Posted by Lexington Green on 10th October 2014 (All posts by Lexington Green)
From the awesome Urban Mod Girl.
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Posted by Lexington Green on 10th October 2014 (All posts by Lexington Green)
From the awesome Urban Mod Girl.
Posted by Lexington Green on 9th October 2014 (All posts by Lexington Green)
(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.
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.
Posted by Lexington Green on 8th October 2014 (All posts by Lexington Green)
Posted by Lexington Green on 7th October 2014 (All posts by Lexington Green)
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.
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.
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 by Lexington Green on 3rd October 2014 (All posts by Lexington Green)
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.
Posted by Lexington Green on 2nd October 2014 (All posts by Lexington Green)
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
See, table page 2, map on page 8, regarding the Absolute Nuclear Family.
Posted by Lexington Green on 1st October 2014 (All posts by Lexington Green)
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 by Lexington Green on 30th September 2014 (All posts by Lexington Green)
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 by Lexington Green on 29th September 2014 (All posts by Lexington Green)
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.
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 by Lexington Green on 26th September 2014 (All posts by Lexington Green)
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 by Lexington Green on 25th September 2014 (All posts by Lexington Green)
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.
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 by Lexington Green on 24th September 2014 (All posts by Lexington Green)
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?
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.
Posted by Lexington Green on 22nd September 2014 (All posts by Lexington Green)
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.”
Posted by Lexington Green on 13th September 2014 (All posts by Lexington Green)
“Usually the things people get scared about are not the things that end up causing big problems. “It’s the unexpected, always” as Keynes said. The guy who has ten guns and a bug out bag probably faces more risk from being overweight and having no retirement savings.”
“Not that there is anything wrong with having ten guns.”
– also Jonathan
Posted by Lexington Green on 12th September 2014 (All posts by Lexington Green)
On July 14, the Ottoman army of roughly ninety thousand effectives set up camp in front of Vienna. An Ottoman envoy appeared at the gates with the demand that the Christians “accept Islam and live in peace under the Sultan!”
Count Ernst Rüdiger von Starhemberg, who had been left in command with about twelve thousand soldiers, cut him short, and a few hours later the bombardment began. Within two days, the Turks had completely surrounded the city and, by one contemporary estimate, were within a mere two thousand paces of the salient angles of the counterscarp. The grand vizier (Mehmet himself had stayed behind in Belgrade) set up a magnificent tent in the center of what was virtually another city outside the walls. There, in the company of an ostrich and a parakeet, he dispensed favors in complete confidence of an eventual victory, and sauntered forth each day to inspect the Turkish trenches.
The situation inside the city grew steadily more desperate as water ran low, garbage piled high in the streets, and little by little the familiar diseases of the besieged—cholera, typhus, dysentery, scurvy—took hold. Yet the defenders managed to hold out for two months.
Posted by Lexington Green on 10th September 2014 (All posts by Lexington Green)
America 3.0 coauthor James C. Bennett has a post on National Review Online entitled What are Defense Implications of Scottish Independence?
Bennett notes: “First, it takes 5 million plus taxpayers, and most of the North Sea oil base, out of the funding available to keep the U.K. within the minimum 2 percent GDP contribution to its defense capabilities that NATO calls for … .” It will reduce Britain’s defense capabilities, and make Scotland a security free-rider.
Second, it will likely require Britain to remove the nuclear submarine base from Faslane, which is the base for Britain’s Vanguard class Trident ballistic missile submarines. Britain’s entire nuclear deterrent force is on these submarines. Building a new base to replace Faslane will be an enormous new expense at a time of declining defense budgets.
Bennett also notes that the Scots seem to have erroneous ideas about the prospects of making their country more socialistic than it already is.
But, as Bennett notes, a defeat for the independence referendum could mean a move toward a more federal United Kingdom, which would be more interesting than just another small, socialist ethnic enclave in Europe.
UPDATE: This article, entitled SCOTLAND’S REFERENDUM: TO GREAT MICHAEL OR CALUM’S ROAD? is also very good.
Posted by Lexington Green on 3rd September 2014 (All posts by Lexington Green)
Arnold Kling has a nice quote about the relative importance of cultural over institutional factors. If for some reason the US Government stopped working overnight, the American people would not be plunged into chaos. We have a culture which would permit us to voluntarily organize much of what we need to do. As Mr. Kling put it:
[T]he cultural margin is more important than the institutional margin. … [T]here are no societies in which anarchy will work well but government would work poorly, or vice-versa. Instead, on the one hand there are well-developed cultures, which could have good government or good anarchy, while on the other hand there are poorly-developed cultures, which could have only bad government or bad anarchy.
If you are not currently making a daily visit to Arnold Kling’s blog Askblog you must begin doing so.
The vision that Bennett and Lotus put forth is not the technocratically-run national system that most contemporary politicians and pundits presume is ideal. Nor is it the philosophically-driven rights-based society that libertarians might prefer. However, if the authors are correct in their cultural anthropology, then their idea of America 3.0 is what fits best with our culture.
