Beta
×

Welcome to the Slashdot Beta site -- learn more here. Use the link in the footer or click here to return to the Classic version of Slashdot.

Thank you!

Before you choose to head back to the Classic look of the site, we'd appreciate it if you share your thoughts on the Beta; your feedback is what drives our ongoing development.

Beta is different and we value you taking the time to try it out. Please take a look at the changes we've made in Beta and  learn more about it. Thanks for reading, and for making the site better!

Comments

top

One Giant Cargo Ship Pollutes As Much As 50M Cars

bagsc Re:economics (595 comments)

This one is a question of politics and economics. Law of the Sea follows the flag on the ship, flag on the ship goes to the least regulated country. There are cleaner alternatives to bunker fuel, and California mandates use of cleaner ship fuels in California territorial waters. The US could dictate that ships use cleaner fuels in our territorial waters, but outside of that, these ships will continue to use whatever their flag country lets them use.

Sulfur dioxide, however, REVERSES greenhouse effects. If you're afraid of global warming, you should like sulfur emissions.

more than 3 years ago
top

Preserving Memories of a Loved One?

bagsc Check out NPR's StoryCorps for ideas (527 comments)

http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=4516989

If I were you, I'd start coming up with lists of questions that only she would know the answers to. Ask her relatives and friends to come up with questions, some silly, some serious. The more specific the questions, the more specific the answers - more general questions to get her to tell long winded stories that will capture her essence. Ask what you'll want to know ten years from now. Have your kids ask questions. Who knows, some of the answers might come in handy during junior high and high school when social problems are so vexing for kids :)

more than 4 years ago
top

Dell Says 90% of Recorded Business Data Is Never Read

bagsc Compliance and Lawsuits (224 comments)

Probably 95% of the records are for compliance and things legal wants saved for CYA purposes. This is more a function of the legal environment, where everyone wants to sue every business that looks at them funny, and how courts expect tons of documents on everything you've ever done. It'd be an interesting analysis to see what the costs of excess records retention are compared to the legal losses, and more importantly, the losses consumers incur because they can't afford to fight well documented machines or what consumers lose because companies are under-documented.

more than 4 years ago
top

Actually visible to me right now, IRL:

bagsc I see myself. I see multitudes. (274 comments)

Do I contradict myself? Very well then I contradict myself (I am large, I contain multitudes.)

more than 4 years ago
top

Econophysicists Develop and Test "Bubble Index"

bagsc Re:Self-fulfilling prophecies (221 comments)

Identifying things that WERE bubbles is easy enough, depending on what you define a bubble to be. Inside a bubble, the intrinsic defining feature of a bubble is that it is NOT observable, or else everyone would make a fortune off those not observing it by predicting it and drive the price down to prevent it from ever actually being a "bubble". If you are capable of observing a bubble, then by definition you are NOT capable of stopping it.

You're right that timing is an often ignored part of predicting - making a bet costs money, and the juice is always running on speculative bets, especially contrarian ones (here's why). The market can always stay "irrational" longer than you can stay solvent.

Grantham's methodology is based on the historical likelihood of a price movement, which is the same methodology that gave subprime mortgage debt AAA credit rating. It's very reliable for a tight range where asset returns approximate well defined statistical distributions. However the problem with rare, extreme events is that they are easy to observe after the fact, but they are rare and by the time you can tell what is going on, they have an extreme effect on your balance sheet.

His "3 sigma" events are inherently things unlikely to occur, but most importantly its based off three things that change daily, exempli gratis: prices, equity, and the average P/E ratio. Companies with P/E ratios that have been more than 3 times the market P/E ratio include those failures like Microsoft, Google, Apple... Any company with rare growth potential should have an "excessive" P/E ratio. Tech stocks as a sector, for example, have high P/E ratios - but they have not "popped" in the long term (.com bubble being a blip in this longer term trend), they have actually increased the long term P/E ratio of the entire market because they have BECOME the market by crowding out slower growing industries. The price of creativity, innovation and technology is risk.

more than 4 years ago
top

Econophysicists Develop and Test "Bubble Index"

bagsc Re:Self-fulfilling prophecies (221 comments)

"there were smart economists saying..."

