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Thoughtful discourse only: Do we need a public sphere?

Discussion in 'Political Discussion' started by PatsFanInVa, Oct 9, 2010.

  1. PatsFanInVa

    PatsFanInVa PatsFans.com Supporter PatsFans.com Supporter

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    I started thinking over on the firefighters-letting-the-home-burn thread, that we have an area we can talk about and, if we don't "stick to our (usual) guns," maybe make progress.

    Here is the big question: are we captives of our ideology, or can we address spheres of activity from the point of view of what's appropriate to each phenomenon?

    A Stalin would say that the Party would handle all such things, through the apparatus of the state. An Ayn Rand would say there should be no unit other than the individual. Both fail.

    What do I say? I say there are phenomena that call for groups to act on behalf of their members, and that includes the notion of a society. This is, in fact, echoed by our founding fathers. Those same founding fathers were also champions of the rights of individuals. They understood that ideological purism was a danger not only in terms of an over-reaching state, but also in terms of a plutocracy; they did not specify an exchange rate for votes when they established democracy, after all.

    Now let's break this down a bit. I notice that in many, but far from all, cases, conservatives like the idea that our body politic should be more moral. Yet as stipulated by other conservatives - or oddly, those same ones - the reduction of every interaction to one conforming to capitalism inherently removes the moral virtue of compassion.

    Liberals like compassion, yet are lambasted for the notion that they will spend any amount to extend any compassion to any person. While I disagree with that assessment, I've met - infrequently - the "librul" we hear about here, who does not see any point to counting the costs of their intended largesse.

    My question is this: why do we assume there must be a single ideology, a single sphere of action and type of action, that must address all phenomena?

    For example, in the firefighting thread, it becomes evident to me that taken to an extreme, a subscription service for fire emergency service makes no sense. Everybody has the potential to need it. Why should some individuals be able to not "opt in" to it?

    The eventual outcome must be either (a) that most people do not pay, or (b) that before we get to that point, firemen must stand around and watch homes burn, in order to set an example and therefore guard against moral hazard.

    But this is all assuming that firefighting should be part of the private sector, rather than a public sphere.

    When we ask, as we often do, what happened to this virtue or that virtue, it is easy to point a finger at an ethnic group and call them "savages," as I have seen here repeatedly, or point at different behaviors and claim that the people engaged in those behaviors are bad and ruining the world. And of course we can claim it's all because of this or that value taught by the other side. But think a moment.

    There's no reason to think that more "bad" babies are born now. We all adopt attitudes having to do with a multitude of influences, but we have also always had bulwarks of society that prevent individuals with "bad" inclinations from acting out their "badness." It's never been foolproof, and frankly, crime (for example) is not actually on the increase. But we all pine for more community, or better morality, or more intellectual rigor with each passing year or decade.

    It would seem that we can lay this at the doorstep of whatever we don't like politically; but what can we expect, if we take the existence of a public sphere - of society itself - to be an evil to be defeated, rather than a repository of the virtues we espouse?

    "Community" can be encouraged, but there is no room in the private sector for such mawkish sentiment -- because the very existence of community assumes a sphere outside of private sector interaction.

    I am not trying to make a case for left or right, I am putting forward a way of thinking about spheres of life. And the question is, whether we should encourage public spheres, where it does not matter what you own or make?

    Taken to an extreme: Should you pay a fee every time you go in a church? Should they have a toll booth? Should they examine the collection plate when you drop a buck in, and say "I know you're a pretty big sinner, a buck won't do it..." Should religions go back to selling indulgences?

    Should parks have play-meters for kids that vend time, and doo-doo fees for dogwalkers? Should the merry-go-round and the swings have a vending device on them?

    Should lifeguards ask you for $X before diving in to fish you out?

    I don't think I'll find takers for those examples. Yet in similar cases, I see an ever-increasing rush to promote some private-sector understanding of an activity that all of us benefit from, that extend the virtues of community, and that are public goods.

    So, straightforwardly: Is there no room for various societal institutions our parents took as givens, things we keep around because they are good things for a society to have? Or must society only exist as an extension of private enterprise?

    I'd prefer thoughtful responses only.

    Thanks,

    PFnV

    PS, one-star guys, let 'er rip!
  2. apple strudel

    apple strudel Banned

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    I don't know if this counts as a thoughtful response or not (in your eyes, at least), but you can do a lot more for the dollar with public services than with private services because of economies of scale and the elimination of profit. This is exactly why privatization advocates fight so hard against new public services (health care): private corporations know that they can't compete with an organization that can charge less because it doesn't seek to take money.

