The Missing Sputnik Moment

History records the USSR launched Mankind’s first satellite in 1957 — triggering a massive reaction from a US Establishment which realized it was falling behind the Communist opposition.  Suddenly, it became cool to study engineering.  Balls were kicked into motion, leading later to Democrat President JFK raising the stakes by setting the objective of putting a man on the Moon — and securing the open-ended budget to achieve that goal.  The US pushed technology to the limits, creating a “Brain Drain” from Europe to the US as smart people from around the world flocked to where the action was.  That was then.

The Covid Scam should have triggered a similar massive reaction, when the US public was suddenly made aware that most of the medications (and a lot of the medical equipment) used in the US comes directly or indirectly from Communist China.  We have been told so often that the US cannot compete with low-wage low-skill Chinese workers — but medications are not labor-intensive;  they are high-tech, capital-intensive, knowledge-intensive, skill-intensive.   Why has the US lost the industries in which it should theoretically have a Comparative Advantage (to use the “Free Traders” jargon)?  And why has the US Political Class lost the ability to respond to an existential challenge?

Part of the difference, of course, is that the ruling Democrat clique has been co-opted by … let’s just call them, unidentified forces.  60+ years ago, Democrats were Americans and wanted the best for American workers.  The mechanisms by which subsequent Democrats sold out their fellow citizens are complex — with a large part involving the creation of an atrociously complex tax system and intrusive regulations which put US industry at an impossible competitive disadvantage.

David Goldman has an interesting perspective on where the US Political Class has failed US citizens.  Appropriately enough, his article had to be published in the Asia Times;  the Democrats of the New York Times are too busy focusing on something that happened when the English ran North America in 1619.

The money quote:  “Our competitors subsidize capital-intensive industry. We subsidize sports stadiums.

asiatimes.com/2020/07/rebuilding-american-industry-devil-is-in-the-details/

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7 thoughts on “The Missing Sputnik Moment”

  1. Gavin Longmuir:
    We have been told so often that the US cannot compete with low-wage low-skill Chinese workers — but medications are not labor-intensive;  they are high-tech, capital-intensive, knowledge-intensive, skill-intensive.   Why has the US lost the industries in which it should theoretically have a Comparative Advantage (to use the “Free Traders” jargon)?

    (Emphasis in bold is mine.)  Perhaps the U.S. has lost those industries because its work-force and population is heading toward IQ 90 while China’s is around 105.  One standard deviation (15 IQ points) makes a huge difference in the “smart fraction” with IQs above 125 which are essential to the emboldened sectors of an economy.  Further, since the 1970s, the US has created financial and institutional incentives which direct its smart fraction toward law, politics, and zero-sum finance other than science, technology, and industrial production.

    Just look at the composition of the science and engineering student bodies at any top-tier U.S. research university and you’ll see what’s going on.  The U.S. is training the cadres of their competitors and then sending them back to compete with the U.S., where the jobs who require such people no longer exist, and the compensation they earn is dwarfed by that of completely nonproductive occupations.

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  2. John Walker:
    The U.S. is training the cadres of their competitors and then sending them back to compete with the U.S., where the jobs who require such people no longer exist, and the compensation they earn is dwarfed by that of completely nonproductive occupations.

    Too true. ):

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  3. John W:  “Further, since the 1970s, the US has created financial and institutional incentives which direct its smart fraction toward law, politics, and zero-sum finance other than science, technology, and industrial production.

    Absolutely!  The question is — Now that the consequences of those incentives have slapped us in the face, with the realization that even the Holy Grail of a vaccine for Covid-19 will have to come from China (the only place with the technology to make it on a commercial scale), why is there no reaction from the US Political Class?  Where is the Sputnik Moment that says — We recognize the challenge & are going to deal with it?

    Of course, if the US population is heading towards an IQ of 90, it may be that our Political Class has already dropped well below that level.  It is sad when the best advice one could give to a young person today who still insists on going to university would be to take a minor in either Russian or Chinese, regardless of their major.

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  4. John Walker:

    Gavin Longmuir:
    We have been told so often that the US cannot compete with low-wage low-skill Chinese workers — but medications are not labor-intensive;  they are high-tech, capital-intensive, knowledge-intensive, skill-intensive.   Why has the US lost the industries in which it should theoretically have a Comparative Advantage (to use the “Free Traders” jargon)?

    (Emphasis in bold is mine.)  Perhaps the U.S. has lost those industries because its work-force and population is heading toward IQ 90 while China’s is around 105.  One standard deviation (15 IQ points) makes a huge difference in the “smart fraction” with IQs above 125 which are essential to the emboldened sectors of an economy.  Further, since the 1970s, the US has created financial and institutional incentives which direct its smart fraction toward law, politics, and zero-sum finance other than science, technology, and industrial production.

    Just look at the composition of the science and engineering student bodies at any top-tier U.S. research university and you’ll see what’s going on.  The U.S. is training the cadres of their competitors and then sending them back to compete with the U.S., where the jobs who require such people no longer exist, and the compensation they earn is dwarfed by that of completely nonproductive occupations.

    So it’s true. Society is getting more and more stupid. I thought I was just going insane. Would also explain why we have a willingness to throw away our liberties.

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  5. John W:  “The world is getting more stupid.”

    Thanks for the link to your earlier analysis, JW.  No doubt that when global population increase is weighted towards countries with lower IQs, then global mean IQ must drop.  However, that does not explain the giant shrug from our Betters upon learning that the West is now Cargo Cult country, totally dependent on Communist China for critical medications and a whole lot more.

    Let’s stipulate that the mean IQ of US residents is declining.  We also have to note that the total US population is increasing.  In 1960 when the Sputnik Moment was having a large & beneficial effect on US technological progress, the population of the country was 181 Million.  Today, it is about 330 Million — 80% more people.  Even if today there are fewer geniuses per million population as suggested by declining average IQ, there are still probably more genius-level individuals in the US today than in 1960 simply because of the larger population.  And as you point out elsewhere, progress depends on that relatively small group of unusually capable people at the end of the Bell Curve.

    Which brings us back to the Missing Sputnik Moment:  What has changed in the course of about 6 decades such that the Political Class in the US no longer can (or will?) respond to an existential challenge?

    There are probably more bright people around today than in the 1960s.  And while general education levels have declined abysmally, the brightest people are still well-educated (even if in many cases it is self-educated). I suspect the explanation of the failure of our Betters to respond appropriately to their dangerous dependence on Communist China lies in social decline or moral decline rather than in intelligence decline.

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  6. Why is the “political class” the way it is?  Because they are Fat, Smart, and well-compensated for doing actually very little.  Even first-termers are given generous pensions, Thrift Savings accounts, offices, Staff, and pretty fine salaries.  Their Staffers do the majority of the work on legislation, while their bosses do…what, exactly?  Lobby?  Attend cocktail parties? Hold hearings where they spend hours grilling witnesses from the opposite party?  Hold press conferences, hobnob with the so-called “press”, jet around the world on “fact-finding” expeditions…ad infinitum.  Even so-called “reformers” are assimilated into the Government Borg very shortly after arriving in DC.  The Swamp is extremely powerful, and most so-called legislators have no chance at any change whatsoever to the Machine.  So it is perpetuated.

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