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05/08/2011

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denis

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R.A.

"Third, the more people there will be, the more high-IQ people there will be, and hence the faster the growth of knowledge will be; though a possible offset is that the more evil geniuses and other monsters there also will be; persons of great potential for evil, such as Hitler, Stalin, and Mao, presumably are rare. "

Considering where growth and decline are happening, we may very well have fewer high IQ people in a population of 10 billion than we have now with a population of 6 billion. If two groups differ by one standard deviation in intelligence and we define "high-IQ person" as one with an IQ two standard deviations above the mean of the more intelligent group, then there are almost 15 times as many high IQ people per capita in the more intelligent group.

crystalaudigier

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Xavier L. Simon aka Xavier

Judge Posner’s and Prof. Becker’s analyses are very complete, thoughtful, and convincing with one exception. They fail to address the required political capacity, including the institutions necessary to sustain even the current population, and the processes that they require. Underlying their projections is the assumption that technology will come to the rescue in resolving problems. I think that is true with respect to material problems, including of diminishing resources and increased environmental degradation. But the effective application of that technology will require also development of better organizational technology which in turn will require addressing the human dimension, particularly its capacity to change without major conflict, and it is there where we are weak and can fail.

The foundation of this belief is the theory of social change that I presented on 05/04/2011 at 12:29 PM in relation to poverty and democracy. There I wrote that the best form of governance is democracy that includes free markets, but democracy in its more limited form of representative republic; that such a form happens more by accident than design; that it can sustain itself only when certain structures, properties, and processes function relatively well and persist; and that the right circumstances for these to occur are much more likely to happen initially in and evolve from small groups. Because in a democratic society there are more unimpeded locations of change, innovation, and adjustment, a democracy is more likely to persist and grow for longer periods.

The properties, structures and processes that are more important include, change and innovation; a capacity to reconcile the differences that arise from change; a capacity to relieve the stresses of change and to adjust to the compromises that it requires; an ability to learn from that change and to devise the new rules and institutions that it calls for; an ability to disseminate all of these to achieve a minimum working level of homogeneity; and a capacity to discard what no longer works, becomes distorted, or never worked well in the first place. The rules generated are integrated into social glue that has to be flexible for the whole to function well, a glue that in the West is quite secular but historically included a strong religious component, and that has to evolve. And let me emphasize that these work well only when they are flexible, and are present, accepted, and function effectively throughout the society.

For a society to function effectively, particularly one with a growing and fast changing population and technology, the processes above have to function well and maintain a minimum threshold of homogeneity. Today we are far from that minimum, as I tried to illustrate at some length in my comments on poverty and democracy. Furthermore, in societies that change new fissures—resulting from the different perception by different people as well as the real effects of change—are constantly developing that are not being reconciled as effectively as required. It is this reconciliation capacity, or in most countries the lack of particularly that I think may be the Achilles heel of our organizational technology and prospects for continued development and growth—and being able to vote is very far from sufficient; what is required is true active participation in society.

Moreover, in the process of reconciling the outcomes of change we may be developing a new increasingly rigid social glue. Yes, we have shed the more rigid elements of the old religions, and in the East of authoritarianism, but we have been steadily adding new ones, through regulation, which requirement may be real or perceived, as well as in the inherent rigidity of the larger institutions that larger economies and their technologies produce. If these are not balanced adequately with the self-regulating and self-correcting mechanisms that helped give us our current wealth in the first place, particularly since about 1800, we will end up suffocating even “the more high-IQ people there will be, and hence the faster the growth of knowledge” that Posner tells us we can rely on to develop the new technology we will need to solve our problems.

Sandra Schwab

Both writers conclude positive benefits from a population of ten billion...yippee to ponder when we are in our third year of worse than 1930's unemployment!

DS

I think you discount the technology of 1920 too much. Perform a similar thought experiment 90 years before, say in 1830, and 1920 technology is very impressive.

Not to take anything away from 2100's technology, it will probably be mind boggling, but a lot of assumptions about the quality of life in the future depends on whether the pace of technological change is ever increasing, or whether it fits a logistical growth curve similar to the self same population models under examination.

