30 September 2006
The other risk shift
Much has been said of the many profound effects of the shift on the employment and finance markets,
and most of that has been soundly ignored by the coalition of parties with effective control
over access to mass audiences in general. What has not been said enough is that there seem to
be signs that the shift has spread to the consumption goods sector.
'Risk shift,' is an apparent phenomenon allegedly documented in a book titled Risk Shift: ?
by ?. Author and subtitle information lost to the old seive, unfortunately. If I were asked
to come up with a catchy subtitle with a stated goal of driving $ales of the book by cranking
up the irresistability quotient (IQ) of the book from the POV of a selected target market.
The selected target market, of course, is resentful post-boomers.
One full title I like is Risk Shift: Premium Inflation as Moral Weapon.
This title would be symbolic of the following sentiments:
* A tribute to Mosca's theory that Democracy implies not just
universal sufferage, but also a universal right to keep and bear
* A tribute to Burnham's theory that Mosca's doctrine that (democracy implies universal
moral sufferage) implies that democracy is of a formal rather than Machiavellian nature.
* A suggestion that price inflation can be used as a de-facto moral weapon, in apparent
violation of the theory of superstrong efficiency, which states that the Invisible Hand
possesses 'strength beyond challenge.'
* A book title shouldn't be obscene, unless parties promoting the book feel morally
entitled to indulging themselves with a deployment of public obscenity as a moral weapon,
which is why I would decide to resist the temptation to dub the book
Risk Shift: No Shit, Sherlock which is a flagrant claim that the objective reality
of the so-called Risk-Shift is, in moral terms, an elephant in the room.
Other attention-grabber titles might be worth running by the marketing dept.'s
in-house brain trust:
* Risk Shift: Involuntary Austerity or Market Correction?
Questions whether the humility/humiliation being dished out due to
the risk shift is deserved or not.
* Risk Shift: Bilateral Asymmetry or Persecution Complex?
Questions whether symmetrist normsets are reasonable, and explores
the theoretical possibility of de facto persecution, while questioning
whether there can be an upper bound on asymmetry.
Risk Shift: Science or Technology?
Science implies no blame, and no possible solution.
Technology implies possibility of blame without
also implying impossibility of solution.
Probing for possible existence and/or uniqueness of solutions
to the alleged risk shift problem.
What might bilateral asymmetry be like?
Bilateral asymmetry as objective fact means two supporting
facts can be objectively verified:
1. transfer of risk (beta?) from institutional consumers to individual producers
2. transfer of risk from institutional producers to individual consumers
I have not read Risk Shift:?.
I have, however, checked out certain details about the book online,
such as reviews, previews, sneak peeks, etc. online. This seems
to confirm what I suspected--that the author's thesis amounts to
saying "No Shit Sherlock" in the middle of a public policy debate.
A slightly less abrasive thesis:
Yes Virginia, the Golden Age of Bennies was a Mirage
The question of bilaterality is a proposed test of the
hypothesis that the customer is always right against the
hypothesis that the individual is always wrong.
The suggestion that there might be a lesson to be learned
from the study of risk shifts, in general.
If bilaterality can be confirmed, one may speculate as to
whether pretending to be a customer
(perhaps by loitering at places of retail business while sufficiently attired to imply non-vagrancy?)
has any strategic value
to an individual, and how that value might compare with that
of pretending to be an institution. (incorporating oneself? refusing to pay retail?)
Is market risk (defined as non-diversifiable risk) cyclical or structural
in its lower bound variations?
Quality-of-life as vector-valued-quantity.
My own personal bias concerning the question of
quality of life is that it can't be objectively
(e)valuated, let alone quantified. Nevertheless,
I decided to write the present screed, which is to
say a screed titled Quality-of-life as vector-valued-quantity.
My inner purpose in doing this is not in this case
devil's advocacy, although I might decide to weave some
of that in at some point. No, my purpose for the moment
is simply to provide an at least vestigially developed
framework for a model of subjective utility that doesn't
rest on an assumption (how about assertion?) that
quality-of-life is not only measurable, it's scalar.
In formal terms, I'm playing devil's advocate by impersonating
someone who thinks there may some practical merit in
modeling QOL-estimation as (literally) a 'numbers game,'
except the 'numbers' I want to crunch are actually
vectors (or maybe matrices or even something as eldrich and
unholy as tensors). On the other hand, my present character
is also militant opponent of the scalar modeling of utility
(let alone quality of life). A detailed, if not organized,
account of how I came to be interested in this subject,
as well as my mostly naïve (and probably intellectually redundant)
efforts at a mathematical framework, have been collected and
collated as 'pubwan scratchpad.'
I decided to try to posit a mathematical model for a basically
Walrasian utility function that happens to be vector-valued.
