nancylebov: blue moon (Default)
Back in the 70s, one of Timothy Leary's books had the idea that the center of wealth goes westwards--it started in the Egypt and Babylon, then went to Greece, Rome, Western Europe, the Eastern US, and then the Western US. IIRC, at the time I read it, California was still ascendent with Japan doing well, so I remembered the theory as something to keep an eye on. (There are some obvious weak points in the theory--I don't know if it has anything useful to say about pre-modern Asia and it doesn't explain how the Italian penninsula got lucky twice.)

Since then....the Little Tigers and China, and things are getting better in India. The EU may be the next superpower.

Leary, cheerful soul that he was, didn't discuss what happens in countries the center of wealth is moving away from--do they necessarily do gratuitously stupid things instead of declining gracefully? Or do people always do gratuitously stupid things, but the effects are more visible when you aren't lucky?

Leary didn't offer a plausible mechanism for the center of wealth going west, and I can't imagine what such an explanation would look like.

The good news (if there's anything at all to the theory) is that the center doesn't just go west, it's accelerating. The acceleration was part of the theory in the 70s, and it's still part of the pattern. Things may well improve dramatically (though maybe only for a couple of years) here on the East Coast of the US in a decade or so. Eventually, the center of wealth will be zorching along around the planet so fast that people will make their investments exactly timed to accomodate it.
nancylebov: blue moon (Default)
Back in the 70s, one of Timothy Leary's books had the idea that the center of wealth goes westwards--it started in the Egypt and Babylon, then went to Greece, Rome, Western Europe, the Eastern US, and then the Western US. IIRC, at the time I read it, California was still ascendent with Japan doing well, so I remembered the theory as something to keep an eye on. (There are some obvious weak points in the theory--I don't know if it has anything useful to say about pre-modern Asia and it doesn't explain how the Italian penninsula got lucky twice.)

Since then....the Little Tigers and China, and things are getting better in India. The EU may be the next superpower.

Leary, cheerful soul that he was, didn't discuss what happens in countries the center of wealth is moving away from--do they necessarily do gratuitously stupid things instead of declining gracefully? Or do people always do gratuitously stupid things, but the effects are more visible when you aren't lucky?

Leary didn't offer a plausible mechanism for the center of wealth going west, and I can't imagine what such an explanation would look like.

The good news (if there's anything at all to the theory) is that the center doesn't just go west, it's accelerating. The acceleration was part of the theory in the 70s, and it's still part of the pattern. Things may well improve dramatically (though maybe only for a couple of years) here on the East Coast of the US in a decade or so. Eventually, the center of wealth will be zorching along around the planet so fast that people will make their investments exactly timed to accomodate it.
nancylebov: blue moon (Default)
To listen to some leftists, you'd think there's something filthy about doing things to make a profit. After all, anything that's done for profit is going to be the worst feasible quality offered for the highest possible price.

However, when I look at much of what I buy, I see that much of what I buy is decent stuff and not terribly expensive

To listen to some libertarians and right-wingers, you'd think that government is nothing but theft and murder and power-grabbing, and all it can do is spread misery.

However, I can see that a lot of government services are at least decent and genuinely useful.

What's going on? After all, the leftists and the libertarians are pointing to some real incentives and processes.

People I've floated these ideas to have suggested that government keeps business from being as awful as it might be. Government does exert *some* pressure on price and quality (not always in the direction one would wish--see price supports), but there isn't nearly enough government to *make* companies offer stuff that's fit to buy.

I believe that what's mostly going on for both business and government is a combination of the desire to do things well (distributed through all levels of the organizations) and habit/tradition/inertia which can lead to defaults of accomodating the people one is dealing with.

If my theory is correct, you want organizations which are somewhat responisive to incentives, but complete responiveness to simple incentives is *not* what you want. See this article about Walmart--they keep squeezing their suppliers till some of the suppliers lower quality or go out of business.

Here's my prediction about Walmart (I was wrong about the election, but that isn't going to stop me)--they'll keep squeezing their suppliers until Walmart becomes known as a place to buy crap, and it will gradually go under itself. Maybe they can prevent this by focusing on quality as well as price, but that would take a huge change in company culture and it's hard to imagine doing it successfully.

On the government side, you want them to care about elections, but you can't afford to have that be the only thing.

There's a bit in Gregory Bateson about how living systems never try to maximize just one thing.
nancylebov: blue moon (Default)
To listen to some leftists, you'd think there's something filthy about doing things to make a profit. After all, anything that's done for profit is going to be the worst feasible quality offered for the highest possible price.

However, when I look at much of what I buy, I see that much of what I buy is decent stuff and not terribly expensive

To listen to some libertarians and right-wingers, you'd think that government is nothing but theft and murder and power-grabbing, and all it can do is spread misery.

However, I can see that a lot of government services are at least decent and genuinely useful.

What's going on? After all, the leftists and the libertarians are pointing to some real incentives and processes.

People I've floated these ideas to have suggested that government keeps business from being as awful as it might be. Government does exert *some* pressure on price and quality (not always in the direction one would wish--see price supports), but there isn't nearly enough government to *make* companies offer stuff that's fit to buy.

I believe that what's mostly going on for both business and government is a combination of the desire to do things well (distributed through all levels of the organizations) and habit/tradition/inertia which can lead to defaults of accomodating the people one is dealing with.

If my theory is correct, you want organizations which are somewhat responisive to incentives, but complete responiveness to simple incentives is *not* what you want. See this article about Walmart--they keep squeezing their suppliers till some of the suppliers lower quality or go out of business.

Here's my prediction about Walmart (I was wrong about the election, but that isn't going to stop me)--they'll keep squeezing their suppliers until Walmart becomes known as a place to buy crap, and it will gradually go under itself. Maybe they can prevent this by focusing on quality as well as price, but that would take a huge change in company culture and it's hard to imagine doing it successfully.

On the government side, you want them to care about elections, but you can't afford to have that be the only thing.

There's a bit in Gregory Bateson about how living systems never try to maximize just one thing.
nancylebov: blue moon (Default)
When they get done with the Swift Boat thing, there's going to be some serious investigation of US atrocities in Viet Nam. I don't think anyone a year or two ago would have suggested this as a likely side effect of the 2004 election.

People worry about outsourcing, but I'm betting that China and India will move on to more equal competition. I'm guessing on the numbers, but I'll bet that there will be Chinese and Indian car companies with noticable exports to the first world within a decade.
nancylebov: blue moon (Default)
When they get done with the Swift Boat thing, there's going to be some serious investigation of US atrocities in Viet Nam. I don't think anyone a year or two ago would have suggested this as a likely side effect of the 2004 election.

People worry about outsourcing, but I'm betting that China and India will move on to more equal competition. I'm guessing on the numbers, but I'll bet that there will be Chinese and Indian car companies with noticable exports to the first world within a decade.

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