There are some truths so hard to face, so ugly and so at odds with how we imagine the world should be, that nobody can accept them. Here’s one: It is obvious that a class system has arrived in America — a recent study of the thirty-four countries in the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development found that only Italy and Great Britain have less social mobility. But nobody wants to admit: If your daddy was rich, you’re gonna stay rich, and if your daddy was poor, you’re gonna stay poor. Every instinct in the American gut, every institution, every national symbol, runs on the idea that anybody can make it; the only limits are your own limits. Which is an amazing idea, a gift to the world — just no longer true. Culturally, and in their daily lives, Americans continue to glide through a ghostly land of opportunity they can’t bear to tell themselves isn’t real. It’s the most dangerous lie the country tells itself.
In the United States, the emerging aristocracy remains staunchly convinced that it is not an aristocracy, that it’s the result of hard work and talent. The permanent working poor refuse to accept that their poverty is permanent. The class system is clandestine.

Given the state of the economy, the unwillingness of our politicians to do anything about pretty much anything, the realization by business at all levels that they just don’t need as many people as before, manufacturing jobs moving to other countries that are never coming back, computerized equipment requires less people for the remaining manufacturing jobs, etc., is there any real hope for reversing what the article talks about?

  1. Everett L.(Rett) Williams II says:

    This thread started out with a well thought out description of the affairs of our nation and the world, and has been answered by every paranoid extremist of whatever stripe can be found. Mostly, what he describes is already fact on the ground. The mistake is in building grand conspiracy theories.

    I am sure that at any one time there are about as many conspiracies as there are people to imagine them. The problem is that we are running up against human nature here. We are highly competitive, occasionally rational, naturally xenophobic omnivores who only occasionally act even in our own best interest, much less the interests of humanity as a whole.

    As much as we do actually change, we fear change. In civilization and specific societies, orthodoxy breaks down after a period of time. Our orthodoxy is breaking down because we are unwilling to correct the cracks in it before they become yawing canyons.

    This nation was formed with some fundamental contradictions at it’s base. We have a most undemocratic body at the base of things, the Senate. It was set up to preserve the power of the slave-holding Southern agrarianist plutarchs. Now, we have a situation, with the filibuster, where Senators representing states with less than 15% of the population can totally control all legislation. The real power brokers in this country started to really figure this out in the 60’s and 70’s, and that theoretical imbalance has turned into a real and not so practical one.

    Though the power of money in politics has ebbed and flowed, it was finally codified as untouchable with the Citizens United case. All political transparency, as minimal as it may have been started fading to black with that decision.

    Now, this is no great conspiracy. It is the natural tendency of people to acquire money and power, and the tendency of those with money and power to defend that lofty position. Mobility never quite disappears because ossified power needs occasional new blood to allow it to last a bit longer, but it has decreased until it is more a myth than a reality.

    Our various organs of government are creaking into antiquity. In a nation where 20% of people move every decade, many of them across boundaries to include state boundaries, most of those boundaries have lost their meaning. Even states have become entities too small to resist the blandishments of corporations with enough money and power to bend those institutions to their will. Cities have outgrown both county and state boundaries, paralyzing and destroying the efficiency of those aggregations of people. As we push aside regulation, the good of the commons is replaced by the good of those with the most money and power. These are all natural tendencies, born of our evolutionary trail.

    The only way that we can fight these trends is to be more flexible, to recognize power where it exists and limit it so that the will of the people is at least occasionally understood and expressed. Sadly, with the rise of the psychology of focus groups and other such entities, I don’t see much potential for actual reform. In the past, that has always eventually led to revolution, usually bloody and destructive, breaking things down to be rebuilt in more or less predictable patterns, with enormous suffering in the process. I wish that I could see a way past this cycle, but unless we actually educate enough of our population so that at least somewhat rational decision making can be had, I see no other. If such rational process is not soon pursued, events will sweep us all up into that revolution. The events on which it pivots will be no more predictable than the Arab street vendor’s self-immolation that triggered the “Arab Spring” that we saw this year.

    Hold on. Rough water ahead.


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