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Radically Inept
Wednesday, August 11, 2004
  Temporarily slacking on blogging and new editorial policy

Yes, I have decided to temporarily slack off from blogging. Not cease mind you, but I am doing research for what I think will be a fairly indepth post. I have finished reading The Worldly Philosophers: The Lives, Times And Ideas Of The Great Economic Thinkers, and whole heartedly agree with this reviewer from over at Amazon:
"The author takes a subject (economics) that is often beyond dry and makes it both entertaining and educational, with lots of surprises thrown in. Every time I thought I had caught the author in a mistake or an oversight (Ah ha! Now I've got you!) he'd cover my questions or thoughts within the next couple of pages or so. The author earned my confidence again and again. I found him to be a reliable guide through treacherous waters.

There's a lot of good history in this book. He tackles each major economic philosopher (and others), makes the man come alive in the context of his times, and relates his thinking to our own time by putting their ideas to the test of subsequent history. I particularly enjoyed the chapters on Smith and Keynes."
Now I've had undergrad, and grad courses on economics, and find the subject fascinating, even though I think economists themselves, suck when it comes to predicting markets. When they stick to history, and theory they do well, but everytime I see one on a news program making predictions...Well, you might as well flip a coin or roll a couple of ten sided die. The later might be the most accurate.

Anyway, there was one particular point that I've decided to follow up on. That was the idea that the industrial revolution was actively resisted by the powers of the time. The church and monarchies did not want to share power with merchants, and in fact feared losing their power. And in the end, that is largely what did happen. While there are a few monarchies still around, none retain the 'divine right of kings', and the life and death powers that existed prior to the industrial revolution. The church is still a powerful player, but not nearly so, and much of the power they have retained is due to their adapting and becoming adept at playing in the market place.

Okay, the point here is that I've picked up The Cambridge Economic History of Europe from the Decline of the Roman Empire, volumes III through VI, which deal with the transition to capitalism and free markets, and the affects of the industrial revolution; "Money: A History", by Jonathan Williams, Joe Cribb, Elizabeth Errington, and "The Arms of Krupp: The Rise and Fall of the Industrial Dynasty that Armed Germany at War", by William Manchester with the idea that I might find some decent parallels to apply to our current information revolution. Basically, are national governments and global corporations resisting the transition to what ever comes next, much as the old European powers resisted the industrial revolution? If so, is it possible to project these parallels and derive some idea of where it's heading, and perhaps more importantly, gain some insights in how to better manage the transition. By better, I think I'll use less bloodshed, less starvation, greater individual rights, etc. as some of my metrics. Oh, and most importantly, how do I come out on top

So I suspect that these readings, and hopefully the resulting theorizing, will detract from the time that I will actually spend in front of the computer blogging, but hopefully I when I'm done, I will have something worthwhile to post. Besides, ya'll are doing such a fine job of keeping up with current events and politics, that I suspect that my reduction in posts to one or two smaller items per day, will not disrupt the fabric of the bloggosphere. In fact, ya'll were doing fine before I started. So, I do plan to spend sometime blogging daily, but I probably won't hit everybody's site on a daily basis, nor contribute as much in the form of comments for a few weeks.

Now for the new Radically Inept editorial policy. I was explaining 'blogs' last night to Tom Walker of the AJC, a good guy, but not up on current trends in technology, and not likely to put much time into it. I told him that he could look at blogs, and the whole bloggosphere, like a massively large and bizarre newspaper. One with thousands of editorial, sports, comic, business, etc. pages. And the reader chooses which sections of which 'publication' he's interested in reading. When he asked about the 'comment' ability, and whether that was the distinction between a blog and a web page, I had to say that it really isn't, but again, like a newspaper, the blog 'editor' decides on policies such as whether to have a 'letter to the editor' section. So after that Radically Inept explanation of blogging and in light of some of the comments I've received in the past, I've decided to establish my own policy.

While I enjoy replying to comments, and take all criticisms seriously, I do not want to spend to much time arguing points back and forth. It is not that I don't like a good, vigorous argument, or that I don't think the majority of my positions are defensible, but rather it takes time away from developing new ideas and new posts. So, I think my policy will be that if I think you have 'scored a point', to acknowledge it. If you are offering advice, or alternative sources of information, suggesting new readings and the like, I will always take the time to say thank you. But, if I don't feel that your argument against one of the positions I have taken in a post is worthwhile, I'm just not going to spend much time pursuing a degeneratively spiraling argument.

