Analyzing World

Analyzing political and economic issues

Milton Friedman on John Maynard Keynes commentary

Posted by picard578 on September 7, 2014

Friedman again proved he had no idea about economics (he was actually never interested in economics per se, but in ushering a new era of utter deregularization, which would be highly profitable for capitalists, regardless of consequences for the economy – his father was a capitalist, and Friedman never forgot the problems he had with workers’ unions). “Prosperity” of the 1920s is what *caused* the Great Depression, because too much wealth was accumulated in too few hands. Since economy is about flow of money, it is normal that accumulation of wealth in hands of the rich harmed the economy and caused the depression. Another cause was financial deregulation, in particular deregulation of credit and installment buying and stock markets.

Inflation is not a problem as long as it does not go out of control (that is, hyperinflation), since normal inflation rates (in single-digit and low double-digit percentages) are too low to be actually noticed by the general populace. Even high double-digit inflation rates are manageable.

Another cause of problem is when economy varies too much, since people then loose faith in the system. That is where government comes in – it has to siphon off (reduce) the economic growth and accumulate funds so as to have money avaliable with which to prop up the economy in times of the economic recession. Government is the only body which *can* do that, since individuals will act along their basic instinct and will, in times of recession, reduce spending – thus harming the economy unless additional source of economic activity can be found. That source is the Government. Likewise, individual will increase spending in times of growth, thus fuelling the growth but also increasing problems once recession hits. As it can be seen, market, if left to itself, has tendency towards increasing the amplitude (magnitude of oscillations) – which in the long run is bad for the economy. It is duty of the government to reduce that amplitude and, in doing so, reinforce faith of people in the system, which in turn promotes the economic growth.

But of course, it is entirely possible that Friedman knew all of that – it’s just that Friedman was never one to let facts stand in the way of the ideology.

12 Responses to “Milton Friedman on John Maynard Keynes commentary”

  1. Chris said

    Have you ever considered why the East Asian economies (Japan first, then South Korea, Taiwan, and now China) rose so rapidly?

    Officially of course, the answer for China goes something like this. China suffered greatly under Mao (which it did in many ways), then it embraced Western neoliberal economics and prospered. Wages in the West are not sustainable so jobs are being outsourced. Problem is, it’s not true. Chinese “state capitalism” is very different from that of Western capitalism. This of course, is not what is really happening.

    Eamonn Fingleton is perhaps the best writer when it comes down to what really happened, but here is a breakdown. It’s a long story, but here it is.

    During WWII, Manchuria was a Japanese colony. They experimented with Manchuria and did quite a few terrible things but one thing they succeeded at was building up in some ways the economy through the Manchuria model, which they tried on Japan after in a desperate effort to fill in the gap. It did not succeed, but it was a lesson. After WWII, the leading military leaders in Japanese tradition resigned. Many committed suicide, disappeared in public life, and some were executed by the US.

    After that, a new generation of leaders took power. They decided to form a single party state (this became the LIberal Democratic Party and you can read about their electoral successes), while giving the appearance of a democracy. They then wiped out the fortunes of the wealthiest families and gave real control to METI and the Japanese Ministry of Finance. A very servile media was established where freedoms were generally restricted but in a “soft” manner. It is essentially a “soft authoritarian state”. The Ministry of Finance and METI, really ran the country combined with the Keiretsu (large companies).

    Of course the above is not radically different from the US, save for the fact that there is one party in control, and that they wiped out their wealthiest families. That’s where they diverge. The Ministry of Finance you see, and the Japanese companies are very long-term oriented. They do not care for profit for the sake of profit. They are interested more in having advanced manufacturing.

