Tag Archives: storyofstuff.com

Productive Efficiency

RE: Twitter Updates for 2009-01-09

This was more in reference to those who would agree with the condemnations of a consumer culture as strident as those found in “The Story Of Stuff“.

Efficiency in production: the ability to produce things using fewer pre-production resources of all types for each unit produced.

Increasing efficiency in production required a more advance production system. The advanced and efficient production system costs more money and resources, but the increased cost is off-set by the resources saved over the production life of the machinery.

Developing nations generally do not have the up-front resources to set up advanced and efficient production systems, nor the skilled labor markets to run such systems.

They must begin by producing a very inefficient product. Then as they gain money, in subsequent construction and expansion, they can afford the higher upfront cost of the increasingly more efficient productions systems, lowering their longer term costs and increasing productivity.

The issue with many current opinions today is that a high level of wealth spread across a broad, educated society is necessary for advancements in efficiency.

Many proponents of the more radical environmental causes tend to believe a more naturalistic system is superior, with people living ‘one’ with nature.

But imagine the pollution from the camp fires necessary to keep all of us warm? A modern heater in a home is vastly more efficient and less polluting per person or volume warmed than earlier systems.

At the end of the remake movie (which has been recommended highly by Orson Scott Card) the alien reduces humanity to a primitive situation, following his directive with the goal of lessening the environmental impact of humanity.

In a primitive state, the resources required to support humanity would be enormously beyond what is required today. The greater the wealth and social construct of a nation or group, the greater it’s efficiency in production and the “cleaner” it will be.

Production efficiency is a basically amoral process that each and every society goes through as part of its technological and societal progression.

StoryOfStuff – Part 7

Continued from part 6

Salvation: God set up a system of free will. It is not the nicer, or cleaner, or prettier system. But it is the best system. In the short run (life here on earth) there is much pain and suffering, but in the long term those who find the truth and are set free through their acceptance of it experience the personal peace and freedom which the rest of the world will never understand.

Also, looking at America. God does not necessarily reserve His blessing for those who follow exactly in His way, and we often cannot see why it is God bestows blessing upon one and appears to withhold it from another. America, for whatever reason, is blessed far beyond any other nation right now. We have an incredible level of personal wealth spread throughout a percentage of the population unprecedented in the history of civilization. This has many benefits, dangers, and opportunities.

The benefits are obvious: a level of development and technological advancement with only a few equals, a level of stability and available leisure unmatched through history by a greater amount of the populace, and many other. The dangers are real: an apathy for anything worthwhile. The opportunities are endless: the ability to send money and resources to corners of the Globe with such volume that entire nations make base their economies on our own, sending us goods to get our money.

The Christian in this economy has many responsibilities. The foremost is to not allow themselves to be controlled by anything except Christ. The next is to provide for his own as God has given him. The next, but not less important, is to use what he has been given to meet the needs of those around.

This is done with wisdom and grace. Even Paul used strong language when advising the churches that they should not give money to just anyone who asks. He said that it is wrong to give money to someone who is able to work and does not. He said that hunger will teach that person the necessity of work. It is better to allow the person to starve now and learn, than to feed him and harm him by that food.

Further, in the StoryofStuff, it become obvious that the narrator believes the entity primarily responsible for her desired salvation is the government. Our Constitution prohibits the government from taking that sort of responsibility from private industries, a policy Barack Obama knows about and wishes to change. The very idea of government being capable of successfully supporting the social needs of a dependent population is a historical, philosophical, and theoretical demonstrably false idea.

Think Communism/socialism/Marxism. Think the philosophers of the French Revolution and Enlightenment. Think of who is best able to decide how to use their own money? You or the government.

And even if you think the government is better suited to that task than yourself: who then will God hold responsible for the use of the resources He has gifted to us? The Government? I think not.

God will judge governments in His own way, and He will judge me by how I made use of the resources available to me. If I abdicate my responsibility by passing my buck to the government willingly, allowing them to decide how to spend my dollar wastefully, I am held responsible by God for that abdication.

No, I stand with the resources God has given me, knowing the myriad problems plaguing the world, and using my resources to accomplish the most good according to the conscience God has given me. I can and will do no less.

