Thursday, September 11, 2008

9/11/2008 - Political Elasticity

As is habit, here's an obligatory 9/11 blog post.

John Fleck has been blogging lately about elasticity, about how people are changing behaviors responding to the high price of gas. What's interesting is the range of successful options - biking is easy for short commutes (high elasticity). Public transportation is becoming more popular, meaning that the buses in Albuquerque are carrying more riders than ever, and that the demand is great than can currently be met (fairly high elasticity). People are looking at trains instead of flying for travel, and the rail system in this nation cannot possibly keep up for at least a year or two (low elasticity). Other people are looking at natural gas, given how cheap it is, and wondering why we don't have cars than can use it as fuel; others are just wondering why people aren't, all of a sudden, driving more fuel efficient cars. Specialized car production to meet this crisis is slow, lagging behind demand. For cars to adapt will take several years, and new fuels will take longer (low, very low elasticity). That's elasticity as it concerns travel and fuel costs among consumers in the US.

The elasticity that concerns 9/11 is with policy advisors. Condoleeza Rice is the latest in a long line of presidential cabinet members who grew up and academically came of age as Russia experts - the Cold War has produced professionals who are longer lived than their knowledge set. The best minds in US foreign policy for decades have been specialists on Russia.

Seven years after 9/11, I'm taking Arabic, History of Islam, and a class called "War on Terror". Those classes are bursting - they had to offer a new section of Arabic, and in a school that prides itself on small class size they cannot trim the numbers in these classrooms down below 25. Two years ago, when I took "Middle Eastern Culture and Civilization" at community college in New Mexico, the class was small, maybe 15 students. This sudden rush, this explosion of interest, is the political elasticity. Seven years after the fact we have responded to the crisis, and the crises that have emerged since then.

Here's hoping our knowledge is needed before this is all over.

Edit 9/11/2008: I've a more personal post about the day, and my reaction to it, up on livejournal.

No comments: