Print Story Hazy shade of winter
By TheophileEscargot (Fri Jul 01, 2011 at 02:59:04 PM EST) Reading, Me, MLP (all tags)
Reading: "Games People Play", "Winterstrike". Me. Euro and Greece. Web.

What I'm Reading
Finished Games People Play. It's a bit of a cult book, part of a minor school of psychology called tranactional analysis which had flurry of popularity in the Sixties and Seventies before falling out of favour. It divides up the human mind into Adult, Parent and Child which roughly correspond to the Freudian Ego, Superego and Id. It views most human motivation as aimed at getting "strokes" to one's self-esteem. It concentrates on human interactions which it categorizes as "pastimes" or "games" in which people adopt various roles in order to get "strokes".

Most of the book is a description of various "games". For instance in See What You Made Me Do:

First-Degree SWYMD: White, feeling unsociable, becomes engrossed in some activity which tends to insulate him against people. Perhaps all he wants at the moment is to be left alone. An intruder, such as his wife or one of his children, comes either for stroking or to ask him something like, "Where can I find the long-nosed pliers?" This interruption "causes" his chisel, paintbrush, typewriter or soldering iron to slip, whereupon he turns on the intruder in a rage and cries, "See what you made me do." As this is repeated through the years, his family tends more and more to leave him alone when he is engrossed. Of course it is not the intruder but his own irritation which "causes" the slip, and he is only too happy when it occurs, since it gives him a lever for ejecting the visitor. Unfortunately, this is a game which is only too easily learned by young children, so that it is easily passed on from generation to generation. The underlying satisfactions and advantages are more clearly demonstrated when it is played more seductively.
Quite a few of the games are astutely observed, and you can often think of real-world examples where you've seen them being played. I think that's a large part of the appeal of the book, since it helps you recognize the patterns around you.

However, as psychology, I think it's a bit over-simplistic. For instance, it describes alcoholism as a game in which people take on the role of "Alcoholic", "Rescuer", "Persecutor" and "Patsy". But in reality, I think people often take on the role of "Rescuer" or "Persecutor" because they're genuinely distressed to see a loved one becoming an alcoholic, and genuinely want to help them. I suspect they exclude that motivation because it doesn't fit the model of being entirely motivated by "strokes". Basically the model seems too simplistic to me.

Also there's some pretty dated sexual stuff in there, like the "frigid woman" and "rapo" games. (Psychologists of the period were very concerned with the problem of frigidity in women, but never seemed to get very far in curing it with psychotherapy.)

Overall, fairly interesting, but I think it needs to be taken with a large pinch of salt.

Author site, K5 review

What I'm Reading 2
Winterstrike by Liz Williams is a generally very good science fiction novel, with a couple of minor flaws, set on a terraformed Mars in the far future.

Does a very good job of setting up a Clarkeian technology-indistinguishable-from-magic, where "haunt tech" populates the world with ghost-like and spirit-like creatures. There's a great gothic atmosphere, with sinister figures gliding along the frozen canals in a Martian winter. There's a rich and imaginative world. The plot is fast-paced with plenty of actions, and the characters are generally convincing.

Minor downsides: bit too much repetition of the capture-escape plot elements, two protagonists who are very similar, and much of the plot is left unresolved for future books in the series.

Even so, overall I was very impressed, will definitely be watching out for more.

Review, review.

Had some annoying minor health issues. Had an RSI-like Mouse Elbow thing, which I seem to have fixed for the moment by switching the mouse to the left hand for a bit.

More seriously, I've got tinnitus, partial deafness, and now an ear infection again. Thought I'd got it fixed with over-the-counter ear-drops recommended by NHS direct: by Wednesday it seemed to be virtually healed, but I got steadily increasing pain over Thursday which got pretty bad, even with codeine it kept me awake Thursday night.

Went to the Charing Cross Hospital walk-in center again though and I've been loaded up with meds by the second doctor. I thought the left ear was screwed and the right was OK, but apparently the left is really fucked, but the right is blocked by earwax too. So I'm now to put olive oil drops in the right ear to soften the wax, I have steroid-antibiotic ear drops to put in the left, and I'm to take antibiotic pills too. Bit surprised: last time I went in I just saw a Nurse Practitioner who gave me one antibiotic spray which sorted it out. The hearing loss was greater then, but the pain is much greater now. Hopefully this combination will fix it.

Not being vastly stoical with the pain this time unfortunately. When I had busted ribs I mostly skipped the painkillers. But while this comes and goes, when it's back the pain is more intense, and it's harder to cope with because it's painful even when I lie still. Must remember to appreciate the painlessness when I get better.

Expanding slightly on the last diary, it's a bit annoying the way people, including one guy at work, are slagging off the Greeks for running up too much debt. As I said with the US mortgage crisis: it's in the interest of every borrower to borrow at the lowest rates possible. It's the lender who should really be responsible for ensuring the interest rate is high enough to cover the risk of the default.

