Choosing Vegetarianism is Ignoring Human Biology

http://wholehealthsource….bout-human.html

I heartily enjoy eating meat. I consider animal products to be the ultimate human food where “ultimate” means that for me to recognize a food-pairing as a meal, it must contain meat.

My feelings on food are typical even as they are no doubt heavily-influenced by American culture. Nevertheless, I suspect that most humans feel similarly. It’s for this reason that most of us meat-eaters raise a brow, groan, or otherwise strike a perplexed pose when encountering friends, family members, or acquaintances who choose not to eat meat. We intuitively don’t get it. I believe this is because avoiding animal products fundamentally goes against our biologically-formed nature.

For sake of discussion, I lump all non-meat-eaters into the category vegetarians recognizing this fails to recognize any number of distinctive differences!

Though some meat-heads can be intolerant of vegetarians, for the most part us carnivorously-inclined humans simply resign to rolling our eyes and not asking too many questions. Live and let live, so to speak.

However, even as we can all be tolerant to differing viewpoints on nutrition and food, as we learn more about our evolutionary past, which is to say our own biological predisposition, certain conclusions become unavoidable. One of those conclusions is that human beings have been selected via evolution to eat animal products. How do we know this? Well, it merely takes looking at our evolutionary preceptors and acknowledging that if they were omnivorous or carnivorous, it’s highly probably that we should be, too.

What do we see in our past? The second closest ancestors to modern humans, the Neanderthals, managed to “stick around” (not die out) up until around 30,000 years ago — these were the now-extinct neanderthals. Did they eat only plants? No. Neanderthals “were basically carnivorous” (See Stephan’s in-depth write-up, partially quoted below). Furthermore, you have to go a very long ways back to find any preceptor to Homo Sapiens that came close to being a vegetarian — chimpanzees branched off from the Homo genus some five million years ago!

Whatever reason for choosing vegetarianism, it really doesn’t matter to the following conclusion: choosing vegetarianism requires ignoring or rejecting human biology. This doesn’t make it wrong to choose vegetarianism; it just doesn’t jive with our genetics. Avoiding animal products in your diet may put your health at risk.

The question vegetarians should ask themselves is: is it worth risking their health to maintain adherence to a life-paradigm or morality that is in direct conflict with their biological nature?

I believe we will achieve considerably more coherence within our chosen morality if that morality is built with a firm grasp of human nature. That we are intended* to eat animals is part of that nature.

If you look at the chart above, Homo rhodesiensis (typically considered a variant of Homo heidelbergensis) is our closest ancestor, and our point of divergence with neanderthals (Homo neanderthalensis). Some archaeologists believe H. heidelbergensis was the same species as modern Homo sapiens. I haven’t been able to find any direct evidence of the diet of H. heidelbergensis from bone isotope ratios, but the indirect evidence indicates that they were capable hunters who probably got a large proportion of their calories from meat. In Europe, they hunted now-extinct megafauna such as wooly rhinos. These things make modern cows look like chicken nuggets, and you can bet their fat was highly saturated.

H. heidelbergensis was a skilled hunter and very athletic. They were top predators in their ecosystems, judged by the fact that they took their time with carcasses, butchering them thoroughly and extracting marrow from bones. No predator or scavenger was capable of driving them away from a kill.

Our closest recent relative was Homo neanderthalensis, the neanderthal. They died out around 30,000 years ago. There have been several good studies on the isotope ratios of neanderthal bones, all indicating that neanderthals were basically carnivores. They relied both on land and marine animals, depending on what was available. Needless to say, neanderthals are much more closely related to humans than chimpanzees, having diverged from us less than 500,000 years ago. That’s less than one-tenth the time between humans and chimpanzees.

I don’t think this necessarily means humans are built to be carnivores, but it certainly blows away the argument that we’re built to be vegetarians. It also argues against the idea that we’re poorly adapted to eating animal fat. Historical human hunter-gatherers had very diverse diets, but on average were meat-heavy omnivores. This fits well with the apparent diet of our ancestor H. heidelbergensis, except that we’ve killed most of the megafauna so modern hunter-gatherers have to eat frogs, bugs and seeds.

