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Thread: Another Rant (Ignore me, I know)

  1. #1

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    Another Rant (Ignore me, I know)

    Another on-target Kunstler rant.

    http://www.kunstler.com/mags_diary9.html

    Americans mortgage their houses and run up credit card bills so they can buy Chinese-made goods and make believe that they are wealthy; while the Chinese make believe that they can grow an economy by selling things to people who can't pay for them.
    -- Bill Bonner, The Daily Reckoning

    Even Etch-A-Sketch is now being outsourced overseas in China. That's ok, they are desperate enough, and we can all be artists, and entrepeneurs, and computer programmers, and movie directors. Yep, that's the ticket.

  2. #2
    Cyburbian Cardinal's avatar
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    If Kunstler doesn't clean up his language, perhaps he should be banned from Cyburbia. Really, does he think profanity will help him to make a stronger argument, or is it just intended to help create the "contrarian" personna he imagines for himself? Count me among those who increasingly think he is nothing much more than a self-aggrandizing fool.

    So the etch-a-sketch will now be produced in China. To quote Bart Simpson, "Meh." A forty-year old toy is hardly the sort of high technology product on which our economy may thrive. It might be helpful to read the work of people like Allan Scott (UC-Berkely), one of the earliest researchers to begin to meld ideas of production cycles, agglomeration economies, external linkages and product specialization to develop a theory of the locational behaviour of industries and functional specializations.

    I have to conclude that the American elite universities that provide the graduates hired by the New York Times are unable to teach their students how to think anymore.

    I have to conclude that the American elite universities that provide the graduates hired by the New York Times are doing a pretty good job of teaching their students how to think. They know better than to listen to sycophantic prattle churned out by the likes of James Howard Kunstler.

  3. #3
    Cyburbian Rumpy Tunanator's avatar
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    Re: Another Rant (Ignore me, I know)

    Originally posted by BKM
    Even Etch-A-Sketch is now being outsourced overseas in China. That's ok, they are desperate enough, and we can all be artists, and entrepeneurs, and computer programmers, and movie directors. Yep, that's the ticket.

    -Whoa, BKM thats the direction the US economy has been sadly taking over the past few decades. Where do we go from here?

    -Pretty soon the whole information/technologic service sector will be in China and India (our current strong-hold seeing how manufacturing is going, going, gone). And what happens after that?

    -Reversal of manufaturing jobs over here as China's economy improves and becomes more Chiperia?
    A guy once told me, "Do not have any attachments, do not have anything in your life you are not willing to walk out on in 30 seconds flat if you spot the heat around the corner."


    Neil McCauley (Robert DeNiro): Heat 1995

  4. #4
    If Kunstler doesn't clean up his language, perhaps he should be banned from Cyburbia. Really, does he think profanity will help him to make a stronger argument, or is it just intended to help create the "contrarian" personna he imagines for himself? Count me among those who increasingly think he is nothing much more than a self-aggrandizing fool
    I agree, I would like it if he kept things clean when he writes. He might lack the linguistic capacity to find combinations of words to express his opinions but profanity is probably his preferred style. I enjoyed his books, they were fun to read and introduced me to influential thinkers in the planning field.

  5. #5

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    My sister works for a small IT company. The CEO always follows the latest "hot" trends, so he is now over in India thinking about a "customer service center"-even though the company was unable to manage an Indian contract before (my sister, who is biased, says that the Indian employees were so oddly trained that they couldn't answer anything that departed even a jot from "the book"). But, its the latest hot thing in red hot master of the universe CEO-land, so ... :0

  6. #6

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    I would actually agree with you all about the profanity. He is actually pretty literate, so his choice of words is deliberate and annoying. As for self-promotion, he has found his economic niche. Isn't that what capitalism is about?

    As for the "40-year old toy" True. It just struck me as kinda sad that an "icon" of my childhoohd is gone. And, there won't be too many high tech factories moving to Byron, Ohio. Just another throwaway town. Its inevitable, I guess, and the smarter towns and people will do fine. As I don't consider myself one of those, and I come from a working class midwestern family, it simply worries me.

