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Old 09-04-2010, 06:41 AM
 
20,274 posts, read 17,765,026 times
Reputation: 2819
Quote:
Originally Posted by ditchdigger View Post
Would you not agree though, that hypotheticals can be useful in illustrating a point?
Sometimes. But they can also be very misleading.

Quote:
While the services humans provide to each other may have quantifiable value, I can't agree that humans themselves can be defined as a natural resource. If you want to discuss human capital, or human resources, I'm ok with that, but natural resources are an entirely different animal.
Then I disagree with your previous claim. Wealth is generated by making productive use of whatever resources are available. If you are going to claim that "human resources" aren't "natural resources", then it isn't true wealth depends only on making use of natural resources.

Quote:
To sum it up, a society that worked only at the pure performance of services end of the spectrum would starve to death pretty quickly, while one working at the pure production of goods end of the spectrum might survive indefinitely.
I really don't think that last bit is true. To truly have no services involved, you'd have to assume human beings incapable of intelligent planning. If we were truly that way, we'd die.

Quote:
Above you mentioned "subsistence living." Literally millions of people, over millions of years, have lived out their entire lives in such "subsistence living" situations. At least to me, that fits the parameters for being "more fundamental."
Even the most primitive hunter-gatherer societies have had plenty of what would be classified as services. Your society without services has never existed.

Quote:
It's just a bit unnerving to feel that we have become more and more dependent on our rivals (or potentially, adversaries) to provide as much of the fundamentals as we do, while we become increasingly dependent on them to consume our services.
That's an inaccurate picture. We remain extremely productive when it comes to many physical goods, but we now produce those goods using a lot fewer people. The guy on the combine harvester has replaced lots of farmhands, but he is still producing lots of food. The same is true in many categories. We still export a lot of those goods too, but we also export a lot of services because we are really good at producing a lot of services.

The one thing I think it is fair to say is that we are overreliant on foreign petroleum.

Quote:
Certainly, there's a balance somewhere that's ideal, but I think a lot of people, myself included, don't believe the current situation represents that ideal balance.
My point is that a lot of people are blaming things like trade dynamics for what is actually a matter of technology. And the problem is that you may not like what technology is doing, but there is no known way of stopping it.
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Old 09-04-2010, 07:56 AM
 
Location: About 10 miles north of Pittsburgh International
2,088 posts, read 1,907,082 times
Reputation: 1678
Like I said, we could quibble all day about where on the spectrum certain functions lie. I'm not sure there's any point in reiterating what I've already tried to explain about why I see goods as "more fundamental" than services. Your mileage may vary.

Quote:
That's an inaccurate picture. We remain extremely productive when it comes to many physical goods, but we now produce those goods using a lot fewer people.
Perhaps so. I think though, that it's a legitimate worry about those goods where we've (granted, as a function of trade dynamics), shipped much of our productive capacity off shore. If a war broke out tomorrow that disrupted worldwide commerce, I think we'd pretty quickly see a crisis in clothing our population. I don't claim to know how much productive capacity the US still posseses in textiles and clothing manufacture, but I'd be willing to bet that our reliance on imported clothing resembles our reliance on imported oil. I'm fully clothed as I sit and type this, but not a stitch of what I'm wearing was made in the USA.

Quote:
My point is that a lot of people are blaming things like trade dynamics for what is actually a matter of technology. And the problem is that you may not like what technology is doing, but there is no known way of stopping it.
I'm sure you're correct.

I'm becoming more and more of a Luddite. I think we're facing a real problem in that technology is doing more and more for us, leaving people less and less to do to validate their existence, or more to the point, leaving a greater and greater portion of the population with no meaningful work.

In the "subsistence living" situation you mentioned above, everybody in those societies has to pull their own weight just to survive. (Whether they're delivering goods or services. ) On that island full of handy robots, nobody would need to work at all. The trouble comes from the fact that unless the creators of the robots are totally altruistic, thye're going to demand some sort of compensation for providing all those goods and services.

In the real world, that translates into people having the same needs they've always had, but increasingly having no way to compensate those who are in a position to fulfill those needs, because they'll have nothing of sufficient value to trade.

I dunno. Maybe Ted Kaczynski wasn't so crazy after all....
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Old 09-04-2010, 08:17 AM
 
20,274 posts, read 17,765,026 times
Reputation: 2819
Quote:
Originally Posted by ditchdigger View Post
If a war broke out tomorrow that disrupted worldwide commerce, I think we'd pretty quickly see a crisis in clothing our population.
Of course we'd have most of the weapons-manufacturing industry. I'd like our chances.

Quote:
I'm becoming more and more of a Luddite. I think we're facing a real problem in that technology is doing more and more for us, leaving people less and less to do to validate their existence, or more to the point, leaving a greater and greater portion of the population with no meaningful work.
I agree this is a problem, but trying to destroy the machines never works. I think we could do a better job distributing work (e.g., less working hours per person), and educating and training people to do different work. But I also think we could make some of the existing work more "meaningful". At one time, mass manufacturing jobs were considered the most dehumanizing and degrading ones around. That changed through conscious effort, and now people look back fondly on those jobs. We can and should do the same with the jobs available today and tomorrow.

