The military Accordion Theory - Economic version -1 reply

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jumjum

Write heavy; write hard.

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11th April 2005

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#1 10 years ago

In some studies of pre-modern military history (I think I've seen this in some of John Keegan's books), researchers sometimes look at the movements of large bodies or troops, and what factors were involved in how long it actually might have taken to get from Point A to Point B. The Accordion Theory deals with the fact that a body of troops can't be expected to arrive at Point B simultaneously - they couldn't even be expected to start marching at ther same time. This was because the troops almost always march/travel in long column rather than a broad line; and depending on how wide the route of march is, the column might be very, very long indeed.*

Even though at rest a column of troops, whether infantry or cavalry (or even in modern mechanized warfare with APCs and AFVs), may take up quite a long column. On the march the formation of troops might look like a very long snake, depending on how many troops, how narrow the passageways, the number of bottlenecks....and the natural "accordion effect" that any bodies of troops have when they follow one another. Like cars at a traffic light, even though they're jammed together bumper to bumper at the red light, when they go on green, they without fail start lagging and stretching out until the next red light, or when they get to their destination. So on the move it's often very hard to tell how many troops are moving: it might appear few indeed - until they get where they're going.

It's sort of like that with the economy. Certainly it's literally true with a merchant's inventory; meaning those things he has for sale: it's hard to get the real picture until all the merchandise has gotten in. And sometimes it really stacks up.

But I think it might be useful to look at it in the larger sense as well; meaning it's kind of hard to know the real state of things until they've all landed where they're supposed to go, and sit and wait.

So we might think, "Gosh, traffic isn't too bad right now. It's moving okay, no jams, no blocks, no wrecks. Maybe it's not nearly as bad as we've been told." But we may have overlooked the Accordion Theory, and maybe we haven't gotten a good view of what it looks like when the chickens come to the roost. And we forget to see what's is waiting for us after things have reached the end of the line. Sort of like in these pics, of a couple of the off-loading areas in the UK where imported vehicles are supposed to sit a little while before they get moved off to dealerships and sold to new-car buyers:

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In the famous Japanese "just in time" system of inventory, cars don't sit in inventory; they turn over almost instantly. These lots are supposed to be pretty much empty...if the march is still going and cars are being sold. But if the march has stopped, the accordion shuts off, and stuff backs up. And that is A Very Bad Thing.

Here's a gallery of such pics at other British car manufacturer and importer inventory lots: Growing stocks of unsold cars around the world | Business | guardian.co.uk.

I don't like doom-and-gloomsters. An economy is simply how a bunch of people think and act about their money, and I think we can needlessly and baselessly talk ourselves into a slump...or worse. But this is different. These pics constitute evidence which is telling us what will be happening in the very near future. Need I say things are going to get worse?

* For example, the marches of the warriors of the 16th-century Aztec ruler Moctezuma (Montezuma). Assuming Moctezuma wanted to travel the quickest way possible through almost impenetrable jungle, he would have marched his warriors on one of the few trails at hand. According to what I've read, hacking a broader path as they marched would not have been any quicker. So they had to walk (they did not have the wheel and no more than a few captured horses for many, many years after the conquistadors ) down the paths at two abreast - no more than three abreast - to get where Moctezuma wanted them. Because of this, it could take as many as three days to move a few thousand warriors a mere 20 miles away.




sheikyerbouti

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11th April 2008

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#2 10 years ago

Some interesting stuff Jum, You have my interest piqued in the subject but didn't the Aztecs have better roads? The Mayans certainly did, but anyways I thought Moctezuma's greatest mistake was harbouring himself in the lake of Mexico city (Tenochtitlan) and of course being held under such sustained siege conditions.




jumjum

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#3 10 years ago
sheikyerbouti;4777509Some interesting stuff Jum, You have my interest piqued in the subject but didn't the Aztecs have better roads? The Mayans certainly did, but anyways I thought Moctezuma's greatest mistake was harbouring himself in the lake of Mexico city (Tenochtitlan) and of course being held under such sustained siege conditions.

I haven't studied the Aztecs per se, other than reading Bernal Diaz del Castillo* and some general history of the Conquest, so can't say I know a whole lot. The accordion stuff I really can't recall where I picked it up, but what I do recall was reading that royal roads were not all that, and most certainly not in the jungle, which covered a whole lot of Aztec territory. Apparently the main roads, which took a lot of maintenance to just keep from being overgrown, was less than 6' across.

