A Mind That Suits What doesn't kill me, makes me laugh... usually.

Tuesday, December 23, 2003 :::
Hello, dear friends: a severely truncated Christmas break in lovely Wilimington means truncated blogging. This may be good for the world.

The business world is riveted by the news of the impending collapse of Parmalat, a company known in the US perhaps only to soccer fans, as their names are emblazoned on the jerseys of the most important local soccer team in the world, the storied Juventus, from Torino. "Juventus" is Latin for young man, and young men are indeed the only peoplel who can play soccer at that exalted level, and then only before the age of about 32. They are the Yankees of Italian football, having captured one in four national championships over the years.

Juventus is privately held (a new man just bought it two or three years ago), so Parmalat must have paid for the advertising space. They also tried to break into this market, but we have a fairly entrenched dairy industry ourselves, and it is an iffy thing whether Americans would readily accept milk sold in rectangual cartons with plastic holes in the top for pouring. A Mind That Suits has always felt it looked, for this reason, like a milk substitute, but it is just milk. Which set of facts brings this brief thought:

A fascinating thing about business--something that humanities majors either miss or regret--is that there is a business aspect to absolutely everything, because the only way that humans have devised to substantially improve their material existence is to trade something they have for something they need or want. And it has been going on for a very long time. Frederick Hayek pointed out, in his last, majestic work, The Fatal Conceit, that what anthropologists dismiss as "trinkets without value" in archaeological sites were in fact goods that people either found attractive or that they sought as an important symbol, much the way as having fine Italian ceramics and Bohemian crystal today signals that a person is rich and educated. Just think of Frazier's apartment and all that it is intended to convery.

A Mind That Suits is currently finishing a translation of a very interesting book about the first medieval thinkers who sought to understand how markets work, but long before a group of Italian Franciscan philosophers managed to figure it out, your average schlub all across the globe had figured it out. Which may be why philosophers throughout history, beginning with Aristotle, have always looked down their noses at the whole business. This comes to mind because this crisis in world stock markets--brought on, apparently, by the usual combination of greed and arrogance--mainly involves milk, which is what Parmalat mainly produces. So far in the US, the scandals left over from the late 90's binge have involved finance (which seems exotic and slightly dishonest to begin with), or oil, land, and medicine, where scandals are routine. And of course the whole tech thing. But now the scandals have hit European breakfast tables, and in fact it is quite a big deal where lots of innocent investors are going to lose their cash. Yet again.

And in other grim news from Europe, the Italian parliament is passing a series of laws that will allow in vitro fertilization only as an aid to married couples, but the French parliament just passed a law making, essentially, designer babies legal. The new French law specifically allows the sorting of embryos for desirable characteristics, which is after all nothing more than the flip side of allowing people to sort embryos to for health reasons. As the European Union has been used very successfully as a stealth mechanism for imposing the most unreformed statist vision on those parts of Europe that had remained free, this latest combination of news means that it is a good thing that talks over a European constitution have collapsed and they are going to have to take more time and be more careful about unification.

And this morning's column by Alan Murray in the indispensible Journal (available, alas, only to online subscribers) traces the spending by one of the mainy mysterious groups that have sprung up to circumvent the wildly unconstitutional and misconceived McCain-Feingold Campaign Finance 'Reform" bill, recently upheld by a wildly stupid Supreme Court. The group--"Americans for Justice, Healthcare, and Progressive Values--seems to be run and financed by people with well-established connections to Dick Gephardt, one of the few actually rational people running for the Democratic nomination. There is more than one such group. In fact, there are a lot of them. This year, most of them are organized by Democrats (as W. does not need to worry about this kind of stuff.) The operative sentence by Mr. Murray: (The activities of these groups) make it clear that "reform" has pushed more money toward shadowy "independent" groups that are less transparent and less accountable than political parties." The reformers have noticed, and are scrambling to rewrite the rules yet again. As Mr. Murray notes, 'Good luck."

And with that, have a lovely day.

::: posted by A Mind That Suits at 8:58 AM



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What doesn't kill me, makes me laugh... usually.

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