February 9th, 2012 • 10:30 PM
A Future Physical Economist

The following segment "A Future Physical Economist" is from Mr LaRouche's latest paper "The Galaxy, Imperialism and Us: SCIENCE -VS.- OLIGARCHISM". To give people further insight into Mr LaRouche's development as a physical economist we also include an excerpt from a paper he wrote in 1987 "The Design of Cities: In the Age of Mars Colonization" where he discusses the same subject.

A Future Physical Economist

I was still lodged within the legal age of 15, during the Summer preceding my September birthday, when my father consigned my summer-times, repeatedly, to a lowly apprenticeship as a hand-dinker in a shoe-manufacturing plant in Peabody, Massachusetts, a feasible walking distance from my residence in the City of Lynn. (I saved money by walking the distance between home and workplace, unless it were raining.) Rebel as I have always been for as far back as I could remember, it follows that my duties at the work bench were virtually bereft of any serious intellectual requirements. Under those circumstances, I escaped the boredom inherent in the situation by resorting, during that Summer, to extended “thought experiments” respecting the meaning of the technology of economic progress in the field of manufacturing in general. By it were time for me to return to school, I had worked through a truly competent conception of the physical meaning of technological progress in manufacturing in general, enjoying freedom from intellectual submission to such misconceived, academic subjects as the pseudo-science of Euclidean geometry, the which I had come, in earlier years, rightly, to despise at first sight.29I did have a certain advantage in the machinist’s training of my paternal grandfather and my father.

In the meanwhile, at the age of 15 years, and so occupied against the boredom of a menial job, I had, in fact, acquired a credible insight into what could pass for the principles of physical-economic progress—mostly done behind the mask of the lowly circumstance of a hand-dinker’s monotonous bench. The result was that the owner of the factory, Benny Shapiro, was pleased with my performance during that year’s summertime, on his account, and I on my own.

In the meantime, between the first Summer at that job, and my return from a military service completed abroad, I wished no more part in a pretense of submitting to what I had despised as Euclidean masturbation in the abused name of “science.” On that account, the presented university curriculum which I had suffered at my father’s behest, was one which my conscience would not permit me to tolerate any longer. My qualifications as a successful professional economist in forecasting, from the start, have remained the kernel of my profession since my 1953 “conversion” to the opening and closing sections of Bernhard Riemann’s habilitation dissertation, to the present day; whatever else, I have been, in fact, the best of the economists in performed results in the matters of forecasting and the like, since then, to the present day. This fact became of international importance as was shown in my December 2, 1971 defeat of Professor Abba Lerner who was then presented, as my opponent in a widely heralded Queens College debate, as the leading British economist in the time of that occasion.30The celebrity of that debate was prompted by the fact that among all of the most notable economists for that occasion were assembled in what proven to have been a vain attempt to discredit my unique achievements in economic forecasting, as compared with the failure of all of them to have failed to recognize what I had forecast as the breakdown-crisis of August 1971. Abba Lerner lost the debate, as it is said “hands down.” Professor Sidney Hook, a leading 1950 founder of The Congress for Cultural Freedom (CCF), had remarked on the day following Abba Lerner’s defeat: “Your man” had clearly won that debate, “but” he will never be allowed on any important platform again. As far as Hook’s influence reached, that has been the case up to the present day. They remain afraid of my role on that account, throughout most among the leading circles of the trans-Atlantic community to the present date, with some relatively rare, but important exceptions.

That experience, so reported by me, contains the evidence of a crucially important lesson in statecraft, and the like. Existing social systems, including those of so-called “higher education” of certified professionals, may lead to skills which are not unjustly considered competent, even indispensably useful in their own way; but, something even more important than that may be lost along that way. Careers may remain available, on the condition that a certain, often disgusting moral price is paid in service to the established conventions of the so-called “powers above.” The root of such abuse of the name of “the professional,” lies in the tradition of the oligarchical principle.

