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Mises vs. the Socialists: The Economic Calculation Argument

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I gave this talk last night for the Evergreen Tea Party. Below are my notes.

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Intro:

Why I wanted to talk about this.

Soviet Union – the beginnings:

Lenin comes to power in October 1917. Soviet Union is born and the socialist economy begins.

Lenin an interesting character. What he thought reveals a lot about why central planning fails.

Lenin smarter than managers, businessmen he knew. Running an economy is like running a business! It’s going to easy!

From Oct 1917 to Dec 1991, many people pointed out the many problems with the socialist economy.

Mises writes “Economic Calculation in the Socialist Commonwealth” in 1920.

Problems with socialism:

Several problems with the socialist economy arise. Socialists respond:

  1. Incentive problem – who will take out the trash? Why work hard? Answer: we’ll create a new socialist man.
  2. Knowledge problem – what do people want/need? How many loaves of bread in St. Petersberg? Answer: Our leaders know better what our people want than they do. Theoretically, if our leaders had complete information, socialism could work. (Hayek agreed).
  3. Perverse incentive problem – the political leader is king, not the consumer. Make one gigantic nail or millions of small nails. Answer: Our new man will overcome these miscommunications.
  4. Entrepreneurship problem – Why innovate? Where will new, undiscovered products come from? We’ll look at the rest of the world. We’ll study innovations and new procedures. Plus, we know better what our people want anyway.
  5. Economic calculation problem – the only problem that is not overcome even after granting ALL assumptions.

The economic calculation problem – when government owns the means of productions (factors of production), there is no market for capital goods. Or as Mises says, goods of a higher order. Without a market for capital goods, there are no market prices for capital goods. Without prices for capital goods, there cannot be any profit and loss accounting – in other words, no economic calculation. Thus, there is no way to rationally allocate scare factors of production. Even if the central planners knew exactly what to produce, they would have no idea HOW to produce it. The economy is stuck in a state of shock. Socialism is literally impossible.

Mises called this the paradox of planned economies. “The paradox of planning is that it cannot plan because of the absence of economic calculation. What is called a planned economy is no economy at all. It is just a system of groping about in the dark.”

Seems simple enough. Implications are HUGE.

“Impossible” is a hyperbole?

Granting the assumptions above, we have the fundamental calculation problem: with no prices to guide the production process, planners have no idea which productions plans/materials to choose out of the infinite combinations. If they “grope in the dark” and choose one, they have no idea if it was the right one after the fact!

Even if the socialists have been able to create a mighty army of citizens all eager to do the bidding of their masters, what exactly would the socialist planners tell this army to do?

How would they know what products to order their eager slaves to produce, at what stage of production, how much of the product at each stage, what techniques or raw materials to use in that production and how much of each, and where specifically to locate all this production? How would they know their costs, or what process of production is or is not efficient?

The result? Shortages and surpluses found everywhere. Field ready to be farmed but without the gas to drive the tractors or people to drive them. IOW, millions of people starve to death and millions more on the brink of death.

Had REAL consequences for REAL people!

War Communism – Soviet experience. The economy produced a fraction of what it produced before WC. Workers fled the cities for the farms in order to be closer to food production. Estimated 3 to 10 million people died.

“The collapse of the productive forces surpassed anything of the kind that history had ever seen. The country, and the government with it, were at the very edge of the abyss.” -Leon Trotsky on war communism

WC replaced by the NEP after a destructive 4 years.

Breakdown:

When government owns the factors of production, there is no market for production goods. No market means no trade in the realm of higher order goods.

Why is this important? When trade exists, what is the result? Prices! AKA exchange ratios. Prices are “social phenomena.”

Why are prices important? Embedded information! Example: You don’t need to know there was a big storm in Florida to know that you should economize (ration) oranges. You see the price went up and therefore, buy less.

In addition to providing the basis of profit and loss, prices convey information to entrepreneurs about the resources available in the economy. It tells them what resources are in abundance and what resources are scarce.

Prices guide what is to be used, how much of it to use, when to use it, and when to stop using it.

Example: We own a pizza shop. Pepperoni is scarce. The price for getting our pepperoni went up and we don’t know why. First scenario, you increase the price of your pepperoni pie and consumers gladly pay it. Second, you increase the price of your pepperoni pie and consumers do not want to pay it. What is the result? At that particular time, at that particular place, pepperoni was better used somewhere else. It was “needed” more elsewhere. Prices told us that if we were to continue to use as much pepperoni as before, we would not be maximizing total consumer satisfaction. IOW, our pizza shop was wasting valuable resources.

