Tuesday, November 3, 2015

Services as Technological Progress

Regular readers know that I view services production as the unnoticed elephant in the room. So long as time based service product remains attached to fiscal budgets, it will not be capable of providing substantial economic growth. Without a marketplace for time value, skills capacity and personal time investments (in aggregate) can be likened to the poorly understood dark matter of the universe. Of all the candidates for technological progress and production gains, service capacity tops the list.

Why aren't knowledge based services considered a valid component of economic potential? Important though knowledge is, the asymmetric compensation of skills is tangled in administrative complexity. This confusion has skewed statistics to a degree, that some wonder whether statistics hold hidden clues for economic vitality. In a recent post, Diane Coyle writes:
I guess my hope is that modernising economic statistics would inject some humility about taking the GDP statistics as accurate gospel, and ultimately lead to some conceptual work on measuring economic welfare better than current statistics allow us to do.
The problem is not just statistics alone, for a tremendous degree of time value needs to be recognized as measurable wealth. Even so, validation in this regard, would need to come from those who wish to take part in the process. Knowledge use systems could provide one of the missing wealth components of the present. Plus, participants in these systems would be able to provide accurate measure on their own, instead of being forced to spend taxpayer dollars on more experts to decipher their input.

Local corporations - through the coordination of knowledge use systems - would capture unused or underutilized talents. Results could be compared to a complete harvest of - say, apples. Where many stores (institutions) prefer to "sell" (hire) unblemished apples (skills capacity), local corporations would generate value from the entire harvest of time, skill and human capital. Ultimately, this is wealth which translates into additional production capacity and economic growth.

Despite the fact nations experience services issues somewhat differently, healthcare production and consumption have been the main problems for the U.S. As a result, a lack of sufficient healthcare access may also contribute to lower life expectancy for middle aged Americans. Even for those of us who aren't surprised by lower life expectancy, newspaper obituaries for anyone in their forties and fifties can still be unsettling.

While the above linked WP article cited drugs, alcohol and suicide, the WSJ article also notes that Anne Case and Angus Deaton suggested "economic insecurity" as a possible contributor to lower life expectancy. Also, note the relative lack of access to healthcare in the U.S., as contrast with other advanced nations, per the first chart in a post from Timothy Taylor. Lower labor force participation in the U.S., than what exists in other advanced economies, is also being discussed. Fortunately, the WSJ article spoke of the lack of economic access in rural areas, which is one of my primary concerns.

These articles tell several stories, in which a lack of labor force participation and healthcare production in the U.S. play leading roles. Demand for services product has been thwarted by complex layers of administration in prosperous regions, which has largely supplanted time based services product at local levels. Many healthcare providers also have little choice but to locate where real estate is also in high demand, in order to cover their own expenses and investments.

Even though structural factors have long since been "baked into the cake" of U.S. healthcare, healthcare providers could assist in the creation of local knowledge use systems. Those who are willing, could provide instruction for basic areas which present real burdens in today's healthcare budgets. Local knowledge use systems would give asymmetrically compensated healthcare, a chance to focus on cutting edge research and development. This process could also help the U.S. to regain its footing, in terms of life expectancy.

Of course, more than accessible healthcare is involved. Again, this particular service is but a starting point, by which local communities could reorganize and reconsider new service and investment options. Just being a part of other existing local systems, would encourage individuals to remain hopeful for a better future. These are the kinds of connections, which local corporations could eventually create.

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