NOW they’re goin’ to messin’

OK, the Chinese can steal our manufacturing capacity, and maybe we’ll stand by in the hope of selling that vast market what few products we still make. And they can buy weapons technology from our supposed friends, rattling it at Taiwan, and we’ll content ourselves with sending a carrier into the strait now and then. And if they want to massacre their own people and try to keep it a secret, maybe there’s little we can do — our resources may be vast, but they are finite, and we’re kind of tied up fighting tyranny elsewhere. We even let them get away with violating the Monroe Doctrine by forming strategic alliances in our own backyard.

But now they’re really tromping all over our turf: As this story reports, they’re firming up their plans to go stake a claim on the moon:

China will begin an effort to send astronauts to the moon in about 2017, with a landing some time after that, official media said Wednesday, citing a senior official of the lunar probe program.
The moon landing would cap a lunar program begun in 2004 with the launch of a probe. In October, China launched its second manned space flight, a successful five-day mission.

JFK and the nation he led would never have stood still for this, and neither should we. If we’re not willing to go back and be there waiting for them, we should still try to defend our claim somehow. What with its being fictional, I don’t think the Larkin Decision applies here. We got there first.

Now that I’m done with the chest-thumping, I should point out (for the benefit of the irony-deprived) that I don’t think any of that stuff in the first paragraph is OK. I am being somewhat facetious. But we are pretty much standing by and letting it happen, and when you total it all up, it’s a disturbing picture. And the moon-landing business just adds to it. We who have done it long ago may snort at the Chinese doing something that is SO last century, but they understand what we understood in the ’60s — such an achievement would have great symbolic value in terms of how the world views them.

And that has enormous value to them in their determined bid to make this the Chinese Century. React to this as you will.

40 thoughts on “NOW they’re goin’ to messin’

  1. Lee

    Red China’s lunar exploration efforts coincide nicely with their stated threat to be able to hit California with a nuclear missile, just as America’s Apollo mission improved the Saturn class ICBMs.
    China is buying and building thousands of new fighter/bombers of the Su-27 class. Their tactical goal for the air war is the same as on the ground: overwhelming numbers able to sustain 50% casualties and still defeat the smaller enemy.

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  2. Dave

    I have seen many predictions about the Chinese and the facts show that they are growing economically and militarily. We have a few advantages over them in that our relatively free market promotes and rewards innovation. We also are not (yet) a godless society and our moral compass leads us in the right direction most of the time. Still, we have to maintain weapons and technology superiority over China and everyone else to ensure “peace through strength”. Here is one weapon that has gotten some press lately, although this post is not new. We can thank Ronald Reagan and Star Wars monies spent for this amazing weapon. http://www.sgr.org.uk/ArmsControl/StarWarsNG_NL23.htm

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  3. john

    Brad,
    Don’t limit yourself to China. As the US continues to devalue science and technology there are plenty of countries who are willing to step up and take the lead away from us. South Korea (stem cells) and Japan (efficiency, energy-related and others)come to mind immediately; but there are plenty of other niches we are being overtaken in that together represent a real national embarassment. There is a lot of data about how the total percentage of our national budget dedicated to physical science/engineering research has shrunk dramatically over the last 30 years (making it a truly nonpartisan issue for the Unparty to tackle). There are a lot of reasons to defend that decline, but the truth of the matter is that you get what you pay for, and our reluctance to pay has left us in a precarious position.
    A National Science Foundation study from 1999 has some interesting numbers. I’m sure there is a more recent analysis out there but this is the one I have:
    http://www.nsf.gov/statistics/issuebrf/sib99328.htm

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  4. Dave

    John, American students cannot succeed in science and engineering without a rigorous training program in math and science. Public schools have gradually softened the requirements in these areas in order to spend more time on subjects like sociology, psychology, women’s studies, black history, native Indian programs, Hispanic studies and other feel good subjects. There is only so much time for a student to learn so the hard sciences have been sacrificed. This is all part of the dumbing down of public education so that certain ethnic and racial groups dont feel inadequate for not focusing on the sciences. The result has been that our ” engineering and science” gap with China and others is being met by the US importing scientists and researchers from India, Korea, Japan, and even China among other places.

