Readers have noticed that I have several times presented glimpses of what I think the future will be long after we all are dead. This in science fiction (which I do not write) is, of course, a huge theme. Most of the sci-fi I have brought myself to read proposes either a totally dystopian human future or one that is optimistically stretched out into space colonies or other worlds of some sort. There is also a lot of sci-fi which postulates that humans will devolve into various tribes (once again) and these to be based on culture and ethnicity more than anything else. Looking at the past as a broad sweep of history, one can easily see that possibility. Tribes have been spreading over the entire world for centuries. Countries and ethnicities have come and gone. One of the most interesting things one can do is to view page after page of European-Asian historical maps and see the inevitable migration of tribes. One view of Western history is that up until the advent of feudalism and eventually "countries," there was very little except tribal migration and displacement. But even today we are viewing the gradual shift of what we think are established populations. The most dramatic of these is probably in North America, which is inexorably Hispanifying, whether we like it or not. My own center of commercial interest, Africa, is rapidly changing too. The versatility and appeal of Islam is spreading today toward the center and south of Africa at a pace that rivals some of the great Islamic successes of the past. I realize that most of my readers will probably not read this post and most certainly have not thoroughly read Hitler's Mein Kampf, as I did several times as a teenager. Hitler does a lot of ranting. That is well-known, but in advocating his wish for the Germanic tribe to conquer and dominate other so-called countries, he makes the point that (paraphrase) "A given land space has never been the sole property of the race which dominates it now. Germany was not always Germany. France not always France. Property changes hands over time." Hitler used this argument again and again to justify his conquest for German Lebensraum and noted that it was a natural process, which history---like it or not---shows that it most certainly is. So in taking account of many possible futures, the idea of national migration and displacement to the point of Balkanization is always a viable theme.
Also as a teenager, I was drawn briefly to the ideas of Filippo Tommaso Marinetti (1876-1944), the great Italian-French Futurist, who began a movement which strongly influenced Italian Fascism, which itself along with French Fascism long preceded anything developed in Germany. The Germans were directly impacted by Mussolini, who himself was directly derivative of Charles Maurras and the Action Française movement in France. There were many other 19th and early 20th Century "fascist-type" movements, most being predicated on the destruction of an old order and replacing it with a new one---in culture, architecture, social organization and moral values.
In summary, Marinetti and his followers felt that a total cleansing of the West was necessary to advance human development and move into a different and better future. It may not be known to many Americans that a lot of ordinary Europeans have always loathed the architectural relics of the past (the ones tourists flock in to see), the ancient castles, cathedrals, town halls, etc. In France, for example, it is common to hear people say "Nous vivons sur une veuve." This saying expresses a youthful disdain for the fact that France, having a over-long history, cannot escape from the Gothic shadows of its distant Celtic and Gothic past. The expression means "We are living on a widow." That is one attitude that may surprise many Americans. The Germans were extremely impressed with the Modern Architectural Movement in all of its trappings, a good example is the influence of Mies van der Rohe and the Bauhaus: modern materials, glass and steel, bareness of design, functionality, modernism. Marinetti in his famous Futuristic Manifesto (1908) praised the deliberate destruction of "vielles pierres" (old stones), which is still today what many young-thinking Europeans call the very tourist attractions which draw visitors from the New World. In one particularly trenchant passage, Marinetti attacked the squalor and decrepitness of Venice, an Italian icon, and said that the great cathedrals, etc. should be reduced to rubble to fill the "stinking" canals to create a new Venice super state which could dominate the Adriatic with its modernism alone.
So, in short, a respect for history and its remnants is not a universal human thought. Many Futurists, past and present, were totally for the destruction of all social institutions and their landmarks (ex: castles, bridges, etc.) One possible future would therefore involve the violent destruction of the past. Marinetti was over-fond of violence and believed that "war cleansed." One of the reasons for the unrestrained ardor of the First World War was the belief, held mostly by youth, that a horrible war would bring forth a new and "cleaner" future for mankind.