    In the 1950s, Japan undertook a series of efforts to improve quality, which has since become a national obsession. Ironically many of the methods were pioneered by an American, W. Edwards Deming, but US companies turned them away. Anyways, the Japanese aggressively took these on. How did they get the money? It is often said that the thing that they lack is capital. They suppressed consumption. The same way that everyone does in World Wars. Why is there suddenly so much money for military if there is a World War? A lot of it is due to debt. But much of it is because consumption is being suppressed. Note the very high savings rate in China and the East Asian economies today. The same idea is at work in China – perhaps as much as 30% of consumption is being suppressed. Essentially they’ve suppressed consumption in peacetime for decades the same way the West did in wartime, only they’ve done it for decades on end.

    Suppressing consumption though is not enough. That merely lowers short-term living standards. The money is invested towards certain industries. During the post-WWII era, in the case of Japan, that was in the fields of electronics, shipbuilding, and automobiles. They made consistent incremental improvements with the money from suppressing consumption, thereby allowing for much greater capital investment. Japanese companies are rarely profitable – they are going to try to max out revenue. The reason for maxing out revenue is because they want the work, to them the jobs, the technical know-how is the most valuable thing. Advanced manufacturing is not of course men working on an assembly line, it is very capital-intensive and labour un-intensive. Japan today dominates many of the producers goods, like robotics, machine tools, and similar areas. Only Germany compares among the Western nations in manufacturing leadership.

    Much has been press has been said of the end of Japan’s employment for life. There never was that. During the 1920s and 1930s, it was concluded that a Western employment system around “free markets” was not productive. Japan developed a system where people would work at the same company for many years. Bonuses would be awarded to those who performed each year, and for the very bad employees, they could be cut. The Japanese have a very strong work-ethic in that regard. At the same time, people were employed for long periods, under unions. These unions are not like those in the West – they are very long-term oriented too, with interests closely aligned with the employer. They know that their long-term interest is with employer success. At the same time, there is a very high degree of equality in Japanese society – comparable to that of the Scandinavians in fact. Management rarely if ever lays off employees in return and keeps the most valuable work in Japan (the low tech stuff being outsourced to Korea, Taiwan, and later China).

    There are advantages to this system. Employers are much more willing to invest in employees knowing that they will not leave. They are also willing to invest in capital advancements. In times of company difficulty, they do not layoff unless the company is in a dire situation. There are also equal pay rises (relatively) with some cultural limits on executive compensation. In return, employees rarely do anything disruptive to the company. They also do not resist things like automation, knowing that they will not be laid off, and turnover is low.

    One of the key purposes of this system is to gain lots of exports. When an industry is targeted, the Japanese would pay for the know-how on how to do things from the West, sacrificing short-term profits in exchange for transfer of knowledge. This happened in the automobile, electronic, and shipbuilding in the 1970s. Today it is happening in the field of aerospace technology. Exports are then sold abroad. If you were to go to Japan, you’d find that the Japanese pay higher prices for the same cars, electronics, and items that we buy in the West. Often the highest quality goods are not even found – they are exported to the West. A good example of this is Lexus automobiles, which started purely for export and only years after were introduced in Japan. This is the result of the suppression of consumption. They sell things at around variable cost abroad and often at a loss – all for the purpose of getting trade surpluses. That is also why they have managed to break the West’s domination on these industries. They also tend to aggressively subsidize these industries. This ideology ironically is looked down upon in the West – mercantilism.

    They have also excluded foreign imports as much as possible – foreign cars for example make up less than 4% of market share. Finally, to allow their domestic car makers as much power, they developed a system where you’d have to replace your vehicle (if you owned a car) every 3 years or pay a very expensive inspection. At the same time, they’ve tried to play the image that their markets are “open”. They have found non-tariff ways to keep people from buying non-Japanese too. Korea does the same thing – they have 98% autos being Korean. You see what happens is, if you buy a foreign vehicle, the government will do things like tax-audit you.