Here's a smart economist saying an economist's saying: 12 out of the last 5 market crashes have been predicted. Half the people in the market (also known as "sellers") think the market is going down, and half the people (also known as "buyers") think the market is going up. Both have monetary incentives to proclaim the forthcoming terror/utopia and every day the economic and business news is full of them. They aren't listened to for a reason.

more than 4 years ago
top

Econophysicists Develop and Test "Bubble Index"

bagsc 50% (221 comments)

50% is also known as a completely meaningless prediction. Basically, it says the price could go up or down.

Bubbles are theoretically impossible to predict. If there existed any convincing predictable evidence that an asset price was a bubble, then everyone would sell the asset by the point it crosses that threshold, meaning the price would have gone down, contradicting the predicate that it was a bubble.

"Bubbles" are nothing more than post-hoc descriptions of prices that went up and came down, just like "bargains" are the description of prices that went down before going back up. Prices are very predictable - they go up and down.

more than 4 years ago
top

Intel and AMD Settle Antitrust, Patent Lawsuits

bagsc Re:Only $1.25 Billion? (165 comments)

Intel probably doesn't think AMD is a viable competitor anymore. AMD's net assets, prior to this deal, were in the neighborhood of negative $1.25 billion (assuming it can't get rid of its minority interests *cough GlobalFoundries cough*, and you believe its intellectual property is only worth $168 mil). So AMD is really getting a much better financial position from this deal, after you include the spinoff, and new technology. Intel is getting quite a bit out of the technology sharing agreement too: namely, their technology that they have experience with will continue to dominate the market.

If AMD were to die, their team might get snatched up by a player with deeper pockets and complementary engineering team, like an IBM, and things could get ugly for Intel. More importantly, the realpolitik at this level is important. Regulators around the world would use it as an excuse to attack a major American company as a monopoly, in order to try to boost their national champions. Every country wants a piece of the semiconductor industry and will use any means to get it. It may not be a coincidence that GlobalFoundries decides to build a plant in New York, and the NY AG comes in threatening big action to force this settlement... and if Cuomo couldn't get the case to stick, Eric Holder lived from birth to JD in NY.

more than 4 years ago
top

The Simpsons Worth More Per Viewer On Hulu Than On Fox

bagsc Can't do math? (191 comments)

60*37 20*9*60
Primetime is still more valuable. Fewer commercials means more expensive commercials - that has been long established.

more than 5 years ago
top

Man Attacked In Ohio For Providing Iran Proxies

bagsc REPORT THIS TO FBI, NOT POLICE (467 comments)

FBI knows how to find these guys, and detain them for as long as possible before filing charges. You can bet there will be (non-torture) interrogations. The FBI has plenty of federal laws they can throw at these guys, can work with your local DA, and ICE, not to mention get the warrants to track who these guys are talking to and who else might be a threat to you.

The United States NEEDS you to report ANY activity of this kind immediately.

http://www.fbi.gov/contact/fo/fo.htm

more than 5 years ago
top

Why Isn't the US Government Funding Research?

bagsc MPG is middle of the priority list (599 comments)

The real reason SUVs are popular is because huge vehicles are safe (for those inside). Car accidents are the single leading cause of death and debilitation from ages 1 to 44 in the US (oddly, in 35-44, poisoning barely edges out motor vehicle traffic...), so having a car built like a tank is rational if you're interested in retaining life and limb. Most Americans care more about this than pollution, global warming and Middle East wars, which are statistically much less likely to kill them. A 2008 Jeep Patriot starts at $16,500 MSRP, a Mini One starts at $19,000 but doesn't have enough horsepower for AC, so it isn't sold in the US (MINI Cooper starts $18,500). Both have similar acceleration (11 sec, 0 to 100kmph), Jeep Patriot is safer (19 out of 20 NHTSA Stars vs 17 for AC equipped MINI Cooper), MINI Cooper beats in mpg (28/37 vs 23/28).