In attempting Futuristic thought, therefore, one must not rule out the deliberate destruction of modern technologies in favor of a kind of "starting over," as proposed by Marinetti, among others.
Another attempt at guessing the human future would be to extrapolate the present. This is what economists attempt to do every day. We attempt to look at what we think are the most important ongoing trends of the present and see where they might lead. Unfortunately, most economists tend to turn away from pluralism toward a kind of tribal Balkanization. In fact, many feel that pluralism has run its course, been tried and failed. It may not be a pleasant thought, but the reality still remains. It does not appear at any point in history that vastly diverse cultures can live side by side with one another, and if they can, the best vehicle for this has always been through Islam. Over the centuries, Islam achieved more geographical pluralism than any other single culture, and it has that appeal and capacity today. Islam has always historically ignored all forms of ethnicity, which is one reason why it can spread so rapidly. The Ottoman Empire was essentially Musulman, but no empire on Earth ever rivaled it for its ethnic and social diversity. The only thing which destroyed the Ottomans was the need for national identities to emerge, which grew to a critical point during the last half of the 19th Century. Unlike the Ottoman Empire, the American Empire and the Soviet Empire have shown signs of crumbling for many years, and, of course, in name the Soviets have been Balkanized for a lot of years now, even though the Russians maintain their culture and economic sway in the former republics.
So what will the future be when we are dead? No one can say for sure. Marinetti was convinced that the revival of the basic human spirit, the vril in some cultures, would sweep away the old. "If only people did not have to look at the Colosseum," he once said, "the young would not be so influenced by the phantasms of the past." A view of the future, therefore, could be postulated by a forthcoming generation that totally and completely erases the influence of received history. As Marinetti said, this would require "bonfires and war." But the cleansing would be there at the end.
Sci-fi writers propose worlds to come in which technology either dominates or is marginalized. It is true today that technology has maybe crossed a line which divorces it from its personal and utilitarian use. We may well see many a revolt against the superfluous in commercial technology. Ex: Where are we going with all this connectivity in telephonics?
Likewise with politics. Are we getting anywhere with all this totally phony "participation?" Many people have seen the sterility of ideas like democracy and public based governance. I was not so far off when I had a forward-looking power group put a king in charge of a new territory and government. They chose the king unwisely, but still the notion that absolute monarchy created the most stable nation-states on Earth remains. Kings and tribal leaders are not an impossibility in the human future.
Extrapolation into a distant future most usually goes wrong. There was no reason, for example, to believe in 1900 that the railroads of North America would not continue to be in the vanguard of commercial expansion, but then someone came up with a personal transportation device, and pavement had to be laid everywhere. When you drive on the expressway, remember that 90% of what you see being carried by huge and murderous trucks was supposed to have been delivered to market by trains according to the seers of the past. This is just one example. We take trucks and their utility for granted, but it was not always so, and is not so in another possible version of an alternate route we could have taken.
Lifespan and eventual sterility seem to go hand in hand as well. Medicine proposes ways to make us live longer, but society has not changed to accommodate this increased longevity, except in negative ways. Volontary euthanasia has never been out the question for the future. Neither has volontary sterility of certain ethnicities, like the Caucasian race, which seems to be actively involved in erasing itself as we speak.
I maintain that visionary writers, as I would like to be, look at different alternatives for the future other than space colonization, flying cars, and the like. Population shift on a massive level and Balkanization according to ethnicity and culture seem to be the most likely outcomes, given what we see today.
Extrapolate into the future, and you have gotten into a sticky mess. Many have gone totally wrong in this endeavor.
But it is, admittedly, an exciting mental activity.
Devon3/7/2011 . Edited 3/7/2011 #1
Some excellent observations, Devon. You raise many good points.
