by Sean Williams
A letter by James Wernick outlining some of the tenets of mainstream economic theory (https://losalamosreporter.com/2023/01/10/in-response-to-small-businesses-are-a-big-deal/) wrote. As a starting point on this, in computer science, trying to solve a problem by doing what seems best at the time is (perhaps ironically) called a “greedy algorithm”. Some vanishing problems are solved through repeated application of local adaptation. Indeed, greedy algorithms almost always produce disastrous results.
I bring this up because of my mixed feelings about invisible hands. The real point Adam Smith was making was that running a business as if it were a charity – in other words, being motivated by the public good – doesn’t really work. I agree with him on this point. It’s honestly hard to tell why this is, but it’s most likely because of all your skin in the game. When you need business revenue to live, you take it very seriously.
This is why I have such a low opinion of so many “leaders” in Los Alamos – those who want to tell people why Los Alamos kills or deports businesses, but who themselves are playing with the house’s money. It’s a very different dynamic than what James was talking about.
The reason mainstream economics is so ludicrous is because it tries so hard to obscure the role of power. Or rather, the only form of authority that it accepts is state authority. the irony is that, under liberal democracy, you have a Very support against state power. However, market power is hidden behind articles of faith such as “voluntary exchange” and “supply and demand” and “sanctity of contracts”.
Back in the real world, you would need to invest $50,000 to $100,000 to start a business. This investment is made in fixed assets owned by someone else. That person has you with balls, and they know it. The event that set Fleur de Lys on the way to leave Los Alamos was that its landlord attempted to evict him for spurious reasons. Eviction failed, but lease renewal is entirely discretionary. The FdL entered a race against time—to leave Los Alamos just as their lease was about to expire.
Economic theory is about a fantasy-land where goods can be exchanged and investment is not grounded. In the real world, when you find yourself in Marcel’s position, your only option is to take what you’ve learned and go back to square one. Write off the $100k you spent on the 1460 Trinity, spend a million on the 451 Alameda, and leave Los Alamos in the rear view mirror.
For Los Alamos, one’s only policy is subsidy. I asked Dan Ungerleider, the county’s economic development officer, what happens when you pour public money into a supply-constrained market. He refused to answer. The economics textbook says you raise prices. In the real world, you further reinforce existing power structures.
The funny thing is that Los Alamos is not as unique as people claim. This is a lot in, for example, the Bay Area—where huge amounts of money combined with inefficient local government have produced a vast economic wasteland. That’s why I don’t have a real answer for all of you: Installed power can do to be ejected, but for it to be real, coordinated, Harmful Mass Action Meanwhile, Automotive Professionals was running its own race against the clock—and our local optimization was to write off our investment at 99 DP Road, spend a million on 4230 Airport, and move to Los Alamos Had to leave it in the rear view mirror.
I’ll leave you with an old joke: A group of professors are stranded on a desert island, and crates full of canned food wash ashore. Physicists and chemists start arguing with engineers about what solvents they can make or how strong a rock they need. The Economist looks up and says, “Suppose we have a can opener…”