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OPINION: Entrepreneur Asks Economic Questions


by Wavell Cowan

widely acknowledged economic “problem” of this political year is the increasing gap in wealth between the so-called 1 percent and the rest of us. Economic inequality was recently explored in the Jan/Feb 2016 issue of Foreign Affairs. In one of the essays the author quoted the so-called Bossuet paradox – “God laughs at men who complain of the consequences while cherishing the causes”. It struck me that this was a precise description of the situation in our economy today.

We complain of economic “consequences” such as “inequality”, but “cherish” the present form of the market economy that “causes” such inequalities. The common suggestion in the above referenced articles and in what passes for political discussion these days, is that these “consequences” can be avoided by proper government regulation. Nowhere is it suggested that the basic structure of the economy itself is the “cause”, and that fundamental change rather than piecemeal regulation is required.

A professional lifetime as an independent scientist using basic research to understand causes of fundamental industrial problems allowed me as an entrepreneur and businessman to successfully create new process equipment and test instruments now widely used throughout the Pulp & Paper Industry. What these experiences taught was that when something doesn’t work well the usual approach is to come up with trial and error “patches”. These only shift problems, never solving them. Alternatively, asking the proper “why” questions and seeking scientifically valid answers typically identifies the need for fundamental “changes”, not “patches”. This in turn frees the imagination to come up with the ideas needed to implement such changes.

The articles on inequality highlighted the problem, but the solutions offered were all, in effect, trial and error patches. Nowhere were “why” questions asked. It seems that the nature of the economy is so “cherished”, that is, so accepted, that it is immune to serious questioning.

Fundamental to the operation of an economy is the nature of the units of production created to deliver goods and services, and how the money supply is to be made available to fully utilize the productive energies of our citizenry.

Two scientifically legitimate “why” questions that challenge what we cherish, but for this reason cannot be asked without derisive responses, are:

1. Why does our economy still overwhelmingly support “largeness” in the units of production that deliver goods and services to the population, when modern technology now makes that unnecessary?

2. Why is money creation still left in the hands of the private banking sector when modern technology now makes that unnecessary?

I have explored these two questions in my newly published book, “Escaping an Evolutionary Dead-End.” Should The Bridge be willing that these “not to be asked questions”, be publicly posed, those willing to accept them as being scientifically legitimate can satisfy their curiosity by visiting authorwfc.com.