This is a nice summary of the future we hope to see in America.
Posted by Lexington Green on 2nd September 2014 (All posts by Lexington Green)
This is an unusual entry in this occasional series. A demo from a songwriter that is later recorded by another artist is not exactly a remake. Nonetheless, the contrast here is interesting, so I pass it on.
That is a lovely bit of vintage pop, with the feel of that musical annus mirabilis of 1966. It would have been a good single by itself, and possibly a hit just as it is. Carole King had a very nice voice. She wrote a lot of hit pop songs in the Sixties, which were great. I am not a fan of her later solo career music, which is pleasant but does nothing for me.
Here is the version of her song which was a well deserved hit for the Monkees:
The Monkees are more rockin’ with it.
The changed lyrics are interesting. The Monkees sing “My thoughts all seem to stray, to places far away. I need a change of scenery … .” Carole sings “My thoughts all seem to stray, to places far away. I don’t ever want to see … another Pleasant Valley Sunday.” The Monkees leave their rejection of the bucolic suburban scene more ambiguous, which is a lyrical improvement.
Note that there is a lot of utterly unjustified disparagement of the Monkees. Dr. Frank once provided a total rebuttal to that stance, which he described as Monkees Derangement Syndrome. It is worth reading if you care about these controversies.
Posted by Lexington Green on 1st September 2014 (All posts by Lexington Green)
Posted by Lexington Green on 26th August 2014 (All posts by Lexington Green)
A friend asked for recommendations for books about World War I. I responded with the following list. I have read all of the books on the list. There are many books I have heard of and I am sure are good, but I only put ones I have read myself on the list.
Please list any favorites I have missed in the comments.
[Jonathan adds: Please also let us know if any of the book links don't work or if we have overlooked a link to a public-domain edition of any of these books.]
Ernst Junger, Storm of Steel — essential
Also by Junger, Copse 125 — a good addendum, depicting the German Army in the closing months of the war.
Erwin Rommel, Infantry Attacks — pure nuts and bolts infantry fighting, zero philosophizing
Robert Graves, Good-Bye to All That — classic, on every short list
Sidney Rogerson, Twelve Days on the Somme: A Memoir of the Trenches November 1916
also by Rogerson, The Last of the Ebb: The Battle of the Aisne 1918 — both down to earth depictions
Herbert Hoover, the first volume of his memoirs has a section on the outbreak of World War I and his involvement in getting food into occupied Belgium. An unusual, informative and fascinating perspective. The book can be had for pennies (free here, or on Amazon).
The novel by Joseph Roth, The Radetzky March is very good on Austria Hungary up to the outbreak of the war. It is a great favorite of mine.
Posted by Lexington Green on 21st August 2014 (All posts by Lexington Green)
She was promoting her book Bourgeois Dignity: Why Economics Can’t Explain the Modern World which is the second in a trilogy with The Bourgeois Virtues: Ethics for an Age of Commerce. She announced last night that she just finished the third volume.
This essay, entitled The Great Enrichment Came and Comes from Ethics and Rhetoric gives some insight into her ideas.
Posted by Lexington Green on 18th August 2014 (All posts by Lexington Green)
This will be an excellent event. Deirdre McCloskey talking about her most recent book, Bourgeois Dignity: Why Economics Can’t Explain the Modern World.
Her topic: How the rich got rich and how everyone else will too.
This is the message of America 3.0 as well, though we have our own spin.
The Illinois Policy Institute always puts on good events — including a modest charge for a great event and a very nice open bar.
This Wednesday, August 14, 2004, 6-8 p.m.
I hope to see you there.
Here is a short video of Deirdre McCloskey speaking, as a teaser trailer for the event.
Posted by Lexington Green on 15th August 2014 (All posts by Lexington Green)
The statue in front of the Indiana state house has a plaque which says he shall “ever to be known in history as The Great War Governor.” When the Union veterans who built the state house and put up the statue were alive, I am sure they believed the heroic deeds of the war would “ever be known … .”
But one of the lessons of history is the fleetingness of fame. The things that move and inspire one generation are rejected by the next, or simply forgotten. This is especially true in America, where we are a forward looking people and typically not terribly concerned about what happened in the past. Henry Ford spoke for America when he said history is more or less bunk.
This short article from the Indiana Historical Bureau, entitled OLIVER P. MORTON AND CIVIL WAR POLITICS IN INDIANA is worth reading.
Posted by Lexington Green on 15th August 2014 (All posts by Lexington Green)
Posted by Lexington Green on 15th August 2014 (All posts by Lexington Green)
I spoke yesterday to a the Indianapolis Federalist Society Lawyers Chapter. I gave an overview of America 3.0. I focused on the past and future of the legal profession for this mostly lawyer crowd. It was a very good session, with lively Q&A, with some digressions about contemporary politics, especially Illinois politics.