    The real question, in my opinion, is not whether we need a public sphere (obviously we do), but whether it will be possible to fight the massive influx of private wealth that is now influencing politics to even maintain out existing public sphere. The erosion of public schools at the expense of charter schools is the current battle. The next battle, believe it or not, is the fight to keep the police a public institution. We should all remember that the FBI used to be a union busting private company. And it was not a good situation for the people at large.
  3. khayos

    khayos Rookie

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    And this is where your assumption fails. No funds are better managed than a shopkeep and his cash register. The larger the organization, the greater the waste.
  4. apple strudel

    apple strudel Banned

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    Not even close to necessarily true, and also not an assumption, just basic math.

    Take that waste, add private profit on top, and which is more expensive - the public monopoly or the private one? Or even the private oligopoly? Yup. (Tip: we have been trending towards private monopoly for thirty years in an ill-advised attempt to re-create the economic conditions of the later 19th century.) Finally, of course, we have seen massive corporate consolidation over the last few decades. Tying up markets and eliminiating competition raises prices even higher than in perfect competition and leads to greater corporate waste. The issue is not one of greater or lesser waste, but on of public or private expenditure.

    Some interesting information on corporate consolidation:

    Corporate Consolidation: Some Facts and Figures —
  5. PatsFanInVa

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    Sorry to be such a d1ck asking for thoughtful discourse only.

    I just want a thread that steps back to the extent possible from hardened positions. There are a thousand flame-wars out there, I just wanted to talk about the basic assumption of having a society LOL...

    It's not that I don't have my own positions - it just seems like the idea of finding privatized alternatives to everything, accelerating commoditization of every walk of life, is finding too much traction of late to ignore. I question this on communitarian grounds, not right or left grounds.

    How can we simultaneously make arguments about the frayed fabric of society, yet in the next breath say there is for all intents and purposes no such thing as society?

    Very simply put: Are there areas of life where commoditization is a bad thing?

    For example: should all sex be a species of prostitution? Should religion be the selling of indulgences (as mentioned above)? Should we do away with libraries, and only buy (or rent) books? By the same token, should militaries be privatized? The police?

    If there is a well-thought-out argument for these positions, is it really better than the alternatives? In other words, isn't it clear that it is better that the U.S. (or any other state) have a public military rather than warlords or corporations raising private armies?

    Here is the thing: in formulating our responses it would be helpful if we avoid the ideological trap on this one. I think the above answer is that yes, the national institution is to be preferred.

    So what are the differences that make the profit motive a bad organizing principle? Or, for you objectivist Randians, what is the principle -- other than quasi-religious adherence -- for the profit motive being the preferred principle even in these extreme cases?

    PFnV
  6. Harry Boy

    Harry Boy Look Up, It's Amazing PatsFans.com Supporter

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    I'll have to think about this for awhile.
  7. TBradyOwnsYou

    TBradyOwnsYou Rookie

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    Thanks for the update!

    I believe Government is there to do for society what it can not do for itself. Things like firefighting, police, schools, parks, etc... Do I have kids? Nope. But a big chuck of my property taxes go towards schools. My house isn't burning down, but my taxes pay to keep firetrucks running. Do I think our government does any of these things efficiently or correctly? Heck no, but that's why I vote.
  8. PatsFanInVa

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    TB, that's a pretty good response -

    I think (if I read you right), it's

    1) private sector preferred, except where not applicable (what society "cannot do for itself")

    2) Those things should fall into the public sphere (i.e., society taking care of society)

    So it's sort of a sphere that exists by default, in those cases where the usual mechanisms (i.e., private sector, I think) fail.

    I am not trying to set a trap, I am trying to line up your response w/that question of private sector/profit motive & "everything else." When I see that gubmit is there for what society cannot do for itself, I am reading that to mean, for those things you can't adequately provide through market mechanisms... (?)
  9. TBradyOwnsYou

    TBradyOwnsYou Rookie

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    I fear no traps when I've got Ewoks on my side!

    The one example I can think of off the top of my head is garbage removal. In some communities it's not profitable so the local government uses tax dollars to remove it for us so we aren't living in filth. However, in some communities private companies have come in and are now doing the job cheaper because they are able to recycle the trash in one form or another and make some money on it.
  10. PatsFanInVa

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    Okay now that's an answer that really works with me - figure out if it's working/workable, and whatever you do, have a working system. Then go to another system if it's established that it will work better in that circumstance.

    (just recapping)
  11. wistahpatsfan

    wistahpatsfan Rookie

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    A rant:

    We are experiencing a dynamic in American life that hasn't been touched on if what we're talking about here is "community". It's unique (so far) to America. For the past twenty years or so, this society has become less communal, interactive, face-to-face. While the arguement has been made that the internets has expanded human interaction, the interaction is not physical but virtual.

