Monday, February 16, 2015

What Do We Want From Our Environments?

Generally, if this question gets asked at all, it tends to be in single issue formats. Countless groups stand at the ready, to assist a specific circumstance or need. Everyone it seems, is ready to find a way to "bend" the environment to their demands. And yet nothing about life exists as a single problem to be solved. Why not a more comprehensive and integrated approach - a multitude of possibility?

In the meantime, governments have attempted to continue 21st century progress on the outdated expectations of the 20th. One of the more obvious flaws in this non strategy is "sluggish" investment. How can anyone get excited about investing, with so little certainty what anyone wants? Low interest rates are a significant part of this scenario, but some remain confused by low interest rates just the same. Doesn't that indicate a good time for governments to borrow? Not necessarily so, as Scott Sumner notes once again.

Even though monetary conditions are better, the structural debate for long term strategies has scarcely begun. Indeed, some are convinced what passes for discussion in this regard is mostly handwaving. For instance, as Lars Christensen notes about Japan's somewhat improved scenario:
Now Prime Minister Abe has to deliver on structural reform, but that can be said about every industrialized country in the world.
Oddly, when countries are slow to consider the needs and circumstance of their own citizens, domestic concerns end up overshadowed by changing world events. It's a pattern which repeats all too often. Why should war have to be the factor that finally mobilizes populations?

There are still investments which governments could make on behalf of their citizens. However the opportune moment for any government to make new commitments, is when its citizens are already inspired to do the same. The fact that no one is making any substantial first moves, suggests it is time to figure out what people want from their lives and and their circumstance. While the answers of course will differ, there are nonetheless patterns that can be distinguished in the dialogue.

For one thing, changes - particularly those involving infrastructure - can't just be imposed on already existing environments. While some adaptation can take place (i.e. density adjustments for instance), it's best not to expect too much for regions which have long since matured into unique identities. Instead, governments and citizens need to look for economic potential either in adjacent or even entirely new locations. Rather than committing to expensive infrastructure at the outset, groups can experiment with flexible infrastructure and working arrangements, to see where new production and services formation may take hold. In some instances, individuals who wish to take part may be able to lend time and skills commitments, particularly when they don't have sufficient monetary resources at the outset.

Domestic summits can assist in what would become a gradual matching process: one that would allow citizens to come together for similar strategies in production and services structure. In a sense these environments would give new meaning to entrepreneurial activity. After all, it is possible to think of individuals "hiring" one another for time arbitrage. What's more, some would experience a revival of almost forgotten social skill sets. Newly formed communities would gradually lead to other shared investment strategies, in their turn.

Often, people with varying abilities and income levels need different forms of infrastructure as well. Having life/work choices such as this could mean not needing to claim disability or - for some baby boomers - a way to avoid having to take early social security compensation. For too many, the biggest difficulty is trying to work at the high level of expectation, inherent in many settings. Far better, to generate communities which match aptitudes and goal sets more closely. Far better, to make certain everyone has ways to remain responsible and connected to others.

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