Facebook Essay, August 15 2012

Kind of the problem with Greece and Spain and Portugal. Ireland, too; none of them have robust manufacturing sectors. Spain, for example, has a number of highly-developed greenhouses on the South Coast that provide produce to the north of Europe, but their homegrown Fiat (Seat) isn’t exported very much if at all. Some touristy stuff manufactured, but nothing like what Finland does. Finland produces cell phones, has a heavy shipbuilding industry to produce cruise ships, stuff like that, and it’s comparatively tiny. You simply cannot have an economy nowadays that lives and dies with food production; one bad harvest year can virtually wipe out the nation. The economy must be diversified and must have a manufacturing base that’s competitive with the world. Some of that manufacturing must be for export; tourism brings in foreign exchange, but again, you’re now dependent on forces beyond national control. You must attract tourists, but they must also be able to afford to come for a stay. When their economy tanks, so does yours, if this is your source for foreign exchange.
And of course, that economy must be ‘balanced’ if it’s to remain viable over years. It has to have a domestic market (this is where China lags; small domestic market for what they produce, large export market), an export market (the US and Western nations have the domestic market, but the export one has lagged badly), and in so doing, you spread your economy worldwide. Only when the world economy tanks does yours feel the pinch.
I notice Romney is now claiming that if he’s elected, the US will be exporting petroleum within a few years. Duh. It’s going to happen, regardless. I could be president, or my dog could be; it will still happen because production is rising as old fields are revived by fracking. Plus there’s more offshore and in the Arctic, and sooner or later those will be exported. Gas too…right now, it’s so cheap that the gas producers aren’t really making much of a profit.
A long term problem that hasn’t been addressed by anyone: what do you do with all those people, all those workers, when you no longer need them for production? Virtually everything is becoming mechanized and roboticized; this is even affecting China which long relied on cheap human labor. What to do? Eventually, you’re going to need some sort of dole system or you face rioting and revolution. You cannot simply tell millions of people that they aren’t needed, go starve quietly in the corner and don’t bother your betters.
Such jobs as ARE available require advanced eduction. Not everyone s suited for this, but we must make certain that everyone who CAN benefit from education has access to it. And then somehow the fruits of that education and those machines must be available to sustain those who aren’t suited for functioning in a high-tech, high-education world. There must be some sort of work found even for the unemployable. If this seems unacceptable, then think about involuntary sterilization to reduce world populations. Unacceptable too? Whatever is done, it won’t be nice, or comfortable, or simple. Maybe global warming will do it for us; kill off a few billion, make much of the Earth uninhabitable for a time. Or trigger a global cooldown which will do the same.
I don’t see any chance that our political ‘leaders’ will do anything worthwhile. Any of them.

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