Personally, I think there is a lot of progress to be made - even if the growth in technological progress slows. Bringing 80% of the world's population up to US standards of living would be very remarkable (and possible in my view).

an observer

Xavier

You say you favor democracy. Do you favor making America a democracy--elimination of the electoral college (direct election of the president), elimination of two senators per state, elimination of one representative per state, and instead, electing the house and senate from uniform districts based solely on population

Xavier L. Simon aka Xavier

Observer, I can only conclude that you don't even read what you comment on.

an observer

Xavier

I have read every line you have written. You talk about generalities, never specifics because, like every other conservative . . .

My question is simple and direct. Do you or do you not support making America more democratic, as outlined?

Xavier L. Simon aka Xavier

DS , I don’t know whether your comment on technology is a reaction to Posner’s or mine, but you will note that I conceded his assumption that technology on material or physical matters will keep up with the needs of and problems crated by population growth. My concern is the organizational side of technology and particularly its human dimension.

I don’t know whether you’ve followed my comments over the past few weeks but I mentioned that all of my working life has been in developing economies with the last 30 plus years focused on development issues working on the ground in well over 20 countries. About 15 years ago I began to observe that the rapidly growing population in many of those countries was creating institutional needs much faster than their governments were able to cope with and respond. In fact, I became so concerned that I became a strong advocate for institutional development in my organization and dedicated a large portion of my units own budget to just that purpose.

In this country too a problem seems to be developing. For one it has dug itself into an economic hole in the last 20 to 30 years living well beyond its means, and now that it has to make a drastic revision to its fiscal policies it seems to be politically polarized and frozen into inaction. It seems that its political institutions are no longer up to the task; its organizational technology is failing it. And it’s not only fiscally. I am afraid that excessive regulation and what I call institutional excesses have created undesirable rigidities that keep adjustment from taking place. Take energy. There has been a lot of talk about renewable resources yet even large wind power projects like that of T. Boone Pickens have grounded to a halt because of a lack of transmission capacity, which is being held back by excessive regulation And I could mention many other examples.

In governance more generally there has been a definite drift towards centralization and a loss of the checks-and-balances embedded into the American Republic by its Founding Fathers (are you paying attention observer?). If you go back to some of my earlier posts you will see that I have expressed a concern about a drift towards despotism since the Progressive Movement in the 1910s, with presidents now going directly to the people and thus avoiding the legislative and the checks that the Founding Fathers intended—last week Posner also mentioned the dangers of an Athenian style democracy (observer, if you had really read my comments you would have seen that I’ve made this point quite a few times but rather than comprehension you seemingly prefer derogatory characterizations!). My worry about such forms of government is that they tend to squash the dynamism and self-governing and self-correcting mechanisms of the market, including of the market for ideas and even of government itself; as I said, energy is only one example.

I could go on at some length but much of what I can say I’ve already said in comments to Posner’s and Becker’s posts over the last few weeks. Take a careful look at the various processes that I identify in the third paragraph of my comments of 05/09/2011 at 01:59 PM above. Many of them seem to have become broken in the US (in my earlier comments I give examples) and for sure they function poorly or not at all in the countries where the largest population increases are expected to take place.

Jack

"There has been a lot of talk about renewable resources yet even large wind power projects like that of T. Boone Pickens have grounded to a halt because of a lack of transmission capacity, which is being held back by excessive regulation"

........... Well............. truth is it's this little matter of NG prices halving from $8 No govvie conspiracy.

BTW 200 of his windmills ARE being installed in Canada...... where I think the time horizon is longer and awareness of global warming higher.

Jack

Observer sez:

"You say you favor democracy. Do you favor making America a democracy--elimination of the electoral college (direct election of the president), elimination of two senators per state, elimination of one representative per state, and instead, electing the house and senate from uniform districts based solely on population"

........ No on the electoral college, which rarely changes anything, which of course means no on "direct election of the Pres".

As for your thoughts on the Senate......... you'd turn it into just another House, so no, and it's HARDLY axiomatic that Senators vote only their state's interest. I HAVE considered more House members as each reps a lot more people these days, but! if they're going to vote party lines 90% of the time, what use?

Lastly......... "uniform districts" is a LOT more difficult than the casual bystander typically sees; with this year's redistricting, it's likely you'll see articles about redistricting and gerrymandering. NOT easy with the best of intentions, and the party in power typically does not have the best of intentions.

