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Aug 20, 2009

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Rick McGinniss

"Finally, as I noted yesterday, many theologians are blind to the issues of production. They believe the goods we need are just there. The issue is how to distribute them."

I was talking to a friend about this issue yesterday and he pointed out to me that this mode of thinking is prevalent in the Star Trek movies (I wouldn't know as I am not a trekkie). In that world, he said, civilization has "advanced" to the point where there is no money because people work for free; simply for the joy of work and pride in their craft.

The catch, he said, is that they also have replicators. "Computer: coffee, black!"

Now, if we could just get our collective hands a few of those!

Michael W. Kruse

Interesting you should mention this, Rick. I've scribed some notes for a future post possibly titled, "From Rocks to Replicators." My thesis is that we should imagine the production of any product on a continuum of being caveman with only rocks as tools and being Trekkies with replicators that simply rearrange molecules into a desired form. The history of human production in many areas has become a progression along a line to the point that production is closer to a replicator than to rock.

Ironically, information technology and the relatively frictionless movement of goods is making a return to isolated communities, even isolated families, a greater possibility. Still need to process some more but you get the idea.

Star Trek, next to the Bible, contains the answers to most of life's deep questions. ;-)

Travis Greene

In Star Trek they really do have no scarcity. Replicators turn energy into matter, and energy is infinite. All thanks to technology and scientific advancement, and everybody lives in harmony and peace. It's modernity's myth with phasers. No wonder DS9 was my favorite series.

Re: local economies. I don't think those advocating a return to more local economies envision those as closed-off enclaves without intertrade, but something more along the lines of Chesterton's distributivism. Local co-ops, food, etc. In some ways, the fact that I can buy a pencil in seconds for pennies has some negative consequences, and I could probably stand to do a little more labor. Local foods in particular, while more expensive, have the advantage of being more secure and less damaging to the environment.

Would a return to something like that mean lower living standards? Yes, depending how they're defined. But maybe we shouldn't be eating fresh fruit all winter anyway.

Michael W. Kruse

"It's modernity's myth with phasers."

Nice!

Some day I need to a post or two distributism. I may touch on that same later in this series.

Some of work life has been in competitive intelligence. The first thing you have to do in CI is figure out the structure of the industry. Industries vary considerably based on the dynamics of the industry.

For example, are there lost of customers and few suppliers or maybe a few customers with a bunch of suppliers? If their are lots of customers with lots of suppliers, then you usually end up with wholesalers or middlemen who match up the two.

Hair cutters are a highly decentralized industry with no major corporations dominating the field. The industry does not lend itself to economies of scale that warrant bigness. Overnight package companies are few but huge in size. The infrastructure needs require it.

There are some industries that would not exist if there were no large corporations. So I don't attach any moral value to the size of a corporation necessarily. However, in Wikinomics, the authors make a case that the need for massive conglomerates is being diminished through communication technology, frictionless transportation, and mass collaboration. They suspect that the days of the international behemoth may be numbered. The cost advantages of their coordinating abilities are shrinking. I expect their right. But it is purely because the economic/technological landscape is shifting again, just as with the industrial revolution.

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