Saturday, February 23, 2008

All The Lines are Blurred Now

When one leaves to go travelling, and styles said travels as some kind of warrior pilgrimage one may speculate on how they have changed. I think thanks to haircuts a few wardrobe purchases and the odd tropical disease my appearance may have sufficiently changed, but these surely will change again.
Furthermore it would have been easy say at my highschool reunion to remark how little I had changed like I could easily have asserted as true of my peers.
But the hard changes to notice are the internal ones. The changes of the mind. And the great thing about being a rational reasoning being is that I can change my mind when presented with new evidence or stimulus.
But I feel an essay coming on and it regards mostly this phenomena of 'Globalisation' influenced in one part by my travel experiences and in another part by the book The World Is Flat - now the largest selling non-fiction book in the world, and in part by reading Noam Chomsky.
You see I simply don't know what to believe anymore. As an anti-nationalist, globalisation or its truer form internationalisation should be right up my arsehole. I have long argued that I would not favor an Australian over any other decent human being in distributing opportunities.
As a business man I love business and management, systems and processes, yet find myself now leaning towards anarchism.
As an artist I love diversity and creativity and now find them almost mutually exclusive.
'The World Is Flat' seems to sniff the arsehole of globalization and like what it sees there. I think it occupies that zone of being dangerously well written, like most travellouges on Japan. He does true up the equation in later chapters and addresses a lot of the important issues however these issues if you ask me should have been upfront.
Then there's Noam who I'll quote later on, but he points out a lot of the baggage left over from how 'successful' the west has been and how wonderful a precedent has been set for the Big Emerging Markets to play catch up.
But I'll list my thoughts in subcategories below... get a drink now and go to the toilet if you need to.

Rowan of Rin Defence:

From what I know of statistics and economics the best hope for globalization the best outcome is portrayed in the Emily Rodda book Rowan and the Keeper of the Crystal. That is that 'economic success' is caused by certain governance and conduct.
In the story Rowan the protagonist in his third appearance is chosen to select the new Keeper of the Crystal, an important position amongst the aquatic folk who resemble large sea monkeys or something. In the end Rowan picks the strange pensive candidate to assume the mantle of ultimate power amongst the people, realising too late that he is a sabotuer placed by the rebel camp.
Fortunately the Crystals power is such that it fundamentally alters the sabotuer and he acts nobly and righteously thwarting the evil plans of his masters. They discover that the nature of the Crystal means that it doesn't matter who is the keeper afterall.
And hopefully economic growth is like that. And theres plenty to suggest it is so. Affluence is linked to hıgher education which is linked to a reduction in religious fanatacism, more alrtuism and social responsibiltity, stable governance and so fourth.
Because the possibly xenophobic thought that occured to me in China and India just looking at the street is 'man I don't want these dudes running anything' the disregard for infastructure, the environment, community and so fourth made me think if these are going to become the new economic powerhouses then we may aswell just tip all the money and resources we have into the ocean now.
But The World is Flat points out that generally with movement into industrial age and increases in trade and all that everyones standard of living impoves.
And certainly Japan are a case study for this, they are relatively harmless and have yeilded huge improvements of benifit to all in the entertainment, electronic goods and automotive industries in their rapid rise to economic powerhouse.
So hopefully this latest wave of globalisation drags up China, India and the other laggards to a standard of governance that pretty much just resembles our own.
So what I am saying is that whether someone is Indian, Chinese or American wont matter at all, they'll more or less act, look and run exactly the same.
Except, the Japan thing isn't true. Nintendo, Honda, Sony & Toyota and to a lesser extent the now virtually defunct/superflous Mitsubishi (and time will tell with Sony) brought the innovations and the rest just sort of freeloaded. And now Japan is a leaky hulk of capitalism up to its eyeballs in bad debt, consumer debt, national debt and stagnant growth.
And this points to the question of Success. Because worst case is that the CCP remains in control of a new rich China, attacks Japan, Taiwan and so on drastically diminishing the quality of lives of the asian region (through reduced freedoms and incredibly poor TV programming) or India creates a pool where even the best knowledge workers are so abundant the Labor market becomes commodified and all social safety nets drop out in a stupid western bid to stay competitive leaving everywhere as well planned, governed and competitive as India.

