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Candidate-Researcher Challenges Politicians and...
Standard Economics

© 1998-2000  Philip Hyde, PO Box 622, Cambridge MA 02140 USA

Hyde is actually playing for much bigger stakes than Congressional seats, even a House seat so famous as that of the 8th Massachusetts, once held by Honey Fitz, Mayor Curley, JFK, Tip O'Neill and Joe Kennedy Jr., or a Senate seat held the last 37 years by Ted Kennedy.

Hyde's game is to articulate and solve the long-standing Economic Puzzle - then to get there "first with the most" in terms of polishing and publishing the solution.  His first cut, a handbook titled Timesizing, Not Downsizing is available online from *Amazon.com.

For Hyde, these campaigns are research projects in which the voters of the diverse 8th district and state of Massachusetts are assisting. The Economic Puzzle is so deeply embedded in our assumptions, that even identifying it (let alone solving it) is a long exercise in getting Blinding Glimpses of the Obvious, one after another after another. The realization that we've got the most time-saving technology and the least time in the world has so far occurred mainly just to our senior citizens as they watch what's happening to their children and grandchildren. (It has also occurred to a few single parents and a few of our health professionals, such as the Worcester nurses currently striking against mandatory 16-hour shifts.) This kind of research needs you to come at it from many different moods and angles, and that's where these campaigns come in. How else can you access so many complete strangers to talk to about our future?

This quest alone is worthy of the fame of these offices and the millennial year 2000 - a quest where science briefly courts politics, then bypasses it to steer a simpler, straighter course in human progress where it really counts, in
the technology of sharing and the long-term goals of ecology.

Hyde feels that out of 435 Representatives and 100 Senators, mostly career politicians and lawyers, we need one with insight into the deep structure and long-range future of our economy.  (And we're speaking of "puzzle" as in "Normal Science as Puzzle-Solving," which is chap. 4 in Thomas Kuhn's *Structure of Scientific Revolutions - likely the shortest and sharpest application of the Whorf-Sapir Hypothesis, that your language determines the ideas, knowledge and technology of which you are capable.)

The Economic Puzzle has been described in many ways by many people. Perhaps the best description is given by

G. K. Chesterton's pan-utopian flaw.
The deepest level of the problem might be defined as "unbalanced concentration of wealth" resulting from society's split between those with time and no money, and those with money and no time.

If 1% of the population can concentrate 99% of the wealth, our GDP (the productivity and efficiency of our mfg and service sectors) does not matter, our M1 money supply does not matter, our level of technology does not matter, we still have a dirt-poor, miserable, insecure, underlyingly third-world economy with weak markets for our productivity. And in America and across the globe today, we are constantly moving toward a concentration of 99% of the wealth within 1% of the population.

Why is that bad? Because beyond a certain level, concentration passes a point of diminishing returns and starts to undermine itself. It starves the markets away from its own necessarily huge investment targets and leaves no secure market-supported safe haven for itself. It flees from one symbol of safety to another, first tech stocks, then T-bills, then currency, then gold, then to some kind of physical storage, such vaults at the bank or mattresses at home. Recall that this was the situation in the Great Depression. It's not that the money isn't there - it is there, but it's not being used.

The self-contradictory aspect of wealth concentration is captured by two "BGOs" (blinding glimpses of the obvious). One was expressed by labor leader Walter Reuther when industrialist Henry Ford was showing him through a newly mechanized auto plant in the late 1930s. Ford said, "Let's see you unionize these robots" and Reuther's retort? - "Let's see you sell them cars." This was expanded upon by President Franklin Roosevelt in 1937 in addressing a special session of Congress called to confront the rising unemployment of that year, "What does the country ultimately gain if we encourage businessmen to enlarge the capacity of American industry to produce unless we see that the [size and] income of our working population actually expands to create markets to absorb that increased production." (Quoted in Jeremy Rifkin's *End of Work, p. 29.)

In our lifetime, the problem of wealth concentration is made urgent by two other problems:

  1. Emerging ecological constraints bar us from simply pushing for a bigger and bigger production-employment-consumption "pie," and force us instead to do "more with less," that is, to develop cleaner and more efficient technology, lifestyles, and pie slices.
  2. Accelerating technological efficiency bars us from simply assuming that "work breeds work" and forces us into flexible and smooth work-sharing technology.
In the original Utopia (1516), Thomas More neglected the share definition challenge. Same with the great Buckminster "Bucky" Fuller in his many books, such as *Critical Path, though he called for a new global accounting system. The concept of equalizing dynamically on a flexible range never occurred to them, though Bucky rightly snubbed the idea of equalizing statically on a rigid point (p. 89). In fact, Bucky's focus on the "scarcity" formulation of the problem misled him into thinking the solution was simply "abundance." This led to his naive fixation on technology and his succumbing to the Chesterton trap, his defeat by the killer residual problem that "No matter how great the abundance, if 1% of the population owns 99% of it, you still have scarcity," and his resort to charity in the form of "lifelong research fellowships," despite the fact that any economy that relies on charity for vital functions is to that extent lethally flawed.

When an erstwhile regular guy like Bill Gates can concentrate 100 billion dollars' net worth and start functioning as one of "them," you know it can't be a matter of simple abundance. Something more is required. And it isn't really a matter of simple sharing. Sharing is all too often discussed in primitive terms, like charity and redistribution, both vulnerable to Milton Friedman's lethal question, "Who decides?!" - and since the answer usually involves black&white idealism, it is rightly dismissed by Friedman's sneering comment, "Doing 'good' with other people's money!" Other people's money, whether via redistribution (public charity) or private charity is never an efficient or sustainable solution. The only adequate answer to "who decides?" is "let the market decide", or as close to that as we can come if we're talking about a market precondition, as here. The whole solution can be designed, not in terms of redistribution, but of reinvestment. We don't need redistribution - we need reinvestment in our own markets at unprecedented, colossal levels. What is needed is reinvestment at colossal levels (relative to today) in our own domestic consumer base, that is, in employees and their earnings, and a mechanism to determine what those levels are. And this takes a lot of design.

But isn't it high time that our social technology caught up with our computer technology? Isn't it time we lavished some of the hours and hours we spend on code design and programing on economic design and programing? "It's nasty work but somebody has to do it."

This is what Hyde is about - the "assembly language programing" of social progress. Most people stop at the platitude level. Hyde delves deeper. He wants real social progress in his lifetime. And he is prepared to maintain an internal age of about 8 in order to pursue the economic design calling (i.e., to be able to "operate on his own retinas" and keep getting those Blinding Glimpses of the *Obvious). To date, we've mistaken technological glitz for social progress and gotten awfully self-congratulatory about it. Gene Roddenberry and his "wagon train to the stars" (Star Trek) mistook technological whizzbang for social progress. Ditto Alvin Toffler and his *Future Shock. Ditto even the great Bucky Fuller himself with his memorable one-liner - "The real history of humanity is not, with Marx, the economic history of class struggle but the history of technology."

Says Hyde, "I always hunched there was something superficial about a simple focus of technology. I now focus on something deeper in the history of language, namely, the history of sharing and the evolving technology of sharing - because that's what enables progress in variability and survivability. As someone once said, 'Evolution is a vast long-term trend away from greater violence and drama toward greater gentleness and variety.' Variability itself is fingered as the critical variable of all time in Ernst Mayr's *Populations, Species and Evolution (p. 398). That means we have to maximize harmonious diversity, which, despite its paradoxical nature, is as good a definition of 'beauty' as there is."

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