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    Interview with Jeff Bezos — The Obstacles to Technological Breakthroughs (to America 3.0) are more Regulatory and Legal than Technological

    Posted by Lexington Green on 19th December 2014 (All posts by )

    Delivery Drone

    In a recent interview with Jeff Bezos, he notes that drone delivery will be more delayed by regulation than by technological capability.

    HB: Drones. You had this amazing “commercial” on “60 Minutes” last year, about this fantastic future when drones are going to fly out and bring me my package, and it’s going to be right there. Immediately, everybody in the country, and probably around the world, was saying, “Great — when?”
     
    JB: That’s a difficult question to answer. Technology is not going to be the long pole. The long pole is going to be regulatory. I just went and met with the primary team and saw the 10th- or 11th-generation drone flying around in the cage. It’s truly remarkable. It’s not just the physical airframe and electric motors and so on. The most interesting part of this is the autopilot and the guidance and control and the machine vision systems that make it all work. As for when, though, that is very difficult to predict. I’d bet you the ratio of lawyers to engineers on the primary team is probably the highest at Amazon.
     
    HB: Is this a situation where everyone else in the world except Americans is going to get drone deliveries?
     
    JB: I think it is sad but possible that the US could be late. It’s highly likely that other countries will do it first. I may be too skeptical. I hope I’m wrong.

    It is too bad that the USA is likely to be slow moving in making this — and many other types of new technology — available to the public.

    The same will certainly be true about driverless cars, or molecular medicine.

    We are going to need entrepreneur and activists and, yes, even lawyers, who are committed to making new technology available to the American people, with the inevitable disruption of existing relationships and expectations.

    Getting to a better America is possible, but nothing is inevitable.

    There will be many struggles along the way to America 3.0.

    Posted in America 3.0, Business, USA | 16 Comments »

    Daniel Hannan at the Acton Institute, October 9, 2014

    Posted by Lexington Green on 7th December 2014 (All posts by )

    This is an outstanding talk by Daniel Hannan to the Acton Institute on October 9, 2014.

    Hannan notes that conservatives almost want to believe that there is no hope in the future, that we have seen the best times and they are behind us. But he disagrees.

    But my friends we are at our most persuasive, and at our most electorally successful, when as Ronald Reagan did in this country, as Margaret Thatcher did in mine, when we imbue our message with a little breath of warmth, a little hint of optimism, a promise that the best lies ahead.
     
    Things do get better, provided that you have trade and exchange, and that you release the genius of a free people, things will get better at an accelerating rate

    We make a similar point in America 3.0, which has the subtitle, “Why America’s Greatest Days are Yet to Come.”

    They really are, if we make it happen.

    Posted in America 3.0, Anglosphere, Britain | 3 Comments »

    Lex’s Family at Thanksgiving

    Posted by Lexington Green on 27th November 2014 (All posts by )

    Thanksgiving dinner

    (No, really. That is exactly what we look like.)

    Posted in Holidays | 2 Comments »

    Happy Thanksgiving

    Posted by Lexington Green on 27th November 2014 (All posts by )

    Mayflower Compact

    The Mayflower Compact

    In the name of God, Amen. We, whose names are underwritten, the loyal subjects of our dread Sovereign Lord King James, by the Grace of God, of Great Britain, France, and Ireland, King, defender of the Faith, etc.
     
    Having undertaken, for the Glory of God, and advancements of the Christian faith and honor of our King and Country, a voyage to plant the first colony in the Northern parts of Virginia, do by these presents, solemnly and mutually, in the presence of God, and one another, covenant and combine ourselves together into a civil body politic; for our better ordering, and preservation and furtherance of the ends aforesaid; and by virtue hereof to enact, constitute, and frame, such just and equal laws, ordinances, acts, constitutions, and offices, from time to time, as shall be thought most meet and convenient for the general good of the colony; unto which we promise all due submission and obedience.
     
    In witness whereof we have hereunto subscribed our names at Cape Cod the 11th of November, in the year of the reign of our Sovereign Lord King James, of England, France, and Ireland, the eighteenth, and of Scotland the fifty-fourth, 1620.

    Thanks to all the people who came to America at the hazard of life and limb and who built this country and gave it to us to build up and make better and pass on in our turn.