It also happens to be 'high dimensional,' if you get my drift.
At several points in the process, I have felt inclined to
simply give up. My reasons for being so tempted are thus:
* It has occurred to me that, in a world in which
there's no such thing as a free lunch, trying to force
bilateral transparency out of the market mechanism
makes no more sense than trying to invent a perpetual
* It has occurred to me that, in a world in which
the discipline called 'history of technology' is 1%
historiography and 99% disinformation theory, the
chance that I've hit on something new is slim,
and the chance of objectively verifying whether I've hit on
something new is slim to none.
* Given the intellectual-property-gold-rush nature
of the current gilded age, a probable outcome of
verifying anything, or even making a studied effort
at it, is the inevitable cease-and-desist-order,
or worse, the darkly Straussian 'technology export
In spite of these disincentives (or perhaps
out of spite for them) I persist in trying to
make a coherent case for the notion of vector-valued
utility. Part of what keeps me from giving up is
wishful thinking. I want to believe that money
isn't everything. For now, my strategy of choice
is to attempt to demonstrate that
the apparent law of economics that says money
is everything is flawed, due to the a priori
assumption that utility is a scalar quantity.
The trouble with risk management models
The purpose of the present blog entry is to
beg the question of whether the concept of
risk management has any ethical business
existing. In a subsequent entry I hope
either to have concluded that it does, or
alternatively, to play Devil's Advocate,
using the putative legitimacy of
as a justification for setting up certain
other metaphorical (or perhaps institutional) straw men
and proceeding to knock them down instead.
First, let's seek a working definition
of 'risk management.' First, I hope readers
(if any) will understand that at this
particular moment I'm at home, not at the library,
so I'm working more from memory than from
reference books, let alone jacking in.
'Risk' (in the 'management' sense) appears
to my untrained readings in finance to be
simply a fancy way of saying 'uncertainty.'
'Risk management' seems to be a catch-all term
for a number of mysterious arts. The purpose
of this attempt at an essay is to explore
the question of whether the divers arts of
risk management include any 'dark' arts.
Here are some apparent schools of risk
management I have heard rumors about:
is built around the assumption that
someone who has 'insured' against
all 'downside risks' has achieved,
if not a 'risk free' life,
a 'risk free' portfolio.
rejects upsidism, holding that
some risks are 'non-diversifiable,'
somehow implying that 'risk' has a greatest
lower bound. Efficientism seeks
to use certain tools of applied
mathematics (called 'hulls')
to systematically hunt
down this lower bound
(or 'frontier' as they call it)
as if it were
an asymptote. This activity is
referred to as the pursuit of
intolerance of moral hazard,
as might be guessed, is where the
student of risk management finds
that Hobbesianism rears its ugly head.
Essentially, the inherently corrupt
nature of human nature is the only
real barrier to the effortless superefficiency
(as defined above) inherent in simply
'letting do,' specifically letting the so-called
'invisible hand' do whatever it wants,
and (importantly) always on its terms.
Does a fox possess urban houdou?
The question is not intended as a Zen koan.
It refers to an ethical dilemma in which I presently find myself.
Josie and I are trying to decide whether to work with or against
the will of a fox who wishes to squat in our backyard.
We're suburbanites, so perhaps the question is whether a fox
possesses suburban houdou, which is the right to enter a suburban
community legally. It seems the fox is not requesting protection,
since this morning we witnessed not only the presence of a fox
in our backyard, but the fact that the fox was in the middle of
a systematic marking of our property as its territory. This seems
to imply a claim of settlement, which is to say we may be liable
for sheltering a dangerous predatory wild animal. An attorney advised
me that I shouldn't worry about civil or criminal liability, and
that my legal options include calling (City of Warren) Animal Control,
calling (State of Michigan) Department of Natural Resources,
the Michigan Humane Society or nobody. Apparently inaction implies no
blame on my part, which seems odd in a climate in which 1-800-DOG-BITE
has become an ad blitz for lawyers on the civil complaint side of
the ideological fence. Combine this with Bush's assertions about the moral
implications of providing safe havens for terrorists, and one
can only wonder whether the lawyer's intent was to provide me
with assurance or a workable CYA strategy. In moral terms, I
don't think of the fox as a terrorist. I consider him or her to
be a de facto apex predator. I say de facto because I can't imagine
any wild animal that ranks above foxes on the food chain entering
our neighborhood. I assert that a predator is not a terrorist.
I am aware that cats are capable of terroristic predation,
which is to say toying with mice. I don't know whether foxes toy
with their prey, but I don't see how any wild animal can be morally
equated with a human terrorist, so I feel obliged to at least attempt
to accommodate the fox. Since MHS is on the legally sanctioned(?)
list of options, I figure MACS (Michigan Anti-Cruelty Society)
may also be able to offer expert assistance, perhaps of a
zoological rather than legal nature.
