Free to Fail, Free to Succeed

Tue, Aug 13, 2013 - 8:09am

Spaces are both physical and figurative, and once upon a time in America there were wide open spaces. Openness can be a distant horizon line rimmed with purple mountains and sagebrush, or it can be a simple opportunity- the room to do your own thing and accomplish something. There was once the space for an enterprising individual,, through their effort and intelligence, to earn for themselves wealth, position, and respect (the latter being most coveted and by far the most difficult to acquire). Of course good luck played a part in the outcome, and bad luck an even larger one, but there existed a space where gumption and hard work often tipped the scales. Or at least did so often enough to make the fight worthwhile. The existence of ‘a space to achieve’ was the magical engine of American prosperity, because it fostered a culture that esteemed productivity and offered incentives that encouraged people to create value.

Some would argue that all the above is just nonsense- that the idea of having ‘the space to achieve’ was little more than a fairy story fed to the gullible by those who benefitted from the status quo, thus maintaining the illusion of upward mobility that kept the populace docile and tractable. Don’t you believe them; upward mobility was once entirely possible and thus was no illusion. However, the primary ideological movements of the 20th century were almost exclusively movements away from the rough and tumble “free to achieve, free to fail” ethos. These movements were ostensibly made on behalf of the little guy, yet the central irony of the 20th century was that, in their quest to protect the little guy, these ideological movements actually cemented the little guy in place at the bottom of the heap. Whether accidentally, or more cynically as a conscious ploy to preserve their already obtained position in society, supposedly well-meaning people progressively pulled the ladder of economic mobility up behind them, stranding those below. By and large, they did this by rejecting the concept of failure. I believe an argument can be made that disallowing failure as a matter of policy may prove to have been one of the most costly mistakes of the 20th century, and that the consequences of this will irrevocably shape the 21st

Culture and the Concept of Failure

I grew up in the smallest of small towns- a tiny outpost of 3,000 people in a sparsely populated county of a far western state, surrounded by magnificent mountains, pine forests, and sagebrush vistas. We had to drive nearly 100 miles to the nearest “big town” to attend an indoor movie or shop at an actual national chain store (K-Mart), but this isolated western outpost was a virtual laboratory of economics, and the lessons I learned there shaped my views profoundly. 

Looking back, what strikes me today as so different about that time and place forty years in the rearview mirror was the cultural attitude towards, and acceptance of, failure. The belief was strong where I grew up that in life it is up to each individual to work hard and take his or her shot at succeeding. At the same time, failure was an understood and accepted part of the equation as well. The local drugstore owner was certainly one of the ‘town fathers’ so to speak, a prominent civic leader and a respected business owner. I once proclaimed to my grandfather that I thought he must have been the richest man in town because he sold shelf after shelf of fireworks prior to the 4th of July- and my 7 year old self couldn’t imagine a more valuable thing to own in bulk! My grandfather laughed and said that I actually wasn’t too far off. He then told me that when the guy was young he had tried his hand and failed at well-drilling. Then he started and lost a gas station to the bank when he couldn’t make his payments during hard times. Only after failing miserably a few times did he go back to school to get his degree and eventually earn enough to own his pharmacy. The message was clear: yes, the man was wealthy (by our town’s standards) but he had earned it by surviving failures and misfortunes, and came back stronger because of them. Failure, he was telling me, was not a dirty word but in fact was almost a prerequisite for success- at least the type of success that earned you respect along with it.

A good friend of mine back then had an older brother named Bill who started working at a local quarry during the summers while he was still in high school. He worked hard and got himself checked out on a few different types of machines and pretty soon he was bringing home a sizeable paycheck. He helped his mom pay the rent and bought a few groceries, and still had enough left over to buy a cherry-red Pontiac GTO, pretty heady stuff for an 18 year old. When he graduated from high school he went to work at the quarry full-time and a year later he got his foot caught in a rock crusher and was maimed for life. 

What strikes me looking back on it is how blasé everyone was about it- yes, people clucked their tongues and expressed genuine sympathy for him, but not overly so (it was a blessing that he had lived, after all). The attitude was, if you wanted to earn the big bucks working at the quarry (and drive around in a red GTO) then you were getting paid to perform a dangerous job and this type of thing was just part of it. After giving her son six months to heal, Bill’s mother kicked him and his crippled foot out of the house, to ‘make sure he didn’t become some lay-about’. In the absence of today’s government unemployment or disability benefits, and having the bad fortune to possess a mother who would not allow her son’s crippled foot to be an excuse for sitting at home watching TV all day, Bill was forced to re-enter the workforce to put food on the table. He struggled for a time, but eventually found himself a desk job where he could do paperwork and organize a business, and ultimately he earned good living and raised a family.