*As much as a blind or natural process like evolution can “intend” anything.

Positive Addiction by William Glasser

Positive Addiction by William Glasser

Finally and most important, to find happiness we need others, but an addict needs only himself. Dependent only upon himself and knowing he can pursue his addiction, he does so with a single-minded devotion that is remarkable to behold. But what if there were addictions that, instead of making you weaker, made you stronger?

Breezed through William Glasser’s Positive Addiction. At around 150 pages (the 1976 edition), it is a quick and thought-provoking overview of Glasser’s conclusion that there are activities that enable a person to achieve a transcendent, trance-like, meditative state where the mind can “spin free.” Positive addictions are activities that fairly predictably take a person to this mental state, are addictive in that missing the activity results in various symptoms of withdrawal (anxiety, depression, etc.), and are positive in that they are a creative, in-control time that endows an individual with strength in the form of both mental capacity and increased neurological horsepower. These strength gains carry over into all other aspects of life.

It sounds mystical in nature, but Glasser believes (and I have no reason to suspect otherwise) that the state of mind reached via positive addictions is natural and maybe even primal — a reversion to animalistic mental processes, perhaps).

What is the PA state? My understanding is that when you reach the PA state, your mind drifts, wandering effortlessly from random thought to observation to idea. This “spun out” or “free spinning” state is creative, relaxed, unforced, and difficult to intentionally maintain.

Though Glasser alludes to other possibly PA activities, running dominated his research which involved sending out a survey request in a running magazine. One response to Glasser’s survey helps describe the mental state:

When I am settled into my run I concentrate on running as much as possible but the mind wanders to thoughts of most anything. The state of mind is one of almost total complacency and privacy. Although you are in sight of people, cars, buses, school kids, dogs, etc., I feel a very privateness when I run. People may yell at me or a kid may bug me for a few hundred yards but due to the nature of running (it is hard and physically demanding) you are pretty much left to yourself and no one can invade your runner’s world because they physically are not able.

The above runner’s description may conjure up imagery of the well-known (Today but not when the book was written) phenomenon of a “runner’s high”. A runner’s high is the effect felt as the body releases endorphins to weaken the physical pain caused by high-impact nature of running. Though Glasser does not address this connection in Positive Addiction, given the numerous alternative means to reach the PA state, I am not convinced endorphins are fundamental — they may merely be an ancillary effect of higher-endurance activities. It seems to me based on personal experience that the meditative state achieved through repetitive, non-critical physical activity is separate from endorphin release.

Transcendental meditation is another way to acheive the PA state though Glasser concludes from his research that TM rarely becomes addictive because it tends to only induce the PA state infrequently.

Aside from regularly running, Glasser alludes to other possible methods that may acheive the PA state. His research into PA discovered subjects that appeared to be positively addicted to gardening, juggling, swinging a bat, bathing, creative but non-critical writing, and knitting. The PA state elicits in me the diminished, wandering awareness reached almost immediately prior to falling asleep; could the PA state be akin to dreaming while still awake? It also reminds me of how I (and many people I know) feel during a morning hot shower.

In Positive Addiction Glasser outlines six steps or requirements of a PA activity. If you’re looking for a potential PA, the steps as pulled from the book are:

  1. It is something noncompetitive that you choose to do and you can devote an hour (approximately) a day to it.
  2. It is possible for you to do it easily and it doesn’t take a great deal of mental effort to do it well.
  3. You can do it alone or rarely with others but it does not depend upon others to do it.
  4. You believe that it has some value (physical, mental, or spiritual) for you.
  5. You believe that if you persist at it you will improve, but this is completely subjective—you need to be the only one who measures that improvement.
  6. The activity must have the quality that you can do it without criticizing yourself. If you can’t accept yourself during this time the activity will not be addicting. This is why it is so important that the activity can be done alone.

