Sunday, July 27, 2014

Libertarianism: Consequentialist, Deontological or Something Else?

Certainly there are wide variations and interpretations in libertarian thought. Just the same, a recent post at Bleeding Heart Libertarians (HT Ryan Long) brought my attention to an argument I scarcely could have imagined on the part of a libertarian: proposed licensing of parenting!

While I don't think of my libertarian tendencies as anarchic, perhaps a free form services marketplace appears that way - oddly enough. Particularly in terms of coordinated provisions which don't need to be taxed in order to be inclusive, if and when time use is equally approached. And yet some among the discussion at BHL, were effectively arguing for limits to a human activity which is more basic than economic access. How much more distrustful of fellow humanity do any of us need to become?

Would it not be a better approach, to allow people more complete rights to their humanity? Okay, enough rant! First I want to consider the Wikipedia definitions, but I also want to touch on economic rights which have yet to be provided: rights which could help both in economic and social terms.

Consequentialist libertarianism and what is also referred to as natural rights libertarianism don't seem as clear cut to me, as they are delineated in the Wikipedia examples. From the consequentialist link:
...refers to the libertarian position that is supportive of a free market and strong private property rights only on the grounds that they bring about favorable consequences, such as prosperity and efficiency.
Efficiency? Hmm. Part of the problem in this regard is that both physical and social elements of environment have been compromised - in terms of the experiential element which adds so much to both product and environment definition. While "favorable consequences" are certainly a consideration, the framing here can be awkward when it is left too wide - particularly in terms of national "rule making" one size fits all patterns, rather than local paths for economic and social activity. The more centralized the outlook, the more that rules over discretion tend to be sought. Indeed, parental licensing feels like that kind of approach.

One part of the problem regarding planned environments: what are the expectations behind the thought processes, as to what human nature might consist of (in aggregate) in the future? For instance: will the split between knowledge use and base skill sets only widen? Let's hope not - hence plan so it doesn't. In all of this, something does get planned, according to the expectations which "win" the day.

And if the negative interpretation of human capacity "wins"? Those on the short end may increasingly opt out of family formation just the same. Without the possibility of a meaningful life path, family formation may serve little purpose. Except...the lack of familial identity particularly hurts some individuals all the more, who also don't have economic identity. Regular readers know that I tend towards the consequentialist view, in terms of creating better paths for aggregate time use capacity. Rules such as a license for parenting would especially hurt those who are already in regions which lack true economic access - should these individuals be brave enough to take on the odds.

Deontological libertarianism certainly does not get to the heart of some issues which concern me. One reason is obvious: land use rights are somewhat sterile in terms of overall applicability and economic vitality. When we generated product primarily through land formations, economic rights in terms of land were particularly important. They still are, but land and environment use need to be far more flexible (and liquid) components of community business and living strategies than is now the case. By creating local land shares and flexible building components for business and living environments, individuals would become able to take much needed local risks, without constantly being exposed to bankruptcy hence needless ruin of resource options.

However, digital communication and time use product are not really dependent on land - particularly those formulations which insist on single use capacity. What's more, knowledge use has gradually become the "soil" which now generates some of the most important product - robots or no. However...where are our rights in this regard? So far, rights for knowledge and time use appear as though nonexistent - even though time is our constant, and individuals can benefit from knowledge aids which exist well beyond the bounds of patents and credential seeking.

A lack of economic rights also accounts for missing aggregate time use capacity - so much so that this has finally distorted monetary policy. How to address the problem? Individuals need production rights which extend to both knowledge use and product definition, in order to regain economic access and bring stability back to monetary systems. Incremental time use ownership options for knowledge and (other) resources would also make it possible to rely less on finance. This approach would make it possible for finance to regress into the limited societal position it actually warrants.

What would production rights consist of? Some of the more basic aspects would be services based. For instance, rights to heal and rights to educate - in some instances - would become based on what is possible to achieve in one's life, and what others are willing to accept as defined product. The only time anyone's services offerings might be formally negated (in settings which allow a free marketplace for services), is when the results are clearly shown to harm others.

Just the same, most limitations would be informal in nature, so as to encourage more positive and informed offerings on the part of the provider. What's more, it is easier to determine this at local levels with mutual record keeping of ongoing activity, than through present day national institutions which attempt to monitor the product which millions of individuals rely on.

