Thursday, August 1, 2013

What's Really Unsustainable

I got wind of some math on the state of the economy via Captain Capitalism.
Those 6 million people are not only feeding 300 million, but providing them with warm homes in the winter and quality television programming. The comfort food and Seinfeld reruns keep the unproductive, roiling masses from rioting.

Of course, it immediately gets worse:

Of the six million people who do the actual work, one million are company presidents and big-time managers. The other 5 million are the Worker Bees.

So, I go to one of my old posts on Odlyzko's idea that n log(n) is a better metric than Metcalfe's n squared in terms of evaluation of growth of a network.

If my ability to operate a calculator is functional, 5 million productive people can be expected to sustain 33,494,850 (and the five million are included in this number). Yes, there were numbers behind the decimal, but we are talking about people here, people. So, this means there are 266,505,150 more than the five million can handle. (Unless you are a Keynesian- then all you have to do is say Metcalfe is right and go back to cheerleadering for Bernanke.)
We need that 5 million to be 40 million real fast, or we will begin to have the sort of problems that involve people dying and/or having a really uncomfortable lifestyle.

So, yeah, I don't know how accurate one can get with estimations of how many people are actually productive, but I can see the non-productivity staring me in the face practically everywhere. I can totally believe Perry Marshall's numbers, and, obviously, I've thought Odlyzko was right for years. Even for myself, I feel non-productive- indeed I feel forced to be non-productive, given the near systematic removal of any protocols that would result in proper division of labor in the U.S. over my lifetime.

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