notes march 25 2008

March 25, 2008 § Leave a comment

The mood of the country is grim. Seems to me that happy or sad, we are avoiding the larger issues of climate, food, energy, health, jails and lack of justice, and – the most absent – governance. These can best be dealt with as a totality, as a system.

I have been re-reading Capitalism 3.0, free on the web. He proposes the need for a new sector in the economy: large trusts to protect the commons and let the population benefit.

I take Jarred Diamond’s Collapse, Chalmers Johnson’s Nemesis, and books like 3.0 as the framework (sorry If i repeat myself, but these are notes to myself, to constantly remind myself what I think I am working on.)

GardenWorld politics meets a need. Most of the progressive “solutions” deal with problems in a technocratic way, but lack any sense of a vision of what we are trying to do except more adequately use what we have: better distribution, less energy use, etc. What is missing is a shift to a more attractive world to live in, one where the economy reunites nature and human nature.

The physicist Wineberg says “the more we know of the universe the more meaningless it seems.” I really disagree. The more we know of it, the more it highlights what an incredible thing life is, and what an amazing step it has been to become human.

The following is impressive. Please take a look.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=W1czBcnX1Ww&eurl=http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2008/03/21/must-see-video-dirty-dan_n_92737.html 

The problem is, its intended use, and financing, is military. Part of the problem is that those who do tech are very reliant on military funding.

 

Note the logic

New Limits to Growth
Revive Malthusian Fears

Spread of Prosperity
Brings Supply Woes;
Slaking China’s Thirst

By JUSTIN LAHART, PATRICK BARTA and ANDREW BATSON

and

WSJ: New Limits to Growth Revive Malthusian Fears

By: TraderMark   

I take this not only as a complaint about the poor victim Profit, but a setup for marginalizing much of the population as “unaffordable.” We are witnessing the birth of a pro-malthusian logic of elite survival.

And with our structrual imbalances and reliance on other country’s generosity in continuously buying our debt to keep us sustained, we don’t appear to be heading into this multi decade “economic” war from a place of strength.

Somehow I believe the upper crust in each country will somehow survive; I expect economic disparity to continue to grow within the vast majority of countries, continuing a trend of the past 10-15 years.

My World of Shortages theme has in fact been an investing thesis of mine for a few years and will be for many years (decades) going forward. (although in the “long long run” I do expect technical innovation in many fields to help offset some of the shortages). Too many humans want to live like Americans… or at least like Brazilians or Italians (no one can quite consume like an American). And now more and more people have the means or are on the path to doing so within the next 3-10 years. I wrote last year in the blog, that it was the first year where more humans on this Earth resided in urban environments instead of rural. That trend should only continue slowly but surely. Unfortunately, even at current population levels, unless we continue having the same % of people living in morbidly poor conditions, the Earth will struggle to handle things. Human prosperity is ironically, not a good thing for Earth’s natural resources. So we will compete, as peoples and nations for these resources – I still think water one day will be what oil is today. If you don’t believe traditional wars will break out over these resource acquisitions (which is what most wars are in our history are based on – acquisition of property or resources) – then “economic” wars might be more up your alley. Essentially countries will be at odds with each other over these resources, and on a more granual level, the individual people of the US of A will be ‘fighting’ (economically) with people in many other countries for said resources. And with our structrual imbalances and reliance on other country’s generosity in continuously buying our debt to keep us sustained, we don’t appear to be heading into this multi decade “economic” war from a place of strength. More importantly, regardless of nationality, the “lower” and “middle” class across the globe will be competing with each other (on price) for these resources. Somehow I believe the upper crust in each country will somehow survive; I expect economic disparity to continue to grow within the vast majority of countries, continuing a trend of the past 10-15 years. And this will lead to more social strife within the countries. I believe this is already happening in the US….but its a slow erosion. When you cannot feed your family, you tend to get desperate. But I am open to (and hoping) I am completely wrong on this specific thesis.