The afore mentioned "subsidy" was meant to give US car manufacturers a competitive advantage vis a vis their foreign competitors, and applied to businesses, not consumers. This was not a subsidy per se, but an "accelerated depreciation" tax credit. According to Taxpayers for Common Sense, only 100,000 out of 3.6 million SUVs sold in 2002 claimed the tax credit, so people were clearly not choosing the vehicles primarily for the tax credit. And SUVs were popular before this, so hopefully that "cause" is debunked.

Motorcycles get fantastic MPG, but are much, much more likely to kill you. Walking and horses have even better MPG, but are probably also more likely to kill you per mile traveled.

more than 5 years ago
top

Paul Wilmott Wants To Retrain and Reform Wall Street's Quants

bagsc Re:You can't blame it all on the qunats. (198 comments)

***Use Gaussian if you have an idea of what the parameter probably is but aren't exactly sure, rectangular if you really have no idea. A rectangular distribution says "I have no idea, the parameter could be anywhere within this particular range."

Here you have exactly why the quants got things so wrong. If you have an arbitrary random variable with a finite variance, then a law of large numbers will tell you that it converges to a Guassian under repetition. That's what most educated people know.

The problem is: the odds of an arbitrary distribution with no bounds having a finite variance is zero. In finance and economics, we know this, and we make up so many excuses to use Gaussians instead of more general LLN collection families. Gaussians are so tractable and easy to use, and so consistently used in theory that its second nature for us to use them. And since Gaussians are MLEs with relatively few restrictions, they tend to minimize measures of entropy. And since this is economics, everything ultimately has a bound... somewhere... unless its derivatives.

Not even most economists, financiers, or quants want to have to apply Levy-stable distributions all the time to variables, because working in complex spaces with integrals that never seem to converge when you want them to is a giant mathematical pain in the ass. But that's what real risk management is - your models need to be robust to whether that "variance" number your data indicates is real or bullshit or infinite.

Quants who knew better willfully ignored this, because "risk" (and "volatility" and "variance") makes "return," and they like big paychecks when things are going well. And when things aren't going well, well, who else could understand this stuff? Your average banker with an MBA might fire them, but doesn't have a chance at understanding, so he'll hire the average economist with a PhD who has a small chance, but recommends a mathematician who will say he doesn't understand the interpretation, and will refer you to a quant.

more than 5 years ago
top

Paul Wilmott Wants To Retrain and Reform Wall Street's Quants

bagsc Re:How about... (198 comments)

Finance adds a LOT to the economy. The basic idea of finance is deciding where the most "return" is - ie, what investments are the most productive. If you gave money to every entrepreneur who came asking, you'd be out of money by the end of the day.

Money has meaning. There is a limited supply, and that means you have to prioritize who gets it. It has to be in limited supply in order for it to have "meaning." In order to motivate people to do things, we give them money, instead of trying to guess that they want payment in the form of, say, "a two bedroom house in Santa Monica with a 30 yr mortgage, a 2007 Prius Hybrid on a 5 yr lease, Montessori school for the 7 year old..." Using money not only gives people the freedom to choose what they consume, but it removes the guesswork from employers. If you just hand out money to anyone, you have no price stability, and no ability to plan for the future.

Deciding who to give money to on what terms, based solely on their ability to honor the terms of the understood mutual agreement, is essential to the economy operating. Finance is the art of acquiring money from one source, such as bank stockholders or bond holders, and allocating that money to borrowers or investments in such a way that you reduce the idiosyncratic risk (which your investors want to avoid), thus earning compensation and a premium.

How would you feel if you could only buy a house, or a car, or a college education, or whatever you get on credit cards if you could only buy those products after you had all the money to pay for them in full at the time of purchase? Or if you could never get an incentive to save money? If you've ever been a saver or a borrower, the answer is you'd be worse off, by your revealed preference.