    God bless the Pilgrims who settled in New England and brought (almost) the first seeds of Constitutional self-government to this continent. They arrived in what is now Massachusetts on November 21, 1620 (under the current calendar). It is cold in Massachusetts in November. They had thousands of miles of stormy sea behind them, and a cold, bare, unfriendly wilderness before them, not a single roof or fireplace for shelter or warmth. It was touch and go. They lost many of their number during the first winter. They had many practical details to attend to when they arrived. But the first thing they did before they set foot on the new continent was to covenant and combine themselves in to a “civil body politic” to live under law and by orderly political processes. We can learn from their example.

    God bless America. God bless our Chicago Boyz contributors and readers. God bless our service members, past and present, especially those in harms way to defend our nation. God bless the people travelling and staying with families.

    Thank you to Jonathan for starting this blog in 2002 and keeping it going.

    May there be peace and happiness in all homes and across the land — and if we fall short of this high standard, here and there, let us work to do better in the days ahead.

    I hope no one is too busy poking around the Internet and not paying attention to the turkey. Make sure you don’t over-cook it. May the gravy come out perfectly, and may there be enough pie for everybody to get two pieces of the kind they like best.

    Thanksgiving-Brownscombe

    Posted in History, Holidays | 4 Comments »

    Sen. Mike Lee Channels America 3.0

    Posted by Lexington Green on 6th November 2014 (All posts by )

    Sen. Mike Lee

    Senator Mike Lee has the best article yet about what the new, GOP-majority congress ought to do. It is entitled “Five Steps To Restore Trust, Transparency, And Empowerment.” Please RTWT.

    Senator Lee makes several observations which are highly consistent with the picture Jim Bennett and I painted in America 3.0.

    America’s health care, energy, higher education, telecommunications, security, and criminal justice needs (to name just a few) appear to be in the midst of transitions, nearing tipping points that will help define our nation in decades to come.
     
    Most systems we use to provide government services were designed decades ago, before the tech and telecom revolutions that have changed the way Americans do almost everything else. In 20 years, will we need, say, a Government Printing Office or Internal Revenue Service in anything like their current forms? If disruptive innovations continue to personalize and localize the economy, will centralized, monolithic bureaucracies be the right instruments to regulate it? Or is government just as badly in need of some disruptive innovations that would enable market forces, public desires, and longstanding constitutional principles to once again show us the way and make our institutions more accountable?
     
    … we know that our society and our economy have rocketed out in front of our government, and that the bureaucracy in its current form is unlikely ever to catch up.
     
    Everything about American life today is becoming more decentralized, open-source, localized and personalized. Everything, that is, except government. An increasingly customizable economy and diverse social networks of mini-communities will not long tolerate the innate incompetence of clumsy, self-serving, Big Government.
     
    Let Congress operate less like a nineteenth-century industrial mill, and more like a twenty-first-century open-source network.
     
    In today’s world, individual and community empowerment are strengths for organizations who know how to use them.

    This is all good stuff.

    Yes, America is in the “midst of transitions”, and many sectors are indeed “nearing tipping points”.

    Yes, America’s governmental legacy systems were designed before the contemporary “tech and telecom revolutions” occurred and should be fundamentally re-thought.

    Yes, “disruptive innovations” will “continue to personalize and localize the economy” and this presents an opportunity to remake government in a more transparent and cost effective way.

    Yes, the “bureaucracy in its current form” is doomed to fall behind the revolutionary pace being set by the American people and the innovations they are creating, which is making “everything about American life … more decentralized, open-source, localized and personalized.”

    Yes, the old system has to be replaced, to become compatible with an “increasingly customizable economy and diverse social networks of mini-communities.” (That last phrase, a “diverse social networks of mini-communities” is particularly nice.)

    Yes, Congress itself has to change from an America 2.0 model, ” a nineteenth-century industrial mill”, and move into America 3.0 as “a twenty-first-century open-source network.” (That will be cool, actually. It can be done.)

    Senator Lee is being a visionary realist, the best kind.

    Let’s hope his approach will be adopted by the incoming GOP Congress.

    Remember: America’s greatest days are yet to come!

    Posted in America 3.0, Politics | 4 Comments »

    The Art of the Remake XVII

    Posted by Lexington Green on 4th November 2014 (All posts by )

    You Ain’t No Big Thing Baby, Sam and Dave (1963)

    An early, solid soul song from the mighty Sam and Dave.

