Wednesday, May 03, 2006

On Income Disparity

Thanks, those of you who have been trawling for images of tribal barbeque socializing and GROOVE-style online meetings. Please keep an eye open.

Now back to politics. I am still catching up from my two months of e-hell... probably caused by powerful forces desperate to shut me up, right? ; ) Oh, but now they’ll move on to other methods.....

==Moyers on Income Disparity==

Many of you know that I find Bill Moyers highly annoying. For someone so bright and articulate to be so often mired in cliches... well, it’s a lot like William F. Buckley and George F. Will on the other side. Proof that brains do not equate to wisdom. Still, I read Mayers for gems amid the dross.

What follows is not one of his gems; it is simply a distillation of fact:

“2005 - the editors of The Economist, one of the world's most pro-capitalist publications, produced their own sobering analysis of what is happening in America. They found great and growing income disparities. Thirty years ago the average annual compensation of the top 100 chief executives was 30 times the pay of the average worker; today it is 1000 times the pay of the average worker.

"They found an education system "increasingly stratified by social class" in which poor children "attend schools with fewer resources than those of their richer contemporaries." They found our celebrated universities increasingly "reinforcing rather that reducing" these educational inequalities. They found American corporations no longer successful agents of upward mobility. It is now harder for people to start at the bottom and rise up the company hierarchy by dint of hard work and self-improvement.

 "The editors of The Economist studied all this evidence and concluded - and I am quoting a pro-business magazine, remember - that the United States "risks calcifying into a European-style, class-based society."


People who talk about this are accused of fomenting class warfare. In fact, we are the ones trying to prevent it.

More from Moyers:

 The number of lobbyists registered to do business in Washington has more than doubled in the last five years. That's 16,342 lobbyists in 2000 to 34,785 last year. Sixty-five lobbyists for every member of Congress.

    The total spent per month by special interests wining, dining, and seducing federal officials is now nearly $200 million. Per month.

    But it's a small investment on the return. Just look at the most important legislation passed by Congress in the last decade.

    There was the energy bill that gave oil companies huge tax breaks at the same time that Exxon Mobil just posted $36 billion in profits in 2005, while our gasoline and home heating bills are at an all-time high.


==On the National Anthem==

This from Larry Brilliant: “Pres. Bush's comments that the national anthem should be sung only in English remind me of an earlier Texas governor's equally deeply thoughtful (!!) and related comments, as cited in Jimmy Carter's 1997 Commencement speech at Duke:

"The year I was born, Texas had a governor, a woman named Ma Ferguson. Her husband had been governor before her. There was a debate in Texas, which is still going on by the way, about what to do concerning Mexican immigrants who don't speak English well or at all. The debate was should we let them learn in Spanish, or should we force them to go to classes with English only. Ma Ferguson settled the debate. She held up a Holy Bible. She said, "If English is good enough for Jesus Christ, it's good enough for us."


==Miscellaneous==

Check out “I’m The Decider” (to the tune of “I Am The Walrus”).   Turn it UP!

Bad news for Donald Rumsfeld. Support for the “grumpy half-dozen” is growing.  His troops are siding with the generals.  An Army Times poll has 64% supporting his resignation.

Henrik Hertzberg of The New Yorker sure can write.  Here's his take on the "Revolt of the Generals" (This was pre-Colin Powell.)

PPI Trade Fact of the Week | April 19, 2006 “U.S. Imports Have Grown By 38 Percent Since 2000” - Export growth between 2000 and 2005, by contrast, was an historically feeble 19 percent.

39 comments:

Francis said...

I'm afraid that the Economist is being optimistic when it says that America is approaching the stratification of Europe. If the LSE is to be believed (and I can see very good reasons why), the US has less mobility than most of the major countries in Northern Europe* except Britain, and has had for a long time. And America is the selected country I'd least like to be poor in. (Which is two major reasons the mobility is low - first you need to work much harder in America to stay afloat at the bottom (c.f. "Socialised Healthcare"), and secondly people with something to lose are much more easily brought into the middle class).

