Adapting to an Age of Global Wealth

gdpPerhaps a single data point can summarize the shape of the world and the challenge before us. Since roughly 1975, the global economy has added more wealth per capita than we created in all of previous human history. The unlocking of the global economy across the 20th Century has produced an explosion of economic growth so staggering it is almost impossible to take it all in.

Yes, this expansion is also radically unequal, but focusing on that one fact misses an important dynamic that shapes our time. An ordinary human being born anywhere on the planet today has more personal influence on their own life, on average, than they ever have before.

The great story of our age is the sudden, unprecedented expansion in the basic value of a human life. In terms of US politics, this dynamic helps to explain a wide variety of seemingly unrelated phenomenon that are gumming up the machinery of our politics and realigning our political poles. Though this is a happy development, it is introducing new challenges that we are ill equipped to address.

In the US, expanding personal rights help explain the general acceptance of same sex relationships and the growing consensus over basic, universal access to health care. It explains the apparently conflicting yet entirely predictable tension between the expansion of women’s equality and our growing public unease over abortion. It helps explain why the viability of big central governments is crumbling at the same time that our demand for government services is expanding.

Global politics in the 20th Century may have been defined by the great struggle between central authority and personal liberty, but the victory of human rights in that struggle has given us a new paradigm, complete with a vastly more volatile and exciting combination of problems and opportunities. The steadfast refusal of the political right in the US to turn their heads around and look honestly at the future is crippling our ability to shape that future. This is a new ballgame and we are wearing the wrong equipment. Increasingly, we are also wearing the wrong jerseys.

Over the next decade or two we will answer a set of questions which will determine how broadly the prosperity of this era is shared, how many of the world’s people will get to participate, how many people will be killed by the instability created by the new dynamism, and whether the US will be a leader in this new era as by all rights it should be. We haven’t begun to make plans to address these new questions because they have emerged too quickly for us to recognize them.

There are three primary dynamics that are dictating the shape of life in this century:

Growing individual power is rendering old methods for preserving order obsolete.

Civilization is built on managed violence. The most powerful and wealthy civilizations are the ones that can contain private violence while leveraging the lowest possible levels of public or centralized violence. The more individual decision-making power a civilization can tolerate without collapsing into anarchy the wealthier and more powerful that civilization will be.

The rise of individual power is undermining the methods we once used to ensure cooperation at low levels of violence. Ethnic, religious, and tribal identities that once constrained people’s behaviors in ways that made them more compliant are suddenly, radically less effective.

The growth of individual power is a good thing, but every change has consequences. This dynamic is destabilizing traditional institutions everywhere. In the US we see this in the decline of community organizations, organized religion, and the old social-capital infrastructure of participatory government. In short, structures built to govern a slave Republic may not be as effective in serving the needs of a nation dominated by software developers and venture capitalists.

Elsewhere in the world we are seeing an unprecedented collapse in the basic viability of government. In the last century we worried about the seemingly unrelenting expansion of central government power. Now, the greatest threat to global security is the seemingly unstoppable expansion of the “failed state” phenomenon.

This is not just about Haiti and Somalia. Significant swaths of Europe are effectively stateless. There are quirky enclaves like Trans-Dniester, Kaliningrad, and North Kosovo, but the phenomenon includes larger entities. It is unclear when or if Bosnia, Georgia or Ukraine will ever have a minimally functional central authority.

We are seeing shorter cycles of creation and destruction of core institutions.

How long would it take for the world’s most prosperous corporation in 1910 to become obsolete or bankrupt. How long does it take now? Economic dynamism means the world is creating vastly more wealth than it has in the past, but it also destroys older incumbent forms of wealth generation more quickly. It is very difficult for ordinary people to adapt fast enough to keep pace with the demands of a knowledge economy. Though we are creating a lot of wealth, we are doing it the price of constant, extraordinary anxiety.

The “wild” world is gone forever.

Nothing on Earth is unconquered or unaffected by human decisions. There are no truly wild animals or wild places anymore, no matter how remote or uninhabited. The growth of human population and power means that every decision we make has ripple effects not just on other humans, but on natural resources.

Strangely enough, this does not mean that the future will be dictated by scarcity, quite the opposite in fact. It does, however, mean that a host of seemingly insignificant decisions, like whether to get my water from a disposable plastic contain or a reusable one might determine whether seal populations in the North Pacific survive or go extinct.

In other words, now that we have utterly conquered the natural world, we need to make some affirmative decisions about what to do with it. Otherwise, we will simply wreck it arbitrarily with consequences to human health and welfare that will be impossible to predict.

The new value of human life, with its accompanying expansion of personal liberty and prosperity is a fantastic accomplishment, truly the End of History as we once understood it. It is not, however, the end of the human story or an excuse for complacency. We face a whole new set of challenges, a sort of New History based less on ideological conflicts than on basic administration which will determine how rich, how peaceful, and how happy human beings will generally be a century from now.

Not only are we failing to confront these new challenges, we seem not to even recognize them. Especially on the right in the US, our politics has descended into a bizarre spectacle of anachronism, obsessed with supposed issues that have no relevance to the present or the future. To a very large and very frightening extent, the shape of the next century at a global level will be shaped by the success or failure of political conservatives in the US in recognizing and adapting to the world they helped birth. We are not off to a promising start.

Chris Ladd is a Texan living in the Chicago area. He has been involved in grassroots Republican politics for most of his life. He was a Republican precinct committeeman in suburban Chicago until he resigned from the party and his position after the 2016 Republican Convention. He can be reached at gopliferchicago at gmail dot com.

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Posted in Economics
200 comments on “Adapting to an Age of Global Wealth
  1. lomamonster says:

    I have a limited quantity of global wealth adapters for sale to interested parties, however the version that indicates optimum positioning for water wells and oil and gas leases is at least a couple of months in the offing.

  2. Crogged says:

    Well, there’s a lot of scholarly, and not so much, information and/or prejudices, below. If we allow that the poverty means a lack of resources, and resources mean money, then why not direct cash grants up to a floor. We can keep the current system of coupons to the poor redeemable for store brand food stuffs and apartments next to the bus line of the higher functioning schools and employing every graduate with a degree in sociology to work diligently in establishing the ‘rules’ preventing napping in the hammock. Or we can just give cash and let those degreed eggheads find another way of earning their keep. Yes, redistribution of wealth from Paris Hilton and NFL owners, the end of the world as we know it.

    • Crogged says:

      Yes, Tyler Cohen is a raving liberal when you don’t agree with him, or a libertarian economist when you do.

    • fiftyohm says:

      Heh. “Sociology Degrees”. Pretty funny. But I submit that while we recognize ‘poverty means a lack of resources’, quantifying that is very important. It should be a guide to determine just where the safety net is located. To date, we do this poorly. When we look at government figures for ‘the poverty rate’, they do not include transfer payments. What this essentially means is that we could double transfer payments, and see absolutely zero effect on the ‘poverty rate’.

      We need to know where we are in order to decide where we need to go.

      • Crogged says:

        Aww man, actually follow through and think of how such a thing would be implemented–consider the results of my public posturing? That’s too much work–electricity from outer space would solve everything.

        I agree with you–and 20k in Muleshoe Texas would go further than 40k anywhere in California.

  3. texan5142 says:

    Some where on this blog the Sterrn made a pontificate post about how wind power was a failure, but I digress.

    Wind power in Minnesota is a success, pardon my interruption, carry on.

    • desperado says:

      If only we could harness Stern’s wind power.

    • DanMan says:

      Texas produces more wind power than any state. During our heat wave/drought in 2011 we were pushing our electric grid to its limits. The analysis from our PUC came back after the dust settled. The highest contribution the wind component provided was around 3% of demand IIRC.

      One of the biggest promoters of wind power was T. Boone Pickens. He went all in and blew tons of money trying to get the resources to improve infrastructure to serve his growing wind turbine installations. Take his word for it. It was a losing cause and he is out of it.

      What passes for success in Minnesota is different than our experience.

      • Texan5142 says:

        “What passes for success in Minnesota is different than our experience.”

        Agreed DanMan, but to make a blanket statement that wind power is a failure is disingenuous.

      • Texan5142 says:

        It was not under this posting, I will try to find it, if I am wrong, my apologies, I am fallible.


      • bubbabobcat says:

        Think you need to keep up Danny. Pickens backed out of a Pampa Tex wind farm in 2010 because of lack of transmission lines which the state of Texas has been building recently (blame Rick Perry).

        Pickens is back in 2 years later on a smaller scale now that Texas is building the infrastructure to transport the generated energy.

        And as usual, your short sighted perspective belies the more complex realities. Renewables are not cost competitive currently because of the abundance of cheap natural gas. Another finite resource. Weren’t you wingnuts just yammering about kicking the can down the road? Whenever it suits your hate meme apparently.

      • CaptSternn says:

        It’s nothing, Texan. I don’t doubt that I have been critical of it in the past. I was just scratching my head and wondering if I had lost my mind. 🙂

      • John Galt says:

        All technologies start out expensive and tend to get cheaper as they become more widely adopted. Wind power is no different. The EIA projects that wind power will be the second cheapest means of electricity generation by 2018 (when all production costs are taken into account over the life-cycle of a power plant investment), behind only conventional natural gas turbines. This estimate EXCLUDES any subsidies or tax breaks currently offered to alternative energy sources.

        Click to access electricity_generation.pdf

      • fiftyohm says:

        JG- You can’t look at generation costs alone without considering grid infrastructure costs and availability, (peak load, seasonal, etc.). You get the wrong answer.

        Now, it can be argued that the current state (no pun intended) of the grid is a nightmare, and needs a big cash infusion anyway, but that’s not the same thing. I’ve read no complete, rigorous analysis of the issue that suggests wind is anything but a long-term loser.

        Solar on the other hand does have a future that is very dependent on volume/cost issues, as well as improving technology. The operative word though is ‘future’.

    • CaptSternn says:

      I think I am getting credit for things I didn’t say.

  4. Houston-Stay-At-Homer says:

    I am having an interesting time in DC this week helping some really smart folks from the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank on a project (I’m having to wear a suit this week).

    It is always fun to work with folks who Dan and Buzz likely would view as trying to spread communism by global monetary cooperation, international trade, and reducing poverty around the world.