StoryOfStuff – Part 6

Continued from part 5

10 Little and Big Things You Can Do:

1: Hypocrisy: Publicly-“Green” people tend to fly more, take more expensive and expansive vacations and use loop-hole systems such as Carbon Offsets to make the claim they are caring about the environment (ie: Al Gore).
Demonizing Corporations: Requires corporations.Solar panels require extremely high amounts of wealth and take extreme amounts of time to recoup the dollar and energy costs.

2: Average people are better at this, the cost of items drives conservation. Growing up we always used paper garbage bags for our trash bags in the kitchen. I upgrade computers for several years, replacing internal parts piecemeal as my needs change.

Potential Hypocrisy: “Visibly engage in re-use”: It’s what we do when people aren’t watching that shows who we are. We should simply engage in re-use, not visibly or invisibly, but as part of who we are.

3: Good, but know where the rational, reasonable, and practical parts are, and avoid the conspiracies, fallacies, and manipulations which use the Green movement to further enrich callous liars such as Al Gore.

4: Al Gore, wrong poster boy. John Doe, right poster boy. Climate change, arguable issue, plenty of science on either side. Cyclical, “hockey stick” graph magnifies an infinitesimal temperature change, ignore the fact that the pollution spike follows after the temperature spike. Sun spot cycles are more closely correlated in a casual relationship.

5: Good, but Chemical and Toxic do not necessarily equal. Is not government’s responsibility. Internet and modern communcation allows ‘small’ people to have large voices and affect real and substantive pressure for change on private industry.

EU example: “Tin slivers” are dangerous, lead better, more reliable, safer for the reliability it has. Forces private industry to make inferior products.

6: Agree. This is the Church.

7: Public transportation does not ease congestion, is prone to government-induced cronyism and corruption in the lucrative contracts. Dirty, inefficient, cannot profit. Is not federal government’s responsibility. Privatize public transportation. Airlines and bus lines and Ocean lines are profitable and successful. Why not trains? Government run failures.

Master-planned communities tend to be less diverse economically and inhibit the upward- and cross-mobilism that is encouraged by an open and spread community system. Is government going to require people live within 5 miles of their job? Who can do this? Do you want to be forced to live next door to the supermarketor the office building? This inhibits personal freedom and the meeting of needs by artificially conforming all members of a community to lead similar lives in a pre-defined economony. This is a tried and proven recipe for economic stagnation, poverty, and dissatisfaction (ie: communism/socialism). Causes harm.

8: Hypocrisy: CFLs (“energy efficient light bulbs”) contain mercury, which is released when they are disposed of or broken. Talking about toxins: Mercury is known bad. Also, some people are more sensitive to the 60-Hz “flicker” of fluorescent bulbs, causing headaches and other physical problems. It’s a good idea at its root, but more wealth allows for more development which allows for better solutions. CFLs are not the solution to the lighting problem. Corporations need the freedom to innovate further to address the needs which we present to them through the force of the market.

Answer is to innovate and develop and start own corporation which will produce the solution.

9: Recycled bottles take more energy to make than “original” bottle of similar dimension. Needs innovation and development to make effective. Only because we have corporations allowing people to make money and get rich can we afford to support economically wasteful systems which are cleaner and more “Green”.

10: Good… but. Wal-mart. Average family in Wal-mart neighborhood has $2000 extra at the end of the year because of the price deflation a Wal-mart forces on the area. Thats $2000 they can spend on glasses for their kids, medicine, etc, without going to the government. Wal-mart hires people not as ‘acceptable’ at other places: mentally handicapped, older, etc. Without Wal-mart keeping their costs down they would be forced only to hire healthy, good-looking people like everybody else. What is better: An Old person with self-respect due to a productive job who has to pay for their own health insurance or an old person decrepit and decaying in the lounger at the nursing home paid for at exculpatory rates by money taken from you and me by government-run bloated social welfare programs which I can no longer use to give to my Church so they can’t keep up the outreach to the nursing home or to pay for medicine for my children?

Yes, there is a problem and the root of the solution is not all that complex.