I think that most projections of the future are based more on what the writer subconsciously either hopes or fears will happen, rather than a dispassionate projection of a likely outcome. You see that on the forums all the time, where any discussion of future events tends to be dominated by various gloom and doom scenarios. A lot of that is based on fear motivated by uncertainty. There is no question that we live in an age of social upheaval and the lifestyle that many Americans took for granted for at least the last few generations seems increasingly under threat. You touched on that in your prior comments on 'downscaling'. With no obvious light at the end of the tunnel, it is understandable that some are preoccupied with worst-case scenarios.
There's something else going on there too, and some of it ties in to what you are saying. Put bluntly, I think a lot of the people today are actually hoping subconsciously (and some even consciously) for a collapse of civilization, precisely because they feel displaced or threatened by the type of societal change that you describe. You have to figure that a lot of these people are middle-class white guys. The type who were pretty well positioned under the 'old' social order and have experienced the biggest decline in their own status in recent years due to factors such as outsourcing of manufacturing jobs and Hispanic immigration, i.e., having been replaced in one way or the other by 'cheap labor'. A large group of fundamentally self-reliant types who find themselves at the mercy of forces beyond their control. "Civilization" isn't doing much for them at the moment, and they'd just as soon be rid of it, even if it means a return to Wild West style anarchy. Many would prefer that, I think, to the prospect of a continued gradual decline in their standard of living coupled with a lifetime of debt slavery, because at least then they would feel more in control of their own destiny. I'd also include in this category the more religiously-minded individuals who, based on their ingrained belief system, are increasingly uncomfortable with the course of the modern world. They long for the apocalypse so that their god can swoop down from heaven and save them. So, to that extent a lot of the projections of "doom" might actually represent wishful thinking!
Yours is obviously a more reasoned approach, based on historical analysis and extrapolations based on present trends, and I would consider it more of an educated guess than a prediction. Of course there is always the unknown to consider. Unexpected events happen all the time and can have a dramatic impact. With the rate technology is advancing, what look like insurmountable problems today may one day be seem trivial. I think one of the greatest and most revolutionary developments in modern history is the internet itself, and its full impact on society has yet to be felt.3/8/2011 #2
@both Devon and Martin:
My hand is getting better, and I can write more. But still not a lot. I wanted to say that I really enjoyed both of your posts on this thread. It is a fascinating subject. We in ad-com also try to make extrapolations for the products and services we hype. We have made some dreadful decisions over the years too. Both of you have written some well thought out and educated predictions. I can remember when no agency could ever land a contract from the early PC producers like Atari and Commodore. The makers just felt their product would have a very restricted market and that costs would prohibit the average consumer from buying much other than smaller products that supported mostly games like Pac Man or that ping pong thing. In the big agency I worked for in the early 80s, they thought PC type products were poison, and any small jobs that came in for them were immediately turned over to interns and student workers. "Important" (lol) people like me were told to stick with where the money was, like SoftSoap, etc. I go back even farther when snowmobiles were first coming out. The agencies wouldn't touch them. They called them children's toys and fads. We were hard at work promoting 20 speed bikes--which turned out to be the real fads. A sister agency of mine got a bid to promo GI Joe when he first appeared. I remember their ad-reps saying GI Joe was far too "faggy" to interest boys of any age. The commercial future is really hard to predict. Some of my old colleagues who are still working full time reminded me of how the Sonic drive-in chain could not get one agency to take it. "No one will ever return to stupid drive-ins," they said. Then I remember in 2000 the absolute and total frenzy that went down about that stand up scooter thing (forget name). The agencies were so excited about it that some offered to promo it for free on a ten year returns contract. Now you never hear about the things any more. Nice writing from both of you. I wish we had more of these threads. Guess I'm just an old fogey who likes substance, lol.3/9/2011 . Edited 3/9/2011 #3
"Geography itself influences and, in turn, is influenced by the legal regime in place."
