blogorrhoea
Friday, April 25, 2003
 
What Tim and Alerion said.

 
Wednesday, April 23, 2003
 
A HALF-ARSED SPECULATION BY WAY OF HISTORICISING PHILOSOPHICAL SENTIMENT

Not much time to blog over the next few days, but a foetal thought stirs that I think I should jot down before it's forgotten. The time was when all stiff-collared gents of learning would agree that the Anglo-Saxon was a natural empiricist and the continental type very much the abstract rationalist.

Yet today we see Anglo Saxon rationalism dominate the world - in the way economics is done, in the way geo-political strategy is being conceived and in the moral pronouncements with which the whole package is sold to us.

The critics of economics seem to come from continental Europe (they call it autistic); the critics of the geo-political strategy seem to come from the continent (they think it has 'intellectual defects'); and the critics of the moralistic edicts seem to come from continental Europe (they call 'em one-sided).

It is the Anglo Saxon suit who spouts the universalist first principles, the mechanical reasoning, the abstract system-building, and who duly universalises the culmination of that reasoning.

Is this suspicion justified, I wonder. And, if so - whassit all mean?
 
Monday, April 21, 2003
 
THE PUBLICITY OF EMPIRE AND THE DEATH OF MEANING:
"WE'VE COME TO STAY, BUT WE'VE COME TO LEAVE"

... Senate Intelligence Committee Chairman Pat Roberts, a Kansas Republican, shied away from saying there would be a "permanent" U.S. military force in Iraq but said the United States would be required to keep a presence in the region.

"We've come to stay, but we've come to leave," Roberts said on "Fox News Sunday."

"I remember when President (Bill) Clinton indicated we would be in the Balkans for about a year. Now it's a decade later. We're still there, and we still need to be there," Roberts said. The NATO-led peacekeeping operation in Bosnia began in December 1995 and, although much reduced, still numbers over 10,000 troops.

Sen. Evan Bayh, an Indiana Democrat and member of the Senate Intelligence Committee, said he would expect U.S. troop presence to be "an evolutionary process" with a significant number early on until the situation settled down.

"We're going to have to be there for a while, not permanently, but for a while, because we don't want to win the war and then lose the peace," Bayh told the Fox program.

Pentagon adviser Richard Perle, one of the strongest advocates for military action against Iraq, was more optimistic, telling CBS's "Face the Nation" that "a transition could be short -- a matter of months. I would hope that it would only be a matter of months."

Former Secretary of State Henry Kissinger told CNN's "Late Edition" U.S. troops would likely "stay longer than two years."

Former CIA Director James Woolsey said the United States would have to maintain a military presence of "some substantial degree" in the Gulf region.
 
Sunday, April 20, 2003
 
GAR LIPOW'S (VERY INTERESTING) RESPONSE TO THE WALLERSTEIN PIECE
(for which, many thanks, Gar)

I'm in the final edit stage of a 20,000 word article on the very point I'm about to take issue with you about. You approvingly quote Wallerstein saying:

"There are really only two things Governments could do. One is that they could tax. You see the bill at this point for true clean up, and ... [i]t's an astronomical bill in point of fact. So where is that money going to come from? It can come from two places. We could increase the taxes absolutely significantly and collectively pay that bill and then the industries would yell correctly that they were being taxed out of
existence, or we could say to companies you have to internalize all costs. There are no costs that can be externalized. Every cost involved in production has to be taken into account by the enterprise and put into its bill and then they'll say we can't make any profit on this basis. They are correct."

Now externalities are a gigantic problem - and if not tackled are likely to lead to a scenario somewhere on the spectrum from Mordor to the Book of Revelations. But, it is not the case that these externalities would be so expensive to remedy that business would no longer make a profit.

Here is one small example:

A lot of industrial energy is spent on pumping. Virtually all pumping energy overcomes friction. If you make the pipes 50% fatter, you reduce friction by 85%. If you pay attention to the layout and lower the number of bends and twists and turns the pipe needs to go through - you cut that 15% by around another two thirds. It varies from case to case - but you can save at least 90% of power in most new pumping applications.

