De wet van behoud

Verschillende aanleidingen

  1.  Wereldwijd onbehagen
  2. Toffler, verandering
  3.  Techniek drie lijnen: comfort, militair gericht op verdediging en macht, communicatie
  4.  Geschiedschrijving van veel disciplines zonder techniek, bijv. economie, filosofie. Maar ook de algemene geschiedenis. Hierop enkele opmerkelijke uitzonderingen: de agrarische revolutie, en de industriële revolutie. Men moet al bijzondere belangstelling hebben voor veranderingen om hier verder op in te gaan. Bijv. Metabletica. Maar metabletica lijkt niet veel vervolg te hebben gehad.
  5. Geschiedschrijving gaat tot dusver over koningen, veldheren, pausen, priesters. Het leven van de gewone man is nog niet zolang geleden interessant geworden, met vragen als: hoe leefden mensen eigenlijk in een bepaalde periode. Een goede bron is dan dat wat mensen afdankten. En dus vormen afval of mest een goed onderzoek terrein.
  6. Wat gebeurt na het einde van een beschaving? Om daar een beeld van te krijgen zou men eigenlijk  literatuur uit die periode moeten bekijken. En daarvan is de geschiedenis van het Franken een aardig voorbeeld. In dit boek schildert Gregorius van Tours zijn ervaringen als bisschop tijdens de roerige periode nadat Clovis is overleden. En dan blijkt dat er wel voortdurend strijd is tussen de verschillende koningen maar blijkbaar gaat het dagelijks leven in de diverse steden gewoon verder als altijd. Men kan zich realiseren dat menselijke groepen en gemeenschappen geen koning nodig hebben om zich te organiseren. Gemeenschappen organiseren zich zelf. In de huidige maatschappij kunne we natuurlijk ook de vraag stellen: wie zorgt er eigenlijk dat er voldoende bakkers, slagers, etc. zijn. Het antwoord is dat doen ze zelf. Dit verschijnsel dat ik even zelforganisatie noem vindt men in de wereld overal terug. Zelforganisatie is de belangrijkste factor die gemeenschappen structuur geeft. Waarom gebruiken we de indeling in uren, dagen en jaren afkomstig van Mesopotamië, als de Grieken uitvinders zijn van de beschaving?
  7. Zelforganisatie vinden we ook in organisaties terug. In de jaren 1960 sprak men wel van informele organisatie. En de leidende gedachte was dat de formele en de informele organisatie zo dicht mogelijk bij elkaar gebracht moesten worden. Een belangrijk onderwerp in de organisatiekunde was de informele organisatie. De gedachte was toen dat formele en informele organisatie zo dicht mogelijk bij elkaar moesten liggen. Dat was niet altijd rationeel. Een klein voorbeeld: Bij de gemeente werd een nieuw systeem van voortgangscontrole geïntroduceerd. Als regel werd gehanteerd dat brieven van burgers binnen zes weken moesten zijn behandeld. Na verloop van slechts korte tijd bleek dat de afdeling vergunning verlening een groeiende achterstand had. Bij navraag zei de chef van de afdeling: ja, wij weten dat de wet met regels rond deze vergunningen wordt gewijzigd. Het leek ons wijs met het verlenen van deze vergunningen (het ging om nieuwe richtlijnen voor de horeca) te wachten tot de nieuwe wet van kracht is om te voorkomen dat alle horeca ondernemingen twee keer een aanvraag moeten indienen.
  8. Hoe sterk de informele organisatie is blijkt op caricaturale wijze bij Dad’s Army, etc. en ook bij Wodehouse.
  9. In vele gevallen wordt een beschaving gekoppeld aan een bepaald land. Zo spreken we van een Griekse of een Perzische beschaving. Dat blijkt wat lastig als men praat over de westerse beschaving. Want aan welk land wordt de westerse beschaving gekoppeld? Mijns inziens moet men een beschaving koppelen aan een netwerk van min of meer autonome knooppunten. Als men dat doet valt de westerse beschaving te koppelen aan het netwerk van plaatsen rond de Noordzee en de Oostzee en daarop aansluitende grote rivieren. Dat netwerk kan men typeren als een open netwerk. Dat in tegen stelling tot het gesloten netwerk van knooppunten in China. Door het gesloten karakter van dit netwerk kon het beheerst worden vanuit een centraal punt. Zo’n centraal punt is er niet voor de westerse beschaving. Machthebbers konden daardoor geen doorslag gevende invloed hebben op de ontwikkeling van de beschaving.  In dat opzicht heeft de westerse beschaving veel gemeen met de Griekse die in feite was gebaseerd op het open netwerk van Middellandse Zee havens. Tot de Middellandse havens behoorde ook Marseille. Dat maakte dat Zuid-Frankrijk gekoppeld was aan de Mediterrane beschaving. Vanaf Karel de Grote heeft Frankrijk gepoogd ook aan te koppelen bij het Noordzee netwerk. In de huidige tijd vindt die aansluiting plaats dankzij de havens Le Havre en Duinkerken en het belangrijke Lille.