* They didn't even look at France.

Nicq MacDonald said...

In other news, the Extropy Institute just announced that they're officially ceasing operations.

Blake Stacey said...

The Ma Ferguson quotation, though amusing and often cited, is almost certainly apocryphal. Benjamin Zimmer at Language Log has the details.

Don Quijote said...

People who talk about this are accused of fomenting class warfare. In fact, we are the ones trying to prevent it.

ROTFLMAO...

you can't prevent it, anymore than you can put the toothpaste back inside the tube.

There was a war, it 's pretty much over. The wealthy won, the poor, the working class and the middle-class lost.


It's what happens when Pragmatist modernist get their way and pass fine laws like Taft-Hartley, NAFTA, CAFTA or the WTO.

The result of such laws can be seen here:

Mother Jones - The Chain Never Stops


Thirty years ago, meatpacking was one of the highest-paid industrial jobs in the United States, with one of the lowest turnover rates. In the decades that followed the 1906 publication of The Jungle, labor unions had slowly gained power in the industry, winning their members good benefits, decent working conditions, and a voice in the workplace. Meatpacking jobs were dangerous and unpleasant, but provided enough income for a solid, middle-class life. There were sometimes waiting lists for these jobs. And then, starting in the early 1960s, a company called Iowa Beef Packers (IBP) began to revolutionize the industry, opening plants in rural areas far from union strongholds, recruiting immigrant workers from Mexico, introducing a new division of labor that eliminated the need for skilled butchers, and ruthlessly battling unions. By the late 1970s, meatpacking companies that wanted to compete with IBP had to adopt its business methods—or go out of business. Wages in the meatpacking industry soon fell by as much as 50 percent. Today meatpacking is one of the nation's lowest-paid industrial jobs, with one of the highest turnover rates. The typical plant now hires an entirely new workforce every year or so. There are no waiting lists at these slaughterhouses today. Staff shortages have become an industrywide problem, making the work even more dangerous.


An Ugly Side of Free Trade: Sweatshops in Jordan

Workers from Bangladesh said they paid $1,000 to $3,000 to work in Jordan, but when they arrived, their passports were confiscated, restricting their ability to leave and tying them to jobs that often pay far less than promised and far less than the country's minimum wage.

Sounds a lot like indentured servitude.

Baring Breast Earns Higher Fine Than Endangering Workers’ Lives

Total fine levied against CBS for showing Janet Jackson’s breast during Superbowl


$550,000.00

Total of fines leveled against the coal mine in Sago for 276 violations in 2004 and 2005


$33,600

Individual station fine levied for showing Janet Jackson’s breast


$27,500.00

Highest individual fine leveled against the coal mine in Sago for any “significant and substantial” violation in 2005


$445.00

Total length of Janet Jackson’s breast exposure


7.5 seconds

Total length of surviving miners’ interment in Sago coal mine


44 hours 43 minutes

Number of Janet Jackson’s breasts exposed


1

Number of miners interred in Sago mine explosion


13


Wouldn't want to get our priorities out of whack.

Francis said...

There was a war, it 's pretty much over. The wealthy won, the poor, the working class and the middle-class lost.

Nonsense.

Compare the state of the poor, working, and middle class to that of 100 years ago. Then compare them to 200 years ago. It's plain daft to say that the wealthy have won. Simply that they are currently in the ascendent (and remembering my shaky knowledge of political history, will probably continue to be so until things get really bad - when everyone else will gang up heavily against them and more than reverse all the gains they've made).

Don Quijote said...