So to Ben of commonSci, I promised you a rebuttal to your rebuttal of "Economic Efficiency>Vulnerability>Revolution", and I'll spend a little time on it, but in general, I think this will be an area that I really let slide.

First, I presented what I think was a fairly substantive argument for my position on job losses in "Jobs will continue to vanish". If you think my position is too silly for words, well that doesn't give me much information to debate. If you think twenty or thirty years of muddling through economic depression is a fair way for the United States to deal with the pressures of globalization and job loss's, either from outsourcing or technology, again, I just don't know how to rebut it. If you would tell me where you think new jobs will come from, or how government or big business is going to make the transition easier on our population. Well then we would have something to debate.

The military and it's lean logistics line, is a recognized problem in military circles. I'm sorry you don't feel that it is a problem. But while I used tank track of the M-1 as an example, the same holds true for many of our weapons systems. Part of this is that we have, in my opinion stupidly, allowed companies to retain a proprietary interest in the military hardware they develop and field. Many of our systems that are still in use, have limited spare parts on shelves, and the plants that originally made them are closed, or re-tooled to make other products. You can do the research yourself, but it won't be hard to find an extensive list of similar problems.

You should also look past the garbage you hear on TV from the talking heads. For instance, the B-1 bomber is not the unmitigated success they will have you believe. It is a white elephant, that requires a temperature controlled hanger and a 100+ hours of maintenance for each hour of flight. Just think of the costs of training pilots. The new F-35, for all it's build up, can't be forward deployed, because it to is a virtual hanger queen and can't operate without fixed runways. And believe me, the Predator Drone, is also not the success that the Pentagon wants you to think it is. Uh, I hate to break this to you, I mean it feels like I'm telling you there is no Santa, but, um, the Pentagon LIES. Regularily. To you, to congress, to the people. And the corporations that make up the military-industrial complex? Um, well, Ben, they LIE, CHEAT and STEAL. Daily. I'm sorry, but I think your old enough for the truth now. Ask the soldiers that try floating a Bradley Fighting Vehicle. Ask why so many soldiers prefer the AK-47 to the M-16. Ask how many people soldiers die each year directly from the corruption that is imbedded in the military procurement system. Anyway, read "John Boyd - USAF, The Fighter Pilot Who Changed the Art of Air Warfare" for a some excellent insight into how military procurement actually works.

Your point that we can whip anybody though, rings a little hollow. Superior technology does not win wars. Nuking a country to glass, also does not count in most military circles as a win. It's an act of desperation. Further, winning battles does not win wars, see Vietnam, Afghanistan, Nicaragua, Korea, Malaysia, China, etc. Also, I'd suggest reading Sun Tzu.

You don't like my water-beaker-pan analogy, that's fine. On that one, I think I will allow the next five to ten yearsto prove me right or wrong. But there is no reason, without government intervention, that any job will remain here, if it can be done at close to the same quality, and at far lower cost somewhere else. And if technology can econoically replace labor it will. I will not be surprised to see us become a nation of car detailers, landscapers, bartenders and the like. Some high paying jobs will stay here, but I think the operative word will be 'some'.

Again, if you could tell me where you think the jobs will come from, we might have something to debate. But truly transformative technologies, like electricity and computers, and transformative business methodologies like mass production, do not happen frequently, and haven't been predictable in the past. If you have some insight on what the next big thing is, that will actually result in increased high wage employment, please share.

I will throw one thing your way, that you may develop an argument around that could help support your position. Look at security jobs. The more scared we are; the more we realize how vulnerable we are, the greater the demand will be for security guards. So that may be the growth profession of the future, just that it often doesn't pay a living wage.

Anyway, that's it. If you are not converted to my point of view and/or are still not satisfied with my argument, I will be happy to read your counter, but I am moving on to other things. These books are tombs, and the reading is no where close to light. So, I'll be back later tonight, or it might be tomorrow morning.

 
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