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  5. Herb

    I do not know if this will be the Chinese century, although I have often wondered that, given their population and energy. Have you noticed how many graduate students at USC are from China? My parents used to work with international students at Texas Tech; the proportions at their get-togethers were the same — always predominantly Chinese. I don’t know the statistics, but the Chinese are certainly here.
    Go to parts of Asia, and the enterprising business people seem to be predominantly Chinese. Again, I do not know statistics.
    I expect that this might be the Chinese Christian century, however. In spite of government pressure (or perhaps because of it?), I expect that the 20 to 50 million Chinese Christians (no one knows how many there are; estimates go up to 100 million) will have a very significant impact on our world. If they maintain a biblical perspective and respect for other cultures, it will be significantly for the good. How that will affect Chinese militarism (if you guys are right) is anybody’s guess. But I look forward to it. Whatever happens to the space program, here’s hoping that the energy of Chinese Christians will challenge American Christian complacency.

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  6. Mike C

    Prices Drop by Largest Amount in 56 Years

    WASHINGTON — A record plunge in the cost of gasoline pushed consumer prices down by the largest amount in 56 years in November while industrial production posted a solid gain.
    The new government reports Thursday provided further evidence that the economy is shaking off the blows delivered by a string of devastating hurricanes.
    The Labor Department reported that its closely watched Consumer Price Index dropped by 0.6 percent last month, the biggest decline since a 0.9 percent fall in July 1949. It reflected a record fall in gasoline prices, which have been retreating since they surged to above $3 per gallon right after Katrina hit.
    Meanwhile, the Federal Reserve said output at the nation’s factories, mines and utilities rose a solid 0.7 percent last month following a 1.3 percent rise in October. Industrial output had plunged by 1.6 percent in September, reflecting widespread shutdowns of oil refineries, chemical plants and other factories along the Gulf Coast.
    The decline in consumer prices was better than the 0.4 percent drop that analysts had been expecting. Outside of the volatile food and energy categories, prices were up 0.2 percent, a modest gain that should help relieve fears that this year’s surge in energy costs could evolve into more widespread inflation problems.

    This is good news. I thank Wal-Mart, Big Oil, and the Miller Brewing Company without which I’d have trouble sticking around here.

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  7. Steve Aiken

    As a liberal arts graduate who has worked successfully in engineering- and technology-related fields for 30 years, I dissent that lack of engineering & scientific emphasis in our curricula is a root cause of our current (and projected future) economic woes. It’s part of it, but a major part is the number of short-range decisions (economic and political) made by fellow liberal arts grads (Clinton, Bush, Cheney) and business grads (Bush again, Rumsfeld). In addition, it’s amusing to hear the President talk about more engineering & science in schools when he runs the most ideologically anti-science administration in my memory.

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  8. Mike C

    Nope, Miller Genuine Draft is my daily drinker. My favorite is Pilsner Urquell, the breakfast of champions, but the wallet doesn’t allow me to enjoy it as often as I’d like.
    There are a lot of places around town that have good beers on tap for reasonable prices. I can make do with Harp, the occasional Guiness, Bass, Dos Equies, or anything else with a little body. Tsing Tao ain’t bad, but don’t tell you know who.
    Growing up in Chicago I got spoiled by the local brews and those from the small breweries in Wisconsin. Almost all are gone now.

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  9. Mike C

    Steve –
    Er, don’t tax credits for R&D, lower tax rates on dividends and capital gains support R&D.
    And what is your beef behind the anti-science assertion? Funding or tone?
    Oh, you left out Gore.

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  10. Brad Warthen

    Mike, I’ve found that Yuengling Lager is pretty near as tasty as Dos Equis Amber, and it costs less than, for instance, Michelob.
    All that, and a more venerable American pedigree than any of those dishwater beers.

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  11. Dave

    Negro Modelo and Modelo Especial are both excellent brews. Boddington is also real good. But I like Iron City too, and bought a case of the new Aluminum bottles, which will likely become collector items soon. Isn’t globalization great?

