saudi Arabia to gird for direct conflict with Iran. Speaking in Israel, Biden has already gone so far as to threaten the use of force to prevent the Iranians from getting the bomb they aren’t pursuing, but which, if they were wise, Tehran would start building as a deterrent immediately.

Apart from the pressure from our “allies” in Riyadh and Jerusalem, the former a regime so despotic Freedom House ranks it lower than China, while the latter simply needs an enemy to keep the billions in annual U.S. aid flowing, the Abraham Accords already have their own caucus in Congress, and the military industrial complex salivates at the prospect of a Middle East NATO to buy even more of their products.

Poor Iran – not so bad as to prevent Ronald Reagan selling them weapons through Israel during the 1980s, as Gareth Porter has convincingly documented, after the first Cold War ended Tehran found itself picked out as one of the new threats that would continue to justify the empire.

So as increasingly delusional screeds by walking disasters like John Bolton populate the opinion pages of the major papers and Republican and Democrats unite to bully a weak President already inclined to serve the interests of our ostensible client states, who benefits from our Iran policy is as obvious as who doesn’t: the American people.

When commenting, please post a concise, civil, and informative comment. Full comment policy here