[FoRK] Another election year.... another bum economy

Stephen Williams sdw at lig.net
Thu Jun 16 02:29:08 PDT 2011

On 6/16/11 12:28 AM, J. Andrew Rogers wrote:
> On Jun 15, 2011, at 11:29 PM, Stephen Williams wrote:
>> On 6/15/11 10:35 AM, Aaron Burt wrote:
>>> On Tue, Jun 14, 2011 at 11:24:47PM -0400, Gavin Thomas Nicol wrote:
>>>> I figure the presidency will likely swing one way or another based mostly
>>>> on how poorly people are feeling about the economy.
>>> Not to worry, News Corp is shouting down the economy as loudly as possible.
>> No kidding.  Instead of putting effort into constructive attention, ideas, and new directions, we get more concentration on negatives, pessimistic attitudes, and failure.  Making piles of cash by working as hard as you can on a self-fulfilling prophecy that directly sabotages the vast majority of your listeners is perverted.
> It is not as though the news media had to fabricate this, in many ways the economy *is* doing poorly. The actions of the government, doing little useful but finding time for the usual graft and waste on historic scales, fuels the widespread pessimism.

It certainly did poorly over the last several years.  Plus, a number of huge fictions were unveiled.  However, it has stopped 
getting worse.  Not getting better fast enough has 'getting worse' aspects, but it is still much better than the first and second 
derivatives were looking ugly.

There are some promising noises coming from the government, and lots of stupidity, both new and old varieties.  The best part of all 
of that is that everyone is softened up somewhat to various kinds of change, although there is plenty of alkanization too.

> On what basis should the average person feel optimistic about the economy? Focus for a moment on the 60% of the population that does not believe the absurd fictions promulgated by the political parties. Most people work in retail sales, process paperwork, drive vehicles, manage a lumberyard, etc for a living. What are they supposed to be looking forward to given the observable facts of their situation and the situation of those around them? They can't all become PHP-wrangling hipsters.

With a little imagination, research (by both journalists/news, alpha-techies, and the public in general), and incubators, etc., we 
could get a good positive buzz going to leverage all of that human effort being wasted right now.  Rather than waiting for Obama / 
Washington to generate a 5 year plan or something (or worse, doing everything possible to get him/them/us to fail so they can smugly 
claim that people misvoted), people should be thinking of creative ways to make themselves, and the US, more useful and 
competitive.  Washington's role ought to be occasionally seeding projects (DARPA challenges and similar), bringing top talent 
together, and finding creative ways to get regulations / taxes / etc. on the side of innovators in a big way (Indian Reservation 
style perhaps).

For instance, we should have moon-shot, or at least challenge-style, projects for various kinds of manufacturing, inexpensive / 
indestructible / attractive housing (including tornado / hurricane / flooding proof), farming / microfarming, robotic everything 
(factories, farming, care, education, misc. maintenance), etc.

There is plenty of private and a bit of public money to invest in potential blockbuster projects, plenty of available labor (albeit 
generally needing a continuous education program), plenty of land and resources if people get creative (terra form, in a sense, some 
of the vast cheap / free land we have if necessary), and plenty of projects.

Not to mention many foreign projects that could be negotiated.  Pick a non-warring country and teach them English, various modern 
practices, etc. as a stock-option-like investment on their improvement.  "Unemployed?  Invest your time in the Option Corps."

The possibilities are endless.

> A caveat is that the software industry is doing great -- there is a selection bias here. Unfortunately, only a minuscule fraction of the people in the US can participate in this industry in a meaningful way. I guess

Sort of true.  Sort of not true.  Same thing could have been said about anything but farming in one era, working in textile mills or 
factories in another, etc.  At some point, we're going to optimize out most of the mindless jobs (robotics, AI, nano, etc.).  We'll 
revolve up and there will be another level of jobs to keep people busy.

Right now, food is a relatively small part of most budgets.  Energy is a solvable problem, but we have a lot of work to do there.  
Information and entertainment are well handled and scaled.  We have a plethora of manufactured goods that are ultra cheap.  
Education both is and isn't scaled / good / effective, but seems to be a revolution or two away from good, broad, deep, cheap coverage.

Real estate is a giant sinkhole for money when, in most cases, it shouldn't be.  Hard to see how to solve that generally without 
breaking things (like megacity overcrowding) that high prices keep in check.  Certainly cheap, good, high density, indestructible 
(in various senses) housing would be a good start, both in dense and newly settled areas.

Trying to prop up housing prices to "save" existing investments is a bad idea in general, even though it would benefit many 
individuals temporarily.  Regardless of validity of and need for high housing / building costs, it seems like the single worst 
factor for competitiveness, and potentially the most addressable.

> government employees are doing pretty well too. For most everyone else, putting on rose-colored glasses does not change the scenery.

Fixing things won't be easy, straightforward, or without being gamed or destroyed a few times, but it is clearly possible.  But not 
until we get critical mass behind something other than "My unpublished non-plan is far better than your published non-plan to avoid 
saying anything that would alarm anyone...".


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