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Infrastructure - The Coming Boom / Kunstler

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Kunstler comments... / and more Kunstler podcasts?


Should I turn this into a Kunstler thread ??



February 4, 2008

Serial Bubbles?


Eric Janszen of iTuilip.com has made a splash in the mainstream media with his Harper's Magazine cover story on the "The Next Bubble." His thesis is that a new tidal wave of investment will shortly roll toward "infrastructure and alternative energy." By this Janszen means a revived nuclear power push, refurbishing highways, bridges, and tunnels, "high-speed rail," solar and wind power, and alternative liquid fuels. This coming boom, he says, would be driven by political fear about energy security.


On the face of it, Janszen's proposition seems more promising and intelligent than the previous engineered boom in suburban houses. But it raises a lot of questions and flags.


For one thing, the term "bubble" suggests something more like a financial Chinese fire drill than actual productive activity. It would be an excellent thing if Americans invested in a restored passenger rail system. But if it were merely a scheme for big banks to issue innovative new securities for gigantic fees without actually getting any trains running -- well that would be in the nature of just another old-fashioned swindle, as the bundling of mortgages into securitized debt paper has proven to be.


In other words, does Janszen make a distinction between a boom and a "bubble?" He seems to understand that the previous two bubbles in dot-coms and houses were essentially frauds that generated imaginary wealth, which sooner later evaporated off the balance sheets and out of the financial system. A boom, it seems to me, is not the same as a "bubble." While perhaps wasteful and messy, booms at least produce something of value beyond the fees paid to bankers for arranging the deployment of capital. A boom that resulted in citizens being able to take a train from Boston to Albany would produce a substantial public good. The creation by Goldman Sachs of a company on paper that never accomplished anything would be something else. This, of course, leads to a deeper question as to whether the USA is actually a serious society or just a nation of hopeless, greedy clowns? Are we even capable anymore of distinguishing between purposeful activity and the art of the grift?


This leads to a further consideration of where the capital for "the next bubble" supposedly comes from. Janszen doesn't account for the essentially bankrupt condition of the USA. The capital that was deployed and squandered in the previous two bubbles is not there anymore to be washed, rinsed, and recycled. It's gone. It was winkled out of hundreds of pension funds, millions of individual investors, and, in terms of eventual obligations, the federal government. There is a black hole of unresolved debt where that "capital" used to be.


/more: http://kunstler.com/mags_diary23.html

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KunstlerKast / Weekly Podcast :: Riffing With Host Duncan Crary


Website : http://www.kunstler.com/

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Kunstler has brilliant comedic timing


In fact, in this podcast, he reveals that he trained as an actor.


New INTERVIEW about suburbia with Institute for Humanist Studies ... podcast

(Second part of the program file, following interview with Phillip Pullman.)

Go about 40 minutes in, to save time.


50 minutes in... is the meat of it


He talks about the fantasy of replacing the gasoline with alternative fuels, to keep cars running.


There's a need for "walkable communities", and "restoring the rail system"


Environmentalists have fantasy of "living at the end of a dirt road, commuting by car"


56 minutes in - he give some advice :

The main thing that distinguishes an adult from a child is:

The difference between "wishing for stuff, and making it happen"


As we start solving the problems, redesigning our environment - we will become more hopeful - he says.

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KunstlerCast #1: Drugstores


James Howard Kunstler rips on drugstores: the one-story, junk food- dispensing boxes that masquerade as buildings on America's street corners.Topics include: monocultural zoning; big retail vs. mom & pop; separating the business programming from the container that it comes in; and the destiny of these awful structures after the cheap oil fiesta is over.


/hear : http://kunstlercast.com/

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