Here’s the thing: I wonder what might have happened to Bill if he were going through that same situation today, with the federal safety-net of disability, unemployment, EBT cards, and an entire system designed to insulate the individual from any whiff of failure. Would a 20 year old with a crippled foot have had the guts, or even the motivation or incentive, to re-enter the workforce as he did back then? And if not, would he have earned himself a living and with it self-respect, built a life for himself despite his disability, and raised a family as he did?

I am well aware that I am broaching a very sensitive subject here. I know that the Bernanke economy has put many people (other than bankers, of course) out of work and I know that there are many decent, otherwise hardworking folks who are unemployed or laid-up, and who rely on government assistance. And herein lies a great contradiction, for me: I have genuine sympathy for these people, and I am glad that there is something available to help them out. If I were in their shoes, I would certainly want a safety net to be there for me as it is for them.

On the other hand, if I am to be perfectly honest I must admit to a sneaking suspicion that we have taken the concept too far- that our society as a whole would be better off if we allowed failure to play a larger role in the course of people’s lives. I have a sneaking suspicion that by prohibiting the possibility of failure, we are actually doing a significant percentage of these folks no favor at all in the long run. And I have a sneaking suspicion that when we as a culture embrace the mentality that failure and its consequences cannot be allowed to exist, we are creating a situation where ultimately, success will not be allowed to exist either. Once the principle of “no failure” is established as a cultural norm, there is nothing to stand in the way of that principle being expanded in its application beyond the individual level to the level of entire businesses and whole industries- and this is where we get Too Big To Fail. The cultural acceptance of the notion that “failure is entirely bad and cannot be allowed” laid the requisite mental groundwork for the citizenry accepting automaker bailouts, taxpayer subsidization of risk (privatizing profits while socializing losses) in the financial industry, TARP, a host of other measures that have drastically inflated the US debt and exploded the balance sheet of the Fed. If unlimited printing ever leads to hyperinflation or the destruction of our currency, savings, and national wealth, then a significant finger can be pointed at the cultural rejection of the concept of failure as a core underlying cause.

. . .

Failure and the Economy

The masthead at TFMR, ever since the old blogspot days, has been “The end of the Keynsian experiment is upon us- prepare accordingly”. To my mind, perhaps the most fatal of Keynsian flaws is the view that episodic contractions within the economy are such a bad thing that they justify economic interventionism. If one were to identify the most common justification for activist Keynsian philosophy (always a dangerous enterprise), it would probably be the view that governments and central banks should pursue an activist monetary and governmental regime to cushion the swings of expansion and contraction, and reduce the amplitude of the business cycle, within a Capitalist economy. The “boom and bust” to a Keynsian is needlessly destructive because during periods of contraction, they believe that private capital irrationally overreacts, cutting more jobs and reducing the money supply through increased savings, and therefore both increase and prolong such periods of recession. Kensians believe that this ranks among the most serious of economic problems because it leads to the closing of businesses and a loss of jobs. Please note, therefore, that at its core, Keynsian economics is an attempt to avoid or lessen cycles of failure.

The problem with this is that failure is absolutely crucial to the long-term success and vitality of an economy. By pursuing policies that seek to insulate businesses and industries from failure today, you are ensuring that an ever growing portion of the economy will be sclerotic and decrepit tomorrow. As if this weren’t bad enough, this “dead wood” actively blocks newer, more innovative and profitable companies from gaining market share, thus damping the creative flame that creates growth and advancement over time. In sum, when you get rid of the creative destruction of Capitalism, you are left with all of the vices but none of the considerable virtues of that system, and thus have little reason to continue it. Perhaps, as a Fabian Socialist, this is what Keynes had in mind all along. 

Let’s look at this in a slightly different way. Failure in the market, far from being something to be avoided, is actually one of the most powerful signals we have for action. Failure shows entrepreneurs exactly where the shortcomings of the present system are, and therefore where they might most profitably direct their innovation. When we do not allow failure to take place, we effectively block the funding and development of new technologies and industries that would, otherwise, have been the profit centers of tomorrow. Failure, or the threat of failure, is a clear signal to the holders of capital (a limited commodity) where they should or should not invest, and therefore is absolutely crucial for efficiently distributing limited resources within an economy over time. Without the clear market signal of failure, more and more mal-investment will eat up the limited resources of an economy until its functions become quite inefficient and will ultimately be significantly impaired. Many more examples could be given, but the core point is that in economics, allowing failure to happen is absolutely crucial to facilitate growth, allow space for entrepreneurship, and encourage the efficient deployment of limited resources.