Congressional Budget Office - The Distribution of Effective Tax Rates and Income

Average household income before taxes grew in real terms by nearly one-third between 1979 and 1997, but that growth was shared unevenly across the income distribution (see Figure 1-5). The average income for households in the top fifth of the distribution rose by more than half. In contrast, average income for the middle quintile climbed 10 percent and that for the lowest fifth dropped slightly. Furthermore, income growth at the very top of the distribution was greater yet: average income in 1997 dollars for the top 1 percent of households more than doubled, rising from $420,000 in 1979 to more than $1 million in 1997.

The uneven gains in income generated sharp changes in the shares of pretax income going to each fifth of the income distribution (see Figure 1-6). The share received by the highest quintile climbed from 46 percent in 1979 to 53 percent in 1997, while the share for the lowest quintile fell from 5 percent to 4 percent. Households in the top 1 percent saw their share of total income rise by more than two-thirds, growing from 9 percent to nearly 16 percent.


And I pretty damn sure it has not improved since.

Francis said...

Don,
Try posting a relevant rebuttal. I asked you to make a comparison with 100 or 200 years ago, not with 25 years ago. And I explicitely stated that the wealthy were in the ascendent - which is all your comment showed.

35 years ago, the progressives were in the ascendent* - in 1971, Nixon said that "We are all Keynesians now". Since then, we've had Voodoo Economics (sorry, that should read "Reaganomics"), the return of the Trickle-Down Effect (now called Supply Side Economics), and other messes in the 1980s - and the Contract On America in the 1990s. And currently the Shrub. (And we've had Thatcherism and "New Labour" over here).

I explicitely said that the wealthy were in the ascendent - so for you to point this out is pointless. I also said that by historical standards they hadn't won - hell, Rosevelt's New Deal is still standing (although under attack), and there were quite a few improvements in the 20th Century before that (and after it) that are still solid.

Being on the defensive is very different from having lost the war.

* Although there is the theory that the successful counterattack can be traced back to the Dean of Dallas Bible College joining the 1964 Republican Anti-Communist Caucus.

Don Quijote said...

Don,
Try posting a relevant rebuttal. I asked you to make a comparison with 100 or 200 years ago, not with 25 years ago.


The distribution of wealth & income is headed straigh towards that of the Gilded Age, if it has reached that level yet and surpassed it.

You can't compare poverty today with that of a hundred years ago, poverty is relative to the society in which you live in.

And I explicitely stated that the wealthy were in the ascendent - which is all your comment showed.

You are confusing ascendent, with the poor,working & middle class got their asses handed to them, It's not a defensive position, it's a f**ken rout on par with Napoleon on the Steps of Russia.

So the left has managed to hold on to a couple of hills (Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid), have faith the Pragmatist Modernist will find a way of destroying those hills, they can't take them head on, so they will burrow under and destroy them from within.


The fact that you are ready to compare poverty today with that of a hundred or a couple hundred years ago, really shows how thoroughly the left has been routed.

Francis said...

You can't compare poverty today with that of a hundred years ago, poverty is relative to the society in which you live in.

Exactly. And while the difference remains qualitative, you don't have a leg to stand on.

If you want to go back even 50 years ago, how about Jim Crow? Are you really telling me that the poor approach the powerlessness of blacks pre-the civil rights movement?

You are confusing ascendent, with the poor,working & middle class got their asses handed to them, It's not a defensive position, it's a f**ken rout on par with Napoleon on the Steps of Russia.

More like Slim's in Burma, I'd have said. Unless you believe the ending of 1984...

So the left has managed to hold on to a couple of hills (Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid), have faith the Pragmatist Modernist will find a way of destroying those hills, they can't take them head on, so they will burrow under and destroy them from within.

I've been predicting for a while that things are going to get worse before they get better. The main way a system of economics gets overturned is by showing the consequences (it happened to Keynseanism in the 1970s, Communism in the 1980s, and is now happening to Supply Side Economics). Unfortunately, the last time America broke the trickle-down effect was in 1929... And I think recovery is going to be harder for a few reasons.

The fact that you are ready to compare poverty today with that of a hundred or a couple hundred years ago, really shows how thoroughly the left has been routed.