    While up here in the snow this week, I’ve been struck by the title of this post “Age of Global Wealth” while learning tons about things I did not know from around the world. An Age of Global Wealth means some very different things to poor folks around the world (think Haiti and the poorer parts of Africa, Europe, and Asia).

    Certainly, the US fairs much better by most standards, but I’ve also been struck by some of the information about the poorest parts of the US (think parts of Appalachia). When you think of some common quality of life (and death) statistics, we have areas that rank with some very tough parts of the world.

    Anyway, I’m off on a tangent. Talking to folks about 50 times smarter than me who have dedicated their lives to work on global hunger and poverty makes for an interesting week.

    Oh, to bring it back from the tangent. Some of these huge issues (e.g., hunger, depletion of natural resources) are only going to be handled by organizations with very, very deep pockets. Those organizations are going to be large governments, not Halliburton, Microsoft, and Proctor & Gamble.

    • desperado says:

      Are David Rockefeller and Henry Kissinger there?

    • DanMan says:

      meh, your working with one of my cousins oh wrong one

      • Houston-Stay-At-Homer says:

        Dan…good on your cousin. It would have to be a pretty interesting place to work.

    • kabuzz61 says:

      You would be hard pressed to find any of my comments that said communists. Bad on you.

      • Houston-Stay-At-Homer says:

        You are correct Buzz…Dan is much more the communist hunter.

      • DanMan says:

        Hunter? I would have to be as blind as you not to see it homer. btw, why is Obama endorsed by CPUSA?

    • Sounds like you are HT, again! FYI, what you are doing is what I think is the right way to address any problem, which is to put your hands to it. Good on you. It’s why I encouraged my daughter to do TFA. It’s why I’ve done mission work. I presume it’s why Mr. Gates set up the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. IMHO, there is no substitute for getting a little skin in the game.

      Incidentally, it’s also why I generally decry taxation as the engine of good works. Paying your taxes charity, and is no substitute for charity. I don’t see how the engine of coercion, driven by political concerns, can ever truly be harnessed to doing good works. So although Bill’s pockets may not be as deep as Uncle Sam’s, I much rather people like Bill (including both private concerns and NGOs), and a supporting army of the rest of us, take the lead in such things. Consequentially, to further this end, that means having the engine of coercion take a bit less.

      I know you are being a bit tongue in cheek, but I’m pretty sure history has demonstrated pretty thoroughly that communism is a great way to enhance poverty. I might not have a lot of patience for international NGOs, but I’m preety sure enhancing poverty is not their desired end game. Introducing sound money management and capitalism via micro (and larger) loans, concentrating on establishing self sufficiency in the basics of civilization (clean water, sewage, even just part time electricity), all of this is good stuff, and grows the whole pie. So have at it!

  5. CaptSternn says:

    “Growing individual power is rendering old methods for preserving order obsolete.”

    I don’t see this as a reality, especially in the States. Rather than gaining more liberty and rights, we are losing them to the power of the central government, more micro-managing the people and less of people able to freely make their own choices. Nor are our structures, namely the U.S. Constitution, are built to govern a slave republic. Yes, we did have slavery for about 90 years, but that institution was abolished, rightfully so. Our structures are built to limit government to specific roles and powers. It has been extended to all, and now all are losing liberties and rights. Individual power is shrinking in the name of the collective, the hive.

    “We are seeing shorter cycles of creation and destruction of core institutions.”

    This is a rerality in our rapidly advancing techologies. There are many old corporations that embraced technology a long tie ago, and are able to adapt and continue. Others are new, some are flashes in the pan. There are some that become obsolete. But overall we are seeing wealth generation faster and reaching more people than even in history.

    “The “wild” world is gone forever.”

    This isn’t even close. There is a whole lot of wilderness left. Satellite photos of the planet at night reveal a lot of dark areas. I think this is a myth that comes from city dwellers that don’t get out much, don’t hunt, fish, hike or camp. That would just be in the States. There are places like Africa, Austrailia, South America, China and more that have even more wilderness intact. Then there are the seas and oceans, we are only at the surface of those.

    The problem is not with growing wealth and improving quality of life around the world, or with capitalism or with freedom. The problems are central governments attempting to control everything, including our own federal government. It is also the idea of “to big to fail”. Those institutions should be allowed to fail and new companies taking their place with better business models. We see what can happen with overreaching central governments trying to control and provide for tehir people. Look at many EU nations having to raise taxes and raise retirement age to pay for all their socialist policies and spending, dragging others down with them. Government is necessary, but only just enough to protect the freedom of people and just enough regulation to keep commerce flowing and minimizing pollution. To little of the last and we get burning rivers and places like China. Too much and we destroy economies.

    • “Rather than gaining more liberty and rights, we are losing them to the power of the central government, more micro-managing the people and less of people able to freely make their own choices.”

      Actually, Cap, I see this as a short term trend, promulgated as a last ditch offensive by the desperate reactionaries of the left. Really, when you think about it, they are far more shrill and intolerant than even the most rabid voices of the religious right. There is a reason for this, and it is just as applicable to the reactionary left as it is to the right. The world is changing before their very eyes; it’s moving on, and they are largely powerless to stop it, no matter how loudly Chris Matthews and Bill Maher yammer, no matter how often Obama deploys his pen and phone. Face it, Obama’s edicts are written on water. You should be no more concerned by them than is, for instance, Vladimir Putin.

      Think of the Obama administration as the Battle of the Bulge, with Obama in the role of Führer und Reichskanzler, Reid as Walter Model, and Pelosi as Gerd von Rundstedt. Just like Gen. McAuliffe, your only response to all their silliness need be, “Nuts!” The beauty of it all is that you don’t even really have to do anything about it, because it’s collapsing of its own weight. As Reagan was wont to recommend, “Don’t just do something, stand there!”

      The Leviathan nanny-state won’t continue for long simply because it *can’t* continue for long. 17 trillion is a number with a whole lot of zeroes behind it. They’re running out of other people’s money. The only question is whether it implodes with a whimper, or a bang. We can roll it back nice and orderly like, or we can do it Venezuela-style, with lots of mayhem in the streets. But either way, it’s gonna end. *It is going to end*. And when it does, if we collectively have the sense of a goose, we can get back to living as a free people, as nature, God, and the Framers intended. I’m kinda looking forward to that. 🙂

      • CaptSternn says:

        TThor, I was pretty much staying away from this blog entry because a lot of it is outside my scope, and you are far more educated and articulate on matters that Lifer is talking about here concerning global economics. But the “questions” or points he raised didn’t really seem to be addressed.

        I am not so worried about Obama or his pocket democrats. I am very worried about the damage that has been done during the past several years. Maybe we can get the PPACA, Obamacare, repealed, maybe not. That piece of legislation is a mess and doing damage on its own.

        The damage that has been done that concernes me is the idea that the federal government now has the power to force us to buy goods and services in government required amounts at government required prices or face unlimited fines, penalties or taxes. Tha is done.

        His orders, decrees, not even bothering with executive orders but changing laws and legislating through speeches can be used in the future by anybody, either “side”, any “side”. That damage may be done, unless it is struck down by the court.

        Most of the rest of this discussion y’all are having, the nuances, is outside my sphere of knowledge, research and study. HT thinks I know everything, but there are one or two things that I still haven’t gotten to know evertything about. I will work on that.

      • bubbabobcat says:

        “Most of the rest of this discussion y’all are having, the nuances, is outside my sphere of knowledge, research and study.”

        Yet Cappy despite all of your “knowledge, research and study”, you always come up with the same conclusion that “this country sucks because the Black guy is in charge”.

        That’s quite the jackhammer you have pounding all those square pegs into all the round holes.

      • CaptSternn says:

        Bubba, go back to trolling Dan. I don’t give a flying rats ass about the fact our current president is a white guy with a black wife. I don’t care about race. Only racists focus on race, and you seem to be focused on race. Next you will be claiming that I didn;t like Clinton because he was our first “black” president, or telling me that I think Carter was a bad president because he is white. Whatever.

      • bubbabobcat says:

        Or conversely you’re not a racist because you don’t believe racism exists (at least not towards minorities). Despite your posting time and again that it is ok for private businesses to be racist and as you proudly wave the Confederate flag and claim that the Civil War was not about slavery.


      • CaptSternn says:

        Oh, we know racism exists. You just proved it with your racist post. Bye.

      • kabuzz61 says:

        Tracey, I second Captains comment. I do however believe the gravy train will go out with a bang. I don’t see a peaceful end to it. Just talking about cutting incentives makes the left froth at the mouth.

        One other problem I have with the current administration is it’s unwillingness to enforce all the laws of the USA. That is very troubling.

      • Houston-Stay-At-Homer says:

        I haven’t frothed at the mouth in a while, but good to know that I should.

        The word that keeps popping into my head is “ninnies”, in that some of you guys are a bunch of ninnies.

        Oh no, the current administration is doing things that are going to destroy the country.
        Oh no, now we have to buy low-flow toilets and have an individual mandate for insurance, so the country will descend into chaos and soon we’ll have to buy Scalia/Alito approved broccoli.
        Oh no, gays serving openly in the military will destroy our fighting forces and make us weaker.
        Oh no, I’m worried we are going to turn into Venezuela or North Korea.

        I suspect your great grandchildren will be tooling around in their solar powered hover crafts (built by Toyota and fueled using solar panels designed by ExxonMobil) complaining about how the president in their lives is destroying the country with various bad things he/she is doing.

        No one will have had to take up arms to shed the blood of tyrants and other domestic enemies.

        We’ll adapt. We’ll course correct. We’ll do OK. We may be sharing the world stage with other players (and Stern, that will be OK too), but Obama is not Chavez, and we are not Venezuela.

      • Crogged says:

        But HT, if we don’t cut ‘incentives’ from those who hardly receive any how will we go on!

      • Texan5142 says:

        Stay At Homer,
        The paranoia in the rants by Sterrn and Tracy is mind boggling is it not.

      • objv says:

        Homer: Chavez and Obama were cut from the same cloth. Yes, Chavez was a bit of a showman,but the spiel is basically the same. I lived in Venezuela and watched some of Chavez’s long, televised rants. Same message. Different delivery.

      • Houston-Stay-At-Homer says:

        “Chavez and Obama were cut from the same cloth.”

        Where rational discussion goes to die. This is why we can’t have nice things.