Glasser’s default recommendation for those interested in reaching PA is to run. He cautions that getting to the point where you can run for an hour for five to six days a week could take up to six months, and even then, it may still take up to two years to get to the point where running is a positive addiction.

Self-experimentation — as I am more or less convinced of the benefits of positive addiction; however, in order to see if its something real and useful for me, I need to conduct some self-experimentation, introspection, and observation. Since I am not a runner (orjogger), I am interested in finding other means to achieve the PA state. I believe that I have reached the PA state at various times while working out. I have noticed symptoms of withdrawal when I miss workouts (See my discussion of Missed Exercise Guilt). Finally, I’ve noticed that working out with others tends to diminish my enjoyment severely even though weight-lifting often requires a workout partner (and I do suspect weight-lifting can be a positive addiction).

If you wish to follow my experimentation with achieving PA via alternatives to running, you should follow along specifically on my workout blog. Right out the gate I suspect that PA can be reached through kettlebell drills such as the kettlebell swing. Additionally, as I somewhat regularly bike (both mountain and road), I will be experimenting with positive addiction there, as well, though I’m nearly positive I have noticed the PA state while biking.

Further reading — This is the second book by William Glasser that I have read. The first was Control Theory. Glasser’s style of therapy has been termed “Choice Theory” or “Reality Therapy.” I have one other book of his that I plan on reading. I have enjoyed Glasser’s writing style and particularly his inquisitive mind and search for useful, testable and easy to apply methods to improve mental health. Working to improve your mind is something healthy individuals do not do enough. This is despite the obvious conclusion that just like it is healthy to strengthen your body via lifting weights and routine physical activity, it is also healthy to take efforts to strengthen the mind. As it is, positive addiction may increase both physical and mental well-being at the same time!

Post-script — If you are a runner, you should check out a site by a friend of mine, Serious Running. It is one of, if not, the best sites for trail running reviews, product reviews, tips, and other insights into running — all imbued with a humorous writing style. SeriousRunning.com is particularly poignant to this review as at least two surveyed applicants mentioned in Positive Addiction specifically used the phrase “serious running.”

Below are all William Glasser books that I have read to date:

  • Control Theory — the most comprehensive and useful of Glasser’s books that I have read, this one covers the basics of control theory (also known as choice theory and reality therapy).
  • Positive Addiction — a more niche focus on acheiving meditation and creative reorganization via pursuit of positive addictions.
  • Staying Together — focuses on applying control theory, the ideas of “pictures in your head” and quality worlds, and matching up basic needs (or accounting for differences in these needs) in relationships.

Kombucha Tea (Fermented Food)

http://www.blog.sethrober…#comment-275794

More from Seth Roberts in the self-experimentation with fermented foods (And satisfaction of umami/flavor cravings) comes discussion of using Kombucha Tea (a fermented tea) to test effects on overall health.

I’ve never had Kombucha tea, but apparently you can make it at home.

Anyone know how? As homemade fermented foods go, this sounds much more appealing to me than homemade yogurt.

4. My idea that we like umami tastes, sour tastes, and complex flavors so that we will eat more bacteria-laden food (which nowadays would be fermented food) is saying that we need plenty of these foods. Why else would evolution have tried so hard to make us eat them? The implication is they should be part of every diet, like Vitamin C. When someone deficient in any vitamin begins eating that vitamin, the deficiency symptoms go away very quickly, within a few weeks, usually. The changes are easy to notice. So the details of what Tucker observed – the speed and size of the improvements — support my general idea that there is a widespread deficiency here that can be easily fixed.

Stop “FHA Subprime” – Defeat HR 600 and SFDPA

http://ml-implode.com/sfdpacampaign.html

STOP HR 600: STOP 'FHA Subprime!'While flying the flag of “helping” would-be homebuyers in lower income brackets, “seller funded downpayment assistance” inflates the home price via “laundering” a downpayment from seller to buyer in order to get the homebuyer in an FHA approved loan. This process instantly puts the house into negative equity.

