Democrats & Liberals Archives

Parts for The Next Decade

The movie, over the twenty plus years of its release, has proven prescient. Although some of the cold-war jokes are dated, and we certainly aren’t selling artificial “sports hearts” on television, the bleak black comedy about big corporations essentially running everything from police forces to hospitals, and the love of cars with sucky gas mileage have come to pass.

But there's more to it than that.

Here's a selective quoting (for language reasons) of one particular line, where executive Dick Jones confronts junior exec Bob Morton:

I always knew where the line was drawn. And you just stepped over it, buddy-boy. You've insulted me. And you've insulted this company with that bastard creation of yours. I had a guaranteed military sale with ED-209. Renovation program. Spare parts for the next decade. Who cares if it worked or not?

On one level, lets consider the literal subtext: the title character is a product of a program that was put into action as an alternative when a malfunctioning ED-209 robot killed another junior executive, a bloody death that left the CEO of OCP, the manufacture of both the robot and the titled cyborg, "very disappointed."

Whatever Robocop's flaws, he was not shooting unarmed executives. He worked. The ED-209 robot didn't.

But where politics gets involved, things tend to get complicated, and they get even more complicated, I think, when people like us take unthinking positions based on politics and partisanship. I'm very much an advocate of studying the problem first, listening to the experts, and then negotiating the solution politically.

But some folks want to get their "guaranteed military sales". They want to see business work, even if they're not giving us anything that works for the profits they gain and the wages they earn.

This is the danger in letting folks with special interests write the rules and write the laws. Some may be honest citizens, but all too many are simply looking out for themselves, and to operate in the naive assumption that most will not allow bad things to happen in their industries, that they will provide for genuinely sustainable programs is to ignore history. How many military contractors have delivered shoddy goods that don't work? Look at Microsoft. For every Windows 95, XP, or Seven, there's a Windows Me, or Windows Vista.

We've all experienced the customer service, the service runarounds, the niggling little exceptions claimed, the call trees that lead us in circles and the Medical companies that make life and death decisions by spreadsheet, and often with fatal consequences.

It would be paranoid to think that we are always experiencing negative outcomes at their hands. After all, the market still has some pull. But if a practice becomes industry standard, it can be a long wait for us to get policy from those companies that actually works.

A low gas mileage sports car, the 6000 SUX figures as a running joke in the film, showing up in a monster-movie style commercial, as one of the demands of a politician who has taken the Mayor hostage, and as a perk for the just released gang of theives and murderers who serve as the henchmen of a corrupt executive in the movie. The thing gets 8.2 MPG, which was probably funny in the day. Nowadays, the golden age of the SUV come and gone, the joke takes on particularly cutting irony, since instead of avoiding that dystopian prediction, we walked right into it.

Hell, we ran for it and clotheslined ourselves with the sucker. Bigger was better! High Mileage cars were for Hippies and Tree Huggers! We learned nothing from the seventies!

What was that line about it being very difficult to get somebody to understand something that they were paid the big bucks not to understand? The buggy whip manufacturer will not trumpet the coming of the horseless carriage. If they have lobbyists, they'll certainly be writing the laws to give themselves the leg up in the marketplace, or the "reforms" to remove anything that's holding them back, even if it's holding them back for a reason.

The first amendment allows the right to assembly, and with the right of assembly comes all the phenomena of social interaction, the tendency towards narrowed interests and groupthink. With other laws comes the right to incorporate, to create a business. And with them, naturally, come other narrowed interests.

Now I'm not for shutting the door on all these- it's human nature to both have your own special interests and opinions, and to share them with others. Democracy is meant to let us strike a balance between our different interests, to strive for the greatest happiness, prosperity, and freedom for the greatest number of people. But some have advocated turning a blind eye to the great imbalances that years of pro-corporate reforms, and years of pro-business reform have wrought.

But more over, they've failed to truly consider the need to head that imbalance off to prevent a tug of war that might wrench an environment that sustained their interests to the exclusion of others in the opposite direction. Folks are not going to sit around and play second-banana forever. Take Obama's election, the election of the Democrats as a symptom of that tension, that desire to even things up.

