Monday, November 29, 2010

The Cinnamon Bear

Today marks 26 days before Christmas. This is significant because there are precisely 26 episodes of "The Cinnamon Bear," a wondrous 1937 radio serial about the adventures of Judy, Jimmy and a diminutive bear by the name of Paddy O'Cinnamon... and with a 4.5-year-old in the household, I am sure we will enjoy every one of them.

Radio can be a difficult concept for contemporary kids to grasp. The local model doesn't quite get why she can't watch Click and Clack on "Car Talk" as well as hearing them (although I am beyond delighted that she likes listening to them in the first place). A program like "The Cinnamon Bear" is an accessible way to explore not only a delightful holiday story, but the way kids lived in the 1930s and 1940s.

Here are a few links to more information on "The Cinnamon Bear." Free recordings are available here and there; it is also available on iTunes.

A personal finance blogger with fond memories of listening on Portland's KEX radio, plus audio links

In case you wanted to know who voices what...

A free coloring book

Friday, November 19, 2010

In the zone

Interesting article in the NYT the other day about how concentration correlates to happiness (click here).

Especially notable quote from William F. Buckley, Jr.: “Industry is the enemy of melancholy.”

Words to live by, even if I tend to be extremely bad at doing so.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Money money money

The question of how the national financial system should be organized has plagued the United States from its inception. Alexander Hamilton established the first National Bank as part of a program to create a firm, centralized footing for collecting tax receipts, control the monetary supply, tie the fortunes of elites to the nation's economic future and create a ready source for government loans. His Democratic Republican opponents, however, strenuously opposed the system, arguing it carried federal power far beyond what had been granted in the Constitution. Consequently, once the Federalist Party left the executive, the charter of the first National Bank was allowed to lapse.

The events of the War of 1812, when, among other things, the country nearly went bankrupt, led even the Democratic Republicans to believe a National Bank was necessary to ensure true economic independence from Britain. Accordingly, President James Madison signed a second National Bank bill into law in 1816. Once again, however, centralized banking fell out of favor, as the new Democratic Party gained increasing power, opposition to economic elitism became the rallying cry of the masses and Andrew Jackson was elected to the presidency. Jackson, once again, let the National Bank lapse. Several decades of decentralized banking practice followed.

By the early 1900s, tired of up-and-down swings in the national economy, the federal government under President Woodrow Wilson established the Federal Reserve System, which formally opened on this day in 1914. A uniform federal monetary policy was deemed the best way to administer the economy. Alterations in monetary supply and interest rates could smooth out the bumps and dips in the American economy.

Ultimately, of course, we have continued to have bumps and dips... most notably, that little episode called the "Great Depression" that transpired less than twenty years after the Fed was established, although it is worth noting that many historians have described how different decisions on the part of the Fed might have lessened the Depression's impact. In other words, it was not the institution so much as it was the practice. Today, however, in the midst of another recession, there is growing sentiment in some areas of the country against federal involvement in monetary policy. The November edition of The Atlantic featured a profile on Ron Paul, the Texas Republican (Libertarian, more accurately) who advocates a return to the gold standard and routinely excoriates the actions of the Fed. We live in interesting times. Will we see another transition?