    By the 1980s, this system was becoming a threat to the US and Japan was rapidly ascendant. You can read about the rate of economic growth. It was clear that the US might react. So what did the Japanese do? They had a crash internally (that was purely their fault from unregulated finance, not unlike the West), but with a manufacturing based economy they recovered within a couple of years. They then exaggerated the consequences into a “Lost Decade” and made up stories like “end of unemployment for life”. At the same time, they’ve kept their currency, the Japanese Yen artificially low. Suffice it to say, the US has not complained about this since reading about the severity of the recession and since the 1990s, Japan’s surplus with the US has tripled. Abroad they have transferred some of the technologies to the other East Asians. Electronics and shipbuilding for example are areas that Japan deliberately transferred the know-how to South Korea and China. Japan has moved up the production ladder to more advanced things. They kept only the most advanced stuff for themselves.

    If you were to look elsewhere, you’d find other statistics. Japan has been deliberately understating its GDP. Other metrics tell the truth. Look at life expectancy for example. For a nation enduring a recession comparable to that of the 1930s, this would not make sense. Electricity consumption has gone up 30% per capita since the 1990s, but since then the Japanese have concealed there other data. I cannot find any more recent data past the late 2000s on electricity consumption. Japan also spends close to 4% of its GDP on R&D, among the highest. In the West, only the Scandinavian nations match that. In truth this may be an underestimate, much of their R&D is in the field of advanced manufacturing.

    Abroad, the Japanese have told their people to keep a low profile, sometimes feigning stupidity, and to be deliberately modest. They do not want to draw attention to themselves. They’ve also bought a lot of debt. Officially, Japan has a disaster on its hands, the GDP to debt ratio. Unofficially, much of that debt is because they have been financing their exports to the West through their raising debt. The Japanese hold 95% of their own debt. This is also useful for propaganda to fool the West into thinking they are in serious trouble. You will notice if you research that Japan holds one of the largest percentages of US debt. China is the largest debt holder abroad. Japan also has a very servile media, which keeps a lid on these things.

    The reason why this is done is because they do not want the West to understand what has really happened. South Korea, and Taiwan saw rapid growth under authoritarian leaders as well. The same thing is happening on a large scale now in China.

    This is not what you will hear in the Western world, suffice it to say. Officially, they are a Western-style democracy, they have embraced neoliberal economics, and they are still desperately trying to recover from the 1990s recession, while being deeply in debt. Not quite. I suspect they’ve fooled a great many people. The other thing they’ve done is used the Pentagon – the Pentagon gets to occupy Okinawa and a few bases, in exchange they got trade surpluses.

    Let me know what you think. This is mostly a summary of Eamonn FIngleton’s excellent work. It is not how economists will say what happened in the West, but it would explain a lot more than any of the neoliberal explanations.

    • picard578 said

      “Have you ever considered why the East Asian economies (Japan first, then South Korea, Taiwan, and now China) rose so rapidly? ”

      I think it has a lot to do with sense of social responsibility.

      “The reason for maxing out revenue is because they want the work, to them the jobs, the technical know-how is the most valuable thing.”

      Which is the correct outlook. And in fact, what you described is possibly the best system I have seen so far.

      “This ideology ironically is looked down upon in the West – mercantilism. ”

      It was actually a dominant ideology in the West in some periods – ones where West advanced the most.

      “In the West, only the Scandinavian nations match that.”

      Yes, and in the West, only Scandinavian nations are not in deep trouble.

      “It is not how economists will say what happened in the West, but it would explain a lot more than any of the neoliberal explanations.”

      Eh, neoliberalism is a self-serving BS, which is not meant to explain anything.

      • Chris said

        I suppose this system would be summarized as “benevolent dictatorship” combined with a state-capitalistic mixed-economy, manufacturing-centric, infrastructure-centric (some of that suppression of consumption is invested into other things like infrastructure), mercantilism, low-inequality society. That being said, worker’s rights are often sacrificed for the collective long-term good. The individual being subordinate to the collective good is a basic tenant of East Asian society.

        One detail I did omit is that there is a lot infrastructure building for this to work. Vertical integration is often an advantage as is subsidized development. The goal is to build up a very good infrastructure. Note the roll-out of high speed rail in Japan and China for example. Another example is earthquake preparation, for which Japan is the world leader of in most regards.