Heck, if you're on the right, notice that you're having to sell your pro-corporate agenda by portraying Democrats as tools of the big Wall Street folks. The Tea Partisans would not be getting support from Koch Foundation and Freedomworks ThinkTanks if they didn't sense that they needed to jump on the populist bandwagon. They can no longer directly appeal to people on the grounds that business serves the greater good on its own.

The irony deepens if we remember what's supposed to be the genesis of the Tea Party Movement: That supposedly populist movement began with exactly the sort of bond traders that helped create the mess.

It's a mark of just how twisted the discourse has become on the right. These are the last people we should be following with pitchforks and torches, unless we were chasing them out of town. These are the last people who should be having politics shift their way, who should be rewarded with continued favor in the government for their policies. We just faced one of the worst recessions of modern times, thanks to folks like them.

It's not that people like them are evil, but when you're wrapped up in a certain enterprise, it can become hard to see beyond your own little world, beyond the edges of what can often be a toxic, hypercompetitive culture. These traders were precisely the sort of people who shouldn't have been left alone to decide what was proper financial due diligence by themselves, but they are addicted to their freedom, and many see the current predicament as merely an understandable bump in the road.

There are business leaders who oppose what might be expensive environmental regulations, who oppose stiffer enforcement of safety issues. There are hospital runners who don't want folks to look into how wasteful procedures might be reduced, Insurance companies that don't want to have to compete for fewer and fewer dollars with others who they can't just gobble up or push out of business.

If we mollify all these people, sure we might not get any trouble from them, but we sure might get trouble because of them. Sometimes, we need government to act as a third party alternative, to act on behalf of citizens who might not otherwise have the power or influence to stop or undo the harm against them by those with financial power and political pull. Sometimes government has to be the bad guy to business, or the business will end up the bad guy towards us.

It's really simple, once you think about it. The current status quo for government, is that businesses should decide the conditions and the rules under which businesses should operate. Effectively, when it comes to corporate governance, it leaves business acccountable to its own leaders, and the leaders themselves accountable mostly to the shareholders, who are often simply satisfied to see the profits and their dividends, the more the merrier.

But are those the only people that the folks in business should be held accountable to? No. They will do things that affect the rest of us, and our strength to use the market as a deterrent is not always strong enough to prevent behavior that is harmful to us.

We can't always keep the ED-209s and the 6000 SUX's off the streets by ourselves. Sometimes we need somebody else, somebody who we empower as citizens to come around and give the business leaders the bad news that we can't give them ourselves. Sorry, you might have parts for the next decade, but your trigger happy droid isn't walking our streets.

Posted by Stephen Daugherty at December 18, 2009 5:05 PM
Comments
Comment #292830

Leave it to you, Stephen, to be 180 degrees about the point, dance so close to the reality of the situation but letting your partisan views, which you espouse to not have, see the mirror image of reality…

I will get into the details of it, but maybe this little tidbit, which I know a LOT about, might help.

Look at Microsoft. For every Windows 95, XP, or Seven, there’s a Windows Me, or Windows Vista.

You are trying to explain that ‘shoddy products’ come from business. Yes it does all of the time, but first, ME and Vista were not ‘shoddy’, but that’s a discussion for another time. In fact, you laud Windows 7, which is a very good OS, but fail to realize it is essentially Windows Vista with a different name and some optimization done by Mark Russinivich. Other than that, it is basically the same failure you are trying to use to make your point.

But what you miss completely is that if government isn’t PROTECTING business, that business will fail. Microsoft could not come in and make people buy Windows.

But when government DOES get involved, as they are the only ones who do have the power to make people do things, that is when things get messed up. You complain about the big cars, but the market, the people, WERE speaking with their dollars and buying cars with better mileage. It caused the ‘big 3’ to suffer and be very close to bankruptcy. Had they been allowed to fail, newer businesses would have taken over, people who understood what the people wanted and proved better cars for the market that was demanding it back then. Had we done that, what would our car industry, what kind of cars, would we be driving now? Would we have seen more advancement in cars like Zap and Tesla?

