Some time ago, even before my mother-in-law was a baby, the so-called knowledge-based economy was born. It likely happened somewhere out on the sub-glacial Asian steppes, when some Pleistocene-era hunter became so skilled at making stone spear points that he was able to give up hunting, and instead swapped stone tools for all the mammoth steaks and sabertooth tiger rugs he could handle.
Which is a far nicer way of illustrating that people who use the phrase “knowledge-based economy” in its most common form are dummies, as opposed to just blatantly stating that these people are stupid.
You see, our entire economy is knowledge based.
Given a couple of machines, most of you would be astonished at what I can make from a piece of steel, because I know how. I can earn a living that way, just as the fellow across the street makes a living by knowing how to build a house, or my brother-in-law who knows how to raise cattle.
The entire world operates on a knowledge-based economy. Those who know how to do one thing exchange their skills or knowledge for money which is used to acquire goods and services provided by others with other unique skills. The more specialized the skill set, such as dentistry or medicine, the greater the value of that skill.
I mention all this because of the good David Suzuki. When he’s on the global warming bandwagon, Suzuki routinely suggests that we need to abandon our oil-based economy and move to a knowledge-based economy, in order to do our part to combat climate change.
Most people should find this distressing. When one of Canada’s leading voices on the climate change myth, who has built up a rather substantial following, is so intellectually shallow as to be wholly unable to grasp the single, most basic concept of economics there is a serious problem afoot.
As an avowed socialist, it may well be that Suzuki is merely wilfully ignorant of the basic reality of economics, which is actually even more distressing.
Even the oil industry, which is Suzuki’s favourite target, is a knowledge-based economy, as the discovery, extraction, processing, and delivery of petroleum to the marketplace for its various uses is wholly contingent on the exchange of knowledge for services and goods.
In the same vein, when we hear public leaders speak of wanting our cities or provinces or even our country to be greater participants in the “knowledge-based” economy, they are merely showing us that they’re just plain dumb.
Knowledge and information are merely intangibles, of no value until they can be used, just as money in your pocket has no real value until it’s exchanged for some service or product.
While knowledge can carry lasting, intrinsic value, information (there’s a big difference between the two) has an exponentially decreasing value the more it’s disseminated.
The simple question becomes: What good or service will our future, knowledge-based economy provide?
Think about that for a while, because that question leads to another.
You see, the knowledge-based economy proponents also use another, equally mysterious phrase. They like to talk about the “green economy.”
Right now the largest component of the so-called green economy is the growing carbon-trading empire, a massive Ponzi-scheme that’s actually an Enron (yes, that Enron) love child from the early 1990s. And it already costs you hundreds, if not thousands of dollars per year.
Beyond that, “green” jobs are either everywhere, or they simply don’t exist without heavy government support.
If you ignore the tight confines of the box that the so-called green movement wishes to define the green economy with, then almost anything that constitutes saving energy is a green job.
If you switch to a more energy-efficient furnace, or replaced your older car with a thriftier newer model, you’ve participated in the green economy.
Very little of the world doesn’t. Energy costs money, and in any instance, reducing the energy used will always lead to a reduced cost. It doesn’t matter if you’re making steel, or taking the family on a vacation, use less energy and it costs less, and every niche of the world economy strives to extract more value by reducing the energy required to achieve a particular outcome.
Those green jobs that can only exist via tax support have a built-in flaw.
It simply means that they require more energy input along the way than they actually save.
Chew on that for a while.
Bill Greenwood is a local freelance columnist.