When we as a society rejected the idea that failure should be allowed, we also rejected success and progress without realizing it. We wound up institutionalizing a necrotic status quo of entrenched decay, where well-connected dinosaur industries can only survive by being propped up by Keynsian easy money policies in a permanent merry-go-round of bailouts, quantitative easing, and stimulus. We now live in the Too Big Too Fail economy, where enormously powerful institutions whose recklessness, bad business practices, or disregard for risk, lead them to demand and receive public financial support simply to stay in business. The astounding travesty of this is that millions of citizens, who will never earn in their entire lifetimes what the (bad) decision-making upper management of these institutions will earn in a single year, are now forced to pay taxes to subsidize those company’s losses. This will surely go down in history as one of the most perverse final acts of the “failure-less society”. 

We are now at the point where the creation of currency has effectively replaced the creation of products and value, but ultimately such a system is profoundly unsustainable. The irony of all this is that, far from disallowing failure as we thought, our actions instead have only put it off temporarily. Meanwhile, the amount of “failure” that should have already been dealt with and worked through quietly builds up behind the scenes, accumulating energy and power until the moment when it may suddenly come bursting forth all at once, and the compounded sins of generations of “failure deniers” will come to fruition. That moment will demonstrate quite emphatically the utter folly of trying to deny failure as a matter of policy and culture.

After that, there will once more be wide open spaces in America, and perhaps elsewhere as well- spaces where we are free to fail, and therefore free to succeed. I look forward to seeing them again.

About the Author


Gramp · Aug 13, 2013 - 8:22am

Good Read Pining!

Going to read some of this to my wife... even if she doesn't want to listen!

Have a great day folks! Be motivated to be excellent to each other!

Monedas · Aug 13, 2013 - 8:27am

Whining 4 The Fjords !

We all whine .... and the mess .... just gets messier .... all our politeness and cuteness doesn't help .... at some point direct action will be necessary .... we don't have to initiate it like Anders did .... it will come to us .... especially US .... who have PMs .... prepare accordingly ! Monedas 1929 Comedy Jihad We're On To Them We Think World Tour devil

tin73 · Aug 13, 2013 - 8:28am

Failure is not an option... would seem.

Failure encourages learning and self-improvement. If you never get it wrong how will you ever know what works and what doesn't?

benque · Aug 13, 2013 - 8:34am

We did it to ourselves

...collectively, when we as a society raised our kids without discipline, then outlawed discipline as "cruel".

Failure is outlawed, as far as consequences are concerned.

When I was a kid, there was a stick by the fridge..."THE STICK!!" It wasn't used often, or harshly, but did the trick. I learned that I must accept responsibility and consequences for my behaviours. Seems to have worked for thousands upon thousands of years, but now is "cruel". What a shameful travesty!

sierra skier · Aug 13, 2013 - 8:51am


Thank you Pining

Self responsibility has become a thing mostly of the past in our system. It doesn't appear to matter whether it is in education, economic or personal our system has removed self responsibility almost completely from the equation. It is difficult to learn without the possibility of failure to point our shortcomings of our ideas.

Our powers that be have removed the strong desire and drive to succeed in our society by creating a catch all for everyone through government programs which will pay folks to be dependent on their largess. People are by nature lazy if given the opportunity and government has removed the incentive to strive for success through effort and innovation by trying to make life good for all.

There are certain good reasons for programs to help those in true need, but our system has gone completely overboard in an effort to make life good for everyone and in the process removed the incentives for self reliance, innovation and success. In doing so they have created the dependent population they need to promote the election of politicians who will continue this unnatural process.

I have spent my last 40 years in a small community only to see this government largess harm the desire for self reliance and remove the incentive to become successful. It has become time to move on to greener pastures for me.

flyinkel · Aug 13, 2013 - 8:55am

Very Insightful!

Thank you for this spot-on post!

Sometimes I hire temps, high school kids with no training consider $10 an hour beneath them and we are in no-where land. A man that was out of a job but semi-skilled with no education decides he makes more money digging in dumpsters than his $25/hr. And he can still collect all the govt goodies. Katherine Austin Fitts speaks to the travesty of the large corporations taking the assets, effectively shooting them off to new corporations, and leaving the old decrepit business with all the liabilities for the public to "bail out". Where is the responsibility at the individual and corporate level?