      • bubbabobcat says:

        THE SKY IS FALLING!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

        Oh wait, here is what the CEO of the largest wireless company in the US says:

        “Verizon CEO Lowell McAdam thinks the Affordable Care Act could be a big growth opportunity for [wireless] carriers.”

        Big Bidness say Obamacare okay too.

        Buzzy, your Chicken Little crew is shrinking rapidly…

      • John Galt says:

        “Chavez and Obama were cut from the same cloth.”

        Seriously? The whole Venezuela connection the Sternn tried to make is just absolutely nuts. it shows a complete absence of rational thought on economics, politics, or society. If this is your starting point for thinking about modern American politics, then you really don’t deserve a seat at the table.

      • objv says:

        Homer: Chavez was quite the colorful character, but really, it was the same message. Blame the rich for income inequality. Redistribute wealth.

      • bubbabobcat says:

        OV can see Obama from Venezuela.


      • objv says:

        Bubba: Ha! Much to your dismay Palin, and later Romney, were perfectly able to visualize Putin in the Ukraine.

        You guys are so caught up in your conception of “nuance” you often don’t see the forest for the trees.

      • Crogged says:

        If only we had our own Putin, sending troops wherever we want (oh wait……maybe we did?). I’m sorry but nothing is stopping anyone from heading over to Russia because of supposedly weak leadership here, go enjoy life. Or wait here for two years and elect Sarah Palin, The Visionary.

      • kabuzz61 says:

        I guess it is a big day. Homer actually admitted we HAVE to do/use things of pay a price by our government. That’s a big step for the libs.

      • bubbabobcat says:

        OV, as usual you are two steps behind. We already debunked Palin’s “prediction” in the last blog. First of all, it wasn’t even hers, she attributed it to Joe Biden. And she also mentioned unilaterally going into Pakistan without their knowledge or approval would also lead to Russia invading the Ukraine. Nice to know both you and Palin (along with George W. Bush) are opposed to getting bin Laden.

      • DanMan says:

        someone once said its one thing to talk to yourself but the crazy shows when you answer yourself…bubba display this same oddity by creating his own narrative of other people’s takes and then debunking them with his inane pronouncements.

        Funny in a liberal builds a strawman and burns it down way.

      • bubbabobcat says:

        As opposed to your alternate reality willful ignorance Danny?

        Cappy posted the video for all to see. Which you will through your hate colored glasses as usual.

      • Houston-Stay-At-Homer says:

        Buzz…I’m trying to make sense of that word gumbo, and I’m sufficiently baffled.

        However, even without knowing what you were trying to say, I’ll go out on a limb and suggest that I didn’t say we HAVE to do what you think I said we HAVE to do.

        So, it wasn’t one giant step for a lib, but it probably is only a small step for a con.

      • kabuzz61 says:

        Oh no, now we have to buy low-flow toilets …Homer in a sarcastic snit.

        You did say we HAVE to. Correct or not?

  6. Bobo Amerigo says:

    “The growth of human population and power means that every decision we make has ripple effects not just on other humans, but on natural resources.”

    I quarrel with the tense of the above sentence. It should be past tense, as in “every decision we maDE HAD ripple effects…”

    I take no joy from your upbeat economic assessment.

    Humans can’t live without a healthy planet, with or without wild animals [although I prefer with].

    The party you claim doesn’t even acknowledge that humans live in an environment that needs tending. If they’re able to retain obstructive power for a couple of more election cycles, things don’t look good for us.

    • DanMan says:

      It’s a bit presumptuous to think just because we don’t believe in burdensome and wasteful green initiatives as a religion like you do that we want a dirty environment. That it consumes more energy than it saves to produce ethanol is a good example. Not only is it counterproductive, it also forces up food and fuel costs and requires more consumption of open space and resources to produce. Wind energy is a joke as well. Solar has its applications but not as a reliable source of energy.

      • Bobo Amerigo says:

        Only one aspersion. I think that’s a record for one of your posts.

      • Owl of Bellaire says:

        Solar would be *very* reliable if we generated it from satellites.

        But that would require actually investing money into space development, which Republicans don’t seem interested in doing. God forbid the government should invest current money to produce future benefits and savings.

      • DanMan says:

        Actually Owl I hear its specifically because of you and your whining that NASA dropped the program. That and the cost of Obamaphones.

      • fiftyohm says:

        Owl- First, commercial space technology is booming. If it’s a good investment, they will come. Of course this is not to say there exists no place for government involvement in space. Perhaps it should occupy a primary place, particulary in exploration. I’m simply pointing out that the heavy-lift capacity which would be necessary for such an enterprise, (and in fact, would likely comprise the bulk of its cost), is best handled by the private sector.

        But the real problem is getting all that power back to earth safely. There is no good solution for that yet – at least not one without potentially disastrous environmental and safety consequences.

      • bubbabobcat says:

        “But the real problem is getting all that power back to earth safely.”

        If only Nikola Tesla could have hung on for a couple more years to finish his work on wireless power transmission.

      • John Galt says:

        Space technology is a great example of the importance of government investment. Someone who proposed in 1961 that there would be commercial possibilities in space that would justify the billions of dollars necessary to get it (literally) off the ground would have been laughed out of the room. Today it is possible because of decades of R&D at NASA, and a lot (not all) of what NASA used to do can and should be passed on to the private sector.

        The vast majority of pharmaceuticals come from basic research done in academic settings funded by the NIH that big drug companies do not find cost-effective. Then the government hands this over to private industry. It is a win-win.

        Ethanol as a fuel source is promising. Corn is not the way to make it, Brazilian sugar cane is, but the sugar lobby here has bought the entire Florida congressional delegation to make that impossible (as Ag lobbies have bought the midwest congressional delegation for corn-based ethanol). The best way to make it is using feedstocks that are generally discarded (corn stalks, switchgrass, etc.). I’m familiar with the technology needed and it’s not a matter of if, but of when, this comes to market. Almost all of the research that underlie this technology come from decades of public-sector research.

      • CaptSternn says:

        John, biofuels are not something new that has only been developed through decades of government funding. It is very old technology. Diesel engines were designed to run on biofuels from te beginning. Electric cars, steam cars, biofuel cars and gasoline cars were all on the roads at the same time in the late 1800s and early 1900s. They were all competing, and it was through the private sector, not government. The most efficient and reliable technology won, pushing the others out.

      • John Galt says:

        No, biofuels are not new. But those that have been used in the past have exactly the same problems as corn-based ethanol. They are expensive (economically and environmentally) and compete with food crops or with land that could be used for food crops. I was referring to engineering yeast or algae to make ethanol or oils, respectively. Yeast are already great at making ethanol (thankfully), but need to be engineered to use complex plant material, like celluloses, as the feedstock. Algae are already great at making oils using photosynthesis, but there are some space issues that need to be solved. Thanks to publicly funded basic research, we know what needs to be done and this has largely now been passed to the private sector to go the last mile, as it should be.

      • fiftyohm says:

        In my view, the current biofuels mess has nothing to do with government doing/funding basic research. In general, that has generated opportunity rather than problems. The issue is, as JG has pointed out, another unholy collusion between government and private industry.

        There’s a big difference between cooperation and collusion.

      • kabuzz61 says:

        JG, since academia put in the research for ‘most’ drugs on the markets, name them, or a link to hundreds. I smell deception.

      • John Galt says:

        Kabuzz, you have to distinguish between the final optimization and clinical trials for new drugs, which are invariably done by deep pocketed pharma companies, and the basic research needed to identify drug targets, mechanisms, disease pathologies. This is the fundamental research without which you can’t develop new treatments or cures and it is the part of this you never hear about.

        The report linked below is a bit dated, but it looks at the economic impact of NIH-funded research. Of the 21 drugs with the highest therapeutic value introduced between 1965-1992 (that is, those drugs that have been most useful), 15 of them were based directly on federally-funded research, including seven with direct ties to the NIH’s intramural program. Extrapolate that to all new drugs.

        The report also outlines some economic returns in therapies, which are significant. One example was research into kidney stone recurrence that cost $900,000 between 1980-84 and is estimated to save $436-872 million per year in reduced treatment costs. There are a dozen other examples. It concluded that the ROI on NIH research was 25-40%.

        Of course, you can dismiss this since it was produced by a committee chaired by noted pinko Connie Mack.

        Click to access nih_research_benefits.pdf

      • fiftyohm says:

        Buzz- There was a time when American business actually did basic research. Bell Labs, the Thomas Watson Research Center, PARC, and a few others come to mind. These efforts were a result of long-term thinking on the part of company management. We see far, far less of that today. Let’s just forget space and bio-pharm for the moment. That of nuclear energy, basic physics, or the environment? Where do you reckon we’d be in these areas had government not funded basic research? You see, business today is focused on short-term goals. Without commenting on the wisdom of that, let me suggest that this sort of thinking is not compatible with the production of new and fundamental intellectual constructs, (basic research data, if you will), that have little – or perhaps no – possibility of return on the next decade or so. On the other hand, advances we see every day, and prize so highly, (the internet, cell phones, computers, and on and on), are largely the result of recent *engineering*, based on fundamental research results produced years and decades ago.

        So, you have a couple of choices. You can ‘force’ private industry to think in the long term. (Good luck with that.) You can continue with the current or expand slightly, (the rather paltry), federal expenditures on basic research. Or – you can simply say, “Screw it. Private industry will do it, and if they don’t, we didn’t need it anyway.

        The latter option, not only flies in the face of history, but is an extremely foolhardy approach. (Let alone, an extremely uneconomical one.)

      • Owl of Bellaire says:

        Do you enjoy the Internet? Thank government research.

        Do you rely on GPS? Thank government research.

        Do you like getting news or even personal phone calls from far-off places via communications satellites? Thank government research.

        Do you feel safer because the United States has nuclear weapons? Thank government research.

        Do you feel safer because we can watch hurricanes coming, or even see the day-to-day changes due to the movement of weather fronts? Thank government research.

        Has anyone in your family had a heart attack? Mortality from heart disease, the number-one killer in the United States, dropped 41 percent between 1971 and 1991, and the death rate for strokes decreased by 59 percent during the same period. Thank government research.

        The U.S. government conducts a lot of the basic research which later bears fruit as advanced American technologies. Would that we spent more; Neil deGrasse Tyson has pointed out that Americans currently each “spend” about half a cent out of every tax dollar on space research and development. He’s recently been agitating for “a penny on the dollar”, which I’d love to see.

