We are a commune of inquiring, skeptical, politically centrist, capitalist, anglophile, traditionalist New England Yankee humans, humanoids, and animals with many interests beyond and above politics. Each of us has had a high-school education (or GED), but all had ADD so didn't pay attention very well, especially the dogs. Each one of us does "try my best to be just like I am," and none of us enjoys working for others, including for Maggie, from whom we receive neither a nickel nor a dime. Freedom from nags, cranks, government, do-gooders, control-freaks and idiots is all that we ask for.
Goldman beats expectations. Clever dudes down there. From what I heard, they hedged their AIG debt with AIG shorts.
Speaking of Goldman, Wilkinson considers whether there is something nasty about wanting to make lots of money. Of course there isn't: everybody is free to pursue their own (legal) aspirations. The contemptuous assumption that "all the rich are crooks" is as foolish as "all poor are honest." People without functional morals are well-distributed everywhere.
Harvard today happily pays for future bankers to take accounting courses at MIT, but refuses to pay for aspiring military officers who take ROTC courses. Since 1994, anonymous donors have generously picked up the tab, providing hundreds of thousands of dollars per year for Harvardís ROTC students.
I would point out that economics is VERY MUCH a science. Economists can always and everywhere explain with data why something happened.
The reason it devolves into art is based on 2 things:
1. Politics - humans will tend to bias their data to support their political view of the world. This doesn't mean the bias is necessarily wrong - what is usually wrong is how the data is applied to support the bias. Bad political views will undoubtedly lead to bad math.
2. Psychology. How do bull rallies, like the current one, occur in bear markets, like the current one? If the "numbers are correct", we should be plummeting. And we will, eventually. But sometimes psychology takes hold and overrides the numbers. We can be convinced to borrow more than we're capable of spending (as the housing boom showed). Sometimes the psychology will drive the numbers, so the issue of timing is always a big issue.
However, if you review history, it's far more useful to be optimistic than pessimistic. Pessimists of capitalism are right roughly every 4-7 years - they are broken watches which time catches up with. However, optimists will be right far more often than not.
Which is why I have a HUGE problem with Obama. His pessimism was horrendous during the campaign and right up until he got his massive debt spending packages. Now he's sunny as the day is long....and taking credit for "glimmers of hope".
Throw $8 Trillion at a problem and you'd better have at LEAST a "glimmer of hope". But that freaking raging tsunami following the glimmer should have you concerned, too.
While I agree with most of what Rick says, I have a real hard time classifying economics as "very much a science". While conclusions can be drawn from numerous observations of similar events, there are very few experiments that can be devised to "prove" most economic theories. The numbers of variables are too hard to control or contain.
As for our Somalian pirates, so piracy is the only logical choice because of pollution and no fish to catch? But isn't that what Pittsburgh used to be like? You know, lots of pollution and three dead rivers. But now the city is cleaner and the rivers are full of fish, yet their Pirates still extort money from the people.
How about a daily B52 drop of cod and crappie over Somalia.
ha ha. I can see a boat full of greedy pirates sinking from our most gracious political and economic attempts to help ease the situation. "Oh, drat... We missed the shore and the fish fell on those nice men in that boat."