Down, down, down...
Day after day for the last 2 weeks...almost everything has been grinding down.
Stocks, oil, copper, bond yields... It looks as though the whole world economy is slowing down. China, India, America, Europe. All are slowing.
How much longer can this slow down continue?
A lot longer!
We should have some bounce in the markets this week. But beware. Our "Crash Alert" flag is up.
We spent the weekend in Charlottesville, VA...at the UVA graduation for our son, Henry.
The University of Virginia is probably the most handsome campus in America. Especially in May. It has a green central esplanade bordered by columned buildings in the Greco-roman style. At one end is the famous Rotunda. Flowers and trees bloom everywhere.
We know of no other president who achieved anything equivalent. Some waged dubious wars. Some launched weasely social welfare programs. The best of them idled away their careers, shaking hands, making deals, and otherwise shuffling offstage leaving it no better or worse than it was when the curtain first went up. But Mr. Jefferson left an architectural monument that is breathtaking. He would be proud of it today.
It is too bad that the silliloquies of its 2012 commencement exercises came nowhere close to the grandeur of the setting itself. Instead, there was nothing more than the usual hollow, air-head do-goodism you associate with graduation speakers. One urges students to go out in the world and 'make a difference.' Another tells them to use their educations for some great public purpose. Another insists that they become the leaders tomorrow. All declare that their years spent (there was no mention of the money) at UVA were a good investment...both formative and decisive...making them the determined, capable people that they have allegedly become.
Jefferson would roll his eyes.
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Herewith, we offer an alternative graduation speech. An honest address to the class of 2012. One we will never be invited to give:
I see you before me. Arranged in alphabetical order. From Mr. Aaron from Alexandria to Mr. Zyman of Richmond. You are all suited up...wearing the ancient vetements that have marked men of learning for hundreds of years. And in a few minutes you will move the tassles on your funny little hats from the right side to the left, indicating that you have been awarded a bachelor's degree. This signifies that you have joined the few...the elite...the learned.
But how many of you really are learned? How many are imposters? How many are capable of writing a simple essay? How many can decline a Latin verb? How many have mastered calculus and quantum physics?
You've heard about the group of men at the old English club. The waiter comes up and asks if they would like some hocke. One of them cleverly says 'hic, haec, hoc.' So the waiter comes back with drinks for all of them except him. When he asks why, the waiter replies: 'But sir, you declined the hocke.'
How many of you got that joke?
I only ask the question because I am suspicious. Many college grads of today could hardly be called intellectuals. Many have hardly used their brains at all. Some have merely spent the last four years learning a few tricks and the latest jargon of a trade. Marketing, for example. Or journalism. Marketing evolves so fast that whatever you learn here will be mostly obsolete by the time you get a job. If you ever get a job. Besides, the important points could be picked up in a few weeks on the job anyway.
As to journalism, there are a few skills you need to know, which you could pick up in an afternoon; the rest is undifferentiated. You look. You ask questions. You think. And you tell the world what you come up with. No college necessary. In fact, college may hinder you. Instead of using your own eyes and your own brain, and developing your own way of looking at things, you spent your best years in class absorbing the claptrap du jour of the mainstream media.
Others among you have read popular novels or a few history books. You think you know something. Maybe you call yourself a historian. Or perhaps a literary critic. My advice is to keep that to yourself. You have paid a lot of money for something that millions of other people - just as smart as you are - do for a hobby or past-time. There's not much real knowledge in either of those things...just opinions and ideas which are more vanity and entertainment than genuine learning.
Same thing for those who have spent years studying 'politics' or 'economics.' Drop the pretense that you know something. You don't. All you have is a full plate of opinions...most of them preposterous...and most of them indigestible by a thoughtful person.
I don't doubt that many of the courses offered here - to say nothing of the beer parties - are interesting and fun. But are they worth $160,000 and 4 years of your life? How about some of these titles that I got out of the Course Catalog for 2012: "Fantasy and Values" or "Black Women Authors" or the "Cinema of India" or "Feminist Theory in Anthropology," or "Creole Narratives" or "Zen" or "Business Ethics" ...?
As to that last one, when you get out in the real world, which unless you go to graduate school is happening as of tomorrow...you will find that it is very unlike the make-believe world at this university.
They say that going to a university you open yourself up to a whole world of knowledge. Yes, perhaps you do gain easy access a whole world of simplified knowledge and politically correct opinions. But you also cut yourself off from a larger world of real knowledge...the kind you get by doing and observing.
In your course on Business Ethics, for example, you are no-doubt exposed to a number of ideas and theories on the subject. You'd be better off learning it on the job. First, instead of paying someone to teach you, you would get paid for learning. Besides, you can get the ideas and information in the course materials by reading a few $29 books...or read them on-line for even less. That is true for almost all the coursework in the arts and social sciences. It is all available to you at much less expense. So, in a sense, you have been a sap to pay so much for it.
But you would do even better to combine your reading with real life experience. And in real life you would quickly discover that things are much more complex, much more nuanced, and much less clear than you thought. That's true in business ethics as it is in everything else. As the Jewish philosopher Hillel explained, the core idea of the Torah, the Bible, the Sermon on the Mount, and business ethics is as simple as this: if you wouldn't want someone to do it to you, don't do it to someone else. The rest is detail. And the details depend on the situation, which you only encounter in its full complexity, when you are face to face with it. You don't encounter it in a book...or in your lecture halls...or in your seminars on campus. So, the time you spend on campus actually prevents and delays you from coming to grips with the real problems you will face in real life...and thus retards your education.
So, you've spent - or your parents...or the taxpayers - have spent $150,000 on your education. And you're retarded.
And now you enter the job market. And don't think you'll have an easy time of it. Because previous graduates of this university and other have applied the lessons they learned in school and made a godawful mess of the economy. There are 14 million people without jobs. About one in 20 young people is jobless. You're just another one. Frankly, I'm surprised the unemployment rate for young people isn't higher...given how worthless most young people are.
Why so many unemployed? Because economics professors have taught 3 generations of economists that a command and control economy - to a point - will work. It won't. But a command and control economy is good for economists and do-gooders, who get jobs commanding.
Economists convinced policymakers...who have their own corrupt reasons for wanting to twist up the economy - to control the price of labor...and prevent it from falling, using a variety of tools and subterfuges. By the way, a 'subterfuge' is defined in the dictionary as "an artifice or expedient used to evade a rule, escape a consequence, hide something, etc."
I mention that because I know that half of you are functionally illiterate. MSNBC recently reported that: