Monday, May 28, 2012

American bankruptcy, intellectual and financial

By Stephen Strauss
The best lack all conviction, while the worst
 Are full of passionate intensity"
The Second Coming, William Butler Yeats
Business Insider, May 27, 2012: Yeats' lines aptly describe our current age of political mediocrity. As we consider our politicians, we can hardly say that they're our best. And the worst of them are full of passionate intensity, with passions driven by ideology, rather than fact-based analysis.

The United States has been in decline relative to other countries for the last 30 years. On key metrics, we've fallen behind our peer group of industrialized countries, such as the UK, France, Germany, and Japan.

Am I exaggerating? Well, according to the Corruption Perception Index, we rank 24th in the world (only slightly better than Qatar) for public sector corruption. We rank 25th (way behind our peer group) in the OECD for math scores among 15-year-olds.

Over the past 30 years, our national debt has grown from about 30 percent of GDP to about 100 percent, and will become much worse based on current trends. In a recent survey of 10,000 Harvard Business School Alumni, "66 percent of respondents see the U.S. falling behind emerging economies." It is difficult to find many encouraging metrics.

If the above statistics don't convince you, visit the New Delhi International Airport, then compare it with our JFK or Newark International Airports. In many areas, our infrastructure is an embarrassment, already inferior to that of many third world countries.

These facts (and many others) have escaped Romney, Santorum and our current group of Republican leaders. Obama and the Democrats aren't doing significantly better at confronting these challenges.

In the 19th century, America aggressively compared itself against the world, and aspired to be "best in class." We were an early adopter of kindergarten because we saw evidence that it would improve educational outcomes. In 1862, the U.S. was suffering through the Civil War, but Congress still had the foresight to pass the Land Grant Colleges Act, which created some of our finest universities. This investment was made because it was important for our country's growth, and the U.S. clearly lagged behind Europe in college and university education.

Today, many of us suffer from what Thorstein Veblen called "trained incapacity" and John Dewey described as "occupational psychosis." We filter the world through our own ideological training, believing only what fits our story. Or, as Stephen Colbert, cultural commentator and 2008 Peabody Award winner commented:

'It used to be, everyone was entitled to their own opinion, but not their own facts. But that's not the case anymore. Facts matter not at all... What is important? What you want to be true, or what is true?... Truthiness is 'What I say is right, and [nothing] anyone else says could possibly be true.'

Many Americans still have an almost cult-like belief that America is the greatest nation on earth. They systematically reject evidence suggesting we have significant room for improvement.

Read more:


  1. The rulers are incompetent, corrupt and mad.

    - Aangirfan

  2. Thorstein Veblen and John Dewey do not apply. The rulers are getting exactly what they wanted. Kill the earning capacity of the ruled.

    In the 70s American steelworkers were passing "opportunities in Brazil" leaflets because, even then, it was clear nobody in the working class was going to earn a living wage in the US. As if to prove them right, Reagan came in just after and hired union busters with fedeeral money. Right. Blue collar Americans got to pay for the goons that attacked them.

    European/Brit/American bankers created a Third-worldization program for their own subjects. Despite flaws, I'd be glad to submit as evidence COLLISION COURSE, the book about Reagan and the Air Traffic Controllers:

    The USGov very literally used illegal means to fire even the ATCs that DID NOT strike. If the USSR had done anything similar, the US Congress would have declared a day of mourning and ran crying to the United Nations.

    But it was only workers. It's always legal to step on them.

    1. That the rulers want to "kill the earning capacity of the ruled" makes sense. The rulers are owned by the plutocracy. (For example, note that when, yesterday, an intruder at the Leverson inquiry charged that Tony Blair was paid off by JP Morgan for his his role in the Iraq War, Blair said, "I have had no discussion with them (i.e., J.P. Morgan) about that (i.e., the Iraq War)", but he did not deny that since leaving office he has received millions in fees from J. P. Morgan.)

      As agents of the plutocracy, the professional political class naturally wants to reduce wages, since as David Ricardo repeatedly affirmed, wages and profits, together, are always the same. As real wages fall, real profits rise.

      But killing the earnings capacity of the workers seems not to be enough. Rather it appears that Western elites would like to kill the workers.

      True they don't advocate gas chambers as did people like H.G. Wells and George Bernard Shaw before the second World War. But Hitler gave toxic gas a bad name. Social policies, however, can achieve the same objective, if more slowly, by driving the birth rate of the indigenous masses well below the replacement rate.

      Meantime, ambitious, energetic, Third Worlders are free to flood to Western nations where they out-compete the least competent of the natives for jobs and housing.

      The immigrants are not only more productive and less inclined to go on strike, they have no attachment to the now outdated Western belief in human rights and individual liberty and thus are altogether more satisfactory than the indigenous populations they are replacing.