Our World in Data

The Geoscheme overview showing the 22 of the 26 different areas. Missing are: Antarctica, Atlantic Ocean, Pacific Ocean and Indian Ocean.

One of my sources of information is Our World in Data (OWID). Their mission is to publish the research and data to make progress against the world’s largest problems. They write:

Poverty, disease, hunger, climate change, war, existential risks, and inequality: The world faces many great and terrifying problems. It is these large problems that our work at Our World in Data focuses on.

Thanks to the work of thousands of researchers around the world who dedicate their lives to it, we often have a good understanding of how it is possible to make progress against the large problems we are facing. The world has the resources to do much better and reduce the suffering in the world.

We believe that a key reason why we fail to achieve the progress we are capable of is that we do not make enough use of this existing research and data: the important knowledge is often stored in inaccessible databases, locked away behind paywalls and buried under jargon in academic papers.

There is general agreement that after World War II, there was a decline in wars until the 1970s and 1980s, when it increased, especially in Asia. War declined again in the 1990s and early 2000s, but rose again, starting about 2012. The 2011 Arab uprisings led to conflicts in Libya, Syria and Yemen. NATO’s incursion into Libya caused instability that resulted in an ongoing crisis in the Sahel region. In 2014, there was the Russian invasion of Crimea. In 2020 there was the Azerbaijani-Armenian war over the Nagorno-Karabakh enclave; another war in Ethiopia’s northern Tigray region; military conflict in Myanmar starting in 2021; Russia’s 2022 assault on Ukraine. In 2023 war started again in Sudan and Gaza.

OWID is also concerned about democracy. Here they write: Democracy is in decline, whether we look at big changes in the number of democracies and the people living in them; at small changes in the extent of democratic rights; or at medium-sized changes in the number of, and people living in, countries that are autocratizing… The extent of this decline is substantial, but it is also uncertain and limited. We can see it clearly across democracy metrics: the world has fallen from all-time democratic highs to a level similar to earlier decades. But the extent of this decline depends on which democracy measure we use. And it is limited in the sense that the world remains much more democratic than it was even half a century ago… Finally, the recent democratic decline is precedented, and past declines were reversed. The world underwent phases of autocratization in the 1930s and again in the 1960s and 1970s. Back then, people fought to turn the tide, and pushed democratic rights to unprecedented heights. We can do the same again… Using the [Regimes of the World] RoW data, the chart shows that the world has become less democratic in recent years. The number of democracies in the world reached an all-time high in 2016, with 96 electoral democracies. In 2022, their number has fallen to 90 countries.

People should probably devote some time attempting to understanding the world’s political and economic situation, on a regional basis. Even before the pandemic changed everything, many people felt they were simply pawns in an economic game. After the pandemic, they were even more convinced of their pawn status.

Geoscheme is my personal approach to organizing and understanding geographical regions. I have used it for so many years, that its origins are lost in the depths of time. There are many maps with regions. At some point, I appropriated one for my own purposes, creating an alphabetic coding in the process.

The regions, along with my codes, are:

Africa: [A] Southern Africa; [B] Eastern Africa; [C] Middle Africa; [D] Western Africa; [E] Northern Africa. Europe: [F] Southern Europe; [G] Western Europe; [H] Northern Europe; [I] Eastern Europe + North Asia. Asia: [J] Western Asia; [K] Central Asia; [L] Southern Asia; [M] Eastern Asia; [N] South-Eastern Asia. Oceania: [O] Australia and New Zealand; [P] Melanesia; [Q] Micronesia; [R] Polynesia. Americas: [S] Northern America; [T] Caribbean; [U] Central America; [V] South America. Other: [W] Antarctica; [X] Atlantic Ocean; [Y] Pacific Ocean; [Z] Indian Ocean.

There are 26 different regions, with some more important than others. Because of their large populations and economic impact, southern Asia and eastern Asia are especially important. One approach to exploring regions is to review them using an assigned week number. I use ISO week numbers, with each week beginning on a monday. USA and Canada have a different approach, with each week starting on a sunday. Thus, this weblog post was published towards the end of week 14. This means that my geographical focal area this week is region N, the 14th letter in the alphabet, which involves south east Asia and Oceania.

I spend more time diverging from than focusing on the Geoschema region. For example, this week I spent time reading about crime writer Garry Disher (1949 – ) and the Mornington Peninsula, south east of Melbourne. The recent collapse of the Baltimore Bridge, encouraged me to learn more about it. According to Geoscheme, I should have waited until week 19, which starts on 2024-05-06. The key is to allow some degree of flexibility.

Other information sources

As I age I feel less need to see the world in person. The internett provides most of my information. In addition to OWID, there is Wikipedia, TED-talks, The Guardian newspaper and Slashdot. We also subscribe to one paper Newspaper, Inderøyningen, that arrives weekly on fridays.

For a maximum of one hour in the evenings, I allow myself to sit in the comfort of an Ikea Poeng chair in a television nook, and see an edited perspective on some aspect of the world, viewing documentaries with texting = closed captions, and sound. Television avoids the excesses of heat, cold, drought and insects, and the trauma of volcanoes and earthquakes. This week we have watched a three part series about the 2015-04-15 earthquake in Nepal.

We have numerous epub books that are managed by Calibre and are stored in a database on our server. When someone wants to read an e-book, the book can be transferred over to a Kobo e-reader (of which we have three) or read on a computer using appropriate software. Most of Trish’s reading is done with an e-reader, while she is knitting.

I use my e-reader much less, and prefer to read paper books. Yes, we also have a library filled with paper books. I am currently reading Blood Red, Snow White (2007), a historical young adult novel by Marcus Sedgwick (1968 – 2022), set in Russia during the revolution, a fictional account of author Arthur Ransome (1884 – 1967), but containing explainers about events from 1905 to 1919.

Next week’s weblog post will be posted on sunday, not saturday. It is about Rachel Carson, and will commemorate her life on the 60th anniversary of her death, 1964-04-14.

Social Credit

Landlocked between Montana, British Columbia, Northwest Territories, and Saskatchewan, Alberta was known for its Social Credit government. Now, oil dominates media coverage. This map shows the extent of the oil sands in Alberta: the Athabasca Oil Sands, the Cold Lake Oil Sands, and the Peace River Oil Sands. Map: Normal Einstein, 2006.

Clifford Hugh Douglas (1879 – 1952) = Major Douglas, is credited as the founder of the social credit movement. He worked as an electrical engineer throughout the British empire. During World War I, he reorganized work at the Royal Aircraft Establishment, a research institution located at Farnborough Airfield in Hampshire, England. There he noticed that the costs of goods produced exceeded that paid in wages, salaries and dividends. This contradicted the prevailing economic theory of David Ricardo (1772 – 1823), that stated that all costs were distributed simultaneously as purchasing power.

The core of his economic argument was that the economic system was organized to maximize profits for those with economic power by creating unnecessary scarcity. One short, but interesting source that comments about this has been written by Janet Martin-Nielsen (1982 – ).

Douglas claimed there were three possible economic policy alternatives:

  • 1. To impose a system of thought and action.
  • 2. To provide employment.
  • 3. To provide goods and services.

Douglas felt most governments aimed at the first two policies. He aimed to satisfy the third. Because of this disparity between the flow of money and stated industry objectives, the delivery of goods and services, he began to apply engineering methods to the economic system.

This led Douglas to distinguished between values, costs and prices. He claimed that economists were obsessed about values. He considered values to be subjective, incapable of being measured objectively. He rejected money as a standard/ measure, of value, but regarded it as a medium of communication whereby consumers could direct the distribution of production.

Wealth is derived from the Old English wela = well-being. Douglas believed that all production should increase personal well-being. Production that does not directly increase personal well-being is waste = economic sabotage. Consumers pay for the costs of production, including waste. This results in wasted work. Douglas believed that this waste was directly linked to confusion about the purpose of an economic system, especially the mistaken belief that it exists to provide employment.

Douglas noted that the long-term consequence of a full-employment policy is a trade war, that typically leads to a real war. That is, full employment leads to excessive capital production (as expressed in the 21st century by extreme/ billionaire wealth). Where this does not use up all of the capital there is an opportunity for military build-up, Military buildup results in violence or an unnecessary accumulation of weapons.

The social credit admonition: He who calls for Full-Employment calls for War! was expressed by John Hargrave (1894 – 1982) leader of the Social Credit Party of Great Britain and Northern Ireland. Hargrave was also a Quaker and a pacifist, but enlisted in the Royal Army Medical Corps, serving in World War I. This experience convinced him that modern civilization had failed, expressed in The Great War Brings It Home (1919), and a call for a character-building and physical training foundation, The Kindred of the Kibbo Kift, in 1920, as a movement for all ages and genders, and a progressive alternative to the Boy Scouts. He was often regarded as a potential replacement as Chief Scout Robert Baden-Powell (1857 – 1941), at least until Baden-Powell expelled Hargrave from the scout movement.

Hargrave wrote The Fighting Programme of the Social Credit Party in 1939, although I rely on a second edition, published in 1941. It listed twelve points: 1. Finance = Establish a Sane Economic System; 2. Government = Make the Will of the People Effective; 3. Work = Abolish Unemployment and Wage Slavery; 4. Defence = Create Effective Defence Forces; 5. Food Supply = Regenerate the Soil; 6. Health = Regenerate the People; 7. Industry = Increase Mechanisation; 8. Building = Demolish the Slums: Build New Towns and Cities; 9. Transport = Reorganise the Transport System; 10. Education = Provide Equal Opportunity for All; 11. Culture = Make Leisure Available to All; 12. Foreign Policy = Abolish War. Through the rest of the book these points are explained in greater detail.

An aside: Hargrave was also a founder of one of the coloured shirt movements that followed the first world war, the Social Credit centrist green shirts. Juan Francisco Fuentes counts 10 green, 8 blue, 4 each black, grey and red, 2 brown, 1 white and 1 orange = 34 groups, of which 25 are right wing, 2 are centre and 7 are left wing. These included: The brownshirts or Sturmabteilung, the original paramilitary wing of the Nazi Party. It played a significant role in Adolf Hitler’s rise to power in the 1920s and 1930s; Hirden, a Quisling/ Nasjonalsamling equivalent in Norway; the blackshirts or squadristi of the Italian Voluntary Militia for National Security, originally the paramilitary wing of the National Fascist Party but, after 1923, an all-volunteer militia in Italy under the fascists.

Much of the world entered a depression in 1929. In Canada, the Alberta Social Credit party was founded in 1934, in the middle of this depression. In the 1935 provincial election it won a majority government, remaining in power until 1971. It was initially led by Bible Bill, William Aberhart (1878 – 1943). Aberhart added a layer of evangelical Christianity to the economic mix. For this, and other reasons, Douglas was not impressed with this party’s interpretation of the principles outlined, and especially disliked the inclusion of economic content from Johann Silvio Gesell (1862 – 1930) a German-Argentine economist, and founder of Freiwirtschaft, an economic model for market socialism. Alberta Social Credit issued Prosperity Certificates = funny money, based on Silvio Gesell’s ideas.

In 1935, Hargrave started to work for the Alberta Social Credit party. It lasted one year. He returned to Britain in 1936.

After Aberhart’s death in 1943, Earnest Manning (1908 – 1996) took over party leadership. Manning was regarded as Aberhart’s religious protege and closest political associate. However, the party became increasingly socially and fiscally conservative, mainly due to Manning’s pragmatism. Manning was premier of Alberta from 1943 to 1968. As Wikipedia explains: Under Manning, Alberta became a virtual one-party province. He led Social Credit to an incredible seven consecutive election victories between 1944 and 1967, usually with more than 50% of the popular vote, and only once had to face more than 10 opposition MLAs.

The province of British Columbia, immediately to the west of Alberta, also formed Social Credit organizations in the early 1930s. This did not result in political influence, until the early 1950s, when the party formed governments between 1952 and 1991, except for the years 1972 to 1975, when the British Columbia New Democratic Party governed. Unlike Alberta, the emergence and continued popularity of Social Credit had nothing to do with depression relief. Rather it stemmed from a revolt against corruption involving a Liberal – Conservative coalition.

Leader of the party from 1952 to 1972 was W.A.C./ Cece/ Wacky Bennett (1900 – 1979), followed by his son Bill Bennett (1932 – 2015), who was premier from 1975 to 1986. The downfall of the party had its roots in the election of Bill Vander Zalm (1934 – ) as party leader.

Perhaps the most interesting aspect of Social Credit in British Columbia is its attempt to ride two horses simultaneously. It is both a free enterprise party, but also responsible for purchasing BC Electric and Blackball Ferries to form the backbone of BC Hydro and BC Ferries, respectively. Both are crown = government owned, corporations.

My interest in Social Credit stems from living in British Columbia from 1948 to 1980, where a Social Credit government was in power, for most of those years. I think one of the reasons for its popularity, was its investment in highways. These are especially important in mountainous areas of the world.

I particularly remember Phil Gaglardi (1913 – 1995), a Pentacostal minister from Kamloops, and minister of highways for most of my formative years. The provincial highways construction signs always ended with Sorry for the inconvenience and his name and title. His nickname, Flying Phil, came from his tendency to speed while driving and accrue speeding tickets. He was also noted for encouraging the provincial government to buy a Lear Jet, for use by ministers.