        – In China, entire citizens are built around a certain industry. Shenzen is where much of the world’s electronics are built. If you ever have the time to, read up about Foxconn and its vertical integration.

        – Toyota City in Aichi in Japan is where Toyota’s main plants are located.

        – Ulsan in South Korea is their manufacturing center, where Hyundai owns the largest automobile assembly plant, I believe the largest shipyard in the world, and SK Energy owns the second largest oil refinery.
        – Samsung City is the core of well you who’s insurance, IT, and construction. Samsung City is just a small part of the company and although not a large “city”, they have various plants throughout the nation. These plants share a very similar vertical integration model.

        This is how “Foxconn City” works:

        – People essentially live on the campus, they live in dormitories, they go to work there
        – The company is very vertically integrated, making its own machine tools, its own raw materials, etc.
        – Foxconn has set up their own entertainment and other amenities on the campus.
        – In order to save the company money, they do everything themselves. They raise their own chickens for the food for their employees, have a nearby fish processing plant, etc.
        – Foxconn barely breaks even despite all of this vertical integration and profits are always very thin. Despite this, they make about 40% of all the world’s electronics.

        This is one of the reasons why electronics have become much cheaper so rapidly. They barely break even but they’ve vertically integrated. It’s also why the West is unable to compete. It needs a level of long-term planning that few companies, and hardly any governments do well at.

        Samsung is very similar in Korea. This is what a Samsung phone plant looks like:
        http://www.businessinsider.com/samsung-gumi-factory-2014-5

        Eventually China, like South Korea, Taiwan, and Japan, will move up the value chain. China today is looked as if their goods were low quality …. the way Japan once was.

        This is essentially what the West is up against. This is also why auto, shipbuilding, and most heavy industries have disappeared in such a short amount of time. These private companies work very closely with the government for the long term national interest.

        The same thing is now happening to aircraft. I’ve linked this article, but it’s something very important that is not reported in the West:
        http://www.theamericanconservative.com/articles/boeing-goes-to-pieces/

        There are other factors.
        – Asian society puts a huge emphasis on education (I am of Chinese origin myself and I can attest first hand to this).
        – Asian people tend to save much more of their income as a habit too – which when combined with government policies lead to massive savings.
        – Environmental laws are sacrificed early on, but as the nation develops, re-introduced (arguably the West followed this model as well).
        – Corruption is “selectively enforced”, that is, when corruption is of advantage (such as boosting exports), it is let go of.
        – There is a much more collectivist culture in East Asian society than the West.
        – The average person is much more long-term oriented. It’s not just government policy – it is the average person on the street.

        The only real weak point I see is that Asian society is too authoritarian, too hierarchical. Rote memorization is emphasized too much as is the written exam. I guess the way to say it is that they have a really big OODA Loop. That being said, Western business is hardly “efficient” in this regard, but it is more “flat” and that may be an advantage. There is also a powerful shame culture (note the suicide rates in East Asian societies) and like the Anglo nations, a mentality of working long hours even when it does not boost productivity.

        The other bottleneck I see is natural resources. China has serious water and other shortages. Globally of course, there are natural resource shortages too. Overfishing has become an issue for example.

        I think that maybe only Germany (also very export-oriented with a strong manufacturing base and with the Euro, an undervalued currency), and the Scandinavian nations truly managed to match this, but even they are under threat.

        The question is, what will happen to the rest of the world?

      • picard578 said

        “That being said, worker’s rights are often sacrificed for the collective long-term good. The individual being subordinate to the collective good is a basic tenant of East Asian society. ”

        And one of the best parts of it.

        “This is one of the reasons why electronics have become much cheaper so rapidly. They barely break even but they’ve vertically integrated. It’s also why the West is unable to compete. It needs a level of long-term planning that few companies, and hardly any governments do well at. ”

        True. That is problem with Western culture, it is too focused in short-term goals.