Not surprisingly, “SFDPA” is very profitable in fees to the companies who make it possible while stacking the cards against the “assisted” homebuyer, who research has shown, is considerably more likely to go into foreclosure.

As if putting homebuyers into instantly underwater homes that are much more likely to go into foreclosure under the “auspices” of helping them out wasn’t bad enough, when the loans default, they dump back onto the FHA and thereby the taxpayer.

So who wins in this mess of “charity?” The companies lobbying for its re-legalization via H.R. 600.

And if H.R. 600 gets passed, let there be no doubt, our elected officials have learned nothing from the credit collapse.

More on Seller Funded Downpayment Assistance and HR 600 at ML-Implode.com:

This practice has been criticized or ruled against by the FHA, the GAO, the IRS, the FBI, and even US Congress itself, which outlawed it (for the time being) in the 2008 Housing Bill. Yet those who profit off the practice are trying to revive it.

So What is it??

The contentious practice is called “seller-funded downpayment assistance” (SFDPA). It is used to allow home buyers getting Federally-backed mortgages to bypass the need for a downpayment, supposedly for charitable reasons.

On the surface, it sounds benign, but it is actually fraud and money laundering inflicted on the Federal Housing Administration (that is, taxpayers), the housing market in general, and in a sense, even the buyers!

One of these companies, Global Direct Sales (which runs the “Grant America Program”) has sued us in an attempt to stop us from revealing the existence of SFDPA and discussing it frankly. SO FAR A FEDERAL JUDGE HAS BLOCKED THEIR ATTEMPTS TO SILENCE US. (Read More about our battle here. Help us to fight this NUISANCE lawsuit which is a blatant attack on free speech!)

Jon Stewart Throttles CNBC

http://www.thedailyshow.c…inancial-advice

Jon Stewart absolutely destroyed CNBC last night on The Daily Show. The first half of the bit (Approximately the first 4 minutes) goes on the offensive against Rick Santelli who was supposed to be a guest on the show before he “bailed out.” Santelli is one of the few rational, intelligent, and authentic personalities on CBNC, frequently going against his peers’ opinions. Even so, he is still on CNBC. Since CNBC is basically a rah-rah cheerleading outfit for Wall Street, Santelli’s attack on mortgage payment subsidization (See Santelli’s Chicago Tea Party) makes him an easy target.

So that is funny, but it isn’t the best part. Stewart goes on to illustrate just how wrong CNBC has been throughout the emergence of the recession / bear market / depression / bubble bust. He does it with video clips from CNBC that pump Bear Stearns, Lehman Brothers, Merrill Lynch, Wachovia, AIG, Bank of America, and General Motors (GM). He takes jabs at Fast Money and Squawk Box — “Reasoned financial reporting that combines the raw speed of fast money with the intelligence of a box of parrots. You just had to know how to listen!”

He has clips from Wall Street executives (i.e. John Thain) where they say essentially “everything is ok!” And what takedown of CNBC wouldn’t be complete without clips of Jim Cramer? So he nails that, too.

“If I’d only followed CNBC’s advice I’d have a million dollars today provided I’d started with $100 million dollars.” How do they do it?”

And to cap off Stewart’s hilarious piece, he ends with a gut-busting clip from an interview between Squawk Box‘s Carl Quintanilla and Ponzi-criminial Sir Allen Stanford that you just have to watch yourself.

Well done Jon Stewart!

