Friday, January 30, 2015

Productive Inclusion

If two words could suffice for present day economic concerns (besides my other preexisting bias, "market monetarism"!) "productive inclusion" would probably be at the top of the list. This phrase seemed an appropriate post title, after reading a recent post, "Redistribution or Inclusion?" from Ricardo Hausmann.

While his articles are always interesting, his last one seemed surprisingly close to some of my own views. In particular, he's concerned about human capital potential which is lost to poor organizational principles. Not only has this created problems for economic access, but also in terms of lost productivity. What's more, Hausmann believes that Piketty's redistribution thesis could dangerously mislead. Here's Hausmann:
Given productivity constraints, redistribution is only palliative, not curative. To address the problem requires investing in inclusion, endowing people with skills, and connecting them to the inputs and networks that can make them productive.
Think about this quote for a moment. Even the suggestion of more redistribution is a really bad idea, if and when a marketplace is not fully developed. There's a tendency to think of missing markets as a problem for developing nations. However in terms of needed services, this holds equally true for the U.S. After all, the ones who benefit from knowledge use exclusion in the marketplace, fund both political parties. Some continue to rhapsodize in speeches about educational investment, and the fact that as a nation we are worse off without it. Yes...but what about those who already have it? The problems of how and where to include all those time use commitments, are turning time investment into something of a question mark.

As a result, the kinds of inputs and networks which would make more regions productive, are still jealously guarded for obvious reasons. Only consider that a primary component of healthcare is pharmaceuticals, which as a group appears to be focused on achieving exactly the opposite of greater inclusion, in production and consumption terms. Today's protected institutions are not organized in ways that would allow them to optimize time use aggregates. Alternate systems are very much needed, for needed growth to become a rising tide that would raise all boats.

Hausmann continues:
The dilemma is that poor countries lack the means to connect all places to all inputs. They are faced with the choice of connecting a few places to most inputs and getting high productivity there, or putting some of the inputs in all places and getting very little productivity growth everywhere. This is why development tends to be unequal. 
This is exactly the situation with U.S. hospital systems, which in knowledge use terms could be thought of as a three tier system. In this system, most of the productive work occurs in the top tier i.e. prosperous regions. At the bottom are the (remaining) rural hospitals. In the event of emergencies, these often don't have the staff or equipment to tend to more than basic patient needs. Appearances suggest this group is largely able to pay bills, due to a costly (to patient and/or government) fleet of ambulances. Indeed, hospital staff here must rely on scheduling "luck", even to gain a spot in a second tier hospital where they can then transport the patient.

In the second tier (outside major cities and in large cities) the staff can provide more tests and sometimes, procedures. Still, these hospitals often serve as expensive waiting areas, until the patient can gain a location at a first tier hospital which has the staff and facilities available for what the patient needs. In the meantime, patients are lined up like so many planes alongside a runway, waiting for a chance to "take off" for the ultimate destination.

To be sure, many are used to thinking of certain skills sets as belonging specifically to certain individuals. However, this has led to productivity problems in many areas of life. In the case of hospitals, the primary work occurs at a fraction of the facilities involved. Productivity in terms of time use product, is quite different from the product which is separate from time and specific geographic representation (hospital or office). In other words, time use often can't be scaled down for productivity gain, without the actual loss of that marketplace in real terms. And the loss of that marketplace spills over into multiple areas of life.

Fortunately, some aspects of economic inclusion don't have to wade through the thorny issue of knowledge use rights! Locally generated investment pooling for time and resource use, would be one of the truly positive aspects of knowledge use systems. These kinds of investment structures would provide benefits for small groups of individuals who are directly involved. Time use aggregates are difficult to relate to other resource aggregates in constant terms, because time use aggregates exist in a finite range while other resources exist in a seemingly infinite range. Local systems would provide means to monitor time and resource use in relation to each other.

International investment flows scale into the random infinities that make up general equilibrium. That not only accounts for wide income variance, but leaves little room for small investors in open investment opportunities. Knowledge use systems need investment contributions that are capable of freeing up time for endeavor which cannot always be monetarily compensated. This is why local investment would seek to make investment really count for all participants, and it could do so because of the finite scale of investment actually involved.