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  12. Mike C

    Yuengling Lager is good – it’s remarkable how that brand spread so quickly. Two years ago it was just starting to appear in Northern Virginia, then BAM, it zipped down here, on tap and in the stores. We live in good times.
    I just had an Iron City this weekend. It is good, one of the regionals that’s often overlooked, like this one is. Nice touch on the website, too.
    Hmmm. Why am I thirsty???
    Beer, not just a breakfast food…

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  13. Lee

    I think some schools, like Dreher, AC Flora and Irmo, are examples of schools teaching much higher levels of mathematics than in the 1960s. The difference today that I observe is that students are not as enthralled with science; they have no internal desire to keep learning after they obtain that college credit that frees them from ever taking math again.
    I also see a lack of continuity and progression of teaching that builds knowledge grade by grade. Today’s students have an intense immersion in chemisty or biology, pass the tests, take the SAT, then forget most of it.
    The greatest reason for not pursuing a career in science or engineering is that it is so devalued by academic and business management. The colleges prefer foreign students who pose no challenge to their own jobs. Business schools teach that all scientists and engineers are just technicians, commodities to be replaced with cheap imports. They are wrong.

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  14. Mike C

    One of the great treasures in Richland One is this man. This math teacher has done more good for the Palmetto State than 99.1375% of those elected to public office. I have the privilege of knowing him personally and have observed his dynamism in the classroom. His kids love him because he challenges them to excel, and they do.
    Observation, personal experience, and several surveys lead me to believe that America’s problem in math and science is the lack of emphasis that most parents put on these subjects. Too many parents want their kids to have an enjoyable time in school. Otherwise sensible folks complain to teachers about too much homework, and heaven forbid that the school bags are too heavy. I guess the folks want the kids to pursue any profession that doesn’t require hard stuff. California leads the way.
    There is a problem with the curriculum and with teacher attitudes in some states and districts. (Certainly not in John Rushman’s classroom!) With many teachers there’s an aversion to rote memorization and some districts or states choose lousy texts. SC has made great strides in the latter, but I do know how one of my kids, during our four-year sojourn in Minnesota (of all places) was held back by lousy textbooks and idiotic teaching strategies.
    I recall well the fight we mounted in the school district over the fifth grade math curriculum. The mandated text focused on Mayan mathematics, a vigesimal or base-twenty system.
    As we learned, the district’s curriculum specialist thought that the text was peachy because every concept was introduced first by using the Mayan system, and then transferred to the conventional base 10 system. District testing for the fifth grade was based on this approach and therefore showed no problems. However, sixth grade testing used a state-mandated national test on which our district had mediocre results; that translates to abysmal in Minnesota, where everyone is above average. The reason for the sixth-grade decline was essentially the confusion caused by the Mayan diversion in the fifth grade.
    Our group of parents finally prevailed in changing the textbook and increasing supervision of curriculum specialists — this was an affluent district that should have been at the very top of every state or national test; we had Asian parents in our number too! (Several 3M offices and plants were nearby.)
    Our prevailing argument was simply that any successful teaching strategy should use analogies that are relevant to the capabilities of the students and useful for everyday application. One member won the day by showing that if introducing a different number system was deemed helpful or essential to teaching kids at that grade level, the sexagesimal (base-sixty) should be used because that’s the basis for how we use clocks. It therefore had the merit of introducing kids to different systems and being useful. It also eliminated the confusion caused by translating the base-20 Mayan notation to base-10: the same symbol has different meanings in the two systems. In base-20 “20” equals “40” in base-10; kids had issues, as would I.
    History aside, I’m concerned that too many young folks don’t want to learn hard stuff and are not made to. That’s bad for us.

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  15. Dave

    The Mayan numbering system, now that takes the cake. First I heard of that. As one of the original machine language programmers, I always thought the binary system and then the hexadecimal system were interesting, and you had to know it to speak IBM if you know what I mean. I agree we have some absolutely excellent teachers in this state, and I have posted before that I would like to see teachers making as much as people in industry make, given a strict performance measurement rating system that shows who is teaching excellence vs some who are putting in time.

    I also agree with Steve that there is nothing wrong with being a liberal arts major and many have gone on to excel in many disciplines. It really does come down to the fact that a highly motivated person, no matter the specific background, will outwork and outperform another person who simply majored in a specific subject, because that drive and desire to succeed is the real determinant. That applies to teaching or any other professsion.

    Oriental families by and large in this nation instill that in their children and it works. One interesting note I saw last week. The Univ. of Minnesota has not graduated a single basketball player with a degree in at least the last 5 years. Amazing statistic coming from Minn.