Monedas · Aug 13, 2013 - 9:00am

Blue Light Special !

TSHTF .... and two or three pick ups .... loaded with armed Kmart shoppers .... drives 100 miles .... to see what you've got for sale .... Katie, bar the barn door ! Monedas 1929 Comedy Jihad Honey We've Got Company World Tour devil

Larry · Aug 13, 2013 - 9:01am

Forward Guidance

Xty, from the last thread... yes, the CB's/Fed seems to have fallen in love with the term... again. Of course it gains new traction as a household term when all mainstream media repeats it verbatim from their talking points every hour of the day. Forward Outlook is also a good one. Maybe they could combine one day to really get closer to the objective: Forward Outlook Guidance (FOG).

We used to hear that often used in corporate reporting. Maybe that was a Sarbanes-Oxley thing with it's intended limitations on pumping mark-to-fantasy. Or, in light of what has happened since Enron, Worldcom and other such scams with the ever expanding FASB, uh, freedom of expression, even SOX was a MOPE band-aid covering the gushing amputations of ethics and honesty in financial reporting amongst the 'club members'.

It's interesting to see the steady stream terms being used to obfuscate and mislead by politicians and CB's. The list is long. Would love to see a dictionary type list with all of the terms and Department names used since 1990, with the acronym and two definitions each; one is the gov/bank description and alongside is the real meaning (and outcome). Maybe we could start with NAFTA, move through WMD/Mission Accomplished offensive "defense" and Homeland Security, TARP and such and end with Taper and whatever replaces QE.

I'll throw one out there: How about, Monetary Expansion. The "me" generations could really latch onto all that monopoly money finally leaving the bank's grip and being spread around by the truckload. Or maybe Chicken-in-every-Pot Revisited (CPR2).

I've often wondered about the young, budding, anxious to please unwitting hordes of clever interns and aides hired to write these terms used by politicos and bankers... terms that sound so good but mean exactly the opposite of what they claim and their intended use. Of course the term must provide for a catchy acronym at the behest of their overlords.

So how do these terms like 'Forward Guidance' effect the masses that don't even follow any of this? Probably not much as long as the Fall sitcoms, reality shows and sports talk shows du jour are not canceled or interrupted. No worries about the mass population catching onto the lies being told. That's been covered by generations of Backward Guidance in the public schools and MSM of Amerika.

· Aug 13, 2013 - 9:03am

just try failing at school

I too feel the conflct, between the obvious good that some safety-net provides (but who to provide the safety-net is always a question too) and the importance of failure. We had a neighbour beg the school not to let his son graduate from Grade 6, and then Grade 8, but to no avail. Kid is frankly a bum to this day and 26, soon to be supported by the public purse. Arghh.

But then there are people who really do seem beyond their own help ... 

This change is also shown, to quote my father-in-law, in the "dangerous trend towards safety". One of the economists interviewed by Russ Roberts suggested that if we actually wanted better driving we wouldn't install air bags, we would put a big spike in the middle of the steering wheel. Would definitely up the attention of the driver.

jaw777 · Aug 13, 2013 - 9:05am

Well said Pining!

As a nation we have forgotten our roots and turned into a society where everybody must win.... or at least there are no losers.

Last night I went to a pre-meeting for kindergarten for my youngest. The list of supplies necessary was obscene. 6 boxes of crayons, 24 glue sticks, 3 packs of markers, 48 pencils, 6 folders and the list went on. We only had 1 box of crayons as kids and I don't think my entire family has used 24 glue sticks in 20 years! Before we arrived, I assumed that some of the better off kids may be asked to "share" with those less fortunate. So I purchased the necessary items and showed up with my bag. Much to my surprise we "deposited" them into community bins for everyone's use. I almost came unglued (fortunately there was an abundance of glue sticks). Basically, my school is teaching my child socialism in kindergarten now. Sharing is sharing and a good lesson, but forced sharing is socialism. I have never been more disgusted with our school system that I am now. 

· Aug 13, 2013 - 9:15am

re banker language

"inflation target" inflation is good, deflation is bad, and we must achieve some, but not too much

"forward guidance" if we say we are going to do x, does everyone panic?

"macro-prudential" um, how about, a good, fiscally conservative idea, on a grand scale, because we are forward thinkers, and super prudent

"taper" now just sounds so silly to me as a word that it makes me want to play scrabble, on acid

"quantitative easing" as opposed to qualitative easing? I want some qualitative easing instead!

