Saturday 30 April 2011

Allocating Resources, Who Wins? Who Loses?

Power, economics, politics and the rest, it is argued, all come down to the question of who gets what and who decides and how. In economic terms this is described as “the allocation of resources” and there are libraries full of learned books and documents about all the implications.

The trouble is that most of them, if not nearly all, are conditioned by the information and experience of the past. Our problem is that our perceptions of this can be flawed by ideas of what might and should have been and not actually what was happening.

So we guess the future in terms of what the immediate past suggests might be and worse what we think it ought to be. But reality may not be like that at all. It is all too possible that something might be happening under our noses that we do not see and do not understand.

A question at present is just how far the increasing rates of extraction of the earth’s resources can be continued. There is the ancillary problem that if world population continues to increase at a faster rate and if many of those people are wanting or expecting greater consumer opportunities many or almost all will be getting less rather than more.

The link below is to a 7700 word article called “Time To Wake Up” on the subject. It is long and needs a lot of thinking to take in the complexity of the issues. Clearly, there are many unknowns and variables. One is that if the world suddenly begins to be far more efficient and careful in its use of key resources we may put off the evil day.

The author, Jeremy Grantham, talks about potential efficiency savings and the need for international co-operation and suggest within nations, resource planning. The hitch to this is that with so much of financial governance now well outside national controls a key part is missing.

Another one is persuading those “with” to exercise disciplines that may not be popular in order to help those “without” and for everyone to link in trying to organize it all a lot better.

Again, we need to understand what is happening now. I can recall that during the 1960’s the advent of container shipping and its implications was simply not realized by the great majority of people and especially by those in government, politics and in much of the transport industry.

Certainly, I did not realize it until in the early 1970’s I made some sea journeys and it dawned on me that something was going on that was radically different. Even then the wider implications took some time to appreciate.

This failure occurred at a time when we had governments telling us that national planning was the key to future growth and only the government could know how to plan the allocation of resources It wasn’t just the maritime trade where their perceptions about the future were hopelessly wrong.

To add to our worries, the UK is now a country increasingly amongst the “withouts” in terms of the resources necessary to maintain our lifestyles.

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