I’ve done many posts on this site over the years. If I look back, say ten years ago, many of those deal with the same issues that we fight over today. Our media on both sides of the political divide are, as my mother used to say, like geese: they get up in a new world every morning. Whether geese actually do this is hard to say. The geese, obviously tired of being trashed by my mother, invaded her yard when she moved to Chattanooga from South Florida for good in the late 1980’s, but their guilt was unestablished.
I’ve always felt that, given the incompetent way this country has been run, sooner or later something would give and things would start to go downhill in a recognisable way. I’ve been criticised for the low opinion I have for the people that own and operate this place. Aren’t they successful, say my critics. Shouldn’t you emulate them, they say. My retort is that my critics are sycophants, which only makes them angrier.
It seems to me that the United States has been successful in spite of the people at the top, not because of them. The main goal of those at the top is to stay there, and the easiest way to do that is to run a class-stratified society where people “know their place,” those who don’t control the vast majority of the wealth, and dissent be stifled so that those who do the work keep doing it in the same energetic, American way they’ve always done it (well, most of them) oblivious to their own exploitation.
Those of us who have some Scots-Irish in them know that there’s a way out of this treadmill. It’s called “laying out,” that time-honoured practice of reverting to our instinctive laziness when there’s work to be done. Avoiding this moment has been our elites’ juggling act for the last thirty years. One the one hand they hate that Americans are aspirational and that they think they can move up: if they succeed, they could possibly displace the current elite, which the latter finds very distasteful. On the other hand they need Americans to go on working as they have in an open-shop environment where their constraints on what they can do with the labour are minimal. They need the latter in order to float the enormous debt incurred by our government and to purchase the goods and services they would like to sell us.
I think we have reached the critical moment where the juggling act has come to a halt.
It’s called the “Great Resignation,” and it’s partly due to COVID, but also partly due to the fact that Americans find their bosses to be things described by words that don’t appear on this blog. People are finding out that they can do without the income their multiple jobs paid to them, that they were underpaid for many of them, and that the family work was really as valuable as the “right-wing nutjobs” told them. The exodus from explicitly paid work is accelerated by the government forcing people out of their jobs by vaccine mandates. To do this in the middle of a general labour shortage might seem to be good public health policy but the effect on the economy and the performance of the system is still adverse.
When we compound all of this by the woes small businesses are experiencing and the loss of business formation and economic growth spurred by that formation, we have an economy that can neither generate the tax revenues nor finance the inevitable growth in the dole (in all of its forms) that will result from the decrease in work. We also have an economy that doesn’t quite work the way it used to, with the supply chain shortages that we are experiencing these days. That’s been an advantage up to now of these United States; losing that even partially is a major setback.
These reasons are why I think we have reached the turning point downward in the trajectory of our nation. Some seek moral reasons but a country which is in reality an economic arrangement will turn down for economic reasons. The downturn has moral reasons behind it but it will manifest itself in economic distress. We are in for a rough ride; fasten your seat belts.