Continue reading in part 7

StoryOfStuff – Part 5

Continued from part 4

CONSUMPTION: “Golden arrow” “heart of the system, the engine that drives it.
“Protecting this arrow (of consumption) has become the top priority for (government and corporations).”
After 9/11 President Bush told US to shop.
The economy had been hurt. It was not the only thing he said. Bush said many things during that time, among them he dealt with the serious blow to our economy. He was standing well in his position with the bully-pulpit to minimize the effect the attacks had on us. The goal of the terrorists was to cripple our nation in as many ways possible, including economically. To address this specific threat Bush did make statements encouraging us to not sit tight and hunker down. If the economy took a hard hit from people acting in fear, people would have lost their jobs, lost money, experienced much more damage than we actually did. This was not a cold-calculated attempt to shore up his ‘buddies’ in business, this was Bush’s way to keep Americans acting from a position of strength.
Percentage of resources still in use 6 months after purchase: 1%
99% trashed within 6 monthsHow much of this is packaging? Terrible packaging, wasteful. Can the government do better? They can’t design a simple tax system. What do you think their packaging would look like? Once again, the private citizen using the resources available to them can change this. In the news just today Amazon.com reports they are redesigning packaging and encouraging other companies to do the same to minimize waste and improve the user experience with packaging in response to one person’s ‘encouragement’. It’s not that this isn’t a problem, it’s just the implied solution is far from the best.
“It didn’t just happen. It was designed.”
“Our enormously productive economy demands that we make consumption our way of life, that we convert the buying and use of goods into rituals, that we seek our spiritual satisfaction, our ego satisfaction, in consumption…We need things consumed, burned up, replaced and discarded at an ever-accelerating rate.” Victor Lebow, 1955
This is idolatry to a Christian who participates to the extent people such as Lebow desire or prescribe. That is undeniable. But it is wisdom to participate to the extent God allows us, for in our participation we expand the gifts God has given us (Parable of the Talents), benefit others through the melding and expansion of each others resources, and enable ourselves to support ministries which further His work on this earth.
Purpose of the economy is to create more consumer goods – NOT: Health care, Education, Safe transportation, Sustainability, Justice. Governments have a God-given responsibility to apply Justice. We ourselves, as individuals and together as an independent society have the opportunity to meet all the other needs through the strength of the economy. If there was not this vehicle for spurring innovation and creating wealth, how would any development and growth occur in any of these other categories?
Planned obsolescense: “Planned for the dump” OK for smaller things, packaging. Now bigger stuff too.Solution? Research and buy more reliable stuff. I purchase a quintessential toss-away technology item, a portable CD player, 10 years ago. I paid $150, which is significantly more than people pay on average for such devices. However, mine is still running. My cost is therefore only $10 per year. A good price. And no extra junk for those 10 years from disposing of cheaper products. It’s not like I’ve not abused the device, it’s followed me to work and school in my pockets, walking, on the bus, bicycling, etc… It’s just better. Armed with the extensive knowledge we have today, we are more able than ever to verify products reliability. All this ability is because of the capitalist system which encourages innovation.
Percieved obsolescence: “Convinces us to throw away stuff that is still perfectly useful”
Not keeping up with the times.
“It’s to keep us buying new shoes”
We are allowing ourselves to be controlled and defined by media. There is nothing which says we must act a certain way as defined by the media, there is just our decision to allow such things control in our lives. If we allow ourselves to be controlled, we are not victims, we are weak but nevertheless guilty independent moral agents.

National happiness peaked in 1950s (post war). Why? – Because we were all working, on a post-war high. Industry was thriving. Poor people 20 years previously were now part of the exploding middle class. More people were going to school and getting college degrees than ever before. All because of the incredible wealth ingenuity and innovation supported by a free-market, capitalist system which had just vanquished a strong enemy in the form of Fascist Nazi Germany.

DISPOSAL: Trash – 4.5 pounds each day per person

Dumped in landfill or burned and dumpedBurning trash was the main power generation method in Woodland, CA. It may not be cleanest, but it does use the the output in a creative and productive manner.

Climate change: incineration, super toxins, Dioxin.Climate change does not enjoy the scientific consensus many would like it to. After the UN report on climate change came out, several scientists sued to have their names removed from its list of endorsers, claiming they’d been misled in the content of the report. The climate change models popularized by Al Gore are suspect at the very best, with causation and correlation confused and data manipulated in ways that ought not be in serious scientific pursuits. Further, the aims and goals of many of those claiming catastrophic global warming are more damaging to society than they are helping to global climate change.