"gold is not money" remember that riddle about the two doors, one to heaven and one to hell, and they are guarded by two people, one who always tells the truth, and one who always lies, and you only get one question to figure out who is who? Sometimes you don't need to ask a question at all.

ag1969 · Aug 13, 2013 - 9:23am

Awesome Pining

What is going on is not the prevention of failure, but a select few with the power to pick who fails and who succeeds, and rewarding the biggest failures. What I mean by that is that I had a business fail in 2009. Ultimately, I did not realize that the overwhelming majority of my sales were purchased with home equity money or bubble money. In other words, I has a product that people wanted if they could use their home as an ATM machine. They were buying my product with money that only existed because their home value was artificially inflated. As soon as it came to using their weekly paycheck for my product, there were many other products much higher on their priority list. My sales plummeted. I failed. My bad. I learned some hard lessons, many of which I am still struggling with. My point is, there was no bailout, no taxpayer money, no free money from the fed for me. Yet other businesses are not allowed to fail, all of which failed on a much greater scale than I did. No one should have the power to pick the winners and losers. Yes, I agree, the social safety net has created an entire generation of failures, dependent on the government for a paycheck. The proceeds of that "paycheck" are only accepted as an exchange of value because the ones whom have the power to pick the winners and losers have declared by fiat that it must be so. It is a giant vote buying scheme. If that "money" were not accepted, the whole failure-less society falls on its face. It all depends on what we use as a baseline for failure. The social safety net that has prevented people from failing is one giant failure. As long as the government gives away free "money", people are going to line up to take it. It actually increases the amount of failure rather than preventing it. One law that holds true throughout all government s in history is that what a government subsidizes it gets more of, and what it taxes it gets less of. Or government certainly new this when the "Great Society" programs were passed under LBJ. We made the decision to subsidize poverty(failure) and tax the middleclass to pay for it. The big argument got the GS programs was that black people had been so oppressed and stepped on, that 1 out of 5 black children were born out of wedlock (failure). We have spent trillions and trillions of dollars on the GS programs. Every year we give away more "money" and more people line up to take it. We have increased the amount of poverty, the middle class is disappearing, and today, 50 years later, 4 out of 5 black children are born out of wedlock. "We are now at the point where the creation of currency has effectively replaced the creation of products and value, but ultimately such a system is profoundly unsustainable." Exactly, none of this would have happened if we had "honest" money. The only way to upset the forces of natural law (allowing market forces to determine failure and success) is to pay for it with dishonest money at the expense of the producers. I don't even know if I just made a point. The incoherent ramblings of someone who really enjoyed your article Pining.

SilverSurfers · Aug 13, 2013 - 9:28am


Niner, top tenner, two days in a row? That's a ninety-niner RED balloons, yet free to fail, free to succeed. Not in the USSA these days where income is penalized and freeloading rewarded. Sorry, but you must live in a foreign country, because that aint the USA. 

Video unavailable

DONT FEED THE SEA GULLS they become dependent!!!

Larry · Aug 13, 2013 - 9:30am

Scabble on acid?

That would be the new game: Scramble.

Motley Fool · Aug 13, 2013 - 9:47am


Good piece, and I especially liked this :

"I believe an argument can be made that disallowing failure as a matter of policy may prove to have been one of the most costly mistakes of the 20th century, and that the consequences of this will irrevocably shape the 21st."

The last part is also poignant : "After that, there will once more be wide open spaces in America, and perhaps elsewhere as well- spaces where we are free to fail, and therefore free to succeed. I look forward to seeing them again."

Agreed, I look forward to it too.

Threefoottwo · Aug 13, 2013 - 10:04am


Pining is absolutely brilliant in this analysis. Until everyone obtains the right to fail by not taking chances, we have no right to succeed by taking chances. Our world cannot feed the population without someone taking chances. Hungry people get violent and make war which could eliminate extra governments and levels of control. I anticipate war within the US territory, either civil war or by invasion through a non-standard weapon.

In the US, the total profit anticipated in most business plans is exhausted trying to get the permission from various levels of government that attempt to prevent us from "injuring ourselves" in various ways. The reality is that the rules and regulations to "protect is from ourselves" are only to protect the power of the persons and corporations in control of government.

I am anxious to see the great cleansing of economic failure even if I turn out to be one of the casualties of the final conflict. I find myself "too soon old and too late smart". It is illegal to make our children a little afraid of a good spanking, but our government constantly terrorizes us with useless laws and enough government agency ammunition and bombs to kill all of us ten times. Somehow we must mentally refuse to be terrorized by any person or government, and just do what is reasonable and necessary to protect our individual rights and the rights of those we meet. Fear causes failure by our consent!