      • fiftyohm says:

        Owl- I think there’s a substantial conflation in the public mind of research and engineering. “Making technology”, in all the various forms we’ve mentioned, has two distinct parts. Certainly the former is an area where returns on our tax dollars are such that not even the most fiscally conservative can dispute.

        Of course, someone is always ready to dredge up from the noise some stupid and ill-considered example, as if the exception disproves the rule.

      • John Galt says:

        From JFK’s “Moon Speech” at Rice in 1962:
        “To be sure, all this costs us all a good deal of money. This year¹s space budget is three times what it was in January 1961, and it is greater than the space budget of the previous eight years combined. That budget now stands at $5,400 million a year–a staggering sum, though somewhat less than we pay for cigarettes and cigars every year. Space expenditures will soon rise some more, from 40 cents per person per week to more than 50 cents a week for every man, woman and child in the United Stated, for we have given this program a high national priority–even though I realize that this is in some measure an act of faith and vision, for we do not now know what benefits await us.”

        Today, even with the massive decline in smoking, federal non-defense research expenses – for NASA, NIH, NSF, and other agencies, is roughly equivalent to the amount Americans spend on tobacco each year. The NIH costs each of us less than $2 a week. Adjusted for inflation, NASA had a budget nearly 50% larger in 1962 than the NIH does today.

        Listen, Buzz, Sternn and the rest, we get it. You want the government to be smaller. Fine. Don’t throw the baby out with the bath water. Our future wealth depends on innovation, research, education and infrastructure today. These are things that governments at various levels have a crucial role in, and it is being lost amidst this bickering.

      • flypusher says:

        JG, 50, Owl, very nice job of speaking up for the value of basic research. I toast you all with the American Beauty and Palm Speciale I enjoyed this evening. Comments like Buzzy’s put me in mind of this hapless Congresscritter (from 1998):

        “NSF Survives Ill-Conceived Attempt to Block Funding
        On July 29, the House passed the VA, HUD, and Independent Agencies appropriations bill, which provides an 8 percent increase for NSF. The agency’s funds were threatened during the floor debate when Rep. Mark Sanford (R-SC) offered an amendment to cut NSF’s budget by $270 million, an amount he feels is funding frivolous research. In a “Dear Colleague” letter, he mentioned several projects he felt were particularly egregious. These projects included research to study “billiards,” “collaborative activity on poker,” “cheap talk,” and ATM’s. Early support for his amendment vanished after several Republican colleagues took to the floor to defend NSF, including physicist Vern Ehlers (R-MI), who explained that “billiards” means the theory of rigid body collisions used in turbulent flow. Moreover, “poker” refers to research on social interaction used to study decision-making processes, economic models use “cheap talk” in describing the cost of information, and ATM’s are asynchronous transfer modes critical to the Internet’s future. Another colleague, Rep. Sherwood Boehlert (R-NY), noted: “The poet Alexander Pope remarked centuries ago that a little learning is a dangerous thing. This amendment is a good example of that principle…. [L]et us not make the mistake of judging a grant by its title.” The Appropriations subcommittee chair, Rep. Jerry Lewis (R-CA), made his intentions clear when he said: “Let me suggest simply that the National Science Foundation is among the committee’s and the Congress’s very high priorities.” The Sanford amendment was defeated by voice vote.”

        It’s quite easy to point a finger and laugh at Sanford (snicker), but this should be a wake up call for basic research scientists- we need to do a much better job of communicating with the public. Yes, it can be a pain in the posterior, and yes, it takes away from time doing actual cool things like science, but if we don’t, people like Sanford are going to be the ones talking about science instead. That’s not good for anyone.

      • bubbabobcat says:

        Fly, in hindsight we can snicker at Sanford and know where his mind is focused on (the Appalachian Trail…), but what is sadder is that Dr. Rush D. Holt, a qualified physicist and advocate for science is retiring from Congress.

      • John Galt says:

        You’re right, of course, Fly, about the desperate need for scientists to do a better job of communicating the significance and importance of this basic research. But I strongly suspect that Sanford got those catchphrases from the abstracts of awarded grants. These are the only parts of grants generally accessible but are (necessarily) written with the scientific reviewers in mind, so are full of lingo and terminology. The NIH requires a lay-language “Project Narrative” in grants now, but this is limited to a couple of sentences and nobody takes them seriously.

  7. Crogged says:

    Some observations regarding mobility and income here.

    • Houston-Stay-At-Homer says:

      As always and forever, it is better to have a rich daddy than a poor daddy.

      • Houston-Stay-At-Homer says:

        It is just even more better in some countries, systems, and environments.

    • Bobo Amerigo says:

      Figure 7 suggests that ‘sons’ may have to follow in their ‘fathers'” footsteps in order to do well in less socially/economically mobile societies.

      Isn’t that the opposite of freedom?

    • fiftyohm says:

      The referenced paper has, unless I missed something, at least one glaring error, and a few others

      First, I saw no definition of whether the GINI used was before or after transfer payments. These lowered the US GINI from 45 to 30 in 2008 according to the EOCD.

      Next, the use of economic mobility based solely on father/son ratios is inexplicable.

      Finally, so far as I could tell, no correction for the age of the subject country’s populations was made. Clearly, a country with a younger population will have a higher GINI index, all other things being equal.

      Finally, without corrections made for cultural diversity, single-parent families, first-generation immigrants, and a few other factors, no serious conclusions can be drawn from the data presented.

      In general, the paper was unconvincing, and generally more of the same old stuff we’ve all seen in that boo-hoo YouTube video on inequality that has been discredited so many times, but fewer than the number of times people post links to it – making it a defacto “truth”.

      • Houston-Stay-At-Homer says:

        50…the analyses are suspect and the assumptions are not analyzed or explored, but I don’t think anyone has produced any credible data that suggests the US has high income mobility. It looks like folks generally agree we do not have as much mobility as some others, and the quibbling occurs around how far down the list we fall.

        This is not a topic I have researched extensively, so I’d love to see alternative data and conclusions.

      • Houston-Stay-At-Homer says:

        50…I did not realize that folks believed we had better income mobility 20 years ago. It has always been hard.

        I do not know exactly how to interpret the finding that geography plays a role in income mobility, with the flaky liberals in the northwest having much better mobility than the more conservative south.

        I don’t think it is as much politics (although much better school systems would be found) as much as it is a function of the huge booms in technology coming from Northern California and Washington state compared to the more traditional businesses in the South and Rust Belt.

      • fiftyohm says:

        HT- The paper suggests income/wealth inequality lowers income mobility. The zeitgeist agrees, and with the growing income disparity in the US, so fretted over by the Left, economic mobility must also be getting worse as well.

        Well, maybe not.

      • DanMan says:

        People did know they had better income mobility 20 years ago either Homer. It took years to even devise the concept then several more to get the conclusion they wanted.

      • Crogged says:

        The use of father/sons for economic mobility was because the author of the paper stated the data were ‘more common’ and making requested corrections regarding “cultural diversity and single parent families” is to have a different analysis Since we are talking about income levels affecting social mobility I’m perplexed why comparing a son’s income to his father’s is ‘inexplicable’?

        Funny that the article Fitty links to states in its SECOND sentence, “But the study did find that moving up that ladder is still a lot more difficult in the U.S. than in other developed countries.”

        So the expression “America, f___ yeah!” is the mathematical and logical proof of the wisdom of our taxation and intellectual property laws.

        The below is interesting.

      • fiftyohm says:

        I think it would be great if Chris did a piece on IP. (One of the few things I know much about).

    • Bobo Amerigo says:

      Coincidentally, PK used used figure 1 in a blog post this afternoon.

      “In fact, the evidence suggests that welfare-state programs enhance social mobility, thanks to little things like children of the poor having adequate nutrition and medical care. And conversely,of course, when such programs are absent or inadequate, the poor find themselves in a trap they often can’t escape, not because they lack the incentive, but because they lack the resources.”

      • fiftyohm says:

        “Coincidentally, PK used used figure 1 in a blog post this afternoon.”

        A fact which should surprise no one, utter genius that he is.

      • Bobo Amerigo says:

        You are one cranky poster, JG.

      • fiftyohm says:

        Yo Bobo! Galt and I go back a long way on these blogs, but we’re not the same person!

      • Bobo Amerigo says:

        Of course! You’re 50! And crankier than JG by a smidge. Icon confusion.

      • glennkoks says:


        I can vouch for both fiftyohm and John Galt. They are not one and the same. I could be wrong but fiftyohm enjoys a friday afternoon martini with his sweetie pie and Mr. Galt prefers hand crafted micro beer.

      • fiftyohm says:

        Why Glenn! Correctomundo again!

      • Bobo Amerigo says:

        I see, glennoaks [with one of the world’s best avatar]. They have reputations.

      • John Galt says:

        I am flattered by people thinking 50 and I are the same entity, but it is not so. I do enjoy a fine IPA (the local one I favor at present is Karbach’s Hopadillo), but on a good many Friday afternoons you will find me with a gin and tonic in hand, and usually with my own better half (who will be enjoying a nice cab).

      • fiftyohm says:

        ‘Tis the season for the Rodeo Clown, JG!

      • John Galt says:

        I’m embarrassed to say I haven’t tried the Rodeo Clown. That will have to be remedied very soon. I’d like it to warm up a fair bit so I can enjoy it on my back porch.

      • Crogged says:

        This blog is always a better place when Fitty participates.

      • fiftyohm says:

        JG- I enjoy mine at the Front Porch – a midtown pub around the corner that has the Clown on draft. Crawfish on the weekends, too. A very holy alliance!

    • kabuzz61 says:

      Most children don’t know or care if their daddy is ‘poor’. Kids are above that greed.

  8. desperado says:

    Yes, he should have been more presidential. Like reading My Pet Goat to elementary school children while the World Trade Centers burned.

  9. “…this expansion is also radically unequal.” Actually, Chris, the graph displays GDP *per capita*. Meaning that, as I pointed out to one of your left-leaning followers just a few days ago, today’s typical ‘poor’ American enjoys a lifestyle that would make an Egyptian pharaoh blush.

    Like many other natural phenomena, wealth distribution mathematically conforms to a Pareto distribution, bounded at the lower end by zero, and unbounded at the upper end. There is no getting around this, and as total wealth increases the separation between the low end and the high end increases. Q.E.D. However, the *average* rises with the total increase, and the average person is far better off than their ancestors. To the extent that the overall population has more disposable wealth to support charity, those at the low end are better off, too.