Geographic separatism in a multi-cultural society has been practiced repeatedly thru the centuries, whether via castle walls or via satellite eyes. As the world's total liveable landmass becomes smaller and smaller due to the rising of the water, I can easily imagine local pockets (previously setup) by those with big armies. The same ones, those who have purposely promoted divisions between people and fostered the growth and festering of inequities, already their maps are marked out, delineated, for the future re-conquest.
Without respect for ALL of the human family, any cleansing, whether by war or natural causes, will not, in my opinion, ever allow for freedom, justice. and peace on Earth.
Devon, damn you! lol You made me learn.
I spent 2 days reading...from site to site... history of Fascism, the Futurist's manifestos, the German policy on 'degenerate art'...watched two movies.
Seems to me that the so-called failure of the Fascist Futurist was in fact a huge success.
As an aside concerning Islam ~ the horrendous crimes against females committed by Islam will eventually come back to bite them on the ass. I'm most certainly not happy when looking at a possible Islamic future. I won't wear a black burka and lose my clitoris to the knife.3/9/2011 #4
It's good to hear that your hand is getting better. If you're anything like me, you probably finished whatever job it was you were doing before seeking medical attention and paid for it later!
It seems to me that in advertising you are uniquely situated when it comes to future projections. Not only do you have to try and extrapolate consumers' demands by analyzing whatever is popular at a given moment, but you are also trying to actively shape the future by influencing their decisions. Isn't a lot of that business really at least an attempt at a subtle form of mind control? Convincing people that they need things that they don't actually need? Or, put another way, creating the perception of a void that can only be filled by whatever it is that you are trying to promote? To what extent do you feel that successful advertising campaigns are actually responsible for creating societal trends?3/9/2011 #5
Based on what limited contact I've had with Muslims, it seems to me that a surprising number of women in those cultures actually are fully accepting of things like burkas and even genital manipulation. I'm not trying to suggest that these are good things! Again, I think it comes down to a question of perception management. They are trained from birth to accept that that is the way things are supposed to be and as long as they remain culturally segregated I'm not sure that is going to change any time soon.3/9/2011 #6
I'm glad you liked this. Your observations are not lost either. I do believe in a future where "white men strike back," and it may not be pretty. Your way of putting it is best. "Civilization is not working for them." A classic line! There is something in the Euro make up that has always made them the pathfinders and the conquerors. Maybe it is due to the ultra-tribal nature of pre-national Europe. The multi-invasive Asian migratory tribes, etc. Anyway, I can tell you that Africans, for an example that I know well, do not function very well as loners. Our Wild West cowboy types always have, and that was necessary for settling the West in both Europe and N. America. I think the Little House on the Prairie scenario as an idealism works only for those of European descent. Of course, we can also trace the desires of the religious for a god-orchestrated cataclysm that will sweep away the many evils they always perceive around them. These Armageddon death wishes which you describe were extremely evident in the years prior to 1914 in Europe. It is irrefutable that the Great War came as a great pleasure to many people.
Another point you raise is the extrapolation of the possibilities of the Internet. It is, of course, tantamount to a huge societal change like the automobile was. Television seemed to follow a calmer and more natural transition from radio. The telephone seamlessly replaced the telegraph [incidentally the history of the telegraph reads a lot like the recent history of the Internet]. Television and radio were never interactive. The Internet is. I've read a lot of moaning over the years about its wasted educational potential. I've never bought into that. I do not believe that education has ever taken precedence over entertainment, and I would bet that the number of raw porn sites outnumber the purely educational sites and always will. But I find that natural in human nature. I don't know where all this "connectivity" is going. There are so many things we take for granted on the Internet now. It has a lot of bad information, but a lot of good too, and the present generation seems to have found out how to separate the two when needed. In all, we seem to be "absorbing" the Internet, awesome as it is. There is a tendency for humans to assimilate even the vastest wonders that come from technology. I have never given the telephone or the television a second thought in my life, even though I have no idea whatsoever how either of them work and don't need to. I have done enormous tasks with the Internet, which now is a staple in my work, without ever having the slightest notion of what a bit or a byte is. In fact, I am deaf to computerese. I have no idea what tech-types are talking about, and I realize that I don't really need to. Their vocabulary and language is just white noise to me, and yet I use the Internet every day, and extensively at that. So, I have trouble extrapolating the future of the Internet except as a fixture in every life. Television went from 2 channels (in France) to hundreds of channels, but few people care except those who want a television bombardment. In all, I see the Internet the way you do, but I do not see it evolving into anything other than what it is only with more buttons and dials.