The Question of Success:

Of course the thing about catch up is where you are catching up to. Globalization 3.0 or whatever strikes me as a timely distraction. I was dissapointed to see that 'Affluenza' had been ripped off by some british dude, after my initial excitement that Clive Hamilton had gotten his important work published in progressive UK.
But it is the issue facing all the 'successful' nations in the world, that we have become obsessed with the pursuit of more stuff. Our lives are essentially meaningless and to top that up Climate change and Sustainability are becoming big arse issues in the political and social spheres.
That is that capitilism isn't enough and I believe it revolves around how we still measure power and success, even economics and success - GNP. The incredibly flawed system whereby all expenditure is good.
Raise your hand if you live in a country with automotive manufacturing. It probably costs you as a tax paying member of society some portion of your taxes.
The automotive manufacturing industry is a glorified work for the dole scheme, nothing new there. But why do countries lust after it? because nothing gets an economy going like it. Despite pitiful subsidised profits, it magically consumes a lot of resources, which shows up in GNP and so an economy looks stronger. Whereas digging and filling holes (ironically sustainable) wouldn't look as good on GNP hence we donit have such welfare schemes.
But that's the fundamental goal of capitalism - Noam Chomsky on it -

Take the Kyoto Protocol. Destruction of the environment is not only rational; it's exactly what you're taught to do in college. If you take an economics or a political science course, you're taught that humans are supposed to be rational wealth accumulators, each acting as an individual to maximize his own wealth in the market. The market is regarded as democratic because everybody has a vote. Of course, some have more votes than others because your votes depend on the number of dollars you have, but everybody participates and therefore it's called democratic. Well, suppose that we believe what we are taught. It follows that if there are dollars to be made, you destroy the environment. The reason is elementary. The people who are going to be harmed by this are your grandchildren, and they don't have any votes in the market. Their interests are worth zero. Anybody that pays attention to their grandchildren's interests is being irrational, because what you're supposed to do is maximize your own interests, measured by wealth, right now. Nothing else matters. So destroying the environment and militarizing outer space are rational policies, but within a framework of institutional lunacy. If you accept the institutional lunacy, then the policies are rational

and I would never have put it right like that, rational behavior under institutional lunacy, it's like my old win win trump card - athiests should kill all believers. Accepting the institutional lunancy if you believe you are saved, and heaven is much much better than earth, so if you are killed prematurely you go there, and an athiest is damned, but can better his/her own cause because they can reduce the number of believers by ethically sending them to a better place, and so fourth.
Of course the win-win killing believers is lunacy because an athiest doesn't accept that anyone they kill will go to heaven, and thus it isn't an act of compassion.
But back on track, the whole crux of the issue is that in the successful world, people are depressed. People work in jobs they hate, kids use drugs purchased with their parents economic success, the environment is dissapearing, families are disfunctional, work hours increased, farmers shoot themselves over debt, gambling is on the rise, people are over medicated... this is success.
Let me go further with what I noticed in good old Asia...

To be Rich Is Boring:

In Japan if you make it you get the priveledge of putting on an easily recognisable uniform, Louis Vuitton, Burberry, Armani, Polo Ralph Lauren etc. same same, travel to the best part of Beijing you find the exact same outlets, stay in the most expensive hotels anywhere in Asia, and you can shop at the exact same stores in the Lobby of the Taj Mahal Hotel Mumbai, Beijing Hotel, and any street in Tokyo.
Like getting 99.95 in your enter score (or equivalent top marks for any Uni entrance program) your choices are while technically the widest, deceptively narrow - doctor or lawyer, being rich means you end up with only 4 or 5 brands to choose between, even though technically you can afford anything.
So you have the best of this and the best of this and lose all diversity.
This poses another problem to this wonderful rapid development - it is at the crux of development vs globalization. Development is where you go to India and say - okay these people need access to schools, clean water and such and you lend money and send in volunteers and scientists and try to make them happen. And unfortunately the only big success story of development was post WW2 Europe. Which wasn't so much development as redevolopment as the living generation could remember good infrastructure and management.
Globalization is more the reaganite 'trickle down' arguement and as an example of the fuzzy line, this is one of the fuzziest, the arguement goes that once the top businesses start making money through working as outsourcing for IT in India and Labour and new markets for Nike in China then the rest of society will get dragged up. Entreprenuers will start to invest and pull everyone through the globalization hole to salvation. And maybe.
But when I watch TV in China and India and watch the same marketing forces at play targeting consumer goods to the new rich that can afford TV I do this little role play.
Remember the official script says as a young IT professional in India that has made it they think something like 'great now I'm going to use my wages to help my community build a school for the poor children who don't go right now' or 'I'm going to invest in a water purification plant for the slums' yet the TV adds are - like HSBS Bank India's add promoting personal loans by portraying an inept comical father flipping coins to pick between furniture for his wife, a plasma screen for his daughter and some similarly expensive thing for his whining son, the moral - get a loan and satisfy all three.
And in China the Johnny Walker ad portrays a future where everything is dominated by China - outer space, movie director seats and Fortune's 10 richest men all being Chinese men (I wonder how China's richest individual a woman feels about that).
All promoting an incredibly shallow new world of riches awaiting the BEMs if only they'd hurry up.
So the script for the new rich infact reads 'this is great this new money, now I have an income I can go secure a loan and buy myself a plasma screen TV, a BMW, expensive whiskey, good clothes, etc etc.'
And this is one point that caused my lines to go fuzzy, particularly in India.
Tim Friedman the author of 'The World is Flat' in discussing 'The Great Sorting Out' poses some interesting 'sort this out' challenges. Particularly his who's exploiting who Indiana vs India, whereby the state of Indiana saved money and got superior service by selling a big contract to Tata communications in India until protectionists had the contract torn up.
The arguements are that India ain't being exploited if we 'save' the Indians 'left to rot on the docks of Mumbai and Bangalore' with their 'God given talent' firstly I like the use of 'god given' because as far as I am aware there is a hindu caste system that helps from birth sort out talent in India, and a lot of my Hindu (and to a lesser extent Indian buddhist) friends often have remarks 'yeah but they are poor for a reason' as if poverty rather than being an evil to be removed, is part of the current social order, and even with rationalisation in place to polish up the point of view, a belief in a karmic caste system cannot be removed from the roots of this belief.
And expanding it, being anti national cuts both ways - that is we seem to be forgetting in both cases that the IT professionals and China's new rich represent laughably minimal minorities, that are large in sheer scale of population only, the old 'there's a million millionaires in India' saying, which before you say 'hot-diggety' you need the masses of poor and starving and diseased propping up those lucky few pointed out to you. The sheer size of the body of people remaining to be pulled up means that even at 10% growth a year we will long run out of every mineral on earth before they get to the top of their own country as it now stands.
And then there's the kids rotting on the docks of London, there are rich and poor in every society, whether its India or the USA - I read today that 40% of London's kids live in poverty
but the answer to 'who's exploiting who?' goes a little of the path of the 'goal' that western marketing of the Affluenza school is promoting.