Recycling helpsRecycling is not energy effective. It takes more energy to recycle paper and plastic than it does to make more and new. Not that recycling is bad, it just takes a wealthy society to support an effective recycling system.

Core of the problems? The solutions proposed in so many of these arguments engaged the government in taking over huge sections of private industry in an attempt to make it all work in some happy circle. Individuals building corporations to provide creative and effective solutions or convincing other corporations to clean up their acts is more effective and do not have the same crippling effect on the economy and devastation on people’s lives as the government intrusion.

Labor rights, blocking landfills and incinerators, taking back government (of the people by the people). How do labor rights get in here? This is not a list of solutions, it’s a laundry list of the speaker’s favorite pet socio-political projects. Taking back government is an excellent course of action, one I can definitely sign on to. But I think her ideas and my ideas of what that government ought to do are very different and mutually irreconcilable. Instead, make government small and increase the ability of people to convince corporations to act responsibly. At the same time remove the protections from people who do try to convince those corporations so that frivilous suits over pointless and wasteful stupidities will be deterred from their damaging and greedy quests.

“Chuck the throw-away mindset”Excellent idea. All for this one.
“Local living economies”Read: “Master-planned communities” Who plans those communities? Allowing communities to grow naturally is better. Zoning laws needlessly restrict the growth of communities along the predetermined lines preferred by city planners.

People created problem, people have to create solution. – But can we? All these problems are symptoms of a single, much larger problem: human sin. And we are unable to resolve it. We do what we can as part of our changed and redeemed natures as Christians to fix problems as we can with the first goal of bringing others in from the dark of sin and into the light of Christ.

Continue reading in part 6

StoryOfStuff – Part 4

Continued from part 3

DISTRIBUTION: “Selling all the toxic, contaminated junk as fast as possible”
“Keep the prices low, keep the people buying, keep the inventory moving”
“How do they keep the prices down?”
“They don’t pay the workers very much, and they skimp on health insurance everytime they can. It’s all about externalizing the costs. What that means is the real costs of making stuff aren’t captured in the price.” –
Is there a mandate that companies provide health insurance? It definitely is a perk and people are perfectly able to vote with their feet and take jobs which provide insurance coverage, which will then encourage more employers to provide health insurance.
“We aren’t paying for the stuff we buy”
“I didn’t pay for the radio. So who did pay?”
These people paid with the loss of their natural resource space.
These people paid with the loss of their clean air, with increasing asthma and cancer rates.
A bugbear: healthy diet and exercise have been shown over and over again to allow our body to process toxins it encounters and avoid the problems many people result to medication to resolve. Also, studies have shown that rates of many diseases are not increasing so much as diagnosis of them is. People are more willing to be tested for diseases and conditions and accept treatment of those diseases and therefore the incidence rates are going up. There may indeed be increases in the actual incidence rate, but we cannot know a) how much is accounted for by the more pervasive testing and b) whether there is significant enough correlation between the two data sets to support the claim of pollution causing the increasing incidences of illness.
“Kids in the Congo paid with their future. 30% of kids in the Congo dropped out of school to mine… a metal we need for our cheap and disposable electronics.”If that job payed them more than they’ve ever dreamed of earning before in a society where education does not mean what it means to us, is that as terrible as the initial claims sounds? The video makes the error of viewing these cultures through the prism of a Western viewpoint. The children would be better served in the long run by staying in school now. Their potentials would be significantly improved. But to leave those schools now and go to work supporting their families was a valid and tempting option to many of them. Our cheap and disposable electronics has grown their economy and given money to the lowest of the low in their society. How is that bad again?
These people paid by having to cover their own health insurance. If you compel every employer to provide health insurance, you raise the cost of each employee to their employer. If the cost of employing people goes up, employers will employ fewer people. So then which is better: A worker paying for their own insurance or an unemployed person unable to pay for anything and living off the government dole?
All along this system people pitched in so I could get this radio for $4.99. That is the beauty of the system. It is not perfect, and many people don’t get the same “treatment” by the system. But by and large, more than any other system that has been tried or theorized, more people benefit to a greater extent across all levels of income, culture, and economy by the capitalist system. It is not that capitalism is the perfect system, it is simply the best system we humans can engage in.

Continued from part 5