u.s. Technological,Economic,and SociaDevelopme for the21stCentury
revolutionized key segmentsof the communicationsindustry and serve to illustratethe generalthrustof this sector:large-scal integratedcircuits, which sharplyreducedthe costof processingand storingmessagescommunications satellites,which offer efficient, high-capacitydistributionof signals;andcom- puternetworks,which transmitmessageanddatainstantaneously.As oneob- servernoted:
If the motorcar of 1950hadfollowed the sameline of developmenas thetransistorandits micro-circuit successorsi,t would now costless thana cent and bethe sizeof the thimble (Vedin, 1978,p. 16).
F. Power: Adaptation Lag
So muchhasbeenwritten aboutthechangedenergyworld after 1973thatone oftenwondersif anythingof merit canbeadded.Forthepurposesat hand,only two statementsneedto be made. First, the U.S. has not shown,in the period 1973-85,the commitmentneede to cometo termswith anyone of thenumer- ous aspectsof the problem. Second,energy(oil or BTU equivalentin other sourcesof power) has becomesignificantlymore expensiverelative to other meansof productionin the 1973-85 period, comparedto the pre-1973era.
Of particular concernin the contextof this analysisis the way the needto "rewire" most of the Americaneconomy,to introduceeither more energy- efficientmachinesor machinesthatusesourcesof energyotherthanoil, affects the availability of capital for otherpurposes.Since most Americanmachines weredesigned,developed,mass-produceda,ndplacedwhenenergy-especially oil-was cheap,theytendto be energy-inefficienandoftenoil-dependent.This puts greatpressureon producer (as well asconsumers,asownersof autos,air conditioning,appliances,etc.)to replacemachineryandequipmenevenif it is not otherwiseobsolete.This generate the needfor large-scalecapitaloutlays. Forexample,commerciajets byandlargearenotobsoletebut mustbereplaced becaus theyarefuelinefficient. Early in 1981,DeltaAir Linesaloneplannedto spendabout$7 billion overa IS-yearperiodfor fuel-savingplanes(Pace,1981).
G. Legal/FinanciaIlnstitutions Turn Constrictive
In the goldenageof consumptio and socialservicesthe institutionalcontext grewlesssupportiveto production,andmoreinclinedto imposenoneconomic priorities onprivatemarketdecision-making.Thepaceandscopeof thegovern- ment's regulatoryapparatus,alreadydiscussedin the contextof its effectson R&D, sinl.ilarlyrestrictedall othereconomicactivity. The numberof regulatory agenciesgrewfrom abouta dozenbefore1930to 58 by 1979.By thelate 1970s, completingthe morethan4,000 differentformsrequiredto complywith federal regulationswas said to be eating up over 140million hoursof executiveand clerical effort eachyear (U.S. ExecutiveOffice of the President,1978).