Productive inclusion is a real possibility, even if it cannot readily take place in today's already existing environments. The targeted growth of knowledge use systems could mean inclusion for those who seek to help one another, when it is not possible to do so within the context of existing institutions.

Thursday, January 29, 2015

How Do Federal Deficits Matter?

Federal deficits matter when they ultimately impose limits on growth and knowledge use, as has occurred since the Great Recession. Rivers of ink have been spilled over the idea that deficits don't matter. If that is so, then why have so many nations cut back on their growth projections for the foreseeable future?? Inquiring minds want to know.

This conversation, courtesy of Brad Delong, is an apt illustration how political wrangling with a constant "Fix the Debt" subtext could ultimately result in fewer knowledge based services over time. While a loss of service formation due to fiscal limits might not bother some, it would bother me immensely. Services need to be subjected to production reform, so that marketplace loss is not a slow motion inevitability. If labor force participation does not successfully shift toward services, other forms of production would eventually become more limited as well.

Governments are limited in the numbers they can hire, much as private industry has also been. As for those who are presently hired, they also need to be able to work and live where these jobs already exist. Eventually, many knowledge based services need to be localized through direct monetary means, so that they are no longer an issue for federal deficits. Fix the debt? Let's fix the missing marketplace, instead. The sooner the better, before even more of the (recent) downshifted growth trajectory is lost.

Washington understandably wants as many fiscal accommodations for the economy as possible. Particularly in the last century, national governments have been able to put their distinctive stamp on much of what has occurred - both at home and on the world stage. But fiscal activity has become a more broad based aspect of economic life than some are willing to concede. As a result, compromise and resolution on many fronts is becoming more difficult by the day.

Deficits often appear quite benign, in part because of the ways they are structured. Many of these government obligations are hidden in today's financial structures and government transfer payments systems - both of which hopelessly skew data comparisons. To be sure, the federal budget has remained fairly stable over time. However, the most recent plan for maintaining that stability has been to slowly cut back on an ill designed healthcare marketplace, and hope the public won't notice. That's a lousy non solution. The main problem for recent government budgets, has been the growing nature of what their obligations now consist of. Circumstance which no longer have a beginning and an endpoint, have crowded out practically all other options.

In many instances, federal deficits of the future may need to be reserved for circumstance which are not ongoing. That also means fewer unnecessary promises to private interests. Governments became bogged down in the twentieth century, by taking central roles in the structures of their domestic economies. While some government activity is always desirable for tradable goods infrastructure, non tradable goods such as housing and services often need to be decentralized. Otherwise, government obligations in these areas only make it more difficult to remain flexible and adaptable in changing times.

The adoption of knowledge use systems could eventually bring a dynamic services marketplace to all. What's more, doing so could free up government budgets for what they are best able to provide. Federal deficits aren't necessarily unwieldy because of their size. Rather, deficits become unwieldy when they grow so complex, that different factions no longer agree on the monetary representation to tend to them. The fact this is now the case, means there is more significance in today's deficits than meets the eye.

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Midweek Market Monetarist Links and Summaries - 1/28/15

Lars Christensen notes real progress in the recent ECB policy announcement: http://marketmonetarist.com/2015/01/23/draghis-framework-a-step-in-the-right-direction/

David Glasner gives Nick Rowe a "hard time" about his recent Friedman post! http://uneasymoney.com/2015/01/22/nick-rowe-goes-bonkers-over-milton-friedman/
Nick Rowe provides Hume's "Of Money" in comments, and Glasner responds: http://uneasymoney.com/2015/01/25/did-david-hume-discover-the-vertical-phillips-curve/
It's almost impossible to know, how a change in the rate of inflation affects unemployment: http://uneasymoney.com/2015/01/27/the-near-irrelevance-of-the-vertical-long-run-phillips-curve/

