Sunday, August 3, 2008

Spending Patterns

Compare and contrast -

"...The project, called Knowledge Economic City, represents a first serious step by Saudi Arabia toward building a post-petroleum economy. It is one of six industrial centers planned to rise over the next 15 years. At a cost of more than $100 billion, the sites are expected to provide housing and jobs for the country's fast-growing population; half are younger than 21..." - from 'Saudis prepare for post-petroleum era', Faiza Saleh Ambah

"...the administration talks only about the upfront costs, which are mostly handled by emergency appropriations. (Iraq funding is apparently still an emergency five years after the war began.) These costs, by our calculations, are now running at $12 billion a month -- $16 billion if you include Afghanistan. By the time you add in the costs hidden in the defense budget, the money we'll have to spend to help future veterans, and money to refurbish a military whose equipment and materiel have been greatly depleted, the total tab to the federal government will almost surely exceed $1.5 trillion..." - from 'The Iraq War Will Cost Us $3 Trillion, and Much More', Linda J. Bilmes and Joseph E. Stiglitz

Top-Down versus Net-centric

Now, I will grant you that the Saudi initiative will probably wind up as four parts boondoggle to one part success, as top-down authoritarian efforts to restructure society or build "new cities" trend towards. That said, it shows the Saudis are at least thinking, planning and allocating resources towards a post-petroleum society. They are attempting to plan for the long-term.

Imagine what could be accomplished in the U.S. if, instead of going to bullets and Halliburton, $10 billion each month were allocated to different groups, each with a mandate to experiment with new forms of social organization. $10 billion on month towards resilient communities, next month rhizome nodes, next month seasteads...

Okay, enough blue-skying here. It's little different than the tiresome whines of neo-hippies discussing more money for their pet projects and less on missiles and bombs. But watching my country piss money down a rat hole when we need to be trying out new ways of organizng communities in the face of the coming debt and resource storm saddens me no end.

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