No. It just shows how stupid statements that the war are over are. Because they aren't comparable.

HawkerHurricane, being cynical again. said...

I've said it before, but it bears repeating...
Class warfare is what happens when the lower classes shoot back.
For those of us in the middle, the choice is simple:
1. Lead the revolution
2. Join the wealthy on the scaffold.

Francis said...

I've said it before, but it bears repeating...
Class warfare is what happens when the lower classes shoot back.


Almost. Class warfare is what happens when the lower classes shoot back in an organised manner. If disorganised, it's normally called crime committed by a few disaffected malcontents...

For those of us in the middle, the choice is simple:
1. Lead the revolution
2. Join the wealthy on the scaffold.


You missed:
3. Become the Vicar of Bray

David Brin said...

Oh, for heaven's sake.

Quijote, may I remind you that you are a guest here?

Feel free to carp and criticise and hold up the pinko-left position... including occasional valuable citokate. By all means, illustrate how dogmatic and blinkered the left can be, reminding us that dogmatism is not only a disease of the right.

But lengthy rants that take up lots of space? Sorry. That is my privilege here. Please make your points, and drop in CONCISE factoids... but repress the urge to pour reams and reams of indignation, will you?

Dig it. Most of the people here are already aware that we are ruled by a gang of thieves... and those who do NOT believe it will see your tsunami-rants as reasons to skim right on by.

Concise. Or I'll erase them.

Doris said...

David,

About tribal "cocktail" parties:

I have it on the authority of someone who used to do it: Women discuss community issues at the riverside while pounding clothes on rocks. The modern male is inclined to dismiss women's discussions as gossip. However, in tribal societies women sometimes rule the economy through ownership of land and other property. Kinship may be matrilineal. Women typically rule the home. Women may even hold political power. Since work (laundry) and governing society sometimes have to be combined to save time in the daily struggle for survival, and because pounding clothing on rocks does not totally occupy one's brain, you may be looking for a scene of women at the river's edge.

David Brin said...

Fascinating! Now to find one. All that comes to mind is the sirens of "Oh Brother Where Art Thou..."

Rob Perkins said...

Oh, that was gooooooooood American music, wasn't it?

Heh. I really enjoyed that show.

OK, women pounding clothes at the river is probably still common in India and poorer areas of southeast Asia... perhaps a picture from there?

http://www.pemmicanpress.com/CurrentIssue/marilyn-zuckerman/women-washing.html

http://www.fotosearch.com/DVA001/001-0420/

http://travel.guardian.co.uk/gallery/image/0,8564,-10304115585,00.html

brother Doug said...

Or you could use cooking or having a feast. The modern tail party with people talking and not doing much would probably be a alien concept. Most hunter gatherers I supect needed to be doing somthing while they were talking. Not to mention I read that with american indians they had to chew the corn before it could be fermented into beer, euuu that would take a while.

David Brin said...

A tailgate party would be useful, if it showed an array of groups, receding into the background, all within some kind of earshot of each other. Still, I need tribal people or cave folk chatting somehow! A barbeque....

Don Quijote said...

Plains Dealer - 18 rich families pay for campaign to kill estate taxes

Eighteen of America's wealthiest families, including the Timkens of Canton, are bankrolling efforts to permanently repeal estate taxes that would save their families a total of $71.6 billion, according to a report released Tuesday by public interest groups.

And the Class War continues...

Concise enough?

P.T. Galt said...

It would be interesting to see a graph showing the relative increase in CEO salaries. The doubling of lobbyist influence cited in the original post happened in the last five years. By my recollection, CEO salaries were already getting outrageous in the 1990's.

What I am curious about is, has the "class warfare of the rich" accelerated greatly since the fall of the Soviet Union? Without a rival economic system, perhaps the crapitalists (e.g. cartel/cronyist/mercantilists who have been pillaging markets throughout recorded history) felt safe to loot brazenly.