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  16. Tim Rose

    While the lack of respect for intellectual property rights by the Chinese cannot be disputed, their growth and surplus is not entirely due to theft.
    The multi-nationals, and their puppets in Washington, have done all they could to give away the technology, the jobs, and the upper hand to the Chinese in exchange for greater profit margins.
    Need we be reminded that the vote to grant permanent favored nation status and entry into the WTO did not come from Beijing? And , this vote in the affirmative came shortly after the release of the Cox report, a scathing indictment of the theft and deceit on the part of our new trading partner. Now, there’s a misnomer; trading partner. It implies that the other half is actually buying goods made in the USA.
    We all know what a farce that is, since everything ‘made in the USA’ is now made somewhere else.
    Take some solace though. China and Asia are only a stopping point in the race to the bottom. The money being invested in Africa today will bring about the next wave of slave wages and greater bottom lines in the next decade.
    They aren’t called transnationals for nothing you know.
    What could be if just one industry, say the oil industry, were to invest a small fraction of their record billion$ in profits to return the US to the top of the mathematical and scientific educational ladder, instead of outsourcing to third world nations? Would they see the results overnight? No. But the decline of our educational standards and results did not come about so rapidly either. Besides, they waited 40 years between the Uraguay rounds of the GATT. Couldn’t the same patience be asked of them for something that would benefit the entire nation, and dare I say, the world?
    You’ll have to forgive my Utopian thinking. But then, I have never spent time in the Swiss Alps on a corporate junkett, sipping mocha lattes while conspiring to make the world mine. But I can dream, can’t I?

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  17. Mike C

    Tim –
    Nice prescription, but it has nothing to do with the problem.
    For example, superior mathematics curricula exist at all levels in the US, even here in Columbia where Richland One for years has had Mathematics Education for Gifted Secondary School Students (MEGSSS).
    If we did not have a topnotch program, we could purchase that of another country. I’ll acknowledge and assert that many schools and school systems are more interested in esteem than achievement; that’s something that even Big Oil’s money can’t fix.
    Most kids don’t learn math because it’s hard and their folks don’t make them. How many adults do you know who say “Math was never my strong point” or “math was just too much for me” or some such idiocy. Some schools and school boards get the message, so not only is hard math not emphasized, but even the basic elements remain a mystery. Other schools emphasize math and science, causing a modern “white flight” in California:

    CUPERTINO, Calif. — By most measures, Monta Vista High here and Lynbrook High, in nearby San Jose, are among the nation’s top public high schools. Both boast stellar test scores, an array of advanced-placement classes and a track record of sending graduates from the affluent suburbs of Silicon Valley to prestigious colleges.
    But locally, they’re also known for something else: white flight. Over the past 10 years, the proportion of white students at Lynbrook has fallen by nearly half, to 25% of the student body. At Monta Vista, white students make up less than one-third of the population, down from 45% — this in a town that’s half white. Some white Cupertino parents are instead sending their children to private schools or moving them to other, whiter public schools. More commonly, young white families in Silicon Valley say they are avoiding Cupertino altogether.
    Whites aren’t quitting the schools because the schools are failing academically. Quite the contrary: Many white parents say they’re leaving because the schools are too academically driven and too narrowly invested in subjects such as math and science at the expense of liberal arts and extracurriculars like sports and other personal interests.
    The two schools, put another way that parents rarely articulate so bluntly, are too Asian.

    We do have kids who excel at math; we just don’t have enough, mainly because of parents.
    Ask every ten-year-old you encounter “how much is seven times eight?” (If they get it right, it may be because I’d already asked them. To be sure, ask them about nine times eight.)
    Hmm. To clarify: 7 X 8 = 56; 9 X 8 = 72. Just in case; didn’t want to leave anybody hanging.

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  18. Tim Rose

    To get back to the original point, about space travel and a moon landing, this would not have been possible had it not been for the fact that our technology was given to and stolen by the Chinese. This is according to the Cox report. I attended a townhall meeting with Georgia Congressman Nathan Deal shortly after the report was released, and he stated that as a result of these giveaways and espionage, the Chinese had advanced in a matter of months what would have taken them 50 years. Yet he, and a majority of his colleagues, still voted to give them permanent MFN.
    I do not dispute your argument about the laziness of too many parents, or that there are still American students who have managed to excel in both science and math. But, if the reports are correct, and your survey question would bare this out, most “don’t get it,” it should be a priority for us as a nation to see to it that they do get it.
    Without a doubt, the egalitarian ethic needs to be purged from our classrooms. But it should also be purged from our board rooms as well.

