Reisman made some economics lectures available a while back:
I’m listening to them a bit at a time while multitasking other stuff. I’ll post thoughts I have here. A lot of this is my own thoughts inspired by Reisman and not just a summary or transcript of what Reisman said.
Reisman had a similar analogy to something I had said recently to a friend. My analogy was about current govt policy being like playing with the sliders in a simulation game like SimCity. Reisman’s analogy was that bad economic policies made due to ignorance are kind of like pressing buttons in a factory when you don’t know what you’re doing or how stuff works. I listened to some of this stuff before btw so I might have been inspired by him in coming up with my own analogy.
Reisman made a point about how expanding division of labor lets you have some good things going economically even if the govt is screwing up lots of other stuff.
Here’s an automated transcript (errors are Otter’s fault!)
I would say that a major explanation of the progress of the last decades, despite many, many negative developments working in the opposite direction, the fact that we’ve been able to advance in so many areas of knowledge and technology, I think, is very, very heavily due to the expansion of the of the division of labor. Just the fact that we have substantially larger absolute numbers of highly intelligent motivated people working on these different problems. And the success that comes anywhere, can quickly be communicated everywhere.
So I think if the govt policy doesn’t get so bad that it actually affects the division of labor a ton and causes it to breakdown, then things can be kind of okay even if the government is doing lots of dumb wealth redistribution. As long as people still have incentive to specialize in various areas and offer their services for trade and cooperate with other people in producing goods, the economic system can handle a lot of government-caused error. But if government destroys people’s incentives to better their economic situation (by trying to abolish private property, say) or if things become so chaotic internally that you can’t rely on being able to trade with other people (due to say, social disintegration and civil war) then things can keep improving even if govt is doing lots of dumb stuff.
If the division of labor breaks down, though, then you lose the benefits of cooperating and specializing because everyone has to start making their own bread and milk and all that stuff. So unlike in division of labor where you get a big bonus in productivity from all the specialized knowledge and effort that people can create, the economic system becomes more like the productivity of a subsistence laborer times the number of people living in the society, which is pretty bad. Even in ancient times, when the vast vast majority of people worked on farms, you still had some specialization and some people that could work in the cities and do specialized work as artisans or lawyers or whatever, but the specialization was way way way reduced in scope compared to now.
I was thinking about this in terms of the Travis Corcoran books about the libertarian moon colony and how the colonists realized they couldn’t fight even the way less efficient earth people cuz there are so many of them. Part of the issue there stems from the division of labor. Because earth still apparently has division of labor (IIRC), then just the sheer number of people (something like 9 billion) lets it have lots of productivity despite all the socialist crap.