    You Ain’t No Big Thing Baby, Holly Golightly (1998)

    Holly’s version is more brooding and sultry.

    Holly heard something in the song that was a lot different from the original.

    She tore it to bits and made it her own, as we here at The Art of the Remake Division of the Chicago Boyz Zaibatsu demand.

    And her live version of it is yet a third interpretation, more of a rave up, with harmonica.

    Nice.

    Posted in Music, Video | 1 Comment »

    Mike Lotus Participates in Immigration Reform Panel & Discussion, John Marshall Law School Federalist Society, November 5, 2014

    Posted by Lexington Green on 3rd November 2014 (All posts by )

    Mike Lotus will participate in an Immigration Reform Panel & Discussion at John Marshall Law School Federalist Society, November 5, 2014, 5:00 p.m., State Street entrance.

    I am looking forward to the discussion.

    Note the critical language: Food will be served.

    Drink may be imbibed afterwards, as well.

    Posted in America 3.0, Chicagoania, Immigration, Law | 3 Comments »

    The Comeback: Illinois, A Great Future

    Posted by Lexington Green on 2nd November 2014 (All posts by )

    A Great Future

    Good post from Matt Besler of the Illinois Opportunity Project.

    Illinois has tremendous strengths. We are a state rich in agriculture, mineral resources and manufacturing. With road, rail and air, Illinois is a transportation hub. The state boasts outstanding universities and one of the world’s most vibrant cities. We are only held back by our public policies and the antiquated political processes through which they are instituted
     
    The good news is Illinois’ problems are man-made. The damage can be undone by changing public policy, and returning checks and balances to state government. With independent, principled policymakers, Illinois can implement reform-focused legislation that will limit government and the power of special interests; legislation that will give individuals dominion over their own lives, and reduce burdens on businesses.
     
    We advocate for such policies because we believe in the power of the individual to create opportunity and to overcome obstacles – even obstacles as great as those Illinois currently faces.

    Matt links to the Amazon page for a booklet called Illinois, A Great Future.

    It is hard to imagine that Illinois can, and should, and will have a great future.

    The booklet lays out some of the reasons why we should hope for, believe in, and work for, a better future in Illinois.

    But is is a marathon, not a sprint. And, to mix up the metaphor, whatever happens on Tuesday, it is just one round in a multi-round slug-fest.

    [Full disclosure: I was the lead drafter on the booklet.]

    [Jonathan adds: The pop-up that appears when you mouse over the “Illinois, A Great Future” link incorrectly states that the booklet is unavailable.]

    Posted in Illinois Politics, Politics | 16 Comments »

    Peter Thiel on Political Correctness, Courage and the Corrosion of Conformity

    Posted by Lexington Green on 29th October 2014 (All posts by )

    “The core problem in our society is political correctness.”
     
    “We’ve become a more risk-averse society,” he said, “we’ve lost hope in the future.” The problem isn’t one of intelligence, but of character. “We live in a world in which courage is in less supply than genius.”

    “The Wisdom of Peter Thiel“, from First Things — RTWT.

    Incidentally, I recently read Thiel’s book Zero to One: Notes on Startups, or How to Build the Future. It is very good.

    I see significant overlap between Thiel’s message and some of the themes in America 3.0: Rebooting American Prosperity in the 21st Century-Why America’s Greatest Days Are Yet to Come. I hope to write more about this soon.

    Posted in Book Notes, Business, Leftism, Political Philosophy, Society, Systems Analysis, Tradeoffs | 8 Comments »

    Quote of the Day: political action is contracting with “… diabolical powers …”

    Posted by Lexington Green on 28th October 2014 (All posts by )

    Those of you who know Dostoievski will remember the scene of the ‘Grand Inquisitor,’ where the problem is poignantly unfolded. If one makes any concessions at all to the principle that the end justifies the means, it is not possible to bring an ethic of ultimate ends and an ethic of responsibility under one roof or to decree ethically which end should justify which means.
     