Important Austrian insight concerning capital:

Prices and calculation would be a lot less important if capital were homogenous or if all capital were 100% specific.

Capital is heterogeneous! Capital goods are not 100% specific or identical. They have different uses and differing values. They can be employed for various means. There are an infinite amount of ways you can produce electricity or make hamburgers. How on earth do you decide what procedure to use? Where to locate?

Money:

Calculation requires a common medium of exchange, aka money.

Example: I ran 5, he ran 10. Who ran longer?

Money is what allows the profit and loss test. Why is the profit and loss test so important?

Without money as the common denominator, there exists no way to compare differing factors of production and structures of production. “Money is the vehicle of economic calculation.”

Money is the means of putting all competing interests on the same level playing field. The baker must compete with the cobbler. The cobbler must compete with the pizza guy. The pizza guy must compete with the Wall St executive. And so on.

All these differing interests compete with one another for the scarce higher order goods and labor. Only with money can they determine whether their actions are satisfying consumer desires.

Real world example:

Granting all assumptions to socialists, here is an example: We “know” we must produce 1,000 purses. With no money prices at a level beyond final consumer goods, how do we figure out HOW to produce 1,000 purses? How much labor should we employ? Should we have just a couple of workers and lots of machinery or lots of workers making them by hand? What material should the purses be made of? Cotton, suede, leather, canvas, wool, etc? If we choose suede, how should we obtain the suede? And on and on and on…

Being advanced technologically can tell you exactly HOW to produce 1,000 purses efficiently, but it cannot tell you:

1. Whether you SHOULD produce 1,000 purses

2. What materials to use

3. Where and how to get the materials

4. WHEN to make them

5. WHERE to put your factories.

Mises on technology’s limit: “[Technology] ignores the economic problem:  to employ the available means in such a way that no want more urgently felt should remain unsatisfied because the means suitable for its attainment were employed – wasted – for the attainment of a want less urgently felt.”

Objections to economic calculation:

  1. Play market: We’ll have our factory managers pretend to pursue profit. (not reality. Managers are beholden to the central planners, not the market. They cannot rationally pursue profit. Instead they pursue not getting murdered).
  2. We’ll have our managers trade with each other! (Trade without ownership is meaningless. Again, succumbs to political interests)
  3. We’ll watch the world market and take their prices (ignores circumstances of time, place, resources, labor, subjective valuation etc)
  4. We’ll copy production practices elsewhere (see above).

Implications for today?

I-70 traffic problems?

Single payer health care?

Written by jlongo12

March 13, 2012 at 10:09 am

Posted in economics

Philosophical Foundations: First Principles

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I gave this talk on Saturday, February 11th for the Liberty on the Rocks economics fundamentals class. I guess you could say this is the essay version of what I said. Enjoy!

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I want to give you the tools to build a foundation that will guide you to a consistent philosophy. I don’t necessarily want you to agree with everything I’m about to say, but rather, to use the guidelines of establishing first principles to form your ideals. I believe it is extremely important to constantly “check your premises.” First principles are those premises.

“First principle” defined: foundational principle. Cannot be deduced from any other proposition – in other words, an irreducible principle. Sometimes called “axioms.” First principles have no assumptions built into them.

Some historical context: When Aristotle explained his philosophical work, he said he was constantly looking for the “origins” or first principles.

In physics, a calculation is said to be from first principles if it starts directly at the level of established laws of physics and does not make assumptions such as empirical modeling.

Descartes used the method of doubt, called Cartesian doubt, to systematically doubt everything he could possibly doubt, until he was left with what he saw as irrefutable truths. Using these self-evident propositions as his axioms, or foundations, he went on to deduce his entire body of knowledge. The foundations are also called “a priori truths.”

A priori means “from the earlier.” It is knowledge that is independent of experience or evidence. i.e. “I think, therefore I am.”

You may have heard the term a priori before if you’ve studied Austrian Economics. Perhaps the greatest economist to ever live, Ludwig von Mises, deduced his entire economic philosophy from one single first principle: man acts. Hence, his magnum opus was called Human Action.

To sum up: a first principle requires no other assumptions to stand. It stands alone. It is the fundamental groundwork for developing a coherent, consistent philosophy. Drilling down to first principles requires some mental gymnastics. “Cartesian doubt” is one way. Another similar method would be to keep asking, “why?” like a child until it no longer makes any sense. As we’re about to learn, a good first principle is not only irreducible, it is also irrefutable.