We’ll never know. The government, because of politics by those meaning well, protected those businesses, the ones who were unable to provide the kind of cars that we wanted, and we are astonished when they didn’t learn their lesson 20 years later?

The fault is not business, they will try things and either succeed or fail. Only through that process can we find real innovation and drive quality. But it is when government, who is not driven by such ideals and are driven by politics instead, and have the power to force people to do what they say, when things start to fail. The automobile industry is one great example. The healthcare system another. Nearly all of the innovation that the rest of the world utilizes in the healthcare industry today was invented by American healthcare systems which leads to most of the additional costs we pay. If we no longer have incentive to innovate because the government is now controlling costs and limiting pay, where are those kinds of medical advances going to come from? They aren’t, which is the real sad future end story of trying to ‘save lives’ by ensuring that fewer healthcare advances are developed. Huzzah!

You can continue to beat the drum for more government control of businesses because you think that only government can keep businesses from failing, but the real problem IS government trying to keep business from failing and in doing so ensuring that they cannot succeed.

We just faced one of the worst recessions of modern times, thanks to folks like them.

Keep trying to sell that fairy tale, Stephen, but you are just proving that you are the one hung up on partisan views and being unwilling to look at the facts as they have been presented to you several times and you continue to reject them…

Posted by: Rhinehold at December 18, 2009 8:55 PM
Comment #292831

Stephen

You can buy a car that gets 50 miles to the gallon. Ours gets 45. You can walk or ride a bike. I also regret the fact that too few people want to do that. The only time people care about good mileage is when the price of gas goes way up.

Re the corrupt government, Democrats have been running Congress since 2007. Why don’t they get off the rears and do something?

After all, Democrats don’t care so much about taxes because they don’t bother to pay them, such as Charlie Rangel who helps write the tax laws. Or Chris Dodd (also got sweetheart mortgage deals), Chuck Schumer and Barney Frank who protected and encouraged Fannie and Freddie to make bad loans. Didn’t Senator Obama also get in on that one.

Stephen, I know it is a hard adjustment, but you guys are in full charge now. When you criticize the corruption in government, you are talking about Democrats. They run the show.

You are right, crooks everywhere. Crooks run the government. Boot them all out.

Posted by: Christine at December 18, 2009 9:02 PM
Comment #292834

Stephen, I suggest you send a copy of this blog to President Obama, Rahm Emmanuel, Larry Summers and many of those new corporate Democrats you helped to elect. It is obvious that you are writing about them, so send them a copy.

Last week, Emanuel and Obama’s Treasury Dept. joind forces to defeat a badly needed financial reform bill in Charlie Rangel’s finance committee. A committee that Emanuel manipulated to get more anti-reform Democrats on.

Two days later, Obama had a photo opportunity where he announced that he was not elected President to represent or help a bunch of fat cat bankers. Shortly after that, the bankers announced that they would be waging all out war against financial reform. They are flooding the Democratic Congress with money.

I can think of to explanations for this kind of behavior. Obama is a corporate Democrat or Obama is so inexperienced and naive that he is being used.

The Democrats and Republicans will set a new spending record in the 2010 election.

Posted by: jlw at December 18, 2009 11:10 PM
Comment #292839

Rhinehold-

You are trying to explain that ‘shoddy products’ come from business.

Yes, the marxist is cursing the capitalists again. Right.

No, I’m pointing out the unevenness of performance when we allow a business to dominate the market. ME and Vista are the products of a market dominance enforced through market share, exclusive bundling practices, and other barriers to true free market choice.

In a truly free market, You could chose an operating system, and it would be the merits as you judged them that would lead you to get Microsoft’s OS.