Another important aspect of production rights, would be to have the right to define the kinds of product we use in physical terms. One thing that would help in this regard, would be the flexible component aspect which allows reconfiguration and adaptation from agreed upon aspects of production. However, much innovation is needed at infrastructural levels, before new production standards can be realistically agreed upon. Communities have arbitrarily adhered to limited sets of standards (from centuries earlier) which makes many kinds of innovation impossible in the present. Exit and voice would ensure that different communities would gain the right to work with different environment adaptations than are now possible.

These are just some aspects regarding how my ideas fit in with Wikipedia definitions, and when possible I'll return to these definitions to find further comparisons.

Friday, July 25, 2014

Has Societal Trust Been Lost?

Certainly, this is a question worth asking. Especially so, since much of the economic life we take for granted is built on levels of trust among strangers. What comes first: trust, or the economic relationships which make it possible? While these are relative concepts, it's still possible that some gains have been lost, particularly in areas which have experienced decline. Without high levels of trust, maintaining a productive economy - let alone well functioning society - would not be easy. In particular, reestablishing trust among individuals in lower income settings is one of the more important challenges of the present.

Some have suggested that digital entertainment and other consumption could take the place of meaningful work and engagement, where no room (supposedly) exists for economic access. However social skills tend to become lost, when consumption becomes the only remaining option for anyone. In most circumstance, it is difficult to meaningfully play, when meaningful work is not part of the same scenario.

Anyone not truly engaged on economic terms, is likely to have issues with negotiation skills, reason and logic, and social/economic reciprocity. In social terms the phrase comes to mind, "water water everywhere, and not a drop to drink". We want to trust, just as we want others to be able to trust us. Yet in many instances, those without economic access have few means to either offer one's friendship or accept the invitation of others.

Many institutions have been forced to factor out or limit economic participation (in aggregate), just to pay the bills. Rather than debate whether or why this has happened, it would better to make time use an arbitrage point, so that the high hanging fruit of knowledge use can be brought back into the picture. This time around, knowledge use and more effective skills capacity need to be components of everyone's participation, so that gene pools do not continue needlessly splitting off from one another indefinitely. This is not just a matter of tending to a missing marketplace, which is important enough in itself. It's about extending an invitation to lots of individuals to meaningfully rejoin the human race.

Where trust exists among individuals, fewer rules are needed and more discretion is possible. However, discretion is not always easy when rules have already substituted (far and wide it seems) for the ability to directly negotiate with others. By using time as a compensated point of arbitrage, decentralized settings for services formations could generate multidimensional activity. In other words, educational factors can be brought back into the same environments as work and related living arrangements. By generating social interaction in multidimensional settings, it becomes easier not only to discern character formation, but to more effectively develop character as well.

Why should this matter? Consider what are often limited interactions with others, in settings which are not connected with one another in any way: for instance grocery stores, walking trails, even church settings to some extent. Unless one has mutual friends in these settings, the lack of local activities held in common with others, can make it difficult to establish the level of trust necessary to form relationships. In the twentieth century, many were able to overcome reluctance to engage with others who seemed "different" in any way, because of workplaces held in common. As these kinds of workplace formations have decreased in some areas, "differences" are once again perceived as something negative.

While it would take time to do so, societal trust can be regained. However, services product needs to be reexamined and locally restructured, before greater trust become possible to achieve. All too often, groups now want to split off from one another. But splitting off as a reactionary process is not necessarily conducive to positive change. Effective decentralization needs interior sustainability. How can new connecting points be created at basic economic levels? How can economic service product be redefined in ways that honor human dignity? These factors need consideration, before societal trust can be rebuilt.

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Needed: Higher Returns to Time Use

In order to confront issues regarding inequality, consumption potential is an important consideration. However, income adjustments which "chase" consumption needs and wants, are inadequate compared to an approach which gains higher returns for time use - both individually and in aggregate. Why should this matter? It is too easy for present day consumption imbalance to destroy wealth. One might be frugal and a careful planner over the course of a lifetime, yet still end up financially "undone" by unavoidable medical bills.