Not much to be gleaned for democracy from any of those changes.

Jack

Xaiver: Could you succinctly tell us what you think "since the Progressive Movement in the 1910s," has done to damage our nation? keeping in mind, of course, that the consolidation of wealth and income is, again, constipated among just as few as in 1929, the labor movement has been gutted, and working folks wages have been FLAT for 30 years while that of the "owner classe?" has gobbled most of the productivity gains of the era? Thanks!

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Jim

While tech progress may be able to sustain the population, social and political progress has not kept up and seems to change very slowly. As to Jack's point of view, the acceleration of the economic divide may come from the belief in those reaping the benefit that the future is bleak and that lots of money will be the only way to survive social chaos and so the rest be damned.

Xavier L. Simon aka Xavier

Jack, “succinctly tell us what you think ‘since the Progressive Movement in the 1910s,’ has done to damage our nation” is a very tough one, particularly the succinctly part, because while I can easily show the connections in my argument with physical systems (remember that my original training is in engineering), it gets much tougher, nearly impossible, to do with complex social systems without getting into stuff that is highly charged politically. But let me try.

I’ll use Fukuyama to help me explain. Here is why. I am just starting his new book “The Origins of Political Order” but have a reasonable idea of its main thesis from hearing him a number of times talk about it, reading a number of reviews, and having read much of his previous work. This morning after reading your comment of 05/10/2011 at 02:24 AM I read the section on Political Decay on pages 7-10. I almost fell off the chair because his description of what is happening to the American political system is almost identical to mine, including as illustration the fiscal mess we are in that we are having difficulty fixing. Let me suggest that you read that section even if you don’t buy the book—it is very brief and you can do so in a bookstore; Fukuyama forcefully makes your case about the wealthy.

I won’t repeat Fukuyama except his writing that “The American political system’s ability to deal with its fiscal challenges is affected not just by the Left-Right polarization of Congress [which is described at some length] but also by the growth and power of entrenched interest groups.” Exactly my points! Now, as I’ve mentioned a number of times, having worked intimately for ten years with the most senior officials of countries that had numerous crises, I am extremely concerned that if not fixed quickly the current fiscal crisis can do immeasurable damage. But look what is happening.

The Left and the Right have entrenched themselves into positions that seem irreconcilable and rather than looking for a compromise the president has instead chosen to take his case to the people, who as Fukuyama also points out are also irreconcilably polarized. Note how instead of addressing directly the various proposals, including particularly the Simpson-Bowles, S/B, compromise, Obama has instead gone on a campaigning mode trying to sell to the people his elimination of the Bush tax breaks for the wealthy. In the spirit of the 1910s Progressive Movement he is bypassing Congress (if you want I can refer you to a number of analytical papers on the subject). Instead of pushing for a compromise in Congress he is campaigning on a “mine is good, theirs is bad” agenda, and doing that will only further polarize the people. Yet look at the facts.

By the numbers in the press the Bush tax breaks represent only some 350 billion, and the wealthiest with their fancy lawyers and accountants will be able to avoid it anyway, while the S/B compromise gets you well over a trillion. And most crucially, by eliminating all tax loopholes the S/B compromise is a true tax on the wealthy. So why doesn’t Obama go for the S/B compromise instead of taking his solution to the people? Simple, “the growth and power of entrenched interest groups,” which includes all of those very wealthy individuals and companies that currently benefit from the loopholes. Again look at the facts. Obama recently went after the oil company tax breaks and I don’t know how it is in Alaska but where I am the airwaves are saturated with advertising against eliminating those breaks.

In a perverse way the oil companies are further strengthening Obama’s case to eliminate only the Bush tax breaks but, I repeat, that would not hurt the real wealthy, including the oil companies, and would not go as far to solve the fiscal problem. Instead of taking away their tax breaks, by eliminating the Bush breaks Obama would increase taxes less, something that doesn’t bother the super wealthy who don’t pay all of their taxes anyway. In fact, Obama and the very wealthy may be working together without actually conspiring—they both understand what is more practical and in their interest. Obama is probably rightly afraid that if he does go for the S/L compromise then all of the wealthy, not just the oil companies, will come against him.

