It’s Time To Build

It’s Time To Build, by Marc Andreessen.

Every Western institution was unprepared for the coronavirus pandemic, despite many prior warnings. This monumental failure of institutional effectiveness will reverberate for the rest of the decade, but it’s not too early to ask why, and what we need to do about it.

Many of us would like to pin the cause on one political party or another, on one government or another. But the harsh reality is that it all failed — no Western country, or state, or city was prepared — and despite hard work and often extraordinary sacrifice by many people within these institutions. So the problem runs deeper than your favorite political opponent or your home nation.

Western countries share a globalist ruling class of bureaucrats, media, academics and financial people who are the same throughout the West. They are incompetent and complacent, as this crisis revealed.

If we had just shut the borders earlier — as this blog argued in mid February — we would have sidestepped the vast majority of our current pain. Instead, in Australia, the chattering classes worried about the cost to universities if the Chinese students didn’t attend, and the terrible cost of closing the borders. As foreseen, we closed the borders anyway, and the cost to society of combating this virus dwarfs the costs they were bleating about.

Too busy protecting their own financial turf, with no ability displayed to see the bigger picture, their incompetence put us in harm’s way.

You don’t just see this smug complacency, this satisfaction with the status quo and the unwillingness to build, in the pandemic, or in healthcare generally. You see it throughout Western life, and specifically throughout American life.

You see it in housing and the physical footprint of our cities. We can’t build nearly enough housing in our cities with surging economic potential — which results in crazily skyrocketing housing prices in places like San Francisco, making it nearly impossible for regular people to move in and take the jobs of the future. We also can’t build the cities themselves anymore. When the producers of HBO’s “Westworld” wanted to portray the American city of the future, they didn’t film in Seattle or Los Angeles or Austin — they went to Singapore. We should have gleaming skyscrapers and spectacular living environments in all our best cities at levels way beyond what we have now; where are they?

You see it in education. We have top-end universities, yes, but with the capacity to teach only a microscopic percentage of the 4 million new 18 year olds in the U.S. each year, or the 120 million new 18 year olds in the world each year. Why not educate every 18 year old? … The last major innovation in K-12 education was Montessori, which traces back to the 1960s …

You see it in manufacturing. Contrary to conventional wisdom, American manufacturing output is higher than ever, but why has so much manufacturing been offshored to places with cheaper manual labor? We know how to build highly automated factories. We know the enormous number of higher paying jobs we would create to design and build and operate those factories. …

You see it in transportation. Where are the supersonic aircraft? Where are the millions of delivery drones? Where are the high speed trains, the soaring monorails, the hyperloops, and yes, the flying cars?

Is the problem money? That seems hard to believe when we have the money to wage endless wars in the Middle East and repeatedly bail out incumbent banks, airlines, and carmakers. The federal government just passed a $2 trillion coronavirus rescue package in two weeks! Is the problem capitalism? …

The problem is desire. We need to *want* these things. The problem is inertia. We need to want these things more than we want to prevent these things. The problem is regulatory capture. We need to want new companies to build these things, even if incumbents don’t like it, even if only to force the incumbents to build these things. And the problem is will. We need to build these things.

Current interests like their place in society. They’re rich and high status without having to do too much, thank you very much. They would prefer to keep it that way. This virus dramatically revealed how incompetent they have become, but that incompetence is also demonstrated by the lack of things we have achieved in the last 50 years.

A reader adds:

You’re dead right about this though, and it’s mirrored in western governments’ responses to the CV financial fallout: it’s all about protecting vested financial interests and their arses. They pretend of course that they have something else at heart but time and again you can see they don’t. Ditto with all the incompetence that led up to the bushfires in Australia, and all the excuses and responsibility-dodging that followed. It’s all about using their control of the system to safeguard their own interests while sidestepping responsibility for their mistakes.

Another reader, David, adds:

“Too busy protecting their own financial turf, with no ability displayed to see the bigger picture, their incompetence put us in harm’s way.”

Suggest they should get a copy of Turnbull’s book before it’s remaindered.