Why is this important? To evaluate policies, you must have a framework or lens you use to determine what is good and bad policy. This is entirely foreign to most people. Instead, almost everyone forms opinions about policy by wondering to themselves, “do I think this is a good idea?” If so, I’ll advocate it. If not, I won’t.

Facebook example: Guy defending laws that force gun owners to lock their guns away in a safe location, unloaded. His reasoning: “Well, I do it. I think it’s a good idea.” Oh I get it Mr. Guy on Facebook. Your first principle is, “if I do it, then everyone else should.” This is an example of an invalid first principle.

This typical thoughtless reasoning is not good enough. We must have a place to start our process of thinking. A place that we can go back to each and every time. Sitting there wondering whether something sounds good or not is arbitrary and whimsical. It inevitably leads to contradictions and inconsistencies.

Let’s assume my audience is a step or two ahead of the guy on Facebook. Let’s assume we’ve advanced beyond, “that sounds nice” to some perceived level of principles. What then do most people think are valid fist principles? Let’s throw out some common examples:

Man has liberty! Property rights! The Constitution! All suffering must be stopped!

Each of those invalid first principles has at least one, if not many, built in assumptions. For example:

Why does man have liberty? Where do property rights come from and why are they valid? Where did the laws in the Constitution come from? If you want the Constitution to rule you, does it also have to rule me? If human suffering must be stopped, do I need to stop it?

Enough beating around the bush. Let’s give this first principles thing a test spin. I’m going to give you an example of a philosophical foundation based on a set of first principles to get to the granddaddy of them all: property rights!

(Side note: Like Murray Rothbard, I believe all rights ultimately come down to property rights. Even free speech. Turns out, Mises was on board as well: “The program of classical liberalism, condensed into a single word, would have to read: property.” -Mises).

First principle: I own my own body. OR if you prefer: I control my own body.

This is an irrefutable axiom! If you attempt to deny it, you validate it. In other words, you’d have to exercise control of your body to produce the sound waves that deny that you control your body. Similar to Mises’ first principle – man acts. You have to act in order to say or demonstrate that man does not act.

Bottom line: to deny you own or control your body serves only to validate that you do.

Second: I own the effects of my body. Put differently, I am responsible for the effects of my actions.

This goes hand in hand with control of your body. If you are not in control of your body, then you do not have responsibility for the effects of your body.

For example, if someone were to push me into you, you wouldn’t get mad at me, you’d get mad at the pusher. I couldn’t control my body while flying through the air, therefore, I am not responsible for the effects of my body knocking into you. On the contrary, when someone is in control of their body, they ARE responsible for the effects of their body.

If someone tests this principle by saying to you that they are not responsible for their actions, you can ask a couple revealing questions: “well who is moving your mouth and vocal chords?” or you can ask, “who just said that?” If they say “ME!” then they are indeed taking responsibility for their actions. A funny way to prove this is if the person is denying responsibility for their actions and there is a third person standing in proximity to you two, then after they articulate their denial, turn to the third person and say to them, “I do not agree with your argument.” Usually the person in denial will jump in and say, “wait wait, I said that!” Or they’ll say, “why are you talking to them, I made that argument!” You can then respond in check-mate fashion, “Oh really? YOU’RE responsible for that argument???”

If they insist they have no responsibility for the effects of their actions, then it’s illogical to debate with them. It’d be like debating with your TV or a tape recorder.

Third: If we have ownership over our bodies and the effects of our bodies, then we own the consequences of our actions – good and bad. Therefore, if I use my body and mind to create something, I own the creation. If I use my body and mind to commit a murder, I am responsible for that murder.

Imagine during my murder trial I were to argue that I am responsible for my body but not the consequences of my actions. I would be making the rather bizarre argument that I take responsibility for aiming and shooting the gun with my arm, hand, and fingers, but I do not have responsibility for where the bullet ended up. Would that defense work?

From owning our bodies and the consequences of our actions, we can prove that humans validly own property – simply as an extension of our bodies performing certain actions. For example, I use my body and mind to build a shed. The shed is a consequence of my actions that I am responsible for. In this case, it’s a new piece of property.

Keep in mind: to attempt to disprove property ownership is to attack first principles. And attacking these first principles only serves to validate them!

If we accept the principle that owning property is valid, then what does that imply? Remember, to own something means the ability to control it. (If ownership did not include control, I would be unable to type these words into my blog. Thus, you’d be reading complete gibberish or nothing at all).