Social Credit no longer exists in Canada as a political party, and its economic philosophy is no longer regarded as important.

Currently, my interests in economic philosophy relate to alternative forms of economics that are better for the planet and living human beings, especially. When Trish and I first moved to Norway in 1980, it felt like a poorer society. That feeling did not last long, as oil infused the country with wealth. Some of the differences we noted were shorter working hours and longer holidays as well as (more) affordable houses. I am not happy with all of the changes made in the intervening forty plus years. In more recent years, the EV transition has been notable.

To understand how societies can transform themselves economically, I recommend the following books, in chronological order: Ha-Joon Chang, 23 Things They Don’t Tell You About Capitalism (2010); Richard Wilkinson & Kate Pickett, The Spirit Level (2011); Mariana Muzzucato, The Entrepreneurial State (2013); Thomas Piketty, Capitial in the 21st Century (2016); Kate Raworth, Doughnut Economics: Seven Ways to Think Like a 21st-Century Economist (2017); Mariana Muzzucato, The Mission Economy (2021); Thomas Piketty, Brief History of Equality (2022); Ingrid Robeyns, Limitarianism (2024).

Publication of this weblog post has been postponed from 2023-03-18 at 12:00 to 2024-03-23 at 12:00.

Antigonish Movement

Yes, this poster is too small to be legible, but it shows some of the thoughts regarding the Antigonish movement. I note that one gender and many ethnicities are under-represented. Hopefully in the 75 years since this poster appeared these issues have been addressed, and resolved.

Two quotations from Moses Coady:

If we are wise, we will help the people everywhere to get the good and abundant life… to become masters of their own destiny.

When you stop pioneering, you die.

I first became acquainted with the Antigonish movement, Saint Francis Xavier University (SFXU), and the Coady Institute (CI) when I was living in Halifax in 1975. Since the start of the internet age, I have periodically looked at websites related to these.

It is now a century since the Antigonish movement was started. Jimmy Tompkins (1870 – 1953) and Moses Coady (1882 – 1959) are generally regarded as its founding figures.  They were both Roman Catholic priests from the Margaree Valley on Cape Breton Island. They were double-cousins of each other, of Irish ancestry.

Tompkins was vice-rector then vice-president and prefect of studies at SFXU from 1907 to 1923. He offended Antigonish Bishop James Morrison (1861 – 1950) and was exiled to Canso, Nova Scotia. Here, he observed the plight of the fishing community and helped organize cooperative fisheries, stores, housing projects, and adult study groups. In addition, Tompkins started the first regional library in Nova Scotia, its first credit union and Tompkinsville (as it was commonly called) a cooperative housing association in Reserve Mines, about 15 km north east of Sydney. Tompkins can be considered the spiritual founder of the Antigonish movement.

The movement is named after the Antigonish diocese. It currently includes 99 parishes and mission churches in seven deaneries, located in Northeastern Nova Scotia, including all of Cape Breton Island. In 1924, the area experienced labour unrest, especially in the coals mines, and out-migration.  It was proving difficult to counteract these issues.  Coady was working on a project to put into practice his theory that: The short, quick, scientific way to progress in the world, even in the field of formal education of youth, was through the enlightenment and education of adults. He posed two questions: What should people do to get life in this community and what should they think about and study to enable them to get it? The basic technique of the Antigonish Movement–the formation of study clubs acting as crucibles in which co-operative group action was created through a persistent process of questioning, debate, education and learning–had emerged.

A seminary was established at Arichat on Isle Madame, accessible from Cape Breton Island, in 1853. In 1855, it was moved to Antagonish, on the Nova Scotia mainland, 100 km = 60 miles away and renamed St. Francis Xavier University. In 1928, Coady was appointed the first director of the extension department of SFXU.  In 1930, Coady and the extension department initiated local community actions, calling mass meetings and introducing study clubs.  Coady would speak at these meetings often and lectured the community on its failings; he then challenged them to ask key questions: What do we need and how can we get it? 

Coady’s book, Master of Their Own Destiny (1939) is available at the Internet Archive. After his death, the CI was opened at SFXU to continue his work in emerging nations. CI offers on-site and on-line educational programs with an emphasis on social change. The focus is on practice and participation, using learner-centered and asset-based methods with a potential for personal growth and social transformation.

Currently 12 on-site courses are offered at SFXU in Antigonish. These include Asset-Based and Community-Led Development: Theory and Practice which provides an opportunity to share and to learn about the principles, practices and tools that put local assets and action at the centre of development initiatives. This provides a time-out for participants to question conventional community development practices and beliefs, and to re-evaluate the role of institutions in stimulating and supporting genuine asset-based and citizen-led development (ABCD). Another on-site program has a focus on Community Led Solutions for Climate Change. Human-induced climate change is the most pressing global issue of our time. The course uses case studies from different regions of the world and draws on the experiences of participants, facilitators, local practitioners, activists and community members.

There are also twelve online programs offered by SFXU that use various communications platforms.

While all of these programs invite the participation of women, five of the twelve on-site and two of the online programs are specifically for women, without male participation. These are: Feminist Advocacy for Agency, Equity and Justice; Indigenous Women in Community Leadership; Towards Decolonial Feminist Leadership; Women’s Leadership for Community Development; and, Advancing Women’s Conflict Transformation and Peacebuilding for Community Development. The two online programs specifically for woman are: Feminist Leadership for capabilities, ecology and transformation; and, Resources and Tools for Working with Young Women Leaders.


  1. Life-long learning is important. Adult education opportunities need to be provided, including topics in economics related to asset management.
  2. People need a living wage. This is non-negotiable. Learn about this in context. This also means that there should be a maximum wage, and a ceiling on assets.
  3. People need control of the assets that affect their lives. At a minimum, this means producer co-operatives, consumer co-operatives, housing co-operatives and credit unions.
  4. Once the material needs of people have been met, spiritual needs can be worked on.


For the past 70 years I have tried to understand my place in the world. It has been confusing. To begin with, I had to separate an unknown nature, from a misknown nurture. Misknown? Yes, when my paternal Scottish roots turn out to be Scottish and Irish, the latter from Mohill, County Leitrim, and my maternal English roots turn out to be Scottish and English, with the Scottish probably from Roxburghshire in the Borders area. Yes, when my Protestant heritage is largely Catholic.

In this post I attempted to reveal my spiritual connection to the Antagonish Movement and the Margaree Valley of Cape Breton Island, Nova Scotia. The MacLellans settled there in 1795 or 1821 (sources vary). Some sources claim that the brother of my MacLellan ancestor was the Catholic priest for these Scottish immigrants.

For most of my life, I have known that the MacLellans had come from the Outer Hebrides. Barra, I was told. However, this turns out to be a fleeting moment on South Uist. Before that it was Swordland, on the mainland of Scotland. Swordland is a small hamlet in North Morar part of the Lochaber district of Highland Council Area. It lies on the northern shoreline of Loch Morar, about 1 km south of Tarbet. Alasdair visited this area in 2023, and found numerous MacLellans including several with the names Alasdair and Shelagh.

On Cape Breton Island, I was told the MacLellans lived in Sydney Mines. It turns out that this was just another stop, on a journey that led to Nanaimo, on Vancouver Island. They had actually lived in the Margaree Valley. I had been told that given name Alexander = Alasdair, in Scot’s Gaelic, was common, both meaning, helper of man. Another common given name was Archibald = Gilleasbuig, in Scot’s Gaelic, meaning servant of the bishop.

Nature? In 2017, I found out that my biological father, Percy Bradd (1914 – 1956) was also Catholic. My biological mother was Protestant. I chose to be a Unitarian, and then a Baha’i.

I am planning one last trip to Nova Scotia, scheduled for the summer of 2025. I was last there in 1976, close enough to fifty years earlier. I am looking forward to seeing Cape Breton again, especially visiting the Margaree Valley for the first time. On the Nova Scotia mainland, SFXU and Antigonish more generally, are intended places to visit. I am also looking forward to seeing how Halifax has changed.


The Technocracy Monad on a poster.

This weblog post investigates the history of Technocracy, with its potential to develop a New World Order into something unexpected by the vast majority of modern critics: a currency that results in greater equality, or at a minimum, eliminates the extremes of wealth and poverty. Here, some references to contemporary issues will also be made to help clarify the subject.

Technocracy is derived from the Greek words techne = skill and kratos = rule. Thus, it is government by skilled engineers, scientists and technicians as opposed to elected officials. It was opposed to all other forms of government, including communism, socialism and fascism, all of which function with a price-based economy.

Technocracy can trace its origins to the scientific autocracy of Henri de Saint-Simon (1760-1825) and in the positivism of Auguste Comte (1798- 1857), sometimes referred to as the father of the social sciences. Positivism elevated science and the scientific method above metaphysical revelation. Technocrats embraced positivism because they believed that social progress was possible only through science and technology.

Technocracy as a social concept originated with William Henry Smyth (1855 – 1940), a California engineer, who used the term in Technocracy – Ways and Means to Gain Industrial Democracy (1919), published in the Journal of Industrial Management. Smyth wanted engineers and scientists to be included in decision-making processes. Even in the new millennium, there is an effort to silence the influence of engineers, scientists and technologists in decision making. One has only to see the situation at Boeing, where after its merger with McDonnell-Douglas, in 1997, the company moved its head office to Chicago in 2005, to restrict engineers from having influence over corporate decisions. This allowed the short-term interests of share-holders to be placed above the makers (and users) of its products.

Norwegian-American economist and sociologist, Thorstein Veblen (1857 – 1929), known for his criticism of capitalism, significantly influenced technocracy with an article, Engineers and the Price System (1921). Here he argued for the formation of a Soviet of Technicians, a precursor to a more socialistic organization of economic affairs.

As an early advocate of technocracy, Veblen was a member of the Technical Alliance, consisting of engineers, scientists and others in New York City. Veblen predicted business enterprises would decay once they encounter new inventions. Clayton Christensen (1952 – 2020) makes a similar point in The Innovator’s Dilemma (1997) where he describes disruptive innovation. A typical example is that of steam/ power shovel manufacturers, none of whom were able to survive the disruption that came with hydraulic excavators. In the 21st century, one sees signs that legacy automotive manufacturers, are incapable of competing with Tesla, BYD and others.

The technocracy movement criticized the price system as incapable of effective action. The technocrats proposed phasing out the price system and replacing it with a measurable energy unit, today, most commonly, the joule. If this is not used within a specified period of time, the currency expires. People then receive a new allocation based on new energy production quotas for the next period.

In the early 1930s, the depression stirred public interest in finding alternative solutions. One of the major characteristics that distinguishes technocractic organisations from others was its energy-based accounting system. Technocrats saw this as a mechanism to help the economy heal from the the crisis. However, the public interest in technocracy declined by the mid-1930s following the emergence of Franklin Roosevelt’s (1882 – 1945) New Deal, introduced to counter the depression. The New Deal involved public work and financial reforms introduced between 1933 and 1939.

Another challenge facing Technocracy and, as will be shown in a subsequent weblog post, Social Credit, is its anti-war attitudes. Governments, particularly in the 20th century, were often eager to use war as a solution for their problems. Thus, before the Second World War, technocratic organizations were banned in Canada due to their alleged opposition to war. The ban in Canada was lifted in 1943 when the organizations pledged their commitment to the war effort by proposing a program of total enrollment to any war.

Technocracy is considered undemocratic, since it allows people with technical expertise to make decisions, potentially against the will of the population. I fail to see how this differs significantly from political parties using experts in economics or business management to propose, justify then impose political decisions. Most political decisions are not based on principles, but on targeting groups to impact. Frequently, those targeted groups are those that make the most significant donations to a political party.

Several technocratic organizations were established immediately after the First World War, such as New Machines and the Soviet of Technicians. However, these organizations did not last long.

Technocracy, as a non-political philosophy, was started in the United States by Howard Scott (1890 – 1970) and Marion King Hubbert (1903 – 1989) in the 1930s. They proposed replacing government with technocrats, scientists and engineers who possessed the necessary skills and experience to manage the economy. They argued that a society headed by technical experts would be more productive and rational.

Hubbert, then a young geoscientist who would later (in 1948-1956) invent the now-famous Peak Oil Theory. Hubbert stated that the discovery of new energy reserves and their production would be outstripped by usage, thereby eventually causing economic and social havoc. Many modern followers of Peak Oil Theory believe that the 2007-2009 global recession was exacerbated in part by record oil prices that reflected the validity of this theory. However, attempts to find collaborative evidence of this, have proved futile.

Hubbert received all of his higher education at the University of Chicago, graduating with a PhD in 1937. He later taught geophysics at Columbia University. In 1933, Hubbert and Howard Scott formed an organization called Technocracy, Inc.