    Look at the real trends. 150 billion a month in current account deficits. An economy with a good portion of the "productivity gains" linked directly to the destruction of local economies and replacement by big boxes (selling Chinese-made goods).

    A country of 300 million cannot support itself only on high end niche products. We ain't Denmark.

  7. #7
    Cyburbian
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    Is Kunstler an economist? Or a planner? or an architect? or geologist? or a foreign policy expert? or just a loudmouth, barking at the moon? I forget now.

    BKM I read every post of your because I think you are smart and I am not being sarcastic or patronizing. The glass isn't always half empty, you know.

  8. #8
    Cyburbian Cardinal's avatar
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    Originally posted by gkmo62u
    The glass isn't always half empty, you know.
    I have to agree. As much as the president can screw up the economy, he can't completely destroy it. (I had to put that one in there for you, gkmo. ) There is a lot of resiliency in the economy, and continual evolution. Even if it were true that so many jobs are leaving the country to go to China, there are still many more staying right here, and more being created. Not just by Wal-Mart.

  9. #9

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    Oh, he is more of the latter.

    I just tend to be gloom and doom. Its a personality flaw. As Kunstler is also doom and gloom, he "inspires" me.

    I know that change isn't always bad, and that I wouldn't want to have been working in a giant steel mill all my life. My worry is just that I DON'T think our economy is structured in an sustainable fashion, that we can't continue to run up multi-billion dollar current account deficits (even if US companies recycle some of the debt through their US headquarters). So far, the doom-and-gloomers have been wrong, and I certainly live my life like the gravy train will never end, so...

    But, since I have no solutions (and am now tired after a two hour workshop on design standards (fun, actually, but still tiring), I should just go home and go to bed

  10. #10

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    An interesting coda to this story

    Kunstler was somewhat inaccurate in HIS rant, so I have to change MINE The factory apparantly closed down three years ago.

    According to the New York Times article in last week's paper, the company owner shut it down in order to keep the prices low enough for Wal Mart. Hence the perinciopus effect of big box retail (God, I am now sounding like Super Amputee Cat )

    What's interesting is the description of how factories "work" in China. The Chinese government and their industrialists KNOW about the controversy over working conditions. So, they publish cute little booklets about all of the benefits and wages their "contented" workforces receive. These booklets and pet workers are available when guilt-ridden American executives or academics come over. Apparantly, though, the real conditions and wages are much lower (40%). They don't even meet the government minimum wages-and independent unions remain illegal in China. And, just like during the good ol' days of communism, everyday workers are instructed to avoid answering questions about real conditions-obfuscation is the mechanism of avoidance. Luckily, the factory representatives contacted by the Times will be "looking into the situation" (LOL)

    If you are a free market purist, one would argue that Chinese migrants are so desperate to work that we have no "right" to complain about the conditions-they are voluntarily chosen. And, except for cases like the Korean-owned fishing lure factory where workers are locked into the factory until they earn enough money (after years of pitiful wages) to pay a "departure fee," I suppose that's true. Still, there is that awful, inevitable logic of the "rush to the bottom" argued by opponents of "globalization."

  11. #11
    24 cents an hour in China didn't sound right to me, it's more like 2-4 cents an hour. As for the rush to the bottom, I watched a congressional hearing on third world labor standards and a lady from El Salvador summed it up best -she makes 25 cents per hour or per garment (can't remember) 13 hours a day. Her boss makes it clear that her job can be done in China for 2 cents an hour. Any complaining about not having a bathroom or striking for better conditions and pay is strictly prohibited.

    As far as our economy:

    Do we produce more goods with fewewr people?

    Is ther less demand for manufacured goods?

  12. #12
    Cyburbian jresta's avatar
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    The economy can grow and grow and grow. That doesn't mean everything is OK.

    as the saying goes - every time a tree falls the GDP grows, every time a person goes in for cancer treatment the GDP grows, every new kid that gets asthma the GDP grows.