Microsoft has its market position because it’s the default OS for nearly every PC in the market. Maybe from an eighteenth century perspective, that ought not to have distorting effects on the market, but with its ability to essentially bundle its own software, and crowd out others in the market, that huge dominance was stifling competition.

If you ask me, government’s fallen down on the job with Microsoft. It’s only started edging towards more competitive design and software because it feels Google, Linux, and other operating systems breathing down its neck on other technological fronts. How much better of an operaton could Microsoft be, if it wasn’t guaranteed a sale nearly every time somebody bought a PC? You argue against socialism on the same basis, yet you don’t consider the problems of monopoly and near-monopoly market shares on the quality of goods and services, and the level of the prices.

I think there is a relationship that can be reached where government keeps corporations in check enough that they don’t do things that get people screaming for their heads. That allows people to have faith in business. If the business sector keeps on losing your money, keeps on ruining your life, what reason is there to have faith.

But instead, you opt for an extreme, claiming that government intervention is what causes the problems.

This is why we have such an unhealthy economy: people make it all about a free market, when the reality is, market freedoms can die when businesses become, well, too big to fail, too essential to let collapse, to larget to permit other businesses room to compete.

The fairy tale you’re trying to sell us is an economy that can fully and properly organize itself without the rule of law being imposed on it. It is not that business needs to be regulated to within an inch of its life, but rather that without a third party ensuring honesty, full disclosure, the protection of the environment, the quality of the infrastructure, the fairness of the dealings and so on and so forth, the natural human failings take hold and complicate business dealing to the point where business and people suffer.

Posted by: Stephen Daugherty at December 19, 2009 12:24 AM
Comment #292840

Christine-
The Republican Filibusters broke the previous record in that session of Congress before the year was out. Because things must pass the Senate and the House both, nothing much of consequence got voted on.

Despite this, the Republicans were handed a second loss, worse than the first.

Now you claim sixty is a magic number. Well, not With Lieberman, Ben Nelson, and other such individuals involved. See, if none of your people cross over in their votes, just one of these people is sufficient to cancel out the ability of the other fifty nine to express their wishes in a vote.

Sixty is not magical it’s marginal. One less, and you’ve got nothing. Nothing gets passed, even if a majority could pass it.

Given my affection for things that actually work, this move by the Republicans pisses me off to no end. It’s neither fair to the Democrats in Congress, who earned their majority, nor to the voters who gave them that majority. What’s more, it is a cynical way of doing politics, especially if you consider how unrepentant so many of your fellow Republicans are about their past performance. Hell, look at the talking points you tried to foist on me.

For your information, I don’t buy the GSE BS because I know for a fact that the market share of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac were in decline, as investors and bankers flocked to the secondary market that the other lenders and banks were setting up elsewhere, with standards so low for many loans that Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac couldn’t even touch them.

You even confuse their role, thanks to the lousy information your party provides you. If you ever got a loan from somebody, Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac would never furnish you that loan themselves. Unlike the lenders, who mostly began their collapse in 2007 (not long into your supposed villain’s terms), the GSE’s lost out in the summer of 2008, as their secondary market for mortgage securities, their real product, dried up.

The tax stuff is just cheap, a combination of gotcha journalism on a few Democrats with tax problems, and the assertion that the shortfalls had no other explanation than the active wish to deceive the IRS and evade their taxes.

What do you think I read about every day on the Liberal blogs? You think we’re not up to date on what you folks say about us, about what the facts really are about things? I posted about the GSE’s and the real story concerning the Community Reinvestment Act over a year ago. I was rather blunt, too.

If I am going to critique our policy, I will do so on better information than I can get from the GOP,or its media allies.

jlw-
I know what kind of hard slog we face, but my aim is not to see us give us in the face of those interests.

It doesn’t help to do the name calling. The questions have to be better, and the questioners have got to insist on them more out in public. You can call people corporatists and whatever, but do you win any victories against the corporations or anybody, much less against their policies?

Assume the interests are going to have their say. Assume that as people have done throughout history, they’re going to lobby the Congress, or whatever powerful organization holds political control.