In 2011, spending growth shifted down (Marcus Nunes) https://thefaintofheart.wordpress.com/2015/01/21/canadian-blues-when-will-they-learn/
This "victory speech" wouldn't have any validity, either: https://thefaintofheart.wordpress.com/2015/01/21/i-want-i-want-and-i-want-to-raise-rates/
Fiscal policies never fulfilled their "promise": https://thefaintofheart.wordpress.com/2015/01/22/from-the-samuelson-sampler-to-sumner/
If monetary policy can't be used...https://thefaintofheart.wordpress.com/2015/01/22/germanys-reluctance/
Needed: a simpler picture of the world: https://thefaintofheart.wordpress.com/2015/01/25/three-interrelated-quotes/
https://thefaintofheart.wordpress.com/2015/01/26/the-board-keeps-mum-the-regionals-play-tug-owar/
Marcus provides a quote from a paper by Douglas Irwin on Gustav Cassel's Analysis of the Interwar Gold Standard
Unemployment benefits or no, labor markets need to be thought through more directly: https://thefaintofheart.wordpress.com/2015/01/27/data-for-me-data-for-you/

Today, monopoly power is discussed in terms of output and employment reduction (Nick Rowe): http://worthwhile.typepad.com/worthwhile_canadian_initi/2015/01/does-monopoly-power-cause-inflation.html  Nick also links to Friedman's "The Role of Monetary Policy"
For Canadians, the exchange rate is more important than the interest rate: http://worthwhile.typepad.com/worthwhile_canadian_initi/2015/01/interest-rates-exchange-rates-and-the-bank-of-canada.html

His stance is close to that of Krugman (Scott Sumner): Kevin Drum on Market Monetarism
One trillion is more than the market expected: The ECB finally acts
A new consensus developed in the Clinton years, only to be lost in the Great Recession: American liberalism, circa 2007

Some Econlog posts from Scott:

The Keynesian shell game
Monetary offset: reply to my critics
Beliefs and value sets aren't matching up very well...Stone Age Economics

(Benjamin Cole) Would David Beckworth's idea work for the Swiss? https://thefaintofheart.wordpress.com/2015/01/23/monetizing-tax-revenues-a-new-calling-for-central-banks/
It could have been worse, but...https://thefaintofheart.wordpress.com/2015/01/26/who-can-blame-greek-voters/

(Robert Hetzel) The idea of a liquidity trap is not at all helpful: http://www.cato-unbound.org/2011/12/12/robert-hetzel/tim-congdon-liquidity-traps-vs-portfolio-rebalancing

George Selgin defends the nominal target in a Cato article: http://www.cato.org/blog/fed-should-quit-making-interest-rate-promises

Home values as risk adjusted deadweight loss? (Kevin Erdmann) http://idiosyncraticwhisk.blogspot.com/2015/01/housing-tax-policy-series-part-1-i-was.html

Ben Southwood highlights and comments on a paper from Nicholas Cachanowsky -  NGDP Targeting: Hayek's Rule

From the risks of the world stage, to the portfolio (Ravi Varghese) http://insecurityanalyst.blogspot.com/2015/01/our-world-of-risk.html

Also of interest:

James Caton details basic economic elements in this post, according to Carl Menger

Responses to CBO Outlook 2015 to 2025. Timothy Taylor notes the stability of the budget over time, and David Wessel says the real issue is that the CBO is growing steadily gloomier about the capacity of the U.S. economy to grow. Of course readers know how I feel about this. Monetarily compensate people, for finding meaningful ways to assist one another in coordinated time. Create local investment strategies to augment the time use base. Mass produce building components, size and simplify them so that even relative "weaklings" can take care of their own environments.

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Public and Private Property are Patterns in Use

...and patterns are vehicles for journeys and destinations of all kinds - both of which change over time. That really matters! Perhaps if more people thought about differences in property use this way, less conflict as to public and private property values would be the result.

Meantime, there's enough unnecessary uniformity in property use patterns, to bore even those least inclined to explore their surroundings. As a result, property use - and the experiential realities associated with it - is less than optimal in many circumstance. When property use becomes defined within limited patterns at all government levels, both public and private property end up underutilized and often under maintained as well.

