infrastructure

some things i need to think about.

As previously noted, infrastructure is expensive. Making a service like electricity available can be very expensive. One approach to reducing those costs is to build big, efficient systems like power stations. But this requires a large organization to raise the capital required to construct the system, and a long period of stability to pay for it. Part of the success of the developed world is that it has successfully financed and deployed complex infrastructure systems, making basic services like electricity available, cheap and near-perfect. It involves science, technology, engineering, law, finance, a large and sophisticated manufacturing base, educated workers and many other systems to produce cheap and effective services.The ownership arrangements around essential services like electricity are often fiendishly complex mixtures of market relationships, law and governance. A typical arrangement is something like this. A government generates a contract to provide services, operate sections of a national grid. Companies bid to operate local power stations and sell power into the grid. Quality and standards are sometimes set by professional bodies which are not bound to any given nation state. These, plus fuel contracts, transportation contracts, health and safety regulations, anti-trust laws and so on comprise the complex system of ownership which lets you turn on a light switch. In general there are seven common layers of infrastructure ownership.
1. Individual 2. Household 3. Neighborhood / Village 4. Municipality / Town / City  5. Region 6. Country 7. International

Above the household layer infrastructure systems typically have complex and sometimes conflicted relationships between their owners, users and guards. Small-scale systems often have much simpler financial and administrative models, making them easier to deploy in distressed environments

***

3. Managing the causes of social unrest is vastly more effective than managing unrest. A lot of people – the old and the young – have lost their chosen futures. Pensions have evaporated, and graduating into a recession is a horrible experience. People need to see real accountability from those who skimmed the cream off the good times, and continue to skim it off the bad times. Yes, I understand the argument that paying reasonable salaries to top brass in banks will cause talent flight. Yes, I understand that the Duke of Westminster really does need all that land. But you are not explaining this to me: you are explaining it to bankrupt store managers who slotted themselves into a machine that promised a stable life and future, and then fired them out the back end when the economy turned. You’re explaining it to kids who did four years in university to graduate into a world they cannot practice their profession in. People are angry and they are going to force change. The question is in what areas can ground be given – in what areas can people be made accountable for their behavior on the way up the curve – which is not simply beheading people who are standing in the wrong crowd? The rich are not by their nature villains, and those who profiteered on lax regulation and more fundamentally, on unrealistic expectations are hard to pick out of the crowd in a manner which will satisfy people who have witnessed their pensions evaporate. People, in general, do not want blood, but they want to feel that the hardship is shared in at least a somewhat equitable manner. Irrational things like seeing the ultra-rich abandon their sixth home sooth people at a level which has little to do with reason. Strategic management of public outrage to produce positive change where possible (national transformation) without it turning into, ahem, class war requires real political innovation in government.

4. How the young are to shape their lives when deprived of hope of progress through stable career paths. The vast majority of young people today will be poorer than their parents, often far poorer, and there are few if any cultural reserves to tell people that money is not the goal of life at that stage. Unrealistic expectations not backed by real productivity have built up most people’s understandings of their rational entitlements to implausible levels, and yet there is no clear path to puncturing those expectations in a manner which does not make a mockery of the investments that people have made in education, in simple work, and in career. The social contract between the individual, the state and the market has been violated, and there is no way to repair that damage in the short term, although sincere apologies help. The way out is offered by education, particularly liberal education and broad-based vocational training (plumbers who do roofs,) the arts, sports, musical culture – any area where a person can define themselves as successful, as worthy, even as great – without requiring massive access to money through a healthy, functioning economy. The “brass ring” is gone for perhaps an entire generation, but creative and productive use of talent should not have been artificially restricted to market success in the first place: money was how, not why, and it is by examining this fundamental identity again that we can find the creative freedom to offer cultural roles to people who might have wished to be rich, but find that path blocked.

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About jeanne

artist, grandma, alien

Posted on January 8, 2012, in occupy, research. Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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