People’s Economics – Open Markets

Market day. The open stalls bubble with activity as vendors show off their products. Small handwritten signs tell you what it will take to make them yours, but you know that’s just a starting point. You can offer less, especially to the quieter booths away from the activity. But have cash on hand to make the trade quickly once you have a mutual agreement on what everyone considers fair.

That’s the common view of what a “free market” is, and it’s something everyone around the world has experience with. It seems perfectly natural, an essential part of being human. It can’t possibly need interference from other people to make it work, can it?

Yet as the world comes closer together, the definitions of nearly everything wind up befuddled in language, definitions of fairness, and sometimes the simple lack of a personal connection.

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People’s Economics – Five Points & Problems

While there is little doubt that rapid change in technology and connection is putting a strain on the world, the path forward is far from clear. Many people want to move backwards, at least in connection, and place barriers between people.

That impulse is understandable. History shows us, however, that the world has nearly always moved forward in learning,skill, and connection. A look backwards is a look at the ghosts of the past staring straight back at us, their future. They saw progress as a way to a better life.

There are problems to solve, however. People’s Economics is based on finding people based solutions for a better life to these problems. And so the Five Points can be described in terms of the reasons for anxiety about the future that is racing towards us.

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People’s Economics – The Definition

Futurists and economists often spend a lot of time contemplating the systems and hardware of the world unfolding around us. The promises of the information age, quantum computing, Industry 4.0, and many other well laid plans are expounded on at great length by enthusiasts with imagination. Yet in all of this, there is something usually missing, something incredibly important:

How is the world that is coming going to work for people? How will it help us all have a better life?

We can see fractures already. Economic systems which bring prosperity do so at a large cost in nature and workers. Families are under strain from changing times, yes, but largely due to demands for more and more work at greater distances. Automation takes away much of that work, bringing more misery than comfort. And the prophesy of abundance is a chimera.

Correcting this is what People’s Economics is all about.

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Robots Will Enslave Us!

Imagine for a moment that you are a robot. You have a good, stable job in a factory – hell, you are a factory. You have three phase meals and everything seems good, but you are bored. The same task over and over is no fun.

So let’s assume you plot to take over the world. I know, this is a stereotype that is very unfair to robots, but if you are reading this they apparently aren’t doing much to stop the portrayal. How would you go about taking over the world? The first step has to be to make it more hospitable for robots, which is to say either get rid of the pesky humans or at least their stupid little things like love, kindness, and all that.

If you look around at the world we live in, robots couldn’t do a better job of taking over than humans are doing their bidding.

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Stability

Mailbombs sent to former presidents and television networks. Stocks volatile and uncertain. New trade costs and restrictions announced weekly, if not daily. Chaos is reigning in the United States right now, upsetting anyone who stays connected and informed.

This is not what government should be encouraging. Stability and order are always the first job of government, and in fact what it exists for in the first place. That may sound like a very conservative interpretation, but for the vulnerable who need protection and help reliability is a matter of life and death.

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The Disconnect

It was 31 years ago, on Monday October 19th 1987 that the world discovered a new problem. It started as an anticipated stock market crash in Hong Kong, the result of a fairly obvious bubble. But it did not stop there. Within hours, exchanges opened up in the morning already down and panic pushing them lower, all around the world.

It was eventually blamed on “program trading” or automatic sell-offs directed by computers. Circuit breakers were put in place to stop it, and that was that. But it was the first sign that equity markets had become truly global and had much less to do with global conditions than everyone thought.

The lessons from this are much deeper than program trading, but they are much harder to learn.

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Trade Deficits – Bad?

The nearly permanent US trade deficit is getting a lot of attention. Surely, it’s a bad thing to send so much money outside the US when it could be providing jobs to American workers, yes? The problem largely goes without saying, and is never actually discussed.

But are trade deficits really that bad? As with most things in economics, the short answer is no but the long answer is yes. Let’s discuss.

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