    My colleague, Mr. F. W. Forster, whom personally I highly esteem for his undoubted sincerity, but whom I reject unreservedly as a politician, believes it is possible to get around this difficulty by the simple thesis: ‘from good comes only good; but from evil only evil follows.’ In that case this whole complex of questions would not exist. But it is rather astonishing that such a thesis could come to light two thousand five hundred years after the Upanishads. Not only the whole course of world history, but every frank examination of everyday experience points to the very opposite. The development of religions all over the world is determined by the fact that the opposite is true. The age-old problem of theodicy consists of the very question of how it is that a power which is said to be at once omnipotent and kind could have created such an irrational world of undeserved suffering, unpunished injustice, and hopeless stupidity. Either this power is not omnipotent or not kind, or, entirely different principles of compensation and reward govern our life–principles we may interpret metaphysically, or even principles that forever escape our comprehension This problem–the experience of the irrationality of the world–has been the driving force of all religious evolution. The Indian doctrine of karma, Persian dualism, the doctrine of original sin, predestination and the deus absconditus, all these have grown out of this experience. Also the early Christians knew full well the world is governed by demons and that he who lets himself in for politics, that is, for power and force as means, contracts with diabolical powers and for his action it is not true that good can follow only from good and evil only from evil, but that often the opposite is true. Anyone who fails to see this is, indeed, a political infant.

    Max Weber, Politics as a Vocation (1919).

    Is Weber right? Is Aristotle (“man is by nature a political animal”) wrong?

    One hour, one blue book.

    The highlighted language from Weber I recently read in “The Private Faces of Public Virtue” Michael Knox Beran, in The Claremont Review of Books, Vol. XIV, Number 3, Summer 2014, a review of The Founders at Home: The Building of America, 1735-1817 by Myron Magnet. Magnet’s book sounds good. And for that matter, Beran’s book, Forge of Empires: Three Revolutionary Statesmen and the World They Made, 1861-1871, looks good, too.

    Far too many books, far too little time.

    It has been many years since I read “Politics as a Vocation” — an acknowledged classic. I need to read that again.

    Posted in Arts & Letters, Book Notes, Politics, Quotations, Religion, Tradeoffs | 1 Comment »

    “The Speech” — Ronald Reagan, October 27, 1964

    Posted by Lexington Green on 27th October 2014 (All posts by )

    Fifty years ago today Ronald Reagan made a famous televised speech in support of Barry Goldwater’s doomed presidential candidacy. The speech was entitled “A Time for Choosing” — but it came to be known simply as “The Speech”.

    As Goldwater crashed and burned, Reagan ascended in a single bound to being the leader and embodiment of the American Conservative movement.

    It was a spectacular launch to his political career.

    Michael Barone has a good piece about The Speech today.

    The text of The Speech is here.

    Much of it could be read today and it would still apply, word for word.

    UPDATE:

    Here is a good article about The Speech and the rise of Reagan: Reagan, Goldwater and Rise of Conservatism, by Pat Horan.

    Posted in Conservatism, History, Politics, Reagan Centenary, Speeches, USA, Video | 13 Comments »

    Posted by Lexington Green on 22nd October 2014 (All posts by )

    Posted in Anglosphere | 7 Comments »

    An orange Vespa scooter

    Posted by Lexington Green on 10th October 2014 (All posts by )

    Just because.

    From the awesome Urban Mod Girl.

    Posted in Britain | 8 Comments »

    Thank you to the Chicago Young Republicans

    Posted by Lexington Green on 9th October 2014 (All posts by )

    MJL at CYR

    (That is me on the far right, where I belong!)

    My thanks to the Chicago Young Republicans, who invited me to speak to them last night at their monthly meeting. It was an enjoyable and educational event.

    I was on a panel with the very distinguished Dan Proft of, inter alia, 89 WLS and Jonathan Greenberg of the Illinois Policy Institute.

    The topic of discussion was the upcoming election. One theme was the concern that Bruce Rauner may end up losing to Pat Quinn, despite Quinn being an unmitigated disaster. Polls show Rauner slightly ahead, but the trends are bad. Rauner has not yet closed the deal with Illinois voters, who are upset and concerned about the direction the state is going, but who are not yet convinced that Rauner is the guy who can fix the problems. I hope Rauner manages to make that connection with voters before election day.

    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in America 3.0, Chicagoania, Illinois Politics, Politics | 9 Comments »

    Pictures by C. Coles Phillips

    Posted by Lexington Green on 8th October 2014 (All posts by )

    Some cool old pictures by C. Coles Phillips.

    Posted in Arts & Letters | 5 Comments »

    Alibaba as a disintermediator, a step toward America 3.0?

