Economics is an engineering challenge
The Wall Street vs Main Street dichotomy has been so overused in the news that it is sickening. It is time to replace this loaded married couple terminology with another. The first reason for this is that WS vs MS split has now become a political slogan and a heuristic and thus does not promote thoughtfulness. The second more important reason is that it obscures the reality of what the real economy is.
“Wall Street” has come to symbolize just meaningless paper shuffling gambling that is the financial sector. “Main Street” apparently includes everything else such as telemarketing, McDonalds service, prostitution, web design, and of course industrial production. Politicians tend to lump service industry like catering (and other demeaning unpleasant tasks that poor people are forced into to not die of starvation or exposure) and actual industry like engine part manufacture together. Since financial sector is a service sector (smart people overworking in mind numbing meaningless tasks to make the rich richer) we see how WS vs MS is not a real dichotomy at all due to the enormous overlap in classification.
Will the real economy please stand up?
I have written how the field of economics the way we know it today is so wasteful and separated from real empirical investigation as to require the term stupid. Any Western Economics 101 course will still dutifully inform that it is a study on how to deal with allocation of finite resources. In that, economists not only failed but have made the global situation much worse. Western economists are not only as ideological as Soviet economists were but have now devolved to the level of historians who study past moves made by powerful/wealthy people. When they are not busy defending themselves as real scientists through utilization of advanced statistics (to study decisions made by oligarchs as if they were orbits of planets) they are cheerleaders and cautious financial planners for rich people who don’t like to think. An analogy can be made with French generals confident that the Maginot line will hold against the tried and true offensive methods. It is no surprise that in the latest crisis of capitalism, most people regardless of their class have lost money. Economics today is not only failing the poor but a large portion of the very rich as well (who then find themselves one day with only the grand stories of their parents).
The term economics has been tainted to such a degree that it may be too late to reclaim it. Lets look at the definition of another word and see if it has any application to dealing in a world of finite material and human resources.
“Engineering – The creative application of scientific principles to design or develop structures, machines, apparatus, or manufacturing processes, or works utilizing them singly or in combination; or to construct or operate the same with full cognizance of their design; or to forecast their behavior under specific operating conditions; all as respects an intended function, economics of operation and safety to life and property.”
Now we’re getting somewhere.It appears that economists have wanted to be engineers all along but at some point wandered off into the land of the stupid in an effort to create some ideological justification for the Cold War (follow the money trail of rich people or their puppet government organs funding the research of these brave “scientists”). Of course after a couple of generations (of economics being a creative attempt to demonstrate to the world why Western oligarchy should continue) this mutated pseudo-science has become entrenched. Youngsters on the scene either would not be hired to teach if they disagreed with the pseudo-science faculty or wanted to demonstrate how much of the nonsense they understand and thus left their brain at the door to please the older generations of these so called academics.
Most people assume that the point of economic advice would be to make everybody better off materially in the end. This means make everybody in either one nation, region, or the whole world have more access and control over resources which in turn would make the average human being on the planet healthier, more educated, happier, and better able to make use of his or her physiological talents for self-actualization or profit.
Only engineering can do that. Humanity’s only way of dealing with finite resources is to better utilize these resources. This requires ever rising level of energy available to humanity to operate machines. The process is very simple:
1) Always develop new ways to make construction of power plants faster and cheaper. One assumes mass scale production of parts to make power plants. The goal is to pop them out like one does a supercomputer with periodic retooling as better machines to make parts are invented (Japanese lead the way currently in replacing even the cheapest of human assembly line workers so factories can run almost full time).
2) Keep increasing production of ever more efficient and powerful power plants.
3) Utilize ever rising levels of energy to extract, refine/recycle, and put into use ever rising quantity of natural resources for mass construction of high tech farms throughout the world. With enough energy and materials enclosed farming with artificial sunshine/weather control is more than possible from the Sahara desert to the frozen tundras. Keep increasing numbers and quality of these farms until vast majority of people spend almost no caloric energy and productive time working to feed themselves. Keep in mind that organic chemical free food in these farms is only a question of cheap energy and materials. There is absolutely no need to send food thousands of miles across the planet and stuff it full of preservatives so this mummified food survives the journey.
4) Utilize same rising level of energy and labor freed from farming to build ever rising number of high tech places of learning throughout the world. Keep improving the efficiency of these places of learning as one does the farms. One assumes a type of modular construction so parts of the places of learning and the high tech farms can be recycled every few years and replaced with newer systems.
5) Utilize the mind power of billions of newly educated people to build better systems of power plant part production to keep churning out more energy generating sources and to reorganize socioeconomics to that end.
Rinse repeat. Rinse repeat. Rinse repeat. Rinse repeat. Rinse repeat until the solar system is colonized and humanity is in a post-scarcity transhuman world. Keep constructing better energy sources beyond this point as well naturally.
All human politics should be directed towards power generation. This means more engineers and scientists in government instead of lawyer playboys. Chinese leadership is full of engineers and this is reflected in China’s growth rate. Current batch of economists should be driven out of government policy decision making as one would drive out the clergy giving advise to the government. Every government should have an engineering ministry and we should hear of “president’s engineering advisers” instead of economic advisers. This is the only way to prevent large scale starvation for a large part of humanity in the relatively near future (not even mentioning maintaining living standards).
The side effects of such energy driven policy would of course be the possibility of other engineering marvels in the aid of construction of the power plants and places of learning. Some examples are frictionless magnetic levitation transport methods. Even today, high speed trains are already cutting into airline profits as seen by 80% drop in airfares in parts of China. To make full circle, the goal of economics should always have been to allow humans to spend next to zero caloric energy on travel, food, education, safe/pleasant shelter, etc. Instead humanity saw a worsening of their situation where even people in the Western oligarchies spend a lot of their caloric energy to get paper to exchange for traveling from point A to point B. If this continues only the rich will be able to have relatively pleasant transcontinental travel (with the poor being crammed into large slow moving ships like in the 19th century if they scrape enough for a ticket).
The goal of all governments historically is to constantly raise the minimum level of material comfort for their citizenry. This means an energy driven policy. Governments that fail in this goal are always replaced sooner or later. The transition period from today to tomorrow will require all efforts towards nuclear power. Even the American oligarchs understand the precariousness of their position as shown by president Obama’s adoption of McCain’s nuclear energy policy in his state of the union speech. Yes, solar has to be pursued but only as a bell and whistle to the nuclear power plant production. If one looks at how much land area is needed for wind/solar (and power needed to extract resources to then make parts for the wind/solar machines) to make as much energy one modern power plant, there is no contest. Green tech today is but another bubble for Wall Street and is a dead end economically and environmentally (solar for instance requires enormous amount of water that could be used to produce nutrient rich food).