I'm glad you appreciated this. So I got you to study some more stuff. I know you like that. In my post, I do not really praise the cultural aspects of Islam other than to mention that it is and was an incredible vehicle for both proselytizing and absorbing diversity. That is why it is moving so fast today. The suppression of women is, as Martin notes, readily accepted by many Musulman women because that is all they know. They don't see female circumcision as mutilation either, any more than we do with male circumcision. The Islamic mind is both keen and backward at the same time. They could have led civilization at one point, and almost did. It is easy to postulate in another timeline the Arabs being the first in space, as they were in medicine and science for many centuries. The hijab mentality is promoted mostly by women who volontarily hide themselves in a public setting. The biggest protesters now in France against the new laws against the hijab are the women themselves. It is very hard to look into the wellsprings of another culture, and Islam is very well established and has a history that to Arabs is exemplary of far more good than bad. We need to accept that before trying to live in harmony with them.
Glad you are recovering and welcome back. Liked your follow-up on my post. Good examples straight from your experience. Bet you have a few more too!! We both focus on the commercial future, which is I think correct. Mankind has really defined itself on possessions more than on anything else. Econ is all about the distribution of goods, and advertising plays an enormous role in this. As Martin says, advertising has no doubt shaped a lot of our needs and wants. We know that nothing---nothing---sells itself. That is a big social myth. Even the most important and essential goods need to be promoted. Actually, your role in econ is the most essential, and any economist can tell you that. We realize that your role is not to sell to those who have already been sold, but to focus on the future and upcoming generations. In fact, we even have a slang term for it: The Cigarette Theorem, which says that all branding, like cigarette branding, must target the future consumer rather than the present consumer. So a vast amount of commercial research is done on pre-teens and even real little kids. I suppose you know that. This is one reason I have tried to portray a group of eleven-twelve year olds and their "revolutionary" ideas with the Plus Sized Club. It comes straight out of econ---and I suppose advertising. Thanks for your contribution to this topic. Try to write more if your hand allows you.
To all: Of course this thread is a call for futuristic projections on your part. Do you have any? We have all stated what we think is currently important in the world of the present. But what will the world of tomorrow be like in specific? In every story, I work on that.
Who knows how long this forum will stand, but while it does we could posit some of our prognostications.
Do it if the mood strikes you. Be totally free in your thoughts.
Here is a very BORING prediction from me: I think that the anti-plastic revolution in the developed West (and there is one) is going to create a resurgence of something from the pre-plastic era (prior to 1914): cheap crockery. That is how so many products now sold in plastic containers once came. And people kept the crockery, even though it was rough and ugly and, guess what, it is for sale in most of the antique joints right now at huge prices.
Also, on the political level, which I loathe: I see more and more importance being focused on the non-vote percentages. Every abstention from the polls is a major statistic, and one that is cast in a negative light now given all this bandwagon thinking about participatory democracy, which is not working. In short, the more people who do not vote, the stronger the message becomes. I see voting as becoming antiquated eventually.
Good morning guys.
What would you say if I told you that my post was simply a test...a test to see what part of it you would pick up on and relate/respond to?
I expressed two very distinct unrelated thoughts. The most important one was ignored in favor of the lesser, wasn't it? Now, this is a QUITE common occurance in today's society. We have forgotten how to read.
