Thursday, February 26, 2009

Darwin's Bicentennial

The 'balance of Nature' is a misleading phrase. It is not a Disney-esque harmony, but the sweaty struggle of wrestlers, with efficiency of predation competing with that of procreation. A small change in environment, or the introduction of a new disease or species can lead to rapid extinction.

If an ecological niche opens, or gains resources, there is an explosion of varieties. When resources are abundant and predators scarce, even the weaker ones can thrive for a while. This explains the fat, waddling dodo.

The Industrial Revolution, and the Agricultural one that came before it, were the product of a few minds, and the sweat of many. They drove the move to more cities, which meant larger companies and bigger government. This widened the niche for a parasitic class of people who produce nothing, but are sometimes necessary. We call them consultants, middle managers, investment specialists (sorry Sackerson!), marketing gurus, guidance and life coaches, and the like.

With no predators, and a virtually infinite supply of resources (they print the money!), this class grew like a cancer. We have now reached the point that it consumes most of what we produce, and the system is shutting down. Since the typical politician or bureaucrat is of this class, the obvious answer is to give them more. Hence the Bush stimulus package.

I could be wrong, but I think that we are simply postponing the inevitable.


Anonymous said...

Don't forget 'Hairdressers'?

".. postponing the inevitable."

Isn't that what the 'sweaty struggle' is about?

Trouble is, in our case, the fat waddling dodo have the police and army at his disposal.

Sebastian Weetabix said...

I think you're right. There's a lot of wisdom in Dilbert by Scott Adams - once upon a time he wrote a book with a new management philosophy named 'OA5', i.e 'out at 5'. In it he says if your job involves talking to a customer, you're probably necessary; if it involves talking about talking to a customer, you're probably not. You can apply this simple rule to most activities in a business, I would say. The scourge of modern business life over the last 20 years has been the rise of the bullshitters who add no value.

sobers said...

I agree entirely. An increasingly small proportion of private sector workers produce real wealth, as opposed to shuffling wealth around, or providing meaningless services.

As for the govt sector, only a tiny proportion add anything to the national wealth, while all consume wealth produced elsewhere.

Stein's Law - If something cannot continue forever, it will stop - applies here I think. We are approaching the stop point.

Sackerson said...

"...investment specialists (sorry Sackerson!)"

I should think so, too, seeing how I've been advising my clients for the last decade and more. Cheeky Bulgar.

Paddington said...

Sackerson - I'm no Bulgar, I'm English-Prussian-Austrian-French, with most likely a smattering of Pict and Viking.

As for selecting that particular group, it was partly as a joke. While your advice has been good, I have met many investment people over the years, most of whom couldn't calculate an interest rate without much help. They take their fat commissions and parrot the 'past performance is no indication of the future', while pushing the funds that have performed the best over some period.

As for 'useless' professions, the piece was mine, so I get to draw the line: lawyers - mostly useless; doctors - necessary but overpaid and too arrogant; teachers (here I get sensitive) - certainly English, Mathematics and Science are producers, as they train the next generation of scientists and engineers, but I don't know what to say about History or Philosophy and related dsiciplines; psychologists - pure parasite.