Monday, September 28, 2015

The Have Less Crisis

WSJ Middle Class Squeeze

An excellent but somewhat long article on the state of the malaise of the world economic system.
Since the financial crisis of 2007-08, which Western leader could boast of spreading ownership in any important way? In the U.S. and Britain, the percentage of citizens owning stocks or houses is well down from the late 1980s. In Britain, the average age for buying a first home is now 31 (and many more people than before depend on “the bank of Mom and Dad” to help them do so). In the mid-’80s, it was 27. My own children, who started work in London in the last two years, earn a little less, in real terms, than I did when I began in 1979, yet house prices are 15 times higher. We have become a society of “have lesses,” if not yet of “have nots.”
I think the summary of the state of affairs is stated well here.
The relationship between money and morality, on which the middle-class order depends, has been seriously compromised over the past decade. Which means that the mass bourgeoisie (a phrase that Marx and Engels would have thought a contradiction in terms) start to feel like the new proletariat.
I'm not sure how learned the author of the column really is, but he said a HUGE mouthful there!

First, everyone knows that "morality" is a very difficult term in our current world. What do we "value"? As traditional morals of chastity, truthfulness, thrift, prudence, hard work, honor, trustworthiness, meekness, temperance,  etc. have fallen from favor to become terms of derision hurled at some "hypocrites" who still "bitterly cling" to such. The very concept of "morality" has left the building -- and "money" has become a primary "value" in itself -- of both good and ill. "The Party" TP-D  getting lots of funding for a campaign? GOOD ... Koch brothers providing lots of money for an R? EVIL ... Lots of money poured into TP teachers unions? GOOD ... lots of money for a CEO? EVIL ... and on it goes. "Morals" relative to your POV -- the essence of the "all things are relative" view.

So to Marx, the "bourgeoisie" were the evil -- the owners of capital. The shop, farm and factory owners -- those that hired and fired and "leeched" off from labor -- the "proletariat" who were trapped and basically slaves.

The column goes on.
But pretty much the whole of the developed world is still in the convalescent ward, and no one is sure whether the wonder drug of quantitative easing can yet be abandoned, or even whether it does no more than suppress the symptoms of disease. Despite years of supposed austerity, debt is still strikingly high. It remains possible that banks, or even whole countries in the eurozone, could collapse. And who knows whether or not China’s big banks are bust? 
There is clearly an unmet need for a politics that goes beyond mere grievance-peddling to develop a new way of thinking about what makes a society free and secure at the same time. If this were easy, we would have heard more of it by now, and I won’t pretend to have the answers. But certain basic principles seem like the proper foundation.
He is brilliant up to here, but then goes on to pretty standard ideas, that while good in general, don't really make one feel "he's got it" -- get markets working better, get stock ownership to be more responsible, get a better balance between globalization and nationalism ... not wrong, but not really a clear marching order.

I'm going to throw out a couple of generalities here, but I think the BIG deal of this article is that it does a good job of stating the core of the problem -- We have lost our moral compass and are adrift. Until we fix that, all activity is pretty much just churn! We are also very vulnerable -- to attack from without or within.

I'm working on my review of "Closing of the American Mind" -- hopefully more detail there, but I think the big point is that as the Roman Empire, and to a lesser extent, the British Empire,  found "well fed ease and leisure" is not a meaningful goal for mankind. Everyone has to believe in something and really DO something in service to that belief in order to be happy! "I believe I'll have another beer" is a cynical JOKE ... but right now it is more in keeping with the "values" of Europe, America and Japan than anything else.

 Conquest, exploration, saving souls, moral perfection, defeating evil, "truth, beauty and the American Way", etc ... those have been and in some cases still are worthy goals. Certainly ISIS believes that they are undertaking a "conquest for saving souls" -- their own, and the infidels they convert to what they see as the truth. They are "defeating evil" from their perspective -- but we are "the evil", and we have decided to stop resisting as much as we can.  It seems the Putin also sees himself as restoring Russia to it's "rightful place". I suspect that China is also in this camp.

Real morals and values are DANGEROUS! They MEAN SOMETHING! Because they move people -- and nations, and potentially worlds. The Bible as always has pure truth on this -- "Man does not live by bread alone" -- without spiritual meaning, man dies. "Without vision the people perish" ... this article does a good job of pointing out how we are perishing --- not so much how to LIVE!

We need to figure out what is worth not perishing for, if we truly want abandon the terminally ill patient that is Western Civilization -- that is unless we just want to continue to kill ourselves.

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