Healthcare as an aggregate supply factor, has distorted time use in many areas of life.The same healthcare service needs which can tangle family budgets, are now the same as those which tangle government budgets, particularly in the U.S. And yet the heaviest components of today's debt loads are built on artificial scarcities. How might populations gain the ability to produce more of their vital consumption goals?

As Scott Sumner recently indicated, economics is all about consumption. Even though consumption factors are trickier to quantify than income, they are more important in the context of meeting ongoing needs. Services respond to time use differently than other forms of production, because service product is uniquely dependent on time, place and circumstance to give useful results. What's more, individualized services are possible when people coordinate for time availability on the part of the group in question. Because individuals have the same amount of time availability, higher returns to time use are possible where arbitrage seeks to utilize group capacity.

One strategy of higher returns to time use would be to break down services specialization into more precise components, manageable by a wide range of local skill levels. For instance, many years of education have been required for the education of physicians. But today, automation, technology gains and digital assistance can assist in coordinating knowledge factors throughout local community.

What's more, there is a wealth of knowledge and information available that healthcare institutions have not been able to directly utilize. All these factors could allow individuals to participate in ongoing local training and education, and they would always have the option of taking on responsibilities for health related needs. None of this is like "becoming a doctor"or even a nurse for that matter. The response of every individual to concepts regarding healing and wholeness, is as wide as the capacity of life itself. Only spend an hour in quality second hand bookstores, which specialize in non fiction by comprehensive subject listings. In such an environment, it becomes easy to visualize the possibilities of skills arbitrage.

The right to produce is closely connected with the right to heal. Both involve the right to meaningfully explore in ways that one can suggest measures for others to take into consideration. No one needs to play god, and everyone has the chance to corroborate what others already seek. Given the wealth of material already available in this regard - let alone the capacity of natural curiosity and human desire to problem solve - bringing these abilities back to the average individual could go a long way to bring higher returns to time use. In the process, a higher trust society than anyone has now, would once again become possible.

Better coordination for knowledge use is the high hanging fruit which could return populations to prosperity. As Timothy Taylor said regarding the long term government budget scenario:
...the current spending patterns of the U.S. government are starting to crowd out everything except health care, Social Security and interest payments.
This fact alone, could well convince governments to allow their citizens to take on knowledge use systems projects which also have the future potential to tend to healthcare needs. In the process, citizens could provide many other useful benefits which make it possible to channel fiscal efforts into direct monetary efforts at local levels. Not only would there be higher returns to time use, there were be a way to generate new economic activity which is less debt ridden, and more capable of generating real wealth.

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Midweek Market Monetarist Links and Summaries - 7/23/14

In an AD bleg, (prompted by a post from Chris House) Scott Sumner reconsiders what aggregate demand is all about. Marcus Nunes and Bonnie Carr post responses as well.
Scott continues the discussion at Econlog with AD: Eleven stages of enlightenment
How is the IS-LM model able to derive the AD curve? IS/LM and AD
Overseas perspective on the U.S. has a somewhat different focus: America the bully
(Econlog) Why is it so difficult to envision this way? Economics is all about consumption.
Market monetarists homeless? Better homeless than in a lunatic asylum

David Glasner takes a closer look at the slides provided by Chris Foote, which Scott Sumner discussed in the above linked post re  IS/LM and AD:

(Marcus Nunes) Target rules and instrument rules are not the same thing:
An NGDP level target would be the best financial stability of all:
Tight money to reduce inequality...yikes
Right now, the market monetarist home is in the blogosphere:
According to Lars Svensson, how does the Riksbank "control" financial stability, particularly with no effective policy instruments to do so?

Lars Christensen illustrates Yellen's assertion regarding market value:

Nick Rowe patiently explains that a legislated Taylor rule is not what we want - "There is always a tension between rules and discretion, and not just in monetary policy":

(Britmouse) More good news from the UK:

Even optimists may be increasingly bearish about the U.S. (Ravi Varghese):

Ambrose Evans-Pritchard also also sees a hawkish Yellen:

No "redefinition" yet, on Yellen's part (Benjamin Cole)
Sometimes a "confluence of factors" mostly serves to exonerate the Fed:

Also of interest:

Great picture illustration for the theoretical model and the real world model (Frances Woolley):

Another natural outcome from "going short" on spending capacity  (James Pethokoukis): Less economic growth means fewer American babies - and then even less economic growth

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

What are Desirable Economic Complexities?

