Lee Flier

Lee Flier


4 comments posted · 39 followers · following 0

475 weeks ago @ Change.gov - Change.gov: The Obama-... · 1 reply · +4 points

No, size alone isn't the problem, although Toyota and Honda are in trouble right now too.

Any company can experience a crisis, for any number of reasons. And THAT is why it's important for companies not to ever get "too big to fail." Diversity provides protection against massive failure. If only a few companies dominate an entire industry, and those companies fail (for whatever reason), it affects massive numbers of people.

475 weeks ago @ Change.gov - Change.gov: The Obama-... · 0 replies · +1 points

I agree that vertical farming is a great idea, zamfir, except that we don't really need to build complex, expensive dedicated structures for it. Existing buildings that are already used for other purposes can produce food, and growing plants in and around existing structures has other benefits, such as producing clean oxygen for office workers, saving on energy bills (because plants help insulate buildings and regular climate), etc. Gray and black water from the existing building can still be used for plants, but it won't have to be piped as far.

This is something that could be done today by any building owner (or homeowner) who wanted to do it. And if one or two buildings set an example others would likely follow, especially if there were tax or other incentives for the owner to do it.

475 weeks ago @ Change.gov - Change.gov: The Obama-... · 1 reply · +3 points

Yes Rose, you and grannyhelen are right on with this. Agriculture is moving WAY in the wrong direction and I hope they start a new topic on this here at change.gov. I REALLY hope that President-elect Obama does not choose a Sec. of Agriculture who is a strong proponent of biotechnology or the continued industrial-scale farms (or the subsidies that get handed out to them). These farms (not only in the US but abroad) are not so much about feeding people anymore as they are about control of the food supply by a few patent holders, and the side effects of this are astoundingly dangerous, given how much it decreases biodiversity and destroys ecosystems. In a world dependent on only a few varieties of crops for food, a single plant disease could lead to global famine.

But trying to keep this on topic - that is, the economy - moving away from industrial farms would help the economy as well as the environment and our health. We need to start thinking of farming - like health care - as an *system* which is integrated with our lives, and not something separated from everything else. In most other countries, everyone produces at least some of their own food, and also buy from other local producers. Every bit of public and private space that can be used to grow plants - both for food and other purposes (like providing nitrogen, producing oxygen, preventing erosion and saving on air conditioning bills) can be cultivated as a little mini-ecosystem which looks pretty as well as being functional. People who are now in the lawn care and maintenance business, as well as farmers, can re-train as "edible landscapers" who are paid to grow food across a wide variety of environments. Suburban homes are mostly built right on top of what was once prime farmland and our arable soil is disappearing - but we can save on food bills and also set an example in our communities by starting to produce food where we live.

Well I could go on about this for awhile so I really hope they start a thread about agriculture... LOL... but this will be a key in our economic future! It seems the days of unlimited cheap food are drawing to a close, and we can use that as an opportunity to change the way we think about agriculture - with great benefits to our health, our pocketbooks, and the environment. It would also save huge amounts of energy if we can get away from so much industrial farming and all the energy used to produce and ship food around. Again, whole systems thinking, not keeping everything separate. I'm glad Pres.-elect Obama recognizes that energy is a national security issue - it shows that he is a guy who knows how to connect the dots and think holistically! Now let's recognize that agriculture is an energy issue, a health issue, an economic issue, and ALSO ultimately a national security issue because our agricultural policies have inflicted much damage around the world.

475 weeks ago @ Change.gov - Change.gov: The Obama-... · 6 replies · +5 points

Yes, yes, yes, I'm so glad you guys are bringing this issue to the table! We need to think in terms of an "economic ecosystem" - the economy and our quality of life is healthiest when we have many smaller, diverse, competing businesses, and it suffers when there are only a few companies who control most of any given industry - especially if one of those companies inevitabably stumbles.

It is not a "free market" when there's no real competition and no protection for the public (or for other businesses) from these monolithic companies. Our antitrust laws have no teeth and as Matthew points out, consolidation is even encouraged. People just want their stock prices to go up and they don't care how it's accomplished, not realizing that a company can't grow indefinitely and still be a legitimate business. Eventually they have to start cutting corners, compromising quality, denying worker benefits, etc. in order to continually increase their profit margins. Then they start buying up other businesses, and undercutting competitors for the purpose of driving them out of business. The result is what we have today: Once-successful, innovative companies turn into predatory cutthroats who are only concerned with increasing market share and have become too inefficient to succeed on merit anymore, yet they try to hobble any nimbler companies who can. Money for research, which could keep them innovating, dries up because shareholders don't want their money tied up in long term and potentially risky R&D projects.

Many studies have shown that small and midsized companies invest much more back into their business. They tend to pay their skilled employees better, give them better training and work environments, and focus more on quality and customer service than the big monoliths, as well as being more nimble in making and implementing decisions. And yet, they still remain very profitable for their owners. And if a smaller company does fail due to mismanagement, it will only affect a small number of people.

This is not to say that economies of scale aren't necessary or that any large company is bad. But there's large and then there's ... LARGE. The word has been completely reinvented in the last 20 years given the technology explosion and globalization of the economy, and we need to have some new economic thinking and new corporate law to respond to these new circumstances.