Saturday, July 2, 2016

Knowledge Use: What Holds It Back?

Time availability is a scarce resource due to its actual limits, in relation to other forms of resource capacity. Consequently, so are the knowledge components which correspond to active application by participants in real time. Often, this particular set of constraints becomes apparent when nations need to act quickly on issues which call for quick response, yet find it difficult to do so, given existing limits for "expert" time value application. What other factors contribute to limits for knowledge use in the present?

One of the most limiting factors is also associated with societal status, in spite of the fact this cultural attribute exists for good reasons. Where the problem lies, is that of status association and representation across a general equilibrium, which leaves little room for other group options at the margins. Societal status for "winning" ideas imparts a "backbone" structure, for the patterns of knowledge use formation which take place among specific groups, Accepted ways of doing things, means these patterns allow multiple sets of actions to be coordinated simultaneously, among individuals who might otherwise lack direction for so doing.

Asymmetric compensation is a limiting factor for the employment of time and knowledge based product as well. This is all the more true, when already limited pools of revenue or disposable income become caught in monopsony patterns. If this were not enough, fiscal compensation for knowledge use faces an additional barrier, since output on these terms is paid for twice. As a result, fiscal policy in some instances may limit labor force participation by half, where participation is in fact reliant on this form of asymmetric compensation.

Where does government responsibility for time based services product - and its corresponding knowledge use - currently exist?  A recent post from Timothy Taylor suggests some partial answers:
State and local government has continued to be about provision of goods and services, from education to roads/transportation to law enforcement. But over time, the federal government in particular has become less focused on "government consumption expenditures and gross investment", and more focused on transfer payments.
At first reading of Taylor's quote, it appears that national level government has little direct responsibility for time based services product. However, transfer payments are misleading as a national government obligation, due to the implicit services support (hence limited employment for knowledge use) they are capable of providing. The extensive transfer payments of Medicare/Medicaid are a roundabout way of expressing national government responsibility for healthcare. Perhaps government's high level of obligation is not emphasized, since extensive financial support is already expected on the part of private insurance, employers and remaining costs (after insurance) for U.S. consumers. In context: what if we had comparable time based service burdens for other forms of knowledge use?

One way to think about the extent of national government responsibility for healthcare: consider the makeup of hospital patients on a typical given day. The smallest number of patients are generally those who are gainfully employed and "paying their way" with private insurance - indeed many of these are recuperating from surgeries which were scheduled in advance. But the other patients? A walk down the hospital corridors, tells the story. Beds tend to be occupied by elderly "repeat" patients, alongside the disabled who also suffer with chronic illness. Often, accident victims may lack any form of insurance. In other words, the extent to which many hospital bills get paid, depends on the vagaries of national revenue availability, not to mention the growing persistence of collection agencies.

Hence it can be misleading to think of aggregate healthcare provisions in terms of private insurance. Why isn't private insurance an effective healthcare revenue, in the same sense as other insurance options? Only consider Adam Smith's support of insurance as an effective tool:
The trade of insurance gives great security to the fortunes of private people, and by dividing among a great many that loss which would ruin an individual, makes it fall light and easy upon the whole society. 
There are important reasons why healthcare insurance of any kind does not "lightly fall" on society's shoulders. Fortunately, the chance of losing one's house to fire or flood, is quite slim. By comparison however, many individuals face a level of sickness at least once in a lifetime which requires extensive professional assistance. When this occurs, individuals find themselves in need of time based product which involves both an exclusive and extensive education.  Other existing aggregates for time value, in the time frames they are actually needed, do not contain enough time investment capital, to collectively pool what is necessary to match a physician's time value. Why should this matter? Adam Smith continues the above quote with this:
In order to give this security, however, it is necessary that the insurers should have a very large capital.
Herein lies the problem: basic forms of time based service product do not always exist in relation to other existing resource capacity. Indeed, private health insurers can scarcely make a profit unless they limit the access of those who are most in need of this form of services product. Even though money readily substitutes for most forms of marketplace product, too much money is chasing too little economic application on the part of human capital investment, in this instance.

As a residual of disposable income and revenue availability, asymmetric compensation will continue to hold back both supply and demand, for time and knowledge based product. At stake in all of this, is both labor force participation, and knowledge preservation as well. To the extent that knowledge cannot always be applied when it is sought, its contribution to economic stability remains in question. Will policy makers be able to acknowledge this fact?

Understandably, a broader marketplace for knowledge use is quite a favor to ask from today's knowledge elite, who would want to know, "what's in it for me?" However, by making all time value more worthy of economic participation, nations become less inclined to question the worthiness of their own citizens, let alone the worthiness of other nation's citizens. A marketplace at home for time value, would also mean less clamor for the return of tradable sector production which "belongs" to the wealth of nations.

Ultimately, when populations experience full employment through non tradable sector means, they are more inclined to support the output of tradable sectors as the latter naturally occur. And when tradable sectors remain prosperous, they in turn continue to impart the international revenue which contributes to the prosperity of today's knowledge elite. In other words, a virtuous circle is possible, when all citizens are asked to contribute to a shared future.

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