No Monopoly on Dark Matter

I’ve been giving additional thought to the Dark Matter debate recently.

One of the flaws in the entire concept has been the unspoken assumption that the US is running a surplus of the magical dark stuff. But as long as we are entertaining this unsupported theory, let’s consider another possibility. How much "unmeasurable" Dark Matter might other nations have?

To pursue this line of thought, we need to quantify the "creation and marketing of knowledge," as BusinessWeek put it. In their laudatory article, they wrote "After
all, we’re talking about intangibles: brand equity, the development of
talent, the export of best practices.

Which leads us to an obvious question:  Why isn’t Dark Matter a Two-Way Street? Does the US have a monopoly on Dark Matter?

I suspect not.

Consider the vaunted efficiency of Toyota of Japan. Their Camry has been the top selling sedan in the U.S. for the past umpteen years. Toyota builds them here — but the US plants cannot satisfy all the domestic demand for the car, so they also export them here from Japan. Despite its status as a best seller, the Japanese engineers are relentless. They recently figured out how to manufacture the Camry engines for less than half the prior costs. Oh, and its has more horsepower — and better gas mileage — than the prior engine; with fewer parts, its also even more reliable.

Dark matter, anyone?

How about India’s technological adaptability? They have the ability to ramp up in practically any knowledge field — from tax accounting to reading MRIs to doing stock financial analysis to writing software code to tech support. Their University system creates engineers by the truckload, who are willing to work at very modest wages compared to those here in the US. What would you call the capability to find a profitable niche, exploit it, attract capital, corporate sponsorship, investment, talented personnel and management? If that’s not Dark Matter, what is?

How about the China’s low costs? A front page WSJ article reported recently that "Multinational companies, drawn by a huge and inexpensive talent pool, are pouring money into research and development in China — a trend that promises to broaden the country’s huge role in the global economy." How would the Harvard boys describe this ability to attract foreign-investment?  Do the letters DM provide a clue?

India and China are just the tip of the Dark Matter iceberg. Consider the following nations’ "Dark Matter" advantages — their intangibles — that may not show up in their GDP data: How about Italy’s preeminent design capabilities? From automobiles to appliances to clothing to art, Italy is the world’s most sought after design studio. Is that Dark Matter? What about France’s role of global tastemaker for food, wine, fashion? And Great Britain’s culture of maturity, independence and business savvy? How do we measure Denmark’s consistently top ranked satisfaction levels amongst its population? The list goes on and on.

When I look at it objectively, I find the Harvard analysis to be only so much primate chest beating.

And that’s before we get to the really really ugly question:  What if we have a deficit of Dark Matter also . . . ?


Toyota’s ‘Simple Slim’ Cuts Costs of Camry Engines 50 Percent
John Lippert
Bloomberg, Feb. 21 2006

Low Costs, Plentiful Talent Make China a Global Magnet for R&D
WSJ, March 13, 2006; Page A1

Thanks to Detroit, China Is Poised to Lead
NYT, March 12, 2006

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Lately, I have been noticing that many economists, analysts and strategists have been having some sly fun by naming their research after songs.

My own contributions to the space have been the past two commentaries: Bad Moon Arising, and Been Down So Long (It looks like up to me).

But I also noticed that John Roque’s past two comment’s were titled BRIC House, and R-E-S-P-E-C-T. AndMorgan Stanley asked: Will the Real Slim Saving Rate Please Stand Up?

Most of these players came of age during the Golden Age of Rock-N-Roll (Disco era aside) in the 60s, 70s, and 80s. I’m bettting that most of this crew (present company included) are in their 30s or 40s.

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