Sunday, December 2, 2007

the economy, development, and the environment grossly oversimplified

such a topic could be (and probably is) the foundation for several full length books, but i can probably summarize my opinion in a few paragraphs.

the most important goal for humanity for today is unity, preferably world unity of a type that will make wars unthinkable. this will allow more of the world resources to be directed to efforts that will benefit humanity, such as education, education, and education.

given the McDonald's Theorem (that no two countries that both contain a McDonalds Franchise will ever go to war with each other), it seems the surest route to world peace is through the development of strong economic ties.

but globalisation has been, in short, a failure. using a simple self-centered homo economicus model for all parties involved, Adam Smith style, failure is the obvious and inevitable end of any such efforts. how can a wealthy and powerful party seeking to maximize its own short term interests possibly help a poor and powerless party? such is the nature of the predominance of the efforts so far. the only poor nations that have benefited from globalisation so far have been China and India. they only benefited because they were strong enough to take beneficial parts of the globalisation package, without taking on the destabilizing parts. neither country, for example, lets international companies set up shop inside their borders. by law, every company operating in China is majority owned and controlled by Chinese people.

so, what is the solution? three spring to mind. 1) small poor countries can band together as negotiating blocks (South American Union, African Union) so that negotiations will at least be between large rich parties and large poor parties. 2)small poor countries can choose to tell the rich countries to go get stuffed, nationalize their resources and aggressively prepare their population and economy for participation in the international market. 3)the IMF and WTO can decide that their goal is to achieve the best long term solution for humanity rather than pursue their own short-term interests. and it is absolutely in everyone's best interest for the world to economically flatten significantly. not only so we rich can live with a clear conscience, knowing that no large group in the world is in desperate condition, but for far more selfish reasons.

there are only so many resources in the world. there will only ever be so many. so, it sounds like a zero-sum game, that the only way for me to become richer is for somebody else to become poorer. fortunately, this is strictly false. since the 1960s, cars have become more safer, faster, more efficient, more comfortable and less polluting, yet require less resources to build. human ingenuity has increased the size of the pie.

one man did more for the automotive industry than probably the next 1000 others. Mr Deming came up with a novel production process. he tried to get the American companies to use it, but none were interested. eventually, he found a willing audience in Japan. his process gave Japan the tools to make the best cars in the world.

as luck had it, Deming was born in Sioux City, Iowa, where he learned to read and write, where his mind was considered valuable, where he was safe from wars and famine, where he didn't have to struggle to make ends meet. according to some estimates, less than 1% of the current world population lives in these conditions that are a prerequisite for a mind to be able to fully flourish. assuming that people with his same potential are evenly distributed across the plant, that means that at least 100 people capable of revolutionizing a field have passed through life without the proper circumstances to develop. how many Einsteins are born into that 99% of the population? Bachs? Amperes? Yves Saint Laurens? TMBGs? honestly, what could the other 5.9 billion people in the world contribute if they had the opportunity and the right motivation?

in short, many of humanity's seemingly intractable problems probably aren't. but the people that could best solve them are dying of smallpox because we are part of a system where it is expected that parties pursue their own best interests even to the detriment of others.

if this is accurate, the way forward is both pretty clear and fairly impossible. we need a shift in mentality from maximizing our own short-term benefit to either maximizing our own long-term benefit or, ideally, maximizing the benefit of humanity. either that or an international body motivated by humanity's best interests and with real power needs to be created.

i don't know what these solutions look like in real life or how they can be implemented in real terms. why would a conflict-based self-interested system create a higher level of organization to which they have to cede some of their power? the colonies united to fight the British, the EU united to fight the US, two world wars gave us the inept UN, what will it take to truly unite the world?

global warming, widespread economic instability, and peak oil seem like reasonable candidates to me, since they are all "crisis of the commons" problems.


leila said...

i got to the end ... and i wanted to read more. please, sir, can i have some moah?

so i went back and read the bit that said that we should change globalisation for selfish reasons. then i read the last two paragraphs. and i got it.

you're saying that a world of unity can only happen when every country has the kind of peace and justice that allows for great minds to develop creatively, in order to solve the world's problems? is that right?

when i read that summary, it seems to have a bit of a chicken-and-the egg syndrome. because i kind of feel that when there is peace and justice throughout the world, then what kind of problems will there be left to solve? too many doughnuts per square capita?

i know it's late and you're trying to be concise, but i'd really like a few more paragraphs on this.

love you,

leila said...

wait---does per square capita exist? have i made a kath&kim mistoike?

shaun said...

so, i made a bit of an addition, dunno if it makes things clearer.

a penny for the old guy said...

just to announce: I am here. I am reading. I am enjoying.

Hope all`s well with you guys.