Monday, May 21, 2012

Vox Day examines Facebook

The Naked Economy
So Facebook represents the ultimate test of two ideas. The first is that traffic once attracted, can successfully be monetized. Facebook is presently earning only $4 per user per year. Its investors are gambling that it can increase annual revenue per user before its users get bored and begin to fade away. The second is that there is real value created in passing personal information back and forth between people.

It is the second idea that is the more troubling one. While I personally doubt that Facebook, which in my opinion has a dreadful interface, poor performance and a reprehensible privacy policy, can increase its user revenue faster than it loses users, the ultimate fate of Facebook doesn’t really matter to anyone but its investors and those who were hoping its IPO would somehow magically reinvigorate the stock markets. The second issue is the much larger one, because it calls into serious question the direction in which the U.S. economy has been heading for the last 30 years.

Tax, environmental, workplace and other policies have driven commercial activities like natural resource extraction and manufacturing offshore. The Information Economy and its armies of Knowledge Workers have been touted as the substitute means by which we finance our public and private deficits. Mark Zuckerberg is touted as the latest Boy Wonder, following in the undeniably value-adding footsteps of Bill Gates and Steve Jobs. But one wonders, as does Vox, whether Silicon Valley is in dynastic decline.
What Facebook represents is the present pinnacle of the 30-year trend of the Information Age. From start to finish, there is nothing there. There is no real work, there is no real product, there is only the electronic version of paper chasing paper, from the transfer of a picture from one person to another to the transfer of dollars from one bank account to another. Only the copious reliance upon debt and the way in which the money constantly flows from one person to another obscures the fact that no economically productive activity is taking place.

What, precisely, is the significant difference between an economy built on Facebook and a tribe of naked pagans exchanging leaves with one another? At least in the case of the latter, someone is picking up the leaves off the ground. The idea that the more efficient exchange of information would make us more productive refuted itself with the release of Windows 3.0 and the inclusion of Solitaire and today is no more credible than the now-laughable idea that financial innovations and complex financial instruments would benefit the economy as a whole.

I don’t begrudge the Facebook investors their billions nor do I know where this is all leading. And yet, I can’t escape the thought that if Facebook is the crown jewel in our economic empire, the emperor is not wearing any clothes.

There's actually been a good deal of commentary on the ultimate demise of Facebook. A post of mine from January 2011 has some good links, including Richard Spencer's wry observation that being featured on the cover of Time Magazine is a good sign of impending doom. Remember AOL? Remember Time Warner-AOL?

Ultimately, the more efficient exchange of information just means ever lower margins. Facebook is another consumption medium no different than a TV or radio station. They collect revenue from advertising expense in an increasingly fragmented and crowded market. I don't think those little fractions of pennies per page view will add up to much in the long run.

UPDATE: Facebook has already dropped a little over $4 from its initial offering price of $38/share.

Friday, May 18, 2012

Random randomness

From Lawrence Auster's View From The Right

Completely random:


...The Metro Squad is investigating a 60-year-old jogger's murder in Raytown. Witnesses say Harry Stone was jogging when a car drove past and a gunman inside shot him.
Police in the Kansas City suburb say they are exploring new details. In addition, they are examining whether Harry Stone was killed as part of a gang initiation or a dare.

Authorities say there is even more urgency to track down the shooter because of the random nature of this crime.

"It was just such a random act of violence. There was no confrontation beforehand. It was just someone who was shot randomly walking down the street, it could have happened to anybody, it could have been anyone," Metro Squad detective Tom Prudden said.

Isn't this awful, this randomness? Random just lashes out at any old time, gunning you down on your morning jog, like getting hit by a meteor. There just doesn't seem to be any pattern to this, no commonalities, no categories. The Raytown police are baffled.

Maybe if we could apply some kind of rational analysis we might extrapolate something but hey, what can you do about randomness, man? Some phenomena will just remain shrouded in impenetrable mystery...

Friday, May 4, 2012

We've got five more years

Forget retirement...and retirement savings
You've been sold a bill of goods for the last four to six decades. You've been told that nation-states, democracy and socialism is good. You've been told our monetary system prevents instability. And, while the government and central banks put your unborn children or grandchildren into debt for life they've been telling you that there will be a socialist safety net to protect you and that the "American dream" includes retiring in your 50s or 60s to a wonderful life of golf and lying on the beach.

It even appeared to work for a short while thanks to demographics and the greatest advances in human history.

The baby boom caused by the nation-state (which created World War II) and central banking (which created the depression and funded World War II) was truly a boom creating a once-in-a-lifetime chance to make it appear as though some of these inane socialist theories could work. The end of a ponzi scheme is always when net payments outstrip net income. This occurred in 2010 and there is no end in sight even under the US Government's own heavily massaged and always underguesstimated projections...

There is only one reason it and the US Government hasn't gone bankrupt yet. It's because they can still print dollars to cover all these deficits. But how much longer can that realistically last before hyperinflation sets in and the dollar becomes worthless? We can't see any way it goes more than five more years from here... and that's pushing it.

I've posted about the retirement pipe dream before. Suffice to say, the notion that you can get rich owning slivers of huge pooled funds that own slivers in their turn of gigantic corporations is, at the least, rather overstated. And to realize those presumed gains, you have to cash out your fund shares and find someone to sell them to, God willing for more than you paid for them. Bear in mind that there will be a lot of Baby Boomers trying to do the same thing. It will be a buyer's market for cashed-out 401k fund shares.

For most Americans, these gains (if any) will be tax-deferred, not tax exempt, so keep that in mind also when you're calculating your old age-grocery money.

There is no way out of this. The post-WW2 welfare state is unsustainable and retiring Baby Boomers will kill it. Of course, my father reminds me that people have been saying this course is unsustainable since the 1950's, but we keep grinding on.

Thursday, May 3, 2012

Against Protestantism

Mystagogy, via Ad Orientem.
...These, known by the name Evangelicals, have replaced theology with arbitrary reflection, the Mysteries and worship with sermons and religious songs, and prefer a Christianity that is based more on human reason than divine revelation.

They deny the Panagia and our Saints, the Mysteries and Icons, our blessed Tradition and Worship. They invite the Orthodox to celebrate without the Lamentation Hymns and the Epitaphios, without the Akathists' and the Paraklesis', without Holy Communion and the words of the Fathers, without honor towards the Martyrs and the righteous Ascetics, replacing all these things with dry religious rhetoric.

At a time when many who were deceived by the same and have felt betrayed and thirsty and are returning in groups to our Church - even in our own Metropolis in recent years many dozens have been catechized - they are trying to seduce innocent souls from the blessed baptismal font of our Orthodox Faith...

From the comments:
Pray for the protestant missionaries. I know of no cases in Greece, but several in Romania, in which protestants went to convert the Orthodox and instead were converted by the Orthodox.

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

You're fucking kidding me

(Apologies for the rude language)
In order to recognize the American spirit of loyalty and the sacrifices that so many have made for our Nation, the Congress, by Public Law 85-529 as amended, has designated May 1 of each year as "Loyalty Day." On this day, let us reaffirm our allegiance to the United States of America, our Constitution, and our founding values.

NOW, THEREFORE, I, BARACK OBAMA, President of the United States of America, do hereby proclaim May 1, 2012, as Loyalty Day. This Loyalty Day, I call upon all the people of the United States to join in support of this national observance, whether by displaying the flag of the United States or pledging allegiance to the Republic for which it stands.