To exercise control over something means you decide what to do with it – not me or anyone else. If you use your body and mind to create a pillow, that pillow is an effect of your actions. You own the effects of your actions. Does it make sense then that I get to decide what to do with your pillow? Can a group of people get together and decide what to do with your pillow? Absolutely not! However, as the owner, you could transfer your pillow to me, but I cannot take it without invalidating property ownership as a principle.

Hey! Look what we did there! We just validated trade and charity. The ability to transfer property from one owner to another is just another way of describing trade or charity. You can transfer your pillow to me for money (trade), or for nothing (charity).

To sum up the logic: if property ownership is valid, then controlling property is valid. Controlling property means the owner has the power to make decisions regarding the property – including the ability to transfer it through trade or charity.

First principles vs. arguments from effect – aka consquentialism / utilitarianism.

First principles stand in contrast to arguments from effect, or what many call consequentialism or utilitarianism. Arguments from effect judge a policy by its effects rather than how the policy got there to begin with.

An immediate problem with arguments from effect are that the foreseen effects are merely hypothesized. Judging a policy by what you think might result incurs two massive unavoidable realities: the policy’s unintended consequences on groups you never considered and the policy’s unintended incentives created that will affect future behavior.

Putting aside this immediate problem with arguments from effect, let’s examine how a first principles approach contrasts an “ex-post” consequentialist approach:

For example, you say subsidies for renewable energy are good because it will result in less pollution and saving the planet. First principles would ask, where did the money for the subsidies come from? In what manner was the money obtained? Was someone denied ownership over their property to supply the subsidy?

Or you’ll hear an argument that seat belt laws are good because lives will be saved. First principles would ask, who owns the seat belt in the car? Who owns the car? Can two people have exclusive control over property at the same time? Can the government own your car along with you? If they can’t, how can they validly exercise control over your car if they don’t partially own it? If you both own it, how do you determine when you get to control it and when they get to control it? What about me? Can I own your car along with you? If not, why can a government official own your car with you and exercise control over it and not me?

To take it to the extreme, if it is valid for two people to have exclusive control over the same property, can I partially own one of your kidneys? You have two! Should I be able to take one of your kidneys if I need it because we both technically “own” it?

Real life policy questions:

Let’s begin by examining wealth transfers from the rich to the poor. First principles asks, how did the poor person get the money from the rich person? Was it trade? Was it a gift? If not, did the rich person lose ownership of their property and thus, ownership of the effects of their actions? If that is the case, how can the poor person logically “own” the money? You can’t invalidate property ownership by stealing from the rich guy, only to turn around and affirm property ownership by giving the stolen goods to the poor guy.

Bottom line: All forms of theft are a contradiction. Theft invalidates property ownership and affirms it at the same time. In order to take something from someone, you must deny that property rights are valid only to turn around and affirm them by “owning” the stolen goods. You can’t have it both ways.

Minimum wage laws – harm the employer (business owner) and the potential employee (owner of self).

They deny the owner the property right in his business by denying him the control of his business. It prevents the business owner to do with his property what he sees fit. Minimum wage laws say, “you cannot hire person X at a certain price.” In other words, you may not trade your property with their property.

Imagine someone coming into your home and not allowing you to control the property in your home. They might say things like: “Move your TV over there!” “Take down those pictures!” “Throw out that t-shirt!” You wouldn’t stand for that would you? In the same way, someone coming into a business owner’s store for example, and barking orders about where things should go and who should and should not be hired also violates ownership. I’m not saying no one can validly make suggestions, but ultimately, the decisions are the property owner’s to make.

Minimum wage laws also deny the potential employee the control of their body’s actions. Let’s say the employee would like to offer their services for $3 per hour. In other words, the employee wants to trade the effects of his body (his labor) with the effects of the business owner’s body (the business he created) for property (money). Denying this trade of property means that neither the employer nor the employee actually controls their own property. Instead, some other person has ultimate control.

Conclusions:

Both of these examples and the ones earlier, reinforce that almost all matters of policy come down to property rights. The attempt to invalidate property rights is ultimately a logical contradiction. That’s the least of it. Worse is the fact that when some person or entity attempts to violate property ownership in one area of life, it is a threat to all property ownership everywhere. Why? Because then ownership as a universal principle becomes arbitrary in nature: sometimes respected, sometimes denied. Arbitrary property rights leads us down a very dark path, as someone must determine when property rights are valid, who may or may not enjoy property rights, when violations are allowed and by whom, and so on.

