Skip to main content

Death and Taxes

"In this world nothing can be said to be certain, except Death and Taxes" was Ben Franklin's version of a proverb that had a much older currency, and they are words to live by.

Reading the terrified wittering of the average British Newspaper, especially the Daily Mail or the Daily Express, one could be forgiven for thinking that the certainty of Death was immediate and very painful. Scare stories of a hundred different kinds are printed one after another in a litany of sickness and fear.

Yes, Death is inevitable, but it is not inevitable NOW. More to the point, while the extinction of life in one individual might be hard luck on that person, Life in general really does "go on". What we can learn from nature, and even from ourselves is that life is very resilient- it adapts to seemingly impossible situations, and often does so with humour and grace.

Thus the negative energy that seems to surround the British press, with fear and anger firmly to the fore, is not only an inaccurate view of life, it is actually counter productive. In the same way that Economists have famously predicted seven of the last three recessions, so most scare stories, even if true as far as they go, are often mitigated by a wide variety of other factors. Sometimes bad things happen, but sometimes they are averted or turn out not to be so bad anyway.

This is not an excuse for inaction or apathy.

In fact being socially engaged is one thing that we can do to retain our equilibrium, since it promotes a greater sense of control of our lives and improves our mood and mental health. Brits today are said to be less happy than they were in the 1950s, and this is not due to a lack of wealth- we are all pretty much as wealthy as we have ever been. It is to do with a sense of a lack of control over our own lives. We have become socially isolated, and yet although we know social engagement, in community groups, a political party, or a church, actively promotes well being, ever fewer of us are doing so.

More and more research shows that well being and mental health rests on a positive engagement with the community. Yet the sour negativity of the Press actively disengages people, especially from politics. Each time I visit the UK I see a country less socially cohesive, more resentful of its neighbours, less willing to behave altruistically. Fear of Paedophiles has isolated our children from general society; Health and Safety issues remove a needed- and often enjoyable- element of danger in our lives.

So, as we contemplate the limited time we are allowed as individuals, it would make us happier if we could improve our social environment. Possibly the best way to do that is to avoid reading the British Daily Mail: it is after all, quite literally, driving us mad.

Nothing is certain, and to live our lives with a sense of positive possibility is far more enjoyable than cringing from fears and scare stories that are quite often totally groundless.


Popular posts from this blog

Trump and Brexit are the Pearl Harbor and the Fall of Singapore in Russia's Hybrid war against the West.

In December 1941, Imperial Japan launched a surprise attack on the United States at Pearl Harbor. After the subsequent declaration of war, within three days, the Japanese had sunk the British warships, HMS Prince of Wales and HMS Repulse, and the rapid Japanese attack led to the surrender of Hong Kong on Christmas Day 1941 and the fall of Singapore only two months after Pearl Harbor. These were the opening blows in the long war of the Pacific that cost over 30,000,000 lives and was only ended with the detonations above Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

"History doesn't often repeat itself, but it rhymes" is an aphorism attributed to Mark Twain, and in a way it seems quite appropriate when we survey the current scene. 

In 1941, Imperial Japan, knowing its own weakness, chose a non-conventional form of war, the surprise attack. Since the end of his first Presidential term, Vladimir Putin, knowing Russia's weakness, has also chosen non-conventional ways to promote his domestic powe…

The American National nightmare becomes a global nightmare

It is a basic contention of this blog that Donald J Trump is not fit for office.

A crooked real estate developer with a dubious past and highly questionable finances. he has systematically lied his way into financial or other advantage. His personal qualities include vulgarity, sexual assault allegations and fraudulent statements on almost every subject. 

He lost the popular vote by nearly three million votes.

He has, of course, been under criminal investigation practically since before he took the oath of office. The indictment of some of closest advisers is just the beginning. His track record suggests that in due course there is no action he will not take, whether illegal or unconstitutional in order to derail his own inevitable impeachment and the indictments that must surely follow the successful investigation of Robert Mueller into his connections with Russia.

However, all of that is a matter for the American people. 

It is also a matter for the American people that Trump is cheating…

The rumbling financial markets

Security specialists use a variety of ways to address the risks that they face: and these risk assessments are made in the certain knowledge that the actors in the system hold only incomplete information. Although much mocked at the time, Donald Rumsfeld’s categorization of “known unknowns” and “unknown unknowns”, is now generally recognized as a succinct summery of his strategic quandaries.
By contrast, actors in the financial markets have a more sanguine assessment of the risks they deal with: they divide them into two kinds of risk: quantifiable and unquantifiable. Unquantifiable risk is not generally considered, since there is usually no financial profit that can be made except from pure supposition. Therefore for the purposes of the financial markets, any given event is priced relative to its level of probability, that is to say its quantifiable risk. 
Depending on the market, higher levels of risk generally carry higher prices, lower levels generally lower prices. Clearly such an…