    Posted by Lexington Green on 7th October 2014 (All posts by )

    Alibaba

    It will be a long time until we have the truly decentralized, additive manufacturing (a/k/a 3D printing) we discuss in America 3.0.

    But in the meantime, Alibaba allows an extraordinary level of business to business contact, permitting smaller scale businesses to find suppliers.

    This is the kind of disintermediated, non-hierarchic, Web-enabled change that has long been predicted, finally coming true.

    This podcast is an interesting introduction to Alibaba.

    One friend said that Alibaba was going to allow Chinese manufacturers to somehow overrun the USA. But if you go on their site, you see that firms from anywhere in the world can become verified supplier members.

    More importantly, the rise of B2B direct contact on this scale is a genie that is now out of the bottle.

    Take a look at this recent post from Zero Hedge entitled “Could The Alibaba Model Undo The Wal-Mart Model?”

    How much would I pay to have the item I want delivered to me rather than have to drive miles to the Superstore? if I add up the maintenance costs, fuel and other expenses of operating my car, and the time wasted in traffic, standing in line, etc., how much cheaper is the Superstore price?
     
    How much would I pay to direct my money went to a local worker/shop owner I know and trust rather than to some supplier in a distant city?
     
    These are questions that arise as a consequence of the digitization of the global/local supply chain in the peer-to-peer model. Just as we have reached Peak Central Planning and Peak Central Banking, we may have reached Peak Centralization not just in government and finance but in the corporate-cartel model of “low quality at high margins.”

    The centralization represented by Walmart may be past its peak.

    Alibaba’s recent IPO, which was almost certainly over-hyped, should not distract us from the importance of the underlying model, or from speculating about what its long term impact may be.

    Posted in America 3.0 | 17 Comments »

    Regulatory capture is normal, and that’s the problem

    Posted by Lexington Green on 3rd October 2014 (All posts by )

    portraits of Julian Sanchez and Megan McArdle

    You must read this excellent piece by Megan McArdle, It’s Normal for Regulators to Get Captured. “regulatory capture is not some horrid aberration; it is closer to the natural state of a regulatory body.”

    This is true. That is why the entire modern administrative state has to be re-thought, re-configured and replaced. It does not work, it never worked, it cannot work.

    The regulatory state is the defining feature of the Industrial Era, America 2.0 state. It needs to be shut down, wrapped up and replaced.

    This does not mean return to the law of the jungle. It means making laws that actually align incentives with desired ends, as imperfect as that always is.

    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in America 3.0, Book Notes, Chicagoania, Economics & Finance, USA | 14 Comments »

    America 3.0 Course at U. Cal. Irvine — Additional Reading

    Posted by Lexington Green on 2nd October 2014 (All posts by )

    UCI Irvine

    As I noted in yesterday’s post, I team-taught a course on America 3.0 at U.Cal.Irvine last Spring. We considered asking the students to read some additional material beyond the sections of the book we assigned. However, we decided that the book was enough and we did not want to overload under-graduates. The following is the proposed additional material we considered assigning, with links.

    Week # 1. America 3.0: Introduction


    Week # 2. America 3.0: America in 2040
    IP in a World Without Scarcity by Mark A. Lemley.

    
The students should read Section I, part C — pages 10-24. This article covers three major sources of disruptive change: 3D Printing, Synthetic Biology and Bioprinting and Robotics. Of course, they may read the entire article if they wish. The question of the law and regulation of these new technologies is a huge area to be explored.

    Week # 3. America 3.0: The American Family

    Duranton, Family Types and the Persistence of Regional Disparities in Europe
.

    See, table page 2, map on page 8, regarding the Absolute Nuclear Family.

    The World Values Survey Cultural Map of the World.

    Why Americans are the WEIRDest People in the World.

    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in America 3.0, Book Notes | 2 Comments »

    College Course on America 3.0 at U. Cal. Irvine with Prof. Gary Richardson

    Posted by Lexington Green on 1st October 2014 (All posts by )

    Gary Richardson

    I recently had my one-year anniversary as Associate Specialist in the Department of Economics at The University of California, Irvine. A notice went out on LinkedIn, and many people thought I’d moved to California. Not so. I am in Chicago, practicing law — and promoting the vision, mission and message of America 3.0 from here.