“Arbitrary principle” is an oxymoron. Principles are universal, preferences are arbitrary.

I certainly have not described the world as it is. Far from it. Just because violating property ownership is a logical contradiction does not mean that many of us care to acknowledge that point or to act in a manner consistent with reason. Indeed, there are plenty of people out there stealing – in both the private and public sector. By the same token, there are many sedentary people eating cookies and candy, but that doesn’t mean we can’t enjoy exercise, fruits, and vegetables. We can choose to act in accordance with logic, reason, and a consistent philosophy, regardless of what others may or may not do. The trick is, putting in the time required to perform the mental gymnastics that eventually lead to a solid foundation. Once you think you’ve nailed it all down, you haven’t. Doubt yourself and re-think your premises. Don’t ever give up on the process.

Allow me to reiterate: Even if the philosophical foundations I’ve laid out don’t strike your fancy, I hope you are intrigued enough to use these guidelines to form the groundwork for your own philosophy.

Written by jlongo12

February 13, 2012 at 11:23 am

Santorum’s Greatest Hits

with 10 comments

***Updated 3 times at the very bottom***

I have been asked why I believe Santorum is more collectivist and authoritarian than many on the Left. All you have to do is listen to Santorum’s own words. Then, check his record. Let’s start with some great quotes by the man himself:

“They have this idea that people should be left alone, be able to do whatever they want to do, government should keep our taxes down and regulations low, that we shouldn’t get involved in the bedroom or in cultural issues. That is not how traditional conservatives view the world.”

“One of the criticisms I make is to what I refer to as more of a libertarianish right. You know, the left has gone so far left and the right in some respects has gone so far right that they touch each other. They come around in the circle. This whole idea of personal autonomy, well I don’t think most conservatives hold that point of view.”

So far, those are my two favorite Santorum quotes. Clearly he is not apologetic at all for his anti-individual, pro-collective views. Let’s now turn to his record:

The Club for Growth wrote a little bit on Santorum’s dismal voting record a few years back:

“Some of those high profile votes include his support for No Child Left Behind in 2001, which greatly expanded the federal government’s role in education. He supported the massive new Medicare drug entitlement in 2003 that now costs taxpayers over $60 billion a year and has almost $16 trillion in unfunded liabilities. He voted for the 2005 highway bill that included thousands of wasteful earmarks, including the Bridge to Nowhere. In fact, in a separate vote, Santorum had the audacity to vote to continue funding the Bridge to Nowhere rather than send the money to rebuild New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina. In the 2003-2004 session of Congress, Santorum sponsored or cosponsored 51 bills to increase spending, and failed to sponsor or co-sponsor even one spending cut proposal. In his last Congress (2005-2006), he had one of the biggest spending agendas of any Republican — sponsoring more spending increases than Republicans Lisa Murkowski, Lincoln Chafee and Thad Cochran or Democrats Herb Kohl, Evan Bayh and Ron Wyden.”

Then we have the classic Red State roundup of Santorum’s big government record here.

Michael Tanner of National Review had this to say about ol’ Rick:

“He never met an earmark that he didn’t like. In fact, it wasn’t just earmarks for his own state that he favored, which might be forgiven as pure electoral pragmatism, but earmarks for everyone, including the notorious “Bridge to Nowhere.” The quintessential Washington insider, he worked closely with Tom DeLay to set up the “K Street Project,” linking lobbyists with the GOP leadership. He voted against NAFTA and has long opposed free trade. He backed higher tariffs on everything from steel to honey. He still supports an industrial policy with the government tilting the playing field toward manufacturing industries and picking winners and losers.

I could fill this entire blog with commentary about his voting record. Those quotes above are from a quick Google search. If you want the Cliff’s Notes, take a good look at Red State’s post. Otherwise, use your Google machine to dig into his voting record.

Now Santorum again in his own words:

In this video Santorum likens government to the family and maintains the position that people have an obligation to the collective just like they have an obligation to family members. He states that individuals are not responsible for themselves, but to everyone else as well. Unlike the standard Conservative view, he doesn’t believe in personal responsibility. He believes in collective responsibility. He repeats over and over that people should work “for the common good.” Even the Leftist interviewer points out that “working for the common good” is seen by many as a “little pink, a little socialistic.” Santorum disagrees.

Here is Santorum’s tirade against individualism (sorry Ayn Rand). By the way Rick, there is a society that believes in individualism. It’s called America. David Boaz of the Cato Institute then goes on to rip Santorum for being so openly against liberty and freedom.

