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Five Short Blasts Perfect Paperback – September 1, 2007
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About the Author
Pete Murphy retired in 2004 following a thirty year career in manufacturing and engineering for a major chemical company. During that time, he witnessed first hand the devastating impact that globalization has had on U.S. manufacturing. In 1993 he began formulating his theory of population density-induced decline in per capita consumption and has, since then, written and rewritten this book and tested the theory against national and global events as they have unfolded. He holds a B.S. degree in mechanical engineering from the University of Notre Dame and began his career following three years of service as an officer in the U.S. Navy. He currently resides with his wife in Southeast Michigan - "ground zero" of the devastation inflicted by blind trade on U.S. manufacturing.
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The argument or proof of the hypotheses involves many variables from an area renown for its confusing statistics. Statistical modeling is unfortunately a 'science', when experiments can be fully blocked from extraneous affects. This is almost impossible even in more closed subject areas.
Five short blasts is a warning in shipping - The metaphoric warning, in economics, is more relevant now than in 2007. Pete's book is more specific than much of the available commentary. If such a critical problem can be defined, as Pete has done, more should, as Pete says, be done to solve it. This is an area in which I have undertaken research myself and have some similar and some different views, but not clear solutions and I don't think Pete's solution is necessarily the answer. More related effort is suggested by Pete and is undoubtedly needed; so we should sound another five short blasts, and use his book as a basis to work toward a solution.
I have written a novel about economic growth and restrictions 'Out of a South African Furnace'.
However, his simple yet compelling analysis comes from a point of departure which I had not seen before. Fully documenting his theory with charts and tables, his Five Short Blasts are:
1. Population should be in balance with our productive capacity.
2. When population exceeds this optimum level, people conserve space and crowd together, consume less per capita, due simply to lack of space.
3. As crowding reduces per capita consumption, productivity will continue to rise with improvements in technology and work processes.
4. The collision between falling per capita consumption and rising productivity will lead to greater and greater unemployment.
5. Unemployment fosters a rise in poverty in the undeveloped world, ultimately triggering a poverty driven death rate, slowing and then stopping population growth, maybe even a decline. But of course the pain of that untended scenario will cause dangerous wars.
Murphy takes great pains to show that free trade can't work with overpopulated countries because their workers are poorer, work for low wages and can't buy our more expensive goods so huge trade deficits are generated for the wealthier nations. These rich nations then suffer a per capita loss on the transactions, even though the poor nations supply cheap goods because of the manufacturing job losses in the richer nations such as the USA. Then the USA borrows more and more, often from the poor nation, whose government buys the richer country's bonds. The author shows that generally high population density nations cause the USA to run big trade deficits, while lower population nations allow the US to have trade surpluses. N'est pas?
A Catholic, Murphy sees his Church as "illogical" on restricting the use of birth control, pointing out that valuing life "follows the same law of supply and demand as a commodity. The more abundant it is, the cheaper it becomes." He then cites the cheapness of life in places which are overpopulated.
In Chapter 12, Murphy cites two scenarios for how the USA will look in 2050, just 40 years away. In Scenario One he posits a US population of 455 million and 13.9 billion worldwide. We are broke at the Federal level and in cities and states all across the country. More crime and violence, less living space, 10% unemployment, a large trade deficit and a society which features the super rich and many poor. In short, many of the bad features of today are greatly magnified.
In Scenario Two in 2050 we have stopped our foolish trade policies, population is under the present 300 million, unemployment is under 3%. The USA got there by passing a Population Stabilization Act in 2009, which established a Department of Population. "Immigration both legal and illegal and otherwise was slashed dramatically." "Free trade" is replaced, after a fight, with "Smart trade" bringing back our manufacturing sector. Limited tariffs might be imposed now (2009). By 2050, the Federal Budget would be balanced as it had been for many years.
This book really lays it on the line for all American citizens. Following present policies of importing huge numbers of unneeded workers will put us in the same fix as India, China, and many parts of Africa. Some 50 million including their offspring have arrived since 1965 when our immigration laws were changed. Continuing this disastrous policy along with the drunken tax and spending policies of our elected leaders will insure that the outcome is more like Murphy's Scenario 1. Perhaps the sickness of our present economy which the author cites--and which has gotten much worse since the book was published in 2007-will allow voters to overpower the ruling oligarchies in both parties with demands for a path to Scenario 2. Read this book and then start making an impact; politics has always been a contact sport and never was that truer than today.
It really hit home. Currently I am involved in finding resources to complete a software development project. I first started with a reputable U.S. based company and the estimate was 1,300 hours @ $150.00/hr ($190,000). Uncomfortably I also got quotes from two other non U.S. based companies (one based in India, and one based in South America). The one in India was $25.00/hr ($32,500) and South America was $45/hr ($58,500). From my experience the language and cultural differences will make this difference negligible in the long-term but most decision makers are short-sighted when it comes to money. After reading the book all I could think of was that this is just taking more jobs away from Americans. I thought about how we are taking the unemployment/poverty of other densely populated nations that we do "free trade" with. It just doesn't "feel" right.
I live in Ohio and I do notice the overcrowding. I've noticed for quite some time and it just didn't "feel" right. I say this again because I believe the author is correct in stating that Americans should trust their gut. "We" know something is wrong but most likely feel absolutely powerless to do anything about it. But as the book mentioned the thought would soon pass and I would go on with my busy life. A very profound statement from the book that really shook me at the core was "At current population growth rates, in only 80 years the world population will have soared by 160% to nearly 17 billion people and all of the remaining land capable of being farmed will be needed to produce food, wiping out all remaining forest and woodland." Do I want my children living in a word like this? I don't.
I, for the sake of my children and their children, can only hope that that this Theory will get noticed and that we may all sound one or two short blasts passing gracefully by avoiding this apparently eminent collision. Thank you for the sacrifices you have made (especially with regard to time) in doing your best to sound the alarm!