        “The only real weak point I see is that Asian society is too authoritarian, too hierarchical. Rote memorization is emphasized too much as is the written exam. I guess the way to say it is that they have a really big OODA Loop. That being said, Western business is hardly “efficient” in this regard, but it is more “flat” and that may be an advantage. There is also a powerful shame culture (note the suicide rates in East Asian societies) and like the Anglo nations, a mentality of working long hours even when it does not boost productivity. ”

        Croatia for example has all of its shortcomings but none of its advantages. It wasn’t always that way, though, but we’ve accepted too many so-called “Western” values. Large families were once standard in Croatia for example, as was the basic human decency (you will help your neighbour/friend/family member in need). It is nowhere as prevalent today, though it is far more prevalent than in the United States.

        “Overfishing has become an issue for example. ”

        If humans were to turn vegan, a lot of issues might disappear.

        “I think that maybe only Germany (also very export-oriented with a strong manufacturing base and with the Euro, an undervalued currency), and the Scandinavian nations truly managed to match this, but even they are under threat. ”

        Agreed, and even Germany not so much.

    • Duviel Rodriguez said

      Inflation is not necessary or useful in my opinion. It is only due to currency manipulations and fiat-currency creation. Economic cycles/bubbles again are caused mostly by banking/currency games. In a stable currency economy there is no need for fiscal policies to control bubbles or revive economy because there will be no boom or bust. Unless its due to war, natural disaster and in those cases monetary policy is useless anyways.
      Currencies real role and best role is as a stable value means of facilitating exchange of goods and services. I like to forget about money when I talk macroeconomics. What is important is:

      1) Is the economy producing at maximum output of goods and services?
      • Full employment- thru internal consumption and exports
      • Worker output/efficiency
      • Properly skilled/trained workforce
      • Efficient use of energy and raw resources
      • Efficient use of technology
      • Infrastructure, energy grid, transportation networks (air, sea, land, and soon to be space), communication/broadband network, etc.
      • Fair reliable regulation and laws.

      2) Is the econ producing the goods and services needed? – Proper allocation of resources, farming practices, etc.

      3) Is their proper distribution of income/profits?- taxes, regulations, laws.

      4) Is there a balance between production and leisure. Legislated Work Week, FMLA, Holidays, etc.

      5) Is econ taking advantage of gains through trade without losing balance.
      These are my 5 basic measures and none are measured through $$, except for maybe #3.

      “How did they get the money? It is often said that the thing that they lack is capital. They suppressed consumption”

      Increasing exports most definitely does bring in money. Long-term suppression of internal consumption to allow for more export is a sound way of barrowing from the present to give to the future. A sort of investment. But, this is only sound if the currency you are getting in payment is not later devalued. And, only necessary if you cannot create currency at will (Asian nations like most, can’t get away with that) without any noticed devaluing of your currency or market inflation.
      USA has a different approach. The nation can consume more and increase living standards (as popularly measured) by importing heavily from nations with low-value currency. To off-set currency losses we simply create more currency so that our monetary base never declines. Actually has grown.
      All this importing in not an Issue as long as real unemployment in USA is kept low. Recently un-employment has been an issue but the USA is solving this problem through monetary/fiscal policy. Government is creating more currency that is being siphoned to un-employed in form of welfare.
      Not how I would do it in any of two cases but its working for both sides for now, sort of. Problem with USA system is booms and busts and inflation. Also, long-term this system is a Ponzi scheme and will collapse. This will force USA to close borders and adopt my preferred system (except without the gains in trade). The Asians on the other-hand will be screwed. They will have all this USA currency they accumulated now being worthless and basically their people suffered for decades (maybe longer) of suppressed consumption for no reason. A lost investment.