Maybe you start out with folks who jump too quickly to dance to the tune of the corporations. But that’s who you have to start out with, after thirty years of Republicans who made that the norm.

The pressure has to start from there and push from there.

Posted by: Stephen Daugherty at December 19, 2009 12:46 AM
Comment #292845

Stephen

In your response to Rhinehold you seem to think it is a bad thing to have “uneven performance” in the economy. Uneven performance is the essence of innovation and freedom. We don’t all want the same things. Any innovation will produce uneven results. That is what innovation does. That is what freedom does.
Microsoft is an interesting example. If you remember your business history, the government was busy kicking at IBM just about the time Microsoft was pushing them off the pedestal. Now Microsoft has to deal with Google etc. This is how the system works and how it is supposed to work. Monopolies can persist for a long time only with some kind of government support.
I think I need to defend Rhinhold, but I have never heard him call for NO government and he has been a defender of the rule of law. I don’t know of anybody who is calling for NO government. Our government is already big and intrusive, but it often neglects the important things it SHOULD do, such as infrastructure and basic regulation, to handle the things it has no real ability to accomplish, such as micromanagement and macro income distribution.

If I sum up what I want – it is a smaller, but more efficient government that does the right things and does them right.

Recall that ENRON grew big under a Democratic Administration and its prosperity and growth depended on its ability to do arbitrage between and among government regulations. Not only did the government regulators fall down on the job but government regulations made ENRON possible. That is the kind of government we don’t need or want.

Re Fannie and Freddie – I guess I didn’t make it clear. Dodd got his loan from Countrywide, which was subject to his regulation. It was not honest. Frank et al prevented effective regulation of Fannie and Freddie. Senator Obama even signed on to a threatened filibuster to stop that.

You mention how a minority can stop the actions of the majority. Well Democrats did that to stop effective financial regulation when they were in the minority and made sure nothing happened when they took over in 2007, just before the economy went south.

Posted by: Christine at December 19, 2009 10:04 AM
Comment #292846

“Don’t worry, Lewis, they fix everything”

Posted by: gergle at December 19, 2009 10:27 AM
Comment #292859

Gergle-
The Steel Mill Battle, after Robocop stabbed Boddicker in the neck with his data spike, and Lewis had blown up Ray Wise’s character in that crane control room.

But right before he lifts the metal beam that got dropped on him.

Christine-
If Microsoft had had its way, Java would not be the prominent web language it is today. As it is, they scuttled Netscape, using the OS’s dominant position to pre-empt any competition for its browser.

We can talk about this kind of “all’s well that ends well” mythology, or we can face the reality that Microsoft often used its position to give its products an edge the merit of those products could not have given them.

I’m not against the market or the products being uneven, but if you structure the market right, with sufficient competition, consumer protections and other safeguards, then the companies tend to be much less complacent about their products and their business.

As for your accusations about what the Democrats did to the economy? They were inaugurated in January 2007. The housing market began its collapse in 2006.

Much of what made the assets in the market toxic, much of the regulatory failure, occured before the Democrats even got into office as the majority.

This was a progressive collapse in the markets, one floor of the financial industries applying the breaking force to another. As somebody who often read Eschaton, I was hearing about the underlying events of this collapse long before the Republicans admitted something was going on in the general election season of 2008, when the failure of Lehman Brothers made it the writing on the wall. I heard about problems with the Housing market before then, heard about housing starts basically propping up the market.

So when you come at me with these talking points, I find myself recalling what I learned before, and I can’t help but find your argument dubious.

On the subject of GSE regulation, were there the votes to pass that measure in the first place?

The thing of it is, you keep on throwing these decoys out, but you cannot do the one thing that would free your party from its infamy: you cannot exonerate your party of the charges. All you can do is tar and feather some of your accusers, make people hesitate with those arguments. That doesn’t strike me as a long-term winning argument.

The Republicans cannot leave their past behind until they admit their policies failed the country.

pl8spinner-
No, I did not. It’s a shift in technology towards mobile devices and netbooks that is bringing about more competition. Even now, Windows predominates on PC desktops.