This is my prediction: Books will become as rare as the crockery Devon speaks of... only collected for their antique value, instead of being utilized as functional items designed to teach, entertain, and cause one to THINK..3/10/2011 #11
I think the most obvious way the internet will evolve in the coming years is that it will continue to supplant traditional forms of media. This has been going on for quite a while with newspapers and it is already starting to happen with television and movies. If the current trend continues, we will fairly soon be at a point where the web becomes THE primary source for news and entertainment. The most significant aspect of this is of course the interactivity. The internet is (still) relatively open and accessible to most anyone, unlike traditional media which are almost entirely under the exclusive control of large corporations.
You are a prime example of this yourself. The web gives you a venue to publish and promote your work without incurring any of the expense associated with traditional self-publishing, and to reach a much wider audience. There are similar sites that cater to filmmakers and visual artists. All sorts of creative types now have the ability to get their stuff out there without spending a bundle or having to go through publishers or studios.
The fact that we are able to carry on this dialogue is quite an amazing thing if you think about it. I don't think anything quite like an internet discussion forum existed in the pre-computer era. One big advantage to forums, beyond ease of use and accessibility, is that they allow for, and encourage, anonymous interaction. People can say what's on their mind without worrying too much about personal or professional repercussions.
As I see it, the key question in the years ahead is will the internet be able to remain so free and open as it becomes more mainstream.3/10/2011 #12
In response to your other post, one prediction that I have for the future is that, if society continues on its present course, we are going to continue to see a widening of the gap between rich and poor.
As I've alluded to in other posts, I feel that the great untold story about the current economy is that most of the brunt of the recession has been felt by the middle and working class, and small to medium-sized businesses. Major corporations and extremely wealthy individuals have actually seen their fortunes improve in the last few years and are now literally swimming in cash.
I saw a perfect illustration of this earlier today - a news story about a 1960's Spider-Man comic book selling for over a million dollars. I used to read comic books when I was a youngster and I still have some old ones so I know enough about them to say that the value of these things has increased dramatically in recent years. I've seen the same thing happen with other types of high-end collectibles as well. The bottom line is that while all other social strata from the upper middle class on down are feeling the pinch to some degree, the truly rich have money to burn. I see businesses that cater to that demographic doing quite well, while those with more mainstream clientele continuing to limp along.
A bit longer term, if the upward redistribution of wealth continues unabated, I can easily see the kind of social unrest that is currently taking place in the Middle East coming to these shores. We've already seen a bit of this happen in Europe where the population seems a bit less complacent.3/10/2011 #13
When taking a test (not that I knew it was a test), isn't it natural to try and answer the easiest questions first?
Your initial thought reminds me of what some believe happened at the time of the last great geological upheaval. Elite groups, who had some idea of what to expect, retreated to what they knew were safe areas but at the same time planted the seeds for their eventual re-conquest of distant parts of the world. E.g., perhaps the arrival of Cortez in Mexico coincided with the expected return of Quetzacoatl precisely because such was the plan all along?
Anyway, I do think you have an excellent point about books. I have no plans to give up my library, but I have to say that in the pre-computer days I would read about a book a day but these days it's more like one or two a week, with the difference representing time I spend reading online. And I'm what you might consider a bibliophile.3/10/2011 #14
Well, guess I'll sneak back on here with a red face, lol. Devon won't be in until tonight, and I'll be off. I'm still embarrassed about gushing out that premature news about him and the film guys and his latest work, the novella, as he calls it. My fault. I take the blame. I deleted my PWR post for him, but it still made us all look a little stupid. I need to be more careful in the future. How many time do I have to pass Devon now and say I'm sorry? He doesn't ask for that, but I feel I need to.
I like the direction of this thread. It typically comes from an economist, and I am one myself. I know how very wrong and how very off-base some of us can be. So yes and more yes to most of what everybody and Devon have said so far about extrapolations into the future.