The principles of technocracy soon resulted in Hubbert and Scott also co-authoring Technocracy Study Course in 1934. This book is the root document to which most modern technocratic thinking can be traced. It can be downloaded at no expense. At is most basic, Technocracy postulated that only scientists and engineers are capable of running a complex, technology-based society. They argued that, because technology changed the nature of societies, previous methods of government and economy were obsolete. They disdained politicians and bureaucrats, who they viewed as incompetent. By utilizing the scientific method and scientific management techniques, Technocrats hoped to squeeze the massive inefficiencies out of running a society, thereby providing more benefits for all members of society while consuming less resources.

The other integral part of Technocracy was to implement an economic system based on energy allocation rather than price. They proposed to replace money with energy credits. This focus on the efficient use of energy hints at Technocracy being a sustainable ecological/ environmental movement in the United States.

In Technocracy Study Course, Hubbert & Scott state: Although [the earth] is not an isolated system the changes in the configuration of matter on the earth, such as the erosion of soil, the making of mountains, the burning of coal and oil, and the mining of metals are all typical and characteristic examples of irreversible processes, involving in each case an increase of entropy. (p. 49)

The modern emphasis on curtailing carbon fuel consumption that causes global warming and CO2 emissions is essentially a product of early Technocratic thinking. As scientists, Hubbert and Scott tried to explain (or justify) their arguments in terms of physics, especially the law of thermodynamics = the study of energy conversion between heat and mechanical work.

Entropy is a concept within thermodynamics that represents the amount of energy in a system that is no longer available for doing mechanical work. Entropy thus increases as matter and energy in the system degrade toward the ultimate state of inert uniformity.
In layman’s terms, entropy means once you use it, you lose it for good. Furthermore, the end state of entropy is inert uniformity where nothing takes place. Thus, if man uses up all the available energy and/or destroys its ecological basis, it cannot be repeated or restored ever again.

Howard Scott wrote an article that appeared in Technocracy Magazine in 1937-07. It described an Energy Distribution Card in great detail, declaring it a: means of accounting is a part of Technocracy’s proposed change in the course of how our socioeconomic system can be organized.

He further wrote: The certificate will be issued directly to the individual. It is nontransferable and nonnegotiable; therefore, it cannot be stolen, lost, loaned, borrowed, or given away. It is noncumulative; therefore, it cannot be saved, and it does not accrue or bear interest. It need not be spent but loses its validity after a designated time period.

At one point Technocracy showed an updated Energy Distribution Card. It was similar to a contemporary debit/ credit card, with an embedded microchip, that contained all the information needed to use the card. Of course there is no need to restrict this to that technology. A smartphone could equally well contain an Energy Distribution app. It was contended that a card/ app could provide a universal identification document. This also sheds light on a more negative aspect of Technocracy’s philosophy, which allowed each person to be monitored and accounted for, to track their consumption of energy, and their contributions to manufacturing processes.

Modern Carbon Markets

The modern system of carbon credits was an invention of the Kyoto Protocol and started to gain momentum in 2002 with the establishment of the first domestic economy-wide trading scheme in the U.K. After becoming international law in 2005, the trading market was predicted to reach $3 trillion in 2020. Graciela Chichilnisky (1944 – ), an Argentine American mathematical economist, and one-time director of the Columbia Consortium for Risk Management and a designer of the carbon credit text of the Kyoto Protoco: [Carbon credits are] therefore all about cash and trading – but it is also a way to a profitable and greener future. She does not elaborate on how this profitability and greenness are related. Indeed, these are meaningless soundbites, unfortunately. It is all about greed. The largest carbon traders are also the largest banks: JPMorgan Chase, Goldman Sachs and Morgan Stanley.

Bloomberg noted in an article Carbon Capitalists 2009-12-04: The banks are preparing to do with carbon what they’ve done before: design and market derivatives contracts that will help client companies hedge their price risk over the long term. They’re also ready to sell carbon-related financial products to outside investors.

Blythe Masters (1969 – ), the British fintec entrepreneur, with a bachelor’s degree in economics, who invented credit default swaps, was described by The Guardian newspaper (2008-09-20) as the woman who invented financial weapons of mass destruction. At the time, The Guardian was criticized for not giving her an opportunity to defend herself.

From 1995 to 2010, there were numerous articles advocating a carbon currency (CC). Below are some of those I have been able to find and read.

In 1995, Judith Hanna wrote Toward a single carbon currency in New Scientist, where she proposed: to set a global quota for fossil fuel combustion every year, and to share it equally between all the adults in the world.

In 2004, David G. Victor and Joshua C. House published A New Currency in the Harvard International Review. It stated: For those keen to slow global warming, the most effective actions are in the creation of strong national carbon currencies… For scholars and policymakers, the key task is to mine history for guides that are more useful. Global warming is considered an environmental issue, but its best solutions are not to be found in the canon of environmental law. Carbon’s ubiquity in the world economy demands that cost be a consideration in any regime to limit emissions. Indeed, emissions trading has been anointed king because it is the most responsive to cost. And since trading emissions for carbon is more akin to trading currency than eliminating a pollutant, policymakers should be looking at trade and finance with an eye to how carbon markets should be governed. We must anticipate the policy challenges that will arise as this bottom-up system emerges, including the governance of seams between each of the nascent trading systems, liability rules for bogus permits, and judicial cooperation. The article concludes that: after seven years of spinning wheels and wrong analogies, the international regime to control carbon is headed, albeit tentatively, down a productive path.

In 2006, UK Environment Secretary David Miliband spoke to the Audit Commission Annual Lecture and flatly stated: Imagine a country where carbon becomes a new currency. We carry bankcards that store both pounds and carbon points. When we buy electricity, gas and fuel, we use our carbon points, as well as pounds. To help reduce carbon emissions, the Government would set limits on the amount of carbon that could be used.

In 2007, Hannah Fairfield wrote When Carbon Is Currency that appeared in the New York Times . She pointedly stated “To build a carbon market, its originators must create a currency of carbon credits that participants can trade.”

PointCarbon, a consultancy, partnered with Bank of New York Mellon to assess rapidly growing carbon markets. In 2008 they published “Towards a Common Carbon Currency: Exploring the prospects for integrated global carbon markets.” This report discussed environmental and economic efficiency, in a similar context to that of Hubbert in 1933.

On 2009-11-09, the Telegraph (UK) presented an article “Everyone in Britain could be given a personal ‘carbon allowance.’” It stated: … implementing individual carbon allowances for every person will be the most effective way of meeting the targets for cutting greenhouse gas emissions. It would involve people being issued with a unique number which they would hand over when purchasing products that contribute to their carbon footprint, such as fuel, airline tickets and electricity. Like with a bank account, a statement would be sent out each month to help people keep track of what they are using. If their “carbon account” hits zero, they would have to pay to get more credits.

On 2010-01-26, Patrick Wood published an article titled, Carbon Currency: A New Beginning for Technocracy? Global currency replacing all paper currencies, limiting manufacturing, food production and people movement. Wood discusses a proposed new Carbon Currency, designed to support a radically different economic system based on energy production and consumption, instead of price. The era of fiat currency = irredeemable paper currency, was introduced in 1971 when President Richard Nixon (1913 – 1994) decoupled the U.S. dollar from gold. Almost all other currencies eventually followed.
This approach is essentially technocracy, as seen through new eyes. Both want to find a more equatable currency that reduces poverty, encourages population reduction, reduces environmental hazards and global warming, and allocates energy and goods more equitably.

Some concepts are poorly explained in the article. For example, how will a CC allocate available energy to people? The energy supply chain is dominated by a global elite, that interacts with with energy providers and energy consumers. It is unexplained why and how this elite will abdicate its role in providing energy. Related questions will have to be asked about manufacturing, agriculture and services. It is understandable that many people want to be part of the allocation process. Wood notes that local currencies could remain in play for a time, but states that they would eventually wither and be fully replaced by the [CC], much the same way that the Euro displaced individual European currencies over a period of time. Wood has obviously misunderstood how the Euro became the currency of much of Europe. It did not evolve, it replaced national currencies on 1999-01-01.

Wood does bring up some other interesting facts, including literature influenced by Technocracy, including: Aldous Huxley’s (1894 – 1963) in Brave New World (1932), especially its scientific dictatorship; H.G. Well’s (1866 – 1946)The Shape of Things to Come (1933); and, George Orwell’s (1903 – 1950) 1984 (1949).


Technocracy expanded the use of entropy to include social entropy. This unscientific and previously unknown term, was postulated to increase social efficiency by allocating available energy then measuring subsequent outputs to find a state of equilibrium.

In Technocracy Study Course, Hubbert & Scott, on p. 238-239 show how Technocracy proposes to allocate energy. People/ adults/ citizens (sometimes)/ residents (other times)/ would receive Energy Certificates (ECs) in order to operate the economy. These would be recorded by an agency called the Distribution Sequence, and be a matter of public record. Purchases of goods or services would require an individual to surrenders ECs. This allows a single organization to produce and distribute all goods and services: With this information clearing continuously to a central headquarters we have a case exactly analogous to the control panel of a power plant, or the bridge of an ocean liner.

Technocracy admits that control of a currency results in a controls of an economy, and its overlaying political structure. Energy-based accounting could fundamentally change world economic and political systems.

I had read in some forgotten source, that Technocracy is now growing rapidly in Europe and other industrialized nations: For instance, the Network of European Technocrats was formed in 2005 as “an autonomous research and social movement that aims to explore and develop both the theory and design of technocracy.” The NET website claims to have members around the world.

This is undoubtedly an exaggeration. NET had very few members. Full disclosure: I was a member! A few insignificant organizations, even with websites, cannot create/ implement a new global energy policy. They can barely dent the old. They may gain some influence on modern energy thinking, with a focus on Hubbert’s Peak Oil Theory, introduced in 1954. Much of the ecological/ environmental movement incorporates Hubbert’s Peak Oil Theory, along with an emphasis on global warming. John Walsh concluded: The issue of peak oil impinges directly on the climate change question. (see John H. Walsh, “The Impending Twin Crisis – One Set of Solutions?, p.5.)

Technocracy likes to emphasize two key differences between price-based money and ECs: 1) money is generic to the holder while EC are individually registered to each citizen, and 2) money persists while ECs expire. This second feature would greatly hinder, if not altogether prevent, the accumulation of wealth and property.

At the start of WWII, Technocracy’s popularity dwindled as economic prosperity returned.

A map of the North American Technate, with some unexpected countries. Howard Scott with two other unidentified people. Location: unknown. Date: unknown. Photographer: unknown.

Smoke screens

Technocracy brings with it a number of irritations.

Technocracy’s original focus was exclusively on the North American Technate. Yet, membership was only open to American and Canadian citizens, despite this Technate having an unusual composition. In addition to Canada and USA, it also included: Greenland, Iceland, St Pierre and Miquelon, Mexico, the Caribbean, Central America, as well as Venezuela. One wonders if Venezuela’s massive oil wealth influenced this cartographic aberration.

When I look at the map of the North American Technate (shown in the background in the above photo), I always wonder if petroleum engineers with American citizenship will have a far too dominant influence. In a transition from a price-based to an energy-based economy, I wonder if corporate loyalty to wealthy oil companies will have an undue influence on these individuals, and their scientific reasoning.

The second problem this map brings forward is the assignment of energy costs. Take the cost of transporting perishable foods to Nunavut, and other remote areas. These are normally air-freighted in. Who will bear the energy costs? Will it be only those living in the north, or will these costs be distributed over the entire Technate? In searching Technology literature, I have not found any answers.

In a Scandinavian context, people have often been encouraged to buy locally produced foods. This meets considerable opposition. Take tomatoes. In Scandinavia the only practical way to grow tomatoes is in greenhouses. This is increasingly the way they are grown in other places, in more southerly locations. The main difference between two such places is the heating costs which, in the north, far exceed transportation costs.

At one time, I was a proponent of multispecies grazing, at least theoretically, since I have no practical knowledge of farming. This involves grazing two or even three species of livestock together on pasture land, typically sheep, cattle and goats. A diverse range of plant species encourages a diversification of grazing animals. Cattle prefer taller, coarse grasses, sheep prefer shorter species (including grasses), while goats browse woodier species. Because species’ preferences vary, multispecies grazing can work without negatively impacting animal performance or plant sustainability.

However, what I note is that local farmers do not even attempt to engage in multispecies grazing. Part of the reason can be the excessive cost of providing shelter (read: barns) for animals, which are specific to each species. In addition, it is cheaper to import feed from South America, and other distant places, than to encourage animals to use existing pasture land.

Hannah Fairfield wrote When Carbon Is Currency which appeared in the New York Times on 2007-06-06. The article reflects back on 2003, when George E. Pataki, then New York’s governor, invited governors of 10 other states from Maine to Maryland to discuss a program to cut power plant emissions. All but one of the states joined the program; Pennsylvania has observer status.

The article looks at the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative, over the course of three years. The program sets a cap on the total amount of carbon that the 10 states — as a whole — can emit. Starting in 2009, each state will receive a set amount of carbon credits for its power plants, and each plant must have enough allowances to cover its total emissions at the end of three-year compliance periods.

Officials have closely watched the European Union, which started its carbon trading market in 2005. To build a carbon market, its originators must create a currency of carbon credits that participants can trade. In Europe, power companies received these credits directly and could buy or sell from one another as needed. But most companies passed the cost of the credits on to consumers even though they received them free, giving the companies windfall profits.

