July 14, 2005


S.&P. 500 Hits 4-Year High (VIKAS BAJAJ, 7/14/05, NY Times)

The Standard & Poor's 500-stock index closed at a four-year high today, buoyed by several days worth of positive economic and corporate earnings reports.

The S.&P. 500 and other leading stock indexes have rallied back from losses in the spring when economic reports painted a somewhat grimmer picture of the economy, which has since been colored in brighter hues.

Not that anyone should, but remember how hysterical people got about the identical metaphor just 6 weeks ago?: The only real drag on the economy is the picture the press paints.

Posted by Orrin Judd at July 14, 2005 11:13 PM

I've always felt that dour economic reporting from conventional media outlets and the business press has real social costs. After all, the wealth effect is quite powerful and negative headlines have to effect some individuals on the margin. It's got to shave a few basis points of our annual growth trajectory.

Posted by: John Sterling at July 15, 2005 6:27 AM

I'd disagree with these statements that you made, in that thread:

Critical thought isn't particularly useful in itself and is almost never used wisely. All the necessary thoughts were thought a long time ago.

Posted by: oj at June 2, 2005 09:16 PM

Often used unwisely, you're right there.

However, like your insistence that math skills aren't necessary "because we have computers", (you had a computer earlier, but couldn't make it figure out 5/29), claiming that the ability to analyze our surroundings is overrated misses the exact point that you make in your second sentence (and the title of this thread), that it's easy to follow in someone else's footprints.

Once someone blazes a trail, or establishes a set of protocols for solving similar future problems, THEN it's merely a matter of going down the checklist.

The obvious big thoughts have already been thunk, true enough, but just as individuals (hopefully) make a mental journey from intellectual discovery and experimentation to wisdom, humanity hasn't finished sorting through the various philosophies and big ideas that are known to us.

Also, changing situations cause us to regard old ideas in a new light.

For now, communism has failed as a viable economic system, and capitalism is the best workable idea that we have.

However, "The End of History" is likely to be only a pause of history, and at some point in the future, communism is likely to be the dominant ordering, for two reasons.
(It's unclear whether that future is some hazy Star Trekian distance away, or is as close as the 22d century, although I'd bet on the 22d century).

First, as ghostcat points out, capitalism serves most people well enough, but not all people. The cultural movement in almost all capitalist nations throughout the 20th century has been towards providing ever-greater safety nets, and away from laissez-faire.

Secondly, as BB says in another thread, the world's capacity to produce is EXPLODING, and we haven't even really begun to use automation in most areas of the economy. As programmable devices become faster and more powerful, it will become increasingly profitable to substitute automata for humans, not just in manufacturing, but in service positions as well.
For instance, in a fast food restaurant, there's really no need for a human to be taking orders and making change, nor to be doing the cooking. Because both of those roles, (at least in fast food), are fairly limited and standardized, with a small number of routines to perfect, they're easier to automate than cleaning the dining room and taking out the trash.

The next productivity revolution, with its cornucopia of necessities, and effortless avalanche of desirables, should solve the fundamental flaw in previous communes: That of the free-rider.
When resources are scarce, and survival needs to be wrested from the Earth, layabouts are a big problem. However, when no one in a society knows want, the emphasis shifts from the concrete, an area that all must participate in, to the symbolic, where people can opt out, without harm to the system.

Thus, few will care that most people do no work, since all will have enough, and emphasis will shift to social status, hopefully based at least in part on merit.
Few will care about a nice car, since everyone will have a nice car, and most of those who care to be productive will strive to become the "Captain", or at least have acclaim within their sphere of activity.

Posted by: Michael Herdegen at July 15, 2005 8:09 AM


The next revolution will be a mistake too, a function of the inaccurate belief that we can analyze anew.

Posted by: oj at July 15, 2005 8:21 AM

Once one has learned basic subtraction, addition, multiplication and division, say about 5th grade, then for 95% of the people, further math classes are just a waste of time.

Posted by: Bob at July 15, 2005 10:09 AM


You only need two of those four--trust me...

Posted by: oj at July 15, 2005 12:57 PM

having learned the math basics through 5th grade, I agree with Bob, but I think he actually underestimates -- I would say about 106% of the people do not need additional math classes

Posted by: JonofAtlanta at July 15, 2005 3:11 PM


Algebra, certainly, ought to be known. Power ratios, probably, a bit of geometry (I grant that the only people I know who use triganometry are video-game programmers), maybe a bit of game theory and linear optimization, and some very basic calculus.

I can already tell that they're going to love me at the school board...

Posted by: Mike Earl at July 15, 2005 4:34 PM

be known, just not by most people

Posted by: oj at July 15, 2005 5:23 PM

Schooling is a relic of the 19th century.

Posted by: Al Cornpone at July 15, 2005 5:43 PM