Some very blunt advice…

This article from the Cato Institute is very hard for me to argue with. Essentially the only parts of gov’t that matter when talking about deficits are (drum roll please) Medicare, Medicaid, Social Security and the Defense department. And even the DoD is relatively small beer, it’s a traditional bee in the bonnet of Libertarian/Cato types (with some reason.) Mr. Bandow points out that all of these programs have to become purely means tested, I think the age has to move up into the mid seventies and should start doing so essentially on a year every year basis ASAP and that anyone ten years or more from ‘retirement’ would be affected, ten years is a huge time horizon to deal with the change.

Anyway read the article it’s timely and prescribes the sort of major overhaul we need.

E-Reader Display Shows Vibrant Color Video – Technology Review

E-Reader Display Shows Vibrant Color Video – Technology Review.

“The device seen by Technology Review was made in a pilot factory in Taiwan that has mostly produced sample displays distributed to potential partners and customers, although a relatively small number of commerical displays will be made there. Chui says that a second, larger factory in Taiwan, big enough for production at a very large scale, is under construction and will come online in mid-2012. With the larger factory incomplete, truly mass-market devices with Mirasol displays can only appear in the second half of next year. Qualcomm is planning to invest up to $975 million in the new factory.”

Next year, color video on a small reader full sunlight and several times LCD’s life per charge.    Faster Please….and get it on the iPad…

Complexity and Size…the silent killer of Progressive dreams

I don’t want to crow that I have pondered these things for some time but I have recently seen a couple of posts on some sites where people are beginning to wonder about the problems of size and complexity and interconnectedness that are at least a chunk of the problems bringing the Euro down and that I also think had.   I think that its still a nascent thought but R. Fernandez had a pretty good post here that tied this together

I think some of this is in response to the Rauche Book Demosclerosis The Silent Killer of American Government, (which is mentioned in the Belmont Club piece) but I think that this is just one part of the overall puzzle.

demosclerosis…. which Jonathan Rauch defines as “government’s progressive loss of the ability to adapt” as a side-effect of the postwar style of politics that emphasizes interest-group activism and redistributive programs.”   In Phillip Longman’s book review of Rauch’s  Demosclerosis: The Silent Killer of American Government. – “Rauch rightly asserts that the “American system of governance today is much less at the mercy of any narrow manipulative few than at any time in the past.” The era of back room bosses who called the shots in service of rich patrons is long gone. But that has hardly brought about a more effective, or even more equitable, government, Rauch observes, because it has been replaced by a coalition representing virtually everyone. “We have met the special interests and they are us,” Rauch writes. “Much as mutual funds have offered ordinary people the access to almost every type of productive investment, so interest groups have offered ordinary people access to almost every kind of redistributive investment.””

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!


Work a day World….which will come

Another article about the end of work as we know it and I have to agree that this is the ‘feeling’ i get when looking and listening to the world at large. My jobs over the years have taken me to many companies, many new, some middle aged, a fair number ‘old line industrial.’ And the way I see it now is that we’ve been overlooking profound changes that were happening without causing much of direct stir while looking in the wrong direction and perhaps (probably) pursuing the wrong ‘solutions’ to what may not be real problems.

The story I would tell is this, that the heyday of the giant integrated conglomerate as a generic solution in the technology arena was probably sometime around the middle of the twentieth century. Not that anyone realized it or noted it, but after that smaller companies were often able to outmaneuver the big guys and started carving away chunks, not directly but by making managers/owners make decisions that marginalized pieces of their business. These middle sized companies started small and sometimes grew big and became conglomerates but on average the company size got smaller and more focused.

Many of the companies I visit have huge factories built in the heyday of mass production. Today these factories instead of producing just one product, produce several, or dozens and the people who service the machines are a fraction of the ‘old’ work force, or much of the facility stands vacant while the still sell just as much in raw value as they did when they had hundreds if not thousands of workers. Many stay in these old factories, because they’re essentially free and/or tearing it down would open them up for problems with the EPA re ‘Brown Field Remediation’ etc.

What happened to all those workers? We’ve heard about the hollowing out of our manufacturing for a long time but the pain was ‘mostly’ pretty low level, why? Because for the first forty years most of the the effects were hidden. Those smaller, mid sized companies were usually, less automated and less efficient but less expensive in terms of human driven overheads (generally younger staff, lower wages, small efficient shops, small effective teams, managerially efficient), and they sopped up, the workers no longer needed by the ‘mainline’ shops.

So why the agony now? I think that the internet bubble then the financial bubble hid the tailing off of the gentle transition, or maybe it kept more of the old line industries / jobs in play and then dropped them on the floor in one steaming pile. And suddenly the staid old like companies appear to have vanished, and the jobs appear to have vanished, but they had mostly vanished a decade and more ago, the rest was financial illusion.

If there had been no 911 and a need to hide the cost of the wars it sparked and a Ranch and Cancun Vacation (instead of bread and circuses) program put on to distract our attention, we would probably have seen the pain earlier and I think less severely. Now we probably are going to undergo a painful decade of recession, maybe more until we understand that the world has changed and work and the economy have to evolve.

How that evolution is going to happen is a blank to me. But what I see as happening over the next several decades is an ongoing evolution of work to highly automated mass production of basic needs, and the creation of more and more boutique, even artisanal companies often supported by constantly shifting teams of people who are engaged for short run needs.

And perhaps the gov’t and many folks who are still looking at the past to guide the future, will stop trying to save industrial age health and retirement systems that are unsustainable in the long run, and look to a much more personally focused system one that is portable across the country and across the globe if we have any sense.