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So where do things go from here?

therevdrnye was in the neighborhood last night, so we got together and descended on the local Popeye's for chikuns and conversation. One of the things that came up was the question of where the economy goes from here - not in terms of depression or recession, but the overall shape of the thing. We've been in the process of moving away from an economy in which Big Corporations manufacture a lot of the same things, taking advantage of the economies/efficiences of scale to make them cheaper than the competition. Part of the economy is information services, but aside from programmers, analysts, data entry clerks, and all the people who build and maintain the networks, that leaves a lot of people with time on their hands who used to do things that have been mechanized or computerized out of the work force.

My theory is that the economy is becoming more baroque. As the general standard of living rises, people don't want the same things everybody else has. Custom or designer or limited-edition merchandise is the style, and people will satisfy that desire if there's a living to be made from it. As indeed there is. You used to need billions to get into the auto business, as Henry J. discovered to his sorrow, but advances in manufacturing and materials have lowered the bar to the point where there are more automakers in the United States than there were when I was a kid, and I'm not even counting foreign companies that have factories here in the States. People want cars that don't look like everyone else's, they want cars that don't rely on gasoline or diesel, and they're willing to pay extra. People want homes that don't all look like the rest of the cookie-cutter prefabs in their subdivision, on the inside if not on the outside, and we have Home Depot and Lowe's to cater to them along with a couple of cable networks and a legion of remodeling firms.

This comes around to my notions about the failure of the public school systems. There will continue to be a need for people who are good with words and numbers, but we also have an ongoing need for people who are good with their hands, and the homogenization of American high-schools into one giant set of college-prep rat mazes doesn't help those people one bit. Likewise, all the colleges selling liberal arts curricula are going to find themselves in a bear market once the economy of America goes for baroque.

Comments

( 4 comments — Leave a comment )
michaellee
Sep. 21st, 2008 01:36 am (UTC)
There is definitely something to this I think -- I read The Long Tail by Chris Anderson a while ago, and that's pretty much exactly what he describes there.

wombat_socho
Sep. 21st, 2008 02:38 am (UTC)
*nods*
Yes, probably - I haven't read his book, but his website certainly expresses the same sentiment, at least as far as consumer products like books and music are concerned. Thanks for reminding me to read the book! *makes note to self*
fsf_rapier
Sep. 21st, 2008 07:03 am (UTC)
I can't help myself
A little over two years ago:

1) Consumer confidence stood at a 2 1/2 year high;
2) Regular gasoline sold for $2.19 a gallon;
3) The unemployment rate was 4.5%.

Since voting in a Democratic Congress in 2006 we have seen:

1) Consumer confidence plummet;
2) The cost of regular gasoline soar to over $3.50 a gallon;
3) Unemployment is up to 5% (a 10% increase);
4) American households have seen $2.3 trillion in equity value evaporate (stock and mutual fund losses);
5) Americans have seen their home equity drop by $1.2 trillion dollars;
6) 1% of American homes are in foreclosure.

America voted for change in 2006, and we got it!


Remember it's Congress that makes law not the President. He has to work with what's handed to him.

Quote of the Day........'My friends, we live in the greatest nation in the history of the world. I hope you'll join with me as we try to change it.' -- Barack Obama
wombat_socho
Sep. 21st, 2008 06:25 pm (UTC)
Re: I can't help myself
I agree that Pelosi, Reid, Dodd and Frank (and liberal Democrats in general) have a lot to answer for with regard to the Fannie Mae/subprime mortgage problem and the energy crunch. Unfortunately I don't see McCain/Palin having enough coattails to change Congress back to a Republican majority. Worse yet, I don't think enough Republicans have the brains to ram these issues up the snout of the electorate to get these scum out of office. Dodd and Frank are likely to remain where they are until they die or retire, though if God and the voters are merciful we may be rid of Pelosi, at least.
( 4 comments — Leave a comment )

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