Monday, September 29, 2008

Economics: war versus common sense

A Slashdot post I saw by "jollyreaper", replying to another post.
FDR tried and failed to fix the 1930s recession..... it ultimately took a world war to bring-back full employment. Without the war, FDR would have been voted out of office in 1940, and the recession would have stretched through most of the 1940s.

Obama faces what FDR faced, and Obama's not going to be any more successful. (Unless a war saves him.)

Why is it we always praise wars for bringing full employment? I hate to use the cheesedick "war on x" phrases but seriously, what if we were literally do pull out all the stops and mobilize the population on the scale of total war but make the enemy be shoddy infrastructure or crappy housing or something. Instead of marshaling the entire industrial might of the nation towards turning out bombers and tanks, why not treat the whole war as a massive public works project? Make the government the employer of last resort. "If private industry cannot provide work for our good citizens, the government will employ them in something as close to their profession as possible, working towards the public good." It's unemployment benefits that don't keep you out of work and gives the government a tangible return for the money. When the economy picks up, the private sector can start hiring the workers back.

We've been cutting back on investing in infrastructure for decades, it'd be good to put some money back into our country again. Set a goal of getting us off fossil fuels over the next two decades, put government labs to work on seriously making a go of fusion power, green living, reshape our cities to be less energy intensive.


M. Simon said...

It can't be done in two decades.

Five to ten decades is more like it.

It is a matter of logistics. If there was a viable electric car today and companies were producing them 100% a transition would take 20 years minimum.

There is no viable electric car and there is not enough grid infrastructure to support a totally electric car system.

Fusion Report 29 August 2008

People with all these grandiose plans are always weak on logistics: how much steel mfg capacity is required for the desired rate of change? Copper? Aluminum? Electric motors? Controls? Redesign of auto factories? Redesign of supplier factories? etc. etc. etc.

Qwertie said...

Fair enough, but the time frame is not really important. The point I took from this post, the point that is important, is this: if expending a huge amount of effort on war supplies is good, then expending a huge amount of effort creating things that benefit people is much better.

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