    The UCI appointment was made at the initiative of my friend Gary Richardson. Gary is in the midst of a very distinguished career as an economist and historian. His webpage shows the scope and quality of his research and publication. His papers with the National Bureau of Economic Research are here. Most recently Gary was appointed as the first historian of the Federal Reserve. Here is an interview regarding the role of the historian for the Fed.

    What the UCI appointment permitted me to do was to team-teach a college course, with Gary, using America 3.0 as the text. I joined the class via Skype, from my desk in Chicago. This was a great experience for me, and the feedback from the students was positive. The appointment has also given me access to material which will be very helpful for future research and writing.

    My thanks to Gary Richardson, the dashing chap pictured above, and to the students in the America 3.0 class.

    Posted in Uncategorized | 1 Comment »

    Stalling Progress in Aviation — It’s Time for a Breakthrough

    Posted by Lexington Green on 30th September 2014 (All posts by )

    Six Hour Radius for Commercial Airliners, 1940-1990

    This diagram shows the stalling progress in the speed of air travel.

    The inner ring, the range of a DC-3 in 1940, was substantially improved upon by the Lockheed Constellation in 1950, and much more so with the Boeing 707 in 1960. That was twenty years. But from 1960 to 1990, only the small outer circle was gained. And in the quarter century since, it has not expanded at all.

    Technology has advanced in small things — small in size, not in importance — like electronics. But in big, macroscopic things, the world of “stuff”, it seems that there has been stasis for two generations. In a recent post, I linked to a video where Peter Thiel made this point. Theil may have overstated his case, but in the case of aviation he certainly appears to be correct. (Incidentally, my copy of Theil’s new book, Zero to One: Notes on Startups, or How to Build the Future arrived yesterday.)

    One theory is that only defense-related spending is sufficiently large and removed from market considerations to lead to truly massive breakthroughs in technology. This view is espoused by Peter J. Hugill, in his book World Trade Since 1431: Geography, Technology, and Capitalism Paperback, a brilliant book which I heartily commend to you. However, I am not convinced that this is true in every case. In the case of aviation, the basic scientific insights exist, so government-financed development may not be necessary to reach the next breakthrough in aircraft performance.

    My coauthor Jim Bennett notes:

    We may soon see transsonic aircraft operating commercially. These will fly just above the speed of sound, where the sonic boom can be minimized by a number of design tricks. These could operate at airspeeds of around 700 knots, compared to the 500-550 at which most airliners are operated today. They could go faster but they are deliberately slowed down to reduce fuel consumption.

    According to Jim, true supersonic or hypersonic aircraft “will be limited to transoceanic routes by sonic boom restrictions, or depend on new approaches which have yet to be fully tested.”

    While a 20% increase in speed will be nice to have, I am eager to see these massive, disruptive changes in aviation speed — multiples of the present speed, not just incremental increases.

    In America 3.0 we predict a breakdown of the regulatory machinery that is stalling technological progress in many areas, including improved aircraft performance. We speculate about what much faster commercial air travel will allow in terms of, for example, locating retirement housing in Cuba and Mexico, with rapid access by air.

    Seniors are able to stay at home, both with mechanical assistance and with many people specializing in providing elder care, or move into modularized units easily attached to the their adult childrens’ homes. Retirement communities in Cuba, the Central Highlands of Mexico and the Mexican border zoner are becoming popular. Hypersonic air travel, until recently only used by the very wealthy or government officials, is slowly coming down in price, as aerospacelines compete for business, thus making visits back and forth to visit Grandma far easier.

    Just as driverless cars will make exurban development feasible, as we describe in America 3.0, routine, affordable supersonic air travel will make remote locations useable for business and housing that are not feasible now.

    A world that it is half or a third the size it is now, in terms of travel time, opens up opportunities that we cannot even conceive of now.

    (The map above is from Prime Movers of Globalization: The History and Impact of Diesel Engines and Gas Turbines by Vaclav Smil.)

    Posted in America 3.0, Aviation, Book Notes | 54 Comments »

    Milton Friedman: “Only a crisis — actual or perceived — produces real change.”