Participants in the United States want to avoid that problem by selling some or all of the credits at auction, with the proceeds going to state energy efficiency programs. In Europe, energy credits have been complex because of the many businesses wanting to earn offset credits. To avoid this complexity in the north-east, the program limits offsets to five categories: capture of landfill gas, curbs on sulfur hexafluoride leaks, planting of trees, reductions in methane from manure, and increased energy efficiency in buildings. Power companies can offset 3.3 percent of a plant’s total emissions from any combination of the five categories.

In discussing Carbon Currency, Technocracy often positions itself as the originator of the idea, equating it with Technocracy’s Energy Certificates (ECs). These ECs originally applied at the Technate = continental level, where they acted as an exchange mechanism. While there was discussion about a more equitable distribution of energy, there was no discussion about the consequences of CO2 emissions.

When I read this article, I discovered that New York State was one of only two jurisdictions to use a 20-year time horizon to account for the damaging effects of planet-warming gasses. Others use 100 years.

Fast forward to 2021, and New York has a new governor, Kathy Hochul (1958 – ), who wants to take less aggressive action to slash greenhouse gasses. According to her, New York’s law was the most ambitious statutory mandate requiring emissions reductions when it passed in 2019. It required emissions to be reduced by 40 % from 1990 levels by 2030 and by 85 % by 2040, with the remainder offset. It also requires zero-emissions electricity by 2050.

This legislation makes methane = the main component of natural gas, more potent than under the longer accounting timeline. Some say the shorter timeline more accurately reflects the short-term warming impact of greenhouse gasses, and the urgency around reducing emissions.

The latest U.N. Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change report warned global action is not happening quickly enough to avert some of the most damaging potential effects of a warming planet.

New York is unique in using three factors that increase the emissions that have to be reduced: the 20-year metric, out-of-state upstream emissions from imported fuels and biogenic emissions from burning fuels like wood and ethanol.

I have an appreciation of all three measures, but will comment only on one. My irritation is sparked by Inderøy municipality allowing a wood burning heat distribution centre to be built in its most densely populated area. They did not even bother to examine the PM2.5 levels, arguing that wood is a natural product, and that burning it is, somehow, natural.

A photo showing a Technocracy car in gray, with red detailing. I remember these vehicles from my childhood. Location: looks like somewhere near San Francisco. Date: unknown. Photographer: unknown

Howard Scott quotations

In the original publication of this post there was a quotations allegedly by Howard Scott cited. However, it is difficult to vouch for its authenticity. Thus, it has been removed. All of the following quotations below have been found in Wikiquote, with sources provided.

We owe nothing in our origins from Adam Smith, Ricardo, Pareto, Proudhon, Bakunin, Karl Marx, Lenin, or any of the rest of the political philosophies. We do owe a debt to J. Willard Gibbs, Nikola Tesla, Steinmetz, Mac and John Rusk, and a thousand other American chemists, engineers, scientists, and technologists. Howard Scott interviewed at Radio station KYW, 1964-11-19.

A number of engineers became so-called disciples of Frederick W. Taylor, even though he had passed on to his reward in 1915. A considerable number of engineers took up the so-called scientific management of Frederick Taylor and further embroidered it and publicized themselves as efficiency engineers and management consultants. Henry L. Gantt had been Taylor's assistant at the Midvale Steel and the Bethlehem Steel Company. Gant, Morris L. Cook, Leffingwell, Emerson, H. K. Hathaway, Frank B. Gilbreth, Harlow S. Person and C.G. Barth were among the many prominent advocates of Taylor's efficiency system with some variations. Howard Scott, History and Purpose of Technocracy in Northwest Technocrat (1965-07) p.7

Gant, Barth and others tried to start an organization, ' 'The New Machine." ' 'The New Machine" never got off the ground; all of them wrote articles and delivered papers in the engineering societies and management conferences. But their chief purpose was in creating a national image so they could sell their services to large-scale private enterprise as scientific managers and efficiency engineers who would be able to install the system that could extract more productivity from the American worker.
Howard Scott, "History and Purpose of Technocracy" in Northwest Technocrat (1965-07) p. 7

We never had any use for Taylor or any of the efficiency or scientific management crowd. They never realized that human toil was the last thing in the world you had to be efficient about; the only way to be really efficient is to eliminate it entirely, and this would have been heresy to any of the Taylor, Gant, Barth, Cook efficiency crowd.

It is sad to contemplate that men of the technical ability of the names mentioned in this paragraph were so lame in their thinking and social outlook that they missed the boat so completely. Who in hell wants to be efficient with a shovel, and what sense would there be even if you succeeded? They should have had their heads opened with a shovel; it might have been more effective. Howard Scott, "History and Purpose of Technocracy" in Northwest Technocrat (1965-07) pp.7-8

The technological concepts of Technocracy are completely beyond any of the political and social philosophies, from Adam Smith, Ricardo, Proudhon, Bakunin, Karl Marx, Lenin and various other promulgators of rightist and leftist political philosophies. Howard Scott, "History and Purpose of Technocracy" in Northwest Technocrat (1965-07) p. 23

Quotes about Howard Scott

Technocracy originated in the winter of 1918-19 when Howard Scott formed a group of scientists, engineers, and economists that became known as the Technical Alliance--a research organization. Howard Scott was chief engineer of this group. The Alliance lasted about fourteen years. Its membership embraced many of America's top scientists and engineers, including such personalities as: Frederick Ackerman, architect; Leland Olds, statistician; Thorstein Veblen, economist; L. K. Comstock, electrical engineer, and Charles Steinmetz. It conducted what became known as the famous 'Energy Survey of North America.' Out of the survey, and under the guiding genius of Howard Scott, there emerged a completely new way of looking at life and human affairs. The social assets and liabilities (in a physical sense) of North America were laid bare for the first time. The social trends and tendencies were analyzed scientifically and for the first time in history a continental area (North America) had a glimpse of its future, or at least of the broad alternatives.Technocrat (1976), Nr. 257-271

The technocrats made a believable case for a kind of technological utopia, but their asking price was too high. The idea of political democracy still represented a stronger ideal than technological elitism. In the end, critics believed that the socially desirable goals that technology made possible could be achieved without the sacrifice of existing institutions and values and without incurring the apocalypse that technocracy predicted. William E. Aikin, Technocracy and the American Dream: The Technocracy Movement 1900-1941, University of California Press (1977), p. 150.

Technocracy's heyday lasted only from June 16, 1932, when the New York Times became the first influential press organ to report its activities, until January 13, 1933, when Scott, attempting to silence his critics, delivered what some critics called a confusing, and uninspiring address on a well-publicized nationwide radio hookup.Howard P. Segal, Technological Utopianism in American Culture, Syracuse University Press(2005), p. 123.


This post has been in development since about 2010, as anyone can see from the numerous quotations dated immediately prior to this year. The topic has been messy to work with, mainly because content would disappear from sites, and only sometimes reappear on other sites. With hindsight, I note that I should have made copies of all of the content. I didn’t, and my time machine has been ineffective in bringing me back to prior events.

Originally, there were two organizations representing Technocracy in North America: Technocracy, Inc., located for most of my life at 2475 Harksell Road, Ferndale, Washington, 98248. There were also American branches in Portland, Oregon and San Francisco, California. Earlier, there were other branches, particularly along the American east coast. However, these had been disbanded by the time I took an interest. Thus, it always appeared to me as a left-coast phenomenon. Currently, the head office appears to be located in a post office box, at Huntington Beach, California. It’s website can be found at www.technocracyinc.org to which www.technocracy.org redirects.

A sister organization in Canada, had its head offices in Vancouver, British Columbia, about 70 km north-west of Ferndale. I remember Technocracy from my childhood, especially when taking the Pacific Stage Lines bus from New Westminster to downtown Vancouver along Kingsway. Just after crossing the boundary from Burnaby into Vancouver, on the south (odd-numbered) side of the 3700-block Kingsway, one encountered a large monad (yin-yang) sign in red and grey, proclaiming Technocracy’s Canadian headquarters. That block was redeveloped in 1976, when the Telus boot, was built. This boot was an unusually shaped office tower that, for a period, became the head office of Telus, previously known as the British Columbia telephone company.

Other signs of Technocracy’s presence in Vancouver were its grey cars, with red detailing. Presumably, these were privately owned vehicles. However, they were marked with an identification number. Section numbers were important in Technocracy. Most began with 123. The section number for Vancouver was 12349, which combined longitude 123 West with latitude 49 North. Portland used 12342.

At some point the Canadian headquarters moved to 2946 272nd Street, Aldergrove, British Columbia, Canada V4W 3R4. This is about 40 km away from Ferndale, navigating the border at Blaine, Washington/ Douglas, British Columbia. The direct line distance is only about 20 km. At one time, the Vancouver Technocracy website could be found at: www.technocracyvan.ca. It no longer exists.

Publication of this weblog post has been postponed numerous times, most recently from 2023-03-11 at 12:00 to 2024-03-09 at 12:00. After this last postponement, I told myself that if this post needed to be postponed further, it would never be published!

Banking in Norway

Minibank. Torggata in Oslo, 2017-01-08 At the top is a screen. When a card in inserted in the reader below the screen, to the right, and a correct pincode is inserted using the keypad, in the centre, a list of choices will appear on the screen. Select one of these by pressing a button, and follow the online instructions. Cash will appear at the bottom. A receipt will be printed and appear on the left side. Remember to take your card, when you are finished. Image: Kjetil Ree

This weblog post came about because of an email from my bank. They told me that I could not expect to have my Mastercard renewed, unless I used it. So, the next time I went shopping at my local hardware store, I took out my Mastercard, told the cashier – a person I have known for over 35 years – that I was uncertain if the pin code would work, then proceeded to buy a manageable sum of necessities, with the card. It worked. The cashier told me that his wife had also had to use her Mastercard, for the same reason.

This weblog post looks at our banking and related experiences in Norway, with a few additional comments about banking in Canada, over the past forty years. I have had to consult with Trish to see if she remembers the same details as I do. This has resulted in some changes, hopefully corrections.

When we first arrived in Molde, Norway in 1980, we opened a bank account at the first bank we encountered, Forretningsbanken = The Business Bank, located beside the bus station. There was no major problems opening an account, and we were able to deposit our savings, and withdraw them as required. We experienced it as very similar to a Canadian bank. One difference was the lack of orderly queues, one would find in Canada. People would hang around, possibly chatting to friends. Yet, everyone would know their position in this most casual of queues and wait for their opening to approach a teller. Most often, we would take cash out from our account, then visit the stores to buy our groceries or other necessities, paying for them in cash.

In these early years, everything looked expensive. We would typically visit each of the five grocery stores in downtown Molde, starting at the eastern side of town, then work our way westwards, when we reached the co-op at the western end, we would buy everything on our shopping list at the store where they were cheapest, ending up at the eastern most store at the eastern end of the bus terminal. We would then take our bus home.

As students, we were allowed to work part-time during the school year, and full-time in the summer. Our earnings were automatically deposited into our bank account. This is required procedure. All employers are required by law to deposit all wages into a bank account. Cash payments are not allowed. We also acquired cheques/ checks for other payments, but realized that the preferred method of payment was to giro funds. Soon, we opened a savings account at the local post office. It was a bit more complex, but manageable, and had a better giro system.

After our first summer of working at the local slaughterhouse, we had saved up enough money to buy our first luxury purchase, a radio. We started work at 8:00, and finished at 15:30, then walked to the centre of Molde, arriving at about 16:00. By that time, all of the specialty stores had closed. Only the grocery stores remained open, until 16:30. Thus, we decided to take a trip to downtown Molde on a saturday. We were disappointed because, during the summer, the store (singular) selling radios was only open monday to friday.

At one point we had visitors from America. They had come with an American Express card, intending to use it to pay for everything. This was not yet an acceptable payment method in Norway. The closest place that would accept their card was in Åndalnes, 57 km from Molde. They had to take a bus to get there and back, using a day in the process.

When we moved north to Bodø in 1985, we were a bit more selective about where we opened a bank account. Now, we had full-time employment and money was coming into our account every month. Money was also flowing out of our account, in the form of rental payments for our accommodation. We also had to withdraw cash to make smaller payments, for groceries, and other expenditures. Larger payments, such as rents involved use of giros.

Soon, we experienced a major change. We were issued Visa debit cards. The fun part was that we (and everyone else in Norway) were paid to use the cards. This lasted for up to several months! Stores started to accept cards for payment. Soon, human tellers were less often used, replaced by minibanks, the Norwegian word for automatic telling machines (ATMs), found at the entrance of most banks. This became the new norm of how we obtained cash. Yes, minibanks appeared in Norway at four banks in Oslo in 1970, but they differed considerably from those used later. ATMs that relied on bank cards and pin numbers first appeared in 1978.

The next step in our integration into Norway came in 1986. We talked to a loans’ officer and asked to borrow most of the money needed to buy a new car. Obviously, the person had done some homework. It took us about five minutes to secure the loan, which was for about NOK 100 000, or six months wages for one person, at the time. The money was deposited into our account on the agreed date, and we were able to pay for our new 4WD Subaru Justy, some days later.