People have been encouraged to think of public and private property in static and combative terms. Consequently, individuals often have to decipher public or private benefit through arbitrary divisions where little benefit exists. The time/knowledge use property of fiscally provided services is the worst scenario imaginable, within a large tax base. Why? Every service possibility becomes an imposition on someone else. When time and knowledge use are mostly conceived in fiscal terms, real economic growth potential is stunted before it can scarcely begin.

"Property as theft" arguments can miss the environment and time use patterns which people are trying to coordinate. David Duke, in "Propertarian Hokey Pokey", continues some recent discussions about property and Adam Blackstone has a good response to his posts. Whether public or private property is involved, multiple income levels need to be considered, so that infrastructure can be designed which caters to different needs. Where higher income levels do not have space to include for lower income levels, lower income levels need different plans altogether for their own use. In domestic summits for knowledge use systems, citizens would also be involved at the outset for crucial planning stages.

Even where flexibility exists for property use patterns, some planning elements invariably need to be tended to before other Coasean bargining is possible . After a visit to a private Indian city, Gurgaon, Alex Tabarrok explained in a recent Econtalk that private coordination for city development proved to be partially successful. However, issues remained - which might have been easier to address - had they been tended to beforehand. For instance, transportation between various parts of the city was sorely lacking.

Michael Hobbes at The New Republic, wrote about difficulties which ensue when governments attempt to scale up strategies which work quite well...in some places. Pattern repetition (regulations, zoning, infrastructure) can be tempting after a successful project because it seems so easy to replicate. But that's just the problem: rules and expectations which work well for some groups, may not work well for others. When overall rules - rather than locally planned "recipes" - become the norm, life can become boring, stifling and worse, limited in important aspects for some lifestyles.

Inherent in every struggle to maintain "sameness" for everyone, is the fact one person's ideal economic circumstance is problematic for someone else. When democracies in developed nations begin to pull back on public options, they also tend to place further restrictions on private options.

As a result, broad based innovation is becoming more difficult in established regions. Creative destruction of any kind may present problems for sunk costs and earlier patterns in property use. Hence new business starts may be stopped in their tracks before they get a chance. Sometimes it's better to encourage entrepreneurial innovation and unique plans in new locations, where creative endeavor does not have to destroy someone else's efforts. Targeted growth does not have to threaten entire national game boards.

Struggles over national social and cultural issues are unfortunate enough, and often seem unnecessary. But one size fits all economic definitions are even worse, because they affect the living and working circumstance of all individuals on a daily basis. It's one thing for governments to explain how citizens should live. It's altogether another to impose economic limits, which make it difficult for individuals to help one another on an ongoing basis.

Everyone has different incentives and lifestyle patterns. Just as local preferences and endogenous structures are important for international development, they also matter for new communities in developed nations as well. May a thousand property use patterns bloom, for community formation! Even though planning for property use patterns has yet to reach the level of average citizens, hopefully this will be the next step.

Update: James Manzi's advocacy of randomized field trials (RTFs) is relevant to this post: http://jasoncollins.org/2015/01/28/manzis-uncontrolled/

Sunday, January 25, 2015

Free Trade: Still "Civil" After All These Years?

In a recent Upshot article, Tyler Cowen notes recent world violence, and considers whether economic freedom is still capable of sustaining social tolerance. That provided impetus for me to return to some thoughts which ended up getting edited out of yesterday's post. While civility and tolerance aren't quite the same thing, they're certainly close enough to suffice, here. Cowen also mentioned the fact that education didn't correlate with tolerance to the degree one might expect. Alas, all those classroom suggestions to be civil "just because"...aren't quite enough!

Does a benevolent attitude towards others depend on one's neighborhood, or perhaps one's income? To some extent, these factors color perceptions of trustworthiness and willingness to engage with others. Supposedly all is well and civility is real, after all these years of prosperity. Adam Smith was among the earlier economists to note the propensity of "truck and barter" to encourage civil behavior. But do individuals still engage in commerce in the ways that provided these early social benefits?