Here Rick explains that he has “real concerns” about the Tea Party:

Rick defends SOPA here because our rights and freedoms are limited and should be regulated.

I could go on here, but I think I’ve made my point. Never in my life have I witnessed a GOP candidate for any office so openly hostile to the fundamental ideals of liberty and freedom. He does not believe that individuals have inalienable rights that cannot and shall not be infringed by government. In fact, he believes the exact opposite: that whatever rights we have are ours to keep only if government can’t find a good reason to undermine them (take a look at his SOPA answer again if you don’t see that). He most certainly does not believe in “limited government,” but rather, “limited freedom.”

That makes him a collectivist of the worst kind – precisely because many people don’t believe he is.

UPDATE: Santorum doesn’t understand basic economics. Lots of great quotes from the Cato Institute here.

UPDATE II: Reason Magazine nailed it way back in 2005: America’s Anti-Reagan Isn’t Hillary Clinton. It’s Rick Santorum.

UPDATE III: Ari Armstrong makes the case over at the Objective Standard that Santorum is just another big government collectivist. Here’s a small dose: “While Santorum claims to invoke the Founders, his views are diametrically opposed to theirs. The right to the pursuit of happiness is one of the “unalienable rights” the Founders sought to protect in creating America. That’s why it’s specified in the Declaration of Independence.”

Written by jlongo12

February 8, 2012 at 11:17 am

More Eating Thoughts

with one comment

Strangely enough, I realized the other day that I haven’t eaten any meat in… weeks? I can’t remember the last time and honestly, I don’t miss it. I’ve been consciously passing it up lately just because I want to focus my efforts on eating as many plants as possible. By no means am I against eating meat, nor have I suddenly become a vegetarian, I’m just enjoying my plant experimentation. I feel like I’ve managed to get some variety in my lunches and dinners lately that I would have missed out on had I fallen back on the easy out – eating chicken or something.

I realized after posting my eating tips that I left out one of the biggest and best tips I have! To avoid eating junk relatively easily, DON’T BUY IT.

Duh right? What I’m referring to is buying junk for your house. It’s pretty easy to avoid buying that Snickers bar while out and about. It seems to be more difficult for people not to buy cookies and ice cream while they do their grocery shopping. And once you’ve made those bad purchases and the cookies are sitting there in your pantry, how in the world are you NOT going to eat them???

Brika and I do not buy any junk whatsoever for our house. When we “splurge” while grocery shopping we buy Triscuits. You’re probably wondering what I do to satisfy my sweet tooth after eating dinner. Here’s my secret: I eat raisins! Which I’ve come to learn is not the greatest idea in the world. Why? Well, I got my blood test results back from the doctor and my iron score was higher than average. I know that raisins aren’t the only food I’m eating that has iron, but it’s my most consistent source of iron that I can think of.

I can tell you that on many occasions I’ve wished that we had some junk food in the house, but after getting past my moment of weakness I’m always grateful that we don’t.

The bottom line is this: finding junk food is EASY. You’ll inevitably go out for dinner and drinks with friends where you’ll eat poorly. You’ll go to work only to find chocolate chip muffins in the break room. Our lives are filled with endless opportunities to eat poorly. Give yourself an out while you’re home. Do yourself a favor and make your house a refuge for good eating habits. In other words, leave your cheating for outside the house. You’ll be thankful you did.

Written by jlongo12

February 3, 2012 at 12:52 pm

Posted in cycling, home life

Some Eating Tips That Work for Me

with 2 comments

I know, I know. Why am I beating the “get lean” and stay lean dead horse? Well, because I wanted to share some tips that have worked for me. You may have already read my health and wellness transformation post from a year ago, and if not, please go ahead and read that first. I’ve come along way, thanks to my nutritionist wife and cycling. Along the way, there have been things that have worked and things that have not. I’m going to share what I’m doing right now to stay healthy and lean while maintaining “good legs” for cycling (aka – not starving myself).