The car loan was not paid off before we made our last move, to Inderøy, in 1988. So we had to find a new way of making a loan payment. It was not difficult. We just had to giro the money. In Inderøy we opened savings and chequing accounts at the local Savings Bank. This bank later became part of a larger, regional bank. At the end of 1990, we arranged for a mortgage on a house. Once again, there was no problem borrowing the money. The house was mortgaged, with the bank holding the house as collateral, we made a substantial down payment, and we were both employed, with regular income. The mortgage also came with life insurance, so that if one of us should die, the principal would be paid off, automatically, and the survivor would be debt free. This loan was paid off in about seven years, although the amount of interest paid was almost equal to the principal. The interest rates were about 14.5% at the time. That was the down side. The up side was that housing prices were exceptionally low. We still live in the same house.

At one time, the banks were encouraging people to invest in funds. Their financial experts would, for a fee, find the most suitable stocks to invest in, and we would have equity based on their competence. We decided to try it, with a minimum investment. After a couple of years, almost all value was lost. We stopped the experiment. A few years later, people were allowed to save a portion of their income each year, tax free, and to withdraw it and pay taxes on it, over a ten year period, after retirement. With the amount I have saved this increases my pension by 2 – 3 % a month. I think this pension ends when I turn 77. Should I die before then, the residual is turned over to my estate.

Perhaps the greatest irritation with using the banking system in Norway has been the need to provide identification to the banks. We identify ourselves whenever we open an account, but the bank fails to record it, so some years later we have to go through the identification process again. They claim this is to prevent money laundering. I am certain that anyone seriously involved in illegal banking activities has all of their papers in order, so that it is only innocent people that have to ride this identification treadmill. This last happened to us in 2021. We had to drive to a place we do not otherwise visit, find a parking space, walk to the outer door of the office, contact the person we wanted to meet by phone, wait for that person to let us into the office, present our ID, wait for it to be photocopied, recover it, then leave.

For several years, we had a safety deposit box at the bank to hold our valuable possessions. However, when the local bank moved to a new and smaller location, those boxes became unavailable. The solution was to buy a safe. It is mainly used to hold documents, such as birth certificates and passports. Sorry, there is no money, gold or diamonds in it!

For the past several years, we have not used cash. I remember one trip to Sweden where we attempted to buy lunch. The person running the eatery told us he didn’t have a card reader, but gave us direction to a bank where we could withdraw funds. We thanked him for the information, and cancelled our order. We were not going to contribute to criminal activity. Any legitimate company can buy or rent a card reader. It is one of the costs of doing business.

Originally, I dated the end of cash in Norway to the value-transport guards’ strike that lasted 78 days from 2020-09-16 to 2020-12-03. This resulted in the banks being unable to fill their minibanks. Inderøy had a empty/ non-functioning minibank for approximately five weeks. In addition, merchants could not use the night-deposit system. At the local grocery stores, it has always been possible to add an additional amount to one’s card payment and receive cash back, but I don’t think this worked optimally during the strike.

Then I had to reconsider my prophecy. Just before Constitution Day, 2022-05-17, card terminals throughout Norway became inoperative for hours. Then, on 2022-09-02, Justice Minister Emilie Enger Mehl announced a need to clarify the rules and strengthen the consumer’s right to cash payment, with companies having to make provision for cash payments during emergencies, including internet and electrical outages. Customers in Norway will have the right to pay with cash in all fixed business premises where traders sell goods and services to the public. That includes all shops, restaurants and service providers in Norway, but excludes pop-up shops, food trucks and similar operations.

If anyone is expecting Norwegians to use an armoured vehicle to transport cash, they will be disappointed. I think the vehicles are just ordinary vans, that have a safe-like structure bolted in. If there is an attempt to break in, bills will be stained with a red dye, making them unusable. Armed guards? Sorry! Not even the police are armed, although they have sealed weapons locked away in their patrol cars, should they be needed. However, they must obtain permission to unseal them. There was an experiment some years ago, where the police were armed, but there were just too many incidents where the police injured/ shot themselves.

For people interested in bank robberies, Norway’s most famous and largest robbery happened on 2004-04-05, at the NOKAS = Norsk kantantservice AS = Norwegian Cash Service Limited, depot in Stavanger. Thirteen perpetrators escaped with 57.4 million kroner = US$ 10 million, in Norwegian and foreign currencies, making it Norway’s largest-ever robbery. NOK 51 million has still not been recovered. One police officer was killed in the incident. All of the perpetrators received prison sentences totaling 208 years in prison, the longest one being 21 years.

Store hours in Norway in 2024, are very different from 1980. Our co-op now opens at 7:00 in the morning, and closes at 23:00 at night. In general, stores are closed on sundays. This does not apply for energy stations (the new name for gas stations, because they often include high-speed DC EV chargers) and their kiosks, and grocery stores, which can have an area up to 100 m2 open. We no longer have post offices. These have been replaced by post in the store centres, which are open the same hours as their host stores. For us, this is at the co-op. These provide all the same services that were once provided by post office.

Despite the experience of the Americans with their American Express card in the 1980s, times have changed. When we travel abroad we rely on our bank cards, Mastercard and Visa. They work in Canada, USA and throughout the EU (including Sweden), and Norway (a country that is not in the EU). We always purchase in the local currency, allowing our own bank to profit from the difference in exchange rates. Our bank assures us that they are cheaper than anyone else. We never withdraw cash at airports. When asked, typically in the US, if I want to pay in Norwegian crowns, I deliberately stare as deeply as possible into the eyes of the questioner. If they don’t look contrite enough I will ask them: What sort of fool do you take me for? Then I will tell them: Just take it out in American funds. I then check my receipt, without moving so that the person cannot assist the next person in the queue, until I am satisfied. Norwegian airports have billboards everywhere advising everyone to pay in local funds.

I think we have 3 x NOK 10 coins in cash, stored in Buzz, our car. We only need one, but sometimes people forget, and keep a coin or two in their pockets. One of these is used to feed a buggy at the shopping centre in Steinkjer, about 35 km north of our house. When we return the buggy, we get the coin back. Otherwise there is no need for cash.

The latest transformation has been Vipps, which is an online payment method on our handheld devices = Asus Zenfone 9 smartphones. We use this to buy eggs at a local farm, to pay for coffee at the small shopping centre in Straumen, the capital of Inderøy. I have even used it to buy a CNC machine from another person. There are any number of worthy causes that attempt to collect money during the year. Even they have had to give up collecting cash. Now, the only thing they do is go around to houses giving out pieces of paper with their Vipps number. Not everyone wants to use Vipps. The local farm where we buy milk has a card reader, and prefers us to use a bank card.

We have not entered a bank for years, because everything is done online. Just before the start of 2018, we, and almost everyone else in our neighbourhood, had a fibre optic cable installed to the house. This improved the speed and reliability of the internet. While we also have WiFi, many of the machines are connected with Ethernet cables. My accountant (Trish) regularly uses bank transfers to pay any invoices. This is usually done using a computer, with a screen large enough to read the fine print! I also make some regular payments internationally using Paypal, from a computer, with an even bigger screen, making the print almost as legible.

Keyboard propaganda. We feel comfortable using most computers, since both of us studied computer science from the mid 1970s, and had to put up with non-ergonomic keyboards, as students. From my perspective, the key to the successful use of multiple computers, is to use keyboards with the same feel, especially having the laptop and desktop keyboards match each other. While we both use Acer Swift 3 laptops with ISO nordic keyboards, Trish’s Logitech MX keys mini ISO nordic keyboard for her desktop machine is better matched than my desktop keyboard, a Logitech K860 Ergo. In terms of desktop keyboards, I have a lifetime supply (= 5), including a similar MX keys mini ISO nordic keyboard, for use when the current one wears out, possibly as early as 2030.

Increasingly, I prefer to buy things online. When we buy something from an online store, there are usually a number of payment options, including credit cards (Mastercard) or debit cards (Visa) or Vipps or, heaven forbid, delaying payment for six months, but having to pay interest. Increasingly, I use Vipps, because it eliminates a number of steps in the purchasing process. Vipps knows where I live, and any purchased goods are sent there, unless I specify something different. The amount of the purchase is not deducted from my account, until the goods are sent.

A red Maxus EV delivery van from the Norwegian post office. The sign on the side of the van reads, Nobody knows Norway better. In the background are two Pakkeboks, that hold goods of assorted sizes, awaiting pickup by customers.

Depending on what we purchase online, there are several ways in which the product can be delivered. Posten and Bring, owned by the Norwegian post office, PostNord, owned by the Danish and Swedish post offices, and a service delivering paper newspapers, run by Schibsted ASA, a Norwegian media company. Most small packages, such as books, are delivered to our postbox. Larger, heavier materials can be delivered to our front door, or picked up at our local co-op. The third option is to have the product delivered to a Pakkeboks = Package box, located outside a store (see above photo). A box can only be opened by customer’s smartphone, when the customer is beside the Pakkeboks. In 2023, we encountered similar boxes in Iceland.

So far there has not been much mention of cheques. That is because, they have not been used in Norway since 1992! We do have cheques for our Canadian chequing account, but it always feels unsafe to use them. If people want us to transfer money to them, we ask them to provide us with an account number so that we can transfer the money directly.

Wikipedia tells us: In Norway, credit scoring services are provided by three credit scoring agencies: Dun & Bradstreet, Experian and Lindorff Decision. Credit scoring is based on publicly available information such as demographic data, tax returns, taxable income and any Betalingsanmerkning (non-payment records) that might be registered on the credit-scored individual. Upon being scored, an individual will receive a notice (written or by e-mail) from the scoring agency stating who performed the credit score as well as any information provided in the score. In addition, many credit institutions use custom scorecards based on any number of parameters. Credit scores range between 300 and 999.

Orthography = a set of conventions for writing a language, including: spelling, hyphenation, capitalization, word boundaries, emphasis and punctuation. Yes, I have been influenced by over 40 years of living in Norway. Despite knowing (Canadian) English conventions, at least as they existed in 1980, I choose to subvert some of them. One of my more recent changes is a refusal to use capital letters when writing the names of weekdays and months. My spelling mostly follows British English, with a few American quirks added.


On 2021-12-24, a close relation, the one who had not taken tertiary business education, confessed that s/he had not heard of S-curves before s/he had come across the term in a YouTube video. This post is to help explain the importance of S-curves.

In a country like USA, understanding how S-curves function, can mean the difference between mere survival, and a life of luxury. Part of the reason for this is that residents are largely responsible for securing their own pensions, frequently in the form of an employer-sponsored defined-contribution pension account, popularly known as a 401 (k) after the internal revenue service (IRS) code.

That is because corporations, such as General Motors, with effective lobbyists, receive generous aid from the government when they encounter difficulties, while ordinary citizens are told to submit themselves to the vagaries of the market. It is not just the losers amongst the corporate giants that are treated generously. A winning company, such as Apple also receives help. For example, much of the technology used in the iPhone was developed under DARPA or military contracts. Mariana Mazzucato (1968 – ) explains in The Entrepreneurial State: Debunking the Public vs. Private Sector Myths (2013) that achieving advanced missions, including space flights, required “a confident ‘entrepreneurial state’ willing and able to take on the early, capital-intensive high risk areas which the private sector tends to fear.” More recently Mazzucato has written The Value of Everything: Makers and Takers in the Global Economy (2018) and Mission Economy: A Moonshot Guide to Changing Capitalism (2021), that explain her concepts in more detail.

iPhone Technology Military Funding Chart PNG
Mariana Mazzucato, The Entrepreneurial State: Debunking the Public vs. Private Sector Myths (2013)

While cellphone producers like Apple and Samsung do not own many utility = functional patents with respect to their products, they do have a number of design = ornamentation patents. These have been the source of much litigation throughout the world, although often with different design forms being the focus of contention, in different markets. In the US, Apple has generally won these disputes and been awarded damages. In other countries, including Australia, Germany, Japan, South Korea and the United Kingdom, Samsung has won, although the winning side may have flipped at different court levels. A Wikipedia article examines these cases in more detail.

There is seldom a relationship between cost and price in market economies. O of the more interesting examples occurred in the resent past, in the form of a Covid testing service. In the US, the test kit this relative gets through his/ her employer has a value/ cost of about $1 000, for a device and a test. Douglas Coupland also complained about this in Trek, AlumniUBC Fall/ Winter 2021. Asked, What is your latest purchase? He replied, “Two criminally expensive COVID tests ($780 CAD in total) just to get in and out of Los Angeles for three days of business. Scam.” p. 60. Yes, one could buy a home test in Norway, at a cost of NOK 79 from Boots pharmacy = at the time, US$8.84, without the need for any special device. They are available locally, in quantity at 10 for NOK 599, although individuals are only allowed to buy 50. However, there was no need to go to this expense. They were available free of charge to residents at the local municipal service centre. Why? The Norwegian government realized that testing was an inexpensive way to restrict new Covid cases, so that hospitals and other front-line health resources can continue to cope. Making tests free, was smart because it eliminated an important barrier (price) to testing.