    But growing GDP and shrinking wages/employment should be a clear sign to anyone that something is awry.
    Indeed you can usually tell when the concepts of democracy and citizenship are weakening. There is an increase in the role of charity and in the worship of volunteerism. These represent the élite citizen's imitation of noblesse oblige; that is, of pretending to be aristocrats or oligarchs, as opposed to being citizens.

  13. #13

    I've got my devils advocate hat on this morning

    The economy can grow and grow and grow. That doesn't mean everything is OK.
    Is the economy growing?

    2.5 million manufacturing jobs have been lost in the last three years. 40% of those job losses are a result of higher rates of manufacturing.

    "Manufacturing share of GDP is down from 17.6% in 1988 to 16.1% in 2002, adjusted for inflation"

    628 billion dollar trade deficit

  14. #14

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    Well, on the one hand a "higher" standard of living (which is defined in today's culture as higher incomes, more consumer goods and the like) means that we need more productivity per worker hour-hence Irish One's loss of jobs due to productivity. Or-we import more from low wage countries (we can get away with this "solution" for awhile).

    On the other hand, often the benefits of productivity are not well distributed (stagnant wages for the uneducated).

    AND, we continue to allow/encourage/give into the inevitability of the massive importation of unskilled labor. Immigration can of course be a positive force, but it can also be problematical if the this workforce is chanelled into low skill, low wage jobs, depressing the overall wage market. Some have argued that this human capital replaces investment in technological improvements. That latter argument is not real convincing to me, and I would have to read more comparisons between low immigration countries and us.

  15. #15
    AND, we continue to allow/encourage/give into the inevitability of the massive importation of unskilled labor. Immigration can of course be a positive force, but it can also be problematical if the this workforce is chanelled into low skill, low wage jobs, depressing the overall wage market.
    Ah yes, that 3% of the work force that does our agriculture work. Controlled immigration will always be a positive force, we know that. It's this out of control immigration free for all insanity that is terrifying.

  16. #16
    Cyburbian ludes98's avatar
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    Originally posted by BKM
    On the other hand, often the benefits of productivity are not well distributed (stagnant wages for the uneducated).
    Is that a bad thing? Low or stagnant wages should be expected for uneducated or lack of continuing education.

  17. #17
    Cyburbian jresta's avatar
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    Originally posted by ludes98
    Is that a bad thing? Low or stagnant wages should be expected for uneducated or lack of continuing education.
    considering the cost of college, that most public schools leave students woefully underprepared for it, and that only about 1/4 of americans finish it - i'd say yeah, that is a bad thing.
    Indeed you can usually tell when the concepts of democracy and citizenship are weakening. There is an increase in the role of charity and in the worship of volunteerism. These represent the élite citizen's imitation of noblesse oblige; that is, of pretending to be aristocrats or oligarchs, as opposed to being citizens.

  18. #18
    Cyburbian jresta's avatar
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    Re: I've got my devils advocate hat on this morning

    Originally posted by The Irish One
    Is the economy growing?

    2.5 million manufacturing jobs have been lost in the last three years. 40% of those job losses are a result of higher rates of manufacturing.

    "Manufacturing share of GDP is down from 17.6% in 1988 to 16.1% in 2002, adjusted for inflation"

    628 billion dollar trade deficit
    Yeah, you haven't heard that GDP grew at a "staggering 8.2%"in the third quarter"? In the second quarter it grew at 3.3%.

    but like BKM said, more goods and services being exchanged doesn't automatically mean that more people are working - or that they're making more money doing it.

    All it really means is that profits are up. But anyone getting paid by the hour doesn't need to concern themselves with talk of increased profits. Especially when productivity goes up without the appropriate increase in compensation.
    Indeed you can usually tell when the concepts of democracy and citizenship are weakening. There is an increase in the role of charity and in the worship of volunteerism. These represent the élite citizen's imitation of noblesse oblige; that is, of pretending to be aristocrats or oligarchs, as opposed to being citizens.

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