NASA Taxi Drivers

I was told in my Year 10 Economics class that after the moon landing and NASA got scaled back a lot of the NASA scientists were so overqualified that they ended up having to drive taxi cabs, as there was no other institution that needed such qualified rocketscientists.
Simarlarly, when I stand on the street just outside my hotel door in Bombay, I wonder 'what the fuck is India doing producing world class IT professionals?' and that is my uncooth answer to Friedman's sort it out challange. The fact that genius IT pros and engineers from Indias 'foresighted' IT institutes are 'rotting on the docks' is just another testimony to Indias incompetence.
The street reveals more abundant work for India's neglected intellectual capital than could ever be imagined. In the form of cival engineering projects, architecture, construction, infrastructure, sanitation, sewege, housing and all the related service industries.
The point is that India is a shithole, that's why so many people want to emigrate still despite the world being flat, and whilst I saw plenty of ads for face creams, plasma screens, mobile phone ringtones etc. I didn't see any promoting clean streets, clean drinking water, good infrastructure, housing developments etc. Namely nobody advertises the commons, in the west they are taken for granted, in the developing world they are ironically forgotten in the race to hypercapitalism.
I would sort it out by arguing that there is in fact plenty of domestic demand that is latent in the developing world.
It just needs development, not for a developed world brain drain of the talent pool most needed to ımprove everyones living standards at home.
So I teeter on this point, maybe the trickle down whilst not being the best way, is the only way to develope countries to use the private sector to get around incompetent management. Or maybe we should shut them off, give them loans and force themselves to clean up first and enter the free market at much higher living standards.

Circumventing Responsibility:

Okay so the Chinese people, even if capitalism and greed doesn't bring out their best side, I freely admit the chances of it destabalising the CCP is worth the gamble.
But India is a democracy last time I checked, thus the people have a say in how the country is run. To let the private sectors of other countries go straight in and cash up and employ (taking advantage of lower labour costs thanks to overpopulation and economic mismanagement) the private sector thus improving their lives is I would argue, validating economic mismanagement. Now everyone seems to be in awe of the opportunıty presented by Indias numerous population and numerous poverty. How competitive they are, how hard working.
Before broadband and fiber optic cables came along and allowed knowledgework to be transported to India, there was already a way that India could improve its living standard, lower the cost of real estate and food, increase wages, with little inflation and increase employment. Same for China.
Have less children. The only foreign corporation necessary might have been Ansell.
Yet now its fantastic because for 4000 job positions India gets 1 million applicants and if you didn't get into University you better own a taxi.
Same same with microsofts knowledge workers in the Beijing research lab.
It's all about the benifits of low demand relative to massive supply. Microsoft can skim the cream of the Phd crop. So can Tata in India.
And furthermore now that knowledge work can be shipped, that means knowledge workers in Australia, America, Europe and Japan have to compete against India and China. Enough to replace our small working populations, whilst through the misfortune of Ovarian lottery can lower their own wages, work 14 hour days and come in on weekends for the prestige of working in a call center or research laboratory.
Friedman starts outlining the new untouchable and 'lifelong employability' including remodelling the education system which I fully endorse.
But again, 14 hour days, working weekends. These aren't great developments in my book. Or even admirable. They are the end of humanity, not a beginning. And here Friedman and I depart. Nothing can more impoverish life than the advantages of economic efficiency and overwork.

Understanding Inflation:

Amartya Sen an Indian national wrote exstensively on how famine isn't just shortage related but also relates to pricing mechanisms. One thing I think almost totally overlooked in all the race to capitalism is inflation. Whilst in Beijing the government was fixing prices and price ceilings in the leadup to spring festival.
But Dawkin's had this to say about birth control relating to the 'advantage' posed from the economic ineptitude of India and China şn the past half century -
... leaders who forbid their followers to use effective contraceptive methods ... express a preference for "natural" methods of population limitation, and a natural method is exactly what they are going to get. It is called starvation.

That is that the essential question is at some point as these cultures shift from poverty and agricultural rural communities to more lucrative and glamorous knowledge work and living in 'magnificent' mega cities, and invariably they shift from net exporters of food to net importers - where is that food going to come from.
Will there be an imposed class system, where certain castes and provinces are forced to work the land.
The Chinese I have come across universally have one great unshakable source of nationalism - food. They love how cheap, tasty and wonderful Chinese cuisine is. Jerry actually forgoes all the advantages of living in Australia over China because he is too bored with Melbournes tiny selection of Chinese restaurants.
Personally I unlike Jerry am able to enjoy cuisine that isn't Chinese or fast food, but I suspect most Chinese are imagining being wealthy as all the more wonderful because they don't think prices would go up. That is they would have the same fantastic retail experience of China as tourists on western wages do.
And so the big questions are - when China fulfiils its ambitions of dominating global economies, where will China outsource its manufacturing to? where will India outsource the tedium of bookkeeping to?
I think that noody really is envisioning and end of poverty in all this, but a bottomless fountain of poorer people to be leveraged and more affluenza inflicted consumers of all colours of the rainbows.