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  19. Mark Whittington

    Mike,

    Have you ever noticed how you blame others for everything? Now you are blaming parents for their children’s supposed lack of mathematical ability. Many people are just plain intimidated by math. You always think that you are superior in every respect. If you ask your silly questions to my eleven year-old boy, then I suspect that you will soon be humiliated by your own lack of mathematical knowledge. I’d bet 50 bucks that in a contest between you and any of the kids in my boy’s ALERT class that they could whip you in a contest solving mixed numbers, ratios, proportions, and percentages. My kid goes to a first rate public school, and the teachers and parents do care!

    My kid gets his exceptional calculation ability from his mom. My son’s mother does not know algebra to this day. Why? Because she had a poor teacher in rural South Carolina, and her parents did not know algebra so they could not help her. She grew up on a farm and was surrounded by people who themselves did not know such subjects as algebra.

    Sometimes, I also believe that the homework load is too much for youngsters. I know several parents who have sent their children to private school because they believed the homework was interfering with their children behaving like children rather than robots. I do not necessarily agree with this view, but I understand how some parents may come to this conclusion.

    Please stop making generalizations about things that you know nothing about. You put down American kids and their parents-maybe you should look in the mirror.

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  20. Dave

    Mike, I had read the article you linked to and a few weeks ago Leonard Pitts wrote an article about this same subject. I dont have the link but he characterized the “white flighters” as sell-outs to quality education. I agree. If you follow the money you are usually heading in the right direction so what is happening is these families know they cannot have their kids graduate in the top 10% of their class. That rules them out, no matter how smart, for numerous scholarships and consideration for entry at top tier universities. In our state for example, each high school gets the top 10% “nominated” for the Palmetto scholarship, about $8500 hard cash a year reward. Based on budget, all 10% may not get it but mathematically if you retain it for 4 years you get $34,000. The drop off to the Life scholarship is about $4500 or so a year. These are close estimates. Add that to the high priority given class rank and there it is. CA overall is experiencing white flight moreso than most other states. Not surprising given their high taxes, congestion, crime, and Feinstein and Boxer, among others.

    As for me, I always struggled with 7 x 6, but thankfully had my fingers to count it out. Then calculators came along and took care of that issue. haaaaaaaaaa

    Tim, in regard to that statement about big oil companies outsourcing to 3rd world countries, if you are referring to where we are looking for oil, in part you are correct. The Democrats continually work to stop oil exploration or energy search in our own nation so what choice does big oil have? I dont refer to that as outsourcing per se. They have to go where the oil is and also where they are allowed to get it.

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  21. Tim Rose

    I should have been clearer. My point about big oil was the ways they could invest some of their record profits and the point about outsourcing was aimed at big business in general, not specifically big oil. Sorry about that.
    While I won’t come to the defense of feckless Democrats, I do think it would be wise for us to put a greater emphasis on the exploration of alternative fuels. Without getting conspiracy theory minded, I do believe that if someone were to invent an engine that could run on dirt, the eco-freaks, big oil, and their puppets in Congress would see to it that shovels made it to an assault weapons ban list, and yards would be black topped by federal mandate.
    But more to my point about outsourcing. There are certainly qualified Americans who could be used in the positions that are being given to those granted H1-B visas, and being allowed to stay in the US at the expense of those they replaced. I am not excusing those Americans who will not work, and there are plenty, but for those who seek and have the qualifications for them, I would think they would deserve first consideration. This does not appear to be the case.
    I would be interested to know what percentage of engineers, geologists, and such, employed by the “American” big oil companies are home grown, i.e. American vs. how many are foreign and have their jobs as a result of outsourcing.
    I realize that when it comes to outsourcing, as defined here, the high tech companies rule the roost. This baffles me to some extent in that I cannot understand how a people raised in villages without running water and electricity could know so much about complex electronics. Perhaps I am stereotyping a bit too much, but only to make the point.
    Somewhere in the middle there has to be a balance between having the most qualified employees, without government interference and set asides, and the conviction to seek your own for such employment. Perhaps in the search for this balance we could find a way not to hinder the ability to discover necessary resources without exploiting to a degree that becomes dangerous or too intrusive (meaning, I don’t want an oil rig in my back yard should a deposit be found there).
    Since we are a society inherent with excess and extremes, myself included, I don’t hold much hope that such a balance can be struck.

