"System change is now inevitable. Either because we do something about it, or because we will be hit by climate change. '...

"We need to develop economic models that are fit for purpose. The current economic frameworks, the ones that dominate our governments, these frameworks... the current economic frameworks, the neoclassical, the market frameworks, can deal with small changes. It can tell you the difference, if a sock company puts up the price of socks, what the demand for socks will be. It cannot tell you about the sorts of system level changes we are talking about here. We would not use an understanding of laminar flow in fluid dynamics to understand turbulent flow. So why is it we are using marginal economics, small incremental change economics, to understand system level changes?"

Friday, September 21, 2007

America "Soviet Style"

Moving to the southwest has found me taking an interest in water management.

Here's a story in Time Magazine about the Army Corps of Engineers making ludicrous decisions involving lots of money. The story makes an explicit analogy to the Soviet Union:
the Corps routinely manipulates its data in the name of moving dirt, pouring concrete and helping friendly politicians and powerful industries. In 2000, after it was caught cooking its books to justify a $1 billion navigation project on the Mississippi River as part of a Soviet-style "Program Growth Initiative," the Pentagon inspector general concluded that the Corps had a "systemic bias" toward large-scale construction.
Now consider the ethanol subsidies. Same flavor. Much activity. Negligible and probably negative result. Underlying problems unresolved.

Yes, I do work in the public sector. Yes, I have worked in the private sector. Yes, it does make me want to scream sometimes.

No, I won't be specific. Nothing egregious enough in my corner of the world to call for whistle-blowing, but I'm pretty angry about a little bit of bureaucratic incompetence/indifference I tripped over today that may impact my own prospects.

1 comment:

John Mashey said...

1) Too bad Rapier isn't writing so often, but it was taking over his life.

2) He says we need cellulosic ethanol (or something like it), but it's a long way off.

The one good thing about corn ethanol is the building of distribution and getting the installed base of cars to become flex-fuel, both of which take time. Presumably, if somebody really makes switchgrass or miscanthus work, it will be enough better that farmers will do that, not corn.

3) You have the Corps, but you're not far from the boundary of the Bureau of Reclamation, of which: Marc Reisner's "Cadillac Desert" is an interesting portrait.