      “Why is there suddenly so much money for military if there is a World War? A lot of it is due to debt. But much of it is because consumption is being suppressed. Note the very high savings rate in China and the East Asian economies today. The same idea is at work in China – perhaps as much as 30% of consumption is being suppressed. Essentially they’ve suppressed consumption in peacetime for decades the same way the West did in wartime, only they’ve done it for decades on end”

      Money for war goods is not due to suppressed consumption. Money is simply printed or barrowed. Consumption is suppressed so that production resources can be diverted to production of war goods. If the war is kept in exterior and money can be created (like USA can), war is actually a type of fiscal stimulus that leads to post-war boom after period of domestic depression during war. Employment and wages are maintained yet domestic consumption depressed. After war, those saving to public go into consumption that had been repressed. Basically you skip dinner today to eat twice as much tomorrow.

      “The money is invested towards certain industries. During the post-WWII era, in the case of Japan, that was in the fields of electronics, shipbuilding, and automobiles. They made consistent incremental improvements with the money from suppressing consumption, thereby allowing for much greater capital investment. Japanese companies are rarely profitable – they are going to try to max out revenue. The reason for maxing out revenue is because they want the work, to them the jobs, the technical know-how is the most valuable thing”

      Using currency gains to invest in R&D, and build capital is probably the best idea. Great Idea! It takes away a lot of risk of wasting your investment. Even if the currency accumulated goes defunct the R&D and capital investment will not go away.

      “Japan developed a system where people would work at the same company for many years. Bonuses would be awarded to those who performed each year, and for the very bad employees, they could be cut. The Japanese have a very strong work-ethic in that regard. At the same time, people were employed for long periods, under unions. These unions are not like those in the West – they are very long-term oriented too, with interests closely aligned with the employer. They know that their long-term interest is with employer success. At the same time, there is a very high degree of equality in Japanese society”

      I have not studied the idea well enough to comment today. But, it sounds like it could work if done right. I really should study Asian economic systems more. I really want to look at Singapore better. As well as Nordic nations.

      “There are advantages to this system. Employers are much more willing to invest in employees knowing that they will not leave. They are also willing to invest in capital advancements. In times of company difficulty, they do not layoff unless the company is in a dire situation. There are also equal pay rises (relatively) with some cultural limits on executive compensation. In return, employees rarely do anything disruptive to the company. They also do not resist things like automation, knowing that they will not be laid off, and turnover is low”

      I like it, especially if generally employee compensation increases are linked to increases in firms’ value and profits. And, executive pay is linked to percentage of average worker pay with some minor variances to allow for merit pay. Self-interest and greed have to be accounted for in any system. People don’t work hard and innovate if not for those two factors. Generally.

      “If you were to go to Japan, you’d find that the Japanese pay higher prices for the same cars, electronics, and items that we buy in the West. Often the highest quality goods are not even found – they are exported to the West. A good example of this is Lexus automobiles, which started purely for export and only years after were introduced in Japan. This is the result of the suppression of consumption”

      It’s a heavy price to pay for your current population. The west is living it up on the Japanese peoples work. It might be (or have been) necessary for Japan to build today’s competitive industries but they are paying an economic price. When you play economic chess there is always give and take.

      “Japan has moved up the production ladder to more advanced things. They kept only the most advanced stuff for themselves”

      Many western countries have done same. We import cheap stuff from China but important industry and know how is kept domestic. Especially military. This has been faltering some of late due to corporate greed and power. Also the environment factor. China is ruining their environment to produce our stuff.

      “Electricity consumption has gone up 30% per capita since the 1990”

      Due to changing use of technology. All of today’s modern goodies are energy needy. Same could be said of US energy consumption.

      “Abroad, the Japanese have told their people to keep a low profile, sometimes feigning stupidity, and to be deliberately modest”

      Not sure this is possible for Japan or any open nation. It’s due to culture, not social experiment. Try telling Americans or French to be modest and humble, not in our culture traditions.

      “They’ve also bought a lot of debt. Officially, Japan has a disaster on its hands, the GDP to debt ratio. Unofficially, much of that debt is because they have been financing their exports to the West through their raising debt”

      Makes no sense, unless you are exporting at below your cost to produce there is no need to take debt to finance your exports. If selling below cost is what they are doing than that is not smart. I would think their government debt is due to governments high spending on domestic/military programs and low taxes, just like in USA.