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  22. Mark Whittington

    Brad,

    This could be the American Century, but our own policies militate against it. I’m writing about this subject to address the idea that a poor educational system is the main culprit of our woes-it’s not-at least not in the sense that we have been debating education. We have three main problems that are rarely addressed:

    1. A capital investment process that penalizes work yet rewards unearned gains.
    2. Hierarchal divisions of labor based on capital investment.
    3. Too much emphasis on inductive thinking to solve problems.

    A fourth problem could be the idea that equal educational opportunity alone makes the system fair. People are not yet aware that the same shaped distribution of wealth develops regardless of perceived differential ability or merit. We all should have an equally good education, but educational opportunity alone will not solve our problems.

    All of the previously mentioned problems are rooted in antiquated Enlightenment philosophy, which served its day well, but is inadequate in modernity. Certainly, all Enlightenment ideas are not bad, and one should wish to preserve the best parts of our system. The unfortunate consequence of having used an antiquated system, however, is that extremist neo-liberal and neo-conservative ideology began to undermine liberalism by the 1980s. Both ideologies today have grown to the point where they are a threat to civil democratic society.

    The good news is that a democratic system is possible, which preserves the best ideas of the Enlightenment (civil liberties), yet effectively deals with problems one through three above.

    I call the system Deductive Democracy-an updated form of Social Democracy. Deductive Democracy would determine divisions of labor as well as capital investment in terms of benefiting the entire society rather than entitling a few to the lion’s share of a society’s wealth. Adam Smith, in Wealth of Nations, understood the paramount importance of divisions of labor, even if he only had a vague idea of how divisions of labor worked. Smith knew that divisions of labor in some way depended on the increased “dexterity” of workers specializing in some task. Divisions of labor should be determined democratically and should be short-term affairs created by teams of equals.

    Divisions of labor do not work well today because most institutions are corporate (either private business or government), and most people within these institutions have diminutive status and have no real say in the conduct of affairs (until it is too late and the problems have to be re-hashed, and then corrected). If the people who were actually closest to the work at hand collectively made the decisions, then most problems could be taken care of before a system was implemented. It often strikes me at work during the morning meetings how limited a typical worker’s (citizen’s) say is. The manager will come in and speal off the new objectives for the day and week, and the workers then have to carry out the objectives no matter how ineffectual the management’s ideas are. They often ask if there are any questions or comments, and then they get mad when the inevitable objections (often negative) arise. Most counter ideas by workers are never implemented because the management has already invested too much time and money implementing a mediocre plan. Workers are pretty much limited to reading safety topics-and even that is designed to promote a phony notion of “teamwork” among a supposedly compliant workforce.

    This leads to the following query: Why have management at all? Problems today are much different than in the eighteenth century (or even the early twentieth century for that matter) in that back then, it made sense to solve problems using induction and empiricism because people had such limited knowledge and data to work with. Today, the situation is reversed; we have a glut of knowledge and data to sift through, and we need to find solutions in an efficient manner. Individuals in management are ill equipped to solve modern problems because the obstacles are complex, and they require the knowledge and ideas of everyone to solve.

    I think hierarchal divisions of labor would have disappeared long ago, if not for the capital investment process that drives them. I’ve had several conversations with senior managers in major corporations who privately admit that chains of command are counterproductive to productivity and quality, but they dare not say it if they want to keep their jobs. That’s the problem: every time a manager goes up a slot in the chain of command, he makes exponentially more money. The top ranks of corporations (and government) are filled with people taking far more than their fair share, and they are going to keep their privilege come hell or high water. It makes a terrible, inefficient system, but the system perpetuates itself based on people’s greed (i.e., enlightened self-interest).Divisions of labor had made capitalism successful up to the last quarter of the last century, not exponential cumulative returns on investment. Unfortunately, our old model for divisions of labor does not work well in complex society. The supposed “merit” educational system was an attempt in part to address the problem, but as always, it also degenerated into yet another aristocracy. Republics always seem to degenerate into aristocracies. For a republic to remain stable, a social democratic counterbalance is necessary, otherwise plutocracy will surely follow.

