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Steve Knaub

Steve Knaub

Welcome! I'm Steve, and this is an introduction to who I am and the subjects I hope we can explore together.

I am an architect. I've designed buildings large and small from New Jersey to Colorado - even a little work in Kabul, Afghanistan. Architecture can be described as an intersection of art and science. Naturally, art, science and their various combinations are subjects we can share and critique. Local construction, published architecture, policy, culture, product design, interactive entertainment, film, television, literature, among others, can create possible discussions.

I'm also a cyclist, pedestrian, train passenger, and, when I can't do the preceding, I'm a motorist. In the acts of design or critique, I consider human rights, needs, and experiences higher than other considerations.

I like big ideas. Architects are problem solvers. We work at a limited scale, usually from the skin of a building in, somewhat less often to the extents of a site boundary, and sometimes at the small scale of the size of an individual beam. Finding solutions is gratifying - and necessary to fulfill a contract and collect a fee. There are larger issues that can be and need to be solved. While I'm not a fan of deconstructivist architecture, there is much taken at face value in philosophy and economics that should be deconstructed and subjected to the rules of cogent reasoning and to mathematics.

Lastly, I've said "we" a few times. I hope this can be a conversation with YOU!

There is increasing hand-wringing about economics, seemingly from all directions. There are masses of poor who say they don't have enough, up to the petite billionaires who say, or their actions say, they don't have enough.

While we are part of nature's economy, most of our talk is about the economy we have made. There is reason for this. There is little to complain about, and to whom do we complain, about the laws of physics or the extent of natural resources? However, our monetary economies are a very different story.

Monetary economies are human machinations. You are probably familiar with the term “promissory note”. Money, itself, is an abstraction, a promise. To say it plainly, it is an IOU; it is pretend. Because of this, money has no power apart from the state (the government). Monetary economies are inextricably linked to government, and thusly, to policy and politics.

While money gains its value and power from the state, there are forces that, with some irony, increasingly want government out of money or economics. Like biologists study the ‘invisible hand of nature”, these non-interventionists revere the “invisible hand of the market”, treating the monetary economy as a natural system, and wishing to eschew human agency, or intervention, within that system. While it may not be their end-goal, and they may not know why, they report that good-times for the wealthy equal corollary good-times for the poor, and vice versa – the “trickle-down effect.” “Trickle-down” is justified by its proponents as an anecdote to their ideological imperative of “free-market.” While the term “trickle-down” is often maligned, and its purveyors present it based on their feelings or predictions, there is very sound logic behind it.

Nature shows us with great, testable, consistency, that its varying economic or resource conditions affect proportionally the most advantaged and disadvantaged organisms. Regardless of the size of the resources within a group, there is a scientifically-observable ratio of productivity and resource distribution. This is Pareto Efficiency or the 80-20 rule.

Pareto Efficiency is observable in myriad systems: worker productivity, sports performance, word use, internet traffic, event probability, nearly every system that represents an economy…most importantly nature. And, it is the best, most rational, justification for acceptance of a market-monetary-economy, as just and beneficial. I believe it is also a mechanism through which to scientifically determine economic injustice.

While economic injustice is palpable to most of us, through observation or our experiences, our inability to truly define it, to measure it, stalls meaningful discussion. It remains an anecdote that is accepted or rejected along ideological lines.

These thoughts were brought to my mind, again today, by a thoughtful comedian. Mr. Brand, like most of us, can sense that something is wrong (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3YR4CseY9pk). He knows that monetary economies and politics can’t be separated. But, the gut-knowledge of compassionate people is not now, if it ever was, enough. He, you, I, should be able to state, without equivocation, that something is wrong, something is immoral, when 95% of new resources go to just 1% of the population (http://www.businessinsider.com/95-of-income-gains-since-2009-went-to-the-top-1-heres-what-that-really-means-2013-9).

If there is a way to measure economic justice, we must find it and prosecute it. I propose as a starting point, that, if the resource curve isn’t 80-20, or flatter, the economy is not just. It is unnatural. It is oppression.