HiTech & HiCost why the AirForce can’t afford itself

A very good post on Strat Page regarding the F22 and the cost of upgrades, original program and maintenance. It concludes with these two paragraphs which I think clearly state the problem.

New technology gives a weapon, especially an aircraft, an edge in combat. But since World War II, most military technology has been developed in peacetime conditions. This means it is more than twice as expensive, as there is no wartime urgency to overcome bureaucratic inertia (and emphasis on covering your ass, which is very time consuming and expensive) and hesitation (because you don’t have a war going on to settle disputes over what will work best). Developing this new technology takes longer in peacetime, which also raises the cost, and fewer units of a new weapon are produced (driving up the amount of development cost each weapon will have to carry.) If several hundred B-2s were produced under wartime conditions, each aircraft would have probably cost $200 million, or less. In other words, a tenth of what it actually cost. Same deal with the mythical $35 million F-22, or any other high tech weapon.

Other nations have adapted more effectively to peacetime development conditions. But the United States has the largest amount of peacetime military research and development, and this has created a unique military/industry/media/political atmosphere that drives costs up to the point where voters, politicians and the media will no longer support them.

The Parties are dead, What next?

Another great commentary by Walter Russel Mead at ViaMeadia. Parties are becoming more like handles, like conservative, progressive, rather than controlling organizations. A big downside is the rise of populism/direct democracy which i believe to be seriously flawed, we need political damping rods and consensus builders and laws that form a coherent (and simple) system not an ad hoc set of isolated statements of one time (often getting badly aged after a very short time) principle.

Cultivating (social) Conscience

Review of a book by Lynn Stout, Cultivating Conscience: How Good Laws Make Good People. The review provides a synopsis of Dr. Stout’s thesis, she has tied together the results of modern research from a broad range of relevant science threads to present strong argument against the punitive and overly complex laws and rules that are the norm today. 

She argues that  the populist lowest common denominator laws with their no tolerance, zero sum, economic animal analysis of the human mind, far from making us safer and more law-abiding are deeply damaging to the social fabric we all depend on. She points out the mechanisms that lie behind some of the strikingly good results of modern urban policing and that these same mechanisms can be expanded more broadly.  This probably explains why experiments with shaming young drug offenders seems to have better results than time in jail.

Lynn Stout is the Paul Hastings Professor of Corporate and Securities Law at the UCLA School of Law. She is the coauthor of several books and a frequent commentator for NPR, PBS, and the “Wall Street Journal”.

(This is a bit of an update with the book link…and bio from B&N book page)


Be Here Now

How did we get here? Why is this happening now?

The Here and Now is a phonograph needle tracking the wobbles in the groove that all our yesterdays laid down.

 Is there a way out?

There is only foreward there is no going back.

 There is a Destiny which has the control of our actions, not to be resisted by the strongest efforts of Human Nature.   (From)

GEORGE WASHINGTON, letter to Mrs. George William Fairfax, Sep. 12, 1758


Not sure I agree at an individual level all the time, but on the aggregate in the immediate time frame I would.   Perhaps its like this: Science tells me that most of my actions are planned a significant fraction of a second ahead of my consciousness recognizing what is going on.  It is impossible to change what you do not know is coming but if you plan ahead you can control what happens at a future point in time and space.

And what we do individually and locally does matter nationally and globally, at least a little and if not now then sometime in the future. 

Does that mean I demand “Word Gov’t Now!” how stupid do you think I am? 

We need more self-control, personal control, local control and less regional control, national control and global control.  We do need norms and some way of enforcing them for such things as : life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness, and such easily debased things as contract enforcement, property rights, ecological cost accounting, financial cost accounting…a few others…maybe

But….the old bureaucratic model, relying on a plethora of relatively well paid trustworthy functionaries to enforce norms is becoming unaffordable.

Laissez-Faire – let it be – management doesn’t work, it doesn’t work in regulation either.

Why has the US Constitution remained important for more than 200 years?  Because its simple, basic, lays out fundamentals and leaves the rest for interpretation but by being fairly simple, constrained and pragmatic it is actually possible to interpret it to cover very large sets of cases. 

We have to get over the belief that you can make life perfect if you can just tune your laws/regulations/rules just right and get the humans out-of-the-way.  We used to know better, I think that most scholars know better.  But somehow many folks have come to believe that if not all, then the one specific law they care about can be perfected, and since they care about it passionately they push it forward, usually through a system that has no time to really understand the consequences of this law when combined with that law and this social reality, etc.  And with each law becoming more complex because of fiddling to tune it to perfection, the way they interact becomes utterly unknowable. And the law becomes harder to obey and easier for smart lawyers to subvert.


