I would never have thought that one can become bored with emergencies. It sounds like a contradiction in terms. Yet, here I am. I am bored with the procession of disasters that hit us every other day as a result of Obama administration actions or pronouncements. Also, I am not man enough to pay as much attention as I did a year ago. I have indignation fatigue. I should be energized by the thought of the unfairness of the crushing burden the Obama spending is placing on young people. I don’t feel it much because the young voted overwhelmingly from Obama and it seems they are the most obdurate about waking up from the dream. The ungenerous thought that they made their bed and they should lie in it dominates my reactions.
About indignation fatigue: The powers may have planned it that way. If a boxer gets punched fifty times in three minutes, he does not feel the pain as clearly as when the blows come every thirty seconds. Be it as it may, the new dispensation forces me to be more selective in what I expose myself to. Also, in what I write and what I talk about on the radio (“Facts Matter” KSCO radio Santa Cruz, Sundays 11am to 1pm, available on-line in real time.)
The recipes for sabotaging a modern, advanced capitalist economy such as this one are similar to the formulas to control it. I say, “such as this one” because I think that what I am saying below would apply equally to Germany, or to Japan, or to Finland. It would be the same play-book. This short essay is not about American exceptionalism, a political and a moral concept. It’s about the nuts and bolts of the only economic system that has brought prosperity to huge numbers, capitalism.
I am sometimes vacillate in my reading of events. I a sometimes befuddled in my judgment of what’s going on by demonstrations of the monumental incompetence of the Obama administration. How can one be a sinister plotter and spectacularly clumsy at the same time? Here may be the answer: You plot various take-overs although you don’t always know how. If you succeed, you get the political credit for being a reformist. If you fail, you are heartened by the idea that you failures contribute to the impoverishment of some segments of the population. Poverty makes for docility and dependency. You can’t really lose.
Anyway, it seems to me the three main lifelines of a contemporary market economy are energy, finance and capabilities for dense and fast communications. I have been around long enough to remember the days when businesses communicated by slow telephone only, by telex (no time to explain this prehistorical tool. Look it up) and, short distance, by pneumatic tube. (Look this up to; you won’t believe it. My home town of Paris had city-wide system of compressed air communication operating from post-offices. It was the envy of the world!)
I don’t remember expensive energy because I have lived all my life under the blessings of cheap petroleum. As a matter of fact, gasoline at the pump costs about the same today in real dollars as it did when I was twenty. Finance has changed in ways I don’t necessarily understand. I could however perceive the beneficial effects of the increasing sophistication of credit throughout my life. It’s obvious that sophisticated credit improved enormously the lives of ordinary people both directly and indirectly. It’s good to be able to buy your son a pair of shoes when his break down in the middle of winter rather than have to wait till you have saved enough money. (This is a bibliographical allusion.) Indirectly, access to credit has under-girthed the tripling or probably, the quadrupling in the standard of living regular people have achieved in my life time. What I mean by standard of living is such things as more education, more books, more and better entertainment, more choice in all the above, healthier food, better medical care with the corresponding alleviation of pain, and longer lives with the possibility of enjoying grand-children, and even great-grand-children. Yes, easy credit entails risks, personal or societal. To my mind, however, the balance is obviously positive. Would I rather go back to the lifestyle of 1955? No! Would many people enjoy it? No! (Conducting mental experiments is a healthy habit. It takes care of many quandaries.)
As for energy, the same verdict keeps coming: When honest, serious, thorough. green-inclined organizations such as National Geographic tackle the issue of how to replace hydrocarbons (petroleum and natural gas) wholesale, they invariably conclude that the solutions are “for now” too expensive and out of reach. You have to read very carefully to get the message though.
Personal disclosure: I am not in the pay of oil companies. Sometimes, I wish I were, but none has offered to bribe me. I am completely charmed by the scientific and engineering ingenuity of those who devise alternative energy sources and uses. My personal local heroes are the long-haired small entrepreneurs with vehicles redolent of French fries. I keep informed in hope that solar devices will soon become cheap enough for me to get off the grid.
President Obama and the congressional majorities are promising us “cap-an-trade” legislation. Don’ worry about the unknown details (unknown until after the fact even of those who will vote). What it means is that they want to tax petroleum products. If it’s merely a tax and it’s applied dispassionately across the board, it will have inflationary effects. It will reduce our economic growth to European levels or worse while reducing our freedom of movement. (That’s the freedom to escape repugnant conditions.) More likely, it will be worse; there will be complex rules and exceptions to the rules, and exceptions to the exceptions. That’s how you create space for the bureaucracy and for the executive branch to exercise despotic and arbitrary powers. I mean powers not granted by the Constitution. That form of take-over of our society is under way unless the Dems are swept out next November.
The administration is setting the first trap to ensnare finance, credit, as I write. It is being done intelligently, by exploiting the public’s distaste for the abstraction “Wall Street,” and the vulgar weakness for explanations of complex events centered on conspiracies. The Obama administration is not trying to “regulate” more tightly the financial industry as it claims. It’s attempting to construct a legal environment where the executive branch can pick and chose winners among financial groups. It’s creating the conditions for crony capitalism in the manner of fascist dictators Franco of Spain, Salazar of Portugal, and Peron of Argentina In this context, the loud attack on Obama- friendly Goldman-Sachs demonstrates almost strategic genius: “See, finance and banking are so thoroughly corrupt even our best friends are corrupt. This proves we need more government oversight.”
Personal disclosure: I believe the big individual players in finance have been giving themselves obscenely over-sized bonuses. It’s a problem that can be solved without complex new regulations, just a small number of simple rules about transparency. The little guy like me is not helped by government intervention; he is harmed by it. He needs freer markets and a severe warning that he is on his own.
I am awaiting the assault one the third of a our lifelines: communications, in the broadest sense. I think this assault will be launched in two years, giving the Obama administration time to implement the first two.
As I speculated in a previous essay (“Blueprint for a Communist Take-Over”) You don’t need guns to destroy freedom just occasional deftness on one side, ignorance and passivity o the other, and media that are at once lazy and complicit.
PS America has gone crazy: A woman in her forties was just sentenced to life imprisonment in Colorado. Her crime? She persuaded a thirteen-year old boy to touch her breasts. Granted, she looks quite ugly. All the same, the boy was almost certainly not durably traumatized. (Nor did the prosecution allege that he was.) In the meantime, murderers get ten, sometimes five years. The brutal persecution of women with misplaced sexual leanings is one of the most vicious fallouts of political correctness. Are we really obligated to treat female offenders and male offenders in superficially, idiotically identical manner? Sorry, I am old fashioned, I think penetration matters, especially violent penetration. Having felt an ugly breast, however ill-shaped or mushy in consistence does not rise to the same level.
It would be terrifying if I were the only voice of reason left.