    All of this fantastic increase in cumulative world wealth was brought to you by… wait for it… CAPITALISM. Those cultures which have embraced individual liberty, the rule of law, and especially personal economic freedom (i.e., capitalism), have done *spectacularly* better than those that have not. So much for cultural relativism. (For supporting data, see

    And so much, as well, for political and economic policies that limit individual economic freedom and stifle capitalism. There is a reason that America’s recovery from the crash of ’08 has been anemic. That reason is the policies foisted upon us by the current administration. It turns out that coerced “spreading the wealth around” (at either the mega-corporation or individual level) doesn’t work so well, after all. As anybody with even the most limited grasp of 19th and 20th century history could point out.

    With respect to “the viability of big central governments,” as I’ve noted in this forum previously, the American left is in many ways more reactionary than those they choose to label conservative. Big government is increasingly anachronistic, and central planning has been shown to be an abject failure in too many cases over too long a period of time to ignore. And yet, the left persists. It’s simply mind-boggling, and in real terms, more destructive of material well being than the ravings of right-wing social conservatives decrying, for instance, gay marriage. For an interesting take on what might come next, check out Kevin D. Williamson’s “The End Is Near, and It’s Going to Be Awesome”:

    • bubbabobcat says:

      “There is a reason that America’s recovery from the crash of ’08 has been anemic. That reason is the policies foisted upon us by the current administration. It turns out that coerced “spreading the wealth around” (at either the mega-corporation or individual level) doesn’t work so well, after all. As anybody with even the most limited grasp of 19th and 20th century history could point out.”

      Um no, the anemic recovery was a result of the Repubs hamstringing/choking the stimulus efforts with the hypocritically fake budget deficit Chicken Littleling and just say no to anything”governance”.

      And as “anybody with even the most limited grasp of 19th and 20th century history could point out”, FDR’s New Deal stimulus efforts took a dip when he caved in to the right wing dinosaurs back then (who still haven’t evolved one single whit) and cut back his spending and stalled the recovery into another mini recession.

    • Crogged says:

      Those lucky duckies again, with their flat screens showing the football game from the stadium built with public money (either directly or indirectly) for the owner of a privately held company. We can choose to maintain that all knowledge of public administration and government peaked in 1776 (and ignore the change from the Confederacy to the Constitution) or we can govern ourselves today with the same idea of respect for all of our citizens, even for the ones so lucky they don’t know it.

      • fiftyohm says:

        “Those lucky duckies again, with their flat screens showing the football game from the stadium built with public money (either directly or indirectly) for the owner of a privately held company.”

        Crogged, old buddy, there are some things we’re just always going to violently agree on!

      • glennkoks says:


        I’m going to have to disagree. Reliant Stadiums biggest beneficiary is “The Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo”. Then there is countless jobs created by both the Texan’s and other events held at Reliant. The T-Shirts sold, food, beer. I see it as a happy partnership. The same can be said for every pro sports city in the USA.

        The economic benefit of having both Reliant and Minute Maid is huge and extends far past the cherished few sports owner franchises.

      • Crogged says:

        Glenn. So rather than NASA, defense installations or basic research projects we should depend on football stadiums, popcorn and beer sales as an economic stimulus? I already do my part for the alcohol industry, I don’t think they need any help.

      • glennkoks says:

        Crogged, I don’t think it has to be football stadiums or NASA. Economically speaking reliant will be a very sound investment for the taxpayer. Yes Mr. McNair is the biggest beneficiary but lets not cut off our noses to spite our faces…

    • Houston-Stay-At-Homer says:

      “As anybody with even the most limited grasp of 19th and 20th century history could point out.”

      It has to be nice to be that much smarter than everyone around you, or is it a pretty hefty bear to cross?

      • Oh Lord, it’s hard to be humble, when you’re perfect in every way… 😉

      • Tuttabella says:

        I was recently assigning counterparts here from each camp, and I did determine that HT was the liberal version of tthor.

        “Don’t hate me because I’m beautiful!”

        Who needs humility, anyway? 🙂

    • DanMan says:

      what Tracy said

    • desperado says:

      Yeah, kwitcher bitchin poor people. If you were in ancient Egypt, you’d be rich.

    • kabuzz61 says:

      Tracey, excellent point. One because you made your case very well and two, all the Echo Chamber members had to come out and defend Chris Ladd’s short comings. Great job. When they squeak, you corrected them.

    • goplifer says:

      I agree with much of this, but I should point out that you are misreading “per capita” in this context. Per capita indicates that this wealth accumulation is outpacing population growth. It doesn’t say anything by itself about how that wealth is being distributed. It so happens that the 3rd world poor are getting a very large share of it, but the largest share is still going to a very narrow elite in the US and Europe.

      As for the viability of big central governments, let me offer a word of caution. We are going to start to appreciate the value of government in a very serious and frightening way in the coming years. Nation states, as we have understood them since the late Middle Ages, are disintegrating. This will breed some good things and some bad things.

      It means that governments, to remain viable, must streamline to become more adaptable. They must find ways to accomplish more of their policy goals through multilateral cooperation. They must intrude less in personal decision making while still maintaining basic order. Too much bureaucracy and they risk collapse. Too little control and they will descend into anarchy. This calculation isn’t new. What’s new is the finer tuning required by these changing conditions.

      The countries that prosper will master this balancing act. They will also have to find ways to insulate themselves from the nightmare scenarios unfolding in the (former) countries that fail to master it.

      Places like Pakistan, Syria, Myanmar and eventually North Korea have nation-state collapse looming ahead of them. Parts of Eastern Europe, Africa and Central America are teetering on this event horizon now.

      Guys like Ted Cruz would send us into jeopardy on the anarchy side. Characters like Nancy Pelosi would cripple us on the bureaucracy side. Hardly anyone is proposing credible alternatives that would help us navigate these waters toward the best possible outcomes.

      • “[Governments] must intrude less in personal decision making while still maintaining basic order.” Gee, does that mean I can buy incandescent light bulbs if I want to? Just kiddin.’ Kind of. Actually, we are in pretty much in agreement here, Chris.

        We afford government a monopoly in one and only one thing: coercion through the threat and/or use of force. Now, as you point out, this is a *necessary* evil when used to maintain a minimal degree of order. Although Locke envisioned a state of nature governed by the rule of “reason,” some knuckleheads just don’t want to play nicely with others. Coercion is sometimes required.

        The thing is, while coercion is only sometimes *required,* it is unfortunately the only thing government is really good at. We try to have government provide us with all sorts of services, and then wonder why those services suck. The answer is obvious: Unlike the private sector, the government doesn’t have to please you to retain your business. It simply *tells* you what your are going to get, like it or lump it. It’s that coercion thing.

        Frankly, we’d all be better off stripping away from government *anything* that could reasonably be provided by the private sector. Save government for those situations where coercion really shines (mostly those activities related to breaking stuff and hurting people).

        As for the wealth distribution stuff, take a close look at the Maddison Project spreadsheet I referenced. You can make all sorts of fun graphs with it. As you note, the lion’s share of all that new wealth is going primarily to those countries that have adopted the salient aspects of western culture. That whole capitalism thing again. Or, for the Reader’s Digest version, see Henninger’s latest column: He touches on several of your points.

      • Owl of Bellaire says:

        Thorleifson: “Unlike the private sector, the government doesn’t have to please you to retain your business.”

        Ah. Apparently you think we live in an authoritarian state rather than in a democratic republic.

        Citizens *are* free to “take their business” elsewhere, by replacing their democratically elected representatives. Or, in the extreme Second Amendment case much beloved by seething modern conservatives, by using bullets rather than ballots.

        If anything, your argument is more one about fundamental reforms to our campaign-finance systems, to enable citizens’ voices to be heard more clearly without interference from special interests.

      • glennkoks says:

        John Huntsman seems like a natural balance between Mr. Cruz and Mrs. Pelosi.

      • geoff1968 says:

        OMG Texas is about to choose the Manchurian Candidate for Lite Guv, Dan Patrick. It just goes to show that it’s all about the Magical Verbiage. David Dewhurst is a fine Republican. There is no need to oust a man of such obvious quality. That he might be defeated in this race says everything I need to know about the Texas GOP which, like Saturn, consumes its own.

        That being said I respect the Texas GOP. I think you’re bonkers batpoop mad, but I respect you anyway. Might I offer my own Governor as an example? He got recalled, because of some bad advice, but otherwise he’s spotless. In the future the GOP will master the art of KYBFMS. That’s the path to winning, keeping your big, gaping, pie hole shut.

        It also means being authentically conservative. Things work pretty good around here. Let’s just make it better.

    • Owl of Bellaire says:

      Thorleifson: “And so much, as well, for political and economic policies that limit individual economic freedom and stifle capitalism.”

      Ahem. ALL regulation “limits” individual economic freedom and “stifles” capitalism.

      Requiring auto-makers to include seatbelts and catalytic converters, and to meet minimum efficiency standards? Demanding that factory owners install handrails and machine safety guards, and offer overtime pay or other benefits?

      In reality, of course, we know that eschewing such “limits” helps the elite business owners more than society in general, creating a Gilded Age of super-wealthy capitalists lording it over huddled masses of impoverished, unhealthy, resentful underclasses.

      How did America avoid succumbing to a Communist revolution of our own in the late 1800s and early 1900s? There were plenty advocating it; there were plenty in favor. But the government acted to install basic safeguards, rights, and protections for workers, and thus removed much of the need for violent revolution.

      Tracy apparently believes in a future like that recent film, where he can sit his genetically-enhanced butt in a safely orbiting space-station while squeezing as much productivity as ruthlessly as he can out of the teeming masses below. And, since films tend to glorify the hero over the system, perhaps he could even manage. But most of us wouldn’t find it very moral. I wonder why he does.

    • John Galt says:

      “There is a reason that America’s recovery from the crash of ’08 has been anemic. That reason is the policies foisted upon us by the current administration.”