And below, a further elaboration of Mr LaRouche's experience at the age of 15, from his 1987 paper "The Design of Cities: In the Age of Colonization of Mars"

Human Engineering

My first gainful employment began before my sixteenth birthday, in a Summer's job as what is called a "hand-dinker" — at twenty-five cents an hour — in a slipper-manufacturing firm. It represented about as low a level of skill as one might find in such a place. My assignment was to stand at a wooden block, with a die in the left hand and a shoe-cutter's mallet of several pounds weight in the right, and to punch out as many of the same object as I could, over and over again, each hour. At first, that work seemed to me about as boring as one might imagine. I quickly realized that it need not, and should not be boring.

My thoughts at that work-bench were on the subject of what is called "motion-study." The object of my inquiry, was to discover how I could accomplish the maximum of the desired result with the least effort — soon, I added: the least painful after- effects experienced overnight and the following day. The mental image I adopted, was of the ordinary pendulum of a grandfather's clock: to achieve a rythmical movement, in which my body fought itself the least in bringing about those motions, with the proper force, to achieve the optimal result.

My father had secured this lowly employment for me, as part of his program for training me as a management consulting in the shoe-manufacturing industry. Indeed, this did help to impel me toward the consulting profession. The scientific principle I confronted in seeking to master that lowly, repetitive toil, was an experience which guided my attention to the character and importance of "human engineering" of the operator's work-place, and of the traffic-flow of materials and work-in-progress through the production center locally and the production facility as a whole.

No person, but one who has developed the habit of looking at every experience in this way, should be considered qualified for the profession of "economist." Do not tell me silly money- theories of how objects are bought and sold; tell me exactly how they are produced and how they are physically distributed. Tell me how much labor, of how many people, working under what conditions, is required to provide an acceptable standard of market-basket of goods for one household. Tell me not the importance of a certain amount of money in a salary or wage; tell me not merely the money prices of things. Tell me what kind of a life a year of a man's labor will, on the average, buy for his family household; tell me how you propose to effect economies of labor which will help to improve that life.

Only one who understands the importance of these questions, and has acquired the skills for answering them, is qualified to become an economist. These attitudes and skills are not sufficient, by themselves, to qualify a person as an economist; but, no person who lacks these rudimentary skills will ever be better than useless as an economist.

In recent decades, industrial "time-studies" by teams of so-called "efficiency experts" have become notorious, as the higher-priced, trained industrial engineering was replaced, by the cheaper fellow hired off the street for his skill in wearing in white shirt while using a stop-watch and clip-board on the factory floor. Today, "time studies" are notorious, because the drift has been away from capital-intensive investment in economy of labor, toward increasing the labor-intensity of the work-place. As my own view of "hand-dinking" experience indicates, the purpose of industrial engineers' "human engineering" practice was directly the opposite to policies of labor-intensification; the purpose was to achieve greater productivity and quality with less effort by the operative.

The benefits of "humanistic engineering" (a better term than "human engineering") include such obvious economic gains to employeer and employee as lower rates of industrial accidents, less cardio-vascular and other illness, and so on.

The skilled industrial engineer did not need to refer to a stop-watch very often. The norms of movements of eyes and limbs, once established, gave the industrial engineer handy reference tables of a sort he understood, because he had learned to construct such tables as part of his professional education. He worked essentially as I thought through the best methods for hand- dinking. He thought about the physical geometry of the movements of man, machine, and work in progress; once he had mapped those qualitative features of the job, he could assign allowed times for each required motion with far greater accuracy than a platoon of time-study boys studying the same work-place.

As a youth, I saw this problem expressed in a brutal way each time I stood in a shoe-manufacturing payroll line-up myself, or observed the operatives punching-out and leaving the plant at the end of the day. I could identify accurately the nature of the occupation of the older operatives, merely from observing their bodily movements as they passed the time-clock. Their bodies were distorted by the combination of labor-intensity with the peculiarities of the organization of the work-place; so, one could spot the lasters, the welters, and so forth, from the posture of their arms, torsos, and way they walked.

Sadly watching that parade, one recognized the human importance of making operatives more the masters of their machinery, less an increasingly crippled appendage of the machine.

