Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Shoot for the moon. Even if you miss you'll wind up in the stars. And other stupid things I don't like to hear people say.

Yes, I'm in that kind of mood. And, no, you won't likely end up in the stars.

First, there aren't any stars between Earth and the moon. And if you shoot for the moon with enough velocity to actually reach a star, you'll be so crushed by your impact on the moon that you won't enjoy it. In any case, if you did arrive safely you might at least be disappointed because there isn't even a Chili's or Starbucks or anything to do. And, if you did shoot for the moon and miss, apart from what could be described as a less than mediocre effort given the large target size of the moon, somewhere enroute to the stars you'd likely explode under the lack of spatial pressure and float around as little frozen bits of flesh. So, if you shoot for the moon, know what you're doing. And if you don't know what you're doing, pursue more modest goals.

I suppose these things aren't really stupid. Well, some of them are, but mostly they're ignorant, which people hate to be called, but really has to be better. Ignorance may not be bliss, but at least it doesn't know any better. Stupid knows better. Here's a statement that I saw recently on a truck bumper:

If you keep buying imports, then where will your children work?

That's a question riddled with many deep concerns that I don't want to address. But I do think it's appropriate to say this: there will be jobs. And more importantly: there will be better jobs than many present now and certainly the ones now disappearing.

Now in America we see more and more young adults going to college and more and more young adults getting multiple or advanced degrees. What I don't see is these young Americans taking their college degrees onto the assembly lines at factories and into the heat and sweat of iron mills. What should likely be seen as the co-triumph of the American economy and educational system (in that low-tech and low-paying jobs are less being needed in America because they are continuously being replace by better ones) is probably too often misinterpreted as an educational and economic dysfunction.

For an explanation into the deeper issue we might be better served by comparing the current economy with one of the greatest feats in the history of the American economy: the assembly line itself. I doubt Henry Ford worried much that his welders and upholsterers would revolt because of any sort of trade imbalance.

"Too much unfinished steel coming in and too many car frames going out," or "Who's paying for all this finished upholstery with unfinished fabrics?" the grumbling workers might ask.

Of course not. They understood quite quickly that they, as was the whole company, were better off by reducing the scope of work they were trying to accomplish. In a sense, they actually got more done by doing less (more of less, more or less...). And everyone profited. Greatly

So we seem to have a trade imbalance in America. Of course we do. We buy cheaper, lower-tech goods from other countries. The same other countries that are buying our more expensive, higher-tech goods. I wonder if the man driving the truck complaining about import and export "imbalance" ever wondered why most of the world uses American-developed software and whether or not that is good for them. Or why Americans rarely go abroad to study but internationals routinely come to America to study and work.

We have many one-way trade deficits. That won't be resolved until we trade high and low-tech goods at equal ratios with all nations. And that should not happen. We will never export coffee to Kenya or rubber dog poo to Hong Kong, but we may continue buying these things from them. And very likely they will continue buying things from us of much greater value that they aren't yet able to produce themselves..

Only if all our trading is in deficits outweigh the trading income are we in danger. But even such imbalances often correct themselves. Like the declining dollar itself, which appears to substantially weaken the American economy, actually implores other nations to buy more of our exports--boosting the economy--because it would be foolish of them not too.

But maybe if the dollar weakens enough we'll start to see low-tech, low-paying jobs come back to America! Really I don't want that. And I don't think the truck driver wants that either. Just like I don't see the truck driver's concern as stupid. I just hope he's ignorant.

Thou shalt not kill: eat vegetarian

Another paraphrase, but no real commentary this time. Jen may disagree with me on this (it would be the first time), but I just hope this guy isn't waiting for his vegetables to die and rot before he harvests, cooks, and consumes them. Ok, so that one is stupid. Am I the only one who thinks that in response to the idea above it's worth questioning whether vegetables have any more or less soul than animals? Ok, so maybe I am.