It depends. So long as one's work involves negotiation on personal terms with others, the same drivers of civility and positive relations are likely there. However - in too many instances - entire groups of individuals are expected to abide by the decisions which experts and others make on their "behalf". Problems can arise for both social and personal development, if the ways one interacts with others all day are determined by someone else.

With little ability to negotiate in one's work or home life, individuals become unable to discern what is actually reasonable, in relationship terms. It's often difficult to reciprocate well with others, if personal circumstance does not include reciprocity for one's own needs. By no means is this just a problem at the level of family, if there is little ability to negotiate effectively in one's working environment.

Autonomous forms of work such as the "butcher, baker, candlestick maker" of yore, were the epitome of those early arguments for increased civility. Even so, hard factory work was still means by which one could build a life. Most of the mind numbing aspects of factory work are now a part of the past. And yet, the new freedom to pursue a better future is dogged by continuing uncertainty. For anyone who spends decades following orders, the new autonomy - desirable though it may be - doesn't have understandable context. How does one work with others according to individually determined needs, if there is no existing marketplace to make this happen? No one really understands what to negotiate for, until work on individual terms is better understood.

Much about civility depends on what people are actually doing, rather than simply thinking. Some mistakenly think that people are civil to one another in society just because they are "expected" to, and forget the degree to which civility is a learned reflex. Cultural norms have also become confusing, in that a tremendous amount of economic activity now exists well beyond local circumstance.

Individuals have the chance to negotiate, when they take direct part in the trade that is actually occurring. But how to accomplish that? For one thing, work is no longer so much about what needs to be done, but what people want to be done. That is a crucial difference which takes some getting used to. When globalization does so much of the work for everyone, it's time to think about more desirable work and life settings which once seemed impossible to create. Tradable goods now need relatively little human effort, and the challenge is to pursue what individuals collectively imagine.

New services roles would be a logical part of this reality. However, some of the most important elements of knowledge based services formations, were created outside of normal free market processes. As a result, their secondary role left services definitions susceptible to excess authoritarianism, at the very moment when production processes for tradable goods were becoming more horizontally structured.

When knowledge based services structures are indirectly funded, hierarchical organization makes sense. However, direct compensation for knowledge use systems would allow horizontal organization to also evolve within local settings. One of the more important aspects of such a development, is that it would allow civility to return to places where scant little has been possible. Such formations would also bring new vitality, to sparse settings which have suffered for decades.

Part of one's ability to be spontaneously civil to others, simply stems from confidence in the future. Who can't help but notice that parts of the world prone to violence, are also places where hope has been lost. Until now, developed nations offered the example of free trade as a way forward and a beacon of hope. However, as traditional production no longer provides the level of employment that was once possible, nations now need to generate full employment by bringing services formation into a free market capacity. In order to do so, services formation has to be accessible not just in consumption terms, but also in production terms. Nations need to be a beacon for their own citizens first. Then - and only then - can they really remain a beacon, for others.

Saturday, January 24, 2015

Economists "Dominate". Is That Beneficial?

It could be, but everyone has a long way to go before this dominance makes a crucial difference. Why so? Presently, economists continue to methodically work within the institutional paradigms which other social sciences have been captured by, in their turn. As a result, economics - as a discipline - could miss the fact too many lines are presently being drawn in the sand, around populations as a whole. It is not enough to say the future is bright so long as it improves locations X and Y and oh...nevermind about the other regions or nations for they're "beyond hope".

Nevertheless, Justin Wolfers is reasonably proud of the growing dominance of economists. And while he didn't mention it in the NYT article "How Economists Came to Dominate the Conversation", much of the educational focus for economics majors is in macroeconomics, as well. Alas, I can't locate an earlier link which "backs" the macroeconomic dominance! Wolfers writes:
Two hundred years ago, the field of economics barely existed. Today it is arguably the queen of the social sciences. 
Through a process of extracting article mentions from the New York Times, he noted the rise (particularly from the Great Depression forward) of economists in the social sciences as compared to historians, psychologists, sociologists, anthropologists and demographers.

