Also in the manpower essay I mentioned in the last post. This is indirectly related to why demand policies are more sensible than supply policies on this stuff:
"There is no Single Well Defined End (SWDE) of Society, measured in bushels or gollops or even dollars. There are a great many different ends of a great many different people, some of which are competitive, some complementary, and some independent. Moreover, there is no such thing as manpower, save as a hot abstraction to be handled with long tongs. Not Manpower, but Men - with this cry I propose to arouse the populace to the threat which menaces them. I repeat, not manpower, but men: men in their infinite variety and sacredness, in their complex personalities and unfolding desires. Man as Manpower is all very well for a slave society, where man is a domestic animal, to be used for ends which are alien to him. But in a free society man is not manpower; he is not a donkey chained to a great churn for the production of SWDE. He is a free being, the lord of society and not its slave, the creator of demand as well as of supply. In these days we are all in danger of being overcome by the great Feudal myth of Society, a frowning overlord to whom we are all too subservient, even if he has the impressive title of Lord National Interest or even Lord Social Interest."
The point that he makes later on is that simply increasing a factor of production is not going to achieve the private or social goals that we may have. He starts with an oversimplified picture of the market - then he outlines where that breaks down, focusing particularly on externalities as a justification for public or social demand for certain things. But he makes the point that you don't satisfy that demand by artificially generating more factors of production. That is (1.) distortionary, (2.) an affront to a free society, and (3.) a misunderstanding of the economy as some simple machine where if you put in more inputs you automatically get out some "Single Well Defined End" as he puts it. Generating more manpower doesn't automatically produce this "Single Well Defined End" - the market will respond to demand for that "Single Well Defined End". This is the point he makes with respect to conscription - if there is a social need for military (he sees few - he's a Quaker), Boulding argues that armies should be financed, not conscripted. Soldiers should be bid for on the market by the government so that the labor market isn't distorted and forces of supply can respond to demand. It doesn't work the other way around. This "manpower view", applied to the science and engineering labor force, suggests that if we just generate more and more scientists and engineers the United States will be in a better, more innovative, more competitive position. This is (generally) not my view. I think some supply policies make sense of course. Diversity is a major problem in the scientific workforce, and those sorts of policies are good. Strengthening science education is never a bad idea. But trying to produce outcomes that you want by widening the pool of scientists and engineers is unwise. If there is a legitimate social demand that the market is not satisfying due to externalities or whatever other reason, then by all means, demand that outcome. Offer to pay for it. That's how the market achieves objectives - it satisfies demands. Simply increasing the factors of production, crossing your fingers, and hoping your desired outcome will come out the other end is not going to produce very good results. If we want world-class transportation, make an investment in transportation - don't double the amount of engineers and hope a transportation network will materialize. If we want a colony on Mars, make an investment in a colony on Mars - don't double the amount of aerospace engineers and astro-physicists produced per year. The market works, and it works by satisfying demand. So if there is a social demand that is not being met, go the market and demand it. The reallocation of factors of production in response to that demand generally functions pretty smoothly.
Procrastinating on December 6, 2016
2 hours ago