 

Letters from a Stoic by Lucius Seneca

Letters from a Stoic by Lucius Seneca

Seneca, like other Stoics, has a doctrine of nature that is remarkably close to that of Emerson or modern American environmentalists. The wise man (sapiens) will never be bored when contemplating the simple things of nature. The natural beauty of the countryside and the healthful action of the waves can have a calming effect . . . He also believed in the simple and strenuous life and the avoidance of luxury and decadence, and there are numerous passages . . . which decry the ostentatious, self indulgent practices of his contemporaries . . . Seneca has no patience for philosophy as a word game or a practice of engaging in hair-splitting arguments for their own sake. He rather sees it as a practice or way of life that all those who seek the good should investigate and adopt.

(From a helpful Amazon review)

Finished Seneca’s Letters from a Stoic. I’ve only casually understood the Stoic philosophy prior to reading this book. As the above review notes, Seneca is concerned with making peace with death and living in accordance with nature. Seneca frequently cites the benefits of philosophy, which should be practical and useful. Fortune is something that should be looked on with ambivalence — neither should we get enamored when our luck is good nor depressed when bad. Happiness is a state of mind. I’m not positive, but it seems to me that Seneca originated the idiom to “Hope for the best and prepare for the worst” (See the quoted bit below).

The Letters are a quick read at only around 230 pages. If you are interested in some ancient wisdom from a Roman philosopher, you would likely enjoy this book. Below are some passages I particularly enjoyed from the book.

  • “Look at the amount of punishment that boxers and wrestlers take to the face and the body generally! They will put up none the less with any suffering in their desire for fame, and will undergo it all not merely in the course of fighting but in preparing for their fights as well: their training in itself constitutes suffering. Let us too overcome all things, with our reward consisting not in any wreath or garland, not in trumpet-calls for silence for the ceremonial proclamation of our name, but in moral worth, in strength of spirit, in a peace that is won for ever once in any contest fortune has been utterly defeated.”
  • “Well, I don’t know what’s going to happen; but I do know what’s capable of happening . . . I’m ready for everything. If I’m let off in any way, I’m pleased. . . . for just as I know that anything is capable of happening so also do I know that it’s not bound to happen. So I look for the best and am prepared for the opposite.”
  • “Resent a thing by all means if it represents an injustice decreed against yourself personally; but if this same constraint is binding on the lowest and the highest alike, then make your peace again with destiny, the destiny that unravels all ties. There’s no justification for using our graves and all the variety of monuments we see bordering the highways as a measure of our stature. In the ashes all men are leveled. We’re born unequal, we die equal.”
  • “Death you’ll think of as the worst of all bad things, though in fact there’s nothing bad about it at all except the thing which comes before it – the fear of it.”
  • “For those who follow nature everything is easy and straightforward, whereas for those who fight against her life is just like rowing against the stream.”
  • “One used to think that the type of person who spreads tales was as bad as any: but there are persons who spread vices. And association with them does a lot of damage.”
  • “No man’s good by accident. Virtue has to be learnt. Pleasure is a poor and petty thing. No value should be set on it: it’s something we share with dumb animals – the minutest, most insignificant creatures scutter after it. Glory’s an empty, changeable thing, as fickle as the weather. Poverty’s no evil to anyone unless he kicks against it. Death is not an evil. What is it then? The one law mankind has that is free of all discrimination.”

Eight reasons not to go to grad school

http://blog.penelopetrunk…th-grad-school/

Via Patri, found this great article (and site!) over at Penelope Trunk. The full out post is a linkfest to other material (much of which looks worth reading) on Penelope’s site. If I only had the time.

Anyway, I’m very much anti-schooling these days. I feel this way for a multitude of reasons, but the main two are:

  • Schooling in no way mimics real life. Schooling is centrally controlled, rigid, boring, one-size-fits-all, socially backward and doesn’t encourage students to take chances, be curious, use their brains, etc. For all of these reasons, schooling as we know it (across all levels of the education system — grade school to graduate) stunts the growth of human beings.
  • Schooling is antiquated. We have the internet. I’ve learned more following my own curiosity scouring the Internet than I learned in 20 years of school. And that was in five years? The schooling system was broken already, but now its downright moot.