The problems only occur when parts of these statements are negated. For example, if banks extend credit to people who can't repay it, or if bank risk managers are idiots, or if the agreements aren't mutually understood and agreed to. Yeah, there's always going to be people who exploit their position to do unethical things, in any field. I think credit card companies are blood suckers, and I think using credit cards is evil. But I sure as hell save and invest in companies I believe have the ability to improve peoples lives and get paid for it.

Don't blame finance, blame the people who use it to do evil.

more than 5 years ago
top

North Korea Conducts Nuclear Test

bagsc Re:In Communist Korea... (573 comments)

North Korea isn't above burying 20,000 tons of TNT equivalent high explosives for propaganda purposes.

more than 5 years ago
top

North Korea Conducts Nuclear Test

bagsc Re:War is peace (573 comments)

What could China do with our debt, sue us? We know the serial numbers of every bond theyve ever bought from us, and we could simply declare we are keeping those payments in escrow because China is the worlds biggest human rights violator. As long as they play our game, we keep the interest checks coming.

more than 5 years ago
top

Plastic and Fuel That Grow On Trees

bagsc Cellulosic hydroxymethylfurfural is a trap (188 comments)

If you can turn cellulose into a valuable, exportable commodity, say goodbye to every third world ecosystem with trees.

more than 5 years ago
top

Cola Consumption Can Lead To Muscle Problems

bagsc Re:Shit (420 comments)

TFA says "The case studies looked at patients whose consumption ranged from two to nine litres of cola a day."

For those of you used to measuring in six packs, six 12 oz cans of cola is 2.1 liters.

more than 5 years ago
top

Cola Consumption Can Lead To Muscle Problems

bagsc Nope (420 comments)

Sodium in cola is pretty minimal. Compare:

Pack of ramen: 890mg
12 oz of V8: 885mg
Small fries: 144mg
100 grams of carrots: 69mg
12 oz of Coke: 38mg

more than 5 years ago
top

Cola Consumption Can Lead To Muscle Problems

bagsc Re:Shit (420 comments)

Not to mention, eating 2-3 bananas over the course of the day would probably correct the problem.

Not quite. 3 bananas might get you a gram of potassium. People should get about 5 grams a day from fruits and vegetables, but the average American gets about 2.5 grams a day. If you're hypokalemic, you need a professional to dose out your potassium. You might need 1 gram, you might need 10 grams, you might need it intravenously, and too much or too little may kill you, depending.

However, if you're hypokalemic and don't want to deal with medical professionals, just:
1) avoid any salty foods, and
2) eat only normal foods that happen to have good potassium.

I keep bananas, almonds, dried apricots, raisins, prunes, dates, etc on hand to snack on when I get hypokalemic symptoms.

more than 5 years ago
top

Cola Consumption Can Lead To Muscle Problems

bagsc Re:Cola specific? (420 comments)

Cola is significantly worse than water because:
1) Simple sugars (glucose, fructose) significantly enhance electrolyte absorption and reabsorption. The later is important, because in your kidneys, this means more electrolytes excreted.
2) Caffeine is a diuretic, and increases glomerular filtration rate, leading to more fluid and electrolyte excretion.
3) Cola is very acidic (eg 2.6 pH). This strips out cations (sodium, potassium, calcium) and increased levels of anions (citrate, chloride, carbonate).

The three of these working together simultaneously dramatically increases the amount of electrolytes removed from the body, and does so fairly quickly since they are absorbed quickly (due to the sugars).

more than 5 years ago

Submissions

top

Microsoft to Open Source Code

bagsc bagsc writes  |  more than 6 years ago

bagsc (254194) writes "This could be the big one! Details are scarce so far, but tomorrow's Wall Street Journal page one says: "Microsoft Corp., aiming to battle Internet rivals, announced a sweeping set of moves to loosen control of its tightly protected programs and encourage software makers to build add-on products." Vista, Word, Excel have been named as to be opened. It looks like this may be a concession to regulators to get the Yahoo! deal done."
Link to Original Source
top