Moreover, it's not as if it's a big, astonishing, freaky surprise that the Euro was threatened by too much borrowing from member states. So from a quick search.

I said in 2003

The main objections to the Euro are that it Central Bank decisions are unaccountable and undemocratic; and that certain countries are willfully ignoring the Growth and Stability pact by running large deficits, and thus endangering their single currency partners.
R Mutt in 2004 said
Tragedy of the commons is bound to destroy the Eurozone though. Every country's vested interest is to run the biggest deficit-spending welfare state possible, since interest and exchange rates are set globally. Now there's no penalty for breaking the Growth and Stability pact, their only choice is to race each other towards total economic collapse.
I said in 2004:
One thing that doesn't seem to have got much UK attention is that they're weakening the Growth and Stability pact even further: now EU finance ministers can prevent the European Commission from punishing countries that break it. Still, that's one for the Eurozone members and their kamikaze economics.

(Backstory: the weakness of the single currency is that taxes, spending and borrowing are controlled by the member states, not the EU. So, a member state can pursue economic policies that damage the currency (inflationary policies for instance) and only pay a fraction of the price. The Growth and Stability pact is supposed to restrain them from doing that, but it's been broken by France and Germany, and they've got away without being punished).

So, I wish the Eurocrats would stop clutching their damn pearls so much and gasping about how it's a unbelievable shock that the high borrowing of some member states now threatens the Euro. This was a really obvious problem that even daft Internet blowhards could see coming. And the mechanism that was designed to stop it, the Growth and Stability Pact, was deliberately and consciously dismantled. Don't cut the brake cables and then blame the driver when the car crashes.

Socioeconomics. US recovery: "corporate profits captured 88 percent of the growth in real national income while aggregate wages and salaries accounted for only slightly more than 1 percent". Optimal taxation of top incomes in Germany. Spectre of stagnating incomes stalks globe.

Video. Viral ad Battle at F-Stop Ridge. Pub easter egg. Literal drug commercial. Female armour. Freedom! Buttery biscuit bass. The Attribution Song.

Sci-Tech. China plans uncensored Internet zone for foreign companies. TDL-4 Indestructable botnet, via. Eagle-eyed austism study retracted.

Misc. Bad news: XKCD's Randall Munroe has more details on the family illness he mentioned before. How to create a topographically accurate Tube map. Bombings in Burma. Declare it art. Make everything OK. Scale of the Universe, via.

Politics. Norman Tebbit says back off the unions. Miliband, Osborne stay on-message.

< Thingies | Automatic Asshole Correction >
Hazy shade of winter | 19 comments (19 topical, 0 hidden) | Trackback
Fair point by Breaker (4.00 / 1) #1 Fri Jul 01, 2011 at 04:56:04 PM EST
it's in the interest of every borrower to borrow at the lowest rates possible. It's the lender who should really be responsible for ensuring the interest rate is high enough to cover the risk of the default.

I'd have happily written that and stood by it.  I'm not too sure though, having the ECB owning lots of Greek debt, but in part being funded by French and Cherman banks.  Which also hold quite a lot of Greek debt.

Hellenic financeologists must be looking at Iceland with envious eyes right now.

I do wonder where this one will end though; central EU has a lot vested in not letting Greece go bust but those that fund them want the uncertainty to end. 

Ooops, forgot to say: by Breaker (4.00 / 1) #2 Fri Jul 01, 2011 at 05:00:31 PM EST
Good luck with the ear problem, BTW.  I hope they can sort it out. 

This isn't the sort of thing you can put off, either, get them checked and checked often.  Relative of mine has diminished hearing because he didn't get medical intervention until too late.


[ Parent ]
I'm inclined to think Greece will have to devalue. by ambrosen (4.00 / 3) #6 Fri Jul 01, 2011 at 07:05:44 PM EST
Well, that's what I would imagine having to happen. I think that, as Theophile said, it's a car crash, and that the best thing that can happen (quick metaphor switch) to prevent the balloon going down is that the heaviest burdens are jettisoned overboard. And if the balloon starts to float after the heaviest one's overboard and trying its best to parachute to a safe landing, then (switch metaphors back), they can coast for a bit while they fix the brakes and now they know why the engineers put them there in the first place.

So that's what I'd hope for.

As a general lesson, it's worth realising that even though Greece sounds like a country that's been around for ever, it really has much less history of being a modern country than pretty much anywhere else in Europe. It was just about barely pulled together in time for the beginning of the 20th century, then after WWI, had to absorb 1 million refugees totally new to the country following a fairly disastrously prosecuted war in Anatolia/Antalya at the time of the creation of Turkey, followed fairly shortly by occupation in WWII and then having alternating puppet governments installed until the early 70s from the protagonists on either side of the cold war, and finally it got a bit of stability.

