Thursday, October 21, 2010

Not So Brave New World

Let’s begin with the good news.
In thirty years The West Bank will be firmly established as an independent nation. Israel and Hamas will be involved in meaningful negotiations regarding Gazan independence. U.S. per capita consumption of meat and energy will have fallen precipitously. Urban sprawl in the U.S. will be greatly decreased. There will be a marked increase in support for third parties including both Green and Socialist. American military spending will have decreased in real terms. American military bases will have decreased by at least fifty percent. The relative position of American freedom ratings will remain largely unchanged. China through adoption of coal gasification and green energy will have greatly improved it’s air quality.
Now the bad news:
All of the above will have occurred due to the decline of the United States. Wages will have continued their decline. The American Middle Class will have become a small portion of the population. Infrastructure outside the cities will generally decline although roads to agra farms will remain in good condition. South to South trade will dominate. The dominant navy in the world will be the People’s Republic of China. Coal burning fuel plants in the growing economies of the Southern Hemisphere will have increased overall carbon production and global warming will have accelerated.
This has been my vision of the future of the United States for at least a year. Indeed I have been considering this article for months but I have been waiting. I was waiting for Robert Reich’s new book. Well, Aftershock has come out and as expected it is brilliant. Robert Reich has identified the mechanism that is destroying the United States and it is income inequality. Honestly I had not realized how incredibly important an issue that is.
Around page twenty one of Mr. Reich’s book is a graph. It shows income inequality which reached a height in 1928 and again in 2007 (the last available year for such figures) In searching for a word to my reaction to that graph I can only say I was nonplussed. I had to look it up to make sure I got that right. To cause to be at a loss as to what to say, think, or do.
Robert Reich the eternal American Optimist has a vision and a solution. He warns the upper classes that they are not well served by this new order. The lack of income distribution means that the middle and lower classes will cease to be significant consumers and that thus the American economy cannot recover. He warns of political instability. He warns of an end to democracy.
What Mr. Reich believes is that the upper classes will see be concerned about their own interest and will embrace a new politics. They will demand courageous leadership. They will embrace a new tax structure and we will once again invest in the United States to restore our middle class and our stable democracy.
When I was in college I wrote a paper concerning the writings of Robert Heilbronner and Paul Ralph Ehrlich. They warned of energy shortages, food shortages, depleted oceans, global warming and nuclear proliferation and a young radicalized third world. They were opposed by Pollyannaish conservatives who had written everything’s gonna be all right. I could easily see the fallacy of the right but my young mind was unwilling to accept the dark future predicted by the good doctors. I wrote that the fact that we had been warned was in fact that which should give us hope. Surely people would not allow these things to happen. My apologies to the good doctors because there has been no change of course and though delayed,much of what they predicted has come to pass.
I have participated in discussions of the decline of the U.S. on Linkedin and from what I can tell the business class is unconcerned. Several have stated correctly that in a Free Market World Economy smart business people can thrive regardless of where economic activity occurs. Some have expressed concern that South to South trade is unlikely to rise to the level of economic activity previously provided by American consumerism. Generally though the feeling is even if the ship goes down there will be an ample supply of luxury life boats for those who can afford them.

Those of you who are reading this and reject my pessimism I thank you. Go read Mr. Reich’s book and armed with his knowledge and arguments change the world. We need you. I am just a little tired.

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