    Posted by Lexington Green on 29th September 2014 (All posts by )

    Milton Friedman

    There is enormous inertia—a tyranny of the status quo—in private and especially governmental arrangements. Only a crisis — actual or perceived — produces real change. When that crisis occurs, the actions that are taken depend on the ideas that are lying around. That, I believe, is our basic function: to develop alternatives to existing policies, to keep them alive and available until the politically impossible becomes politically inevitable.

    Milton Friedman, Capitalism and Freedom, Preface to the 1982 edition.

    This could easily have been the quote at the front of America 3.0.

    A crisis, or series of crises, are likely to be coming in the years ahead as the economy and government based on industrial era (America 2.0) models fails more and more completely and obviously. The inertia, the tyranny of the status quo, embedded in our existing institutions is going to resist meaningful reform. It will not be an inert resistance, either, it will be attacks on agents of change. To use Clausewitz’s phrase, the defense of the status quo will be “a shield of blows.” Some people will be hurt by the blows.

    But it won’t work. It cannot work.

    Our task in the book was and is precisely to offer alternatives to existing policies, and explain why our proposed alternatives suit America’s inherited underlying culture, and the technology which will shape our future. Many of the things we suggest in the book have been dismissed as “impossible” even by friendly critics. But as Milton Friedman correctly noted, the politically impossible can become the politically inevitable, if it is an idea whose time has come.

    Posted in America 3.0, Book Notes, Economics & Finance, Quotations | 10 Comments »

    Peter Thiel and George Gilder debate on “The Prospects for Technology and Economic Growth”

    Posted by Lexington Green on 26th September 2014 (All posts by )

    This is an excellent dialogue between George Gilder and Peter Thiel, from 2012, regarding two different versions of what the future will look like.

    It is a little over an hour, and I highly recommend you listen to it.

    Gilder is a thorough-going optimist. He sees a world where everything is good and getting better, and critiques of technological change are generally wrong-headed. That is a brutal over-simplification, of course. Gilder is a seasoned speaker, debater and writer. He makes a decent case, better than I am suggesting here.

    Theil makes a more subtle case. He says that technology, other than the technology has stalled for decades. He says that the fields of engineering that deal with “stuff” have been — and this is a strong word — “outlawed.” As a result, the only areas where technological change is happening are in finance and computing. Nuclear engineering, for example, would have been a suicidal career choice if you made it a generation ago.

    So, Theil is one hand a pessimist. He sees a decay in the rate of technological development, a decay in standards of living and real wages, a decline in optimism and expectations for a better future.

    However, he does not conclude, “so, we are doomed.”

    What he says instead is that we cannot pretend that technological progress grows on trees. He says that we need to address the obstacles to technological change which are thwarting the potential for a better future.

    All of that seems correct.

    The vision Jim Bennett and I depict in America 3.0 is one in which the excessive regulatory obstacles to technological progress, capital formation, and new business formation have been greatly reduced. Under that scenario, much of the halted progress in the world of “stuff” should resume. This is particularly the case because, as Gilder correctly notes, the extraordinary advances in computing power will enhance the potential of all of these areas. The potential for rapid development, leading to rapid economic growth and rising living standards, is within our reach. It is being held back by political and regulatory obstacles, not technical or scientific ones.

    That has to change. But, it might not. Nothing is inevitable.

    It is up to us to make it happen.

    I have not yet read Thiel’s new book Zero to One: Notes on Startups, or How to Build the Future. It is en route from Amazon as I type this, however. Here is the web page for the book.

    Posted in America 3.0, Book Notes, Business, Tech | 8 Comments »

    Edward T. Hall on Bureaucracy: “no soul, no memory, and no conscience …”

    Posted by Lexington Green on 25th September 2014 (All posts by )

    A key factor in explaining the sad state of American education can be found in overbureaucratization, which is seen in the compulsion to consolidate our public schools into massive factories and to increase to mammoth size our universities even in underpopulated states. The problem with bureaucracies is that they have to work hard and long to keep from substituting self-serving survival and growth for their original primary objective. Few succeed. Bureaucracies have no soul, no memory, and no conscience. If there is a single stumbling block on the road to the future, it is the bureaucracy as we know it.
     
    ***
     
    Bureaucratic and institutional irrationality occur because, of all man’s institutions, bureaucracy in all cultures has a tremendous potential to be counterproductive. This drive toward inefficiency may be a direct consequence of blind adherence to procedure, but it also stems from bureaucratic needs for self-preservation and a vulnerability to pressure groups. The combination is unbeatable.
     
