Thursday, September 15, 2011

Bleeding Determinism

I've known, probably since I was around 12, that the experts are full of shit. They count on the few times when they are lucky enough to get a hit to move them forwards, and the rest of the time? They rely on the regular guy's really shitty memory. Stockpickers, political pundits, you name it. They set the conventional wisdom for the rest of us, and they are completely full of shit.

Take this guy here. Seems a nice enough young lad. He's an "author, entrepreneur, and former USAF pilot in special operations". He wrote a book about "irregular warfare", and people like G. Gordon Liddy want you to buy it. Wow. So it must be something.

In the piece I referenced, he goes on and on about how central planning is bad. According to him, it's what brought down the Soviet Union. Actually, he says the Soviet Union collapsed because of "misallocation of resources due to a reliance on central planning. More specifically, he states that: 
"The reason for this failure was that the Soviets relied on central planning.  A system of economic governance where small group of people -- in the Soviet Unions case bureaucrats -- had all the decision making power.  They decided what was spent and where.  Even with copious amount of information, they decided badly".
Well, this reads like something I would have written in the sixth grade, in that he pretty much ignores what actually happened over in the Soviet Union over the full eighty years of its existence, the several and varied phases it went through, and the last deadly decade of its life.

But he is pretty much parroting conventional wisdom, isn't he?  I mean, the Soviet Union collapsed didn't it? It was centrally planned wasn't it? QED. And that is your standard last superpower standing triumphalist message, ain't it? Doesn't matter that Reagan fucked our economy over to topple theirs does it?

But is that all there is to this? I mean is the dreaded "central planning" a necessary and sufficient condition? Or is it a necessary condition? Corporations, after all, are little teeny tiny centrally planned economies. Does this mean they will inevitably collapse?

What about the opposite? Lenin and Stalin managed to turn a backward agrarian nation into a world-dominating superpower? Does "central planning" get credit for that? 

I wonder about a different scenario. Let's try it out. We'll call it "wife-swap", and it goes like this. Leave the political and socio-economic systems the same, but we'll imagine a swap of circumstances for the US and the CCCP. Let's imagine a US after World War II, where everything east of the Appalachians has been bombed into rubble. Let's imagine a US population that comes out of the conflict with 27 million dead. Let's imagine the US facing an aggressive, determined, well-fed, prosperous, hostile, nuclear armed enemy. An enemy whose industrial infrastructure is completely intact, and whose scientific and technological facilities are operating on all cylinders.

Now, let's imagine the US gearing up to match this enemy militarily, technologically.

Think we could do it? Think we could, for a few brief months in 1972, achieve nuclear parity, in fact, achieve a brief superiority? Think we could maintain a standing army of two million? Have nuclear subs prowling the oceans, satellites orbiting the earth, scientific probes landing on other planets? Think we could do it all without devoting a full 50% of GDP to the military? Think you could do that in a free market atmosphere, with the goal of all those CEOs out there to keep pace with an implacable enemy, and at the same time preventing an erosion of our freedom and liberty.

I don't think so.

Which tells me, it was really more about an American triumphalist narrative, than it was about what happened behind the Iron Curtain.

Experts really should do more research, and spew bullshit a lot less.

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