Re: One humanity, all in the same boat

From: Chris Hibbert (
Date: Sun Jan 13 2002 - 12:12:16 MST

Samantha Atkins wrote (responding to me):
> As I have asked many times here and
> haven't really been answered, what happens when there is no
> market due to automation and continually more sophisticated
> technology, for anyone with less than a certain amount of
> general intelligence and a fair amount of training?
> [...] The "job" paradigm may be
> increasingly obsolete as may be some old economic models based
> in more scarcity and less high technology.

I don't see any problem with this. One of the things I think I said is
sometimes when buggy whips go out of style, the people involved have to figure
out for themselves a way to be productive. Sitting around waiting for someone
else to invent a new industry and employ you won't solve the problem. Until
everyone is happy, there will always be something to do. Why should it be otherwise?

> Increasingly it may not be
> economically feasible to hire and train people in many
> companies, at least not people below a certain intelligence and
> level of training. What then for these people who are no longer
> hirable?

[I assume "companies" is a typo for "countries".]

One of the charities I give to (as I've mentioned before) is Trickle Up. They
loan $100 to the poorest of the poor in the poorest countries to start very
simple businesses. weaving baskets, repacking foods, watching other people's
children. These people then hire others. (aside:) Having read de Soto's "The
Mystery of Capital", I now believe that in many of these countries one of the
biggest problems is that the poor can't get a loan on their home, even though
they are the undisputed owner of the property. This is their biggest obstacle
to getting the small amount of capital that is required to start very simple
service businesses that contribute in substantial ways to their own and their
neighbor's lifestyles.

> > When [immigrants] start a
> > family, they'll yearn for the same comforts for their children as the
> > rest of us, and work as hard as it takes to make it.
> Personally, I still think the US can do a lot worse than provide
> some reasonable stipend in the form of a grant (say 12,000/yr)
> to every capable adult who wishes to continue his/her
> education. The need is great to get a more educated population
> and workforce and we can't wait for "trickle-down" to have it.

I'm not sure this is good incentive engineering. (Not that I disagree with
the goal, only with whether this is the most effective way to reach it.) When
people want an education (for themselves or their children) enough to work
overtime to get it, they value what they get and manage it wisely. If
education is a gift or a right, many will squander it and not realize until
they finally are on their own that their choices make a difference. That
said, I do believe that education is important. But my and my significant
other's plan for our nieces and nephews is that we will save money (in our
name, not in a trust account that we don't really control) that we will give
them as a match for whatever they earn themselves. This multiplies their
education earning power, but still requires that they believe in the value of
it enough to earn some of the money themselves. If any of them turn out to be
driven and talented enough to be headed for a high-end education, we will
likely increase our contribution.

The best the government could do would be to allow any tax payer to take a
deduction for any contribution to anyone's education. Doesn't matter whether
the student is related or not. Same for corporations. More education is good
for all of us, but making it an entitlement is bad for all of us.

> > The statistics (according to Julian Simon, of course) show that in most
> ? I am not altogether sure I can trust Julian Simon for such
> statistics.

Please, use any source of statistics you desire, or show any attacks on
Simon's work that provide better statistics, rather than attacking his
motivation. Do you have any sources that disagree that the gap keeps getting
smaller? I think Simon's opponents are driven by envy, and think Simon's
claims are irrelevant. If there's still a gap, then they will continue to be
unhappy. Is this how you feel?

> > cases, as technology advances, the rich do keep getting richer, but the
> > gap keeps getting proportionately smaller. Those who worry about the
> > have-nots, when they have statistics always show the ones that show that
> > some people are still behind, and don't check to see whether they are
> > catching up. We can argue about gradualism again, but since we agree on
> > the outcome, there's no need to do so here.
> I do not find the above tenable. Especially not now when even a
> lot of very highly trained and motivated friends of mine are out
> of work and have been for months. Our system is not working all
> that smoothly right now. And I would also question relative
> purchase power figures when it takes two wage earners in more
> and more households today to just break reasonably even, even
> without a lot of consumerist over-spending, than it did in my
> parent's generation. It also takes longer in many parts of the
> country and is accessible to fewer levels of income, to own a
> home of one's own.

I'm not sure what the complaint is here. There is a recession. Do you think
someone is unfairly targeting the poor and middle class to take the brunt of
it? I also have trouble figuring out how your "very highly trained" friends,
presumably here in Silicon Valley, could be among the have-nots that some
people are worried about. I must be missing the point of this paragraph.

> > wrote:
> > > [...] though I prefer cooperation, I realize that all may
> > > never feel this way. I am opposed to giving away the store, without
> > > anything in return, because I believe mutuality and reciprocation are
> > > what guarnatees cooperation, not noble words.
> Why not open up more stores by enabling a lot of other people to
> do so that wouldn't otherwise? Is this not helpful to the
> causes we care about?

I didn't understand the point of including (either part of) this interaction.
I disagree with Spudboy's desire for reciprocity as I think I said. Trade is
not a prisoner's dilemma, so it's not clear that tit-for-tat is the winning
strategy. When either side refuses to cooperate, both sides lose, so there's
little advantage in defecting first.

What are you trying to say in your response to Spudboy? Another organization
I give money to is the Institute for Justice, which fights laws that make it
illegal for people to start businesses in many places around the country.
They fought the taxi industry in Las Vegas which was preventing people from
starting shuttle services in underserved (minority, mostly) areas of the city.
 They fought the regulators of the cosmetology and beauty parlor business (I
think in California) over the rights of people to charge money for braiding
people's hair without getting a license that included no training on braiding,
and was mostly an anti-competitive measure limiting entry to beauty parlors.

I realize that many of you believe that one country can take over an industry
by subsidizing it in their own country, but I don't think there are cases
where that lasts. This seems the same accusation commonly leveled at
monopolies, that they will suffer losses in the short term in order to gouge
in the long term. It doesn't happen in the real world unless a government is
preventing competition from entering.


It is easy to turn an aquarium into fish soup, but not so easy to turn 
fish soup back into an aquarium.
-- Lech Walesa on reverting to a market economy.
Chris Hibbert

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