In essence, there are two ways of viewing this difference in approach. It can be viewed as American companies being indirectly taxed to pay for health insurance, while the second sees Norwegian companies as being subsidized. Neither is strictly correct, but good enough to encourage reflection on the organization of society.

In Norway, pharmaceuticals are subsidized, and the price largely determined, by the government. Thus, there is a built in safety net and other mechanisms that ensure most people can live a satisfactory life somewhere between the two extremes of survival and luxury. In the Nordic countries, an understanding of S-curves is not nearly so important as it is in the US or Canada.

Not everything is perfect. Currently, in Norway, we are experiencing a challenge with respect to electricity prices. Electricity, it appears, is no longer being considered as part of the infrastructure to be supplied to residents if not at cost, at an affordable price. After eight years of a conservative government, it is regarded as a market opportunity to be exploited. The cost of producing hydro-electric power is estimated to be between NOK 0.05 and 0.15 per kWh, which means that it could be supplied to consumers at less than NOK 0.20 per kWh. This past year, it has sold for over NOK 8.00, because of a European shortage and because companies can get away with it. Earlier, in 2021-02 the conservative government was asked to put into place mechanisms to prevent situations like this occurring. They replied that there was no need. The current Labour/ Centre party coalition seems unable to do anything, apart from provide some subsidies.

In San Francisco, where I have immediate family living, and in Vancouver, Canada, where I was born, the type of house I grew up in costs well over one million dollars, in local currency. Currently, the most expensive single family dwelling on the market for sale in Inderøy, Norway with 175 square meters of living space, six bedrooms, probably several bathrooms, and a double garage, has an asking price of about NOK 3.5 million or just under US$ 400 000. There are also financial mechanisms ensuring people have a down payment, and preventing people from overextending their income.

There are major problems regarding factual information. As I wrote this post, I felt obliged to comment about an Infowealth posting about insurance disruption: Since I am watching this about two weeks after its publication, I am uncertain how many others have taken up the history of insurance. Insurance, more generally, began in Babylonia at least 3 700 years ago, and has existed through all of the major historical periods since then, including the Middle Ages. Even in the US, many people point to the Philadelphia Contributionship, co-founded by Benjamin Franklin in 1752, 269 years ago. If one looks just at cars, then there were liability insurance policies issued in the late 1890s (that’s 125 years ago), and it was mandated in Ohio in 1925, which is almost 100 years ago. So, when the video starts off with “The history of the insurance industry dates back to a little over a half century ago” it is beginning with a factually incorrect statement. If you want people to watch your channel start off by researching your facts! While I am aware that even American presidents can get away with lies, some of us are concerned about truth. Thus, when someone starts off a video or podcast or article with incorrect facts, the author of that incorrect information will loose many viewers/ listeners/ readers for life, Infowealth.

In general, people like to discuss two types of growth, linear and exponential. Common for both of these is that they cannot continue indefinitely. So, linear growth is often replaced with a steady state. Exponential growth also ends up in a similar situation, but users refer to the growth picture as an S curve, because of its resemblance to that letter.

An S curve involves four stages each with a distinctive rate of growth. While many business analysts believe that each stage offers its own specific opportunities, there are no guarantees that any particular company will follow that curve. Theoretically, the first stage is an initial slow growth, during which the company develops products and attracts customers. This is followed by a period of rapid growth, with increased market share. During this stage a company typically invests in production facilities, and increased marketing and sales. It is during this period, that the company must be keenly aware of its growth ceiling and not over invest. At some point, growth with slow and the S curve will have a more gradual upward slope. At some time after this, the growth will end. In a best case situation, it will remain stable, but in many cases it will decline.

From a business perspective, inflection points are critical. These are places along the curve where internal or external factors, change the shape/ direction of the curve. Some of the factors influencing inflection points are listed below.

Technology: when a company’s competitors release a new technology or product, this may cause an inflection point for that company.

Values: initial core values of a company may change. Don’t be Evil was Google’s unofficial motto from about 2000 to 2015. In 2015, when Google became Alphabet, the motto was changed to Do the Right Thing. By 2018, this motto had all but been abandoned. Maintaining and communicating values is always hard work. Yet, because values are such an important part of corporate culture, they can trigger an inflection point.

Customers: Relationships with customers can be challenging. : As companies scale, maintaining a high level of customer attention and individual care can be challenging. This change in customer relations may change consumer behavior, bringing a decreased demand and eventually an inflection point.

Economic changes: Businesses may find their growth limited or enabled as the economy cycles through different stages.

Funding changes: Financial changes like new bank policies or government policies that affect subsidies, grants and loans can limit or enable a company’s growth, bringing an inflection point.

Infrastructure: New infrastructure can enable businesses to distribute much more easily, while changes in publicly maintained infrastructure may cause temporary or permanent additional costs.

Market saturation: If a company’s product was very successful in a certain market, demand for their product may go down when they have reached a majority of their possible customers.

Natural disasters: Natural disasters can change what resources and infrastructure are available over the long or short term, sometimes bringing inflection points for entire industries.

Regulatory changes: Additional regulations that impact a company’s production or distribution can slow their growth and cause a negative inflection point, while reduced regulations may cause a sudden growth increase.

Scaling issues: Some companies may have internal decision-making challenges when they begin to scale, as founders and leadership work to hire, supervise and provide for a larger group of employees.

Slower innovation: New companies or products that are built on new technology may face challenges to their rate of innovation as they scale and their development process changes. If innovation doesn’t meet customer needs or keep up with competitors, this can cause an inflection point.

Trends: The rise and fall of trends often causes inflection points for products perceived as luxuries or items that gain viral popularity.

The challenge with this sort of information is that the world is in the middle of a makeover, an unpleasant one described as a climate crisis or global warming. The challenge is that consumption has to be reduced. I remember, some years ago now, that in some Californian population centre, there was a need to reduce water consumption. My imperfect recollection, was that they recommended that everyone reduce it by 10%. This, of course, is utterly unfair. The swimming pool owner who changes water weekly, will only have to miss one week out of ten to align him/ herself with the regulations. Someone, who is already using minimal amounts of water will have much greater difficulties.

It is my opinion that as the climate situation imposes greater strains on the world, there will be a need for strict rationing of resources. Money won’t be able to buy everything, because it is far too unequally shared. One sees this with road pricing. There is a group of people where extra charges have absolutely no effect on behaviour.

Technocracy, despite its limitations, is the organizational model I seek out in times of crises. It accounts for everything not in terms of dollars/ euros/ crowns, but in terms of energy units, joules (J) or Watt-hours (Wh), with 1 Wh = 3 600 J = 3.6 kJ. Every product has all of its component energies, baked into an energy price. In an egalitarian Technate, the social organization, each person receives an equal share of the energy resources, that can be spent as desired. In less equal systems, this share varies.

Technocracy will be described in another post, originally intended to be published 2023-03-11 at 12:00 (EST), but currently postponed. Its future publication date will be announced, after it has been determined.


Original color transparency of FDR taken at 1944 Official Campaign Portrait session by Leon A. Perskie, Hyde Park, New York, 1944-08-21.

This weblog post is being published on the 140th anniversary of the birth of FDR = Franklin Delano Roosevelt (1882 – 1945), who became the 32nd American president. There will undoubtedly be many other commemorative writings today, although probably less than will be found on this date, in 2032. Many of these will focus on his contributions during the second world war. Some may even mention the paralysis in his legs, at the time attributed to polio.

In this post, I want to focus on FDR and the New Deal, nothing more.

The term new deal was first used by Mark Twain = Samual Clemens (1835 – 1910) in his novel, A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court (1889). The work is a satire of -isms, with feudalism and monarchism juxtaposed capitalism and industrialism. Here engineer Hank Morgan is transported back in time, but fails in his quest to modernize and democratize 6th-century England. “. . here I was, in a country where a right to say how the country should be governed was restricted to six persons in each thousand of its population. . . I was become a stockholder in a corporation where nine hundred and ninety-four of the members furnished all the money and did all the work, and the other six elected themselves a permanent board of direction and took all the dividends. It seemed to me that what the nine hundred and ninety-four dupes needed was a new deal.

The political term New Deal was coined by FDR’s advisor, Stuart Chase, (1888 – 1985), an American economist and social theorist. Chase was influenced by political economist Henry George (1839 – 1897), Norwegian-American economist and sociologist Thorstein Veblen (1857 – 1929), by Fabian socialists, perhaps especially Sidney Webb (1859 – 1947) and Beatrice Webb née Potter (1858 – 1943) and by the Soviet social and educational experiments made in the name of communism around 1930.

I hesitantly suggest that FDR is the greatest American president of the twentieth century. The term greatest is used comparatively, in relation to other presidents. It does not mean that I condone all, or even most, of his actions. His attitude to non-European races was, in general, revolting. In particular, I find the relocation/ internment of Japanese Americans repulsive; his initial support of Nazi Germany repugnant; even his extra-marital relationships were regrettable. Some Norwegians may be surprised to learn that FDR’s son, James, stated that “there is a real possibility that a romantic relationship existed” between his father and Crown Princess Märtha (1901 – 1954) of Sweden/ Norway. Other sources propose/ document many other women.

In many ways, FDR appears better when he is compared with his immediate predecessor Herbert Hoover (1874 – 1964). Indeed, Hoover is usually ranked in the bottom third of American presidents.

Yet, because of my particular interests, Hoover deserves credit for: his mother’s origins in Norwich, Ontario; his Quaker background; his Oregon background; his relationship to Palo Alto, including his Stanford education; his relief work in Belgium and his leadership of the American Relief Administration, which provided food to people in central and eastern Europe; his regulation of radio and air travel; and, his support of standardization, “own your own home”, an eight-hour workday and union membership.

However, Hoover was a racist; an optimist despite multiple economic threats, including a farm crisis, a saturated market for consumer goods, growing income inequality, and excessive stock-market speculation. He was reluctant to regulate banks, a characteristic shared with his predecessor, Calvin Coolidge (1872 – 1933); viewed lack of confidence in the financial system as the fundamental economic problem; avoided direct federal intervention, believed that supporting individuals economically would weaken the country. Instead, he believed that charity and local governments should address these needs.

A year before FDR took office, 1932-02-27, an important piece of legislation was enacted: An Act to Improve the Facilities of the Federal Reserve System for the Service of Commerce, Industry, & Agriculture, to Provide Means for Meeting the Needs of Member Banks in Exceptional Circumstances, & for Other Purposes. With such a long title, it is not surprising that it is referred to as the Glass–Steagall Act. It separated commercial and investment banking, and did much to regulate securities, typically stocks and bonds.

FDR was elected in 1932-11 but took office in 1933-03, at the worst moment of the worst depression in American history. With a total population of about 125 million, one quarter of the workforce was unemployed, farm prices had fallen by 60%, industrial production had fallen by more than half since 1929, two million people were homeless, 32 of the 48 states and the District of Columbia, had closed their banks.

FDR’s presidential program is often referred to as 3-Rs: relief, recovery, and reform. Relief, providing support to tens of millions of unemployed; recovery, normalizing the economy; reform, applying long-term fixes.

The New Deal refers to a series of programs, public work projects, financial reforms, and regulations enacted between 1933 and 1939, as laws passed by Congress as well as presidential executive orders. Regulated areas included the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC), the Civil Works Administration (CWA), the Farm Security Administration (FSA), the National Industrial Recovery Act of 1933 (NIRA) and the Social Security Administration (SSA). Support was provided for major groups: farmers, the unemployed, youth and the elderly. Banks faced new constraints and safeguards, with a goal of re-inflate the American economy after a sharp fall in prices.

Many historians and others distinguish between a First New Deal (1933–1934) and a Second New Deal (1935–1936).

One of the first items that the First New Deal dealt with was the American banking crisis. This involved the enactment of the Emergency Banking Relief Act of 1933, and the Banking Act of 1933.

On 1933-03-06 the Emergency Banking Relief Act dictated a four-day national banking holiday that kept all banks shut until Congress could act. The federal government inspected all banks, re-open those that were sufficiently solvent, re-organize those that could be saved, and closed those that were beyond repair. FDR gave a fireside chat to explain the situation. Americans returned 1 billion previously withdrawn dollars to banks the following week.

On 1933-06-16, the Banking Act legislated 1) a federal system of bank deposit insurance, that protected most people; 2) the further separation of commercial and investment banking, with restrictions placed on speculative bank activities.

The Federal Emergency Relief Administration (FERA) provided $500 million = over $10 billion in 2022, for relief operations by states and cities. The CWA gave money locally to operate make-work projects in 1933–1934. The Securities Act of 1933 was enacted to prevent future stock market crashes. NIRA set up the National Recovery Administration (NRA) to eliminate cut throat competition by bringing industry, labour and government together to create fair practices codes and set prices. The Supreme Court declared the NRA unconstitutional.