End of a long shift. I might be kind of random here. Sorry. One thing that Devon did not mention is his own area of expertise--currency. It has been a hot topic for a long time now in some of the conspiracy corners. Will there be a "world currency?" Will there be an "amero?" These questions go along with the Balkanization issues that Dev brings up. No economist can say for sure. In very simple terms (which we hate to use because someone might actually understand us!), the general value of any currency is related not to how much precious stuff a country has in storage but to the real GNP, adjusted over time, of the nation that backs it. All the gold in Fort Knox could vanish tomorrow, and the USD would not fluctuate in value. But if, as in a Devon fictional story, a part of the country we now know as the USA were to be lopped off either by Balkanization or natural catastrophe, the USD would immediately diminish accordingly. Currency value is also postulated on mass purchase appeal, which is what makes the euro so strong at present. A smaller USA would mean lower purchase value and choice for end users of the USD. That is about as simple as I can make that.
A world currency, as things are at present, would require a world state. With some imaginary world union arrangement encompassing let's say 45% of the developed world, such a currency would be unstoppable and thus hoarded by those who could get enough of it. And that is not you or me. Devon has probably mentioned to those of you interested in econ that all econ projections are based on the solid principle of ceteris paribus, which means "all other things being equal." So we preface all projections with an invisible ceteris paribus. As in (ceteris paribus) an amero is currently impossible because of the strength of the Mexican peso and the natural social divisions between Mexico and the US, which it is in the interest of the world at large to maintain. That always spins me off into the idea about the opposite of Balkanization which is anschluss. An anschluss between Canada, Mexico and the US would create the greatest war the world has ever seen---and probably the last one. The same forces that are fiscally at work tearing down the euro, and there are many, would aggressively prevent any sort of North American anschluss, and by aggressively I mean war and invasion in the physical sense. So, ceteris paribus, we can rule the so-called amero out. Other super-currencies are only myths because of no mass state union to back them. Like Devon, I do not see any signs of union anywhere. The Soviet Union was the last one, and we don't think we're going to see much more of that. It is amazing that the rest of the world allowed the Soviets to remain as large as they were for so long. And, no, Reagan had nothing to do with the destruction of the Soviet Union. So you can forget that convenient myth. In short, we do not see the arrival of any sort of super-currency any time soon.
One of the things that I wanted to comment on today is Martin's last post about the gap between the middle class and the wealthy. There is a lot of truth in it, and his comic book example is written the way an economic prognosticator would express it. There is indeed vast wealth concentrated in fewer and fewer hands. Wealth engenders wealth. The middle class as we know it in the US is very hard to define in solid economic terms. It became a vehicle over time to enhance the upper wealth classes through extended consumerism. Without a middle class, a social unit will find no enriching outlets for its production, and thus production will diminish and possibly become only a vehicle for the governance of a state, as in the former Soviet Union, which like Russia today, exported nearly nothing and produced not much more than what was needed within its boundaries. But it is a mistake to suppose that the American middle class can be defined through salaries, regardless of how big the latter might be. The only middle class we can postulate is one with the security of liquidable possessions like land, mines and manufacturing facilities. Right now and ceteris paribus, it is to the advantage of the ownership class to increase the number of poor people in the USA because of the ongoing labor crisis. Capitalism requires a pool of available and reliable workers who do not demand too much. In very harsh terms, we can say that what we are seeing today is a gross adjustment of the labor pool, and a natural one at that. We see companies posting very good profit figures without any appreciable increase in workers. So what does that tell you? It says that we were overbalanced (a vague econ term) in labor since the last major war. It says that people will eat the shit they are given instead of starve. Not nice, but that is the most evident reality to arise in these critical times. When the working class is disenfranchised to a point that it ceases to consume, we will see a reverse trend. By assenting to labor demands in the 1950s, the ownership class was able to enrich itself many times over because of the demand for more services and products. The building industry owes its great mid-20th century advances to the material enfranchisement of the working classes. Unless basic capitalistic principles are reformulated, and they won't be, poverty is only going to go so low and then find itself once again lured into an upswing in order to fuel consumerism. Many will be left out, but as Devon noted, econ and fiscal policy have no particular focus on people past a certain age. If the middle aged and the elderly suffer, and they will, it will be of no consequence to the powers that really manipulate wealth.