What is it all about:

Oh, she says well, you're not a poor man. You know, why don't you go online and buy a hundred envelopes and put them in the closet? And so I pretend not to hear her. And go out to get an envelope because I'm going to have a hell of a good time in the process of buying one envelope. I meet a lot of people. And, see some great looking babes. And a fire engine goes by. And I give them the thumbs up. And, and ask a woman what kind of dog that is. And, and I don't know. The moral of the story is, is we're here on Earth to fart around. And, of course, the computers will do us out of that. And, what the computer people don't realize, or they don't care, is we're dancing animals. You know, we love to move around. And, we're not supposed to dance at all anymore. - Kurt Vonnegut Jr.

From Thailand to leaving India high context or as I would call them - status cultures started to annoy me. And in no small part because I just couldn't walk anywhere without being harassed.
One Indian taxi driver lamented to me as I walked past him on my return to my hotel how 'I just walked everywhere' much to his frustration. And then there are all the people trying to be a guide, informal tours and so fourth.
Thailand is a curious place because everybody will tell you how everybody else is ripping you off, without noticing that this casts suspicion on there own wages.
My friend Shon-shon was determined to carry her own pack along the Kakoda trail and we briefly discussed oh so long ago how good it was to give someone a wage and such.
But what value should independance get? I have flip flopped on my previous view that you should give that income to people. I think its totally up to you.
You see If I was a good tourist I would pay 5 people to carry me everywhere and someone else to wipe my arse in Asia. Someone else to talk for me, someone to point for me and someone with eyes to see for me.
It at somepoint gets ridiculous and the line is where you actually value the service or not. If you don't value it you are handing money to a beggar. And there's no other way around it.
You could value having your pack carried or you could not. The choice is what is wonderful. Just like my favorite and most relaxing thing to do in a foreign country is walk the streets and soak up the atmosphere.
But in India and thailand this is an afront.
And then the bluriest line is the supposed Ricardo's law, I was all for comparative advantage and economic efficiencies when I left Australia. Now I care much less.
My friend Claire sent me an article on the '3 hour week' about a guy who had outsourced his life to India, he got them to write all his reports for work, while he travelled and enjoyed his life and collected a wage.
All sounds wonderful until logic is applied. He was in effect an inefficient useless sack of shit. The company could save money by cutting him out of the loop and going straight to India themselves. It merely indicated that knowledge work can go offshore too now.
And I have always believed that what was truly irresponsible wasn't letting manufacturing jobs go offshore from the west (though I oppose sweat shops and exploitation I don't give a shit about comparative wage advantages) but that the developed governments of the world allowed young people and future generations to think there was a future in manufacturing. I always thought that these manufacturing jobs were boring, unstimulating, mindless drone work and we should be glad to have someone take the jobs off our hands because it allowed us to work much sexier jobs.
And now I don't agree with that anymore, not entirely. Because clearly there is something wrong with two people providing the same service for drastically different prices. Because it would force one of them to starve to compete, or the otherone to become a relative billionaire in the slum surrounding them to compete fairly.
What makes manufacturing unpleasent is mass production. Something Ricardo Semler explained better than I can or can remember.
But basically this was a bad innovation, efficient yes but not necessarily good.
Before Henry Ford who popularized mass production was some dude who worked with coal. And he basically broke down every task into its smallest components and then assigned one worker to say shovel coal, another to push the wheelbarrow and so fourth rather than having each worker mix it up. And then Henry Ford took over the automotive world and bang, so manufacturing became a shitty job for all.
Because when you think about it, carpentry is manufacturing. That is one old Jepetto loving taking a piece of wood and turning it into Pinoccio or a beautiful chair, bass guitar and so fourth.
It's just these jobs are so interesting in a tactile way we think of them as art. Any bike, furniture, car or consumer good in its most expensive form is usually labelled the all important 'hand made' and that is manufacturing.
Kurt enjoys dawdling down to the post office, and here is maybe a failing of all economic models, that inefficiency could just be, enjoyable.
Bill Gates and Friedman talk about how fantastic the Indian and Chinese work ethic is. Yes they are excited to be rich, excited to be in startups, excited to have beat off 1000s of competitors. But fuck what is the fucking rush? why do we need people to work 14 hour days and weekends? to support some HG Wellsian race of Eelies, occasionally eaten by the new Morlocks.
Yes products 'improve' our lives. I love my ipod, internet and so fourth. Modern medicine is great. But how fast do I need things to get better? I don't know and frankly don't care.
Maybe If I was head of some corporation and needed the ultra competitiveness to gauruntee what material wealth I had accumulated couldn't be taken away. But then again maybe the Ovarian lottery needs to be reexamined...