1. This goes without saying and is largely beaten to death, but I’ll go ahead and say it anyway: eat whole foods for God’s sakes. Eat 3 or 4 pieces of fruit and several helpings of vegetables every single day. How do you do this? Rather, how do I do it? Simple. I bring fruit with me to work and snack on it throughout the day. An apple here and there. An orange. A banana right before I leave for the day. Whatever it takes. Have a piece of fruit whenever you start thinking about food between meals. Vegetables are a bit different for me. I generally eat my plants for dinner. Lately I’ve been making huge spinach and fresh greens salads. I’ve been throwing whatever greens I can find around the house in them, plus nuts, raisins, and some kind of cheese. For example, the other night I came home to find that we had some leftover asparagus in the fridge. Perfect! I threw a big pile of spinach in my bowl, added the asparagus and some leftover broccoli in there. Then dumped half an avocado, a handful of raisins, shredded almonds, feta cheese, and some peas. It was delicious. My rule of thumb with big hearty salads is – there are no rules. Throw whatever plants you can find in that bad boy and go to town. It’s allll good. Got some kale lying around? Throw it in. What about that sweet potato sitting over there? Hells yes. Throw that bad boy in. Nothing won’t work.

The bottom line is this: if it has a label, be wary. Read the label. If it has more than a few simple ingrediants, it’s probably not food. It’s more likely a food-like product (thanks Michael Pollan). Eat real, whole foods. Don’t accept the substitutes.

2. A tip that goes along with my first point is to experiment. Like I said in my previous nutrition blog post, there is a cornucopia of vegetables out there that are far from your typical peas and carrots. Even in your standard King Soopers fruit and vegetable aisle, you’ll find a half dozen vegetables that look strange and may have names that are difficult to pronounce. Try them out! What’s the worst that can happen? The wonderful thing is, when you do find something random you like, you now have one extra bullet in your chamber. The more foods in your repertoire, the less likely you’ll become bored and wander off into Hamburger Helper-ville.

3. Eat breakfast. I don’t give a shit what time you wake up and how quickly you have to get to work. Do yourself a favor and eat breakfast. I also don’t care about “kick-starting your metabolism” or any other faux-scientific reason to eat breakfast. The reason breakfast is important (at least to me) is that it’s another opportunity to put good, nutrient-rich food in your system. Look at it like an opportunity, not a good time to avoid calories. And when you get to work and start getting some craving, you won’t have the excuse, “well, I haven’t eaten anything yet…. so why not indulge in a couple donuts?” Don’t give yourself that out. Start the day off right and continue to build on it.

4. Drink water all day. I know you’ve probably heard this one before, but I stand by it. I drink water all day long. I have a big cup sitting on my desk that I’ll take swigs from while working. I fill it up a few times a day on average. I think water is great because I think hydration is great. Plus, it kills the boredom hunger strikes that are sometimes unavoidable at certain points throughout the day. Kill that tiny speck of hunger growing in your stomach with some water. It doesn’t stand a chance.

5. I don’t try to eat all day long, but I kinda do. I know it’s an old wives’ tale to eat 5 or 6 small meals throughout the day. Or maybe that’s just good science. I don’t know, but I do know that I inadvertently adhere to the eating throughout the day principle. Why? Because I’m constantly snacking on fruit all day. I’ll generally have a stock of apples and bananas at my desk at all times. Sometimes I’ll have a bag of nuts and raisins. Typically, every couple of hours I’ll grab something and put it down the hatch. Maybe this is good, maybe it’s bogus. But I do it and it seems to work pretty well.

6. This is one that I kinda just picked up and is geared towards endurance athletes. On the days you do a big ride, I’ve found that eating good carbs (sweet potatoes, rice, squash, whole grains) as your recovery meal is preferable to having them all in a “big dinner.” I used to just have a protein fruit smoothie after I got home from a 5 hour ride and then have a huge dinner. I think my mind is changed about that. Now when I get home from a big ride, I’ll have some good sources of carbs and protein IN REAL FOOD! Then later on I’ll have as much greens as I can for dinner. I’m not sure why this seems to be working, but it is.

Let me give you an example. After I got home from a hard 4 hour ride today, I had some pre-cooked rice and eggs all fried up in a delicious mixture. Pre-cooked meaning I cooked a few cups of rice last night. Now for dinner I’m going to have a big spinach salad with a bunch of green fixins. Again, this tip is the least tested, but it seems to be working well for me.

7. Just because I slightly disparaged protein fruit smoothies a second ago doesn’t mean they don’t have their place. Remember the eat breakfast tip? Well, a fruit smoothie is a great breakfast item. Get yourself a decent blender and start experimenting with different frozen fruits and protein mixes. Lately I’ve been using half of my whey protein mix and adding a scoop of Sunbutter. That combo is especially delicious for strawberry/banana smoothies. (Side note: Peanut butter is bullshit. Sunbutter is where it’s at).

