* Posts by Perry Munger

6 posts • joined 23 Oct 2007

Rise Of The Machines: What will become of box-watchers, delivery drivers?

Perry Munger

Um, stop worrying...

Three things will likely mitigate any changes that may happen.

The first is that the changes will be far more gradual than intimated here. There won't be ten million suddenly unemployed drivers. Over time, as new systems are created and the value proposition changes, more and more drivers will lose their jobs.

The second is that we are actually facing a massive labor shortage in the coming years due to the retiring of the so-called 'baby boomers'. While the words used here are US-centric, the demographic shift is pretty much worldwide. The unemployed drivers can fairly easily be retrained to do the sorts of support jobs, primarily medical, that will be necessary in the new economy.

The third is, of course, that this argument is not at all new. They argued about the textile mills. They argued about factories. They argued about robotics in factories. Every time, there has been a period of disruption and then everybody had a better time...


Twenty classic arcade games

Perry Munger

Moon Patrol

There are two missing games here. My all time favorite at the arcade was Moon Patrol. It beggared me as a young 'un. I also played an indecent amount of Millipede.


Paul Allen latest plan: Space rockets on MEGA PLANE

Perry Munger

The Spruce Goose actually flew

With Hughes at the controls, on what was supposed to be a floating taxi test, the spruce goose left the water and flew for a short distance. It was perfectly airworthy, and would have been a boon to US military transport, being immune to submarines, as well as substantially faster than ships. It was designed to fly fairly low, and built of wood so it would not compete with other industries for metal.

It was, actually, quite practical, and would have been very useful, if the need for it had not evaporated.


The FDRs of Green explain the gentle art of planet saving

Perry Munger


Heh. Economics, for those of you late to the subject, is as much a study of psychology as anything else. Sure, there are numbers and maths and hard things like models and graphs, but it all boils down to preference.

Economists call it the 'utility function', which is what the free man uses to evaluate the things he wants. In other words, if he wants a Prius, he will pay for one, bidding it up and allowing Toyota to sell more or increase the price (do we all remember the demand curve, class?). The utility function is a computation of all the priorities in a rational entity that results in the allocation of resources to achieve the entity's ends.

So, when you say that price is not the sole component of a rational decision, you have seriously missed the point. Price is more a result of the decision process. Price is what you have after you have computed a given thing's worth in comparison to all the other things you could have bought. In other words, when you're looking at soda, you may decide to buy the generic brand so you can get chips too, which signals as a result that the quality of the soda isn't as important as the getting of chips. Alternatively, you may forego the chips because you feel you need the better quality soda, which validates the higher price.

Yes, price is a component of the consumer's decision and cost (the prices a producer pays) is a component of the producer's decision, but the thrust of price theory is that where the two prices (consumer and producer) meet is a result of all kinds of calculations, or, in the case of most people and soda, a whim.

What I'm trying to say is that the statement that the market will signal price as an indication of overall systemic interest in a thing is not a dogma at all; it is a rational observation as valid as that things fall and we call this gravity. Price theory is pretty darn easy to defend as theories go. It is those that wish to regulate prices that must resort to normative tactics, as they say they know better than the accumulated wishes of the unwashed what those wishes ought to be and thus are entitled to mess around with price.

Well, welcome to another interesting fact that price theory predicts: force the price down and there will be not enough of the thing to go around, causing lines, frustrated consumers and things like blackouts. This is because producers can't afford to grow production and don't see an adequate profit margin so slow production until they do. Force the price up artificially and people quit buying it so much, which can lead to a reduction in profits as the cost increases due to reduced scale coupled with a reduction in innovation in the sector because profits are locked in.

Pretty much any time price gets decoupled from the market, distortions follow, which the utopists argue can be mended with more/more effective governance, but, in reality, it is merely people trying to eke out happiness however they can, which may mean circumventing government controls no matter how necessary or well-intentioned. This is what man does, has been observed to do since the dawn of time, and will continue to do no matter how much he's told not to. That is why the price theory remains positive rather than normative: it is an observation of what man does, rather than an attempt to change what man does to fit some neat pet theory.

Perry Munger

Wow, first an anti-global-warming article, and then this...

I'm amazed. I had thought the Register to be well and fully in the control of greenies and commies. Kudos for printing the other side every so often.

I would like to point out something about monopolies, the mentioned situation where all the major suppliers in a given industry get together and try to control the market.

As an anarcho-capitalist, I have to say that this situation rarely obtains. It has, from time to time, been the case that a given company has gained absolute control over resources, but it is almost always accomplished with governmental intervention. And, it almost always happens to the detriment of the company doing it.

Witness the 1970s, when OPEC tightened production. The United States, at least, cut its consumption deeply. Now, OPEC was faced with the fact that they could either sell much less oil at a higher price or more oil at a lower price. Believe it or not, the OPEC embargo actually hurt OPEC countries badly and caused an eventual cratering of oil prices that the world is only now seeing a recovery from. Yes, that's right; oil is still not very expensive compared to other commodities.

Now, the loss in value of your particular currency, that's your own stupid fault and the true main driver in the increase in the price of oil, and also gold, silver, food, anything there is a finite supply of. The fun thing about being an anarcho-capitalist is watching all this unfold pretty much as we predicted it would, without any real worry anyone will ever take us seriously...


Northern ocean filling up with CO2

Perry Munger

Just plain silly

Haven't the oceans been warming up for some time now? Take a two liter bottle of soda, place in sun, and observe the quantity of CO2 it retains.

The second salient point has something to do with not being able to establish a trend with that little data, but then, that's so old skool as to be of no interest to enviro-religionists.