    ***
     
    By their very nature bureaucracies have no conscience, no memory and no mind. They are self-serving, amoral and live forever. What could be more irrational? Changing them is almost impossible, because they function according to their own rules and bow to no man, not even the President of the United States. Custom, human frailties, and the will to power keep our bureaucracies going. … Paradoxically, most bureaucracies are staffed largely with conscientious, committed people who are trying to do the right thing, but they are powerless (or feel powerless) to change things. None of which would be so serious if it weren’t that these are the very institutions on which we depend to solve all our major problems. Some answer must be found to bureaucracy. It is not social injustice capitalized upon by political leaders that causes revolutions. It is when bureaucracies become so top heavy and inefficient that they are incapable of serving the needs of the people, that governments fall.

    (Emphasis added.)

    Beyond Culture (1976), Edward T. Hall

    This article provides an overview of Hall’s thought.

    Edward T. Hall’s Beyond Culture was cited by Jonathan Fletcher in his excellent essay Culture-mapping: A framework for understanding international B2b decision-making, which I discussed in this post.

    Bureaucracy on the life-destroying scale described by Edward T. Hall is an industrial era phenomenon. Only a bureaucracy can turn ordinary, decent people into participants in gigantic atrocities that go on and on, and absolve the people who operate the government machine from personal responsibility for the consequences.

    In America 3.0 Jim Bennett and I refer to Industrial Era America as “America 2.0″ — an era which is ending, and a new post-bureaucratic, post-industrial era, America 3.0, is struggling to born. Edward T. Hall helps us see that there is a lot about the old world that will not be missed.

    Posted in America 3.0, Book Notes, Quotations | 11 Comments »

    James C. Bennett, Coauthor of America 3.0, debates with György Schöpflin, hosted by the Danube Institute.

    Posted by Lexington Green on 24th September 2014 (All posts by )

    A few months ago Jim Bennett and I had an essay published in the Hungarian Review. The essay is titled America, England, Europe – Why do we Differ? In it we apply the same type of analysis we used in America 3.0. In the next issue, George Schöpflin responded to our essay. We in turn replied to his critiques, in A Rejoinder to George Schöpflin. I discussed this exchange in an earlier post.

    John O’Sullivan is the Director of the Danube Institute in Budapest. John arranged for a debate between Jim Bennett (on the left in the photo) and George Schöpflin (on the right), which took place on March 27, 2014. The Debate is entitled: Continuity as a Model for Central Europe?

    Bennett:

    there is a significant difference between Western Europe and the rest of the world, for example the difference of endogenous and exogenous marriages, the latter produces outward looking societies. All of Western Europe shares this heritage, including Hungary. But there is a predictor in Europe: who was modernized in the 19th century and who in the 20th century. There is a further, significant separation between England, Eastern Scotland, and the continental areas. There is the question: how important is the family system, versus other important things like religion, culture, and language? My opinion is that the family system is as equally important as other factors. People typically analyse national differences, but the family system lines can be good predictors of different models of state buildings, too. Attempts to build states across the lines of different family systems might result in trouble areas within Europe.

    Video of the debate, with a partial transcript is here.

    It is also available on the America 3.0 YouTube page.

    Posted in America 3.0, Europe, History | 1 Comment »

    “Culture Mapping” Essay by Jonathan Fletcher Applies Emmanuel Todd’s Analysis, Reaches Conclusions Consistent with America 3.0

    Posted by Lexington Green on 22nd September 2014 (All posts by )

    Jonathan Fletcher

    I strongly recommend that you read the excellent essay Culture-mapping: A framework for understanding international B2b decision-making, by Jonathan Fletcher who is the Group Managing Director of Illuminas. Mr. Fletcher’s expertise lies in part in “analysing and interpreting market research data.”

    In his paper Mr. Fletcher presents “a framework for understanding decision-making in different business cultures that will enable B2b researchers confronted with a new market to ask the right questions quickly and not waste time and money looking in the wrong places for the wrong things.” Mr. Fletcher finds that culture is “the hidden dimension” which has a “significant influence on economic and industrial behaviour and performance, but a large part of culture is implicit, unconscious and hidden from direct view.”

    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in America 3.0, Anglosphere, Arts & Letters, Book Notes, Business, History, Society, USA | 4 Comments »