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02/28/2012

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Honesty

Mr. Brock seems like a nice man, but I'm afraid people like him produce punchlines more often than valuable information or insight to our collective problems.


Dave Cohen

@Timetraveler

A good reference, and a book I intend to read. Most appropriately, the penultimate chapter is titled ... and too dumb to change.

-- Dave

sharonsj

I don't think it will take until 2016 for people to revolt. Unless Congress reins in the oil speculators, any "recovery" will turn into a depression. We're already faced with more price inflation than we can deal with, so higher transportation costs will just make everything too expensive for greater numbers of people.

Congress has done nothing to change our economy from 70% consumerism to something else more workable. And if the majority of Americans can't consume, the transnationals will just move whatever is left to China or India. You'll see lots of Detroits in every state.

Nor does any American understand how the financial crisis in the European Union will affect us. Greece will not be the only country to default and throw out the bankers--and Greece is what the U.S. will become as conservatives impose austerity everywhere. And what are the conservatives doing about these problems? Passing laws about contraception and abortion.

Mitch

You could just start every article you write with that headline, followed by whatever. It's too easy for people to get hung up on technocrat solutions, that ignore the key issues--people's thinking and behaviors. That Pogo quote always comes to mind, "we have met the enemy, and they--are us."

David Bolduc

Actually, Psych 101 -- Freud plus Alder with a little Maslow pretty much nails the irrational. And, yes, you are right about how the system is fucked.

Timetraveler_2047

Dave, the "too dumb to change" could have also been written as "too costly to change" as complexity and associated costs preclude undoing many of the "solutions" earlier implemented, which in turn require more complex, costly "solutions".

As complexity and its costs increase, the marginal costs rise to a point at which additional "solutions" are impossible to implement, even if the brightest apes are assigned to the problems.

In the so-called "health care" sector, we as a country are devoting 17% of the entire output of the economy and 26% of private GDP, of which 50% of all spending is on the sickest 5% and another ~20% on end-of-life care for elders, resulting in "health care" spending having grown at twice the rate of GDP since '00.

It is rather "dumb" to spend so much of our scarce resources this way, but the overwhelming majority of people don't know the above facts, whereas the pharma, hospital, insurance, and biomedical companies, doctors, and politicians in the employ of same don't want us to know how much we are spending on "health care".

Yet, economists laud the fact that we spend so much on "health care" and that it (along with "education") is the "fastest-growing sector of the US economy!!!" YEA!!!

We spend nearly 40% of private GDP on war and "health care". WE'RE NUMBER ONE in war and illness!!! GO TEAM!!!

Dumb? More like insane.

Timetraveler_2047

One might add that Mr. Brock does not say "why" the system has evolved as it has. Capitalism requires a growing net energy surplus and abundant resources to grow perpetually profits and capital accumulation at a sufficient rate and scale to keep the system going.

The above conditions ended for the US in 1970-85 with the peak of crude oil production, end of industrialization, and the onset of US crude reserves depletion, deindustrialization, financialization, and feminization of the US economy. Virtually nowhere does one read or hear discussed this narrative.

And now the world has reached the point where the US was in 1970-75, the point at which global industrialization is peaking with Peak Oil but no longer cheap, abundant supplies of crude oil reserves that permitted Britain, Germany, the US, and Japan to rise to industrial powers.

If an economist or commentator were to broach accidentally the topic of energy, the depth of understanding is paper thin and thus the implications of Peak Oil and falling net energy and ANE are not well understood, if at all. Therefore, the perceived "solutions" are derived on the basis of the era of the evolution of capitalism, representative democracy, and most importantly cheap crude oil.

However, a critical part of the challenges we face is the 100-150 years of plentiful cheap crude oil which permitted the scale growth of extraction and consumption, complexity, and global interdependence. Now the costs of maintaining the system exceed the returns per capita. Whenever a hiccup in capitalism's development occurred, the response was to print and lend more money and the gov't spend more money to induce faster growth of investment, extraction, production, etc.

Now printing, lending, and borrowing and spending only results in marginal increases in the price of resources at the peak production frontier and thermodynamic limit bound, reducing real incomes and consumption and further constraining future investment, production, and gov't borrowing and spending.

We can no longer print, lend, and borrow and spend into existence sufficient supplies of affordable resources to permit continuing growth of real GDP per capita. But this is all the rentiers, banksters, Keynesians, Monetarists, CEOs, supply-siders, and statist and socialist technocrats know to do.

The "solutions" of the past 40-80 years are being implemented yet again with a collapsing marginal return curve.

The "solutions" of the past are now a critical part of the intractable problems we face.

Dave Cohen

@David Bolduc

My feeling is that when I frame these problems in psychological terms, that turns people off. And the reason is simple. Humans in the general case are not psychological, which is hard to define. (But we know it when we see it.)

So I avoid that sort of framing. What I called the fallacy of imputing rationality follows directly from people not being psychological. In short, they have no clue about what's really going on.

-- Dave

step back

Dave,

Great post!

One only needs but to see Dr. Neil DeGrasse Tyson's lecture (the "astro-physicist") on how small the differences are between humans and other animals to understand why, on a cosmic level, we humans are not much smarter than a dog, a cat or a chimp.

We self-exalt in our cleverness (in our sapience). But that is just a cognitive illusion, not much different from other kinds of illusions we suffer from, i.e. optical illusions.

Economics is yet another illusion. It is devised for hiding the fact that we are speciating into a predator class and a prey class (what some refer to as the 1% and the 99%). Such speciation is a natural part of evolution. After all, where did lions, tigers and bears come from if not from the same one-celled organisms we all evolved from?

Martin

Your analysis and selections are brilliant - a genuine intellectual service to the world. How you manage to pull so much information from so many disparate sources is an absolute feat, and your grasp if the issues is simply unwavering.
Yet the tone of "humans are stupid" guts the very project. To borrow another commenter's term, "human apes" show astonishing cognitive talents - all the scientific and rational capacity one planet can stand. Many people see the social world's problems as you do, in near whole or in major parts. The problem comes in our collective ability to manage large social institutions like finance, business, politics, family. These large-scale matters are shot through with corrupt, deleterious, ineradicable mismanagement. "Planet Stupid" may sound like a good slogan, but that is not accurate - humans show occasional brilliance, flashes of great kindness, all the treacly virtues that other animals also possess, but, like other animals, we seem to coutenance repeated social injury to the poor or socially weak.
I would assume that this little comment can't get anyone to stop the repeated bashing of humans as loathsome half-wits, and there can always be evidence of this tendency, but, to be fair to others, I'm not the only one who finds solace in the great understandings of other human apes.

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