On 2/19/02 8:22 AM, “Marty Halvorson”
> Why is it that every negativity maven cites gross income as evidence of
> Why is having information about the rest of the world important to someone
> who lives day to day in a small community, and it happy, healthy, and
> content with life as it is?
> Why does the entire planet need to be exposed to American culture? I
> sometimes think that the thinkers(?) believe that if someone doesn’t think
> or act like they would, that there must be something wrong.
But the answer to all three of these questions is the same: The progress of the world toward an American ideal is necessary to fulfill the American ideology.
Or, more obtusely, America’s economic growth cannot be sustained without dragging the world kicking and screaming along the golden path to the American way of life which is, paradoxically, ecologically unsustainable.
Having IT or even a Telephone is NOT important to nomadic tribes roaming the Sahel herding their goats and subsisting off of the land (a centuries-old way of life that is, ironically, sustainable). But it is important to us North Americans that they sit the hell down and watch Friends, and maybe buy themselves the new Snoop-Dog CD and go to see “Sleepless In Seattle 2”.
The Internet bubble was not unique to our experience… It’s been a pattern that has repeated for centuries:
– America’s growth in the 19th century was dependent upon the exploitation of its natural resources for hungry world (mostly European) markets. The key enabling technology here was reliable Navigation.
– In the 20th century, America switched from a resource-based economy to a manufacturing-based economy, again servicing a world hungry for machines and textiles and ships. Resource extraction was pushed out to the hinterland. The key enabling technology here was mechanized shipping (railroads and steam ships).
– In the 21st century, America is well through shifting its economy to one of information [BITS!] and it is pushing Manufacturing out to the hinter- land, Nike-style. America’s new product is Music, Movies, News, Stock Quotes, Porn — all Layer 8 products which boil down to information. In order to feed a world hungry for these items America must ensure that its key enabling technology – data communications – is deployed and ubiquit- ously available in a timely fashion. Otherwise the whole damned thing grinds to a halt like it did in April 2000 when the supply of bits got way too far ahead of the demand.
Phones don’t matter. You’re thinking one or two layers too high.
The US needs to develop world markets in order to maintain its own growth. This has always been the model of any good imperialist. When it all comes crashing down because our reach exceeds our grasp, the Great American Empire won’t look much different in the Runes of History than the Great Roman Empire, or the Ottoman, etc. etc.
So does this do any favors for the unsophisticated citizens of developing nations? Yes and no, but in the grand scheme of things the scale leans very far toward Absolutely Not. We’re drawing them into our own imminent demise.
The very existence of the information economy requires, in this century, that we enslave workers in Second- (manufacturing) and Third- (resource) world countries to unsafe, unhealthy, and underpaid jobs only to spend their every dime on Britney Spears CDs and MPAA-Approved copies of the “Titanic” DVD. Even today, movie studios increasingly rely on world markets to comprise the Lion’s share of the REAL profit from their films — the US has become the test market.
In this phase the US will be doing everything it can to fight cultural controls across international boundaries (see “censorship”) and will pay particular attention to utilizing regional encoding schema (see “censorship”) to allow them to throttle how they enter distinct markets with different cultural product and at what time.
In a world of open standards and protocols, this explains why we have regional encoding for DVDs and why variously companies like SONY have attempted to push media to replace the venerable CD which replace the glaring oversight of that technology’s designers and include regional encoding.
That, friends, was a tangent.
Anyway, you can carry the metaphor of the internet bubble through each century and it works:
– In the 19th century it was the Trans-Atlantic shipping companies that attracted all of the capital and inevitably collapsed. – In the 20th century it was the railroad and steamship companies that attracted all of the capital and inevitably collapsed. – In the 21st century (granted the late 90s) it was the bit movers that attracted all of the capital and inevitably collapsed.
In each case the buildout far exceeded the current market’s demand, but was necessary to facilitate future growth. Also in each case the burden for the cost of this buildout was placed on capital markets (read: the Middle Class) and they were essentially swindled out of their money in the interests of long term growth.
It was an investment made largely by Americans with significant short-term pain (the Great Depression), that further resulted in long-term economic growth and continued American dominance. It is the system set in place in American Capitalism that is unique to the globe that has enabled this ebb and flow to proceed unchecked.
Nobody’s at the levers of this system — it’s just strangely well conceived (thanks Adam Smith!) and highly cyclical.
The only obstacle facing its eternal domination is ecological. Barring some major innovations in environmental sciences, the cycle will run afoul of itself when the planet earth is no longer able to supply the raw materials or to sustain the humanity that is necessary to power the engine.
Kind of ironic considering that America, once considered to be the natural world’s great gift to humanity, will be brought down because the world runs out of plants.