But there's no history of taxation by consent (as opposed to by a ruling empire) or government services, and since the 1950s, civil service jobs have historically effectively been sinecures given to sympathisers of the recently deposed governments in order to keep the peace.

So yeah, Greece has a lot of structural and cultural things which make running a straightforward national organisation rather trickier than in those countries which, forgive me for being provocative, laid the true foundations of modern democracy.

[ Parent ]
Greece as a modern state by Scrymarch (4.00 / 1) #9 Sat Jul 02, 2011 at 09:36:20 AM EST
That's an excellent point.

Misha Glenny spends a chunk of time in his fairly well regarded history of the Balkans on Greece. He makes some aside along the lines of "if you don't think a nation historically part of the Ottoman empire and located at the end of the Balkan peninsula is part of the Balkans, then nothing is".

I don't bring it up to suggest the Balkans are doomed to poverty and being a toyshop for the great powers forever (though that latter part isn't exactly abating). It's just to reset expectations a bit: like you say, the history is very, very old, but the government institutions are pretty new. I would disagree that it's unique in this regard though. Apart from its Balkan neighbours, what about Belarus? Even Italy has only been together as a country for 150 years. Nationalism is such a useful principle that it's easy to extend it retrospectively.

Iambic Web Certified

[ Parent ]
Devalue? by dmg (4.00 / 1) #12 Sat Jul 02, 2011 at 12:51:08 PM EST
Explain how that would work in the context of Euro membership.
dmg - HuSi's most dimwitted overprivileged user.
[ Parent ]
It wouldn't by ambrosen (4.00 / 1) #14 Sat Jul 02, 2011 at 03:31:46 PM EST
I tried to introduce that with the jettisoning metaphor.

[ Parent ]
I see by dmg (4.00 / 1) #15 Sat Jul 02, 2011 at 05:03:37 PM EST
So the whole concept of European 'solidarity' goes out of the window at the first sign of trouble.

Don't get me wrong, I'd like nothing more than for the Euro project to be exposed for what it is, but its a bit tough on the poor Germans who got guilted into the whole ill-advised adventure. They not only get to bail out the Greeks, but also the East Germans. If I were a German pensioner I'd be livid!

I believe that the planners of the Euro completely foresaw this outcome, and so it will be very interesting to watch the proposed 'solutions'. Fiscal transfer of some kind is the only way the Euro can work, but that is electorally unpopular. Expect to see it introduced via very convoluted mechanisms, so that the public are not alerted to the true nature of the subsidies they are going to be tricked into paying.

I never thought I would have a good word to say about Gordon 'sold the gold at rock bottom prices, raided your pension fund, and drove the economy into the ground' Brown, but at least he didn't sign up for the Euro. Even so, the UK taxpayer is still getting screwed over due to treaty commitments.
dmg - HuSi's most dimwitted overprivileged user.

[ Parent ]
German taxpayers by MillMan (4.00 / 2) #16 Sat Jul 02, 2011 at 05:47:22 PM EST
are bailing out the German and French banks, not Greece. Greece is going to get sold for pennies on the dollar as a bonus.

"Just as there are no atheists in foxholes, there are no libertarians in financial crises." -Krugman

[ Parent ]
Right by dmg (4.00 / 1) #17 Sat Jul 02, 2011 at 07:16:37 PM EST
In other words, they are being robbed by corporate interests. I'm fully aware what is going on here.
dmg - HuSi's most dimwitted overprivileged user.
[ Parent ]
If you were a German pensioner, by ambrosen (4.00 / 1) #18 Sat Jul 02, 2011 at 08:27:34 PM EST
you'd be glad that the Irish government had bailed out its banks which were only larger than Irish GDP because of the amount German pension funds had in them.

My feeling is that the Euro would work if the original deficit criteria were stuck to.

[ Parent ]
depends how economically literate by dmg (4.00 / 1) #19 Sat Jul 02, 2011 at 11:38:00 PM EST
a pensioner I was.

I might be worried about the moral hazard of bailouts. I might even believe that perhaps I don't want a pension portfolio consisting of banks that make really bad lending decisions.

It's market failure on a grand scale, and the public seem to be lapping it up! 'too big to fail' my ass.
dmg - HuSi's most dimwitted overprivileged user.

[ Parent ]
Optimal tax rates by riceowlguy (4.00 / 2) #3 Fri Jul 01, 2011 at 05:23:41 PM EST
It's completely implicit in the article about "optimal" German top marginal tax rates that the more money that governments can siphon away from their subjectscitizens, the better. If you take that as a given, then yes, if you can get away with taxing your high earners more, then I guess you should.

Personally I think if you can't run the country when you're already taking away nearly half of what some people earn in income, you might need to re-examine some things.