As far as IBM PCs go, there were alternatives at the time, like CP/M. Hell, even IBM chafed under the dominance that Microsoft attained. Why else did they develop OS/2?

Microsoft innovates grudgingly, because it has no full-fledged competitor that can challenge it.

Posted by: Stephen Daugherty at December 19, 2009 9:56 PM
Comment #292861

Stephen

That is the way it works out in the free market. This is something the big government folks just cannot understand. The mistakes of the market cost money. Mistakes of government cost lives and tend not to get corrected as fast.

Re Republican mistakes – I readily admit that they make governmental mistakes. This is the way government works, or not.

But you must understand that you have contradicted yourself several times on this posting alone. You postulate problems with the market and then give examples of how they were corrected with market competition. You decry what you call Republican ability to run things when the Democrats are very much in charge, but then forgive Democrats when they were even stronger.

Let’s be very clear. Regulations failed in many areas of the economy, BUT regulation or the lack of it was not the primary cause of the economic downturn. Government just doesn’t have the power to manage the economy to that extent. It is a liberal error to believe otherwise. IF you do indeed believe this, then you must be very disappointed in the management of the economy since 2007.

One more question. You blame Bush et al for the housing collapse. Answer this simple question. Where did the decline in real estate prices start and where did values decline most? Hind - it is not the U.S. This was a world problem.

IMO, when economists figure out the boom and bust of recent years, they will conclude that the real spark came from structural problems caused by the rise of China and its undervalued currencies. Americans overspent, but the money didn’t recycle as it should have. The trouble with this explanation is that it doesn’t provide villains.

We should not have lent so much to sub-prime borrowers. This indeed was a governmental problem. Whether or not you think these are talking points, the villains here are guys like Barney Frank, Chris Dodd and even Senator Barack Obama.

Posted by: Christine at December 19, 2009 10:13 PM
Comment #292903

Christine,

On the one hand you excuse Bush for the economic collapse (housing bubble) attributing it to “structural problems caused by the rise of China and its undervalued currencies” and postulate that there are no villains.

On the other hand, you then proceed to find Democratic villains responsible for the economic collapse attributing it to governmental policies encouraging sub-prime lending.

So, what is it? No villains, other than China or only Democratic villains?


Posted by: Rich at December 21, 2009 7:24 AM
Comment #292910

The average Europe (mix-adjusted) house price in the first quarter of 1998 was £81,722, but at the peak of the market in the third quarter of 2007 the average price was £219,256 – over two and a half times higher or a total increase of 168% ,I saw the TV shows in 2001 -2002 on HGTV - BBC and others selling and fixing up properties in europe london ect ect Scotland ,Ireland for like £219,256 - £300,000 for a tiny flat when most of this country was still affordable ,It became a shark feeding frenzy here about the end of 2002 to the end of 2005, prices dropped in 2006 and slowed in sales the market was so over saturated with houses on the market then.

Posted by: Rodney Brown at December 21, 2009 1:42 PM
Comment #292911

I’m sure this was a bit of a factor too, ” U.S. HAS SECOND WARMEST SUMMER ON RECORD
Nation Experienced Warmest January - August Period On Record

Sept. 14, 2006 � Summer 2006 was the second warmest June-to-August period in the continental U.S. since records began in 1895, according to scientists at the NOAA National Climatic Data Center in Asheville, N.C. Additionally, the 2006 January-to-August period was the warmest on record for the continental U.S”
The heat was HOT in Californa in 2006 ..

Posted by: Rodney Brown at December 21, 2009 1:59 PM
Comment #292912

Robocop was set in a crime-ridden Detroit, Michigan in the near future, Of things to come like the Ghost of Christmas Future, Stephen that started in the mid 1990s RE Big cars and trucks when oil went down to what $23-24 in 1996 then Detroit geared up again, Like Christine i was driving a little 35-40 mpg Civic in 1997 -1998 by 2001 almost everything was big again.