About that Fukuyama writes that “Once a society fails to confront a major fiscal crisis through serious institutional reforms [in this case the tax code], it is tempted to resort to a host of short-term fixes that erode and eventually corrupt its own institutions. These [short-term fixes involve] giving in to various entrenched stakeholders and interest groups [in this case the most wealthy].” Again my points. Fukuyama then says that when this happens societies collapse and that the whole point of his book is to show how this has happened over and over in history. Also my point.

If Obama were not as able to take his case to the people—or the newly entrenched and very powerful interest groups for that matter—as in the pre-1910s era when there were more checks-and-balances, he probably would be looking for a compromise more actively. But of course I can’t prove that so the direct connection that you ask for proves difficult if not impossible. Moreover, I am not saying that one solution is better than another. I am just saying that a compromise is urgently necessary, and I can’t even prove the urgency except through my experience with many other countries dealing with almost identical problems. So try to keep an open mind and not make it a “we versus them” argument, including particularly, as so many do, demonizing the other side. That doesn’t solve anything. The moment people do that—you don’t, you engage on the substance—and try to appeal to the largest group in hope of having it entirely their way they actually make my and Fukuyama’s point.

PS 1. Since the above is all about the exercise if excessive concentrations of power, imagine what it would be like if you dismantle the current structure of government, including two senators from each state and the Electoral College. Then the big wealthy corporations and other powerful interest groups would get an even bigger bang for their advertising buck. They wouldn’t have to disperse their money throughout the country and would instead concentrate on New York City, LA, Chicago and other major media markets. And Obama wouldn’t be travelling as much to the more rural mid-West.

PS 2. I never mention or react to N/G because I don’t know much about that issue and it too is politically charged (a carbon source and thus also environmentally damaging) but at least here in the Mid-Atlantic States T. Boone is very actively complaining that the existing regulation is keeping it from being developed.

Xavier L. Simon aka Xavier

Jack, PS 3. Further on being succinct, the purpose of the second and particularly the third paragraph of my 05/09/2011 at 01:59 PM entry is precisely to make my theory succinct, turn it into mathematical equations. I am almost there but even if I make it, big if, it is not going to be easy. For the initiated the equations of relativity or quantum mechanics are fairly straightforward and it is easy to prove certain things with them. Becoming initiated and getting to where you understand them, however, is another matter. And then even if I make it my theory will be subject to questioning much as I still question Einstein’s assumption that the speed of light is constant under all circumstances, which is a cornerstone of relativity. Yet for all practical purposes that we can dream up everybody accepts the assumption. The same is not at all true of the relationships that I include in my theory and particularly how those relationships interact with each other. Being as uncertain as they still are they are therefore subject to debate which makes them at least partly “political.” That is the main reason why I hesitate to throw out one or another conclusion independently of the whole.

Jack

Xavier:

Obama has instead gone on a campaigning mode trying to sell to the people his elimination of the Bush tax breaks for the wealthy. In the spirit of the 1910s Progressive Movement he is bypassing Congress

............... As THE ONE who IS elected by all the people (who find it worthwhile to cast a vote) it is his right and duty to sell that which he campaigned on, along with practical changes in course as .......... say no longer having a House majority. The tension between three co-equal branches is a constant and part of the genius of the founders. As one can quickly see, the FACT of spending bills being originated in a hostile House is PLENTY of power balance!

By the numbers in the press the Bush tax breaks represent only some 350 billion, and the wealthiest with their fancy lawyers and accountants will be able to avoid it anyway, while the S/B compromise gets you well over a trillion.

.......... "ONLY $350 billion/year?" And! after having gifted well OVER a trillion in UNAFFORDABLE tax breaks to the wealthy over the last decade, there is nothing sacrosanct about ONLY rolling back the UNaffordables, how about in our time of need, clawing back some of what was irrationally given? Then? zoom in on Ryan's ALL FOR THE RICH agenda? "save" by whacking pennies PBS for rural towns? and throwing 55 year old folks who've paid into Medicare for decades to the insurancehor wolves? No thanks...... let the debate, power struggles and possible vetoes continue.

Obama go for the S/B compromise instead of taking his solution to the people? Simple, “the growth and power of entrenched interest groups,” which includes all of those very wealthy individuals and companies that currently benefit from the loopholes.

