Monday, August 25, 2003

Funding the present at the expense of the future

is the meta-narrative of the past two decades. It has not only happened in business and government – thereby atrophying both into ever-shriller self-reduction machines (link via Crooked Timber). Capital, as well as income-earning power, has been wholesale redistributed like there is no tomorrow by the boomer generation, through asset- and job-hoarding creating artificial shortages. Public education, particularly at the secondary and tertiary levels, has been so funding-starved that just about any charlatan can hang up a shingle advertising private education, and expect to do better that a bigger, better-resourced public outfit – modern consumers, it seems, trust outfits more if they have NO infrastructure at all, as opposed to decaying (but once-shining) infrastructure.

Kay is more optimistic than me, however, when it comes to market forces being able to eventually reverse the cost-cutting spiral in industries such as media, pharmaceuticals and finance. I don’t know too much about the latter two industries, but the media empires of today are, of course, actively engaged in squeezing – tighter and tighter – dollars out of existing/old content, rather than spending money on the new. Kay reckons that audiences will eventually become bored with the resultant blandness, so leaving a wide market opening for new entrants, with their exciting new content. I think that such a rosy scenario is deeply unlikely, for the simple reason that modern media combines are multi-skilled when it comes to their squeezing prowess. Not only can they supernaturally squeeze one more sequel/series etc out of stone-cold content, they can apply an even-tighter grip to squeeze-out ambitious new entrants – as aided by the firm (ahem) handshakes they are able to exchange with our elected officials.

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