For this reason, I learned to hate technological stagnation bitterly. In "humanistic engineering," we work to change the geometry of the work-place, to the effect of simplifying the motions, and reducing the effort required of the operative, with special emphasis on eliminating the kinds of repetitive motions which are unhealthful. We recommend to the employer: "build this ... change the lighting, so ... this change in the tooling of the work-place," and so on. In a climate of investment in technological progress, there is gain in profit and quality by the employer, and personal and income advantages to the operative, too.

Trading so many dollars' worth of unnecessary exertion by the operative, against an investment which costs actually less per unit of output than the amount saved in terms of unnecessary operative's exertion avoided, is the normal way in which productivity increases with gains to the operative as well as the employer. This is true up to the point that paid-out dividends become too large a portion of gross earnings, or borrowing-costs for new investments in capital stocks become much too high.

The humanistic professional might measure his personal satisfaction from his work, by reflecting on the image of twisted bodies of middle-aged operatives parading past the time- clock. The personal conscience of the true professional is: that saddening spectacle, and everything akin to it, must be eradicated systematically from our production.

The gains effected so, are not merely physical ones; the mental ones are more or less as important. In the longer time, it is the mental gains which are of the utmost importance. The employer who says to his employee, "I don't pay you to think," is not the genius-laden tycoon he might think himself to be. The secret of the superior productivity of U.S. labor, in times dating from earlier than our recent twenty years of "post- industrial" drift into technological stagnation, was precisely that U.S. farmer's and industrial operative's superior ability to think while working.

Every good industrial manager agrees. He might inform you of the steady gains in quality of product and productivity which industrial firms obtained through the employees' suggestion-box. He might also instruct you on the subject of increased accident- proneness among operatives for whom a lower premium is placed on thinking as integral to the operative's role at the work-place. A more profound, more valid general argument could be made: the biophysics specialist might suggest that we correlate brain alpha-wave activity in persons with their ability to sustain continuing technological progress efficiently — and to avoid accidents on the job, or while driving a motor vehicle.

In general, as the level of skill and technology are increased, production depends increasingly upon a more active role by the operator's capacity for effective kinds of problem- solving innovations, as an integral part of the work-place.

Think of space-colonization as what it is: essentially, very high levels of skill and technology by every person involved.

The chief flaw in the relatively better sort of industrial engineer practised up to about twenty years ago, was the lack of attention to what should have been recognized as the underlying principles of motion-theory. Industrial engineering education should have included at least two years span of study of the relevant work of Leonardo da Vinci, Albrecht Duerer, Raphael, and Johannes Kepler. Had such studies been promoted as they should have been, a good industrial engineering graduate would have understood the principles which govern economy of labor. He would have mastered also, the rudiments of applying classical principles of aesthetics to architecture and urban design, and understood these subjects properly from the standpoint of "humanistic engineering."

Footnotes

29I did have a certain advantage in the machinist’s training of my paternal grandfather and my father.
30The celebrity of that debate was prompted by the fact that among all of the most notable economists for that occasion were assembled in what proven to have been a vain attempt to discredit my unique achievements in economic forecasting, as compared with the failure of all of them to have failed to recognize what I had forecast as the breakdown-crisis of August 1971. Abba Lerner lost the debate, as it is said “hands down.” Professor Sidney Hook, a leading 1950 founder of The Congress for Cultural Freedom (CCF), had remarked on the day following Abba Lerner’s defeat: “Your man” had clearly won that debate, “but” he will never be allowed on any important platform again. As far as Hook’s influence reached, that has been the case up to the present day. They remain afraid of my role on that account, throughout most among the leading circles of the trans-Atlantic community to the present date, with some relatively rare, but important exceptions.

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The Basement Project began in 2006 as a core team of individuals tasked with the study of Kepler's New Astronomy, laying the scientific foundations for an expanded study of the LaRouche-Riemann Science of Physical Economics. Now, that team has expanded both in number, and in areas of research, probing various elements and aspects of the Science of Physical Economy, and delivering in depth reports, videos, and writings for the shaping of economic policy.

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