While a recent Bloomberg View article (Mark Buchanan) skewed towards the left, it starts nonetheless with a quote which is apt for this post. Particularly given the fact that efficiency gains - by whatever means - are mostly "blind" to political ideology:
Much of human activity is focused on the quest for efficiency - getting the most out of resources so that we can improve our standard of living. Problem is, what we perceive as efficient is often making us worse off in ways that are difficult for the human mind to grasp.  
Buchanan's article highlighted monoculture crops which have affected honeybee colonies. However, the monoculture concept extends well beyond agriculture, in terms of centralization and decentralization. There is a growing concern regarding "hollowed out" local economies in portions of the U.S., which I also touched on in "A Tribute to the Everyday Entrepreneur". As governments have taken over more of economic functions, sometimes little else is left behind, other than still taxable structures. Even as Washington worries about inequality, in recent decades it is Washington which has grown "out of balance" rich, from the nation's wealth.

Regular readers know that the "circles of sustainability" I emphasize are primarily economic in nature, even though other aspects of sustainability fit readily into the same paradigm. Both economic and organic environments suffer from overly streamlined measures which can cut the heart out of productive complexity. Often, the "efficient" results are guarded as well, with the confusion of unnecessary complexities. While the physical world starts to take on a sameness of appearance, the economic realm experiences a forced sameness in cultural definitions and acceptance of limited patterns of knowledge use.

Given the chance, individuals seek out nature where environmental diversity still exists, as well as cities where economic diversity also remains. Contrast the beauty of a natural forest, with pine trees planted in tidy rows which have little more than grass underneath. Anyone who has walked through planted "forests " knows they don't quite feel right. In order for the artificial forest to be "efficient", not much else in the way of organic life exists in the same space.

Even so, this form of efficiency is often easier to live with, than the monocultures of communities which are victims of economic centralization. Many such places are so bereft of knowledge use or resource potential, that what is left is mostly providers and consumers of hard drugs, with increasingly militarized police to skim off what benefit they can from the ensuing chaos and despair.

In the present, it often seems we have little left to generate positive economic complexities at local levels. Much of the process of price arbitrage in centralization, has been taken to levels well above the realities of many local economies. Fortunately, there is plenty of untapped potential on the horizon which could change this set of circumstance. Technologies are quickly developing (and becoming more affordable) which will become applicable for resource arbitrage at local levels, once again. Add those to the untapped potential of aggregate time use, and the new possibilities could finally overtake the present day gridlock of governments and special interests. Certainly, it's something to hope for.

Sunday, July 20, 2014

A Tribute to the Everyday Entrepreneur

Peter Gordon recently asserted that - given the state of politics in the present - the best we could hope for was to "pray for gridlock". Certainly I can see the reasoning, and yet I reject it just the same. Interestingly enough in that post, he referenced the book "Good Capitalism, Bad Capitalism" (2007) which I agree is a good primer for the subject. However, something about entrepreneurship seemed missing in the book's portrayal of capitalism, which perhaps had some bearing on Gordon's conclusion. Is gridlock really a "best response" to crony capitalism and politics?

Gordon's remarks about gridlock also reminded me of a recent post from Peter Boettke who claimed that crony capitalism was at least "better than crony socialism". For me, that is too broad a conjecture. To what extent does the marketplace actually function, for those who seek to become entrepreneurs? Under gridlock conditions, any attempt to simply participate may appear as though an attempt to disrupt. Simple descriptions of capitalism versus socialism may not hold the answer.

"Good Capitalism, Bad Capitalism" did not explore the alternatives of the present as thoroughly as I would have liked. For one thing - even though he was a co author - William Baumol's earlier contributions regarding present day service formations, were missing. Also, the role of the everyday entrepreneur was discounted. Granted, the more obvious aspects of economic growth are from disruptive innovation and the noted entrepreneurs who foster them. Before governments took on a major role in economic activity, however, everyday entrepreneurs were in many ways the center of economic activity in the U.S.

