Monday, November 17, 2008

Building Economic and Social Models-

Occasionally I spend some time speculating about how the world will be in the not-too-distant future. At times my intuitive speculations work out. I foresaw the period of economic stability in the 1990's, and was actually surprised that the bubble burst so far from the turn of the century. We had five more years than I anticipated.

What was my prediction based on? Mostly my understanding that people don't really want to mess with something that is working well at the beginning of a period of prosperity and stability. I remembered the periods of inflation and shortages of fuel and some items such as sugar. Most people making decisions were familiar with those things, as well. Huge interest rates, big swings in the market.

I think that most of the people monkeying with the system gave up after those volatile times, and the economy was permitted to flow more naturally and freely. As it stabilized and some emergent technologies began to integrate into the general flow of the economy, nobody wanted to do anything particularly radical.

Perhaps the best example was when the Republicans pretty much reelected Bill Clinton for his second term. Not that anyone was actually thinking that Clinton was responsible for the period of prosperity. Just that nobody wanted to alter things too much. Don't mess with it. Let it grow naturally.

So, we had a good run. However, it became comfortable enough for some people who made a crap load of money in this period to try to turn that crap load into a shit load of money. Monkeys. It finally tipped a bit, and other monkeys put in their hands to get a piece before it all fell apart.

Of course, emerging economies such as China and India had a significant impact as well. It shifted the demand side of the equation and certainly opened things up for speculation. The comfortable became uncomfortable, and they began trying to control things. Too many monkeys.

Along with this is the unknown element of multinational corporations. People could no longer align their interests simply along national lines.

Add to the mix the massive flow of information across the Internet. Not just "things I want to know" information. Money. Property. The blurring of the lines between virtual worlds and the world we perceive as real. Information is power, but power flowing out of control is chaotic. It is explosive.

While I truly believe in Libertarian principles, I recognize that they won't really form the foundation for a model for societies or their economies. I will continue to promote liberty, because I see it threatened. However, the Libertarian model really won't work.

I really can't come up with a model. The world has become smaller even in my individual experience. In recent years I have interacted with people around the world. I have touched and been touched by people in distant lands and different cultures via the Internet. Each day, as I reach out through the new media, I am changed and being changed.

A small world does not really allow for great personal liberty. In this I think Japan is a model. A large population living in a limited space created a culture that is not particularly Libertarian. It is a culture that is ruled by conventions.

That being said, Japanese people have found ways to be creative and inwardly free. I do not know how to think and feel Japanese, so I really don't know to what degree an individual living as a member of that culture might long for and realize personal freedom. Still, when I look upon that culture from outside I see things that look like individual expressions of personal liberty.

I don't think Japan is our model, however. Nor the changing cultures and economies of Europe. American culture has a large influence, but it is not big enough for the world. For all of our American bluster and shared egos, we are not sufficient. The Neo-Cons are wrong in thinking that America should dominate the world in this century. We are not big enough.

No existing nation or culture is big enough. This is a huge shift, and nobody really has a model that is comprehensive enough to represent what is going on in the world.

I will keep watching, and keep thinking. I may not have a model, but my intuition tells me that things will be exciting.

Exciting, in the best and worst senses of the word.

1 comment:

Harvey said...

One must never forget the old Chinese curse: "May you live in interesting times!" Both China and Japan, not to mention Korea, were historically reactionary with regard to any change in established culture. They still are, even though Communist China's recent history and development might seem otherwise. It does not surprise that Communist revolution has persisted only in China.