No new trip

19 juni 2019

America today

Our trip to the U.S. in Januari and February was postponed because of the stroke I had on Jan 7. It was only a little stroke or should I say a small stroke? Anyway medical specialists didn’allow me to fly. So that was that.

I couldn’t say I was terribly upset about that, It was a pity we couldn’t visit our friends in Florida, but my fear of flying has been growing in recent years.

The effect is that I cannot speak about the States from my own experience. My comments are based exclusively on the news I see in the papers I follow.

There is enough tot think about anyway. Let’s take two items.

It seems Trump is campaigning for a second term as president. And the media seem to think that he has a real chance to win a second election, which is curious enoug in itself.
Trump is lying about everything everyday (the count is already over 11 000 times during his presidency) so it seems impossible to know wether he speaks the truth. But it does not seem to worry his followers. They keep chanting and admiring him. He started a trade war with China that he can’t win and it looks like he doesn’t know that trade tariffs must be paid by the people who import the goods from China and not by the Chinese. So people in the States pay more for articles from China they can’t do without. That doesn’t mean that China has no trouble with the higher tariffs. But my estimates are that alternatives for China are easier to obtain than those for the U.S. And now adays tothirds of all the American dollars are outside the U.S. and most of it in China. We can only hope China will not try and sell the American debt and cause a depression as we have not seen before. And while Trump quarrels with China over trade and with Russia over oil and all his allies over NATO he tries to fight another war with Iran that has no future. If it becomes a real war there will be nobody who wins.

Yet his followers seem to think he is the real genius that will win anyway.

In the meantime Trump started his campaign in Florida. And see what: he repeats his discussions with Hillary Clinton. Which not surprises his fans: they keep chanting.
On Twitter not everybody seems convinced.

So James Gleick; he says:

I’ve been overoptimistic in the past. But I just don’t think he’s going to beat Hillary this time.

 

The second item that caught my attention was the brave action of Bella Thorne who posted a number of topless pictures on her twitter account. This was after someone who had one way or another hacked those pictures tried to blackmail her by threatening to publish the pictures. Thorne (21) reacted by putting the pictures on the internet herself. In a country that is more and more scared of all nude a courageous act.

What followed remarkable: Whoopy Goldberg was furious; If you’re famous, I don’t care how old you are. You don’t take nude pictures of yourself.

This is the land of freedom?

A new visit

It looks like we will revisit Florida. And maybe we are just in time for the State of the Union. Time to rethink and look at the things that happened the last two years. And maybe those things that happen while we are in The States.

It ‘s an interesting time to start in the last days of 2018. With a government that’s partially shut down and a president who says it will stay shutdown until the Democrats make a move. In one week from now the Democrats are taking over. Let’s see what happens.

A new era

While I listened to the inauguration speech of Donald Trump I tried to follow the body language of former presidents on the balcony of the white house. But they didn’t convey much information. The faces of the Obama’s, the Bush’s and the Clintons stayed blanc. Only every so often a polite applause from Obama was all I saw. The speech itself gave not much applause either. Not even from the ‘crowds’ in front of the White House.

And yet for them their was plenty of oral support: ‘Never again will the people of the United States be left out again. Together we will make America great again for all the people.’

To me it sounded like a policy of isolation of the US. The last time that really happened between 1920 and 1940 was explictily directed against Japan. Some writers say it resulted in the second world war. We are not as far as that yet. At this moment – 24 hours after the inauguration - I wonder what will happen. Let’s see:

1. Trumps promise to bring back jobs to the US maybe not so new as it sounds. Reshoring,  the proces that is meant to bring back production of a large number of companies is already underway for the last ten years. But the number of additional jobs created will stay relatively small, because robots will take over the work to be done. Robots nowadays are already cheaper than the cheap labour elsewhere in the world.