........ I too have seen Fukayama on Booknotes but not read him. But! as you surely learned or had reviewed, "entrenched" and not so entrenched, "interest groups" ARE, have been, and will be. Any who would hope to balance such, now unlimited, dollar and connection fueled, distortion of democracy and what remains of our "capitalist" system should rejoice at involving the public at large.

On PS1 After considerable thought and debate spurred by the failure of the system in 2000 when Bush lawyers made their end run to the SC...... I conclude there is little to improve on Electoral, or the make up of Congress, except, more House members.

Despite a divided electorate here in AK, incumbent POWER, has kept, "Bridges to Nowhere" state embarrassment Don Young in office since he got there by accident in 1972 when Boggs and Begich's plane crashed and was never found. But! I'm not sure with the current campaign corrupting system of "donations" and extortion/quid pro quo......... adding more would hardly help to represent THE people.

PS 2. I never mention or react to N/G because I don’t know much about that issue and it too is politically charged (a carbon source and thus also environmentally damaging) but at least here in the Mid-Atlantic States T. Boone is very actively complaining that the existing regulation is keeping it from being developed.

........... but end with a "govvie is bad" swipe? Please note that crafty old Pickens is not Mother Theresa, and while he often ends up doing good by doing well, his life history is that of doing well....... for himself. FATS are "good ol capitalism" with its SHORT time horizon (and utter disrespect for "externalities" like torching off a NON-renewable fuel that befouls the air and contributes to global warming) IS what scotched, or delayed the huge windfarm project -- with 200 of the GE mills being sold to Canada...... where they've a longer vision? more respect for the "externalities?" $4 NG when Boone SAID breakeven was $6 and the project was planned at $8 on an upward slope, IS what killed it.

BTW! crafty Boone is ONTO water issues -- and some of the windpower was to pump down the Ogallala at an even faster rate than it's being depleted today.


Jack

Jim........ yes...... my thoughts when traveling "outside" and seeing the number of gated "communities" (ghettos of the rich who don't want to chance the life of the actual community?)

Xavier L. Simon aka Xavier

Jack, interesting. You posted your latest only four minutes after I added my PS 3. While I was posting that you were probably writing your response to my earlier set of comments so you probably didn’t see PS 3. Yet the way you answered proved the concern that I expressed in PS 3, namely that the details and examples of an argument are always subject to debate and doing so takes away attention from the main point. You didn’t comment at all on that nor have you in most of your comments to what I write. Instead you pick on the details which I admit can be pushed in almost any direction when done in isolation of the whole. I recall clearly that in college they warned us of precisely that danger when giving examples: they told us that if at all possible don’t give any examples because people get bogged down with their details and miss the main point. Such is life!

NEH

Current population according to National Geo. is set at 7 bill. UN projections out to 10.1 bill. at year 2100. That represents an increase in 3.1 bill.. What are we going to do with all these extra people? We can't even provide employment for the 7 bill. we've already got; or provide clean water, proper sanitation, feed them, clothe them, provide shelter, provide adequate medical care, etc., etc.. If the population does increase to these levels, there will have to be a massive reworking of the way things are currently done if they are to be provided for (and Free Trade, Free Market, anarcho-capitalism will not provide it). If not, there will be "H" to pay.

an observer

Jack

With direct election of the President, Al Gore would have been president for eight years, not Bush.

It is substantially likely that Obama is going to get more than 50% of the electoral vote and yet loose the election. Look at the electoral map.

I'll stop there.

an observer

Xavier:

1) your stuff about centralization, etc. is BS

2) your observation about the failed energy policies in this country are dead on (but not as to cause effect).

The reason why we have failed energy policies in this Country is that we have had a string of very ineffective democratic presidents (Carter, Clinton, and Obama). I say ineffective in the sense in which Drucker talked about being an Effective Executive. I tell my Democratic friends that we have no right to ask to govern, we formed the Dept of Energy 35 years ago, under Carter, have spent hundreds of billions, and are no closer to having an energy policy or independence, than when we started.

This has nothing to do with any road to "serfdom." It has everything to do with the fact that most Democrats don't reason as well as Jack does and, while they have the best of intentions, they have no idea how to do anything. You would not cut your hand putting it in a drawer of Democratic "knives."

