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Wednesday, May 12, 2010

We Can Change Things

I'm prone to believe worst-case scenarios. I was brought up by my pragmatic parents to hope for the best and plan for the worst. Advice that's come in handy on several occasions. With geo-politics, economics and social history, there is so much that can happen that predictions of doom aren't exactly unwarranted, but they're just one of several paths history can take.

There are plenty of people who have full belief that we are doomed. John Derbyshire wrote an entire book on the subject of pessimism while blogger Vox Day makes his economic and demographic predictions of apocalypse from his hideaway in Italy. Both men are smart and talented writers. Yet, even when I'm in full belief the next 5 years will be the most transforming years since the end of World War I (Iran's rise to regional hegemon, a long recession if not depression, social strife due to the first two), I am not of the mind that it's all doom, gloom and the end of America.

People like to believe in determinism even if they're anarchists, libertarians, hippies, yuppies or whatever. In Closing of the American Mind, Alan Bloom pointed out that people have become more attached to determinism and prophecy than before. Today's politics is laced with those who see the end and want us steered towards or away from it. No political party in America is living in the now, the current, the real; we're all stuck staring at the horizon or at ourselves, like the scientists in Gulliver's Travels. By not watching what's in front of us, we are not adapting to the world, we are adapting to our predictions of the world. We're adapting to fantasy re-creations of how the world works. For example, the Left has blamed capitalism for the housing crash and the financial crash, but all the evidence points to bad regulations, not lack of regulations; government interference in the market, not lack of government interference; easy credit, not lack of people (specifically poor minorites) getting credit; and myopic oversight, not lack of oversight. Yet, the agenda of the Democratic-led Congress isn't opening markets, closing the easy credit faucet, strengthening regulations already in place or making sure they actually have oversight of the GSEs. It's the exact opposite.

Americans, both left and right, especially left, need to wake up and live in the now. The right-wing too has its dreamers, many of the tea party leaders see a world beyond the welfare state, they see America right after the Constitution, they see the end of progressivism. These things are nice, but they aren't realistic. The most important thing right now, above all things, above illegal immigration, Fannie and Freddie, and yes, even above the ending of Iran's nuclear ambitions, is the financial well-being of America. That is the ONLY problem we should be focusing on right now.

But we aren't, are we? Arizona, for better or for worse, brought illegal immigration to the top. The President is pushing the nationalization of 401(k)s, increasing corporatism in the economy, bringing out the worst in our social tensions. Even Republicans, the self-labeled party of the free market, the balanced budget and of the Revolutionary tradition, crumble quickly when given the chance to sign on to short-term gains. They don't have the balls to do what's necessary. They too have the one eye staring outward, one eye staring inward. They can't see the flames or smell the smoke.

Like I said, the doom saying isn't unwarranted. In fact, its more legitimate than any flowery talk coming from the President or anyone else. Things look bad, are bad and will probably get worse. But, guess what? Actions speak louder than words. Doing things end up changing things. Taking stands create barriers to the predicted end. If the Republicans and Blue Dogs actually believed what they talked about, then they would be drawing a line in the House and Senate chambers and telling their fellow “leaders” of America that things need to change now, not later, not tomorrow, not after lunch. Now.

For 60 years and change, we've been happy to be moderates, to work together and play nicey nice with other people money. We've spent ourselves into a corner. We've become addicted to government created consumer addiction, easy credit and easy lives. To fix the mess we're in, we need to have radical change. We need to quit credit, quit bubbles and quit the quick buck. That won't work anymore. It never really worked to begin with. As the IMF politely put it, the party is over. Everyone needs to go home, sober up and report for work in the morning. To save ourselves from becoming Greece, to make sure the worst we feel is the best the rest of the world will ever feel during these times, is to make the radical choice to CHOOSE the harder path. We can change things, we just have to choose to do so.

I hope we do. And I guess that's what makes me different from Vox or John or the others, I've got hope, even if its naïve hope. And sometimes, well... rarely ever, hope pushes us to do what is right. Let it be this generation, this nation, right now, that does it.

Or so I hope.

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