Posted by: Rodney Brown at December 21, 2009 2:58 PM
Comment #292916

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Oil_Prices_1861_2007.svg Oil Prices 1861 -2007.

Posted by: Rodney Brown at December 21, 2009 4:57 PM
Comment #292926

Stephen,

You said, “If Microsoft had had its way, Java would not be the prominent web language it is today. As it is, they scuttled Netscape, using the OS’s dominant position to pre-empt any competition for its browser.”

If you recall correctly, there was a lawsuit enforced on this as well to prevent Microsoft from taking similar advantage again. That’s part of the problem with legislation and government enforcement particularly in the realm of technology is that it is by its very nature reactive and slow moving. There was nothing Netscape could do because they were the first victims of the bundling.

In terms of your analysis of Microsoft, it is only about half right. There have been competitors in the Operating System world for the better part of the last two decades. Apple has been the biggest one claiming between 5% and 10% during this time. They could have probably knocked MS off their perch if they had been willing to license their OS earlier, but they made the business decision to stay as a bundled supplier in the vien of the old IBM machines.

MS definitely had their rein for the past 20 years because they were willing to make the business decision to forego the hardware market. They have benefitted most by the precipitous drop in HW costs which has allowed their price increases to go largely unnoticed since every machine still gets cheaper. However, as HW costs begin to reach commodity levels, they are likely to see significant inroads to their market share over the next 10 to 20 by Linux and other open source environments. They are now moving late into the hardware market.

While I’m no MS fan, I’m not sure what regulation I would propose for them right now or 10 years ago. Had we reined them in, we would not likely have seen the near universal acceptance of the PC as the platform of choice. Without that, we don’t get lots of other benefits our society has seen.

While there are definitely points of leverage for government involvement in the marketplace, it is worth remembering that is all they are. The government can not effectively dictate the outcomes we want. For every new regulation, there are unintended consequences, opportunists, and by its very nature winners and losers. When we start wielding the regulation sword, we should do so with the knowledge that the outcomes will be affected but not always in the ways that we would like.

While we can point to today’s problems and say we should have or could have done this. We don’t know what the other possible outcomes may have been and whether they would have been better or worse. We would just know that they would be different. I believe that we should be prudent and careful with governmental regulation because the market is generally a more neutral arbiter of winners and losers than the government is. If we are going to pick one, then we should damn sure be certain that we are willing to live with it.

Posted by: Rob at December 21, 2009 7:49 PM
Comment #292948

I wonder why no one is building one of the old Honda Civic’s from the 70’s? I guess even Honda doesn’t make them anymore? The current Civic is a midsize passenger car. The old Civic was a teensy clown car, but had great mileage. I guess there are the Mini Coup’s, but do they get great mileage?

Posted by: gergle at December 22, 2009 9:45 AM
Comment #292952

Gerg , a teacher i knew bought a 1975 CVCC Honda civic it was a cool car plenty of room for 4 and he claimed 50 mpg highway, Sort of revolutionary for the times it met California’s strict smog requirements without the use of a catalytic converter, 4 people could lift it and turn it sideways in a parking lot space :) it had them all beat Pinto , Vega , Mini Cooper, Yes that new Mini is very cool and a bit expensive. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Honda_Civic_(first_generation)

Posted by: Rodney Brown at December 22, 2009 10:31 AM
Comment #292953

Quite A Bargain too less than $11,000 factored for Inflation cost about $2,600 in 1975 would cost $10293.46 in 2008.

Posted by: Rodney Brown at December 22, 2009 10:56 AM
Comment #292957

Rob-
The issue with Apple, and what keeps them from being a direct challenge to Microsoft, is their use of systems whose hardware is primarily proprietary. While you can run Windows on a Mac, with the right software, you cannot run a Mac OS on a PC.

But I’d rather there be protections in place. As it is, there are quite a few commonly held technology standards in the PC business that help bridge divides between different OS’s, things like USB, Hard-Drive technology, programming, and media standards. I don’t think it would have necessarily have been a problem for the PC market to have different OS’s out there. It might have encouraged the development of cross-platform programming and hardware standards earlier, increased the pace of OS innovation.