Grublux · Aug 13, 2013 - 10:04am
Patrancus · Aug 13, 2013 - 10:05am

The "Stick" @ benque

We sold everything that did not require our use, locked the windows and doors, sent the bank some jingle mail and hit the road. Now looking back at this time is only a distant memory, though I vividly remember finding the stick which had ended up lodged behind the refrigerator, the story that my lad and lassies continue to tell was "when we misbehaved, dad spanked our rear ends using a 2x4 which sat atop the refrigerator, my how big a paint stick grows when it is used for disciplining the children, and how effective it was in stimulating hard work and achievement today in some pretty darn good adults. 5 will get you 10 that the same paint stick, ah 2x4, today will get you a term from the system for child abuse. 

Pining you get no arguments from me

· Aug 13, 2013 - 10:12am

Our system has been put on

Our system has been put on performance enhancement steroids or whatever they call the new jolt juice. Growth has been an illusion. An estimated "billion-trillion dollars" of derivatives floating through the system and juicing up the banks with sterilized QE. Just because she wears stilleto's doesn't make her taller. 

Seems like certain baseball players have adopted the Kensyian model. Failure is not an option.

Larry · Aug 13, 2013 - 10:18am

Pining, Bravo!

Now that I finally got that last thought to post after several failed tries, I've read yours and once again am so impressed with your insight. Good stuff! Love how you use your experiences in life to illustrate your stories. What do you call a visual artist that can write as well? A story teller. That's what you are with both words and pictures.

I'm in agreement with your perspective around failure and success in our culture today.

A few points I'll add is that failure is only accepted, as always, outside the 'club'. If you aren't in the club you are on your own. Only now it's worse than that. Back in the days you describe, government was much more neutral in terms of cause and effect of business success and failure for small to mid-sized business. Now with the taxes, regulations, laws, insurance and overbearing reporting and compliance, the government is in the business of either creating serfs or putting small companies out of business.

Oh, on the extreme end of the economic spectrum there is a free-stuff-food-stamp-welfare-check for all who fit, but the program is more of a soul-sucking spider web than a safety net used for severely disabled or temporary bridge back to work.

Culturally and economically we have a perfect storm brewing. Whether the few seemingly all-powerful oligarchs and cronies will be bankrupted along with the struggling businesses and individuals in the short term will be the tell in how long our system of government will be the boot on the neck of society. There is a lot of bad they can do before they are forced to do one good thing for the people.

So, what is the horse-drawn carriage of today and what is the automobile that we can sell and buy, respectively?

benque · Aug 13, 2013 - 10:37am


Maybe that old stick made me dimwitted, but I don't get it.

The stick by the fridge at our house was an old piece of hardwood, about 5/16 inch thick, and 2.5 ft long...all approx, within 20% of stated dimensions. Width was variable, between 3/4 inch, and 2 inches, due to some forgotten and failed attempt to destroy the instrument of pain by a 5 year old. This instrument was wielded by Dad only, and was the object of much forlorn (or gleeful..LOL!) speculation, as brother or I waited for "your Father to get home".

Mom's instruments of choice were both of the sneak attack type; and were the thumb and index finger applied to the ear lobe, with a twist and upward pull; or the dreaded wooden mixing spoon applied to whichever anatomical part (below the neck-always) was too slow to avoid it. Do you wish exact dimensions?

At school, it was the rubber strap, applied to one or both palms. It was 1 1/2 inches wide, by 3/8 inch thick. Same tolerances of dimension, as above. This was wielded by the school principal, and I was intimately aquainted with several of these creatures.

Again, at school, was the pointer -the teacher's choice -, which was a wooden rod of approximately 3 feet length, by 3/8 inch thickness. Another sneak attack instrument, often applied to knuckles. The flying text book also comes to mind, but was rare.

Never saw a 2x4 used....thank heaven! AND, I never felt I was abused. I certainly did deserve each application I did get, and many which I eluded.

EDIT: Patrancus, I just re-read your post AGAIN, and I GET IT!! No offense intended by me, just "tongue-in-cheek", and none taken, I hope!

ReachWest · Aug 13, 2013 - 10:43am

No Failure is a Moral Hazard

Thanks Pining - great article!

I grew up in an entrepreneurial family. Failure is part of the normal process of growing. - of building - of succeeding. As Pining's article rightly points out, by limiting or suppressing failure we limit and suppress true success.