Why was this ignored? Most engineers will tell you that making the pipes fatter and eliminating the bends costs more than the energy saving is worth. Only it turns out that pumps are more expensive than pipes. And if you reduce pumping energy by 90% you also reduce the size of the pumps - which saves you more than the cost of the additional piping expense. So if you are building a new factory - using fatter better
laid-out pipes and smaller pumps will save you money before the first BTU of energy is saved.

And then you save 90% of your pumping energy besides.

This was only noticed in the early 90s. Powered pumping applications have been in place since at least shortly after the invention of the commercial steam engine.

And after it was discovered and publicized, most new factories still don't take advantage of it.

If, as my article does, you add up the costs of various ways of saving energy and materials (not including lifestyle changes) - you will find the world could sustainably have a per capita GDP equal to that of the United States. This would be true after population growth up to pretty much the maximum world population will reach; we could save the energy and materials at a cost less than we pay for using them now. This does not take externalities into account, but only technology we can buy at current market prices. That is the good news.

The bad news is that various structural flaws in both capitalism and markets suppress many of these potential savings.

Capitalism (and any market system) is all about bargaining power. Given equal potential dollar savings in materials or labor, owners gain greater bargaining power by saving labor. (Suppliers tend to suffer less from the loss of a single customer than workers do from the loss of a single employer.) See Marx on "Dead Labor" vs. "Live Labor".

Also structural flaws in markets, exaggerated by capitalism, tend to prevent people from doing the whole systems analysis that would let them see these savings. Markets encourage atomization, the reduction of humans to "black boxes" seen only in terms of inputs and outputs. To workers, especially skilled workers, being a black box increases bargaining power. If your employer or manager only knows your inputs and
outputs, then the process you use to transform them is your domain; this makes you a bit less easy to replace than if your employer knew everything. From the managers or owners point of view, this still is preferable to the alternative. While they would love to measure every detail of every process performed by every worker, it is not yet
possible. So focusing on inputs and outputs at least preserves measurability, and prevents excessive novel reading, Internet surfing and such at employers expense. See Marx on capitalists buying labor power and needing to extract labor from it.

Atomization does not only apply to capitalism though. In a market socialism that included a labor market, workers would still want to maximize bargaining power vs. other workers.

So you end up with two ways for this stuff to get missed - the system tends to hide some of them, and then blinds people so they have trouble seeing the savings even when they are not hidden.

Then externalities and conflicts of interest with specific capitalists come in. But they are secondary to the structural causes.



 
 
SNIPPED FROM YAHOO.COM/NEWS
"Pentagon Expects Long-Term Access to Four Key Bases in Iraq
Sat Apr 19, 2:55 PM ET By THOM SHANKER and ERIC SCHMITT The New York Times

WASHINGTON, April 19 The United States is planning a long-term military relationship with the emerging government of Iraq (news - web sites), one that would grant the Pentagon (news - web sites) access to military bases and project American influence into the heart of the unsettled region, senior Bush administration officials say.

American military officials, in interviews this week, spoke of maintaining perhaps four bases in Iraq that could be used in the future: one at the international airport just outside Baghdad; another at Tallil, near Nasiriya in the south; the third at an isolated airstrip called H-1 in the western desert, along the old oil pipeline that runs to Jordan; and the last at the Bashur air field in the Kurdish north ... as the invasion force withdraws in the months ahead, turning over control to a new Iraqi government, Pentagon officials expect to gain access to the bases in the event of some future crisis ... the military relationship could become one of the most striking developments in a strategic revolution now playing out across the Middle East and Southwest Asia, from the Mediterranean to the Indian Ocean ... A military foothold in Iraq would be felt across the border in Syria, and, in combination with the continuing United States presence in Afghanistan (news - web sites), it would virtually surround Iran with a new web of American influence ... These goals do not contradict the administration's official policy of rapid withdrawal from Iraq ... "

Of course not.
 
political economic and cultural observations in the register of dismal dilettantism

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