Posted by: Stephen Daugherty at December 22, 2009 12:26 PM
Comment #292961

Rodney and Gergle-

It’s all about the lbs. Those Civics weighed about 1500lbs. My VW Scirocco was a little heavier at around 1700lbs. By contrast today’s Mini, which meets the DOT regs weighs in at around 3500lbs.

The Smart is less than 2000lbs in U.S. trim I believe, but because of the engine choices the fuel economy isn’t as great as it is elsewhere. It uses a lot of technology get close to where the Civic was in 76 (minus a backseat of course).

Posted by: George at December 22, 2009 2:54 PM
Comment #292969

Stephen,

Apple’s decision was not a technical limitation; they almost licensed their OS at one point in the early 90’s. However, they decided that it would hinder their overall goal as a company which was to essentially produce a designer product that included both the hardware and the software.

In terms of the PC standards, all of those emerged after MS made sure that there was a market there that was lucrative enough to encourage it. You probably don’t remember the early 80’s, but PC’s were well beyond the cost of the average consumer and market penetration was limited to early adopters. Without a relatively controlled operating environment like MS that ensured market-share, the time that it required to code an application would have made them cost prohibitive.

The programmers have to have a box to work in. Up until recently, the box was the OS. In order to move an application from one OS to another was a considerable undertaking that required extensive rework of the code that was only economically viable if there was sufficient demand in the other OS. Aside from the “killer apps” like Word Processing, E-mail, Spreadsheets, etc. the marketshare wouldn’t be there to demand it.

The development of the browser and corresponding evolutions in the HTML standards in the past 15 years changed the box. Now programmers can code in a hardware or independent platform mode. However, without the market penetration in the PC world that put a computer first on every desk whose to say if we would have been able to lower the cost of software and hardware development so that they went to every home, and then in every pocket.

That’s the difficulty that regulators face. At the time they are written, they can’t predict the outcomes. Instead, they are generally written in a reactive mode to correct an excess that has already occurred. Going back to the example, it would not have been possible to write regulations for MS in 1980 to prevent what happened. No one knew then. In 1985, MS was still not even on every desk, though it was getting there; however, their products were still largely self-contained. Same was still generally true in 1995. It wasn’t until the Internet revolution gained full strength in the late 90’s early 2000’s that we began to see the full brunt of MS’s most predatorty actions that would have warranted regulation.

There was action taken at that point through the court system enforcing existing legislation. Less than 10 years later, we still have much of what we have accomplished through the enforcement of existing legislation via the courts and market forces in a much smaller window of time than what it would have taken to get done legislatively.

It is also worth noting that legislative regulation would have probably never have been a good candidate for dealing with the problems of MS. It would have to have been so narrowly to affect only MS that it would have been difficult to pass, and it would have had created opportunities for creative lawyers to frame reasons why newcomers in similar ventures should not be able to compete. Additionally, it could have made the entry costs for other hugely successful IT ventures like Google and Oracle higher and thus less attractive to the investors who risked their money on the creative ideas of others.

It’s the unintended consequenses are what can and should give legislators pause when attacking marketplace problems.

Posted by: Rob at December 22, 2009 9:21 PM
Comment #292990

Gerg, George , apparently the British bulldog is back http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gcZlMVeeO2g 44.7 mpg highway Mini clubman base model…!

Posted by: Rodney Brown at December 23, 2009 11:37 AM
Comment #293050

Stephen,

How much of what you say is BAD business, and how much is bad BUSINESS?

My son’s favorite saying ties to what happens when you order more than four items at a fast food restaurant…”the whole world is McDonalds”. I understand the big boys did not get there because they were good citizens, and there has never been a patriotic corporation, but perhaps a lot of the problem stems from a mere dash of incompetance…

Posted by: Marysdude at December 25, 2009 7:28 PM
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