2. (Re)building bridges, tunnels highways, etc. to compensate for deferred maintenance will cost trillions of dollars. Though that may create lots of jobs the question remains: how will Trump finance the infrastructure? Higher taxes? For whom? If he doesn’t want the burden for ‘the Americans who will no longer be ignored’ grow? This becomes more interesting because Trump also wants restrictions in international trade. Will the GOP happily approve higher taxes for the rich?

3. Restrictions on international trade will almost certainly lead to a lower gross domestic product. So again what will be the benefits for all those forgotten Americans?

We will see. The first signs are that Trump is not running hard to repeal obamacare.

Transition

We (Anneke and I) arrived in Florida at an interesting moment. It was just five days before the inauguration of Donald Trump as 45th president of the US. When we left the airport the first thing we noticed about this happening was the sticker on the car in front of us: Vote for one criminal and get one for free, combined with pictures of the Clintons, a clear statement.

As a matter of fact I had (in 2016) as well as possible followed the election campaigns. On Yahoo.com I looked every now and then at the column Answers and was stupified by the hate that rose from the reactions to the questions. But then: we know already how the internet gives a perfect outlet for anonymous frustrations. That is in the Netherlands not better than here.

The new president – today still president-elect – evokes mixed emotions and he wouldn’t have been my choice. But then many commentators have written about the division between Democrats and Republicans growing since about 1980. So for instance Paul Krugman. This has led to a stuation in which presidents have been trying to get their results by their executive power. Their decisions could, however, be revoked by any following president, sharpening the division in the country.

But now we have a president who is supported by the GOP but who has a program that places the GOP in a curious position. For instance the (in my perspective necessary and not especially controversial) investments in infrastructure that will lay a big claim on the budget.

How will the GOP react to that and other Trump plans?

Florida 2017

2017 Has just started. We are looking forward to a new holiday in Florida. Reservations are made. Our suitcases are ready. Only one week to go.

It will be – again – an interesting time with the inauguration of a new president. And a controversial one at that. The vote for Trump was something like a shock. It might be a sign of:

a. the wish of a big part of the population for change. Change anyway without considering the cost: people prefer a president without political or governing experience, a president who openly feeds nationalism, racism and sexism, who tries to rule with tweets before a president with proven capabilities and experience but who seems to represent the system and therefore the elite.

or

b. the possibilities of cyberattack, as it looks now as if Russia has tried to influence the outcome of the elections.

or

c. life has become to complex to understand the consequences or viability of decisions. If people vote for you when you say you will build a wall to prevent hispanics from entering the States then what should we think?

This morning we heard the news that someone had a gun in his luggage by entering Fort Lauderdale. And then you realize this coukd happen to you. Someone taking his gun for no obvious reason at all and pointing it at you.

So we are going to the States just feeling a little apprehensive. What will we see?

 

 

The Berlin Wall fell

After the Berlin Wall fell, Fukuyama thought  the western system of free trade, open markets and democratic governments had won the cold war. In the years that followed the two parts of Germany were united and the European Union with  the new Germany as strongest en richest partner grew  fast in importance. It became a very attractive union for many of the former Soviet Union States. Afterwards it seemed that many states took their membership of the Union to light. they couldn’t meet all the conditions in time, the most significant example being Greece. In the mean time several things happened:

The Sovjet Union was gone, Russia had to reinvent itself.

The European Union introduced a new currency: the Euro.

The number of members of the Europea Union exploded.

In 2008 there was the stockmarket crisis

 

Reaganomics

Since WWII the leading economic opinion was based on the ideas that Keynes had expressed in 1936. Keynes gave government a important role in regulating the economic growth. Government should spend more in times of depression and less in an economy that was overheated. It was clear that in the long run government expenditures should be in balance. That proved to be the hard part. Large part of government expenses consisted of salaries and investments in infrastructure. Cutting on these expenses created big resistance. So public expenses had a tendency to rise whether the economy was good or bad. The system worked or seemed to work for about 35 years. By then the US were traumatized by the Watergate scandal, the Vietnam War and the not so succesfull Carter administration. The economy halted and the US-spirit was low.

That was the moment (1980) when Ronald Reagan was chosen for president. Reagan brought back what you can call the American spirit. He had a very clear statement and mission: the government is not the solution, government is the problem.

