October 31, 2002 (Ira Pilgrim)


I am led to the conclusion, which I trust others will find persuasive, that we are becoming the servants in thought, as in action, of the machine we have created to serve us.

John Kenneth Galbraith

In science, I am sure that no one could possibly understand it all. Sure, there has been an immense growth in our understanding of life, but it is still just scratching the surface. It is possible that man may eventually understand it, but that is unlikely, even in my great grandchildren's lifetime. Even with a profound understanding, the manipulation of it to any great degree is unlikely. With all of the advances in cloning etc., it is highly unlikely that it will ever replace sexual reproduction. No matter what you do to a human being, he/she will remain a human being. Even if the world is eventually run by a super-super-super computer, people will continue to screw around and, as a consequence, they will be born and die..

Alan Greenspan gives the impression that he knows what he is doing. In all likelihood he knows as much as any other economist and probably more than most, but his ability to really effect the economy is almost zilch, zero, nada. He is in the business of applying an imaginary band aid to an imaginary wound in a fictitious economic system. He is the fairy godfather waving his wand.

I understand as much about economics as I do about cosmology. I think that it was Mark Twain who said that you don't have to be able to lay an egg in order to recognize a bad one. It is easy to see that much of economics is based on production of food and other goods, trade and what I call the law of aboriginal greed. Greed in a single stupid person results in a robbery at gun point. In the hands of clever people, it results in the many Enrons that infest our world. The anomaly is not that Enron existed, but that it got caught.

A barter economy is easy to understand: I will trade you two of my superbly crafted arrows in exchange for a freshly killed buffalo. The problem with a barter economy is that it is too cumbersome. Could you imagine exchanging 100 tons of corn for a house. As a consequence money, wampum, and other means of exchange were invented. For some tribes of Native Americans, it was strings of shells. For the Europeans, it was gold and silver in the form of coins. Then came paper money. Everyone knows that the only thing that you can really do with paper money is, perhaps, start a fire with it. Gold is only good for dental crowns, and other metals will do just as well for that. You could make silver electrical wires, but copper does it almost as well. In other words, whatever currency is used as a medium of exchange, it will work only if everyone agrees to it. Nowadays, most financial transactions do not involve an exchange of currency at all, but are done by a few strokes of a computer keyboard, and usually not even that. I use cash only for purchases of under $10.

I trust that the companies that I bank with will be honest, but I still carefully check my statements. The only reason that they are honest is because it is good business. If the people who run those institutions thought that they could steal my money and get away with it, they might well do it.

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