The Declarer (Floyd McWilliams' Blog)

Tuesday, April 06, 2004


One hundred years ago, communists and socialists would argue that capitalist countries got rich by impoverishing their workers. This theory became less believable as the West got richer, so Lenin proposed a substitute theory: That capitalists got rich through colonialism, by exploiting less developed countries.

This assertion too became untenable as dozens of colonies attained their independence and remained mired in squalor. Other Third World countries traded with capitalist countries and became rich. Now the Commies claim that the free world has become rich not by exploiting poor persons, but by exploiting the poor Earth. That is what is claimed in this essay in today's San Jose Mercury News:


We need a balanced view of `productivity'

By Kumar Venkat

On my last visit to India, I walked into a restroom at the Bangalore airport and was greeted by an attendant whose job was to dispense liquid soap and paper towels. The work was, of course, superfluous, but he clearly needed the job and the tips he occasionally received.


So when the Indian government has its next budget crisis, they will throw this attendant out on his ass. He was informed for years, by the act of paying him, that his labor was of value, but he will find to his dismay that he does not have marketable skills.

You'll have to excuse me if I don't consider this charity.


Perhaps his labor could have been put to a more productive use elsewhere. But anyone who has seen the vast ocean of humanity in a large developing country like India has to wonder what kind of productivity can provide a decent life to everyone. Labor is not a scarce commodity in most developing regions of the world.


I can't even criticize these sentences; they have no coherence with each other and make no sense. Is Venkat saying that India is too large for its citizens to become wealthy? Well, China has more people and is rapidly approaching a Western middle class lifestyle. Maybe labor is not a scarce commodity, but what does that have to do with Indian gross national product? If one hundred million Indians worked on mass-production farms, and one hundred million Indians worked in mass-production factories, they could be one-half as efficient as Americans and still have more food and goods then the whole country would know what to do with.


In contrast, labor productivity is central to any discussion of the U.S. economy. High labor productivity is cited as one of the reasons for the slow job growth in the current economic recovery. Still, many economists believe that productivity growth is the ultimate source of wealth for everyone. But their arguments usually ignore the crucial role of natural resources.


Which are not fixed and have not become more expensive as China and other Third World countries modernize.


Labor remains expensive relative to natural resources such as energy and raw materials in industrialized countries. In response, new technologies increase productivity by reducing or eliminating human labor. In the past 100 years, the farm sector has gone from using 40 percent of the U.S. workforce to just 2 percent. The manufacturing sector is losing jobs to automation and the use of cheaper labor overseas. We now transact much of our business without ever seeing a human face or hearing a live voice.

Is it possible that we are over-optimizing one factor of production -- labor -- at the expense of other resources that are truly scarce?


It's obvious that Venkat, for all that he claims to be an entrepreneur, does not know jack fucking shit about how productivity increases are attained. American industry has increased its productivity by reducing inventory, by making distribution more efficient, and by eliminating waste. All of these measures increase productivity AND conserve energy and other resources.

Venkat apparently believes that corporate executives have access to a dial that has LABOR on one side and RAW MATERIALS on the other.


Redefining Progress, which develops tools and policies for sustainability, estimates that it takes 23.6 acres of biologically productive land and water to support an average American's resource consumption. The per-capita footprint is 3.4 acres in China and 1.9 acres in India. Humanity's total ecological footprint is nearly 16 percent higher than Earth's capacity, indicating an unsustainable depletion of natural capital.


So we can believe that one-sixth of the Earth is being depleted each year -- which means that my fantasy league pitchers have until 2010 to get their ERA's to a reasonable level. (I don't think they'll make it.) Or we can believe that "Redefining Progress" is full of crap.

(I love that name, "Redefining Progress" -- though only because I live in a stable society and can ignore its hint of Khmer Rouge mentality. Commies piss in the Third World poor's pockets and tell them that it's raining.)


The United States has the largest per-capita ecological footprint and consumes more than 20 percent of all resources.


The United States has the largest economy and produces more than 20 percent of the world's goods. American progress has been based on technology and innovation and does not require masses of raw materials, no matter what silly formulas are cooked up by the folks at Redefining Progress.


Developing countries aspire to a similar living standard but face the enormous task of lifting hundreds of millions out of deep poverty. Their plan for economic growth depends on using large amounts of additional natural resources. China, for example, has become an insatiable consumer of raw materials, and its energy consumption expected to more than double by 2030.


So if China has become an "insatiable consumer of raw materials," and the world already uses up 116% of the world's resources (presumably the iron in the core is being replaced with used styrofoam peanuts), then there should be some evidence that raw material prices are skyrocketing.

Right?

Well, you would think Venkat would mention it. Funny how that works.


At the same time, nearly 750 million people around the world are either unemployed or classified as ``working poor.''


Thanks to people like Venkat, that number used to be much higher.


... Some resource economists have advocated an environmental tax shift in developed nations, which would reduce the tax burden on labor and increase it on fossil fuels, virgin raw materials, waste generation, and pollution. The idea is to encourage more employment of labor and less of scarce natural resources. ...


We see the hatred for humanity that underpins the remants of the Left. Marx and Lenin pretended to care about poor people, and the conditions and circumstances which they complained about were shocking and in many cases injust. Venkat and his ilk can make socialism popular only by marrying it to pagan Earth-worship. And so Mother Earth -- with her "virgin raw materials" -- becomes more important than human beings. Don't drill for oil or dig coal -- just hook up a bunch of low-paid coolees to a big hamster wheel! They're tax-free!



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