      “The Japanese hold 95% of their own debt”

      This is good and bad. Depending on your intents. The good is that if and when government starts paying down debt it will be strengthening domestic cash flow. The bad is that you are taking from your people today instead of taking from Chinese. Also, If your government ever chooses to default and close down economy it will be doing so on backs of your own people.

      “South Korea, and Taiwan saw rapid growth under authoritarian leaders as well. The same thing is happening on a large scale now in China”

      If you are lucky enough to have benevolent rulers with the peoples interests being held primordial than yes a dictatorship has many benefits that democracies can’t duplicate. Problem is what if government is not benevolent. Requires a lot of trust and hoping for the best.

      I am not going to be able to continue to do this. Blogging is taking up too much of my time and effecting my profession. I am not going to be able to write long-detailed posts like this to often.
      Its fun but, I have to cut back some. I am already behind on work today.

  2. Chris said

    “Croatia for example has all of its shortcomings but none of its advantages. It wasn’t always that way, though, but we’ve accepted too many so-called “Western” values. Large families were once standard in Croatia for example, as was the basic human decency (you will help your neighbour/friend/family member in need). It is nowhere as prevalent today, though it is far more prevalent than in the United States.”

    Part of the changes seem to be the model has changed. Multi-generational houses used to be common. Nowadays its not uncommon for the child to move out after reaching adulthood and to go off to their own path in the world. That has both benefits and drawbacks.

    I’d say among the societies that have done well in terms of helping, Scandinavian nations have done it best overall. They also consistently rank as the highest too for the happiness overall. Canada from my experiences is also quite accepting I find as well, especially when compared to the US as people, but the state benefits are not nearly as good. I fear that all 4 nations (the 3 Scandinavian and Canada) are getting worse in this regard.

    I just don’t understand what about the neoliberal American model seems to hold so much appeal.

    “If humans were to turn vegan, a lot of issues might disappear.”

    Maybe. The question is, can we. I’m a former vegetarian myself – I quit due to declining health.

    But I can see a society that ate relatively low meat being beneficial. The industrial farming model though has got to disappear somehow. Probably a result of neoliberal economics too.

    “Croatia for example has all of its shortcomings but none of its advantages. It wasn’t always that way, though, but we’ve accepted too many so-called “Western” values. Large families were once standard in Croatia for example, as was the basic human decency (you will help your neighbour/friend/family member in need). It is nowhere as prevalent today, though it is far more prevalent than in the United States.”

    I’ve always wondered what the world would look like if governments applied the scientific method.

    As it stands, a disproportionate number of politicians today are lawyers or business people.

    The problem is, what is needed for Western law is often at odds with science. Lawyers are taught to win a justice case, to manipulate the truth, and those who do it best are the ones that become successful. It also makes it possible to promote ideologies. Science on the other hand requires a dispassionate search for truth and to accept inconvenient facts.

    China may be the closest thing. They are one of the few governments that is authoritarian and is actually scientific in some regards (although far from perfect … corruption for example is endemic). Many of the top leaders are engineers or scientists. Engineers of course like to build things. But when it comes to public policy, what often happens is, instead of implementing changes nationally, they will try something first on a small population district and see if it went as expected, then try to figure out what went right and wrong. If satisfactory, then it is applied to the nation as a whole.

    It’s not a perfect system. Engineers have their own grandiose ideas (The Three Gorges Dam being an example). But it is probably better than having money spent for banks and the very wealthy.

    Why do we not elect say, scientists, may be historians too? Such people are more interested in establishing truth. Perhaps they are a threat to voter’s most cherished beliefs.

    • picard578 said

      “I just don’t understand what about the neoliberal American model seems to hold so much appeal. ”

      Easy and quick profits for capitalists – and remember that capitalists control the world.