Much about the disruption we do get (gridlock notwithstanding) is somewhat misunderstood. How is the marketplace ultimately shaped by the disruptive innovation which is allowed to proceed? Which disruption is not fostered, and why? Are we getting the kinds of disruptive innovation which are so vitally needed for broad progress? Does the disruption which takes place, make the marketplace more substantive in overall context...or less? And most important for this post: is there any room left at local levels, for the everyday entrepreneur? Because if not, how are we to think about the outposts which remain? Every one of them needs to become something a lot more substantial than flyover zones.

Questions such as these matter. At the very least, Wikipedia's approach to entrepreneurship felt more evenhanded than usual, given the reluctance of some to consider "mere" business owners as entrepreneurial. And yet, entrepreneurs routinely work with, rearrange and arbitrage the elements that happen to be within the reach of their own environments. In some sense, this is what has always transpired, between human and resource. Whether a coordination of such in one's garden, management of resources in one's home environment, or ultimately, the arrangement of the broader marketplace. The crucial element in all this is that each individual remains producer, coordinator and consumer from a vast wealth of resource potential.

While the everyday entrepreneur is temporarily forgotten in the present, these individuals were once the workhorses of capitalism, at local levels of the economy. Many a baby boomer sought to remain engaged in these earlier roles, in communities which also longed to maintain the "connecting points" they were once able to provide to the larger economy.  It's still easy to assume away the demise of the everyday entrepreneur in local economies, and chalk it up to the more efficient workings of the big players.

For services which rely on time use, better "efficiency" elsewhere is an illusion, just the same. For the movement of product separate from time, some centralized locations make least up to a point. For decades, local stores have closed their doors, while those who were once entrepreneurs either retired or perhaps moved to where work can still be found. It's easy to rationalize that the once available good is now only a long trip from home, or perhaps an internet purchase away. Still, these more distant forms of product availability, are somewhat lost to local resource coordination patterns which local entrepreneurs and their (nearby) customers were able to utilize for common experiences.

With little economic activity held in common, those who live in close proximity in "forgotten" areas, tend to lose the purpose of living close to one another. What's more, costs of accessing (locally) missing marketplaces - whenever one has this option, include externalities which are difficult to ascertain. The shift of economic life to the cities may appear benign or even desirable in some contexts. However, that shift circumvents local economic capacity - hence social and cultural factors - in unexpected ways. There's too little of real substance to replace lost economic activity in many areas. As it turns out, more may be at stake, than whether product formations remain locally available.

Unfortunately, what existed prior to the earlier economic enthusiasm of towns all over the U.S.,  is no longer part of the memory of many who are alive now. Rural areas have often been left behind, which makes it harder for them to support further growth they suspect will not find its way to their communities. They cannot help but express their disappointment towards Washington, especially when the most capable among their populations are compelled to leave for entrepreneurial opportunities elsewhere.

Even as many areas have declined, Washington gains considerable advantage from the places which still thrive. Still, it does little good to put all the blame on Washington. Local economies also need to look inward, to consider the NIMBY practices which ultimately excluded many among their own friends and family as well. When communities decide to exclude by rule and regulation, governments are quick to assent. With every compromise and favor for the select, fewer resources remain, to coordinate and arbitrage among the many.

Today's entrepreneurial arbitrage has little to do with coordination of local potential, as frameworks of possibility have shifted ever outward. As a result, it is the uncommon breed of entrepreneur, who breaks through the many barriers to gain economic entry at this level. Whereas, the everyday entrepreneurs who defined the landscape before income patterns diverged, made claims to the marketplace in ways which left plenty of room for local "others".

The earlier breed did not always need to gain entry through disruption - yet when disruption did occur, it tended to do so in ways which included innovation for the masses. As a result, everyday entrepreneurs often succeeded by expanding the marketplace from its earlier definition. Importantly, this is the same strategy which is utilized by start ups in developing countries today. They are not disrupting in every instance, so much as they are adding new growth. Whereas, creative destruction in developed nations isn't necessarily "creative", so much as it is simply market displacement by dominant parties.

Innovative disruption is still very much needed. However, this would be a unique kind of disruption, which would make possible what is still a missing marketplace. Hidden within that marketplace is a wealth of possibility for the everyday entrepreneur, in terms of both innovation for the environment, and innovation in services offerings as well. This disruption would form a new template in which it would once again be possible for numerous entrepreneurs to participate locally. Yet it would not be the kind of disruption that continually displaces others.