Quote:
On that island full of handy robots, nobody would need to work at all. The trouble comes from the fact that unless the creators of the robots are totally altruistic, thye're going to demand some sort of compensation for providing all those goods and services.
Eventually we'll have to deal with living in a world of plenty, where most basic needs can be met with extremely little effort. I understand the challenges, but I should note there are some good things about that world as well.
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Old 09-05-2010, 10:15 AM
 
12 posts, read 11,657 times
Reputation: 16
It is hard for me to ignore the contaminated steel industry's past, especially when I read about melting down steel or cast iron tables, chairs, etc,. Even to this day, it is being used in high contaminated facilities like x-ray rooms. Radiation can cause blood diseases. Death Ingot. Should we fear the future, as our past steelworkers feared that unknown disease of the past.
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Old 09-05-2010, 10:57 AM
 
634 posts, read 580,076 times
Reputation: 261
Quote:
Originally Posted by mwruckman View Post
In the late 1960s and early 1970s the Port Authority of NY and NJ built two 1400 ft Skyscapers in lower Manhattan. The steel used to build those towers was supplied by Bethlehem Steel and came from Johnstown, Baltimore and Bethlehem. Fast forward to today and the same Port Authority is building a 1776 ft 1500 ft to the top floor tower to replace the two destroyed in 2001.
The steel for this tower and the WTC Memorial is being supplied by Arcelor-Mittal Steel and is being shipped from Belgium which is Arcelor's home country. This illustrates something and belies several myths widely accepted by Americans. Belgium is nobodies idea of a low wage country with weak unions and if anything the taxes are high and the regulation formidable. They even have labor standards that give the workers actual rights. So what does Arcelor and another Steel giant next door in Germany (Krupp-Thyssen) do right? So the first myth this challenges is the myth that unions priced out US steel from the global market. Why didn't this happen to the Europeans who had to compete with the Indians, Brazilians and Japanese just like us in the 60s,70s and 80s. Now I don't put the Chinese in this mix because they didn't become a factor until the 1990s, a decade after the US industry collapsed. Now one might argue that the Europeans got the chance to start with a clean slate in 1945 since these mills had be blasted into ruins but by 1955 they were back on line and running using coal rather than electric arc technology. So the technology wasn't that much better. So was European industry management superior to that of US companies? Does Europe have superior engineers or metallurgists? I don't think so. Mr Mittal of India makes a living out of buying failing steel companies and bringing them up to world standards. He did that with British Steel and bought a number of bankrupt US producers. Mittal got the Bethlehem Fairless works in Baltimore and brought it back to life. He uses it to fabricate steel componets and specialty steels using steel he ships in from Belgium. The steel i mentioned from Belgium that is being assembled in WTC-1 makes a stop in Baltimore where it is dimensioned, tempered and machined to the customers specification. Mittal is not in the business to lose money and isn't doing so at his US plants. So Mr Mittal belies another American myth that you can't run a US mill profitably.
Actually that Belgium steel comes from Romania (Eastern Europe) where Mittal bought a bankrupt steel mill (one of the biggest in Europe) and revived it.
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Old 09-05-2010, 11:04 AM
 
Location: About 10 miles north of Pittsburgh International
2,088 posts, read 1,907,082 times
Reputation: 1678
My anecdotal experience with radiation in the scrap metal business...

At one scrap yard, I witnessed an employee emptying a garbage can into the commercial dumpster where the scrap yard got rid of their garbage. He apparently noticed something in there, and retrieved what was obviously a dental X-Ray unit. He carried it inside, but came out with it a few minutes later. I asked him "Radioactive, isn't it?" He said "Yeah.", and then tossed it back in the dumpster!

Now, obviously it ended up in a sanitry landfill someplace, and was probably originally put in the dumpster by a customer who couldn't sell it to the scrap yard and got rid of it in the first and easiest place he saw.

At another yard, I was in the office waiting for my paperwork, when a truck pulled onto the scale outside. It set off an alarm. The weighmaster asked the driver if he had anything in his load that might be radioactive, and it turns out that his passenger was a cancer patient who had some sort of radioactive implant.

So, even though they may not always do the right thing, I've seen evidence that scrap yards are fairly diligent not to allow radioactive material into the supply stream.
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Old 09-06-2010, 04:11 PM
 
12 posts, read 11,657 times
Reputation: 16
It seems to be impossible to oversee the controlling of radiation free waste. It couldn't be done in the past, so I don't think it will be handled properly now, but perhaps, in the future. Obama is trying to reduce unemployment, correct? I think one of the sure ways to do that is to increase the manufacturing of steel in the US and decrease steel imports from anywhere outside the US. Clean steel can be made here with the proper testing, starting first, with the scrap steel.
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Old 09-06-2010, 04:35 PM
 
Location: About 10 miles north of Pittsburgh International
2,088 posts, read 1,907,082 times
Reputation: 1678
Quote:
It seems to be impossible to oversee the controlling of radiation free waste.
I don't know.

The anecdotes I posted above happened at the lowest level of the supply chain--yards that buy scrap from guys in pickup trucks. From there, it's resold to larger dealers. I'm sure they're checking it because if they get caught shipping it out, then it's their problem. If the smaller yards can afford to invest in the equipment to check it, I don't see why it wouldn't be subject to the same sort of radation detection further up the line, all the way to the furnace...
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