Monday, December 15, 2008

On Competitiveness

Consider a group of players in a game of chance. If all conditions are equal, the long-term results will be randomly distributed, with some big winners, and some big losers.

Change the conditions so that some players have an advantage, and eventually those players will be the only winners. How long this takes depends on the size of the advantage.

This is the basis of the mutation and natural selection portion of evolution theory.

For a generation after World War II, the US had a huge advantage: capital, undamaged manufacturing capacity, cheap energy, and most of the scientists and engineers. Thus, we 'won' the economic game, and it was attributed to Americans being 'better'.

We failed to notice that many other nations were catching up in education and technology. That the government and industry chose to dis-invest in research in the 1980's just accelerated the process.

As the playing field is now level (or even tipped against us), we should carefully consider how to gain back that advantage. We have done so before in the short term: arming in World War II, the Manhattan Project, the Space Race.

Do we have the will to do this when not faced with war, but with long-term economic decline?


Jim in San Marcos said...

Hi Sack

Great perspective on this. I think that the USA is now paying the price for this assumed assumption of being better.

Not sure where we go from here, but it isn't going to have a happy ending.

It pretty much looks like trade tariffs all around. --Hope I am wrong!

Sackerson said...

Hi Jim

This post is by Paddington - the Mycroft to my Sherlock.

Paddington said...

How very erudite and slightly obscure of you.

Jim -- I've lived here for 30 years, and love this country dearly. However, I have been around Americans since 1960 or so, and they always acted superior in Europe. Given my British accent, they are always nice to me, like an elderly aunt. However, the assumption is that everything is better here.

Anonymous said...

The US can not only feed itself but feeds many other nations too. When the ponzi scheme of paper money falls apart, feeding yourself will become the ultimate priority. The US will simply re-assert itself as the richest of all nations as food re-asserts itself as the most important of all commodities and the Chinese tear each other apart for a chance to lick the side of the begging bowl.

The cunning devils in the US knew this right from the start and have been planning to re-assert food exports for some time. The plan is working as maize prices have shot up. The US government has even come up with devilish schemes to burn their own food production for fuel.

By the way, many Chinese kids still don't go to school at all and the majority quit school before secondary age.

Sackerson said...

@Anon: re para 2: that's a terrible indictment, if true. Awful.

yoyomo said...

I agree with anon, I've always thought that biofuels were designed to raise food prices to counter high fuel prices as they aren't viable as a long term fuel substitue. Even in Brazil ethanol production is destroying the land where sugar cane grows with a minumum of inputs.