He who knows other men is discerning; he who knows himself is intelligent. He who overcomes others is strong; he who overcomes himself is mighty.

Thursday, February 11, 2010


I have been thinking about farmers.
(But this can apply to anyone who produces consumer goods)
Consider the farmers who have been growing fruit -
from Bartlett Pears and Bing Cherries to Golden Delicious Apples.
And let me just fabricate some numbers:
Let’s say there were 1100 families in 1920
(I didn’t fabricate that number – it was a real year)
that supported themselves, and their families,
by producing fruit for the whole state of Oregon
say, 783389 people back then. (look it up)
Now over the years there have been some amazing strides in agriculture:
Irrigation, pesticides, keeping the birds away from the cherries,
soil nutrients, harvesting, genetics that fight freezing
and grows bigger fruit that lasts longer on the shelf.
There are synthetic crystal pellets that capture the sun and (don’t ask me how)
focus more of it on the leaves and less on the ground
– this reduces evaporation and enhances photosynthesis
and there is more.

So because of technology, we can produce enough fruit
for the 3,790,060 people in Oregon today
with only one fourth of the land previously needed
Here is the wonderful news, it only takes 220 guys to do it.

Let’s also consider the help we have received from
our industrious nation to the south, Mexico.
In 1958 the US was riding an economic wave that allowed US citizens
the choice between some pretty good jobs.
Nobody needed to pick cherries for a living
We were more then thrilled that we could invite the Mexicans
and they would come and do this manual labor

Well, we now have machines that can ease the burden of
the migrant farm worker so what it took 12,000 workers 5 weeks to do in 1958
it now takes only 4,800 workers to do!
Almost one third of the manpower.

Life is great in these days, isn’t it?
The 220 farmers still in business are making bank -
Well, they are now that they have forced the other farmers out of business
with low prices and can now raise the prices back to normal.
Less expenses because of the fewer workers means
more profits for those left in the business.

Here are some numbers:
Between 1982 and 1997 63,000 acres were converted
from Orchards to urban land in Oregon.
Why? because farmers can do more with less.

I work for a company that has a division that writes software
to enable Dairy Farmers to make their farms more efficient.
Here are some statistics about the milk production form 1992 to 2001:

Year lbs of milk per cow:
1992 15,912
1993 15,971
1994 16,061
1995 16,438
1996 16,633
1997 16,967
1998 17,633
1999 17,931
2000 17,778
2001 18,240

This has been going on for 70 years.
So now we need 1/3 the cows to produce enough milk for over 3 times the population.
And the number of Dairy Farmers has gone down accordingly.

There is more money then ever in the US
(I am trying to be optimistic)
the problem is less then 10% of the people have it
and they don’t want to share.

You may ask, what is my point, or you may be way ahead of me.
This is the point: All industries from toasters and basketballs
to Printing presses and computers
(my first computer that could run mixed up mother goose at amazing speeds
and had 1024k of memory and a 40 meg hard disk cost me 2,240$)
require fewer workers.

A year ago in the month of January (2009) employers cut 598,000 jobs.
Over half a million jobs were lost
Some due to the economy
some due to the efficiency of the workers who are left
This was a record month
but not much higher the the months before and after
Nov of 2008 was 533,000

We have heard about it,
and we all can’t wait till this recession is over so that.....
well to be quite frank
it will be a miracle if there are ever enough jobs.
Unless you count being a greeter at Walmart
Or a help desk person with AT&T,
oh wait,
those jobs are now outsourced to people who don’t speak English in Kathmandu.

I wonder how the French would have handled this dilemma
in 1798.

Ponder that while you are watching Robin Hood this weekend.

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