The pattern nicely describes the dynamic advanced by Joseph Tainter in his seminal work, The Collapse of Complex Societies: namely that over-investments in complexity lead to diminishing returns. That is, as you keep making your systems extra-hyper-complex, you get less value back for doing it, until you get to the point where there’s no benefit whatsoever, and then the system implodes. And that is exactly what has happened with oil and the economy that was engineered to run on it, and the financial system that evolved to manage the wealth it used to produce.Here’s a how-de-do (the phrase is taken from that exemplar of arrant racism, The Mikado): http://www.wsj.com/articles/luxury-apartment-boom-looks-set-to-fizzle-in-2017-1483358401 Mr Shanghai (or Doha or Bishkek or Lubbock) billionaire takes the elevator down from his $60 million 70th-floor aerie, is bowed and scraped out the door into his Maybach (or Rolls or custom Tesla) and then finds himself in the same dreadful traffic jams and hopelessly overcrowded streets as the rest of us plebeians. He hates this, but since he has no “friends” (sic) other than people who, like himself, pay to attend charity functions and call that a social life, no standing other than the deference his zealous overtipping earns from certain headwaiters, what choice has he got? . This is the sublime irony of “duh Hamptons”: all these people forking over big money only to find themselves surrounded by people exactly like themselves, the very sort they’re seeking to avoid.
This is from my philosopher friend Alexander. Those who agree, raise your hands! There will always be a minority that do better than the majority and the trick seems to me to have a moral and ethical framework where the majority don’t destroy the minority and the minority in turn perform the necessary noblesse oblige to keep the majority reasonably contented and secure.
Alexander was responding to this from me in an exchange of emails: Still, too many people are doing not so well while a few are doing far too well for what they do, and in a popular democracy, this is bound to cause trouble or, at best, disruption. To my eye, the largest problem is that there are simply too many people in the world to be taken care of by present modes and styles of production. The issue then becomes, are we better served by “free” markets manipulated by government or by private influences? And if the latter have thoroughly corrupted the former, where’s the difference? Add technology to the mix, with its infinite power to distract as well as create or simplify, and it gets even more confusing. Dodd-Frank started out as seven typed pages. It is now several thousand pages long – and the irony is, the additional gobbledygook is 95% the creation of private interests implemented by lobbyists. As a character in my novel observes, “Complexity is the first refuge of a scoundrel.” Of course, much is traceable to the administration’s rejection of a simple protocol: in a crisis brought on by reckless or fraudulent banking practices, don’t punish banks, punish bankers! In the S&L crisis, over 1000 execs were sent to jail. There has been no recurrence.
Incidentally, Kunstler, posted below, has some illuminating observations on the overpopulation issue.
1.Still incomparable: http://www.mcclatchydc.com/news/nation-world/national/article123749584.html
2.followup to the Trump golf cause celebre: http://www.politico.com/story/2016/12/trump-biographer-golf-course-233092
3. This is just plain f***ing BRILLIANT! A MUST MUST MUST READ: http://kunstler.com/clusterfuck-nation/forecast-2017-wheels-finally-come-off/
Here’s a snippet to give you a sense of the piece: “Debt was the meat-and-potatoes of the Fed’s wizardry, but the “secret sauce” of Fed magic was fraud, in the form of market interventions, manipulations, regulatory negligence, and just plain systematic lying about the numbers that defined the economy. It amounted to nationalized financial racketeering. Under the consecutive Grand Vizierships of Greenspan and Ben Bernanke, control fraud (using official authority to cover up misconduct) was perfected by banking executives, eventuating in the mortgage securities fiasco of 2008, which took down the housing market and the economy. (That housing market, by the way, was made up mainly of suburban houses, the sine qua non of the greatest misallocation of resources in the history of the world.)”
And this: “The pattern nicely describes the dynamic advanced by Joseph Tainter in his seminal work, The Collapse of Complex Societies: namely that over-investments in complexity lead to diminishing returns. That is, as you keep making your systems extra-hyper-complex, you get less value back for doing it, until you get to the point where there’s no benefit whatsoever, and then the system implodes. And that is exactly what has happened with oil and the economy that was engineered to run on it, and the financial system that evolved to manage the wealth it used to produce.”