If so, a new economic theory is in order. Not more Communism (that failed) or Euro-socialism (that seems to be failing too, though I could be wrong).

My suggestion would be something along the lines of the "Sun economy" proposed by Buckminster Fuller. Basically, an economy fueled by renewable energy, employing 3D printing, "Contour crafting" and "cradle-to-cradle" recycling loops.

Each individual would recieve a stipend equivalent to their "Sun income" (Earth's daily intake of solar energy being treated as "money from heaven," perhaps society would have a currency backed by energy, e.g. "$1 = 10 KWH").

Perhaps people would work in "regular jobs" while some of their money goes to fund the creation of energy-generating capacity. They would then receive "Sun income" based on their contribution to energy-harvesting capacity, which they could then use to purchase designs and raw materials for their home 3D printer "fab" or larger things (like cars or houses) that would be "printed" by a local "automat" or by Contour Crafting.

In essence, a system that could (hopefully) generate the "guaranteed income" desired by the Left without the mischief associated with governmental "redistribution of wealth."

This is, of course, an oversimplification. :)

Don Quijote said...

If so, a new economic theory is in order. Not more Communism (that failed) or Euro-socialism (that seems to be failing too, though I could be wrong).

I think you might want to rethink your definition of failure.

Germany, a country the size of Montana with a population of over 80 million and a GDP per capita of 30K, France a country the size of Texas with a population of 60 million and a GDP per Capita of 30K, both of which have better GINI than the US.

My suggestion would be something along the lines of the "Sun economy" proposed by Buckminster Fuller.

Cool, Science Fiction! Which of my great-great-grandchildren will get to live in this Utopia of yours?

Again, trying to be concise...

David Brin said...

DQ, yes! That was concise, punchy and effective! Remember, Lincoln in a 3 minute speech was more effective than Castro at 3 hours.

And yes, the inheritance tax is an area where my politics veers down pathways that might make me seem one of your "fellow travelers!" Any truly wise capitalist or believer in markets ought to favor the IT. For mutliple reasons (some other time), I consider it to be the best and most important tax.

SOmething weird? If the law isn't changed, the IT declines to ZERO in 2010... then RETURNS in full force in 2011. Which makes 2010 the year that all the elderly rich HIDE from their own kids!

PTG... your system is imaginative and fascinating... and belongs in a good sci fi novel! That's where the best social experimentation happens... like in Glory Season! ;-)

P.T. Galt said...

Don Quijote wrote:

Cool, Science Fiction! Which of my great-great-grandchildren will get to live in this Utopia of yours?

3D printers exist now. You can buy one for $19,900. Which is not much more than what you would have paid for a ColorScript Laser 1000 color printer in 1993. Today, you can buy a color printer/scanner/copier at Wal-Mart for just under $50.

12 years. If you want to produce great-great grandchildren in that amount of time, you'd better have grandkids already, or be a hamster.

Technologies for producing renewable energy already exist, and will become competitive with fossil fuels within that same time-period. Another example. Someone going by the name of Don Quijote is probably already familiar with windmills...

P.T. Galt said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
P.T. Galt said...

D'OH! That should be "13 years." Which, is why I'm not enough of an economist to write the "Wealth of Nations" or "Das Kapital" of the Sun Economy. :)

I could still have a go at writing the sf novel. Or, given the time-frame, perhaps a Tom Clancy-type "technothriller" rather than something with a spaceship on the cover. All I need are characters and a plot. >grin<

Unless David has already beaten me to it with Glory Season (haven't read that one yet...).

reason said...

P.T.Galt

Your time scale is based I would think on extremely optimistic projections, not to mention the small issue of managing the transition.

But surely the bigger issue is that the fantasy economy seems to be based on the libertarian fantasy of a population consisting only of competent, healthy rational beings who are free from external catastrophes. I doubt it would be resilient enough. Expand it a bit.