    Deductive Democracy on the other hand from the beginning would be designed to benefit everyone. The good ideas from everyone would be used. There wouldn’t be bosses and workers, but co-equals would make the decisions and carry out the work. We would still have capital investment, but the returns on investment would be democratically determined, based on need, and on what people collectively considered to be merit. Rather than having undemocratically installed “leaders”, whose interests inevitably oppose those who they ostensibly represent, we would all be servants of one another. Corporations would be democratically owned, and they would no longer have personhood status. People would have personhood status, and they would elect servants to represent their interests.

    I am advocating a fair, egalitarian system rather than the one we are stuck with currently. Only greed and privilege stand in the way.

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  23. Herb

    Mark, I like what you have written. To expose my ignorance, I haven’t read enough of Adam Smith to comment on that, but he strikes me again as too naive about human nature. And strong leadership is always going to be needed. At the same time, all the good literature coming out on leadership (and I’ve studied a good deal of it) is about servant leadership. But the practice of theory is something different. I’ll believe it’s happening when we begin to see the exorbitant salaries of most corporate CEOs come down, but I’m not holding my breath. (It’s similar in the world of education — a lot of teachers and profs talk about “facilitating learning” — but when it gets down to it, what they do is lecture, because they have to have the last word on any subject.)

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  24. Lee

    Mark’s idea has been tried in every communist Utopia since the Puritans, Robert Owen, the Amana settlements, and the socialists of Wisconsin. They all end up an agressive minority working less than the passive majority.
    Republics degenerate into aristocracies.
    Democracies degenerate into socialism.
    Socialism degenerates into dictatorship.
    That is why America was designed as a Republic with strict caps on government power at all levels. The agressive types have, since the first day, been trying to conjur up excuses why the limits don’t apply to the new program they want to be in charge of.

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  25. Herb

    And your republic with government caps will degenerate as well. In fact, it already has to a large extent. What is needed is a strong sense of mission and vision to keep that from happening, but alas, affluent societies find it very difficult to sustain such. Just increasing wealth isn’t the answer. Here’s hoping that our sense of vision returns, and that it is a good one, and not one like Germany of the 1930s.

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  26. Tim Rose

    I truly think that much of what we are discussing here are symptoms of a greater problem. Yes, there needs to be improvement in education. Yes, there needs to be a greater working knowledge of economics and the theories behind it, as well as the differences between various forms of geovernment and their impact on the societies they govern.
    However, even with such a new found knowledge of these, they will offer little significant change in outcome without one thing; ethics.
    What is lacking in our classrooms, board rooms, and halls of government are ethical administrators.
    What keeps capitalism from morphing into greed? Ethics. What keeps government in check, besides an armed citizenry? Ethics. What keeps and maintains a high standard of education? Ethics.
    No form of government or economic practice will make one iota of difference without ethical, principled people in the position of making the decisions.
    In business, the team concept, one without pronounced managers, works for a while. But, it is more suited to a culture that has always employed such a communal philosophy. In a culture like our own, I am not so sure. It is a conflict with the American Dream, to aspire to greatness and climb the ladder of success. Although, our ladders seem to be constructed by rungs of mediocrity.
    Regardless of ideology, human nature is resistant to change. Especially once a ‘norm’ has been established. Since keeping up with the Jones’s is our established norm, the resistance to change is enormous in our culture. Commercialism is our religion and we are bombarded minute by minute with advertisements reminding us to spend our money, and on what to spend it.
    We visit the cathedrals of this crass commercialism daily, whether they be the malls or the banks. Our craving for instant gratification sated by the spewing of cash from our automated clergy machines.
    Even among the hard working and successful, there is a mentality of entitlement that permeates the fabric of our culture. It threatens us with ruin on all fronts.
    I know that this has gotten way off topic, but it pains me to see all that so many worked so hard to build and achieve lost. I thank you for allowing me the time to rant and preach.

