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Posts Tagged ‘Economics’

Technology feeds on itself.  Technology makes more technology possible.
  —  Alvin Toffler
From his book:  “Future Shock
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On This Day In:
2018 Great Views
Day 8: One At A Time
2017 Trump Supporters Will Always Find An Excuse
2016 More Posts
2015 A Last Request
2014 It Matters
2013 And You Are?
2012 Not Too Late
2011 Persistence
2009 Health Care?
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“An entire generation, which is now becoming one of the largest electorates in America, came of age and never saw American prosperity,” she says.  “I have never seen that, or experienced it, really, in my adult life.”
  —  Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez
As quoted by Charlotte Alter
In Ms. Alter’s interview / article: “The Making of AOC
Appearing in Time Magazine, dtd: 3 April 2019
[Actually, they’ve seen nothing but prosperity.  What they haven’t seen is increasing personal prosperity or any hope it (increasing personal prosperity) will happen in their lifetime.  —  KMAB]
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On This Day In:
2018 The One Thing
2017 Never Give Up
2016 Which Generation Are We?
Congratulations, Kyle!
2015 Centered
2014 Economic Trinity
2013 At Both Ends
2012 Holding Allowance
2011 The Power Of Good

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Capitalism, however, has been here before.  One of its great historic strengths has been its ability to reform and change shape as social needs and democratic demands shift.  In the late 19th century, parties of the right in Europe brought in a wave of progressive reforms to suit the times, from expanded union rights to the social insurance that began the creation of the modern welfare state.  In these cases, there was a pragmatic and also a moral imperative at work to improve the lives of ordinary citizens.
Yet today, politicians and thinkers have largely stopped making the case for capitalism as a moral good.  What we have instead are abstract ideas about the supremacy of markets.  At the same time, the surges in inequality seen in country after country are corroding the moral principles that underpin capitalism.  The ethical basis for capitalism must be that it offers better life chances for a majority of citizens.  If it is failing to do that, what is the justification for its dominance as an economic system?  Little wonder that a Gallup poll found only 45% of U.S. young adults view capitalism positively, a 12-point decline in just two years.
Artificial intelligence has the potential to alter our lives to an even greater extent.  AI is best understood not as an upgrade of our existing structures but as a general-purpose technology (GPT), like electricity or the steam engine.  GPTs are transformative in their social and economic impacts, reaching into every aspect of life.  “Some people believe that it’s going to be on the scale of the Industrial Revolution,” says Demis Hassabis, the AI expert who co-founded the pioneering machine-learning company DeepMind.  “Other people believe it’s going to be the class of its own above that.”
The crucial factor for managing these changes is time.  In 1900, the proportion of the U.S. population who worked in agriculture was 38% and the proportion who worked in factories was 25%.  Today only 1.5% of the population works in agriculture and 7.9% in factories.  So there’s been a catastrophe of unemployment?  Absolutely not: the losses were more than made up for by growth in other sectors of the economy, which went from providing 24 million jobs in 1900 to some 150 million today.  Most of the new varieties of work simply didn’t exist at the dawn of the last century.  Given time, we know from experience that a society can manage this kind of transition.  The question is, do we have that time?
…Think about what the working life will be of a person who can expect to live for a full century.  What can we say about the likely span of her economic and political life?  The only absolute certainty is that it will involve change.  It will not be static.  It will not involve doing the same thing in the same place over and over again.  Unless we are all prepared for change, we are not prepared for the coming world of work.
At the individual level, the prescription for what we should do to prepare for this new landscape is relatively straightforward.  For a life of multiple careers and skills, people need an education that prepares them for a lifelong process of training and retraining.  They will need, more than anything else, to learn how to learn.  Flexibility and resilience will be crucial.  It won’t be easy, but at least we can see it clearly.  At the level of society it is harder.  Let’s be honest: this is a vision of insecurity, projected across a working life.  It is a clear principle of economic and political history—one we’re relearning today — that humans hate insecurity.
