Inflation writ in asparagus and meringues
Posted on April 23, 2013 at 1.00 pm
Above is a menu from the Metropolitan Club, a fancy private club in DC, from 1901. I was invited to an event there this week, and stumbled across this menu while researching the venue. At first I was shocked at how high the prices were — even by modern standards, $20 is ridiculous for a celery appetizer.
Then I realized: These prices are in cents, and the most expensive things on this fine dining menu cost all of $1.
60¢ for lobster salad. 20¢ for spaghetti. 40¢ for brandy peaches.
This is inflation writ in asparagus and meringues.
The extreme differences between the prices on this menu and the prices we’d pay today (between 10 and 40 times the 1901 prices — e.g. $8 for a dessert rather than 25¢), is due to a century-long trend of the Dollar’s decline into near-worthlessness.
As you can see, the value of our currency has steadily dropped over the course of the last hundred years. (It was also on the decline before then, but not so steeply.)
If you’d like to play with the numbers on a year-by-year basis, try this inflation calculator. As the results of my calculation put it, “What cost $1 in 1900 would cost $25.85 in 2010. Also, if you were to buy exactly the same products in 2010 and 1900, they would cost you $1 and $0.04 respectively.” Those results match well with our menu above (erring on the conservative side, perhaps), where entrées that today would run at least $30 depending on the restaurant location are listed for just $1.
That’s a lot of inflation, especially considering the lowering of prices which has been produced by technological advances, economies of scale, etc. So why is everything so much more expensive? Well, the rise in prices we see is a symptom of inflation rather than inflation itself. The underlying problem of the growth of our money supply, as our central bank, the Federal Reserve, creates more and more Dollars with nothing to back them.
This process raises the prices at expensive restaurants, to be sure, but it has a far graver result for those with low or fixed incomes. Corporations with close ties to the government often receive new money as soon as it is created in the form of bailouts, subsidies, or contracts, which allows them to spend it before the decline in the Dollar’s value it produces really takes effect. As Ron Paul has put it:
As government and central banks continue the cycle of spending and inflating, the purchasing power of their currencies is constantly being degraded. These currencies are what the people are working for and saving. This inflation guts the savings and earnings of the people who have very limited options for protecting themselves against these ravages….Fiat currencies trade the people’s freedom and security for the government’s freedom to squander the wealth of the nation on wasteful pet programs, wars, and corruption.
Your Guide to CISPA (and how to fight it)
Posted on April 17, 2013 at 2.56 pm
With all the hubbub over the Boston bombing, it’s easy to miss the fact that anti-internet privacy bill CISPA is expected to pass the House this week. Accordingly, here’s a quick round-up of what you need to know and do about this dangerous bill:
What does it mean for you? The privacy agreements you signed (and totally read) when making your many, many online accounts will become meaningless. Rep. Justin Amash’s office commented: “When Americans sign up for service with their phone company or their Internet provider they should be entitled to the privacy protections that the companies promise them. Giving companies legal cover to break their contracts with consumers is bad policy and a disservice to the American people.”
Isn’t President Obama against it? Well, he says he is, but we have to take that with a grain of salt. Remember, he once threatened to veto the NDAA and then went right ahead and signed it on a slow news day. It’s also worth noting that the Obama administration isn’t saying, “No, don’t give us massive amounts of private information about U.S. citizens not suspected of any crime which they thought wouldn’t be shared;” it’s saying, “Filter out their movie preferences first”:
Both government and private companies need cyber threat information….The Administration, however, remains concerned that the bill does not require private entities to take reasonable steps to remove irrelevant personal information when sending cybersecurity data to the government or other private sector entities.
What do CISPA supporters say about its opponents? Mean things. Namely that we’re all ”14-year olds” in our “basements.” Right, because supporting privacy and internet freedom is childish.
So, what can you do to oppose this bill? The Electronic Frontier Foundation reports that CISPA “may be voted on as early as [today]. This means there’s little time left to speak out.” Here’s how to contact your representative to tell him or her to vote NO:
Washing feet, not waging political war
Posted on April 5, 2013 at 2.56 pm
Q. I am wondering how you think the republican party can fight the mass media on their anti church moves? Although I believe in science the Church is a pedestal from which many derive principles. — worstthatcouldhappen, from tumblr.
A. Here’s the thing: I don’t think it’s the job of the Republican Party to defend the church. And I’m not super interested in somehow fighting the “mass media” (an increasingly difficulty to define term in the internet age) because it says stuff we don’t like about the church.
Let’s start with the first point: Church and politics in many ways should not mix. Should our politics be informed by and congruent with our trust in Christ? Unquestionably.
But the church is not a political movement (remember, his “kingdom is not of this world”), and the very last thing I want to see happen is for the church to be wrapped up in or confused with or championed by any political party. It’s damaging to both sides, but especially to the mission and reputation of the church.
Kingdom people are called to pledge their allegiance to God alone, not to any nation, government, political party or ideology. Because Kingdom people are under the rule of God alone, they are not under any other rule. Kingdom people are thus called to be “anarchists” (meaning without [“an”] human authority [“archy”]). Not only this, but the main task of Kingdom people is to keep the Kingdom “holy” — meaning “set apart,” “separate” and “consecrated.” We are to take great care to live lives that are set apart from the ideals, values and methods of the world’s politics.
Now, on to the question of the mass media and stopping attacks on the church. My best suggestion: Let’s be more Christ-like.
Until the kingdom Jesus started with his death and resurrection is fully realized, there will always be people, both in and out of the media, who disagree with and even actively dislike Christianity. The Great Commission is designed to change this, of course, but realistically in our lifetimes this segment of the population is not going away.
When asked by The Barna Group what words or phrases best describe Christianity, the top response among Americans ages 16-29 was “antihomosexual.” For a staggering 91 percent of non-Christians, this was the first word that came to their mind when asked about the Christian faith. The same was true for 80 percent of young churchgoers. (The next most common negative images? : “judgmental,” “hypocritical,” and “too involved in politics.”)
This question reminds me a lot of the discussion over how to get more women to be libertarians. Many people take the position that there’s something wrong with women; I suggest that we libertarians instead work on improving our own pitch (and manners).
So how can the church go about changing our own behavior? Most simply, we should above all prioritize loving God and loving people. Practically, I think this looks like the church doing a lot less politics and a lot less being afraid of people who aren’t or don’t like us—and a lot more focusing on how to serve any and everyone.
And while this might have the pleasant side effect of making more people in the media like us, more important, it’s the main thing we’re supposed to be doing as Christians:
Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love.[…] God is love. Whoever lives in love lives in God, and God in them. This is how love is made complete among us so that we will have confidence on the day of judgment: In this world we are like Jesus.
There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love. (I John 4:8, 16b-18)
I too think the church is invaluable; that’s exactly why I don’t want to see her battling off the media with the support of the GOP. We’re called to wash feet, not wage political war.
And if it doesn’t work? Well, people said worse things about Jesus.
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