The Second New Deal in 1935–1936 included the National Labor Relations Act to protect labour organizing, the Works Progress Administration (WPA) relief program, which made the federal government the largest employer in USA. The Social Security Act and programs to help tenant farmers and migrant workers, also benefited people. The final major items of New Deal legislation were the creation in 1937 of the United States Housing Authority and the Farm Security Administration (FSA), followed by the Fair Labor Standards Act of 1938, which set maximum hours and minimum wages for most categories of work.

An economic downturn in 1937–1938 led to a split between the American Federation of Labor (AFL) and the Congress of Industrial Organizations (CIO). Only the CIO supported FDR and its membership was open to African Americans. This confrontation allowed Republicans to make gains in Congress in 1938. By 1942–1943, conservatives of both parties had managed to shut down relief programs such as the WPA and the CCC and blocked other proposals.

While African Americans had to deal with the depression, they also faced social ills, such as racism, discrimination and segregation. They typically held the most marginal of jobs. Most unions excluded them from joining. Anti-discrimination laws were often unenforced, especially in the South. The WPA, NYA and CCC relief programs allocated 10% of their budgets to the African American population (who comprised about 10% of the total population, and 20% of the poor). They operated separate all-black units with the same pay and conditions as white units. In general, benefits for minorities were small compared to that received by the European descendent population. FDR appointed an unprecedented number of African Americans to second-level positions in his administration, often referred to as the Black Cabinet.

The New Deal also discriminated against women, by created programs for breadwinners, husbands/ providers, assuming that whole family would benefit. This failed to take into account households headed by women. When the discriminatory aspects of this policy came to light, the government began to modify policies to help women as well.

After the death of FDR, both Republican and Democratic presidents left the New Deal legacy largely intact, even expanding it in some areas. After 1974, however, there was an increasing demand for deregulation of the economy, that gained bipartisan support.

The New Deal regulation of banking was compromised starting in the 1970s when bank regulators began interpreting the Glass–Steagall act (later upheld by courts) that permitted commercial banks to engage in investment banking activities. Even in the 1960s some financial products blurred the distinction between the two areas.

Separately, starting in the 1980s, Congress debated bills to repeal some Glass–Steagall’s provisions. In 1999 Congress passed the Gramm–Leach–Bliley Act, also known as the Financial Services Modernization Act of 1999, that repealed them. Democratic party President Bill Clinton signed it into law.

In 2022, several New Deal programs still remain active. Those operating under their original names include: the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC), the Federal Crop Insurance Corporation (FCIC), the Federal Housing Administration (FHA) and the Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA). The Social Security System and the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) are the largest programs still operating.

Ray Allen Billington and Martin Ridge have assessed the Impact of the New Deal, especially in their book, American History After 1865 (1981). Not all economists and economic historians are in agreement.

They contend the New Deal harmed the United States: by increasing federal debt. However, Keynesians counter that the federal deficit between 1933 and 1939 averaged only 3.7% which was not enough to offset the reduction in private sector spending; increased bureaucracy, inefficiency, and enlarged the federal government; slowed civil service reform; reduced opportunities of businesses to engage in free enterprise. New Left critics point out that it also squandered an opportunity to nationalize banking, railroads and other industries. They also criticize it for doing too little for minorities.

Neutral effects include a stimulation of class consciousness among farmers and workers; and brought to prominence economic regulation issues, especially where these came in conflict with personal liberties.

Billington and Ridge find the most beneficial aspect of the New Deal, is that it allowed the US to survive the depression without undermining its capitalist system. They also claim that the capitalist system, and the banking system in particular, became more beneficial by enacting banking and stock market regulations; created better income balance between labour in agriculture and industry; distributed wealth more equitably; conserved natural resources; and, established a precedence for the national government taking action to rehabilitate and preserve America’s human resources.

From my increasingly European economic perspective, Americans have through the past almost ninety years diluted the New Deal. Governments, of whatever colour, increasingly expect ordinary citizens to subject themselves to market forces, but exempt large corporations, especially banks, resulting in capitalism for individuals and families, but socialism for corporations. I do not believe that this was FDR’s vision.


The U.S. consumes about 100 EJ = 100 Exajoules = 100 x 1018 Joules of energy, annually. Americans, being Americans don’t often express energy in Joules. Rather, they prefer to use British Thermal Units (BTUs), where 1 BTU = 1055 J. Another way of expressing this is to say that Americans use about 100 quads of energy, where 1 quad = 1015 BTUs. If one is willing to accept a 5.5% error, one can say that 1 EJ is about equal to 1 quad.

Only about one third of energy consumed is used for productive work. The above Sankey diagram shows energy inputs and outputs, productive work is clumped together as energy services, in a dark gray box. The other 2/3 is wasted as heat, which in the above diagram is referred to as rejected energy, which is clumped together in a light gray box.

Renewable energy comes from solar (1.04 quads), hydro (2.5 quads), winds (2.75 quads) and geothermal (0.21 quads) sources, for a total of 6.5 quads. Thermal energy systems burn fuel or split atoms, and accounted for about 93.5% of American energy inputs in 2019. Most of this fuel come from fossil sources, that is responsible for most of the carbon emissions associated with climate change. Wasted/ rejected energy is a proxy/ surrogate/ substitute for the damage being done to the planet. The exception is the energy provided by nuclear power, although it also has issues of its own. In contrast, renewable energy (wind, solar, hydro, geothermal) capture energy, without creating heat. While there are some transmission loses, most of that energy provides energy services.

A modern electric vehicle (EV) with regenerative braking is about 95% energy effective. Even the most efficient internal combustion engine (ICE) vehicles, can only achieve about 30% energy efficiency. This means that an EV only needs about 1/3 of the energy inputs that an ICE vehicle needs.

The United States transportation sector uses 28% of the total energy. Of this, cars, light trucks, and motorcycles use about 58%, while 23% is used in heavy duty trucks, 8% is for aircraft, 4% is for boats and ships, 3% is for trains and buses, while the last 4% is for pipelines (according to 2013 figures). This means that road transportation accounts for over 80% of the total. From the Sankey diagram, one can see that the transportation sector has 28.2 quads of input of (mostly) fossil-fuel energy, which means that 22.5 quads are road related. This results in 5.93 quads of transportation services, of which 4.75 quads are road related. These figures show about a 21% efficiency, because transportation related engines are considerably less efficient than other engines, including those used for electrical power generation.

If one uses renewable energy for road transportation, 4.75 quads of transportation services could be produced from about 5.0 quads of renewable (wind/ solar/ hydro/ geothermal) energy. At the same time, 22.5 quads of oil production would be eliminated, without any negative energy-related consequences. In fact, there would be benefits in terms of improved health, and less pressure on the environment.

A shift to renewable sources in other sectors would also have benefits. Natural gas and coal currently make a large contribution to inputs for electricity generation used elsewhere, 11.7 and 10.2 quads each, respectively, for a total of 21.9 quads. However, using the 1/3 service, 2/3 rejected formula, this means that these fossil-fuel inputs only produce 7.3 quads of electrical services. This contribution could be replaced by 7.5 quads of renewable energy.

Gasoline has an energy density of about 45 MJ/kg, which can provide about 15 MJ/kg of energy services, and 30 MJ/kg of rejected energy, as discussed above. A litre of gasoline has a mass of 0.76 kg and produces 2.356 kg of CO2 and 11.4 MJ of energy.

For American readers: The United States Energy Information Administration (EIA) estimates that “About 19.64 pounds of carbon dioxide (CO2) are produced from burning a gallon of gasoline that does not contain ethanol. About 22.38 pounds of CO2 are produced by burning a gallon of diesel fuel. U.S. gasoline and diesel fuel consumption for transportation in 2013 resulted in the emission of about 1 095 and 427 million metric tons of CO2 respectively, for a total of 1 522 million metric tons of CO2. This total was equivalent to 83% of total CO2 emissions by the U.S. transportation sector and 28% of total U.S. energy-related CO2 emissions.Under international agreement, CO2 from the combustion of biomass or biofuels are not included in national greenhouse gas emissions inventories.”

Since 1 MJ = 0.2778 Kilowatt hours (kWh), 11.4 MJ is the equivalent of 3.17 kWh. According to Electric Choice, the average price a residential customer in the United States pays for electricity is 13.31 cents per kWh in December 2020. This means that gasoline would have to sell for 42.19 cents per litre to be cost effective. Since there are 3.785 litres per American gallon, a gallon would have to sell for about $1.60 to provide an equivalent price. According to Global Petrol Prices, the average price of mid-grade/ 95-octane gasoline was $2.752 per gallon, the equivalent of $0.727 per litre, as of 2021-02-01.

In Norway, the price is about NOK 1 per kWh for electricity, but with wide variations. The price of 95-octane gasoline is about NOK 16.33 per litre, once again according to Global Petrol Prices. This helps explain why EVs are so popular. To be price equivalent, gasoline would have to sell for about NOK 3.17 per litre. Currently, Stortinget, the Norwegian parliament, is debating increasing the CO2 tax by NOK 5 per litre, which would bring the price to over NOK 21 per litre. Not all political parties are in agreement, with this proposal.

There is a great deal of discussion about consumption figures for electric vehicles in Norway. In part, this is because the terrain varies greatly. Some people drive in urban landscapes, others out in the country. Some people are flatlanders, while others have more mountainous environments. However many consumers have experienced real-world energy consumption levels of about 15 kWh/100 km for vehicles such as a Hyundai Kona, Kia Soul and Tesla Model 3. This gives a fuel cost of about NOK 15/ 100 km. In American terms, this would be about 24 kWh/ 100 miles, or $3.20/ 100 miles, with the electrical costs noted above.

Update: 2021-06-12 at 15:00.

The amount of energy used to refine gasoline (and diesel) is more than the electricity required to drive the same number of miles/ kilometers, using equivalent battery electric vehicles. Fossil fuel vehicles make absolutely no sense. When a country substitutes EVs for ICE vehicles, electrical consumption actually declines.

Carlos Ghosn vs Japan Inc.

Nissan Diesel Trucks (Photo: NZ Car Freak)

This weblog post is about Carlos Ghosn (1954 – ), the former CEO of the Renault-Nissan Alliance and his cultural war with the Japanese business establishment. It might have had a different plot if I hadn’t read Exposure: Silenced. Threatened. Time to Fight Back. (2012) written by Michael Woodford (1960 – ).

The major reason for writing this post now, is Ghosn’s escape from Japan to Lebanon. He had been charged in Japan 2018-11-19 with under-reporting his earnings and misuse of Nissan assets, followed 2019-04-04 with charges of misappropriations of Nissan funds. He has spent considerable time in detention, as well as house arrest. However, many suspect that these charges were more about Japanese business interests (aided by the Japanese government) wanting to take back control of Nissan, than that anyone was actually worried about the relatively miniscule size of misappropriated funds. The fact that a major Japanese auto manufacturer had to use the services of a gaijin (foreigner) had been extremely embarrassing.


In 1996, Renault hired Ghosn to turn the company around from near bankruptcy. By 1999, the plan devised by Ghosn had worked. Much of it involved using Japanese management practices. In 1999 Nissan was facing a similar bankruptcy threat. In 1999-03, Renault and Nissan formed the Renault–Nissan Alliance, resulting in Renault purchased a 36.8% minority interest in Nissan. This allowed Ghosn the opportunity to develop the Nissan Revival Plan to turn around Nissan, using many of the same approaches as he used at Renault. By 2002-03-31 all of these goals had been accomplished. As of 2018-11, Renault owned 43.4% of Nissan, while Nissan owned non-voting shares equal to 15% of Renault’s equity, showing the unequal strength of the two companies in relation to each other.

This webpost does not proclaim Ghosn’s innocence. Only a court of law can do that, although there is a presumption of innocence until proven guilty. A legitimate question to ask is, what is the reason for the criminal charges against Ghosn? The problem with the Ghosn affair, is that Ghosn seems to be treated differently than equivalent Japanese business leaders caught up in similar situations. Here are some examples.


Perhaps the greatest Japanese crime of this century is related to the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear disaster that began 2011-03-11. This disaster was the most severe nuclear accident since the 1986-04-26 Chernobyl disaster and the only other one to be given Level 7 on the International Nuclear Event Scale.

The disaster caused meltdowns in three separate reactors. The lack of adequate preparations for a tsunami and related events resulted in the evacuation of more than 470 000 people. Nearly 18 500 people died in or were listed as missing from the disaster area. Despite the enormous ramifications of this disaster, Japanese society/ culture effectively blocked any one person or even group of people from being found responsible for it. Japanese prosecutors had twice declined to press criminal charges against former Tokyo Electric Power (Tepco) executives, saying there was little chance of success. Then a judicial panel ruled that three men should be put on trial, despite the opposition of the prosecutors.

2019-09-19 a Japanese court found Tsunehisa Katsumata, Sakae Muto, and Ichiro Takekuro, the former most senior executives of Tepco, not guilty of professional negligence. No one else has been charged with anything related to this disaster.

The conviction rate in Japan is 99.4%. In other words, the prosecutors are acting, effectively, as judges. In this particular case, their reluctance to prosecute was interpreted as an indication of non-guilt.


