Import Yeti
March 16, 2021 11:38 AM   Subscribe

 
For folks who might not have seen the paperwork that underpins import/export, just know that this is a very cool bit of work. Those records are many and varied, yea verily, and corralling them this way is a good trick.

My dad is in the business and only got rid of his Telex a few years ago. Plenty of carbonless forms still floating around on loading docks out there!
posted by wenestvedt at 12:00 PM on March 16 [2 favorites]


This is bonkers, just the sheer amount of data. Clicking around is nuts - from retailer to supplier and so on.
posted by jquinby at 12:04 PM on March 16 [2 favorites]


Yes, once in a while I will find something online that blows me away.. At a glance this appears to be a tremendous feat, I shared immediately with the millennial nephews because those wheeler-dealers might actually get some use of this sort of resource.
posted by elkevelvet at 12:11 PM on March 16 [1 favorite]


Well, this seems fun.
posted by Going To Maine at 12:13 PM on March 16


Now I just have to find the one where someone tried to import rocks as copper ingots.
posted by nat at 12:29 PM on March 16 [13 favorites]


Whenever I see things like this I can’t help but wonder what a centrally planned economy would look like with today’s level of networking, inter-connectivity and sheer volume of information. It’s fucking mind boggling that this is just out there and accessible.

It’d be interesting to see how these systems could be repurposed or reimagined within contexts other than capitalism.
posted by furnace.heart at 12:39 PM on March 16 [5 favorites]


Hmmm, I don't see info for the Medellin Cartel...
posted by PhineasGage at 12:45 PM on March 16 [2 favorites]


Whenever I see things like this I can’t help but wonder what a centrally planned economy would look like with today’s level of networking, inter-connectivity and sheer volume of information.

I think it would be (is?) somewhat like Amazon.

Also, this is a great way to find suppliers for retailers that sell mostly house brands. For example, Neuhaus, the high-end Belgian chocolatier, which has boutiques in places like Madison Avenue, also supplies Trader Joe's and Aldi.
posted by Mr.Know-it-some at 1:16 PM on March 16 [13 favorites]


> I can’t help but wonder what a centrally planned economy would look like with today’s level of networking, inter-connectivity and sheer volume of information
> how these systems could be repurposed or reimagined within contexts other than capitalism

Capitalism is heavily flawed. Decentralised planning is an important aspect of capitalism. But I don't think it follows that centralised planning is a good idea in practice:

S'pose, for argument's sake, we are trying to maximise some carefully-chosen societal objective, such as GDP, or average human happiness, or the number of humans who are simultaneously alive. With an abstract mathematical optimisation hat on, assuming we can get access to all the relevant data and build a sufficiently accurate model of the relevant parts of society, in theory we should be able to do a much better job at maximising our chosen objective if we think about all the decisions at once -- to globally optimise them -- rather than have different groups of people make local decisions in their local areas of control. Apart from unusual situations with particularly "easy" structures, locally optimal decisions generally lead to outcomes that are globally suboptimal. So from a theoretical perspective, central planning might look attractive. Francis Spufford's book Red Plenty is a great read about this -- soviet central planning & the development of linear programming, and the dream of optimising the economy of a whole country.

But, with a more pragmatic hat on, what if things go wrong with central planning? The bureaucracy in charge of central planning is a single point of failure.

A central bureaucracy can become crippled by rules or habits that prevent it from functioning effectively (e.g. Polish parliament, filibuster). If society doesn't have a way to get rid of a malfunctioning central planning committee, then what?

Or worse, the central bureaucracy is able to make decisions somewhat efficiently but alas, in fact it makes bad decisions that are harmful to people -- then due to the leverage of central planning, these harmful decisions are scaled up to efficiently harm many people at once. E.g. agriculture in the USSR. See also James C Scott's book Seeing Like a State.

Even if a central bureaucracy is staffed with benevolent technocrats, the idea of central planning is perhaps fundamentally authoritarian and undemocratic. People like to have input into decisions that impact them, to control the local environment and systems they interact with. A well-intentioned, efficient, effective system of central planning may be highly oppressive and inhumane if it removes people's freedom of choice and action.

As a single point of failure, a central bureaucracy can become subverted or corrupted -- s'pose the central planning committee ends up being harnessed to serve the aims of the glorious supreme president for life. Now what?

Having central planning may also make it harder to explore and try out experimental new ideas. If there's only one bureaucracy in charge of allocating funding for experiments, for example, you may be of luck if your experiment or expedition is in an area that is currently out of favour. But if there's a range of funders with different ways of operating or different areas of interests, if one funder is not interested there's still a chance that one of the other funders may understand what you are proposing and be willing to support it.

When might central planning actually make sense and offer some advantage over decentralised planning? Personally I reckon there's a case to be made for central planning and coordination in cases where there are problems with widespread negative externalities. E.g. climate change, being a global-scale tragedy of the commons problem, likely needs a globally coordinated solution. Once there's a globally coordinated solution in place, implementation of some of the details can be left to more decentralised mechanisms (e.g. leaving it up to markets to figure out how to react once a centrally-planned carbon tax is installed in enough countries, and sufficient anti-pollution regulations put in place).
posted by are-coral-made at 1:55 PM on March 16 [2 favorites]


Top 3 Apple Suppliers:

1. Hon Hai Precision Industrial... Shipments 1580. Seems legit.
2. Tech Com Shanghai Computer... Shipments 1524. Also legit.
3. Heineken Brouwerijen B V... wait, what? Shipments 341. That's a lot of lager.
posted by meehawl at 3:28 PM on March 16 [2 favorites]


I have a new recommendation for the next time my company tells us we should try to be more like Apple...
posted by Huffy Puffy at 3:34 PM on March 16


$260 billion a year can buy a lot of beer... things are going great, and they're only getting better
posted by RobotVoodooPower at 4:36 PM on March 16 [2 favorites]


3. Heineken Brouwerijen B V... wait, what? Shipments 341. That's a lot of lager.

If you dig into the data, its' pretty obvious Heineken sometimes puts a variation of Strongbow Apple Cider as the vendor for stuff shipped to it's NJ port, and the aggregator is confused.
posted by sideshow at 5:09 PM on March 16 [2 favorites]


Heineken sometimes puts a variation of Strongbow Apple Cider as the vendor for stuff shipped to it's NJ port

It's called suspension of disbelief. Why must you ruin the magic?
posted by meehawl at 6:15 PM on March 16 [1 favorite]


This wasn't meant as a derail, but I should at least clarify that I'm not saying "Woah look at this technology, central planning would be better now, LETS GO!!!" but more "I would like to see some well developed speculative fiction on current technology levels and what central planning would looks like given what we do today."

Huge public datasets like this are kind of rare to see out in the wild in an accessible format, and I generally don't have the brain for large abstract systems, so its always interesting to see these kinds of things in a way that illustrates just how fucking much indexable information we have floating around our lives all the time.

I am really curious though how we can use datasets and massive volumes of information in completely non-capitalistic ways...or how just having these large datasets

Just a human, awestruck at our ability to quantify and index and move shit around with our fancy little tools.
posted by furnace.heart at 6:57 PM on March 16 [2 favorites]


My wife runs a manufacturing/importing small business , and it's missing ~90% of her shipments. Still interesting though.

The FAQ videos explain all the reasons why there might be missing data, not sure which is the culprit here.
posted by escher at 8:50 AM on March 17 [2 favorites]


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