Pining wrote:
"Meanwhile, the amount of “failure” that should have already been dealt with and worked through quietly builds up behind the scenes, accumulating energy and power until the moment when it may suddenly come bursting forth all at once, and the compounded sins of generations of “failure deniers” will come to fruition."

... and that is the scariest part of all of this.

¤ · Aug 13, 2013 - 10:47am

Political Pandering

Thanks P4 for a great read this morning

Two brief thoughts came to mind while reading it and one was simply..."If at first you don't succeed, try, try again!" Another one is ..."survival of the fittest".

However, in this time period we live in it would seem that last statement is just cold and primitive...but it did serve as the primal basis for how much of mankind has evolved in the ways it did.

Simply put, at times there simply was no mercy. People generally overall were tougher and knew if they weren't as tough as they could be that they would be left behind in a manner of speaking.

Many people still adhere to that 0ld saying and I'm sure most of you are from that old school of thought as I am as well. There are many obstacles that people can choose to look at as challenges of their will and ability or they can fold the tent up before they even even consider to pitch it.

The other part of the fairly modern equation is one of Govt. safety nets (some of which are definitely needed for sure) and which I believe is part of the politicians calculus to pander to a certain part of the overall constituency that wants (or feels deserved of) to be taken care of because they've seen all types and manner of Govt. assistance programs that seem to have no end to their funding.

I recall when the old TF library/blogspot was in full gear during the height of the "Great Recession " (a laughable name that should've been called a Crash or Banking Panic/because it was) how we used to talk about all the then proposed bailouts, bankruptcies and debt forgiveness language that was just starting to emerge. 

I recall distinctly that many of us were appalled back then that many people who had large irresponsible debts (jumbo mortgages or credit card balances that they knew couldn't be paid off) would possibly be let off the hook while those who responsibly paid off their bills and debt were left holding those folks bag of unpaid bills in some respects.

Since then, after watching over the years and the many trillions of dollars created (and forgiven) by the Fed I think the outlook by many (not on here so much) is ...

"Hell, why fight it? Everyone else is getting some type of benefit or handout (or any myriad of govt program) during this unprecedented period of stimulus, why not me?"

The pols of course realize this fully and have probably counted on it to some extent.

Today, I see many of the things offered up by pols simply as tools for pandering of votes in order to keep people safe from many of which is the unknown (fear factor) and the other being the known fear or distrust of the 'other side' who want to take their programs or personal things away from them that they would otherwise normally never be able to afford.

Divide and conquer from within the safety net of perception is at work all the time and the view is much different from within that net or outside of it and who is holding it. Some folks simply don't mind being taken care of even if they realize (or fully don't) what they're giving up by allowing someone to prop them up. In reality, all that person needs to do is cast one fairly effortless vote once every 2-4 years and their safety net might just stay in place for years.

In a society that has become increasingly unproductive, lazy and overweight it seems (fair or not) that a significant portion of the population have become cows to some extent that need to be taken care of otherwise they'll fail and not be able to take care of themselves.

They've become reliant on their handlers (the Pols) for their sustenance and shelter and they don't mind having to be milked for a vote every once in a while. To the extent that almost 50% of Americans are too lazy to even vote speaks volumes about society and the effort or frame of mind that almost half the folks exhibit.

Quite simply, some folks and their attitudes (which are becoming increasingly generational) are not cut from the same primal cloth that your parents, grandparents and their lineage needed to exhibit merely to just survive in that day in age.

Imho, we are clearly seeing in some large instances where the primal and evolutionary traits of survival of the fittest no longer apply at all. In fact, some of those who are "the fittest" are in some instances seen as having an unfair advantage over some who cry foul because they aren't "fit" and their having trouble surviving. Go figure!

Apparently, not having a big flat screen TV or brand new car these days is seen as struggling or impoverished by some and unfair on some level if someone somewhere is willing to give it to them or even if they have to be dishonest and take it in a fraudulent manner. They realize the Govt is overflowing with many billions and trillions of dollars and they want their small part that they deserve. Yes...deserve! 

We've come a long way from mostly being the hard nosed scrappers that are ancestors needed to be in order to eek out a comfortable living if they persevered long enough. 

On an evolutionary chart of self respect, there are too many folks who have become (or want to become cows) and be taken care of because they know if they aren't that the likelihood of them 'making it" or accumulating material items on par with others is unlikely to happen in the way they deserve it or in the way they see others possessing it. The "have's and have not" philosophy is nothing more then a passive divide and conquer strategy or mind set.

The Pols know this and have made the capitulation of lazy folks easier for decades for two reasons...they want that persons vote first and foremost and they also want that persons to stop complaining or fighting the good fight (when they know they don't need to fight or scrap any longer) so that they are reliant on the Pols who keep the cows safe and blissfully content. 

My concern at this point in our country is one of ...have they taken the fight out of more then half the dogs that normally would growl, bark or attack certain issue's or circumstances in society or has the dog (cow) become too comfortable and knows that if they bite the hand that feeds it that they'll be screwing themselves out of some Govt. stimulus or aid they might be eligible for? 

When a majority of individuals can't or won't stand up for themselves then the body of society is somewhat doomed unless the relatively few remaining bulls lock horns and cajole the cows into action. Sadly, they've actually de-horned some of the folks or pols who some once thought of as bulls.

The evolution of modern man and Govt largesse is intertwining and the DNA from it has bred a new person who can't or won't wear the same cloth our ancestors did.

They wouldn't fit into it anyway.

Jakarta Expat Green Lantern · Aug 13, 2013 - 10:55am


I believe you are reading Alex Rodriguez all wrong, he knows he is destined to fail, the other players know he cheated, the league knows he cheated, the commissioner knows he cheated and even he knows he cheated. But he makes what 28 million US this year, divided by how many games which means he makes hundreds of thousands per game (yes yes depending on how many games he plays in and if he finishes the season) but think about every day he is delaying his suspension by the league and he is appealing he is eligible to make another paycheck at those kinds of prices. He is 38 years and he also figured out that this is his last stand, his last paycheck coming in because after this who pays him, no more baseball, no more sporting goods contracts, no more Gatorade commercials, he's got nothing coming in after this last stand so his last stand is only about the greenback, that is all. 

benque · Aug 13, 2013 - 10:55am

DPH Evolution

If I read you correctly, my response is "well said", but perhaps you are somewhat over-centralised in thinking this might be human evolution. Social evolution certainly, but there are many, many more humans NOT experiencing the western evolutionary fact, quite the opposite.

agNau · Aug 13, 2013 - 10:56am
Igiveup2 · Aug 13, 2013 - 11:04am

Corellary to the above

The government has zero capacity to differentiate those who can't from those who won't. Every government assistance program is theoretically designed to help those who cannot do for themselves. Ultimately,these programs turn into magnets for those who won't. Worse yet, as the program expands, those who simply don't want to get drawn to the light. Eventually, the program starts ensnaring people who surrender to the system (why fight it). Finally it becomes hard for the average person to resist (everybody's doing it, I'd be a chump if I didn't take advantage of it too) and the program becomes an entitlement.

Risk taking is an attitude. Entitlements are attitudes. Nothing positive is going to happen until attitudes change. Attitudes are not going to change until they have to. It is going to take a huge social explosion to reset the mindset of this country. I hope for three things. First, that I am alive to see it. Second, that I am able to help facilitate ushering in the new beginning. Third, that we collectively chose the right new beginning.

We'll see. Right now, it looks like the right "new beginning" will not be the path of least resistance and I don't see a lot of people in my world willing or able to do the heavy lifting that will be required, present company excluded. I guess my fourth hope would be that this will change also.

¤ · Aug 13, 2013 - 11:14am


You would be correct that I wasn't specific enough and seemingly painted all of mankind with a broad brush. Folks in other regions of the world are far from cows. 

Overall, I'm speaking of my perceptions of what I know about and see in the U.S. regarding the cow herd mentality.

I guess the cow syndrome wouldn't be an evolutionary trait at this point but more of a learned Pavlovian desire and response by some who embrace (and demand) the concept of hand outs.

But I do think it's in human nature to want to be taken care of on some level and in this modern world some groups of people would willingly give up their independence if the trade off was sustained comfort at the hands of those who willingly dish it out.

They see it as fair....and lazily easy.

James Burke · Aug 13, 2013 - 11:16am

Who financed the Nazis?

Who financed the Nazis? | IN DEVIL WE TRUST It is 100 years since the formal inception of the US Federal Reserve, the American version of a Central Bank (“CB”) where the CB “purchases” the bonds of the Central government or Federal government with its printed currency.

James Burke

James Burke · Aug 13, 2013 - 11:18am

5 Reason To Buy Precious Metals

The past few months weren’t exactly kind to precious metals, and especially gold and silver. Gold lost almost 9% from the time of its peak at 14% since last September. If we compare the current situation with the recent history, we can clearly spot the pessimistic outlook these days. But what is important is that the best time to invest in precious metals is when they are not interesting to anybody!

Let me give you a few reasons why now is the best time to invest and buy precious metals, and specifically gold and silver.

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