The Trees – Music and Economics

7 06 2017

There is always a new way of looking at old ideas, and today I am going to use a fractal algorithm which only a musician may have considered. While reading the May 13th – 19th issue of The Economist, there were a number of articles which were of interest. The first, the Bagehot column, entitled ‘The Marxist moment,’ quite thought provoking, and reminds today’s thinkers of some quite valid points that Marx predicted, including ‘that capitalism would become more concentrated as it advanced,’ and what The Economist refers to as his most famous prediction; ‘that capitalism produces immiseration for the poor even as it produces super-profits for the rich.’ These ideas have been brought up in British thinking today by some of the leaders (not coincidentally) in England’s Labour Party, Jeremy Corbyn, and John McDonnell. As the world, and many nations face the question of how to grow as a nation in an ever shrinking globe, the ideas of ownership, management and production are at the forefront of many thought processes.

While The Economist suggests that Marx has overlooked (ignored) the role of managers in improving productivity, there are several other modes of thought which disagree, some of which prove the antithesis. Gary Hamel, a world renowned business thinker, stated in an article entitled ‘First, Let’s Fire All the Managers‘ for Harvard Business Review, that ‘Management is the least efficient activity in your organization.’ Reading through the article, one of the ideas which stands out to me as having been a ‘worker’ in several types of environments, is ‘Let employees forge agreements.’ This type of thinking clearly reduces the thoughts of ‘the maples,’ representing in this instance management, as demonstrated in Rush’s ‘The Trees’ – ‘The trouble with the maples (and they’re quite convinced they’re right),’ where management imposes a rule of order based solely on numerical predictions as opposed to practical knowledge.

This lack of practical knowledge, as it happens, is discussed in another article in the same issue of ‘The Economist,’ Free Exchange, regarding the passing of William Baumol, who coined the phrase ‘cost disease’ in terms of economics. The cost disease is the misunderstanding, lyrically summarized, ‘So the maples formed a union and demanded equal rights,’ which becomes ‘political pressure for cutbacks’, not recognizing that ‘rising employment in stagnant areas raises rather than lowers overall productivity growth.’ In short, ” Knowing others is intelligence; knowing yourself is true wisdom. Mastering others is strength; mastering yourself is true power,” from the Tao De Ching, chapter 33. To reduce this idea even further for the sake of meter and song: ‘But the oaks can’t help their feelings if they like the way they’re made.’ – Rush