New Peak Oil Advocate: Big Oil

bagsc bagsc writes  |  more than 6 years ago

bagsc (254194) writes "In this morning's Wall Street Journal is an article on how Big Oil CEOs and OPEC Ministers are admitting oil production may be near its limit. CEO of ConocoPhillips James Mulva is quoted saying "I don't think we are going to see the supply going over 100 million barrels a day.... Where is all that going to come from?" While the EIA currently estimates about 85 million barrels per day production this year, that doesn't give the world too much room to increase consumption."
Link to Original Source
top

The High Tech War Against... Spray paint.

bagsc bagsc writes  |  more than 6 years ago

bagsc (254194) writes "The Montebello Police Department is rolling out the latest in crime-fighting technology, sensors that detect the sound of spray paint. Walls across the country are calling this a major victory. From the article: "The system, produced by Pasadena-based Axium Technologies Inc., includes a sensor that company and police officials said reacts to the sound emitted from an aerosol can up to 80 feet away. When triggered, the system notifies authorities quickly through an electronic link to police headquarters, they said.""
Link to Original Source
top

Cat Predicts Death with Alarming Accuracy

bagsc bagsc writes  |  more than 7 years ago

bagsc (254194) writes "Oscar the Cat is not your typical friendly feline. When people are really ill at his nursing home, he curls up next to them until they die. In fact, according to a recent article published in the New England Journal of Medicine, he has predicted the deaths of 25 patients, and is almost never wrong. Many news sites have reported this. Compassionate furry companion to the ill, or stealer of souls? You decide."

Journals

top

bagsc bagsc writes  |  more than 7 years ago

If it wasn't the difference between which party was in control of the government, no one would say anything about terrorism at all. Voting on politicians based on their terrorism policies is less likely to improve you lifespan than eating another vegetable every day. Because terrorists, by and large, do not exist in the US.

Why would I make such a claim? When we weren't looking, and al-Qaeda had its own country, they attacked US soil twice in 15 years (WTC I, WTC II). Now we are looking, and they are back to caves.

I know this is Slashdot, but if you've ever been to a club, (or a theater, or a lecture hall, or anyplace with more than 100 people in a room) you'd know that there are many, many ways a terrorist, if one existed, could easily kill a hundred Americans in a day. And that would terrify Americans. Hence, they could do what they wanted to if they had someone here.

Some places, like clubs or theaters, will check your bags to make sure you have no guns/food. Yet there are hundreds of thousands of other such venues in America open and full EVERY DAY. Over five years, this means millions if not billions of opportunities for mass casualty attacks in the US. Football stadiums, high school cafeterias, malls, restaurants, offices... but nothing since the second al-Qaeda attack.

The fact is you're more likely to be shot dead by your daughter, or a nun, or during an orgy.

top

bagsc bagsc writes  |  more than 8 years ago

On September 11th, 2001, several structures were destroyed in New York City, the nation stood stunned for a few days, and 3,000 people died. Worst terrorist attack in American history. There was a recession, and we spent a hell of a lot of money on security and wars.

So what? I hate to sound fatalistic, but these sorts of things happen. I mean, it would be nice if all the money we give to intelligence agencies to prevent this sort of thing had worked, but they are government employees. Doubling security at airports meant keeping people from having matches and toenail clippers. Instead of one idiot getting paid $5.15 to just stand there, they had two idiots just standing there. And the economy had been in a recession for the last six months, we just didn't have the data yet.

But 3,000 people died - that means something, doesn't it? How many people died from heart attacks because of the news coverage? 35% more in Brooklyn for the 60 days after 9/11 - how many nationally? Heart attacks are more common than terrorist attacks in the United States. Since 2000, we're averaging 500 terorist deaths per year out of 300,000,000 people. And with 1,500,000 heart attacks in the US per year, a 1% increase in extreme stress levels would likely produce an extra 15,000 heart attacks. 500 people dying per year give you a headache? Take acetominophen. Only 56,000 Americans get hospitalized for acetominophen overdoses per year. Depressing, isn't it? 30,500 suicides in the US per year. Slightly more deadly than shoe bombers and toenail clippers.