The Ovarian Lottery:

Bill Gates in The World is Flat talks about the Ovarian lottery and how wonderful it ıs that now it doesn't matter if you are an average person born in America or a genius born in India. He argues that in the new flat world a genius in Bangalore can make it.
And not so long ago I would have agreed, infact my main contention against American patriotism was 'as if it is better to be trailer trash in the USA than the richest person in any country of the world' but now I disagree.
It is the commons that make us rich. I would gladly be average and have the ability to drink out of a tap in my own home. To not have to pay to enter my local park. To be able to attend a safe clean school, to not step over rubbish and beggars when I walk down the street. To be able to walk down a street unaccosted.
It is far better to enjoy life than to be rich. To be safe from fear, to not be chauffered around everywhere, fenced into your own home, bribe police to beat beggars off your pavement, bribe doctors to give you preference over dying children.
Wealth is best shared, not stockpiled. Only a society can truly be rich.
The Ovarian lottery stands for now, I hope development spreads this kind of wealth, not the 'beyond pointlessness' wealth of Louis Vuitton and co that is being exported at the speed of light by countries that don't need to advertise infrastructure.

Competition is Awful:

My basketball pal Rio once retorted to my remarl that we should play a weaker team in hope of a win that 'you learn more from strong opponents' and I agree. I love competition. My whole life is the pursuit of strong competitors. I fucken don't have time for sycophants and lackeys. I don't like compliments, as opposed to truly heartfelt feedback which truly is food for the soul.
A big reason my best friend is Bryce is that he doesn't treat me with respect, he criticizes and argues, he has to be right and he fantastically makes me lift my game almost every time we talk.
That's competition.
Or is it? After going to 'poor' countries I think competition is awful. Seriously economics is all about free markets and perfect competition as the ideal, breaking monopolies and shit. But seriously once something that is pretty comodified becomes perfect competition such as took-tooks and taxis they are awful, unenjoyable experiences.
Taxi drivers in India pry into my life, what are you doing tomorrow? when is your flight? what have you seen? and so fourth ad nauseum, one long arguement that was hard to keep polite was trying to get my taxi driver to leave, having a moral conscious I didn't want him sitting in the heat waiting 3 or 4 hours for me to be done in the museum and then drive me to the next destination. But he was strongly against me settling the ride in and letting him pick up another fare.
Because there was no gauruntee that he would.
It was more lucrative for him to sit for hours waiting for me so he could get my ride to other destinations followed by more waits and then the ride home.
For me finding another taxi was no problem (except for having yet another driver wanting to squat all my rides and wait outside my hotel like a yard-dog) and I didn't want to open up negotiations on 'waiting time'
Then in Thailand I ended up strongly favoring shops that had signs, and having to ask taxis to turn on their meters. Why? because I valued the serenity of paying a straight price and not having to fucken haggle every step of the way.
This desperate form of competition, where the only way to make a living is to offer ridiculous levels of service and exploit consumer ignorance.
And what makes taxis great in Melbourne? not the service, certainly not the knowledge of the streets (in Mumbai my driver just pulled up and asked a local every 50m or so directions so in that case I would take the melways) but just that there is a going rate.
Prices are fixed. Price fixing.
A nike shoe is roughly the same US$ value everywhere I've been. And that's good. It reduces my life wasted on search time.
