[OPE-L:2248] Re: Socialism, motor cycles and innovation

From: Steve Keen (s.keen@uws.edu.au)
Date: Wed Jan 19 2000 - 17:29:55 EST

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I stand (or sit?) corrected. I also recall that it was said of a Kossack
that it was a cheap alternative to a tractor--try plouging a field with a

But the non-innovation issue, I think, is still generally correct, in the
sense that Mike(?) pointed out that while structured innovation did occur,
it was very hard to get firms to adopt this when their financial rewards
were dependent on meeting physical output quotas.

I have no doubt that an inspiring social system will lead engineers to be
truly creative; the problem is in translating that through into
manufacturing. The appearance and then decline of innovations like the one
you mention sound a bit like feudal China, which originated so much
technology, and then let it decay.

At 07:57 PM 1/19/00 -0000, you wrote:
>Steve writes [OPE 2165]:
>[>] Firms respond by attempting to conserve resources, which
>in addition to hoarding behaviour, encourages non-innovation: the easiest
>way to produce the allocated number of motor-cycles is to produce more of
>last year's model, as any purchaser of a "Cossack" (otherwise known as a
>1942 BMW) would know.
>If only... The Russians copied the general layout, but unfortunately not the
>build quality. Incidentally, since I notice that in OPE 2181 the BMWs have
>regressed to 1936 models, I'd point out that 1942-type BMWs (i.e. military
>models) were phased out in favour of Kubelwagen, the latter being cheaper to
>make, easier to maintain, and more effective; the Allies likewise gave up
>bikes in favour of Jeeps.
>More generally, this industry is not the most fortunate example to pick to
>make this point; while the Russian bike industry had a pretty woeful record,
>this emphatically wasn't true of that in the DDR.
>There the MZ factory was a pioneer of modern two-stroke technology and swept
>the board in a variety of competitive disciplines -- road racing,
>moto-cross, etc. -- until their star road-race rider defected to the West
>(to Suziki, in fact, who promptly copied -- NOT developed -- it).
>Speaking as a satisfied customer, their road bikes were also pretty
>effective in their intended role (and were also developed down the years,
>although not at the frenetic -- and wasteful? -- pace of western factories).
>If anything, the main criticism one might make (from a "western"
>perspective) was that they were over-engineered, with needlessly
>highly-specified materials, finishes, etc. At any rate, they seem impervious
>to rust, etc.
Dr. Steve Keen
Senior Lecturer
Economics & Finance
University of Western Sydney Macarthur
Building 11 Room 30,
Goldsmith Avenue, Campbelltown
PO Box 555 Campbelltown NSW 2560
s.keen@uws.edu.au 61 2 4620-3016 Fax 61 2 4626-6683
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Home Page: http://bus.macarthur.uws.edu.au/steve-keen/
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