Archive for the ‘ Economy ’ Category

Capitalism is Money Making More Money

Capital is Money. And Capitalism is money organized to make more money.

Money making more money, makes more money available. This creates a society with big advantages, and big disadvantages.

Lots of money is available for big projects – transportation (railroads and steamship lines) – and for manufacturing (for making factories). These combinations make nations powerful – and also make for income inequality. More power is created, but this power is not equally distributed.

Something else is necessary to make all this work – to lessen the inequality, and make bigger pieces of the pie available for everyone. And this something else has to be, to begin with – an awareness that this something else is needed.

Once we know what is needed, we can try different ways of making it happen. Always keeping in mind, what we want to do. Make a better world.

Ignorance is the Secret Glue that Holds Everything Together

I am still obsessed with my struggle to understand what is going on. The answer for most people is simple “Don’t try to understand! Powerful, secret forces are managing the world, and it is best to leave them alone.”

I’m sure they are right – powerful forces are managing the world – or more correctly, mismanaging the world. And they do not want their operations exposed.

We can take that as our starting point – something is messing up the world. Next question “What is it?”

I can only speak from my personal experience in the last half of the 20th Century – and a very unpleasant experience that was. I kept asking “What is going on? And I kept getting the same answer “Nothing is going on, or at least, nothing important. Have a good time, and stop asking questions!”

And I kept seeing company after company, organization after organization – go under.And everyone kept ignoring this.They seemed to feel their most important asset – was their ability to ignore this.

And they were right, as far as their individual survival was concerned. If they noticed, they were shot down in flames – as an enemy of How Things Worked. I could only conclude that I was a horrible person – since I noticed what was going on.

If I could rewind time, back to 1960 – what could I say to the people then? I could only say “Something is wrong, and badly wrong – and we got to do something about it!” But I was trapped in my career as an Electronic Engineer, in the Cold War – making all kinds of money, doing nothing.

I was miserable, but I could not understand why. I was wasting my life, but no one seemed to think this was important.

Something else was important – but no one knew what that was – or wanted to know what that was.

From Competition to Cooperation

We are living in a world undergoing great change – including this change in the way we work together.

The Industrial economy assumed that competition in the marketplace would produce the greatest good overall. And it did produce wealthy countries, including the USA. But this economy had huge problems. It was subject to financial panics – later called depressions, because this sounded better. And it produced the very rich and the very poor. And it even produced the Holocaust.

Something was wrong, but no one knew how to fix it – without wrecking everything, as the Soviet Union tried to do.

A new way of doing things, came from the strangest place – the Computer and its Software. To produce good Software, people have to cooperate. Software companies know this – but they are still prone to the old ways of doing business – fighting everyone else to get a bigger share of the pie. Instead of making the whole pie bigger – something that can be done.

Now, we have two ways of doing things, (1) going to war to get more – or (2) cooperating to help everyone. The first alternative, right now, is the most popular- even though it means wrecking everything. War has always been popular.

If we go back to the Fifties, we can see how we went wrong. Companies found it more profitable to move their manufacturing to China – and the Federal Govemment did nothing to stop them. The Industrial Midwest (including Detroit) became a Rust Belt.

No one realized that our economy included all Americans – the Workers, the Consumers, and the Capitalists. We all had to work together.

I included the Consumer in this mix. Software people have renamed them the User – and emphasize that they have to be part of the Development Cycle. Companies have to produce products and services that the User wants.

The User has to be included in the process of developing a new product – using an iterative process. Develop a prototype, and see if the User likes it.- if not, try a new idea, that often as not – he suggests.

Systemically Important Financial Institution (SIFI)

Wikipedia
Barney Frank and Paul Krugman on Financial Reform

Understanding how our financial institutions work is no easy job. The second video is over an hour long, and is full of heavy stuff. The sidebar on the Wikipedia article shows a list of risk categories – all of them linking to other articles.

To be a well-informed citizen in today’s world – is more work that most people want. They only want to be entertained – not informed.

Understanding Power in our Time

This should be one of our primary obsessions – to understand how power works on us now. But we are not doing this – and seem to think, the less we think about this (or anything else) the better off we will be. Power is so powerful in our time – because no one wants to think about it – or know about it.

How did this happen? I think it happened, because things got out of control, and we did not want to admit this. That they were in control, and not us. This was revealed in the Panics in our Economy – over which we had no control. We could not control it – but it could control us!

The next step was crucial – we decided we were the problem, and we had to eliminate us – by deciding to not be, and getting us out of the picture. Once we were gone, things could work right again!