      “But when it comes to public policy, what often happens is, instead of implementing changes nationally, they will try something first on a small population district and see if it went as expected, then try to figure out what went right and wrong. If satisfactory, then it is applied to the nation as a whole. ”

      Quite clever approach.

      “Why do we not elect say, scientists, may be historians too?”

      First Croatian president was a historian. And he was the best out of three so far.

      “Such people are more interested in establishing truth. Perhaps they are a threat to voter’s most cherished beliefs.”

      I’m not sure voters have much impact on who gets elected.

      • Chris said

        “Easy and quick profits for capitalists – and remember that capitalists control the world.”

        I can see that – easy profits is the only logical explanation that I can think of. It keeps the rich richer. Whenever there’s money involved, there will be efforts to censor truth.

        – Tobacco industries
        – Defense industries
        – The junk food industry
        – The oil and coal industries

        There’s more where that came from. In the US, the Religious Right wants Creationism to be taught in schools. Then there’s also the “literalist” movement, which believes that the Old Testament of the Christian Bible should be interpreted literally and as a moral guide.

        “Quite clever approach.”

        It was learned from years of hard lessons I understand. China suffered from a famine during the Great Leap Forward worse than that of the 1930s famine in the Ukraine.

        Perhaps one of the biggest advantages the East Asians have is that there is less attachment to an ideology, although corruption is still a serious problem.

        “First Croatian president was a historian. And he was the best out of three so far.

        I’m not sure voters have much impact on who gets elected.”

        I guess so.

        If voters had a choice, we’d probably get in most circumstances a Socially Democrat (and real Social Democracy, not a Party that says it is and embraces neoliberal economics), and progressive changes towards a more rational society.

        The other issue is that the scientific method needs to be embraced. I think that the scientific method should be taught at a very young age to children (perhaps 8-10). In Canada, it is taught in middle school (around 13-14 for most children), although they never really drive it home – it’s own use is in science class, not everywhere in life.

      • picard578 said

        “There’s more where that came from. In the US, the Religious Right wants Creationism to be taught in schools.”

        I don’t see why not, as long as it is taught alongside other theories. Schools should not teach “facts” but rather, they should focus on critical thinking.

        “Then there’s also the “literalist” movement, which believes that the Old Testament of the Christian Bible should be interpreted literally and as a moral guide.”

        Yeah, I know that Biblical texts have been proven as mostly historically accurate (Noah Ark’s might have existed, and there certainly were several localized massive floodings – Black Sea flooding, for example, and if there was an asteroid strike after humans have appeared, then a large portion of the globe might have been flooded; in fact, I remember it mentioned that fossils of animals have been found where they clearly didn’t belog – mammoths in caves, for example, so such strike is likely), but creation of the Earth in 7 days? I’m not ready to believe that.

        “I think that the scientific method should be taught at a very young age to children (perhaps 8-10).”

        Agreed.

        “In Canada, it is taught in middle school (around 13-14 for most children), although they never really drive it home – it’s own use is in science class, not everywhere in life.”

        I think that logic, sociology, philosophy and history should be mandatory subjects up to, and possibly including, the university/faculty, along with one’s own language, english language and mathematics.

      • Chris said

        It’s critical thinking that the Religious Right fears above all else. It means that people question authority – in this case, their authority.

        But the point is that there’s nothing quite like the East Asian mentality here in the Western world. Nobody applies the scientific method or any rational way of governing once elected. Plus the finance system means that politicians are often bought and paid for by the special interests.

      • picard578 said

        We are living in the plutocracy. Elections are fraudilent, and even if politicians really get elected, they are bought by lobbysts.

  3. Chris said

    Indeed so.

    I think that perhaps every nation could be said to be a plutocracy. The only redeeming quality for nations like the Scandinavian and East Asian ones is that they are longer term thinking. They realize that to be rich and powerful themselves, they need a well off society. Perhaps too out of fear of something like the French Revolution. That may be changing, especially in Northern Europe. Japan too is seeing growing inequality.

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