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  27. Herb

    Tim, You certainly “preached” a lot less than I did, and very eloquently, at that. I shudder to think what might happen in a time of real economic downturn and scarcity; hopefully we will have enough of the people of good vision and integrity to provide the ethics that we need, because just preaching about ethics doesn’t change anybody. That’s one thing encouraging about being involved in a foreign-aid organization like I am. We all take minimum salaries, and none of us gets more than the other. If there isn’t enough to provide, we don’t cut programs, we cut salaries — all of them, across the board, the same percentage. As the CEO, I get the same, and get cut the same as everybody else. That is socialistic, but it works, because we all have the same vision, and a passion for it. Our impetus and reward isn’t money, but helping others.
    But, as you say, the vision has become, for too many, “how much cash can I get out of this?”
    Even our system is having to adjust, though, because our donors (and accrediting umbrella organizations) are forcing a change. A pooled system, like we have it, doesn’t provide the needed transparency. The result will probably be that, in the future, American aid workers will have more support than the German ones, but then American ones need more, or so we assume . . . . I’ll quit rambling.

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  28. Lee

    America has a vision: The Constitution.
    Our republic has not degenerated because of being limited by law, but because selfish people seek to subvert the government to enrich themselves. Without the original intent of limited government codified in the Constitution, America would have already rotted into mob rule, socialism and dictatorship.

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  29. Tim Rose

    In some aspects, we have rotted into mob rule, socialism and dictatorship. When two-bit judges, hiding behind a podium, a cloak, and a gavel, can hand down editcs and force a nation to comply with them, that is a dictatorship.
    When a jury reaches a verdict, or a hurricane hits and rioters take to the streets, we have mob rules. And when our pockets and paychecks can be stripped to provide for those unwilling to work, or undeserving of our aid; when equality of result is more important than excellence and qualifications, that is socialism.
    Our government has not only allowed this, but encouraged it and legislated it into being.
    I know I am all over the political spectrum when it comes to ideology. I am a mix of libertarian/conservative/populist. I want limited government, like that prescribed by our Constitution. I want civil liberty and respect for individuality; laws that represent, protect, and serve all equally, not just those who can afford to buy it or exert influence over it.
    I, too, would like to see a return of the statesman in our governmental affairs. Those who know, respect and honor the privilege of representation, and representative government. Those who are beholden to their own sense of conscience and constitutents, and not the money changers who can and do finance political careers in return for laws written on corporate letterhead.
    My Utopia is that of Alexander Hamilton, John Jay, James Madison, and George Washington. Instead, I have Barbara Boxer, Hillary Rodham, Chucky Schumer, Ted Kennedy, and “Scooter’ Libby.
    So, where did we go wrong? And how do we get our nation back from these Visigoths?

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  30. Herb

    Lee, is a piece of paper a vision? Christians could say the same thing about the Bible, and it is true to a certain extent. But first of all, interpretation is a big issue, obviously. You can make the Bible say anything, and to a lesser degree, you can do the same thing with the Constitution. Then there is the communication of the vision — it has to be constantly communicated and people have to be reminded of it — and there is still the issue of commitment and obedience to it. But all of that is involved in having a “vision.”

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  31. Lee

    An idiot or swindler can claim the Bible, Constitution, or anyone else as the excuse for their misbehavior.
    It is up to honest people to educate themselves about the reasoning behind the good laws which built civilization, in order to apply the basic principles which have been historically proven to work, in order to solve the immediate problems, and to recognize those who want to destroy civilization.

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  32. Dave

    Mark, Your concept of business operations run by teams of equal workers has been tried in many operations. Results have been mixed with a skew toward failure. Problems develop when the teams involve more than 9 people because the teams only work with constant and open communications. In large groups, some team members cannot communicate evenly with others. You also do not like the concept of leadership as we all know you have a chip on your shoulder about management. In your utopian world, leaders emerge but should not leaders make more money without being condemned for greediness? I worked with a company that experimented with this concept but it got real interesting when the time came to determine raises based on merit for the team. Some members contributed less than others as will happen in society. The less productive wanted the same raises as the high contributors. Surprise, right!!! So, in your new world where all servants are servants of each other, who volunteers to be the garbageman?

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  33. Lee

    I have set up bonus and profit sharing incentives for small teams inside larger manufacturing facilities, and studied many others. They work great on a small team level. At the department level, squabbling begins. Beyond that, workers become cynical. And they surely don’t work at the government level.

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  34. Mark Whittington

    A Call to Christian Service:

    Ye know that they which are accounted to rule over the Gentiles exercise lordship over them; and their great ones exercise authority upon them. But so shall it not be among you: but whosoever will be great among you, shall be your minister: And whosoever of you will be the chiefest, shall be servant of all. For even the Son of man came not to be ministered unto, but to minister, and to give his life a ransom for many.

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