8. Final tip: Give yourself one cheat day every week. Mine is on Fridays. And I don’t mean “cheat within reason.” I mean go ahead and go buckwild. See those donuts in the breakroom? Ravage them! I think Fridays are optimal for cheating because it’s a good set-up for a weekend of long rides. But pick whatever day of the week works best for you. The cheat day is also important because it gives you that ace up your sleeve to resist sweets throughout the week. No need to indulge on Wednesday if you’ve got Friday to look forward to.

That’s about all I can think of at the moment. Many of them you’ve heard a million times before, but unlike some of the other standard nutrition advice out there, I can vouch for these tips.

Written by jlongo12

January 28, 2012 at 4:49 pm

Posted in cycling, home life

The Only Number People Care About

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I took the new bike out today for Worlds! Fantastic! What a great ride. However, I noticed that my seatpost was slipping throughout the day. I went from the 10 marker on my post down to the 8. No bueno. I decided to head over to Ike’s house after the ride and get some of that magic no-slippage grease on my post. It worked wonders on my Supersix’s seatpost. We hit that up and then decided to weigh the new beast. I guessed it would come to 16.5 lbs. After all, we were weighing with bottle cages, pedals, and some post-ride dirt and grime.

That bad boy came out to a measly 16.06. YES. That means with a good wash, it’ll be sitting at a solid 16 lbs even. Not too shabby for a heavy power tap wheelset.

Written by jlongo12

January 21, 2012 at 6:26 pm

Posted in cycling

First Thoughts

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I was able to take out the new bike this morning for a quick spin. I wanted to get a few miles on it before I take it out for 5 hours tomorrow. I brought an allen key with me to make any adjustments that might come up. My plan was to ride down to Wash Park and do a few laps.

As soon as I pulled away from my house and headed down Corona, I noticed the massive tubes between my legs. “Why hello there industrial sized tubing. Have we met before?” The top tube is so wide, it feels like my knees are going to hit it every pedal stroke. This didn’t happen at all, but it certainly felt like it was going to. My second thought was, “damn these breaks are powerful!” In fact, the 6700 group as a whole is a great improvement over 6600. The 6700 feels super crisp, both shifting and breaking. It makes my 6600 feel like mush.

As I pulled into the park, I really noticed how stiff the bike is. It was difficult to tell as I was coming down from the top of the hill, but once on flat land, the stiffness jumped out at me. Sitting down and pushing the SL4 is a real joy. Standing up out of the saddle is a whole new experience now. Simply mind blowing. What a difference in responsiveness. It makes my SuperSix feel like mush.

I took a lap around the park and tried riding in all my positions. On the tops felt the most comfortable right off the bat. The bar is much wider and flatter now that we have cables running on both sides of it, so my “climbing” position on the tops is super comfy. From the tops I moved onto the hoods. This felt a little more awkward. I felt like I had to move forward a bit on the saddle to “get into” the position. After messing around with my butt position, I was able to find a good spot. (keep in mind, I have a slightly different saddle on the Tarmac. It has an Antares, my SuperSix has an Arione). With that checked off the list, I did a little switching back and forth between the tops and the hoods. The tops continued to impress. The hoods took a bit getting used to. Granted, I’ve been on this new bike for a grand total of about 10 minutes at this point.

Another thing I noticed was that I felt like my seat was a tad low. I didn’t feel like I was getting full leg extension. I pulled over and adjusted it up a cm or so. It was perfect. From that point on, it felt more “normal” to me. I continued going around the park, said hello to Jordo who was out on a run, and started to get a better feel for my hoods. (another point: the 6700 hoods are WAY different than my 6600. It’ll take some getting used to).

The last lap I focused on getting my position dialed in the drops. The drops felt much better right away. I was really able to feel and enjoy that extra 1.5cm I have now in length. (insert small penis joke here). Before I felt like I was too scrunched up in my drops. On the Tarmac I can relax my arms and back much more. 60mph descents, here I come!

After a couple laps of messing around, I felt satisfied enough to take the new baby out tomorrow for Worlds and High Grade. I headed back home, up the hill. I was looking forward to climbing on this stiff monster while on my comfy tops. It was dee-lightful! What power transfer. Yes, I said that. I said a really lame ass bike buzz word. But that’s all I can think of to describe it. Power. Transfer.

All in all I’m super happy with the new bike so far. I’ve got about 30 minutes total on the thing, so I won’t know for sure until after this weekend when I’ll have logged around 10 hours on it. I’ll check in after Sunday’s all-team ride with my secondary and tertiary thoughts.

Written by jlongo12

January 20, 2012 at 12:01 pm

Posted in cycling

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