Take Obama. An executive can only attack 2 or 3 major points, per Drucker. Obama totally blew his priorities. He did health care when what killed the country was not the fiscal crisis, alone but that oil reached $100 + a barrel in July 2008.

Being extremely ineffective, he and the Democrats did not listen the American public and years were wasted, on health care rather than energy and the economy.

Now, with the World recovering, somewhat, commodity prices and oil are up to $100 and he remains in trouble politically. Such is entirely of his own fault and making.

I will give another example---community banking. Most small business lending has been for many years home equity lending. Given the collapse in housing prices, community banks cannot make small business loans because there is no home equity available to secure such loans.

Instead of Dobb Frank, what we needed was a program in which the Federal Government seriously looked at what we needed to do to restore small business lending.

Some of such would be counter intuitive---for example, the Federal Government making none recourse loans or making direct equity investments in small businesses or small banks. (The great advantage big business has is that its borrowing is non-recourse to the shareholders. Why shouldn't the same rule apply to small business?

There are all kinds of sound economic studies that show that non recourse lending is the best way to go.

The predicate to these kinds of discussions would be an accurate appraisal of how much damage was done by the Crisis. It should be pretty plain, now, that far more damage was done than has ever been publicly discussed.

Obama should have concentrated on these issues when he had the votes. His great mistake was ever thinking that a single Republican would vote for anything. They would not. He should have just organized his democracts and blocked and tackled.

Jack

Observer: Point taken and we'd likely be one COSTLY war short, though Sen Gore did cast the deciding vote on giving HW authority to use military force (ostensibly as bargaining power).

But! we could lay the blame on one of the five "justices" too.

Or! Ha! My not being selected to run (tone deaf) Gore's campaign in which I've never slathered him in make-up or put him in "kewl?" earth tones while blathering about "lock boxes" no one understands yet.

Nope...... the winning campaign would have left "boring Al" in Presidential black with a theme only of "four more years of the Clinton boom, sans Clinton and the drama" along with an AFFORDABLE tax cut targeting those largely left behind as the "rising tide" lifted mostly the yachts, even though millions were lifted out of poverty during the Clinton Admin.


As for the Repubs, what ARE they to do? Palin has the most ideologically driven of the superstitious while "Mitt" who'll be roundly rejected by Christian fundies has their "college" educated. Sort of a lottery?

Jack

NEH -- well theoretically if other economies are like ours, being 75% consumer driven, each new soul gins up .75 consumption driven jobs along with some others.

But! I as you, am concerned we've entered the age of structural unemployment that was somewhat hidden by a stockmarket boom and the housing bubble.

It's hardly encouraging that GM in ramping up to fill the slack left by Japan's problems is paying half the former pay in a biz already so automated that we're talking $400 in "savings" on 30 hours of assembly time. Jobs.......... to be sure, but zipnada for discretionary income with which to participate in a consumer driven economy.

As those billions appear headed our way soon, we probably can peek out to see and prepare for some forms of avoiding things breaking loose down below.

Energy conservation: With virtually every home, office and most buildings brought up to, at least, today's Five Star rating, in the advanced nations that consume a lot of fossil fuels.

Unless there is a breakthrough in fusion, it's likely a solar powered future. It's clear that the unspoken dangers of fission are bad enough with what nukies we have without multiplying mean time between disasters by thousands more of them. So if you want to boil water.... it's geotherm or solar and fortunate that we're getting so much better at cheaply turning solar into electrical power.

Sooooooooo, a more rapid move to a sustainable energy model than we'd otherwise choose and paid for............. Ha! by those of the future who'll benefit from it. More D E B T? anyone? for a good cause? Though with prices falling perhaps traditional utility bonding will handle much of it?

IF oil stays at these lofty levels it's already priced out of the reach of the poor and developing nations. Solar, built out at prevailing wages should provide more of the power and stable power sources could help stabilize the growing of far more food. Much of Russia, like Alaska is so far north that the growing season is too short for many varieties; northern gardeners often start their tomatoes etc in hot houses, with solar, or geo? the same may be viable for commercial quantities as compared to buying them from afar and shipping.

Yep! energy efficiency per capita and per GDP dollar is surely a main plank of the future.

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