Elevator Speech econ #3—Producer vs Predators
I have been reviewing my old posts based on number of pageviews. The readers of this blog are exceedingly perceptive. I also found a potential post that never got the publish button. Interesting because the "elevator speeches" got significant hits. In fact, they will be included in a minor page redesign.
If you are of the mind that the study of economics should concentrate on the actions within a society that provide for the material needs in life, eventually it becomes clear that the most important distinction in life is that there is an enormous difference between talking about a problem and solving one. Understand this, and the rest of life is details.
(note about this illustration) I came across Thorstein Veblen's famous distinction between business and industry in 1982 and was just dazzled by the implications. I was living in the American Midwest where the examples of the difference between industrial genius and financial maneuver were just everywhere. While collecting all these examples, I discovered that this blinding flash of insight wasn't even Veblen's—it belonged to the agrarian radicals who were trying to solve the problems of settling previously untilled lands. Veblen's father was a particularly fine example of one of those pioneer agrarian problem-solvers so he came by understanding as a child. (Sure am glad I discovered this idea via Veblen, however!) For a more detailed explanation of the history of Producer-Predator thought, see Chapter Three of Elegant Technology.
But dividing the world into the problem-solving Producers and the Predators who make things worse by talking things to death while cornering the community's resources is much more than a cute parlor trick. Turns out that the biggie problems facing the planet such as peak oil and climate change exist because of former problem-solving efforts gone wrong. ANY meaningful plan to address these enormous dilemmas must understand HOW the Producer Classes solve problems so that our next attempts can yield a better outcome.
This idea that only a more enlightened breed of Producers could ever solve the BIG problems would drive the writing of Elegant Technology. That's what Elegant Technology is—the social and economic support necessary to train and employ the Producers who can solve things like the end of the Age of Petroleum.