posted on Feb, 15 2009 @ 04:23 PM
When the Kennedy administration was looking for a way to prove American superiority over the Soviets, one of the ideas that was shelved in favor of
going to the moon instead was a massive irrigation development project for impovrished nations. We could have done it in the 60s.
The only thing seriously holding us back is a lack of vision. If anyone had figured out a way to profit more from doing it than from not doing it, it
would already be done. If you didn't know any better, you'd think it must be very hard to make money by supplying a product that every man woman and
child on this planet absolutely MUST have on a regular basis.
Scarcity of resources and scarcity of labor are the only fundamental barriers to unlimited production and thus unlimited wealth. In most cases,
scarcity of resources stems not from inavailability, but from failure to harvest them, which boils down to a labor shortage. If we could get more
people building wind turbines, solar pannels, geothermal plants, etc we wouldn't have an energy crisis.
This labor shortage is not a true supply problem though. Potential workers are going untapped. Some are unemployed, others are engaged in subsistence
activities which have no net and in some cases no gross product (at least in any useful form), such as prostitution, subsistence farming, and
mercinary military service (as in Afghanistan before the arrival of US forces joining a militia was the most available mode of employment), just to
name a few.
Ultimately it's a demand problem. Demand for labor in the places where untapped labor is most concentrated is severely depressed by the sizable
up-front investments required to set up shop there. For example you can't build a wind farm in Somalia until there is relative peace, and peace
generally does not happen when you have a lot of unemployed young men and not enough wealth to go around between them.
In short, opportunity costs keep us from developing the untapped labor resources that could help us fix other problems. We can't devote enough to
that without missing out on other things. This is an efficiency problem. If it took less to get everything done, we could do it all.
The solution therefore is to take whatever money we can afford to throw at the problem and use it to increase efficiency of production in relevant
areas of production in the most cost-efficient ways possible.
Food is one of those. If we invest in the means to produce more food with fewer workers and fewer other resources, and follow similar programs with
resources other than food that are necessary to stability and prospertity, then for the same dollar amount we have more to offer in trade. This drives
down the opportunity cost of stabilizing places like Somalia, as enough resources to tempt everyone to put down their guns and accept a job are being
produced at a lower cost in dollars, labor, and resources, and gives us access to more labor and more material.
Long story short, if America would stop thinking in terms of the next fiscal quarter and start thinking in terms of the next quarter of a millenium,
it would be investing in solutions to problems like world hunger. The cost of solving such underlying problems is small compared to the cost of
treating the symptoms. We could invest 30 billion a year into such projects for the next 30 years, and it would cost us less than a trillion dollars.
That means that if it kept us out of even one war like Iraq, we would be winning on the deal.
In the immortal words of Mark Twain, "Imagine you were an idiot. Now imagine that you were a member of congress. But I repeat myself." (or something