I wish to establish within the animal kingdom a schedule
of houdou suitable for deciding what wild animals are to be
allowed settlement rights in urban environments. I wish to
propose granting suburban houdou, on a probationary basis,
for foxes, or at least for the reddish-looking specimen
and its kin (species). Apparently foxes have always possessed urban and suburban houdou
in parts of England for centuries. This establishes precedent
(on British soil, which should in theory imply common law precedent at least within the Commonwealth)
of a long-standing social contract between foxes and humans.
Apparently the terms of the contract are that foxes enjoy more or less automatic urban houdou
in England. The catch (there's always a catch) is that foxes may, under certain
very special circumstances, be fair game for sportshumen, during certain specially
designated rural hunting expeditions. The catch in the social contract has
been challenged using every moral weapon the animal rights activists
in England (if not worldwide) have been able to muster in service
to the removal of the fair game clause. I am undecided on whether
an attempt to implement urban houdou in America should include
a fair game clause. Urban houdou for deer has been a hot issue
here in metro Detroit, along with controversies over fairly supervised
hunts of limited duration and gross harvest in specially designated areas
such as Metroparks™ and the like.
Another resource I am considering checking out is the Commonwealth Club.
This club has a branch office right in the neighborhood, so I consider
it a neighborhood resource. Perhaps in an city with an apparently sustainable population
of urban foxes, the presence of an Anglo-Saxon Community Center can help
deal with some of the public relations problems inherent in proposing
urban houdou for foxes.
I've decided to endorse Granholm
I'm not a newspaper editor or anything,
so I guess it's sort of imperious of me
to cast myself in the role of endorser,
but it's said by some that the blogosphere may
be as powerful a political force as
pre-Internet types of media,
so I guess I'm as qualified as anyone to endorse Jennifer Granholm
for re-election as governor of Michigan.
What clinched the present announcement
is Devin[sp?] Scillian[sp?]'s television
interview of Dick DeVos on today's
edition of Local 4's version of the
local/regional Sunday Schlock Talk Show genre of television.
While I generally find Republicans
more plain-spoken, frank and principled
in their rhetoric than I do their Democratic counterparts,
I saw DeVos' interview style as cagey,
passive aggressive and ideologically doctrinaire.
At the moment I happened to tune in,
they were talking about the financial and
labor/management crisis of the Detroit school district.
As I expected, DeVos said in so many words that
Detroit (meaning, I can only assume, Detroit's electorate)
simply must wake up and smell the coffee
and understand that it doesn't have the
sheer luxury of continuing its cherished
tradition of having public opinion that is pro-union.
He didn't, of course, state it in those words.
If he had, I'd be writing the opposite endorsement
right now, in spite of my unabashed pro-union
stance, because that's how starved I am
for refreshingly candid rhetoric in American
politricks. No, he simply rolled out the
already very shopworn clichés about
'changing our way of thinking,'
'being open to new ideas,' and other
BS. I'm proud of the education I received
in the Detroit Public Schools.
Their well-apprenticed faculty taught me how to write,
and they didn't force me to watch TV commercials.
The least I can do now is write on their behalf.
Then came the subject of insurance premiums.
The host did the state the disservice of framing
insurance cost spirals as a 'Detroit issue,'
which it is, of course, but insurance industry practices are also a
poor people's issue and a young people's issue,
due to the industry's insistence that it has
a legitimate interest in incorporating credit scoring into rate-setting.
DeVos' assessment of Detroit's insurance woes,
was shallow, uninformed and insulting.
He blamed Detroit's insurance woes on high crime rate
and (this remark, in itself, is what clinched
my departure from the 'undecided' camp, BTW)
also cited noncompliance (driving without insurance, the other DWI)
as a driver of high insurance rates.
A few years ago, it MIGHT have been, though I kinda doubt it.
Under the new law, though, anyone who gets busted
(more probable than not given 'information sharing') for
the new, sober type of DWI
will be soaked so royally by the insurance
industry, MAIPF and the state treasury that any complaint that such
persons are putting less than their fair share
into the 'system' is not only negated, it is
soundly reversed. DeVos' showed no inkling
of getting it about the fact that the 'motive'
for the 'crime' of driving without insurance
is virtually always the desire to keep oneself
in circulation, which is to say in the labor market,
which is to say HAVING A WORK ETHIC.
The answer to so-called Driver Responsibility
isn't still more draconian persecution of people
who adopt an automotive lifestyle even though
they can't begin to afford it, it's improvement of mass
transit in Michigan to a point where it's actually
Then came the 'are you part of the religious right' question.