India is a lesson in extreme competition and I have to say it is inhumane. It has no upside at all. I am white therefore I have money, and competition for my money is such that everything is a commodity in India. No matter what service you want there is 5 vendors for it and a plethora of middle men all wanting to ingratiate themselves for some grissle.
And the form differentiation has taken (for those not marketing savvy, differentiation is competition based on making your goods unique, market penetration is the traditional form of competition centered around cutting costs and thus offering lower prices) is who can hassle you most relentlessly until you give in and either pay them to stop or buy their good over anothers Identical one.
And so I realised watching game 2 of the 1996 finals between Pheonix Suns and Chicago Bulls, that it isn't competition that is so great, it is substitutes. Substitues are choice and can exert a downward pressure on prices. Competition in its purest form is no choice and puts upward pressure on hassle and desperation.
A little breathing space is nice.
Charles Barkley and Jordan compete, and they are two very very different players.
The Pheonix Suns and the Bulls push eachother because they have different styles of play, different makeup, they are in apure sense, Substitutes both fulfill the need for Basketball entertainment, but in two different ways. You could have one, the other or both.
India poses awful competition where you just have oversupply of the same sack of flower. Think a league where every star player is God of Dominant Boredom - Tim Duncan - the big fundamental.
And that's where I think a different way the competition of basketball differs from the awful strangulation of market competition.
On the court, I am both producer and consumer. I participate in making the game that I also consume.
Competition is lauded as making everything as efficient as possible for the consumer. But I don't see the 3 way as being as pleasurable as a 2 way in this case.
Producers competing for their own benifit is the 2 way, the quest of my life. Producers undercutting eachother for the benifit of a consumer doesn't quite work because the logic of growth says to me, we need to produce more than we consume.
If there where two Ipod's that bıd themselves down for my business to near zero margins. I as the consumer am blindsiding myself to pay for the R&D that invented these new better products.
I would rather buy something I want and hand over a little extra to have them keep up the creativity than consume the same sack of ultracheap flower for the rest of my life.
I like a substitute like a bike over a car because it is a significant choice, a choice that iinvolves more than just price and is as enjoyable as a choice can be.
I like being able to substitute a road bike for a mountain bike. Substitute a red bike for a black one.
I don't want row after row of efficiently cheap bikes in grey aluminium with baskets on the front.
I should say that when people talk about capitalism it's a bit of a joke. There's no such thing. No country, no business class, has ever been willing to subject itself to the free market, free market discipline. Free markets are for others. Like, the Third World is the Third World because they had free markets rammed down their throat. Meanwhile, the enlightened states, England, the United States, others, resorted to massive state intervention to protect private power, and still do. That's right up to the present. I mean, the Reagan administration for example was the most protectionist in post-war American history. Virtually the entire dynamic economy in the United States is based crucially on state initiative and intervention: computers, the internet, telecommunication, automation, pharmaceutical, you just name it. Run through it, and you find massive ripoffs of the public, meaning, a system in which under one guise or another the public pays the costs and takes the risks, and profit is privatized. That's very remote from a free market. Free market is like what India had to suffer for a couple hundred years, and most of the rest of the Third World