Taking that statement as a startingpoint it was clear that government expenses ought to be cut. That became a leading issue for the next thirty years. This was accompanied by an optimistic view on the functioning of the market. The market would take care of all problems in the economy. Adam Smith was fully back. I’m not sure if the Reagan policy changed much in government expense. What it did change was the faith in the American dream. A new spirit went through America.

As a matter of fact: Reagan was not the first. In Great Britain not even a year eearlier Margaret Thatcher had started her government along the same lines.

At a distance

At the time of the incident at the Bay of Pigs and its aftermath, my ship sailed around in the Caribbean, most of the time from Curacao to Venezuela v.v.

After my marriage I came back there and was not very pleased (as a matter of fact was glued to the radio) when the US and the Sovjet Union collided over the Russian missiles on Cuba. We were on the brink of a Third World War (or so it seemed). We were all to glad it didn’t come to that.

It was just a few months before I ended my career as a merchant navy engineer in the beginning of 1963. It proofed to be one of the most terrible winters of the century. My attention shifted very fast from the US to the Netherlands, to my career and my family.

What happened in America came to me through the Dutch media: it was only superficially. I was like everyone else impressed when Kennedy was murdered. But until then our world was dominated by positive feelings about the US.

Maybe Vietnam changed things a little bit. I discovered that my cousin in Denmark had a totally different view of the things that happened in Vietnam and had happened there under American responsibility. That’s why I bought the book ‘De kwestie Vietnam’ (the Vietnam problem). There seemed to be some  discrepancy between official American information and what happened in the field. Later I learned that Vietnam had been a traumatic experience for most Americans.

The world had changed since the fifties. Europe had recovered from the war but acted in the belief  that another war was threatening: the cold war. The permanent threat of Sovjet Union expansion of communism seemed all to real. (I don’t know, whether there really was a threat, but the Cuba crisis was real enough).

The first oil crisis came over us. The Limits To Growth suddenly became clear and loomed in the distance. The world had to wake up. But politicians are not very good in taking decisions that affect us in the long run. For them the effect of short term results are far more important. So measures to counter the long term effects of pollution, and of exhausting the natural resources were not taken or maybe even were taken to late.

Four things happened:

* In the U.S. Ronald Reagan was elected president in 1980. He came at a moment that the economy wasn’t doing so well. He gave the States an impuls by saying: government is not the solution; government is the problem. He started a program to lower taxes and to reduce government expenses.

* The Berlin wall fell in 1989. That gave the impression that the American system with ‘free’ markets was superior. As Fukuyama said: This was the end of History.

* I started my studies to obtain a PhD in management. So I studied organization theory in its historical context. And as much of the intial organization theory came from the U.S. I had to look more intensively at American history. I started with Hugh Brogan’s Penguin History of the United States.

* My son fell in love with an American girl. He moved eventually to Florida and stayed there. So there was every reason for my wife and me to visit the States from that day on.

 

Philidora

In 1959 I joined the new crew of the brand new tanker Philidora that was being built in Camden (PA). At the time the Philidora was a large ship; it could carry 47,000 tons of cargo. The new crew had to get acquainted with the ship and its installation. So we stayed in Camden in the Walt Whitman hotel.

For us it was new to have television in our room. I can still hear the melodies of the advertisements of the Papermate. We stayed at the hotel for about a fortnight. With a friend of mine I managed to pay a visit tot Philadelphia which was on the other side of the Delaware River. We had the opportunity to visit Independence Hall and were on historical ground. There as in New York a year earlier security didn’t seem to be a problem. We could walk in and out without so much as a check on our identities.

The Philidora was laying at the Delaware Shipbuilding Company together with and moored at the same pier with the first nuclear submarine of the United States Nautilus. We could walk around the reactor vessel and see how its the leaden covering was attached. Looking back even there security seemed rather slack. But upon entering the United States by plane we had to give imprints of all of our ten fingers on a large form.

One of the things that made quite an impression – otherwise I wouldn’t have remembered it – was the sandwich dispenser on the pier of the shipyard.  The same sandwiches must have been stored on board in large numbers: when we eventually left Camden we had to eat them for more than a week.

Looking back: the United States seemed to be a rather relaxed place to be. Though not for everyone. It was the time of the McArthy crusade against communism.

For us the USA were in the first place very expensive with a rate of about 3,80 guilders to a dollar.