Saturday, December 25, 2004

good will

Is Christmas too "commercial?" The parking lots were full today. Today, and in prior days, busy people took time out from their busy schedules, and, using money they usually work pretty hard for (or will in the future), they thought of people besides themselves.

They studied things and shopped and dealt with crowds and fatigue and spent more than they know they should have, seeking just the right gifts; frivolous with time and money.

And frivolous with Good Will, if there can be such a thing. But I think there can be no such thing as frivolity with Good Will toward Men, which is, after all, the Christmas Spirit.

So, if the retail trade gets carried away, and even if it misses the beauty completely, The Invisible Hand is at work; people motivated by thoughts of Good Will toward others are spending dear wages, granting gainful, maybe even rewarding employment, providing for the needs and comforts of life, and the means for a better future, experiencing joy, some even a riot of joy, in the simple act of giving. The giver will not lose his reward.

And so spreading Good Will becomes the Project this industrious people sets itself to in this season, and they carry it off with excellence and gusto, as usual.

"Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace to men on whom His favor rests." Luke 2:14

And yes, His favor has rested on us, has it not? May it always be so. And may we always set ourselves to the spreading of Good Will.

Perhaps the real driver of our prosperity isn't our wits as much as it is our embracing of the Spirit of Good Will to Men.

* reposted from 2002.

Thursday, December 23, 2004


crude imperialism

With its apparent hedgemony over supplies of the life-blood of industrial civilization, namely crude oil, OPEC has enjoyed the sort of favor accorded to villains from the Grinch to Satan. The "breaking of the OPEC stronghold" was seen as the answer to, or at least an answer to, the spasms that occasionally afflict world oil markets.

As was hoped, OPEC domination is about to be subsumed, and the lasting lesson might just be, "be careful what you wish for." For, as onerous as the temperament of OPEC proved to be, they understood their market and, overall, seemed to understand that a supplier needs customers who can and will pay at least as much as its customers need a supplier who is willing to sell. OPEC, in addition, could not be suspected of ever wishing for the downfall of its biggest customer; to do so would be madness.

In contrast to OPEC, the new contender for the title of dominant oil supplier is a ruthless competitor, not just a merchant who enjoys a catbird seat. Indeed, Russia, the next big thing in oil, is both loath to prove itself to be a fair player in the arena of capitalism in general, and has indeed wished and plotted for the downfall of what has always been not only one of its biggest customers, but also of its biggest benefactors.

OPEC, next to Russia, looks to be a whimsical and egotistical, but ultimately benevolent rich uncle. Russia, next to OPEC, has the menacing look of a stubborn, jackbooted power-junkie nursing a grudge.

Thursday, November 04, 2004

"W" is for winner.

Thursday, October 14, 2004

who’s your daddy?

'nuff said.

timing is everything.

Yes, it is. And coincidences don't happen very often, do they? So how is one to read the defacto nationalization of Russia's Yukos Oil? Being one of the largest producers in the world's second largest exporting nation, one would have to be unconscious to fail to grasp the buying panic this move would cause in the oil markets. And really unconscious to not see that such a trick would hit market economies below the belt -- one in particular, just before an election.

I don't like what this suggests about Putin's preference for President of the United States. I wish it were all a coincidence. But it seems like there are a few nations whose leaders would prefer a United States that isn't quite so strong.

Well, tough luck, boys.

Sunday, June 06, 2004

who’s burning now, baby?

Recently, recordings of conversations among Enron energy traders were released to the media. These snippets painted pictures of arrogant and ruthless kids who weren’t afraid to disrupt the operation of an electrical generation plant in order to achieve the thrill of making a few more bucks. “Burn, baby, burn” chanted one, upon hearing the news that a forest fire would positively impact his long megawatt position. One can’t help but surmise that perhaps someone neglected to spank these kids when they tortured cats and charged their friends to see it, a few short years before.

There is a more enduring message in this spectacle, however, than the sickening thought of what happens when frat-boy mentality is coupled with too much power.

Consider the fact that it is a spectacle at all.

It is a spectacle because most of us find it revolting; it is a spectacle precisely because it is freakish in nature – it is an abberation of business, not business as usual.

To those who would call the Enron spectacle an example of “market failure,” I would point out rather that the whole debacle is a resounding market success, as witnessed by the fact that Enron is no longer around to bully the megawatt market. It is rapidly passing into history as less than a footnote, leaving a legacy of lessons learned with the absolute conviction that only comes from having paid such great price for them. We now pronounce the name “Enron” in a similar tone as we do “Benedict Arnold.”

Traders know that betting against fraud is a sure winner and Enron certainly did not disappoint. One of the beauties of free markets is that its participants ensure -- collectively, through the individual application of good sense by those with a stake in the game, a self-correcting action which, if allowed to work, reduces the damage done by rogue entities. As a result, Enrons always wind up crashing and burning.