      This is nonsense. I don’t doubt that the government could have done more to stimulate growth more quickly, but to lay the faults of the slow growth solely on the administration, ignoring the blatant intransigence of the opposition beggars belief. In fact, it is the very paralysis in government that I think most explains the slow recovery. After all, companies have been doing extremely well and are sitting on huge piles of cash. Normally they would be using this to expand (more jobs) or innovate (R&), or returning it to investors (dividends). But who knows what tomorrow brings: tax reform, more fiscal brinksmanship, carbon taxes, Dodd-Frank regulations, health care issues. Clarity on these issues would be the greatest thing to help the economy, but this requires cooperation, which has become a dirty word.

      • kabuzz61 says:

        That would be true except for the fact the dems had the house for two years and the house and WH and Senate for two during the peak of the recession. JG your party loyalty is blinding you.

      • John Galt says:

        Exactly the kind of inane response I have come to expect, Kabuzz. Let’s take 50 years worth of financial wizardry in generating poorly understood investment vehicles, a housing bubble driven by about 17 different factors, an intentional dissolution of barriers between investment and retail banking, increasing globalization of financial markets, and inconsistent government intervention and blame it on the party that controlled one branch of government for the two years prior to the crash. And I’m the one who is blind?

        It will kill you to know that I voted today. In the GOP primary.

      • flypusher says:

        JG, if you don’t mind me asking, were you able to make a choice for Lt. Gov? For me all 4 of them had the absolute deal-breaker trait: pandering to the scientifically ignorant crowd.

      • John Galt says:

        That was the hardest race. I considered voting for Patrick, because I think he’s crazy enough to do something stupid and get beaten by a very decent and experienced Democrat, but I decided that was not very likely. I ended up going for Dewhurst because despite the the campaign rhetoric, his track record suggests there are limits to the craziness he will allow through onto the Senate floor.

      • kabuzz61 says:

        So JG, you are one of those democrats that vote in the republican primaries to skew the results? Interesting. Another item to your resume.

      • flypusher says:

        If JG is a Dem, then I’m a fruit fly.

        There are more than 2 political species buzzy. There’s an increasingly popular 3rd one, name starts with an “i”. Can you guess it?

      • John Galt says:

        You’ve got it partly right, Buzz. I vote in the GOP primary because I’d like to have a voice in the governance of our state. I don’t vote in the Dem primary because (a) I’m not a Democrat and (b) it’s irrelevant. I also was not eligible to vote Dem this year because I signed a petition to get a candidate on the GOP ballot.

    • John Galt says:

      “However, the *average* rises with the total increase, and the average person is far better off than their ancestors.”

      We are certainly better off than people hundreds of years ago, but most commenters and economists point to a significant rise in income inequality in the United States over the last 40 years or so. This is not captured by changes in average income. You correctly point out that there is a lower boundary of income ($0), but no upper one. The average income is highly affected by outliers on the rich (unbounded) end. A more accurate picture is given by the median income (the income at which half of households are above and half are below). Data from the census bureau is telling. Between 1975 and 2012, median income (constant dollars) rose 11.4%. Over the same period, average income rose 33.3%. The highest earners made a lot more money (see Table H-6 at

      Even more telling, over basically that same time period, productivity rose 80%, but less than half of this was converted into income increases, while the median income rose only 10.7%. Amazingly, median income for men has been unchanged for four decades. The rest of the “profits” from this productivity increase have gone to the owners of capital.

      The message is clear: the rich are indeed richer and very, very little of the economic success of the last 40 years has gone to the average worker. I’m pretty sure this is not a recipe for a stable society.

      • JG, the increasing gap between average and median income is exactly what one would expect with an expanding power law distribution; it’s inevitable. (I know this math-y stuff can be confusing, but really.) You do note that median income has continued to rise; this is also expected with an expanding Pareto distribution. What’s not mentioned is that all that extra median income wealth can be deployed to make inexpensive purchases of consumer goods that either did not exist, or were prohibitively expensive in 1975. (Remember Gordon Gekko’s cell phone?)

        Withal, if a median income satisfies every reasonable material need, who cares what the person at the top of the income heap makes??? Only envy can explain that kind of discontent. And what does it tell you about the kind of person who would stoke that kind of greed, let alone those who would partake of it? What does it tell you about the politician who would milk such discontent to promulgate legalized plunder under the color of law? Thanks, but no thanks. Mr. Gates, for instance, earned his money by providing the world with something people wanted; he can keep his money, as far as I’m concerned. And if he wants to give it away, good on him. I expect he can give it away more effectively than the minions of Obama.

        Of greater concern to me are recent drops in median income. If memory serves, the high water point for U.S median income was in 1999. Part of this is transitory (technology disruptions of the labor force); part is due to lousy economic policy; part is endemic and embedded in our demographics. Hmm. Perhaps our modern progressives should take up the torch of their intellectual forbears, and attempt to bring eugenics back into vogue. Either that, or convince Homey-in-the-‘hood that earning a GED is a higher calling than being a baby daddy.

      • John Galt says:

        You entirely miss the point, Tracy, as is not surprising. Labor productivity has increased markedly in the last 40 years but the benefits from this increase have not gone to labor.

      • “The benefits have not gone to labor.” Really? Surely you jest? Tell you what, try building a smartphone by hand. Or try getting 200,000K miles out of your 1975 Ford Pinto. Try going down to your local library to search the stacks, instead of using Google. Do your 1040 long form by hand, instead of using TurboTax or one of its many competitors. And so on, and so on, ad nauseum. Spare me, please.

      • John Galt says:

        So because a median worker can afford a smartphone, it’s totally acceptable that the average CEO makes 200 times the average worker, an increase from 20-1 in 1950? Because the job of a CEO is definitely 10 times harder now, right? Or maybe they’re 10 times better at it?

        A series of perverse and uneconomic policies and practices are conspiring to concentrate income and wealth (in this country at least) to a degree unmatched in a century or more. This is, in the end, unhealthy. This is not a some socialist desire to redistribute wealth from “makers to takers”, it is an interest in improving economic performance by ensuring that compensation is commensurate with the economic value added and is not polluted by rent-seeking behavior from people gaming the system.

      • DanMan says:

        no JG, it’s envy, which as has been pointed out a few times in this post is basically the justification for theft as legislated by democrats

      • Crogged says:

        Just wondering……..why wouldn’t you want more workers able to acquire goods as opposed to one person making a big bank deposit?

      • Owl of Bellaire says:

        Taxes are not theft; they are the dues we pay for belonging to a civilized society.

        If you don’t want to pay any dues, move somewhere like Somalia where you also don’t receive any services or background investment.

  10. DanMan says:

    When my oldest was about 13 he made an astute observation when I tried to reassure him he was at a good station in life simply by being born in the USA and how it put him in the top 5% of the world in wealth, convenience and potential. his response…”Why would we compare ourselves to those below us?”

    Again I note Chris can only find it himself to copy articles that attack constitutional conservatism as the anchor holding us down. Such rote dystopia is the trademark of a true believing communist. Life beat our host and he wants to drag everybody down with him.

    Let’s cherry pick a few of his morsels of defeatism. “The more individual decision-making power a civilization can tolerate without collapsing into anarchy the wealthier and more powerful that civilization will be.”

    Capitalism relies of freedom to choose to function properly. To the author of this piece Chris is parroting describes this freedom to choose as anarchy to be tolerated, up to a point. And a couple of paragraphs down we are told this individual power (ahem, freedom) has dire the consequences of destabilizing community organizations (hmmm, who do we know that counted his community organizing as his single greatest experience to prepare him for his office?), organized religion (wow! ain’t nobody attacking religion more than the democrat party right now, especially the leader of it), and the old order that kept us in our now ineffective slave Republic.

    Here’s a good one. “Global politics in the 20th Century may have been defined by the great struggle between central authority and personal liberty, but the victory of human rights in that struggle has given us a new paradigm, complete with a vastly more volatile and exciting combination of problems and opportunities.” Ask those Ukrainians how glad they are to have the new protection they so hoped for all these years. And I bet those Venezuelans are just clamoring with their new exciting combinations of problems and opportunities. And you know those North Koreans are celebrating the freedoms they are afforded by not having to decide where their next meal will be coming from, what with that efficient central authority keeping things so orderly for them.

    And here’s our salvation!! “We face a whole new set of challenges, a sort of New History based less on ideological conflicts than on basic administration which will determine how rich, how peaceful, and how happy human beings will generally be a century from now.” The glorious basic administration. The benevolent class of leaders that will determine how rich, peaceful and happy we will all be.

    And lo and behold, the only thing holding us back from utopia is us backward looking, living in the past rightwing nutjobs he so dutifully wants to encourage to see the light.

    Anybody buying the dreck Chris is selling is defeated. And Chris’ solution to even the playing field is to drag everybody down to his level. Period.

    • Houston-Stay-At-Homer says:

      I have here in my hand a list of two hundred and five people that were known to the Secretary of State as being members of the Communist Party and who nevertheless are still working and shaping the policy of the State Department.


      • DanMan says:

        yeah whatevs. I call ’em like I see ’em. Chris is championing the collective over the individual. Same as Obama.

      • kabuzz61 says:

        Homer pathetic reference. The list you speak of was compiled by a democrat in the late 30’s that McCarty later came across. Learn your history my man.

      • Houston-Stay-At-Homer says:

        Buzz…if your focus for that comment is about the list itself rather than the hysterics and histrionics of the situation, I’m not sure I’m going to be able to help you.

    • desperado says:

      Jeez Louise your shtick gets old, Dan.

    • goplifer says:

      Oh for Christ’s sake. Let’s start here:

      *** “The more individual decision-making power a civilization can tolerate without collapsing into anarchy the wealthier and more powerful that civilization will be.”***

      Okay, we’ll correct that. Why stop anywhere? Anarchy is great too.

      *** Ask those Ukrainians how glad they are to have the new protection they so hoped for all these years.***

      They don’t have any protection. Their government has essentially collapsed, leaving them vulnerable to predation by neighbors who still have a government. Remember the first comment that bothered you? The failed state phenomenon has consequences. Ask a Syrian.

      And yes, what is holding us back at this point is a cadre of terrified nutjobs cowering in the corner afraid of shadows.

      • DanMan says:

        1st point – strawman

        2nd point – they were leaning on the west with agreements that date back to Clinton. They were comfortable enough in their governance to stop leasing their ports to Russia for their military and that didn’t sit well. Putin is doing what he wants because he is who is. Even Sarah palin made that call 5 years ago.

        3rd point – you’re skeered as your projection shows

        So who did you crib for the article Chris?