What we need is to rethink the relationship between the individual, the corporate sector and the state.  In recent decades, we have seen a “great risk shift” — to borrow the term of the Yale social scientist Jacob Hacker.  Individuals in temporary, insecure, giglike employment are taking on risks that used to belong to the corporate sector.  Not coincidentally, the share of GDP going to the corporate sector as profits has risen and the share accruing to labor as pay has gone down.
That trend, and that risk transfer, are not sustainable over time.  We need a social safety net focused on career support rather than just simple unemployment benefits.  Companies and individuals and the state must work together to build an enhanced and more flexible version of the welfare state that overlaps with lifelong training and education.
The architects of this new industrial revolution, by the way, agree with this proposition.  Yann LeCun, the chief AI scientist at Facebook and one of the pioneers of deep learning, said recently that every economist he has spoken to agrees that governments must take measures to compensate for rising inequality brought about by technology.  “All of them believe this has to do with fiscal policy in the form of taxing, and wealth and income distribution.”
We also need a functioning marketplace.  The collapse of U.S. government action in the area of antitrust and competition law has led to a damaging concentration across most industries — from cable TV to airlines, online advertising and farming.  While a new generation of robber barons controls huge sections of the U.S. economy, corporate profits surge, wages stagnate, and fewer ordinary workers have reason to believe in the capitalist system.
The final component of what we do next concerns not what we do but what they do — “they” meaning the elites who have profited most from the trends of recent decades.  Quite simply, those elites have to pay their taxes.  They have to stop using offshore havens and accounting tricks to hide their wealth from the societies in which they live and from which they make their profits. Instead of founding think tanks and gorging on discussions about improving distant lives, they have to attend to the lives around them in the places they actually live.
A new emphasis on the role of the nation-state; a new partnership between the state and the private sector and the individual; new action on lifelong learning and training; higher and fairer taxes; less security for big corporations: these things shouldn’t be unthinkable.  It is strange and sad that the least likely thing on my wish list is the idea that elites will change their behavior.
But elites may have to change if they don’t want change to be imposed on them.  This coming wave of technological transformation has the potential to be the most serious challenge modern capitalism has faced.  For people who don’t have the chance to change and adapt and reskill, a pitiless world ruled by algorithms and machine learning, in which they have no utility, no relevant skills and no security, could look completely unlivable.  Facing that prospect, the populations of the developed world may do things that make the current populist moment look polite, low-key and lawful.
— John Lanchester
From his article in Time Magazine (dtd: Feb4/11, 2019): “Economy: Leveling The Playing Field
The article also appears online as: “The Next Industrial Revolution Is Coming.  Here’s How We Can Ensure Equality
The link to the entire online version is: http://time.com/collection/davos-2019/5502589/next-industrial-revolution/
[Please note: This article is extensively quoted without permission from the author or from Time Magazine.  I personally subscribe to the physical version of Time Magazine and have done so for almost 50 years now.  I make no claim to ownership of the article or its ideas.  I do NOT normally post so extensively from an article, but this was (to me) a powerful article about the future of civilization, so I have made an exception.  The ellipses indicate where I have edited out portions of the article.  I hope neither the author nor Time Magazine will object to my editing or use of the article.  Obviously, I encourage all of my readers to go to read the original.  —  KMAB]
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On This Day In:
2018 New And Old
2017 Ever
2016 At The Center
2015 True Value In Life
2014 A Potential To Be Concerned
2013 Fine No More
2012 Have You Checked Your Height Lately?
2011 Are You Convinced?

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Wealth should be like manure in the field.  When it is in a big pile it makes a bad smell.  But when it is distributed everywhere across the field, it makes the soil fertile.
  —  Leo Tolstoy
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On This Day In:
2017 No Universal Thinking
2016 Supervise The Results
2015 Just Magic!
2014 It Lies Ahead…
2013 At Least One Difference
2012 Are We, Are We?
On Not Playing The Game
Scale
2011 Nutcracker And Nooks
Seeing Differences