This is clearly insane – but like all insanity, it has its own strange logic, imbedded in that crucial step – where we decided against ourselves. It was such an easy solution, it had to be right! And those in power agreed with this solution – get people (with their human needs) out of the way, and let Power take over!

This fits in with our religious background, and our belief in God. Power was God! As He was revealing Himself in our time.

No one made this claim out loud – but they did’t have to. It was kept safely in our collective unconscious – where it could act, without our being aware of it.

And act, it most certainly did.

Visual vs Audible

This distinction was made by Marshall McLuhan – a strange genius that made a big impact back in the Sixties, but has since been forgotten.

As I recall, he posited that we started as auditory beings, talking to each other. With the advent of written language, we changed enormously – and became Civilized, living in large communities. Capable of great good or great evil – often mixed in together.

This makes perfect sense to me – and I have added to it my own observation, that in the 19th Century, all this Development got out of hand. This, I have to say, is my own observation, and has not become popular – because it puts much of what happened from the middle of the 19th Century to the middle of the 20th Century  in an unfavorable light. When we like to put these times in a favorable light.

These troubles began with the American Civil War, WWI, the Depression, WWII – and the Holocaust.

It seems to me that one of the reasons for these problems, was our reliance on visual thinking – when much of our social interaction remains audible. The Nazis, for example, were audible thinkers. As is Trump.

We need both, as I can see easily where I now live, in Costa Rica – in Latin America. The people here are friendly toward other people – a huge contrast to North America, where they are not. But they are not familiar with the concepts of Objective Time and Space – and remain in Subjective Time and Space. And remain poor.

North America remains rich – but these riches are endangered by a social collapse – which is caused, in part, by trying to use visual processes to cope with auditory problems.

This is easily seen in our laws – that keep getting longer (hundreds of pages long) – and less effective. Written laws cannot cope with auditory problems.

Back in the Sixties, I knew a guy who worked for the Congressional Printing Office – that printed the Congressional Record. He and his fellow-workers used to get some good laughs out of the stuff they had to print.

The most important result of our collective audible thinking is our decision  to be either constructive or destructive. This is the fundamental attitude on which everything else depends. Right now, we are self-destructive.

As I am writing this, I am also watching a video Barney Frank and Paul Krugman on Financial Reform. A video, with its subtitles, is both visual and audible – and can be watched anywhere.

This is also true of MOOCs and Webinars – that combine the technology of Television and the Computer, and usually try to make technical and social changes.

Will these powerful new technologies save our ass? No, because the mass of the people are not interested in, and not affected by them.

A social (and economic) collapse with the election of Trump is happening – and is necessary to get rid of the dysfunctional behavior we have become stuck in.

Hopefully, this collapse will not go too far – because recovery from a deep collapse, such as the Fall of the Roman Empire – took  a thousand years. This one will take at least 20 years, however – for a new generation to become disillusioned, and to try some new ideas.

We Were Not To Criticize Our Betters

In this posting, I am referring to what we were told, as children, in the middle of the last century, in the Midwest of America. We were not to question our parents about money matters.

I am reading Walt Whitman’s America: A Cultural Biography – about the economic difficulties Whitman’s family had in the opening years of the 19th Century. As the people on Long Island and Brooklyn were changing from Farmers to Industrial workers. Those were hard times that no one wants to remember now.

There are parallels between the two families and the two times. In this posting, I will concentrate on my own family, and my own Father. He had hard times too, but as children – we were not supposed to notice them.

Dad owned a photography studio in Ft. Madison, Iowa – and made a lot of money during WWII, since it was the only studio in town. After the War, returning Veterans set up their own photography studios, and drove Dad out of business – since their prices were lower.

Dad was always a small businessman, and could never work for anyone else. This was not a problem in the Forties, because small businesses (including family farms) were everywhere – easy to start, and profitable. But times were changing, and fifty years later, small businesses were rare. Dad was bucking this trend.

Dad made the decision, in 1950, to manufacture stone ground whole wheat flour – in my Mother’s home town of Nauvoo, Illinois, just across the Mississippi River from Ft. Madison. A company had just made the machinery to do this, in small quantities.

Dad thought there would be a good market for this flour – but he was wrong. The market never developed. So he built a bakery to make whole wheat bread, and whole wheat pastries. This had problems also, and never made much money.

But Dad and Mom solved all their problems by selling the house – making a lot of money from this – and retiring to Mexico.

They were lucky, darn lucky. Their economic failures – due to no fault of their own, could be forgotten.