In particular, economics contrasts institutional contributions through mathematical and statistical comparison. Prior to this focus, history captured details in illustrative form, a relevance which only shifted after the monetary difficulties which led to the Great Depression. However, it is the rise of dispersed information which led to greater emphasis on the the "big picture". If there is one crucial difference between earlier economic calamities and the potential calamities of the present, it would be that a lot more people are paying attention.

Still, important events and details are being neglected for the important information they hold. Most important among these is a growing inability for people to remain civil to one another, in multiple circumstance. In its defense, economics is certainly not the only discipline to neglect larger implications in this regard. Sociology - in particular - never presented useful material for me, because of its insistent focus on activities within institutions, rather than the (rapidly disappearing) activities among individuals in everyday life.

Even microeconomics has missed some broader implications in this regard, for it takes a passive approach to what could be productive applications in numerous settings. It particularly disappoints me that psychology has missed part of its calling, which leaves its practitioners ill equipped to help those who suffer from lack of economic access. Even though economics (still) continues to fall somewhat short, many individuals such as myself have turned to economics for solutions. At the very least, economics touches on the importance of the individual in economic life, and could do so to a greater degree.

Psychology is also in an unfortunate position, given the fact that - as Wolfers mentioned - there are approximately 3.4 million psychology majors in comparison to 1.5 million economics majors. This tells quite a story what matters to people, which remains to be connected to ongoing realities. If only these psychology hopefuls could be matched up with the millions of individuals who would benefit from their desire to help! When knowledge use remains indirectly compensated, time investment remains a lottery ticket - for there are too few local marketplaces which allow productive time use to take place. No discipline is truly stable, if it cannot provide settings for ongoing participation at local levels.

Indeed, today's school systems were a result of the most recent enclosure movement. As the new school guilds captured and defined knowledge components, knowledge came to be associated less with applied use, and more with consumption. As education became associated with institutions instead of individuals, a limited number of cities took on the primary role of knowledge use, in spite of the new ability for knowledge to disperse to all corners of the world.

As Ivan Illich wrote so eloquently in "Deschooling Society", formalized education separates individuals from the economic and social processes which play vital roles in personal productivity. And all too often, formal schooling encourages individuals to conclude that they have little control over the trajectory of their lives. Even though this book was published in 1971, the premise is as vital as ever - as is the need to address its concerns.

While it is understandable that governments seek control over economic circumstance, by doing so they take great chances on the loss of their own civilizations. Many economists have yet to consider the economic dangers of excessive centralization. Just the same, effective decentralization is not a matter of reaction and anti government sentiment. There is beauty in productive economic environments, which rivals the beauty of nature in its complexity. When governments give in to the desire to limit economic complexity to cities and "special" regions, they create instability for their own populations.

When individuals lose their intimate connections to production processes, their higher aspirations are also lost. They become more susceptible to hate and blame, convinced as they are that the present day system cannot be healed. When economic vitality is not deemed possible for the world as a whole, the world slowly encroaches on the holders of that vitality. Then, the "outside" finally threatens the cities which sought to preserve the use of knowledge on limited terms.

However, when knowledge use and productive economies thrive in every corner of the world, terrorism strongholds begin to lose their grip. Economists could play a tremendous role in this worthy cause. Economic complexity for all, is still a worthwhile dream.

Friday, January 23, 2015

The Knowledge Problem in Time Use Context

A recent post from Nathan Snow, "The Raving Bully Model of Property", is a good rebuttal to Matt Bruenig's insistence that property is theft. The "property as theft" assertion on Bruenig's part, is one that readers may also remember from several Scott Sumner posts. Nathan Snow frames his thoughts in a way that will be familiar to those influenced by Hayek's arguments.