Anyway, I concede to being one of the "dark economists" who see the human future as being very bleak, riddled with manufactured shortages, mass suffering and general disenfranchisement on a very inclusive and sweeping level. Devon does not fit this mold, as many of you know. He is one of the optimistic ones. I suppose one has to make a choice. We all look at the same stats and draw differing conclusions. The sacrifice of one or two generations is nothing in the course of econ history. In fact, it is a very healthy "correction" for those in possession of sustained wealth.3/11/2011 . Edited 3/11/2011 #15
From my perspective, the whole system is rigged in favor of the upper class. Take the very concept of 'interest'. A rich person who can afford to pay cash for a large purchase, and thus avoid paying interest, ends up paying less than the poor person who has to borrow to buy the same thing. That is the very definition of regressive. Also, say you have a billion dollars in the bank just sitting there accumulating interest. Well, that money has to come from somewhere! Most likely, it is just created out of thin air and as such it results in an increase in the money supply without a corresponding increase in the production of goods and services in the economy. This act itself serves to drive down the value of wages actually earned by workers. I realize that I am probably oversimplifying things greatly from your standpoint, but I guess I am too much of an idealist to have made a good economist. Although I am not at all a supporter of organized religion generally, I do think the medieval Church had the right idea when it declared usury to be a mortal sin!
I think that, in the long run, we would probably all benefit from a world currency although in the short term it would possibly result in an even further erosion of the standard of living in the West, particularly in the US where the dollar's status as "reserve currency" allows for all sorts of financial shenanigans. I don't think it will ever happen, though, as too many major players are making too much money from buying and selling different currencies by predicting fluctuations in exchange rates. Isn't that what you guys do, presumably on behalf of wealthy and/or institutional clients?
Interesting that you mention the Soviet Union, as their currency situation was somewhat unique. As I recall, it had a different value in and out of the country, and it was illegal to try and take any out. If you wanted to keep some Roubles as a souvenir, you actually had to smuggle them across the border. Also, the government set strict limits on what the citizens could spend the money on. It was like that in all the Eastern Bloc countries. Some of the major cities in Eastern Europe had stores that sold Western goods, but only for tourists. Local people were not allowed to shop there, but they did window shop! It was a very different economy from that which we in the West have experienced all our lives. I have not been to any of those places since the fall of Communism, and I imagine they are nothing like that now.3/12/2011 #16
NEWPORT BEACH — The Newport Beach Public Library is considering closing one of its four branches and outfitting a planned community center with everything that it offered — except the books. At a meeting about the Balboa Peninsula's Marina Park development Wednesday, city officials unveiled plans to close the Balboa Branch — which houses 35,000 items, including books, DVD and other materials — and to dedicate a portion of the Marina Park Community Center to an "electronic library." By eliminating books and librarians at the building, they hope to adapt to modern times and save money while providing residents services they'll actually use. In the process, they would replace the library's most iconic features with Internet connections. "That caused me the most angst," said City Manager Dave Kiff. "People identify [book] stacks with the library."...
xxxxx at 7:06 AM March 25, 2011
Soilent green is people.
substitute at 2:01 AM March 25, 2011
This is a joke, right? We're shutting down a branch and then spending money on a place that's a "library" with everything but books? It was bad enough when the Crean Mariners branch opened with a zillion dollars in electronics and no new books. Now they want an automated media center and skip the books entirely. Better off just to close the branch entirely than pretend there's anything like a library there. Please get someone in there who knows it's a library and not a set of vending machines.3/25/2011 #17
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