      • goplifer says:

        2nd point – none of the things you are describing happened. Ukraine remained outside of NATO and the EU. They are still leasing their ports to the Russians. Sarah Palin can’t find Ukraine on a map. She is an idiot and Russia is still not on a list of top 10 security concerns.

      • DanMan says:

        Who said NATO and the EU? You did.

        The 2010 lease agreement that extended for another 25 years included providing Ukraine with discounted natural gas for limited year round port space. Russia is claiming between $1.5 to $2.5 billion is owed by Ukraine and has swarmed the port with their navy and their marines are stationed throughout Crimea. You think the Ukraine government is agreeing to this arrangement?

        Palin really torques you libs doesn’t she? She sure looks better in mom jeans that Obama does.

      • DanMan says:

        oh, and security concerns? According to Obama and his administration global warming is THE biggest security threat. Trust me, I don’t share your list of concerns if yours is the same as theirs.

      • kabuzz61 says:

        Sarah Palin can’t find Ukraine on a map. She is an idiot and Russia is still not on a list of top 10 security concerns.- Chris Ladd

        Wrong on all three counts. All subjective. Obama is an idiot who has failed to lead OR lead from behind. He never admits knowing about any crisis or scandal which means he is incompetent, lying or both. Come on Chris. Your hatred is absolutely astounding.

      • glennkoks says:


        I can assure you Mr. Obama is no idiot. And the same can be said for Mr. Cruz. You don’t get into Harvard or do what either has done being and “idiot”. Both men are smart enough to play to a target market and both scare me.

      • John Galt says:

        Nice 2nd grade response, Buzz. Palin is stupid. No she’s not, Obama is. What’s the point in typing that out?

      • kabuzz61 says:

        Glenn, I was proving how easy it is to throw that word around. Like Reid is a racist. Hoyer is homophobic.

        But you can’t disagree with Obama’s demonstrating his lack of leadership. Come on. The guy’s favorite color is plaid.

    • bubbabobcat says:

      Dour Danny Downer, you are already a drag (on a multitude of levels, Rayon) but we refuse to come down to your level.

      Communist(!) ???? Really? Joe McCarthy and Adele Dazzeem left you a message Danny: “let it go”. That Red Scare hysteria was sooo 60 years ago.

      And the Communist Party was the best alternative for some idealists trying to fix a broken racist system way back when.

    • glennkoks says:


      The personal freedoms we grew up will be looked upon vary differently by the younger generations. Back in the day you could burn as many incandescent 100W light bulbs as you could afford and nobody cared. Now with rolling “brownouts” and even blackouts every move you make has a bigger effect on someone else. From watering your lawn to the investment practices of JP Morgan Chase. Were all tied together closer than ever and increasingly less and less insulated from each others actions.

      I did not buy more of a house than I could afford, nor did I trade in risky credit default swaps. Yet I paid a heavy price because of those who did.

      • DanMan says:

        nor did I on both counts glenn, why then would I want to buy someone else’s house and why continue with the same fiscal insanity that got us here is the question.

      • kabuzz61 says:

        I also didn’t buy a home I couldn’t afford and had to put 20% down on.

      • glennkoks says:


        Exactly as the worldwide economy advances we are all more and more effected by the actions of others. It seems to me the Tea Party wants a return to Laissez faire. If so be prepared to let “to big to fail” do just that. My father tells me stories of “The Great Depression” and I’m not sure I want to go there because the greed of Wall Street knows no limits.

      • DanMan says:

        We didn’t have to but we did to avoid the PMI mess that came up right when we were buying in the 80s. The next time I paid cash..

      • “rolling ‘brownouts’ and even blackouts” – Don’t you just *love* manufactured scarcity? Ah, well. Stupid is as stupid does, and people get the government they deserve.

      • flypusher says:

        “My father tells me stories of “The Great Depression” and I’m not sure I want to go there because the greed of Wall Street knows no limits.”

        When former SC Congressman Bob Inglis (in a lecture at UH a few weeks ago) was recounting the things that lead to him getting primaried, one of them was that he had voted for TARP. Some of his super-red constituents actually said that they felt that “this country needed a ‘good’ depression”. His response was that his dad lived through those times, and dad said that absolutely NOBODY who did even called them “good”. My grandparents lived through that and it left its mark on them. My thought was those “pro-depression” people were probably under the delusion that all the bad stuff from a depression wouldn’t be happening to them (I guess they had hoarded enough guns and gold).

        I saw TARP as bitter but necessary medicine. Plenty of those financial miscreants deserved to go over the cliff. The problem was that there was too big a risk of a lot of us getting dragged along with them. We are all more interconnected, for good and for ill.

        “I did not buy more of a house than I could afford, nor did I trade in risky credit default swaps. Yet I paid a heavy price because of those who did.”

        I fortunately did not, but that was all pure luck concerning my timing in choosing when to buy a house.

      • bubbabobcat says:

        “Rolling ‘brownouts’ and even blackouts – Don’t you just *love* manufactured scarcity?”

        Ah the joys of deregulation and pure unmitigated private enterprise capitalism, eh TT?

      • bubba, are you really so ignorant? You can lay your rolling brownouts directly at the feet of Obama’s EPA. There is no shortage of fossil fuels in this country. We have a super abundance of coal, natural gas and oil. When public policy makes it nigh to impossible to build a new coal fired power plant, or extract hydrocarbons via fracking, or build a new pipeline to get natural gas and oil to market, or expand a refinery to produce desired fuels, that’s not the fault of free enterprise capitalism. No, that’s the fault of those morons who use public policy to block development and use of these resources, and then turn around and try to jam wind and solar down our throats. And after all that, then this same pack of idiots wonders why electricity is so expensive, and why we have brownouts. Getting mugged by reality sucks, doesn’t it? Try again.

      • And bubba, when your own fearless leader tells you exactly what’s going to happen as a result of his public policy, maybe, just maybe, you ought to *FREAKING PAY ATTENTION*:

        Cap and trade was blocked, but Obama’s EPA is treating CO2 as a pollutant, and the bozo in the White House has blithely proceeded to do with his pen what he couldn’t do via legislation. You helped in make this bed; I hope you enjoy lying in it. (And BTW, you really have a lot of nerve to complain about it, and then try to blame someone else. Criminy!)

      • DanMan says:

        ouch! nice job Tracy

      • bubbabobcat says:

        TThor, of course it’s all about perspective.

        “The state has gone from having the best power reserves prior to deregulation to having the nation’s worst, creating the peril of rolling blackouts during summer heat waves, according to a report published this year by the North American Electric Reliability Corp.”

        Hey Danny, how about using your brain instead of meaningless cheerleading from the sidelines? You’re really itching to put on a miniskirt aren’t you Rayon?

      • “…deregulation has had the unintended consequence of discouraging the building of new power plants…” Well, bubba, that’s what happens when you subscribe to a leftist-rag Hearst publication for your news. What’s discouraging the building of new power plants is SCOTUS’ decision that the EPA may regulate CO2 as a pollutant. As a result, unless your power plant runs on pixie dust or fairy farts, you can’t *get* a permit to build a power plant. For instance, if you want to use a readily, locally available fuel source such as petroleum coke to fire a power plant in Corpus Christi, why, you might just as well just tuck your head between your legs and kiss your derriere goodbye, ’cause it just ain’t gonna happen. Just don’t complain when the lights go out because the wind’s not blowing.

      • And bubba, although we aren’t building reliable 24/7/365 fossil fuel-fired power plants, we are spending our tax dollars on subsidizing foreign companies to build boondoggles like the Anacacho wind farm, which is killing Crested Caracaras with monotonous frequency in the vicinity of my hunting lease out near Brackettville. It’s a really nifty deal: Your tax dollars subsidize a German company, E.ON Climate & Renewables, who then turns around and spends those dollars on wind turbines built by a Danish company, Vestas, which are used to generate power (on however an infrequent basis) that your power company must purchase (regardless of whether those MW’s are needed on any given day) which you then get to pay for. How cool is that? Everybody wins, as long as you’re a multi-national crony capitalist. If, on the other hand, you are a rate paying schmuck, you are pretty much SOL. BOHICA; enjoy your brownout! 🙂

      • And bubba, if you do have a coal-fired plant in TX, why, you can no longer afford to keep it running:

        Now, cleaner power is all well and good, but Deely was originally planned to remain in service until *2033*. Thanks to Obama and Justice Kennedy, Deely is coming offline 15 years early. CPS isn’t building new replacement capacity; it is acquiring existing capacity (Rio Nogales, a state-of-the-are combined cycle natural gas-fire plant – you drive by it going through Sequin). This is a minus-zero sum game, but it’s all CPS can afford to do, what with the EPA on it’s CO2 rampage. Total generation capacity will decrease when Deely bites the dust. Enjoy your brownout! 🙂

      • And finally, bubba, the out-of-control Obama EPA is highly illustrative of the problem with Obama in general.

        With Deely, we’ll be shutting down a perfectly good power plant in the service of… what, exactly? Even if global warming were real and an imminent threat, the amount of CO2 Deely would have emitted between 2018 and 2033 amounts to, in the grand CO2 scheme of things, a mosquito fart in a hurricane. Deely makes not even a fraction of an iota’s difference in the world carbon budget. But shutting it down early *will* make electricity in Texas both more expensive and less abundant. That will hurt real people with real lives. I’ve been joking about enjoying brownouts, but San Antonio in August with no A/C is not a healthy place for a a septuagenarian. People will *die* as a result of this foolishness, not to mention the economic cost.

        Obama professes to care about the poor and oppressed, but he doesn’t, not really. Obama’s expressed desire is to “transform America.” His allegiance to this illusory, imaginary utopia that exists only between his own (generously endowed) ears far outweighs any concern he might have for real, live Americans. If Obama has to hurt real people with real lives to get to his promised land, that’s just fine by him. As with Stalin, breaking a few eggs to make the omelette is not a problem for Obama.

        And therein lies the rub. Obama allegiance is to some vague ideal, not real people. Now, there nothing wrong with this, per se. After all, America is a nation of ideas. The problem is that Obama is entirely willing to hurt real people to realize his ideal. This goes beyond the bounds of simple stupidity, and enters the realm of concrete, substantive evil. I submit to you, any thinking, moral person should resist this with all their heart, all their mind, all their might. Think about that, the next time you visit the polls.