    It began with the hysterical convulsions of the so-called child abduction and abuse scaredy-cat mentality that was triggered by the collective media assault about the Fells Acres Daycare case, Catholic priests raping children, and Adam Walsh abduction. These and other similar scandals removed the casualness with which parents allowed their kids to roam free around their neighborhoods, woods and towns. Children became sequestered and their hyper-supervision became a matter of fact and culture from then on.

    Combine that with the flood of video gaming, internet communication and "social" media avenues like Facebook, Myspace, cell phone and text messaging tethers, and the need for true, physical interaction becomes optional or even "dangerous" in too many cases. We then become more insulated and self-reliant. People move to the suburbs or even further away from towns and cities. Gated communities and cul-de-sacs become fashionable and desireable. Interconnection between communities and neighborhoods is less important. Self sufficiency and distrust of others outside of your tiny realm becomes the norm.

    There was a day when a fire department standing idly by while a home burns to the ground was abhorent. Even before fire departments were commonplace, folks would organize with bucket brigades to try to help their neighbor. Even if the house was burned down, the community would marshal their stuff and time to help a family that met with such a disaster. No more. We're conditioned to being alone, working out our own problems, and avoiding actual, physical contact and- most significantly- expecting everyone else to to the same. Such a stance allows us to become disconnected with our neighbors and feel less responsibility toward their welfare as they have less to do with us and so on. The traditions of American hyper-individuality and self-reliance, both actual and mythological, have both positive and negative manifestations. To make things worse, the perceptions and realities of an over-reaching, bloated, and invasive government has a strong repulsive effect that reinforces and permits attitudes which lead us to this rejection of government services. The expansion of the government is seen inextricably, and often justifiably connected with high taxes, invasion of privacy, and unjustified confiscation of property.

    So, the perception of danger (fear), the increased isolation of individuals, and cultural perception all lead to the actual situation of a fire department letting a house burn, or the media ignoring mass murders in black neighborhoods while a missing child in Portugal gets global coverage. It's easier to live that way.

    Rant over.
  12. PatsFanInVa

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    Call me crazy but I like this rant... you are absolutely right, the 80s was a time when we got very interested in the dangers of going outside the home. Everything was "worse out there than ever," which we repeat even up to today regardless of whether it's true or not.

    Now that's common enough - every generation believes it's the one that will see the apocalypse, because every generation perceives everything as "worse than ever."

    You're right that there was a sea-change in how parents reacted, sheltering kids more and more, to stories that as often as not turned out to be witch-hunts. But once that genie was out of the bottle, did you really want to be the "casual" parent who let the unthinkable happen - by not constantly thinking about it?

    A very different (in one way) but related (in another way) phenomenon: I remember being in high school in the 70s. The good, fairly well-to-do, popular kids had keg parties all the time. Back then, it was considered the responsible parent's role to make sure nobody got laid (that they could see,) and to convince really trashed kids not to drive. Could you imagine that now?

    It was also in the 80s that Mothers Against Drunk Drivers really got off the ground, "baby on board" stickers advertised that you had to not hit a certain car, while other cars were fair game, evidently, and halloween became both a stalking horse of religio-political extremists, and a real-life fright-night for parents searching for poisons and razor-blades. Tens of millions of kids lost that common cultural rite, because of a few cases. But what if those few cases had happened to you? Similarly, drunk driving caused thousands of deaths every year, especially teen drunk driving, and teen alcohol use is pretty much a bad thing... but put all those things together, and your society changes. Interestingly all those things I've mentioned have a social component, and of course our newer technologies have come tailor-made to "fill" the community gap. But just as you say, if I don't trick-or-treat, those other houses are just houses with no people in them, right?

    It's dangerous to interact socially. You can sort of trust those you live with (at least in "normal" families, meaning non-sex-abusing, non-physically-abusive, only-normally-verbally-abusive families.) You can not trust anybody else, and the line got shifted way toward that distrust. "Don't talk to strangers," right? But the thing is everybody's a stranger until you talk to them.

    Media saturation (especially "if-it-bleeds-it-leads" crime coverage, always the local news lead story,) contributed to this mightily. Some issue advocacy groups (MADD for instance, and the anti-abuse child advocates,) addressed real life important issues, but with an effect that extended far into the lives of those not involved as perps or victims.

    And yes dabnabbit we use to jump our bikes off dirt ramps without helmets on our heads or pads on anything.

    But would you be the parent today that is the only one that lets the kid jump w/o the helmet?