Only a month after the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear disaster, Michael Woodford was appointed president and COO (2011-04) of Olympus Corporation, a Japanese manufacturer noted for its professional optical products. He was appointed CEO six months later, 2011-10. Woodford started working for Olympus in 1981 and subsequently rose in the company to manage its European operations. Woodford was the company’s first non-Japanese CEO. He was removed from his CEO position after two weeks, when he persisted in questioning fees in excess of US$1 billion that Olympus had paid to obscure companies, which appeared to have been used to hide old losses and appeared to have organised crime connections. By 2012 this scandal had developed into one of the biggest and longest-lived loss-concealing financial scandals in the history of corporate Japan.

Woodford’s life was threatened, because of the criminal organisation connections. Ultimately, Olympus had to agree to a settlement for defamation and wrongful dismissal.


Japan Forward was sceptical of Ghosn’s arrest: “A Western businessman with several decades in Japan noted: The “thin gruel of ‘misdeeds’ that they’ve put forward to date as justification is laughable. Reads like any day at the office for many [Japanese] CEOs. The Japanese business establishment crushes everything that threatens its worldview and privileges. … Another added: “During my time in Japan, I met the CEOs and managing directors of a variety of companies and a few were wonderful people, but a lot were not…. [They were] in cahoots with the yaks (Yakuza) — abused their expenses, went on company paid junkets, received kickbacks, got laid on the company tab…. I don’t know what Ghosn did, but I doubt it would have come close to what is normal behavior for many of his Japanese counterparts.”

Japan Forward may not have said it so explicitly, using a question mark rather than an exclamation mark, but many see systemic xenophobia in the Japanese business community.

Nikkei Asian Review was even more condemning: “There is no indication that other board members made actual moves in terms of governance processes or statements at the board level, [Nicholas Benes, head of the Board Director Training Institute of Japan and a former investment banker] noted. This makes him suspect that the board members were more concerned about protecting their jobs than confronting [Ghosn]…. If individual board members, including CEO Hiroto Saikawa, felt so strongly about the issue that they allowed a criminal investigation, they should have taken steps first. These could have included proposing to discuss the issue at the board level, trying to call an extraordinary board meeting, threatening to resign or getting advice externally. No such internal moves appear to have been taken before the prosecutors’ move to arrest Ghosn. Under Japanese company law, directors are expected to actively participate in discussions and oversee the chief executive.”

There are several recent Japanese business scandals:

In 2015 Toshiba revealed that it had overstated its operating profit by nearly $1.2 billion.

In 2017 Takada had become mired in a global scandal over faulty airbags. Ammonium nitrate was used to inflate airbags quickly, some with such force, they spewed shrapnel at drivers and passengers leading to injuries and in some cases, death. Takada was forced to recall millions of airbags which, along with facing a multi-million dollar wave of litigation.

In 2017 Kobe Steel admitted to changing or falsifying data about the quality of some of its goods before they were shipped to customers.

In 2018 Nissan admitted its emissions and fuel economy tests for its cars sold in Japan had “deviated from the prescribed testing environment”.

Japan’s Criminal Justice System

Counterpunch has detailed the inhumanity and authoritarian nature of the Japanese criminal justice system. The current laws are from 1947. Except for omitting offences relating to war, the imperial family and adultery, the 1947 Penal Code remained virtually identical to the 1907 version. This means that there has been no substantial revision for 113 years, as this post is written in 2020.

Nobuo Gohara, a former prosecutor, stated: “If you admit to the crime you’re arrested for, you’re released on bail relatively quickly. However, if you dispute the charges or claim innocence, you will be detained longer. You won’t be released on bail and your detainment will last weeks. You’re basically held hostage until you give the prosecutors what they want. This is not how a criminal justice system should work in a healthy society.” Cases detailed in the same article explain this further.

Beirut Press Conference

At the press conference held in Beirut 2020-01-08, Ghosn compared his arrest to the surprise attack on Pearl Harbor. He said his prosecution on charges of financial misconduct was politically motivated, the result of an elaborate conspiracy involving malevolent Nissan executives and even the Japanese government, a systematic campaign to destroy his reputation and impugn his character. He further claimed that Japanese authorities were repaying him with evil, because he was an easy target as a foreigner. Further information about the press conference can be found in numerous online news sources, including this report in The Guardian.

The Seven Deadly Sins of Project Management

Over-the-fence project management may well have been used at Heaps Engineering, in New Westminster, photographed here in 1946. During the height of the war, the plant employed more than 700 men and women, and turned out giant propeller shafts and underwater fittings for submarine chasers and frigates. Photo by Stride Studios.

This web-log post is about projects, but only those project where a commitment has been made by a board or senior management to start and complete it. It attempts to be general enough that insights can be applied to any industry.

Preliminary work on a project will have to be budgeted. Regardless of its outcome, this expenditure will be a sunk cost = a cost that has been incurred and cannot be recovered. With a go ahead, the entire project will not only have to be budgeted, but in some way financed either using owner equity or debt financing, or a combination of both. Liquidity (cash flow) is critical for any project.

The selection of a project manager is critical to project success. The project manager is responsible for the initiation, planning, execution, validation and evaluation of the project. At a minimum, each of these has to be part of the scope statement, and incorporated into the project plan.

After each of the sins listed below, there is a paragraph long comment on atonement = making amends.

Sin #1: No Budget

There is only one sin worse than having no budget, and that is regarding the budget as a project plan!

Atonement for this sin: Make sure there is an adequate budget that covers the entire project period, that is approved of by the board authorizing the project. Before, any project begins: 1) Make sure there is adequate financing. 2) Make sure there is sufficient liquidity (cash flow) for the project.

Sin #2: Managing a project as a process

In many hierarchical organizations, managers are promoted from lower ranks, so that they have an understanding of the roles required below them in the hierarchy. One of the unique characteristics of a project is that it requires the interaction of professionals possessing different qualities. In addition, tasks are non-repetitive, in contrast to process (or operations) management where repetitive, permanent functional activities are the norm.

Even if a project manager can appreciate a project’s temporary nature, with defined beginning and end points, s/he may fail to understand the implications of time, budget and staff constraints, especially in terms of project goals and objectives.

Atonement for this sin: Ensure that the project manager has the education/ training to manage a project. At a minimum s/he must understand the basics of the Critical Path Method.

Sin #3: No Scope Management

Scope requires the project manager to specify the quantity, quality and variety of tasks to be performed, along with the time and other resources available. A scope statement can then be compiled that specifies what the project is to deliver in detail, and to describe more generally the major objectives for the project. These objectives should include measurable success criteria.

At the most fundamental level, Scope is expressed in a statement that is SMART:

  • Specific
  • Measurable
  • Agreed Upon
  • Realistic
  • Time Bound

Scope involves determining the work that needs to be done to meet stakeholder requirements. Many project managers like to distinguish two types of scope: project scope and product scope. Project scope specifies the the work that needs to be done to deliver a product or service, while product scope specifies the features and functions that characterize that product or service.

Another way of understanding scope, is to separate what has to be done (the functional requirements/ product scope) from how it is to be done (project scope). If requirements cannot be defined and described, then there can be no effective project control, allowing project/ requirement creep to emerge.

Scope creep involves large, unplanned and often irrelevant changes to a project that add costs and/ or development time. Very often these occur because there is no change control built into the project. Change control is a procedure to be included in the scope statement that outlines how changes will be implemented. It must distinguish between acceptable and unacceptable changes. The change control procedure should specify how any change will be implemented.

Atonement for this sin: Make sure there is a SMART scope statement, and make certain that all project participants understand this statement, and its consequences.

Sin #4: No Project Plan

The main purpose of writing a project plan, is for the project manager to define tasks, and to appreciate transitions between them. The fact that there may be disparities between perceived and actual implementation times is of secondary importance. Some projects benefit from the use of software tools, such as MS Project/ LibreProject, or equivalent. In other cases, a simple tempo-plan on paper suffices. Tasks have to have milestones/ way points associated with them, so that everyone knows when a task has been completed. These have to be measurable.

Most projects rely on a critical path, a sequence of tasks that have no leeway in terms of an early or late start. Project slack (also called project float) has to be determined to identify the critical path through the project. Slack can be calculated manually or automatically, using a formula that takes into consideration start and finish times/ dates, durations, predecessor times, task dependencies and constraints. Negative slack indicates that this amount of time must be saved earlier in the project to prevent delay. It is an indication of incorrect finish time for the project.

Tasks outside of the critical path can begin earlier or be delayed, by varying amounts of time. Tasks are placed on a project activity diagram, that shows total slack (the time available for a task to slip before it delays the whole project) and each task’s free slack (the time available before it delays successor tasks).

Atonement for this sin: Except for the smallest of projects, someone assigned to the project must construct a project plan based on the critical path method, make sure the plan is used. Significant deviation from the project plan must be reported to the authority commissioning the project, usually some sort of board. Project managers have a responsibility to communicate with stakeholders, and to ensure everyone understands the project plan, at least in outline, and how it will affect each stakeholder.

Sin #5: No Resource Management

After scope management has been satisfactorily implemented as a project plan, the next phase involves resource management. Some projects, such as building construction, will have materials management as an important component. Other projects, including software projects, will find that materials management is minimal, or even non-existent. Regardless of the type of project, much managerial time will almost always have to be allocated to human resource management, if the project is to run smoothly.

In a building construction project, materials management is seldom a problem because everyone, even the project manager, knows that the building has to be made of something, and probably many different things. A bill of materials (BOM) is produced automatically by almost every Computer-Aided Design (CAD) system. These BOMs are first used for scope management, and after that in conjunction with resource management. Problems emerge with materials management, when they are not properly specified during the scope management phase.

Most of the problems associated with resource management come from a failure to appoint a reference group, or even a project group. These two problems will be treated as separate sins.

Atonement for this sin: Materials management – Ensure that a BOM is used, where it is appropriate. Understand how to use a BOM, and ensure that all members in the project group understand how to use a BOM. Provide training if necessary. Human resources management – see sin #7 – no project group.

Sin #6: No Reference Group

In every project there are a large number of stakeholders. In building construction there will be municipal/ county building authorities, neighbours who live on and/ or own surrounding properties, and potential occupiers/ renters/ owners, at a minimum. In software projects there will be assorted classes of purchasers, who may or may not be users. In projects involving local government there are civil servants, as well as politicians, who may view processes totally differently.

The purpose of a reference group is to ensue that a project meets the needs of different user groups, at the same time that it doesn’t encroach on the rights of non-users, who may be impacted by the project. Without a reference group, the project manager and others in the project will be living in a fantasy world. Thus, one of the first tasks of a project manager is to ensure that there is a process to find stakeholders, and to invite them to be part of a reference group.

Atonement for this sin: Ensure that a reference group is appointed, and that it mirrors the diversity of people affected by the project. Ensure that reference group meetings are scheduled and held. Stakeholders must ensure that someone representing their group is appointed to the reference group, that they are invited to reference group meetings, and report back to stakeholders.

Sin #7: No Project Group

Some project managers think they can run a project alone, without involving people possessing different qualities, who together (but not alone or separately) understand the non-repetitive tasks involved. Normally, they can’t.

This does not mean that members of the project group have to devote significant amounts of time to meetings, or other forms of interaction. Rather, members of the project group spend most of their time working on those parts of the project they are assigned, reporting on the state of milestones/ way points as they occur.

When disruptions occur, or when other events impact project progress, there can be a need for project meetings to discuss alternatives.

Atonement for this sin: Ensure that a project group is appointed, and that it mirrors the diversity of people working on the project. Ensure that project group meetings are scheduled and held. Members of a project group, must schedule and attend regular project group meetings. It is particularly important, that project managers ensure that feedback from the reference group is presented to the project group.

Project management has matured considerably, during the past eighty years, but not noticeably since the first projects I worked on in the 1970s. The only difference I have noted is the use of project management software to replace the calculations I had to perform by hand. This was undoubtedly the result of PERT (Project Evaluation and Review Technique) developed for the Polaris submarine project, and CPM (Critical Path Method) developed by DuPont, in the 1960s.

Before these developments there was (not so) managed chaos. “During the 1940s, line managers used the concept of over-the-fence management to manage projects. Each line manager, wearing the hat of a project manager, would perform the work necessitated by their line organization, and when completed, would throw the “ball” over the fence in hopes that someone would catch it. Once the ball was thrown over the fence, the line managers would wash their hands of any responsibility for the project because the ball was no longer in their yard. If a project failed, blame was placed on whichever line manager had the ball at that time.” Harold Kerzner 2017 Project Management: A Systems Approach to Planning, Scheduling, and Controlling, 12th edition, p. 39.

Despite the injustice of this system, it was the users/ customers who suffered the most. Kerzner continues, “The problem with over-the-fence management was that the customer had no single contact point for questions. The filtering of information wasted precious time for both the customer and the contractor. Customers who wanted firsthand information had to seek out the manager in possession of the ball. For small projects, this was easy. But as projects grew in size and complexity, this became more difficult.” (p. 40).

I was very fortunate to have John Reagan as a mentor in 1972 at Habitat Industries, a pre-fabricated housing manufacturer. He kindled in me an interest in project management that continues to this day, even if it was more frequently used in teaching computer science and technology subjects, than in the construction trades.