P.T. Galt said...

Reason wrote:

Your time scale is based I would think on extremely optimistic projections, not to mention the small issue of managing the transition.

Of course you're right that it would be overly optimistic to expect a major nation like the U.S. or the world to have adopted the Sun Economy in 13 years. My point in that post was that it would be technically possible to begin creating a Sun Economy in the near future, in contrast to the time of someone's great-great grandchildren.

I do think the main enabling technologies will be relatively mature within that time-frame. 3D printers work on principles similar to inkjet printers, "printing" an object layer by layer from a computer-generated model. If they follow a developent curve similar to that of inkjet and laser printers, "home versions" capable of producing modest objects like coffee mugs and cell phones should be readily available and cheap.

Larger versions capable of "printing" bigger objects could be available at franchises like Kinko's.

I think things like Peak Oil and the challenge of dealing with climate change will encourage the development of 3D printing, alternative energy, and "Cradle to cradle" reuse/recycling loops for products.

It seems to me that widespread use of mature 3D printing technology and permanently-rising prices for oil and gasoline would pretty much mean the end of those "Good Manufacturing Jobs" current economies rely on.

IOW, the present industrial-age economic paradigm on which classical Capitalism, Communism, Socialism, and Corporate-State facsim are based is becoming both ecologically unsustainable and technologically obsolete.

I think that within 13 to 20 years the technological basis for a "Sun Economy" will exist, and that at least a small-scale "model" Sun Economy could be practiced on the level of an "intentional community" or small country (such as an island-nation, or perhaps someplace like Lietchenstein or Switzerland), from whence it could hopefully spread.

There's nothing close to a guarantee of such a bright future, of course. The world's politicians could decide to start thumping their chests and throwing nuclear, biological, and chemical feces at each other in the quest for "Full Spectrum Dominance" of dwindling petroleum resources as they struggled to hold onto the "System" the presently rule.

P.T. Galt said...

Reason wrote:

But surely the bigger issue is that the fantasy economy seems to be based on the libertarian fantasy of a population consisting only of competent, healthy rational beings who are free from external catastrophes. I doubt it would be resilient enough. Expand it a bit.

3D printing, Cradle-to-Cradle loops, and locally-produced renewable energy would provide a much more resiliant and sustainable economy than we now have.

The present system relies on "grids" for energy and transportation existing on contenental and global scales. An external catastrophe that threatens those grids can wreak incredible havoc on a modern society. Ask the Iraqis.

In a Sun Economy (or any economy based on the technologies I've described) energy and many/most manufactured goods could be produced locally, offering a society like America or Europe greater redundancy in the face of catastrophe. Food might be a greater challenge to produce locally, especially in urban areas. However, as less transport is needed for everything else, remaining transport capacity can be used for those things that cannot be produced locally.

>desperately trying to avoid a Long Rant that will earn me the Wrath of Brin... < :)

P.T. Galt said...

If people are not "competent, healthy, rational beings" for the most part, then we're doomed, period. If we incompetent, unhealthy, irrational beings don't bumble into Apocalypse with nukes, we'll do it with biotechnology, or nanotechnology, or artificial intelligence and robotics. Or a Big Brother State empowered by ubiquitous surveillance cameras and RFID tags. Or by blundering into an eco-catastrophe. Etc.

The current crop of Straussian Philosopher Kings seems far more inclined to lead us to destruction than to an orderly Platonic Republic where the drooling sheeple are properly guided by their betters.

It's a lot less depressing to go with the theory that most of us are, basically, "competent, healthy, rational beings." Most of the time. I think David Brin has given a pretty good rebuttal to the People Are Stupid and Incompetent meme. If he's wrong, I guess the answer is: Gold, Guns, Canned Food, Bunker.

P.T. Galt said...