But for our investing focus the game is to find the coming shortages, understand the powerful macro trends these shortages will generate, and get in before the herd. Eventually the masses will “discover it” (probably from a Wall Street Journal rticle), jump in with their leveraged unregulated pools of capital, drive the price up too far, cause havoc and volatility of unheard magnitude (if you only saw how boring fertilizer stocks used to trade), and corrections will happen along the way. CNBC will tout “the move” is over – and then we’ll start on an new leg up a few weeks/months later. And so we should repeat for many many many years. But again, Commodities are Dead – Fox Business and CNBC told me so.

  • “We’re living in an era where the technologies that have empowered high living standards and 80-year life expectancies in the rich world are now for almost everybody,” says economist Jeffrey Sachs, director of Columbia University’s Earth Institute, which focuses on sustainable development with an emphasis on the world’s poor. “What this means is that not only do we have a very large amount of economic activity right now, but we have pent-up potential for vast increases (in economic activity) as well.” The world cannot sustain that level of growth, he contends, without new technologies.

But note, new technologies with old patterns of ownership do mean that the rich will survive, and fight to do so.

For example

While many will hand wring over this number, it is a bullish development to me. As I’ve outlined before [What Should Median Home Prices be Today?], home prices need to fall for the free mark…. err.. for our socialist market to react. We’ve seen the homebuilders slash prices already – it was the homeowners who were still living in denial world. But as more and more supply hits the market (especially forced supply through foreclosures and walkaways), competition will increase and prices will drop. Which will eventually spur new owners into the market.

This implies that a full spectrum of the population will benefit, but i suspect that the new owners will be richer, and the old owners will be out. That is, those who have cash in this falling economy will get houses cheapen than they could have in the normal market, and the net result will be a shift of assets to those who are richer.

 

Stiglitz says

But Mr. Stiglitz, the economist, contends that consumers eventually will have to change their behavior even more than then did after the 1970s oil shock. He says the world’s traditional definitions and measures of economic progress — based on producing and consuming ever more — may have to be rethought.

The change will not come from people changing their behavior; consuming less, because consuming is not a gradual process. Less gas means quitting the job at a distance. the effects will be catastrophic steps unmediated by government politics.

and

Note in the following, the introductory use of “society” but then all the articles are technologies in isolation from social forces, enabling and enabled.

 

CALL FOR CONTRIBUTORS

Discovery and Invention:

An Encyclopedia of Science, Technology, and Society

M.E. Sharpe, a New York-based academic and reference publisher, and East River Books, a reference book producer, are seeking contributing scholars for a four-volume illustrated reference work on the history of science and technology from prehistoric times through the present-day. The project is aimed at the academic high school and undergraduate student. The General Editor is Dr. James Ciment.

The encyclopedia will explore the origins, evolution, impact, and legacy of technological innovation and scientific discovery in a wide variety of fields, including agriculture, architecture, astronomy/space exploration, biology, chemistry, climate, communications, electronics, energy, food/nutrition, geology, manufacturing, mathematics, mechanics, medicine, physics, transportation, weaponry, as well as other areas.

Articles will vary in length from 1,000-4,000 (depending on significance of topic) and many will be accompanied by ancillary materials, including charts, sidebars, tables, and primary documents.

Contributors will receive authorial credit, a modest cash honorarium and/or copy of the full encyclopedia set (depending on contribution length and contributor preference).

If you are interested in contributing to this exciting and important reference project–one we hope will be the definitive reference work on the global history of technology and science?please visit our website for further information: www.encyclopediawebsite.com and click on “discovery and invention.”

Please feel free to forward this notice to any potentially interested scholars (either professors, graduate students, or qualified independent scholars).

Sincerely,

Irene Chow, Editorial Assistant

Discovery and Invention: An Encyclopedia of Science, Technology, and Society Discovery.assistant@encyclopediawebsite.com

and

This conference, note that it is in the framework of “making Europe more attractive and competitive.” Sounds like GardenWorld

http://www.labaulewic.org/default.asp

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