It's called "terrorism" for a reason. You're more likely to die of fear than from the actual thing. When Saddam Hussein rained his terror weapon SCUDs at Israel in 1991, seven people died. Two heart attacks, and five suffocations in gas masks.

Let's just brush aside the deaths of civilians in Afghanistan (they had it coming). 100,000 civilians dead in colateral damage in Iraq? That's what they get for the 1% chance someone there was involved in a terrorist plot! 3,000 dead Americans there... who actually knows how many. We just know more than 2,500 are combat fatalities. 15,000 US wounded or so? That's nothing. 300,000 troops deployed, 50% of US military are married, and 50% of marriages during a combat deployment result in divorce (who knew war was stressful?), so that's a mere 75,000 broken homes.

$300 billion spent on war in Iraq (that's $1000 out of your pocket), as much as $100 billion in damages to the economy from 9-11, $50 billion a year in increased defense and security spending... But what's $600 billion between friends?

But that's all in the past now. Today, we have the ability to just take a deep breath, and let it go... The stress and fear will kill you, or worse. Contemplate the most expensive thing we have, and knowing that while we still have it, we're gonna be OK. We still have our Constitution, and our rights. That's what we need to protect, because a few hundred thousand lives ruined and lost, and a few hundred billion dollars lost will pale in comparison to that loss. The costliest, most damaging, bloodiest war we've ever fought was with ourselves...

top

bagsc bagsc writes  |  more than 8 years ago

On September 11th, 2001, several structures were destroyed in New York City, the nation stood stunned for a few days, and 3,000 people died. Worst terrorist attack in American history. There was a recession, and we spent a hell of a lot of money on security and wars.

So what? I hate to sound fatalistic, but these sorts of things happen. I mean, it would be nice if all the money we give to intelligence agencies to prevent this sort of thing had worked, but they are government employees. Doubling security at airports meant keeping people from having matches and toenail clippers. Instead of one idiot getting paid $5.15 to just stand there, they had two idiots just standing there. And the economy had been in a recession for the last six months, we just didn't have the data yet.

But 3,000 people died - that means something, doesn't it? How many people died from heart attacks because of the news coverage? 35% more in Brooklyn for the 60 days after 9/11 - how many nationally? Heart attacks are more common than terrorist attacks in the United States. Since 2000, we're averaging 500 terorist deaths per year out of 300,000,000 people. And with 1,500,000 heart attacks in the US per year, a 1% increase in extreme stress levels would likely produce an extra 15,000 heart attacks. 500 people dying per year give you a headache? Take acetominophen. Only 56,000 Americans get hospitalized for acetominophen overdoses per year. Depressing, isn't it? 30,500 suicides in the US per year. Slightly more deadly than shoe bombers and toenail clippers.

It's called "terrorism" for a reason. You're more likely to die of fear than from the actual thing. When Saddam Hussein rained his terror weapon SCUDs at Israel in 1991, seven people died. Two heart attacks, and five suffocations in gas masks.

Let's just brush aside the deaths of civilians in Afghanistan (they had it coming). 100,000 civilians dead in colateral damage in Iraq? That's what they get for the 1% chance someone there was involved in a terrorist plot! 3,000 dead Americans there... who actually knows how many. We just know more than 2,500 are combat fatalities. 15,000 US wounded or so? That's nothing. 300,000 troops deployed, 50% of US military are married, and 50% of marriages during a combat deployment result in divorce (who knew war was stressful?), so that's a mere 75,000 broken homes.

$300 billion spent on war in Iraq (that's $1000 out of your pocket), as much as $100 billion in damages to the economy from 9-11, $50 billion a year in increased defense and security spending... But what's $600 billion between friends?

But that's all in the past now. Today, we have the ability to just take a deep breath, and let it go... The stress and fear will kill you, or worse. Contemplate the most expensive thing we have, and knowing that while we still have it, we're gonna be OK. We still have our Constitution, and our rights. That's what we need to protect, because a few hundred thousand lives ruined and lost, and a few hundred billion dollars lost will pale in comparison to that loss. The most damaging, bloodiest war we've ever fought was with ourselves...

top

bagsc bagsc writes  |  more than 8 years ago

"The journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step"

It's funny that you can spend years of you life studying something and always find a new angle on it. Especially when that new angle is several thousand years old. I've spent a lot of time thinking today about debt, a fundamental building block of finance, and religion.

