What many people call “transportation” . . is at its very essence not about roads or bridges, nor vehicles or technology, and not even about money. Above all it is about people, their needs, fears, desires and ultimately the decisions they make. And the backdrop — real and mental — against which they make those decision. The planner and decision maker needs to know more them and take this knowledge into the center of the planning and policy process. What makes them tick, individually and collectively. What do they want and what they are likely to resist. And people, as we all know, are intensely complicated, personal and generally change-resistant. . But if we take the time and care we can start to understand them, at least a bit better. Which is a start.
Surprise! I am at my desk and your email asking me about an eventual independent “peer review” on the current state of science and accomplishment under the heading of Circular Economy arrived moments ago and is staring at me. In fact I was at a conference on just this topic in another country, which was OK, except that I could have given virtually all the talks myself.
I didn’t learn very much, which was disappointing. Waste of time, except it got me thinking more about one aspect of the circularity problem. In brief, most of the elements in the periodic table are now “in play”, and most of them are really “hitch-hikers” obtained from the ores of major industrial metals (copper, zinc, aluminum etc.).
With straight faces, the salesmen for the Trump tax cut have promised a miracle: increased corporate profits, a surge of investment in CAPX, more and better jobs with higher pay, all to be paid for by accelerated economic growth. In fact, the all-white, all male finance committees of both Houses of Congress, with Treasury Secretary Mnuchin and Chief Economic Advisor Hassett say that the US will grow at 3% p.a. or more for the next ten years – no recessions – and that the tax cuts will actually generate a profit for the government of $300 billion in that time. Sadly (and no irony intended) this combination of goodies is a pipe dream. In the next few paragraphs I will explain why, and why Trump and the Republicans are selling snake oil to the suckers. What is surprising is how many financial professionals are buying it.
Can inequality within and between societies be explained in terms of merit and intelligence, or are the most important determinants of inequality beyond individual control? Both economist Henry George and geographer Jared Diamond essentially asked this same question, examining the fundamental forces that have shaped human history. They come to startlingly similar conclusions. These similarities have not, until now, been connected and compared so directly.
One day, a very long time ago and in a faraway place you have probably never heard of, or so the legend goes, a huge forest fire was raging all around the countryside. All the animals were terrified, running around in circles, crying and helplessly watching the impending disaster.
But there in the middle of the flames, and above all the cowering animals, was one tiny hummingbird busy flying from a small pond to the fire, each time fetching a few drops with its beak to throw on the flames. And then again/ And then again. And yet again.
After a certain time, an old grouchy armadillo, annoyed by this ridiculous useless agitation on the part of the hummingbird, cried out: “Tiny bird! Don’t be a fool. It is not with those minuscule drops of water one after the other that you are going to put out the fire and save us all! ”
To which the hummingbird replied, “Could be. But I’m still going to do my bit”.
It’s the weekend, the world economy is seriously wounded and running out of control. Hmm. Maybe it is time to sit back and consider all the issues and alternatives. So relax, take off your shoes, get comfortable and sit down to read this challenging 1992 essay by Robert V. Andelson.
“It would require less than the fingers of the two hands to enumerate those who, from Plato down, rank with Henry George among the world’s social philosophers…[He is] certainly the greatest that this country has produced. No man … has the right to regard himself as an educated man in social thought unless he has some first hand acquaintance with the theoretical contribution of this great American thinker.” ~John Dewey
With the fall of the Iron Curtain, people all over the world seem to be searching for a “Middle Way.” Except in North Korea and Cuba, doctrinaire Marxism has been repudiated virtually everywhere, even by the Left. Socialism has become passé. Its adherents are no longer riding the crest of the wave of the future. Even the most energetic apostles of federal meddling, John Kenneth Galbraith, for example, eschew the Socialist label.
Yet, on the other hand, the free market economists of the classical period would scarcely recognize Capitalism as we know it in America today. Such luminaries of industry and finance as Lee Iacocca and Felix Rohatyn advocate a measure of government intervention that would have seemed entirely insupportable to Cobden or Ricardo. In the political field, the major candidates differ mainly on matters of degree. It is not so much a question of “Shall there be federal aid?” as of “How much federal aid shall there be?” or of “How shall it be administered?”. As long ago as the late 1940s, “Mr. Conservative” himself, Senator Robert A. Taft, sponsored a bill for federal housing. Later, another Senate Republican leader, Bob Dole, was a major architect of the food stamp program, which is itself a dole, not just for the poor, but, above all, for agribusiness. A Republican president, Richard Nixon, instituted price controls, and cut the dollar loose from its last tenuous backing with the cynical quip, “We are all Keynesians now”.
But what we are presented with, from Right to Left, is not a coordinated structure embodying the best elements from both sides, not even a well-thought-out attempt at syncretism, but rather a bewildering welter of jerry-built solutions, each one based on political and emotional considerations and lacking any functional relationship to a unified system of socio-economic truth — let alone any rootage in a grand scheme of teleology or ethics.
A little Socialism here, and a little Capitalism there; a concern for the public sector here, and a concession to the profit motive there; a sop to the “underprivileged” here, and a bow to incentive there — put them all together, and what have you got? Nothing but a great big rag-bag, a haphazard pastiche of odds and ends without any bones and without any guts!
Nevertheless, there is a Middle Way. . .