Here are Penelope’s eight reasons not to go to graduate school (Go to her site if you want her additional commentary on each reason):

  1. Grad school pointlessly delays adulthood.
  2. PhD programs are pyramid schemes
  3. Business school is not going to help 90% of the people who go.
  4. Law school is a factory for depressives.
  5. The medical school model assumes that health care spending is not a mess.
  6. Going to grad school is like going into the military. . . . Military is the terrible escape hatch for poor kids, and grad school is the terrible escape hatch for rich kids.
  7. Most jobs are better than they seem: You can learn from any job.
  8. Graduate school forces you to overinvest: It’s too high risk.

Jim Rogers: We are buying land in Brazil and Canada and starting to farm it

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-u9gPykOkdA

Quotes from Jim Rogers’ interview (video at bottom):

  • “We’re still going to eat probably. We’re still going to wear clothes probably. You know nobody — Farmers cannot get loans for fertilizer right now. So the supply of everything is going to continue under pressure. Uh the inventories of food are the lowest they’ve been in 50 years. We have serious supply problems developing for many mining goods, oil, agriculture. So even if demand goes flat or down as it did in the 30s as it did in the 70s you can still have a nice market.”
  • “What we’re doing is buying land in Brazil and the other is buying land in Canada. … If I’m right agriculture is going to be one of the great industries of the next 20 years or so … 30 years … maybe we can change this to CNBC agriculture.”
  • “We are buying some land … and turning raw land into farm land. . . . we are hiring farmers.”
  • “You know the IMF is trying to sell their gold and if they do then they may drive the price of gold down a lot and if they do Martin you better buy all you can because that will be the last opportunity to buy gold in a long, long time.”
  • “Throughout history when governments have printed huge amounts of money it’s always – it’s always led to higher prices.”
  • “I still own the yen and hope to buy some more yen if it continues to consolidate for awhile.”
  • “I expect to own commodities for years.”

(H/T to Tim)

Rogers has been busy lately (Or in high demand). Here’s more from him:

@ http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-u9gPykOkdA

Delorean: Symptoms of Fat Loss (parts 1&2)

http://avidityfitness.net…ms-of-fat-loss/

There was a time a few weeks back where I started experiencing a bit of insomnia. I immediately associated my sleeplessness with dieting and quickly determined to back off the dieting. It just made zero sense to me that I should be losing sleep because I was trying to lose weight — it just seemed downright extreme and unhealthy, so I quickly backed off a bit on dieting as a result.

Enter in Leigh Peele’s recent blogpost on “symptoms” of fat loss where I learn that insomnia can result from dieting. So it’s not just me, which is reassuring, even though I haven’t had any insomnia problems in two or three weeks (though I also haven’t been losing any more fat!).

So food for thought:

NOW, imagine your body if that flashlight. As time goes on your batteries are running low. How are you going to feel?

  • Less lucid, foggy
  • easily emotional
  • fatigue
  • hunger
  • harder to wake up in the morning
  • muscle soreness
  • sadness
  • insomia

These are not symptoms of overtraining. These are symptoms of fat loss.

Think about it folks – you are removing a physical substance from your body. It was once there but you are trying to take it away. You might say, “well, I put it on easily. Taking it away can’t be that hard. ”

When is the last time you glued something? How easy was that to get on? How much of a pain in the ass was it to get off?

Just fat loss alone doesn’t feel good, it shouldn’t feel good. Anyone that tells you that either doesn’t know, or doesn’t want you to know. That doesn’t mean fat loss can’t be good for you in the long run. It just means what you have to endure while getting there is a real task to be undertaken.

Rethinking subsidized finance (Steve Waldman)

http://interfluidity.powe…236071874.shtml

Steve Randy Waldman continues to say what few others are saying in his latest on subsidized (Government-backed) finance.

Before I save-down my favorite part from Waldman’s analysis, I have two questions:

  1. Is there a meaningful difference between “nationalization” and “bankruptcy” in a subsidized, government-backed banking system?
  2. Are government-backed institutions destined to be nationalized?