*Who really must be read to be believed, he is so honest about the viciousness of his Spanish comrades in dealing with the natives they encoutnered. He almost sounds like Monty Python parody: "After the battle we burned the women and chuildren alive and then held a Holy Mass, sang a Te Deum and thanked Our Lady for giving us this great victory over the heathens." That's hardly an exagerration.




Niam

Slightly cooler than a n00b

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7th October 2008

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#4 10 years ago

I'm pretty sure that until now we haven't seen the worst of the economic downturn. I don't know the numbers in the US, but the EU is going deep into recession this year. So stockpiles of unsold cars show indeed that the car industry wasn't able to adapt fast enough to slumping car sales, what you describe as accordeon theory. And thats a bad sign for many countries here, which rely heavily on their car industry. This year is going to be 'interesting'.




Moose12

I am also [130.Pz]Gef.Elche Pz

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6th December 2005

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#5 10 years ago

Just a curious questions, why do you post this stuff?




DerangedDingo

FH'in on 512MB of RAM since 05

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25th March 2008

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#6 10 years ago

Because it's quite telling information. Quite interesting, I think.

It's just a neat, intelligent, obscure pattern within the economy, and the stuff about Montezuma's downfall is just ordinary conversation.

That's why.




Tas

Serious business brigade

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4th September 2004

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#7 10 years ago
Moose12;4777593Just a curious questions, why do you post this stuff?

In order to depress and scare us. He is posting this all over the internet under several identities. He himself is one out of thousands of people doing the same on the internet and other communication media so that the economic depression is assured.




Eat Uranium

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12th July 2008

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#8 10 years ago

H'mm, that thing with the cars. If them being full means we are in a recession, then the recession has been going on for as long as I remember. That second picture looks very simmilar to one where the M4 goes over the River Avon. Thats allways been full every time I've been on holiday to Cornwall (and I've been there most years of my life).




stylie

Mas stylie por favor...

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13th April 2005

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#9 10 years ago

The Aztecs as we know, were hopeless romantics. And preferred the long stroll through the woodsy trail anyway. 3 abreast? I say two, hand in hand. Good thing they had a few friends on the way with similar interests. Then they got all sappy about their new infatuation with those armored sexy horsepeople ready to throw their coats over puddles and hold open limosine doors. Actually this is a very interesting point, the way jum drew a line to the economy. Jums, also factor in speculation. Now what do you have?




jumjum

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#10 10 years ago

Moose12;4777593Just a curious questions, why do you post this stuff?[/quote] Me? Well, if I find it interesting and/or useful, I assume at least some poor soul out in FH-land will too. It's a public service. ;) Did it scare you? I can give you the slight hope that 1) it's going to hit the UK a lot sooner than it hits the US, and 2) there's a good chance it won't be nearly as bad in the US as it will be in Europe. It's going to be truly stark there.

Eat Uranium;4777772H'mm, that thing with the cars. If them being full means we are in a recession, then the recession has been going on for as long as I remember. That second picture looks very simmilar to one where the M4 goes over the River Avon. Thats allways been full every time I've been on holiday to Cornwall (and I've been there most years of my life).

I hope for the UK's sake that is so.

[quote=stylie;4777792]The Aztecs as we know, were hopeless romantics. And preferred the long stroll through the woodsy trail anyway. 3 abreast? I say two, hand in hand. Good thing they had a few friends on the way with similar interests. Then they got all sappy about their new infatuation with those armored sexy horsepeople ready to throw their coats over puddles and hold open limosine doors. Actually this is a very interesting point, the way jum drew a line to the economy. Jums, also factor in speculation. Now what do you have?

Speculation is a red herring. It's meaningless. There's a lot of demagoguery going on about speculators somehow using magical spells to control markets. Those days went out with Diamond Jim Brady and Jim Fisk. Of course there was the Hunt Brothers in the early 80's who tried to corner the silver market, and bought up so damn much of it that silver doubled in price. But even the fabulously wealthy Hunt Brothers weren't big enough to corner a market and it collapsed around their heads - yes, it took some "investors" with them, but that's was a very small deal in the great scheme. Don't believe today's claptrap about how some vague "speculation" is responsible for this.

What we have here is gazillions in terribly bad loans were made to people who obviously had no hope of ever paying them off absent an economic equivalent of a them finding a genie in a bottle. And remember a whole hell of a lot of the stinker loans were ordered by Congress. When people default the loaners can't recover all of their loan amount. But they have a hell of a lot of overpriced property.

And the "romantic Aztec" - oooh, that's good.