This pat question, of course, met with the usual pat answers, like the fact
that the candidate's political views are informed by his
religious beliefs. Yawn. Devin could have asked an interesting
or meaningful question, such as whether DeVos is of the opinion
(like some of today's more doctrinaire religious rightists)
that 'freedom of conscience' applies to business principals
who feel, for some 'reason,' that they have an ethical
obligation not to hire people whose lifestyles they consider immoral.
Instead the interview signed off with some haha remarks
about how he doesn't know much anything about his wife's public affairs activities.
It should be no mystery that I have adopted an editorial
policy here at alimento of referring to people with careers in
main$tream media as prostitutes.
I must emphasize that my ringing endorsement of
Granholm over DeVos is definitely support of
Granholm as the LESSER OF TWO EVILS.
Granholm has disappointed me at almost every turn.
Like a typical DLC Democrat, she has allowed
the Republicans to steer the policy debate.
She didn't hesitate to chisel the budget deficit on the backs of the poor,
modeling the state's accounts receivable practices
after the more down-market and exploitative segments
of the financial sector.
She made a few weak objections to the Medicaid cuts,
but offered little in the way of assertive resistance.
Granholm's advertising strategy has a frighteningly
nativist and generally demagogic tone.
This is unacceptable, but DeVos' worldview
and policy agenda are so completely at cross purposes
to everything I've ever considered right and just, that I
must vote for Granholm, and must display Granholm
campaign paraphernalia(sp?) on my person and my car,
and must use my violently-procured
freedom-to-blog on her behalf. Good luck, Jen.
It's all in the framing of the issue
Issue: Election fraud
Election fraud is the act of interfering with the efforts of the system of election administration
to ensure accuracy of results. Republican policymakers, as usual, frame the issue as one of protecting trusted institutions
from untrustworthy individuals, constructing hypothetical scenarios and wielding them as cautionary tales about the dangers of
assuming that the magnitude of present threats and dangers is not sufficiently ominous to justify giving up irrevocably
on avoiding a National ID card or certificate of citizenship for domestic use.
Progressive activists frame the election fraud issue as one of protecting honest citizens
from institutional dishonesty, citing voluminous concrete examples of reasons for possible concern. Democratic politicians stand characteristically mute.
Question: Is it a problem?
Should election results reflect exact counts tabulated using exact rules or estimates based on scientifically and statistically
legitimate techniques of estimation? If we replace 'election' with 'census,' we could ask, rhetorically,
which is a more important goal for a census? An objective estimate of the de-facto human population of
a geographically defined region based on scientific observations, perhaps including satellite data?
Or a head count for the express and exclusive use in legislative apportionment,
performed to strict constructionist standards? Now, switching back to the subject of elections,
what is the ultimate goal of election administration? To get the right answer (as to who won) as close as possible to 100% of the time?
To make the election an actually-scientific poll, in which estimates of margin of error and margin of victory come with
statistically legitimate levels and intervals of confidence reported in a transparent way?
How should we 'frame' the issue?
Since the Democrats seem to be soft-pedaling the issue (perhaps out of fear of getting a reputation as conspiracy
theorists, or worse, poor sports) one can only assume the Republicans will win by default the opportunity to frame
the issue in a way that gives the institution of electoral democracy the benefit of the doubt, and the prospective applicant
the burden of proof of eligibility, both when attempting to register to vote and when attempting to exercise
Who is to blame?
Have any of the secretaries of state or other election officials failed to exercise due diligence?
Is the spirit of the voting rights act being violated? If so, in what way? Systematically?
Is remaining a voter in good standing an exercise in threading a paper trail though a series of
hoops erected around firm deadlines and tight windows of opportunity? America has allowed its
credit card industry to explore the theoretical frontiers of contractual strong irreversability. Why is the government (at multiple levels) trying to bulletproof America's social contract
against straightforward, simple and realistic conditions for compliance? Why does America's conservative movement feel
sanctity of the voting 'booth' is so threatened by unscrupulous individuals who would exploit it,
that it must deploy strongly proprietary and/or classified technologies of legislative construction,
human inventory tracking, biometric rights management and dedicated election automation hardware and software?
Is the motive to protect institutions in general from individuals in general? Or is it to protect law-abiding
citizens from those individuals who would steal or dilute their franchises?
What recourse might be available, to whom?
What recourse might an aggrieved voter or class of voters have against the election system?
What recourse might the system have against an individual?
What about organized conspiracies of individuals?
What about organized intergovernmental conspiracies of politicians,
perhaps through the nominally transparent process of drafting gotcha clauses and other
inferential land mines, this time coded in strongly non-race-based terms, formally speaking, into new election laws?
Who may request a re-count, and under what conditions?
Is the theoretically inevitable triumph of Machiavellism over formal democracy complete? Irreversible?