Tuesday, April 1, 2014

What We Mass Produce (or Don't), Matters

Why so? Look around at what frequently generates profits locally, and it becomes apparent that mass production in the developed world has become marginalized. After all: if the factories are elsewhere, "who needs" the goods of mass production...right? To be sure, some institutions still utilize mass production as needed for profits and sustainability (dollar stores, anyone?), but many mass production consumer options have not remained open across multiple product categories. The fact that society opts out of mass production prematurely when it is still frequently needed for lower income levels, is an important productivity issue.

Indeed, the primary wealth equilibrium between services and real estate valuations, scarcely utilizes the benefits of mass production to any real extent. It's easy to forget that mass production potential is still a driver of societal progress. In the U.S. for instance, mass production is mostly thought of in terms of various digital components, food production or basic commodities. These product areas comprise a mere fraction of developed nation monthly expenses. Think of the potential gains still lying on the sidewalk, for producers and consumers alike.

Certainly, many people no longer carry product diversity into their homes on a 20th century scale, which is partly why any manufacturing renaissance can only go so far. But why limit the idea of mass production potential to what goes on inside homes and living/working environments? Much is at stake in terms of exterior definitions - let alone the fact people get bored and enjoy rearranging environments on a regular basis. Flexible and interchangeable components would allow lower income levels to imitate upper income levels in terms of custom design, only for a much more reasonable cost.

Even so, this new marketplace would not replace traditional housing or the kinds of employment which are associated with it. After all, those who would still opt for traditional housing (and its associated finance) are also the ones with disposable income to hire for traditional maintenance and construction. Much of the marketplace for mass production and greater innovation would be geared towards those with less disposable income. That's not to say that mass production methods would not also prove useful for commercial options and areas where traditional building options are not always possible.

Some communities no longer have the additional wealth, that is necessary to maintain outdated rules and regulations. Many of those outdated rules keep building codes unnecessarily complicated and innovation resistant. Unfortunately, some communities ended up reaching for success signals, when they could have thrived on more innovative and practical terms. The fact that people don't really have clear choices in this regard, continues to limit potential value for the inexpensive education models of the near future. Why so?

Before inexpensive education models can gain practical value for knowledge use services, people have to be free to use services more efficiently and locally. Unfortunately, moving beyond credentialed education, means moving beyond the extra compensation which the "right" credentials create. Before people can benefit from greater knowledge use, they need to establish the environments which also allow them to thrive on less income. All of this could become part of a lower income equilibrium which utilizes knowledge in coordinated systems.

Lots of potential good deflation in local economies has already been lost. But most individuals aren't used to thinking how rent seeking limits product definitions and adds unnecessary complexities. Why don't we recognize it as such? For one thing, what occurs in both residential structures and knowledge use in this regard is not all bad, in that regulations also provide multiple forms of quality control. No one wants a dangerous hodgepodge of a flimsy house next door, or a dangerous surgery for that matter.

However there are better ways of organizing these processes, which can involve entire communities and provide more accessible means for individual responsibility. This is not about government interventions, but about ways for people to coordinate knowledge use and skill so that everyone's time can contribute to local services outcomes. Not only is production reform possible in regulations for local construction, but also the ways in which healthcare outcomes of all kinds can be managed by local teams in ongoing educational efforts. Again, when I suggest deregulation and production reform, it is not so that people can just throw up any contraption to live in - or put up with any kind of quackery that pretends to offer knowledge use solutions for that matter.

Rather, people can refuse to let quality control put extreme limits on how they choose to live. Presently there are so many forms of quality control, that both entrepreneurs and consumers are running out of economic options in multiple areas. One of the first ways out of this economic quagmire, is to allow nationwide contests for flexible building components of all kinds. They can be created to standards which recognize needed practicality and durability for low income, yet also be desirable enough for any income level. The prime issue is to bring incremental ownership back into the picture. By doing so, more knowledge use can also be brought to the table in economic terms, providing new hope for lower income levels and the long term unemployed as well. Too many people have not had work, because they couldn't afford to live where work could be readily found or created.

 Living on incremental ownership terms does not have to be about conceding defeat. Not at all.  Not only would incremental ownership options give individuals better ways to start out their adult lives, it would also give older individuals a chance to start fresh when the need arises. Let alone the fact that incremental ownership would allow millions to avoid needless financial quagmires and the moral judgments that come with inevitable failures. In some instances, incremental ownership would assist individuals in rising to levels of success they might not otherwise achieve. The ability to buy, sell and divide individual building components would allow millions to avoid bankruptcies and related legal problems. This could be particularly meaningful, in a time when success seems to be all or nothing. It doesn't have to be that way.

In short, mass production is a given or a base that society can allow for all of its members when they need it. One thing to remember in all this, is the degree to which so many aspire to more than the base. Even though we can't create a livable base in monetary terms, we can always create a base for basic survival in innovation based terms. Think of what society collectively achieves, calls "mundane" and then - as is human nature - immediately aspires to more. What is not as widely recognized, is that much of the "more" gets defined in terms which don't work out for the whole. There will always be those who aspire to the "more" that is traditional housing, and no builder would need to worry that those with disposable income would abandon the luxuries and the extras. It's just pointless to force those things on individuals who don't have the means for them.

Mass production could have provided excellent options for living shelter a long time ago, and many local economies created needless struggles for themselves by not acknowledging this reality. And yet many communities which elect to allow innovation, would find that their own citizens often want more than a base means of survival. Even those of the least income will add to basic elements, if there is adequate means to do so. It's better to allow a simple base level of survival, than to force arbitrary points which people are "supposed" to achieve.

After all, most everyone will gladly move up the ladder of innovation and prosperity without force, when they are able to do so. Just don't assume everyone can move forward all the time, and don't force them to do so through hurtful regulations. Already we know full well what mass production is actually capable of, if we allow it once again to perform its magic.

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