Just to do a little "devil's advocacy" in relation to my last post... One could make the following argument for general human incompetence:

Whatever world-view or belief system one has, the majority of humanity is wrong

If you're a Christian...well, most people aren't Christians. It gets worse if there's only one "right" type of Christian, e.g. Catholic, Southern Baptist, Episcopalian, etc.

If you're a Hindu...most people in the world aren't Hindus. The same thing applies to Buddhists, Sikhs, Muslims, etc.

And if you're an atheist, then the vast majority of the human species consists of deluded idiots.

Whatever your mental model of reality is, most of your fellow humans don't share it. And yours is the correct one. Of course. Therefore, the majority of human beings are incapable or unwilling to perceive reality correctly!

Therefore, People Are Stupid. Doesn't it feel good to be one of the right-thinking few? :D

NOTE: This is not a response to anyone else's post. IOW, "you" does not refer to any particular poster, but to all readers, and no offense toward anyone is intended.

reason said...

Hi P.T. Galt,
I actually did not mean to imply that most people are not competent, rational and healthy most (or at least a substantial part) of the time, just that systems of support are needed for those that are not (or not at the moment). Many simple systems fall down in that they expect too much of individuals for everybody to cope. I've had experience with mental illness (not me personally) - believe me it is very difficult to know how to deal with it.

I'm afraid I'm not knowledgeable about what you are proposing, in order to judge it by those criterion. Hence - "please expand".

The correct response to your post about human delusions is that yes we are all deluded - but not so much that it matters. It also helps if we keep each other in check, but somehow manage that without being repressive. There are no simple solutions.

My motto should be - "anything that seems to good to be true, probably is"!

reason said...

That should read of course -
"... seems too good to be true ..."

reason said...

P.T. Galt --

"... modest things like coffee mugs and cellphones... "

It just saw that comment - cellphones modest(?) (with all the electronics inside?) - you have got to be kidding! In 13 short years? I.M.H.O. Long before that happens we will be growing spare human parts in culture (just not in southern USA of course).

Rob Perkins said...

I've seen 3-D printers in action, and I think they're quite very impressive, actually. For making things, such as wax patterns for investment casting processes, or the molds for the processes themselves.

But to make a cell phone you're going to need a "print cartridge" which lays down traces of precious metals, or nearly-pure elements or compounds of various types. I don't see that happening in the near future, or being very inexpensive in just 13 years. For one, someone with that technology will milk its patent for all it's worth, somewhat like Toyota is doing with its hybrid powerplant technology for cars, now.

Rik said...

PT Galt, hello? Cheaper than they are already? Cheap-o cellphones, with little extra (for poor techno-illiterate elderly) sell for 'bout € 40.
I think your comparison between 3D-printers & laserprinters is faulty. Why shouldn't the former obliterate the latter? Why stick paper in the printer when you can 3D-print the entire book?
Milking the patent will be quite hard. Why? Well, uh, perhaps a 3D printer can make more 3D printers. Then we can also print organs (Thing For Prez!). Pretty useless patent.

Michael "Sotek" Ralston said...

On the issue of "competant, healthy, and rational" ...

I'm competant ... most of the time.
I'm healthy ... when I haven't gotten sick. (Haven't had any severe accidents since I was eight, so.)

I'm rational... when I don't have my emotions severely engaged.


I assume most people are similar to me in those regards - some will be less lucky, perhaps, and actually have bad health.


I think we're capable of making a society that enhances the best of us, and mimizes the harm our worst moments can do. But I also think we need to.
The libertarian fantasies have people who don't NEED a society. But that's simply absurd. Society exists for a reason - we need help being rational, somtimes. We're only healthy most of the time. We're always incompetant the first time we try something.

Any economic system needs to recognize this fact, and provide for it - if capitalism provided for the fact that nobody's healthy all the time, there'd be a lot less complaints about it. It just happens to be better than most others so far.

P.T. Galt said...