I think the answer to the first question may be a qualified “No.” Regarding the second, I believe the answer is an unqualified “Yes” to the second.

Why is nationalization similar to bankruptcy? In a bankruptcy proceeding, the assets of the defunct company are divvied up and liquidated. I’m not sure if that would be any different under a nationalization program. Sure, if the government starts backstopping the losses of bank debt- and equity-holders, then we’ve entered some gray area that favors more crony capitalism than traditional bankruptcy. On the other hand, if nationalization means orderly liquidation by the government, then we’re really talking more about a special-case bankruptcy.

In the end, I’m guessing that it’ll be the latter even though I fully expect some investors to get off better than they should.

Regarding the second question, it seems that an institution implicitly backstopped by the government, even only marginally, is destined to be backstopped fully in time. This is because government subsidization works towards this end by effecting behavior internally to the organization and externally to investors/creditors:

  • Internally, company stewards take on more risk than they can handle as risk, via government subsidization/backstop, is underpriced.
  • Externally, investors/creditors extend more capital to the company as they believe the company is less-risky (again government is subsidizing risk).

Via this two-fold process, over time the marginal government involvement/subsidiy ratchets up until the organization takes on so much additional risk that it must call the government on its risk-option. Because the government was complicit with the arrangement all along, it must answer the call. Again, this process ratchets up over time until the once only marginally subsidized institution is full-fledged government-run.

And the above process doesn’t stop with just companies — seems to work the same on just about any welfare recipient.

Here’s Waldman:

Banking-as-we-know-it is just a form of publicly subsidized private capital formation. I have no problem with subsidizing private capital formation, even with ceding much of the upside to entrepreneurial investors while taxpayers absorb much of the downside when things go wrong. But once we acknowledge the very large public subsidy in banking, it becomes possible to acknowledge other, perhaps less disaster-prone arrangements by which a nation might encourage private capital formation at lower social and financial cost. Rather than writing free options, what if we defined a category of public/private investment funds that would offer equity financing (common or preferred) to the sort of enterprises that currently depend upon bank loans? Every dollar of private money would be matched by a dollar of public money, doubling the availability of capital to businesses (compared to laissez-faire private investment), and eliminating the misaligned incentives and agency games played between taxpayers and financiers who would, in this arrangement, be pari passu. Also, by reducing firms’ reliance on brittle debt financing, equity-focused investment funds could dramatically enhance systemic stability.

Private-sector banking has not existed in the United States since first the Fed and then the FDIC undertook to insure bank risks. There is no use getting all ideological about keeping banks private, because they never have been. We want investment decisions to be driven by economic value rather than political diktat, but at the same time capital formation has positive spillovers so we’d like it to be publicly subsidized. How best to meet those objectives is a technocratic rather than ideological question.

In thinking this through, I don’t think we should give much deference to traditional banking, on the theory that we know it works. On the contrary, we know that it does not work. Banking crises are not aberrations. They are infrequent but regular occurrences almost everywhere there are banks. I challenge readers to make the case that banking, in its long centuries, has ever been a profitable industry, net of the costs it extracts from governments, counterparties, and investors during its low frequency, high amplitude breakdowns. Banking is lucrative for bankers, and during quiescent periods it has served a useful role in financial intermediation. But in aggregate, has banking has ever been a successful industry for capital providers? A “healthy” banking system is arguably just a bubble, worth investing in only if you’re smart enough or lucky enough to get out before the crash, or if you expect to be bailed out after the fall.

If banks were our only option, we might think of them like airlines — we’ve never figured out how to run the things profitably, but we do want commercial air travel, so we find ways to cover their losses. But at least with airlines, the costs are relatively modest, and we constantly experiment in hopes of hitting on a sustainable business model. Despite being catastrophically broken, the core structure of banking has been fixed in an amber of incumbency and regulation since the Pleistocene era. It’s long past time to try something else.

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