Personally, by ambrosen (4.00 / 3) #4 Fri Jul 01, 2011 at 05:57:27 PM EST
I think that if you're running a country well enough that a lot of people can earn well inexcess of €100,000 a year, and live an exceedingly comfortable life on it, then you're running it pretty well. And I suspect that a lot of those Germans are pretty well aware that that 50% tax rate buys them a lot of things money can't buy.

Like the knowledge that they can look any given fellow citizen in the eye and know that that person is unlikely to be going hungry or unable to look after their health or unable to get home safely. And knowing that they couldn't live in a gated community even if they wanted to, because such things don't exist. And being able to get a tram [trolley] home from a concert in the city centre without having to worry when it goes through the rough side of town. And not having to worry about spending the national median annual median income to put their kids through a year in the best university in the country, because there aren't any good universities in the country (but everyone still manages pretty well, and there's still lots of smart people).

But yeah, I don't know how much of that's due to high marginal tax rates on the rich, and of the effect that's due to taxation, how much can be attributed to additional social welfare spending and how much to progressive taxation creating a more egalitarian society.

Germany: don't knock it.

[ Parent ]
I spent fifteen minutes by riceowlguy (4.00 / 1) #5 Fri Jul 01, 2011 at 06:58:22 PM EST
writing a big long emotional screed about why I'm fiscally conservative, and before posting I thought better of it.  I got it out of my system anyway.

We obviously come from very different perspectives on this and no amount of impassioned defense of economic freedom on my part is going to change anybody's mind. 

[ Parent ]
I wasn't saying there was anything wrong with by ambrosen (4.00 / 2) #7 Fri Jul 01, 2011 at 07:25:02 PM EST
being fiscally conservative. I can point out masses of things wrong with a dirigiste tax and spend government. I mean, I read The Economist in full every week, as my only newspaper.

But apart from the numbers, I don't see what Germany's doing wrong. And if it's providing conveniences that aren't fungible, like peace of mind, then perhaps that value is worth 50% of income once you're rich enough to be able to afford skiing and sailing holidays every year.

[ Parent ]
Skiing and sailing by Oberon (4.00 / 1) #10 Sat Jul 02, 2011 at 12:49:19 PM EST
I just thought of a way to greatly simplify the tax forms ....

How now, mad spirit?
[ Parent ]
Profitable, but wageless recovery by jimgon (4.00 / 1) #8 Sat Jul 02, 2011 at 09:20:07 AM EST
Really to understand US corporate business you have to understand the ownership structure of US corporations.  The pirmary shareholders of pretty much every public company are institutional investors: hedge funds, mutual funds, government pension systems, and huge trusts.  What are they looking for?  Profits.  They aren't looking for increased expenses in the form of wages.  They're looking for reduced expenses and increased profits.  Their opinions count for more than anything.  They own these corporations or at least a big enough stake that the executives have to listen when they speak.  Want 10% of your shares to hit the market and drive down prices?  The executives are rewarded for holding down expenses and not hiring through higher share prices and a pretty strong bottom.  If you are lucky you work for a company which is private and part of a conglomoration where they care more about milking the cash cow than a rising star of a stock price. 

Part of this thing with the hedge funds and mutual funds is that the managers of those funds get paid by a percentage of total assets owned.  Forcing up stock prices increases their paycheck.  Pension fund managers are likewise judged by assets under management since the pension funds are judged for stability based on assets vs obligations and being fully funded against obligations.  So there's so much pressure on increase stock prices.  Thirty years ago you wanted cash cows in your portfolio which produced regular dividends which you could cash out or reinvest.  Then it switched to focusing entirely on growth stocks and even the cash cows had to play.  Part of it likely has to do with the tax system in the US with capital gains vs income.  Stock increases being capital gains only taxed when cashed out.  Dividends being income taxable when received.  So you get to defer income and taxation, and it's a cash like equivalent under the current process. 

Seriously, the US financial system is totally screwed. 

Technician - "We can't even get decent physical health care. Mental health is like witchcraft here."
Screwed by dmg (4.00 / 2) #13 Sat Jul 02, 2011 at 12:54:31 PM EST
And you've barely scratched the surface!
dmg - HuSi's most dimwitted overprivileged user.
[ Parent ]
Growth and stability pact was always a joke. by dmg (4.00 / 1) #11 Sat Jul 02, 2011 at 12:49:36 PM EST
You might want to investigate the Greek use of SPVs and derivatives to fudge their accounts in order to meet the entry conditions for the Euro. Aided and abetted by some of the usa's top investment banks.

The issue of irresponsible lending seems largely ignored by the press.

Having said that, Greece is a sideshow.
dmg - HuSi's most dimwitted overprivileged user.

Hazy shade of winter | 19 comments (19 topical, 0 hidden) | Trackback