Reason wrote:

"... modest things like coffee mugs and cellphones... "

It just saw that comment - cellphones modest(?) (with all the electronics inside?) - you have got to be kidding! In 13 short years? I.M.H.O. Long before that happens we will be growing spare human parts in culture (just not in southern USA of course).


By "modest" I was referring to modest in size, i.e. contrasting smaller things like coffeemakers that could be churned out in a "home version," and larger objects like washing machines, that would be more likely to be created at a "3D print shop." Sorry I wasn't more clear about that.

This article delves more deeply into the specifics of how 3D printers could be used to print complex objects and electronic circuitry.

Regarding the speed-of-advancement I've proposed, I think it is fairly realistic because the physical technology (e.g. the print heads) is, as I understand it, fairly similar.

Factor in something like John Koza's "invention machine", and I think it is reasonable to expect more rapid rates of technological advancement than we're used to. This "invention machine" uses evolutionary algorithms to generate patentable inventions by mimicking the process of biological evolution in software.

Over the next 13 years, computing power will most likely continue to grow dramatically, and Koza's program (and competing programs) will continue to be improved to match. This software takes much of the trial-and-error "grunt work" out of inventing.

These kinds of things can be self-reinforcing. Combine a "home/small-business version" of evolutionary algorithm software (perhaps in the price range of current 3D modeling programs like Maya) with a "home/small-business version" of a 3D printer with a population of intelligent tinkerer/"hacker" types, and it seems to me you could have a Rennaisance on your hands.

Regarding "too good to be true..." There's more computing power in my XBox than NASA had at its disposal when launching men to the Moon. To good to be true? Sure. But true anyway. Compared to the broad stretch of history, our entire civilization is "too good to be true."

P.T. Galt said...

I'm getting a little tired of "libertarian fantasy" being chanted over and over again like a mantra. I have not said that a "Sun economy" society would be a Pure Libertarian (tm) system in which no one ever "needs a society," no one ever gets sick, or emotional, no one is ever born as a helpless infant and so on. If all those straw men could be converted into biodiesel... :)

I will readily admit that the "Sun economy" concept is relatively undeveloped, at least by me. It rests on three main pillars:

1) Replacement of fossil fuels with renewable energy.

2) "Cradle-to-cradle" manufacturing/recycling loops and a general rejection of the current "throw-away" paradigm. There is no "away" on Earth.

3) Access to 3D printing and other "rapid-prototyping" technologies becoming cheaper and more widely available.

With these three pillars in place, a material economy would more or less mimic the "natural economy" of an ecosystem: nothing (or very little) is wasted, and it's all powered by "free" energy from the Sun.

Add a currency backed by energy (as our currency used to be backed by gold), and you in effect have free money raining down from the sky every day. Over-optimistic? Maybe. We could shoot for it anyway, even if we miss we'll probably hit something better than what we have now.

P.T. Galt said...

Oh, and while we're talking about fantasies... What about Republican and Democrat fantasies?

Republican Fantasy: The United States establishes Full Spectrum Dominance over 6 billion people, and everything from the Earth's deepest deposit of oil to geosynchronous orbit, for now. They'll work on the Galaxy later. All while spending more money than they have as if arithmetic could be repealed.

Democrat Fantasy: Do pretty much the same thing as the Republicans, but do it better. Send more troops to Iraq and Iran than the Republicans want to, and send them to Darfur too, while also out-doing the Republicans on domestic spending.

Throw in common dreams like using depleted uranium and 5,000-pound "smart" bombs to turn martyrdom-worshipping fundamentalist theocrats into modernist secular liberals who love Israel and can't wait for their country to join the European Union.

At least my "fantasy" ("libertarian" or otherwise) is derived from the implications of technological artifacts that actually exist, in various stages of development. :)

reason said...

P.T. Galt,
This "invention machine" uses evolutionary algorithms to generate patentable inventions by mimicking the process of biological evolution in software.

... Great we will all get work either writing patent software, checking patents or mining for them.