Win, Win, Win, Win, Win

The most worrying thing in all of this is that we now live in a world with technology as such that we can inflate an economy in half a generation to compete with the rest of the world. Force rapid social change and empower individuals as never before.
But remember Japan? I have new respect for Japan, Japan didn't offshore, it competed in the good way. But to compete with Japan we made a wrong unnecessary choice, workaholia.
And why because we were afraid of Japan and it's ambitions. And still very few people have turned around and said 'you know for all that hard work Japan produced very little' and that's because it produced a lot, on the surface. A lot of concrete, a lot of housing, a lot of cars, a lot of TVs and a lot of debt.
Seriously read these three books - Affluenza, Dogs and Deamons and Maverick.
But after it all Japan stands at the top of the world and it is a big empty dead end.
Everyone marvels and worships hard work. And yet turns around and pays lip service to 'efficiency' like the fading emperors of every empire.
But Japan was unique in one aspect. Milatary domination was out of the equation.
Not so with China.
But why does anyone need to dominate?
Ted Roosevelt says best - that people should be able to govern themselves. Hence hencely, why the fuck does China need to be in charge of Tibet, Taiwan, Japan or anywhere else.
Afterall they are catching up, what possible value could they bring in the realm of governance.
Apart from the 1984 sense, a foot stamping on a human face - forever.
Indeed development must be freedom.

Getting better at failing - Art

I sometimes wondered what the use of any of the arts was. The best thing I could come up with was what I call the canary in the coal mine theory of the arts. This theory says that artists are useful to society because they are so sensitive. They are super-sensitive. They keel over like canaries in poison coal mines long before more robust types realize that there is any danger whatsoever - Kurt Vonnegut

It is clear to me that as we get better and better at economic efficiencies. We may like the transformation of manufacturing into mindlessness, eventually not enjoy life at all.
Afterall what good are newer better gizmos and widgets if we don't have time to enjoy it.
On the protectionist front 'The World is Flat' has a letter from a teacher describing how bad the 'Queit Crisis' in America is, that is that the migrant parents of students complained about the lack of homework, how pedestrian the maths textbooks were and overall negligence of his education. By contrast the born and bred American parents (I think heroically) universally complain about how much homework is given, and how they're kids needed time to be kids.
There is a new sweatshop in the world and that is when education gets so much so that you have no life. No life at all.
It isn't wonderful or even admirable that kids in India, China and Russia cram their minds full of mathematics and science.
What is badly needed is I agree 'lifelong employability' and teaching kids how to 'learn how to learn' but also 'how to enjoy life' ethically, practically and so fourth.
And I read something I really liked from an equally long and fascinating essay by China Mieville here - but the quote is
Try again, fail again, fail better. That tension, that process of failing better and better – the very failure, if it’s the best kind of failure – might generate interesting effects that a more ‘successful’ – ie aesthetically integrated – work cannot do

And thats my concluding thought the one that despite having all these lines in my head torn up or turned squiggly grounds myself.

Changing the Rules:

In Gordon Dicksons sci fi novel Tactics of Mistake which I found one of the most instructive books I've read. There is an early scene where the protagonist instigates a game of 'guess which cup has a ball underneath'
The opponent guesses right the first time. The protagonist urges him to guess again, and again and the opponent guesses right each time. The protagonist lifts up the cups to reveal they all have balls underneath them.
The opponent failed because he was lured into guessing again because he believed the trick was infact the opposite.
He changed the rules.
Much like Semler did in Maverick, and I plan to do with my company.
I don't care about being bigger, harder working, faster, cheaper, richer. I care about enjoying life. And it may seem a cop out. But I want a legacy of memes not genes. I want to build a workplace that is enjoyable, innovative and humane.
And the west could do this if it wasn't for the timely distraction of the flat world to make us forget the level of affluence we have achieved is largeşy pointless, that the 'we' in 'we have achieved' represents 2% of the worlds population and the gap in achievement is growing.
No I don't like this game of hopping into monkey suits and trading my life for work, work that isn't my life but a promise of a someday maybe life. Having to compete to stay still and get a chance to just enjoy breathing.
No I would rather fence off a little corner and concentrate on getting the product right before exporting it to poor naive corners all around the globe.
I don't fear failure, I court it, I want to fail and fail again better and better till I come close to reconciling survival with enjoyable experience.

1 comment:

Bryce said...

I do respect you