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Global climate change is one of the causes for the current drought in California and across much of the mid-west and southwestern United States.  Despite what #IncompetentDonald says, that’s just the unfortunate truth.  The thing about science AND reality is they don’t care whether you believe in them or not OR what political party you support.
On visiting the California Camp (Butte County) fire area and viewing the town of Paradise which was destroyed by the recent fire, #PresidentIdiot said we can deal with forest fires the way they do in Finland by raking the underbrush.  If only we had better land management.  Setting aside the fact this is a lie – the Finn’s don’t manage their forests by raking brush and that their President never told Trump they did, as #PresidentTrumpIsALiar claims, let’s take a look at what this “proposal” might cost (this is just a scribbling on the napkin guesstimate):
First I Google’d how many acres of forest land there are in California (Federal land only):   19,000,000 acres
Next I Google’d how long it takes to clear 1 acre of land of leaves – (in a level garden, using a blower and machine lawn-mowers / cutters):  3 men x 3 hours = 9 man-hours per acre.  This includes bagging and taking the leaves to the dump.  This was a private sector estimate at $40 per hour per person and with supervisory overhead (profit margin), a minimum of $500 bid for the job.  Please, note the bids I found are for back yards and gardens.  The quotes are not for brush, hills, mountains and dense forests which may either have no roads or be too steep / rugged to have road access.  In other words, you’ll have to hike there just to use that rake of yours.
That’s a rough $9.5 BILLION dollars ($500 x 19,000,000 acres)!!!  But, of course, we all KNOW that the private sector is MUCH more efficient than the government, so we can assume this is an accurate estimate and a lower cost than if the job were done by Federal workers.
So, how many workers is that?
19,000,000 acres * 9 man-hours per acre = 171,000,000 man-hours
171,000,000 man-hours / 2,000 man-hours per year of work = 85,500 man-years of raking.  (The good news is you don’t need a high school diploma to use a rake.)  Talk about full employment and a Civilian Conservation Corps!!!!
The most level management organization in the world is (wait for it…) the Catholic Church which has ONLY four levels between the parish priest and the Pope (Monsignor (parish), Bishop (diocese), Cardinal (region), Pope (Church) ).  If we adopt the standard rule of seven for supervisor efficiency (except at the bottom of the table) we are left with also hiring 1 supervisor per 36 rakers (2,375 supervisors), 1 manager per 7 supervisors (340 mngrs),  1 senior manager per 7 managers (49 senior mngrs), 1 executive per 7 senior mngrs (7 execs), and 1 “Head of Raking for California”.   Yes, I know that’s 5 levels not 4 (like the Church), but the numbers are the numbers and we don’t have God to routinely make miracles for us.
So, that’s an extra 2,772 folks who will be on staff but not raking.  Now, obviously, these folks are going to make a lot more than the $40 the private sector was going to charge for a “raker”, but let’s assume it’s ONLY $50 / hour.  The cost of this management will be:  $277,200,000.
So, President Trump’s “idea / proposal” to rake the underbrush to prevent future fires will need to hire / use about 88 THOUSAND people and cost  somewhere around $9.8 BILLION per year.  And that’s ONLY for Federal land in California.  And, let’s not get into who’s going to drive the trucks moving the undergrowth to the dump and / or where we’re going to find landfills large enough to hold all of the compost.  Oh, don’t forget the cost of the rakes and the plastic bags to hold the undergrowth during transport.  It boggles the mind…
This is the kind of ridiculous suggestion you get from a man who is so stupid he believes he is smarter than “his” generals (we are still in the Middle East and Afghanistan), “his” economists (we still have no tax relief for the middle class), “his” political advisors (Republicans just lost the House in the mid-terms), and “his” intelligence services (Russian had nothing to do with #DumbDonald getting elected), let alone “who knew healthcare was so complicated” (we still have no Republican proposal to replace the Affordable Care Act).  Basically, this is what happens when you elect an incompetent con-man / grifter to be President.
And, no, I don’t seriously believe any company in the private sector is going to pay someone $40 / hour to rake / blow leaves.  I do believe that is what they will charge you, though.  Okay, enough scribbling…
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On This Day In:
2017 Federal Deficit, National Debt And Tax Cuts For The 1%
2016 Picky, Picky, Picky
2015 Another Limitation On Religion
2014 Enduring
2013 Tell Me More…
2012 Passing…
2011 Fake It ‘Til You Make It

