Showing posts from August, 2012

Reductio Ad Hitlerum, or what's wrong with Godwin's Law

There's maybe something just a little bit too twee about Godwin's Law, which began with a witty observation by Godwin that in online chat forums eventually somebody gets compared to Hitler and the Nazis. Since that time the observation has taken on the status of a (tongue-in-cheek) law, and also additional meanings such as "whoever refers to Hitler first in an argument loses", etc.
Obviously throwing your opponent to the Nazi legacy in the opening stages of battle is poor form. It's schoolyard "my dad is bigger than your dad" tactics. But there's a big in-between land between that and not talking about them at all that is pretty important. One of the wisest lessons some have drawn from the fascist adventures of the 20th century is that this shit tends to creep up on people, it doesn't arrive overnight with a funny moustache.
Fascism/totalitarianism (if these are actually things - there's a whole academic literature on what the terms actually m…

Exponentially stuffed

Couple of interesting and insightful pieces in recentdays on the same theme, an important one for all of our lives and those of our kids. One today by Alan Kohler, Waiting for the safety bubble to pop, and one by Paul Wallbank, Redefining affluence, post-credit.
A short paragraph from the Kohler piece summarises nicely what this is all about:
How did all this come about? Because for 30 years or so, consumption was financed by debt, something encouraged by politicians and central bankers pushing cheap money. A generation of bankers and borrowers discovered the glories of leverage in 80s before coming unstuck in 1990, and then a new generation reinvented leverage after 2000, before once again coming unstuck.
Since the Second World War what we might loosely call the developed world has congratulated itself on increasing prosperity. So it goes even further back than the 1980s Kohler mentions, although our debt addiction certainly goes into the stratosphere from about that time. And now it…