Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Attended the Environmental Scanning Practices Group presentation given by Dr Thomas Courchene from Queens.

The presentation was titled: Tectonic Shifts: Toward a New Canadian Political Economy.

He outlined three Societal Transformations:

• Digitization and the Technological Revolution

- Internet, biotech, globalization (global supply chains)

• Shift to Knowledge-Based Economy (KBE) and Society

- The information revolution privileges Human Capital in the same way that the Industrial Revolution privileges physical and financial capital

• The Green Revolution

He characterized the US as a country shaped by common law and individualistic capitalism in comparison to the EU which is shaped by communitarian capitalism under civil law. Thus Canada has been shaped by its attempt to integrate the best of both the dynamism of the US economic system and the social cohesion of continental Europe.

Preserving and promoting economic competitiveness and social cohesion are the proximate goals for societal success in the new global order.

• With knowledge progressively at the cutting edge of competitiveness

• With enhancing skills and education as the key to addressing income inequality and social solidarity

• With information empowerment as the sine qua non of meaningful citizenship

It follows that a commitment to a human capital future for Canadians is emerging as the principal avenue by which to promote both cohesion and competitiveness.

Courchene offers as a ‘Mission Statement for 21st Century Canada”:

Design a sustainable, socially inclusive and internationally competitive infrastructure that ensures equality of opportunity for all Canadians to develop, to enhance, and to employ in Canada their skills and human capital, thereby enabling them to become full citizens in information-era Canadian and global societies

Here I would amend this mission statement to replace information-era with knowledge-economy and network Canadian and global societies.

Courchene’s presentation outlined some of the history of the Canadian regulatory regime that enabled Canada to escape the worst of the financial/banking melt down, but also how Canada overcame its deficit crisis by offloading expense onto provincial domains.

This set a type of precedent as well for how the Federal handled the stimulus package – for instance:

• The $51 billion of stimulus includes $12 billion of required provincial money – 50% of provincial and municipal infrastructure, 42% of municipal housing and 35% of the auto bailout.

Given the KBE challenge on one hand and the staggering amount of money involved – the stimulus aimed at ‘shovel ready’ and thus was ‘shovel heavy’ – too much emphasis on physical (boards and motar) infrastructure and too little on social (mortarboards) infrastructure.

Example – Australia’s ‘Building the Education Revolution’:

• 500 new science labs; $ for library upgrades; $200,000 for each school for renewal of infrastructure; a $980-per-child ‘back-to-school’ bonus to support 2.8 millions kids from low/mid income families; similar grants to students and persons outside labour force for study or training.

Courchene discussed the need to reform EI both for the stimulus but especially for the KBE.

In his presentation he spoke at length about the impact of different approaches to climate change and the ‘green revolution’ on Canadian economics. He concluded the presentation with a discussion of trade and currency policies.

Sunday, November 8, 2009

The green philosophical conundrum

If the human project is to actualize itself to the full extent of our possibilities - then no matter what manner humans use as they pursue this project the act of being and becoming human is to leave nature as it is given, behind.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Person/People versus Personnel/Human Resources versus Human Capital

I've just taken a first stab at getting down on paper, my sleep/dream epiphanic thought stream concerning the term human capital.

This is still very rough but the epiphany is that terms such as personnel or human resource refer to the second classic factor of production (there are three - land, labor and capital) and human capital refers to the third factor of production and thus have significantly different entailments.

Furthermore the concept of person (and thus people) is a socio-political concept/construct and not an economic one (and hence also has significantly different entailments).

The question of how to integrate them into a political-economic framework remains.


A socio-political construct evoking the context of political rights – e.g. Charter of Human Rights, Legal Rights under the law, etc. Importantly person has tended to be founded on the Hobbes’ philosophy of atomistic individuals or society as based on ‘social contracts’ and the individual as a pre-determined self.

Personnel and Human Resources

Economic constructs evoking the context one of the factors of production – Labor and thus of inputs to the production process and their costs as well as corresponding contractual arrangements and assumptions – e.g. hire and fire according to contract(s) specification, acquire, use and dispense resources as required, property rights defined clearly by ownership of means of production and contractual agreement. Costs assessed by demand, need and utility of resource acquired or dispensed.

Human Capital

Economic construct evoking the context of capital goods (human-made tools and equipment), and of human capability – created and acquired (like other forms of capital) through deferral of gratification (sacrifice) in order to accrue a surplus that can be used to invest in the production of the capital capability. It also evokes the context of ownership, and profit as the natural return on the use of capital. Some forms of capital are subject to depreciation and some (e.g. human knowledge, skill, talent) are subject to appreciation (increasing returns).

The first philosophical position of a new theory of human capital is to substantiate a foundation of the ‘dialectical’ individual. That is, an individual can only grasp or access their ‘humanness’ within a social context. To be human is to be social. The dialectic individuals create the social/society that creates them.

Can one be human without the experience of immersion in human culture? This is not a question of being a biological ‘human’ mammal/primate, it is a question of defining humanness.

In this approach all technology (as techne – technique and all tools – conceptual or material) is human construction including: language; symbol systems; social constructs, values, beliefs, systems and structures; are culturally imbedded and define us as humans. Without such we are simply a form of biological primate, but not ‘human’.

The creation of such technology required effort, deferred gratification (sacrifice) to produce required surpluses of time, skill, knowledge, etc. in order to in turn produce the human-made tools (capital goods including the intangible, conceptual, social, psycho-social, intellectual, etc. goods).

Thus unlike the concepts of personnel and/or human resource which are embedded in the constructs of labor as a factor of production – human capital is embedded in a different factor of production expressing the necessary investments required for human creation of tools and capabilities. Without such ongoing investments (as opposed to costs) production itself is not sustainable nor even possible.

Human capital evokes the dialectical individual – humans creating tools that in turn create humanness and in this way integrates the frameworks of person as social construct and capital as human construct – and further both have similar entailments regarding property rights (and corresponding rights regimes).

Monday, November 2, 2009

Post-Halloween Monday.

Good morning world. I had a very successful Halloween this year although I think the H1N1 virus kept quite a few kids at home. Only had about 100 kids. But my pumpkins were the best yet, thanks to my son's designs. Check them out here: Halloween 2009.

I hope to keep up a regular blog, exploring the implications of network technologies for human capital in the 21st Century. I know Halloween pumpkins and network technologies and human capital?????

But the sad thing is a pumpkin artists life is a night of glory and a year of compost. So I had to mention this dimension of my own human capital acquisition.