Hopefully I did not depress readers with a post written in lots of past tense! By no means am I resigned to the idea of everyday entrepreneurs as belonging in the past. Rather, I wanted to illustrate what has happened to local economies, so that the problems of economic exclusion might be overcome. There's still time, and there are more than ample resources to do so. Let's just do it.

Saturday, July 19, 2014

Time Use as Product, Time Use as Wealth

Society could really use a leap of faith, in order to turn focused time use into highly liquid - thus easily tradable goods. People have been willing to concede that economic value is a component of time use, but not in an aggregate sense. This is one reason, why few recognize the inherent value of monetary representation from aggregate time use.

It is also why groups, communities, regions, states and nations are now engaged in campaigns to keep others out of their territory who either don't have the necessary "goods", or are perceived as somehow "taking" skills goods away from the "in" group. And yet, specific population numbers, demographics or other group association factors  are not the problem.  So long as aggregate wealth capacity in time use is viewed as negative (too many "takers"), the same perception would hold true at any population level.

However, this unfortunate perception could be dramatically shifted in the coming decades, for there is much hidden wealth potential just under the surface. A leap of faith in skills capacity would expose the wealth in our own midst - hidden as it is by crony interests everywhere one looks. Since the Great Recession, people have been repeatedly told that the knowledge capacity and skills sets they sought to acquire by whatever means, are "inadequate" for present day circumstance.

Yet when governments realized more education wouldn't actually guarantee success, they basically began to tell the public it was time to scale back on dreams of growth and continued prosperity. At this point, people were starting to realize that many self improvement efforts could end up squandered. What - then - of the rationale that was abandoned?

How can any government or business explain what is at stake, i.e. the exterior definitions of value which have taken away the liquidity of our primary wealth. It's definitely not in their interests to do so. Just the same, it is in the interests of citizens to take back their right to produce services. Granted, few have held that right for quite some time. Still, without the right to produce or otherwise offer individualized services, too many citizens would remain in the hapless position they now hold - one where many are defined as "takers". That's an unfortunate role which never should have materialized.

Context is everything: perceived value - or not - on whose terms?? There's been little chance to find out, since everyone took for granted for nearly a century that business and government were supposed to "call" on people to help out as needed, rather than people calling on one another to help out, as before. Were we to look - once again - at service skills capacity on individual and local terms, everyone would quickly find skills sets in their portfolios which are useful to others. No one would have to be "lazy" (whatever that means) unless they simply want their investments to do the heavy lifting for them.

None of this is about wishful barter or sharing economies at the margins. It's about a growing understanding, how local economies could coordinate knowledge use in lieu of government and sometimes exclusionary businesses or professional associations, where there are clear societal benefits in doing so. What's more, becoming an entrepreneur in a knowledge marketplace, means skills arbitrage in equal time use settings. That's the same framework (minimal reliance on externalized time control) that people utilized to get most things done, for thousands of years.

With unique applications in local settings, time arbitrage systems could also make it possible to measure time value which in many cases had been taken for granted, hence perceived as impossible to measure or compensate. The algorithm of equal time coordination, is also a framework which makes it possible to show knowledge use as a growth trajectory within community settings. For understandable reasons, many present day forms of knowledge use were generated in recent centuries by tightly controlled profit and not for profit formations. Only recently has it become possible to locally and broadly internalize the same methods and structures, through more flexible means.

The primary problem of automation as (completely) replacing labor, is that we miss the reality of what we want from mental capacity in our economic environments. Indeed, some have wondered whether the most important faculties of life experience even need to be measured. Just the same, it's not a good idea to leave out measurement capacity for the work of the mind. What might happen, if records of this most human component no longer existed in substantial quantities? Not only might it be difficult to remember what transpires in this regard, it could also be difficult to replicate the components which matter most. Even though the internet captures some aspects of our knowledge histories, it is not yet built to sort according to societal value.

That is why it would be worth the effort, to translate economic activity which has been inadequately compensated as production residuals, into direct time use. There is much to gain, from measuring and compensating the activities in which we also experience the life of the mind. By doing so, knowledge use can become the true component of human capital which it always had the capacity, to represent.