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You’ve said this album is your last recording of Bach.  Is this tour a victory lap?
I don’t have any plans for immediate demise.  I’m not suffering from an illness that is fatal, other than being alive.  I’m committed to thinking about cultural and social impact because that’s what I feel we need in the world at this time: to make sure that culture has an equal seat at the table as politics and economics.  I don’t think there’s anything more important I can do, and I will devote the rest of my life to thinking in this way.
  —  Yo-Yo Ma
Quoted in an interview by: Raisa Bruner
The interview: “7 Questions
Time Magazine
Dated: 24 September 2018
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On This Day In:
2017 More Pictures From My (Family) Retirement Party
A Fondness For Sins
2016 Are You Waiting?
2015 The Future Myth
2014 Hands
2013 Because You Have Lived
2012 47%
2011 Conservative Values: Low And Lax
2010 A Non-Zero Sum Game
What If “c” Isn’t A Constant?
2009 Pictures from UCLA trip…

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The Grapes Of Wrath (1940) — movie review
Today’s review is for the John Ford directed movie: “The Grapes Of Wrath” starring Henry Fonda as Tom Joad, Jane Darwell as Ma Joad and John Carradine as Jim Casy.  The movie is based on the novel written by John Steinbeck which was published the year before the movie (1939).  The subject of the movie is the move by the Joad family from Oklahoma to California – what causes the move and what happens during the move.  This is the first time I’ve seen this movie and I never had to read the book while in high school and haven’t read it since.  Yes, I know it’s a “classic”.  Mea culpa, mea culpa.
It seems I’ve been watching a number of Henry Fonda movies lately, so I thought I’d do this review next (after “Once Upon A Time In The West“).  In OUATITW, Fonda plays a cold blooded killer named (only) Frank.  I was surprised to find he is also a killer in this movie.  At the start of the movie, Tom is released from prison (convicted of murder which he claims was in self-defense) and he makes his way to his family’s farm in Oklahoma.  He finds the farm abandoned, but is able to meet up with them at his uncle’s farm nearby.  Unfortunately, his uncle’s farm has also been repossessed, and the family is being forced off of it.
Repossessed is probably not an accurate description, because they don’t actually own the farm.  They are sharecroppers.  As long as the land was productive, they could scrape by enough to feed themselves and pay their rent.  But, when the world was hit by the Great Depression and most of the mid-west was hit by the “dust bowl” of the mid-1930’s, the land was unable to support the families let alone pay for the rents.  Many families were forced to move or starve.
Like many families, the Joad’s decide to move to California on the “promise” of well paying jobs.  The majority of the rest of the movie is about the difficulties of the trip and the eventual realization that “the promise” was merely a means for the owners of the land in Oklahoma to get the sharecroppers to voluntarily move off the land without the owners having to use force.  And, during the course of the movie, Fonda’s character kills again.  This time Tom kills a “deputy” who has just killed Fonda’s friend (Carradine / Casy) for no reason except that he (the deputy) can get away with it.
This movie is a powerful indictment of capitalism, fascism and authoritarianism in the United States during the 1930’s.  It has strong political (anti-communist) undertones which touch on both the “red scare” and anti-unionism as the wealthy, in California, try to take advantage of their fellow Americans who have been driven into poverty and into migrant worker status by weather and economic forces beyond their control.  The movie also uses two specific scenes to demonstrate that average Americans have charity in their hearts – in sharp contrast with those with economic power / wealth.
The movie is generally considered to be one of the greatest American movies of all time – and I agree it one of the most powerfully disturbing movies I’ve ever viewed.  According to Wikipedia: “this film was one of the first 25 films to be selected for preservation in the United States National Film Registry by the Library of Congress as being “culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant.” “
The movie was nominated for seven Academy Awards (1941) and won two: Darwell for Best Actress and Ford for Best Director.  Fonda was nominated for Best Actor, but did not win.  He lost to James Stewart in “The Philadelphia Story“.
Final recommendation: very highly recommended!  Disturbing, yes!  Powerful, yes!  If there is ANY downside to the movie, I’d say the weak attempt at an optimistic ending detracted from the overall power of the movie.  Fonda’s “Joad as everyman” in the prior scene was barely believable.  Ma’s “we’re gonna get by cause that’s what we’ve always done” – far less so.  In any case, this is a great / classic movie and well worth viewing in our day due to its message about our own economic / political time.
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On This Day In:
2017 Proof Sits In The Oval Office
2016 Tragic Determinism
2015 Maybe It Should Be Clearer
2014 Make It Your Strength
2013 Four Score
2012 The Ruler
2011 Forever
2010 Just Cuz
How Do You Mend A Broken Heart?
It’s Alive!! (3rd Pair Shoe Review)

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