In many respects I agree with Hayek's interpretations of knowledge use applicability. Given the chance, individuals and groups alike will instinctively assign merit to those who clearly deserve it. Even so, merit has become too narrowly defined, within price contexts which have gradually demonetized the value of time aggregates. Too many aspects of services organization are unnecessarily centralized and hierarchical. This leaves little room, for folk to determine value for the kinds of abilities which others in their midst would like to put to use.

Worse, no local marketplace currently exists - at least in the U.S. - which would allow greater diversity in time use. If knowledge use is the most important property of the present, why isn't it more widely distributed and recognized? Something about the way Nathan sums up his post makes me feel I owe my readers a couple of explanations, regarding my present stance on knowledge use. Here's Nathan Snow:
Bruenig is wrong about property. Workers are not atomistically interchangeable. We have specific talents. The only way to get rich, apart from political abuse, is by making other people better off. The right way to deal with injustice is not by overturning the whole system. Rather, the right approach is to work under the system, to subvert it, to be an agent of grace and mercy. Be the exogenous shock you want to see in the world, stop blaming other people. Yeah they are wicked, but so am I, if I'm honest with myself.
The knowledge problem exists at a basic level of economic coordination. As a result, critical differences in outcome have been missed, regarding knowledge use strategies for tradable and non tradable goods. How so? High value skill sets pay off best when product is mass produced at optimal levels. When a given product exists separately from its initial (high value) time use input, product costs can be lowered to an extent they become quite competitive. This form of production has been more responsible than any other, for improvements in the standard of living.

Unfortunately when time use is built into the actual product - as is the case with services - everything changes. Even though aptitude for the task at hand is a tremendous plus, skills value in this instance may not scale for further profit or otherwise add efficiency. While it is possible to achieve desired institutional services goals through automation, sometimes the human component is lost in the process. Already, automation is beginning to limit what were once considered normal social functions and responses. In some instances, the ability to relate to others in everyday (economic and social) environments may now need to be learned in new ways.

Hence when time use is a part of each intended product, the desire for strict allocation of (perceived) "one size fits all" merit begins to break down. Governments have made the mistake of assigning merit to knowledge use positions which cannot possibly fulfill the roles they currently attempt to provide. Unlike tradable goods which only need to be produced in relatively few environments with relatively little labor, services product is needed in all local environments, and not just the most prosperous regions of the present.

Some readers are likely wondering about the times I've mentioned skills sets as interchangeable components for local knowledge use systems. How to think about Nathan Snows' comment in this regard? "Just in time" knowledge is already affecting the long education trajectory which has been expected for knowledge use work. In some instances, educational investments can go quickly out of date, which suggests that broader knowledge sharing across disciplines as a good way to adapt.

Also, interchangeable skills makes it possible for local citizens to work in combined capacities which would otherwise not be possible. Much of the merit decisions of the twentieth century involved environments where individuals were brought together from geographically diverse areas. A similar process needs to develop for work environments in which individuals are already living and working in close proximity to one another.

Sure, some interchangeability within local systems would involve compromise and - at times - even sacrifice. But important to all this is the fact many time choices can remain both personal and meaningful. The most important criteria for knowledge use systems is that time management - and choice sets - are endogenously driven. No one need be "interchangeable" according to someone else's definition, but by their own means within the frameworks of community activity that is possible. Anyone who has worked in areas not densely populated, knows that one's work responsibilities are often more varied, because repetitious functions are not needed as frequently.

Strictly speaking, productivity and efficiency could be best achieved in cities. But this dehumanizes too much of the human experience which needs to remain economic. No one minds the occasional trip away from home for occasional goods, which have themselves come from other regions and parts of the world. But it is unreasonable, to expect important services time to always be carried out in regions other than where one lives. This is particularly true, given the fact that digital capacity could quickly adapt for this purpose.

Ultimately, for skills value as linked to tradable goods production, the system isn't broken at all - in spite of recent uncertainty given world trade. As Nathan Snow indicated, the system needs to be transformed, not overturned. Too much protectionism among nations exists because of unresolved issues for knowledge related time use. In a sense, the only part of the system which truly needs change, is that part which remains to be built.