      • bubbabobcat says:

        Well TThor, if you start with the premise that Global Warming/Climate Change is a lie, then there is no discussion whatsoever no matter what the evidence, is there?

        How conveniently close minded of you to support your argument. Global Warming aside, presumably you are ok with taking the US back 50-100 years to the smog levels of what China is suffering through now with their unregulated coal fired plants? No people dying there right?

        And leave it to you to spin positive news to a negative. From your source link:

        “This agreement is a short- and long-term win for our ratepayers and the South Texas economy, as well as our community’s air quality,” said Beneby. “We are avoiding the continuous costs of environmental retrofits to Deely, starting with a $565 million scrubber. This investment is in power that does not emit particulate matter or sulfur dioxide and supports abundant natural gas resources in Texas, rather than coal from Wyoming. Gas is a cleaner fuel and there is plenty of it in the ground in Texas.

        And the sky isn’t falling (especially if you don’t lean far right and afraid of your own shadow 99% of the time):

        “Converting existing facilities can often cost less than installing the emissions control systems required to keep an antiquated coal plant running.” If power companies are retiring coal fired plants, blame it on your beloved capitalism. Thanks to the (current) low cost of natural gas, the economics (profit chase) dictate conversion to cheaper gas powered plants than to maintain antiquated coal plants that cost more for upkeep even without “Obama’s onerous EPA regulations”.

        So no one is building power plants huh? Must be an abundant supply of “pixie dust and fairy farts” in this country huh?

        And speaking of running from your own shadow, you are all over the place cherry picking what you want to get hysterical over. Elderly and poor people are already currently dying during heat waves and cold spells without “rolling brownouts” because they can’t afford the cost. Thanks to deregulation.

        And who cares if renewable energies require foreign manufactured hardware? It’s a global economy. It provides cleaner and cheaper (in the long run) energy. Do you buy only cars from domestic automakers? How about a domestically manufactured cell phone? Oh wait, they don’t exist! So I presume you go without to “save America”?

        And as for “negative environmental impacts of wind turbines”, cherry picking again? “Horrific” bird kills are TERRIBLE! for wind turbines but no problems with the Exxon Valdez and BP Gulf blowout spill killing thousands of birds and mammals and sea life and seashores huh? And no issues with power lines and cell tower guy wires, and planes and skyscrapers killing birds right? So you generate your own power locally, don’t fly, use a cell phone (to buy only American also), or enter buildings higher than 10 stories?

        Spare me your typical right wing faux shrill hysterics.

      • bubbabobcat says:

        And it seems other states don’t seem to have problems retiring coal plants for cheaper and cleaner burning natural gas plants.

        And to minimize peak load issues, implementing “demand response” planning which Texas also implements. Hence no “rolling brownouts” during peak load last summer. The sky isn’t falling if you think and innovate more and whine less.

    • Owl of Bellaire says:

      Dan, if you’re taking moral cues from thirteen-year-olds, I’m not sure what the rest of us can say to help you.

      • DanMan says:

        okay…don’t know what you’re talking about but keep us posted on the boundaries of your limitations if it helps you

      • kabuzz61 says:

        The Owl is just white noise. Learn to not listen Dan. It only helps.

      • DanMan says:

        yeah I know kabuzz, at least he’s elevated his comments above bubba’s level though, I give him some credit for that

  11. bubbabobcat says:

    Aldous Huxley lives….

    Just this time around who will be the Alphas and Betas and who will be the Deltas, Gammas, and Epsilons?

    • You know bubba, as a reformed geologist, I tend to view events through a longer lens than most. It occurs to me that we may be on the cusp of an actual speciation event. When you look at the modern human species as a population distribution, it’s readily apparent that only a small percentage of that population has driven most of what we call progress. Throughout most of our species’ history, this was of little account. The few were materially in the same boat as the many, and generally pulled the many along.

      We are reaching the point now where the few are not materially in the same boat with rest. The Pareto wealth distribution is becoming rather attenuated at the far end. In the not too distant future, it’s easy to imagine that small cohort re-engineering themselves to make a quantum leap in capability beyond our current limitations. I loved GATTACA, but the truth of the matter is that Vincent Freeman will be pretty much left behind. So long, and thanks for all the fish.

      • Owl of Bellaire says:

        Tracy, I have to say, your comments often make you come across as a high-functioning sociopath.

      • John Galt says:

        As an unreformed biologist, I can tell you that we are in no risk of separating the species into Homo sapiens richierichus and Homo sapiens worthlessscummus.

      • Gee, Owl, sociopath? I suppose this is what happens when you read too much Charles Stross, Cory Doctorow and Iain Banks. But hey, “high functioning” – at least I’ve got that going for me. 😉

        I’d remind you of your infamous broccoli comments, but Tutta would chastise me.

      • Houston-Stay-At-Homer says:

        Well…if you are going to be a sociopath, better to be a high-functioning one.

      • JG, I was thinking more along the lines of Homo Sapiens somethingelseicus. You know, folks with really huge, bulbous head with pulsing veins – like in the famous Star Trek episode, “The Menagerie.” ( (Although really, if those big head Talosian dudes were so smart, why did they have such a hard time figuring out bilateral symmetry? Geez!)

  12. Houston-Stay-At-Homer says:

    In fairness, the folks on the left do not seem to have any better grasp or any plan for how to handle the changing world.

    If going with a more formal definition of the terms, progressives might more readily adapt to change than conservatives, but that doesn’t mean they have a good plan for it.

    I’ll echo Desperado a bit. We will never (and probably should never) have equal outcomes for people. However, we aren’t close to equal opportunity, and as long as that deck is stacked, the difference between the have and the have-nots will widen. There will always be rich folks and there will always be poor folks, but if the gap becomes too wide, the gates around the community won’t be tall enough. I do not think that pitchfork wielding mobs that will be the problem, it will be a deterioration of the infrastructure that makes society work, resulting in even worse schools, poor public service, and larger prison populations for some and more isolation from society as a whole for others.

    • You know Houston, it’s not the gap itself that’s worrisome, it’s when that gap becomes ossified that you have to worry. As long as rags to riches (and riches to rags) stories are common in this country, there’s little to worry about. Good on you, Jan Koum and Brian Acton!

      • Houston-Stay-At-Homer says:

        I don’t disagree in principle (but it would be nice to have a big chunk of folks in the middle of that gap), but I did read (and cannot find right now) some recent data on the decrease in income mobility over the last several years.

      • Houston, I’ve seen some items on that topic, too, but couldn’t readily find what I was looking for. Actually, if you look at income distribution in the U.S., it fits a classic Pareto distribution (the ol’ 80/20 rule) – very fractal, actually. If it helps, just remember that if you are ticked off about the amount of wealth controlled by the top 20%, the bottom end of those folks are really hacked off about the top 5%, and the weak sisters in that bunch are apoplectic about the top 1%. Probably some deep, poorly understood property of the universe at work here – not unlike turbulence.

  13. desperado says:

    “Yes, this expansion is also radically unequal, but focusing on that one fact misses an important dynamic that shapes our time.”

    IMO, that is the important dynamic that shapes our time. Unless and until this is rectified, the element of managing violence will become more and more important. As the gap between the haves and the have-nots continues to grow, sooner or later the barbarians will be at the gates with pitchforks and guillotines.

    • goplifer says:

      There’s a data point I need that I haven’t been able to find. Maybe we can crowdsource it. Pretty sure it was in the Wp’s Wonkblog a couple of months ago. It showed who has earned the most globally over the past 25 years.

      The top 1% in the western countries are near the top, but the overall winners are people who used to earn $1 a day or less all over the world. The per capita gains in income over the past two decades went mostly to the global poor and the western rich. The big losers, at least for the moment, are middle earners in the the west.

      There are two ways to read this. One is the traditional narrative about outsourcing and so on, but there is another take. You could say that trade preferences, protectionism and suppression of markets was a tool for western elites to buy votes at home on the backs of Indian peasants who weren’t allowed to compete.

      Opening up global markets has been a losing proposition for western middle earners, but only in relative terms and only in the short run. We are all richer, everywhere, and in time some of the structural shifts that are impacting the west will even out.

      • Owl of Bellaire says:

        But, Chris, as you pointed out in another blog entry not so long ago, at the point when those Indian peasants become wealthy enough to start agitating for basic workplace protections and the like, we may be on the point where corporations can just shift altogether from human workers by replacing them with robots.

      • Chris, I provided the link to the Maddison Project earlier; here’s a more exact URL to the data you are looking for:

        You are right; truly free trade always ends up making the pie bigger. As Bastiat illustrated 160+ years ago, protectionism protects the profits of the protectee at the expense of everyone else. It’s a zero-minus sum proposition.

        The solution for “middle-earners” in the west is to either a) upgrade their skills, or b) switch to service careers that can’t be readily outsourced to 3rd world companies. Program the robots, or maintain the robots; take your pick. But for goodness sake, don’t pick a job than can be *done* by a robot

        If you are a factory line middle-earner, you are toast. If, on the other hand, you are a welder, a plumber, an electrician, an auto mechanic, an HVAC tech, a rough neck, a heavy equipment operator, a RN, etc., etc., you can still make a pretty decent living in this country. The key is to provide services that must be sourced locally. Manufacturing and clerical jobs are at high jeopardy, but high skill manual labor is in high demand.

  14. Tuttabella says:

    Good, thought provoking article. Need some time to come up with a halfway decent reply. Will probably focus on the individual versus the community, or society at large, modern society as one big, uncontrolled force or bureaucracy that may swallow up or carry away the individual, resulting in the loss of individual will and identity.

    • objv says:

      Hi Tuttabella! I’ve been trying to get up enough interest to comment here, but the weather has been lovely and every springtime my own fancy turns to thoughts of moving dirt around. My husband’s fancy turns to riding his motorcycle around, so he’s not much help.

      This year, I’m putting in a new driveway and (don’t tell bubba) hiring a landscaping company to put in some retention walls. Normally, I like to do the work myself, but the bricks weigh 65 lbs and I weigh 100 lbs. Somehow, the math doesn’t seem to be in my favor. I caved.

      All I can say in my defense is that Eddie and Leonard (the landscaping guys) are charging me a nosebleed rate far above the minimum wage and it’s hard to feel sorry for them working in the searing heat (it should reach a bright, sunny, 59 degrees today.)

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