So where do we go from here? 

Start to build down the complexity we have built up at every level, what about:

  • For every new rule, two old ones have to be eliminated and no double dipping?
  • Limit the length of any law/rule/regulation to two double-sided 8 1/2 by 11 sheets one inch margins typed in 11 point Times New Roman with the option of an extra sheet of readable graphics?
  • Eliminate mandatory this, no tolerance that, rules that have become a pox on our society?
  • Make Judges accountable to other Judges and the Bar with impeachment by the people an option?

You can think of more, I know you can!


Move along, nothing original to see here…. but maybe some interesting links..

As Russel Mead at Via Meadia writes to great effect the Great Loon, the Duck of Death is dead

And here is Russel Mead’s interesting take on protests etc.  A very insightful piece that hit home once more regarding something that puzzled me… ” There was a time long ago when political protest really mattered.  The Vietnam protests didn’t end the war (and didn’t keep Nixon from carrying 49 states against George McGovern in 1972), but they helped end the draft.  The civil rights movement led to some of the most profound social changes this country has ever seen.  Before that, there were labor and suffragette marches…”     ” But these days the old style protests remind me of political conventions: empty and pointless (though noisy and publicized) rituals.  “  And he draws a comparison to the conventions.  Once the conventions were important, before mass media and instant communications, but now they are just rituals the politic druidic class still hold.  In the old days a mass rally meant something, life for the working class was twice todays and wages closer to subsistence, and brutality was expected of the police, going to a rally meant something. Today it’s not much more than a smelly holiday.  Not to say that there aren’t some grievances and suffering…but OWS is more theater than struggle.   And then Amity Shales had this to say about what these folks want, vs what they need.

I am never going to be the blog-media-news miner that Instapundit is.  Here is the latest on the SLS fiasco from Rand Simberg, the Space Launch System is a works program, yes well paid and aerospace is effective economic multiplier but the money could be spent to so much better effect!

(edits, still not getting all of this right the first time)

“Here’s the problem: there are no grownups. “

I have a new hero!  I love this line, maybe it was just a matter of right words at the right time on the right topic but it is perfect.  Bob Krum was discussing the euro debt crisis among other things (like stupid questions on ‘presidential debates’) in Stop Waiting for Superman.  

There are no grownups; there are just folks (blokes in Brit speak) like us, imperfect humans who are lucky to make a right decision (on issues more complex than whether to turn into the path of that oncoming Mack truck or not) much more than 50% of the time (and we don’t always make the right one regarding the Mack truck.) 

What does that mean? Many things but one of them is that overly complex political, financial, social, technical…etc constructs are asking for problems.  Stable systems are ones that are essentially self organizing, a pile of sand will settle into the same conical shape every time because its stable in its environment.  Small c capitalist, old meaning liberal economies, are self organizing and stable.  The euro zone is a complex web of overly constrained systems that like some cartoon Rube Goldberg steam plant is constantly threatening to blow a gasket and it requires a genius just to know where to apply the next tourniquet. 

In the last few decades we have made vast strides in understanding ourselves and our world (in a thousand different dimensions.)  Then we have often reacted to this increased understanding by thinking we can control more things and implementing more and more rules.  The effects of those rules are often individually complex and unintended but the interactions between them is (IMHO) utterly outside of our ability to cope with.  Among other things I rather suspect that every one of us (barring a newborn baby maybe) is technically a criminal, having violated at one time or another various laws, rules or regulations most of which we had no idea existed or had no way to follow.

Somehow we have become inured to the regulated world, see it as natural, but it’s probably reached its practical limits and is now in the process of imploding.  We have the tools to creat a more self organized – de-bureaucratized world but have not yet quite figured out what it really looks like and how to transition from where we are to where we need to be. 

Maybe that’s just wishful thinking….fueld by a frustration at the idiocy that seems to have become institutionalized in so many places.  But change ‘is in the air,’ though it may still be some years away.  I just hope that the transition can be made relatively peacefully, there are far too many people on this orbiting rock (7Billion!?) for a major disruption to be anything other than catastrophic for far too many.

There is no utopia waiting over the brow of the next hill, and there was never a golden age that we have somehow lost (one man’s golden age was someone elses hell.) We can’t go back to a past that never existed, and refusing to live and work today because the day after tomorrow will be better is foolish and self-destructive.  Tomorrow never gets here, let alone the day after, and your vision of the world will never occupy a future today unless you work for it in the today you find yourself in. Live in the now with a vision of where you want to end up.