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Thursday, June 16

Conservation, infrastructure, economic planning -- and the awful sinking feeling that what used to be simple germs are getting the better of humanity

This evening I took refuge from the Afghan War by fleeing to Dave Schuler's Glittering Eye blog, and there found a bevy of essays I enjoyed reading, and three I found not only thought-provoking but also important for Americans to ponder:

More on Turning Japanese, which discusses whether and to what extent the American economy will repeat the worst mistakes of Japan's economic planners and includes a few of Dave's thoughts on how tax dollars are best spent:
[...] Two observations here. First, helping the economy reach full employment and reallocating assets away from finance and housing construction in the near term are, unfortunately, in conflict. The economic dislocation will, in the short term, result in more unemployment rather than less. That’s why the administration and the Federal Reserve have been so active in propping up the failing sectors rather than supporting sectors in which there are some prospects for future growth. Wishing for the status quo ante is an inherent quality of political institutions, not an accidental one.

Second, IMO we should be very careful about just what technology and infrastructure we invest in and how we do it. I believe that we’re enormously over-invested in biotechnololgy, for example. That may pay off enormously. Or it may be an utter waste.

If you define infrastructure as roads and bridges, do we have enough or far too much? I think the latter (building bridges to nowhere, anyone?) and that rather than diluting our resources by trying not only to maintain everything but even to expand it we should concentrate on what’s most important and most productive. Does that argue for the federal government doing these things? I’m not so sure.

Here in the Chicagoland area we have plenty of roads. Our problems are that many of our roads don’t go the right way and we have peak load problems. The reason for the former is political and I don’t think the solution to the latter is more roads.
Then there is a very unsettling discussion on The Post-Antibiotic Age but which unfortunately every country, not just the USA, needs to grapple with now, not a decade from now.

To round out the trio, there is Re-Thinking Conservation Strategies, which I consider a 'must read' in the wake of natural disasters that have hit the USA very hard just in this year -- and we're only half-way through the year.

Since 2009 there have been so many very expensive natural disasters in the USA, or disasters arising from accidents (e.g., the Gulf Oil spill) or disasters created by attempts to avert bigger disasters (e.g., opening floodgates in the Morganza Spillway) that they tend to make a mockery of economic planning and ideas that have come to stand for conservation strategy, such as carbon trading.

Well, I invite you to read Dave's essay and add your thoughts to the debate. My two cents' worth is that the defense budget shouldn't be cut back; the part slated to be chopped should be reoriented to treat natural disasters as national security threats -- at least until more Americans adopt sound forest management, sound water and wetlands management, and return to baseline intelligent actions such as never building houses in America's Tornado Alley that don't have tornado cellars.

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