The Transition to a Post-Friction Economy

Tuesday, November 1, 2011, 10:21 AM
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The Transition to a Post-Friction Economy

by Charles Hugh Smith, contributing editor
Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Executive Summary

  • Entrenched interests keep our markets from being free
  • We're living in a fool's paradise (but for how much longer?)
  • The forced choices headed our way
  • What the post-friction economy will look like
  • 2012-2105: The Era of Transformation begins

Part I - How Much of the US Economy Is Friction

If you have not yet read Part I, available free to all readers, please click here to read it first.

Part II - The Transition to a Post-Friction Economy

In Part I, we pursued the idea that much of the US economy is, in essence, unproductive friction that is overcome with vast borrowing -- itself a form of friction -- and the importing of fossil fuels. We also noted that the Central State/cartel “capitalism” partnership has greatly expanded the unproductive, uncompetitive “friction” segments of the economy and has limited consumer “choice” to purposely-selected menus designed to appear like a “free market” while benefiting State fiefdoms and private-sector cartels.

Entrenched Interests Keep Our Markets From Being Free

Looking at the sources and costs of friction gives us some insight into issues that are often seen as political -- for example, the costs and benefits of borrowing trillions of dollars into existence every year and the costs/benefits of State regulation. Once we recognize how rising systemic friction will eventually freeze the system, then we also recognize that the path we’re on is unsustainable, and the political “rightness” or “wrongness” of increasing debt to fund the forces of friction becomes irrelevant.

The same can be said of State regulation. Given that one of the purposes of government is to protect the nation’s “commons” -- air, water, public lands, and other shared resources -- then some regulation is necessary to limit exploitation and predation of the commons by either private parties or the State itself. 

But we have confused productive regulation with regulation that achieves little beyond diverting funds to unproductive segments of the economy. There are hundreds, if not thousands of examples in every sector from criminal justice to farm subsidies to health care.

How about the enormous expense of the “war on drugs” and the resulting prison complex and criminal justice system? Are the benefits being reaped -- marginal, or even counterproductive, in many analyses -- worth the expense? Those employed in these systems naturally feel the benefits far exceed the costs. But self-interest is simply not an accurate measure of friction; ultimately, only a free market of free citizens can make that assessment.


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