Debt really isn't that complicated. Someone gives you something, and you oblige yourself on your honor (or some other social contract) to give them something back. If I give a relative some money when they're on hard times, and they're obliged to return it, is that moral? Why didn't I just give it to them with no obligation - that would be charity, and that would be moral. Is it less moral to let them suffer without that money? What if trying to repay that debt causes them even more suffering?

This isn't exactly groundbreaking philosophizing. Consider Matthew 6:9-15. I'm certain the phrase "Forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors" will ring a bell. But why, of all the sins of flesh and soul should the Lord's Prayer choose only indebtedness to be spoken of? Isn't that a little weird?

I'm no Bible student, but it seems to be that its a perfect simplification of all social convenants. If I dishonor/shame/insult/hurt the society, I'd prefer that my mistake/misjudgement/stupidity be forgotten. The entire concept of a contract, a covenant probably originated in debt, as it's such a basic economic principle.

Validating this, consider the Arabic word for 'religion' - 'deen.' In Arabic, words are very important and enlightening in their relationships. 'Deen' is from the root word 'dayn' - meaning debt. Note the important fact from this relationship: Religion in Arabic is a outgrowth of the more fundamental concept of debt. Some Arabic philosophers describe the relationship as man's debt to God and doing good deeds to eventually repay the debt which will be accounted for when he dies. Yet I think in a more simplistic view, we can view worldviews as a framework for how your actions impact society positively or negatively, and how you should be rewarded or punished for it, and come to religion from there.

Judaism, Christianity, and Islam forbid usuary, but some groups don't necessarily forbid interest. Islam allows no debts whatsoever in most interpretations, but usury today in most Christian-valued countries merely means excessive interest. In a related note, most credit card and "personal loan" companies in the US charges exactly the legal limit for many sub-prime borrowers. And many "pay-day loans" contracts are still working their way through the system to see if they are illegal.

Islamic Banking is incredibly complicated, as it requires just as many theologians as it does bankers. Riba, the Arabic word for usury, is forbidden while a great many other types of contracts are not. During the Christian days, insurance, investments sharing risk, and forward sales were legal. Yet any financial theorist could tell you that is identical to interest, a fact that forms the basis of many proofs in financial theory. Islam forbids even most insurance, as it considers it to be gambling.

Some blame the inability to accept debt risk in Islamic society for their economic backwardness. 'Inshahallah' is the Arabic phrase meaning 'if Allah wills it (then it will be)' - and the fact that this fatalistic phrase is one of the most common in Arabic is somewhat disenheartening for a developmental economist. Can Saudi Arabia, land of the Prophet, sell oil for dollars and buy American bonds with them? Is that ethical? How do you 'follow the money' if no one will use a bank?

Loan sharking is a Federal crime in America, and we have the right to enter bankruptcy if we can't fulfill our obligations (sometimes). But is it ethical to forgive debts to other counties? There's actually a law preventing the Federal government from lending below its cost of capital without an Act of Congress. If we lend money to a corrupt government in Africa, and they can't pay it back, do we set an example with strength by letting them suffer? Do we set an example for charity and being a pushover? How do our actions impact the worldviews of the world?

Anti-semitism tends to focus on the old religious contradiction, Jews cannot charge interest to Jews, Christians can't charge interest to anyone, but Jews can charge interest to Christians. The ever popular conspiracy theory on the Arab street 'Protocols of Zion' (before casting stones, remember Ann Coulter is a best seller in the US...) blames Jews for everything through banking. How many millions people have died because of differences of opinion on how debts may be repaid?

It's humbling to take something so simple, that you use everyday in work and in life, and consider the massive implications of it. When does debt benefit society? I don't have an answer.

Slashdot Login

Need an Account?

Forgot your password?