    What's the safest course of action? Keep the kids inside, getting more obese, playing video games, and browsing the 12 web sites affiliated w/Nicolodeon you haven't blocked. And the kid will still hack his way around your safeguards (you're sure,) and hook up with a guy in Georgia with 55 gallon drums in his back yard.

    We always want to solve the underlying issue, the thing causing the perception of danger, i.e., danger. But what happens when the actual danger is declining even when the perception is multiplying?

    I don't know any answers. I just appreciate the rant and wanted to pile on with the counter-rant.

    That part of physical, face-to-face community that's been on the wane seems unlikely to just pop back into being no matter what we do... but are there ways to maximize that healthy part of community? Or does it come down to a simple calculation that's right for "a society" but is never right for "my kid?" In other words, are we condemned by the nature of parenthood (just basic human nature,) to progressively erase community as communication of bad outcomes increases (whether these reports are prevalent - or even true - or not?)

    Thanks for the food for thought... let's throw it in the pot. If that kind of community is past, what's next? Is there part of that community that doesn't have to be in the past?
  13. Mrs.PatsFanInVa

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    #12 Jersey

    Well, since we're ranting.......

    I'd like to divert attention just a bit, although in a related way, I think.

    What's also missing from the mix nowdays, especially in teenagers and young adults, is that dreaded word, empathy. Which is also, quite possibly, related to non-interaction. How can you feel kinship with people you do not interact with in your neighborhood, in your home, in your school, in your workplace?

    There has been a marked upswing in suicides by young people which is shown to have a direct link to their being bullied by their peers....not only in school but also on line through email, IM, facebook, myspace, etc.

    There has always been bullying - always - I'm certainly not denying that, but it's gotten totally out of hand. CNN is running a week-long special on the current trend and it's alarming. (to say the least.)

    After student's death, a weeklong look into bullying - CNN.com

    Kids are being harrassed 24/7 for being gay, for being foreign, for being ugly, for being "different" in any way, shape or form. They are even being harrassed after death. (One girl was mocked by classmates while in her coffin - they were making fun of the dress she was being buried in.)

    Now I don't know why this is suddenly happening - I'm sure the internet and the constant availability of a forum in which to bully has a part to play in it, as does, as Wistah and MrP pointed out, isolation of individuals, but there's got to be more to it.

    Empathy is something you learn at home. The ability to put yourself in someone else's shoes is learned at mother's knee. It is learned by example. Are we, as parents, setting this bad of an example somehow? And is so, what kind of parents are causing the most harm? (I am brought to mind the bumper stickers of the 80s...."My kid beat up your honor student," in which we first began to commend our children, not for being smart but for being violent.)

    Kids nowdays are bombarded with messages of "Nazi" and "tree huging loon" and "bleeding heart liberal" and "Terrorist sympathizer" and "the death of the American family" whenever empathy, compassion or understanding is mentioned. Is it any wonder they feel it is perfectly ok to harrass anyone who's different than they are? They are told immigrants are criminals, "green people" are stopping their parents from getting good jobs, "gay people" are ruining their family values, people on welfare are cheats, liars and lazy. The headlines and the politicians practically scream it at them daily - from newspapers, from TV and most of all, from the Internet. Adults can separate the wheat from the chaff in some cases, and even they have a hard time occasionally - but kids, kids don't have the experience or the world-view to distinguish hype from reality. I would imagine in some cases these ideas are reinforced at home because there are their parent's beliefs as well.

    How do we then expect them to distinguish the Croatian girl who was naive enough to sext her boyfriend from the illegal immigrants who are beheading decent people like themselves in the Arizona desert? They both look different from "us", they both talk different than "us", they probably both act different then "we" do - therefore they become like one another in their difference from us. At which point they stop being individuals and become, instead, "them."

    Wistah is right - there used to be "fire brigades." It used to be that when tragedy befell a stranger that other strangers helped. Not so much anymore....it all started when Kitty Genovese was killed in front of several dozen people and no one did anything to help - each of them waiting for someone else to act first. The sad thing is - had just one person been willing to be "first" everyone else would have followed suit. Had just one fireman in Tennessee said, "This is bullsh!t" and grabbed a length of hose the others would have followed.

    However, lately, the general consensus seems to be "let them all die," because "I" am better than they are. "I" pay my taxes, "I" paid my fire-fee, "I" wear the right clothes, "I" go to the right school, "I" sleep with the right sexual partner, "I" have the better house, job, car, etc.. therefore "I" owe no one anything.

    What seems to be forgotten is that "there but for the grace of God," knowledge that we used to have. We have no compassion or empathy for those who have less than we do because we cannot imagine that someday we might have less, too. It's one of the reason that we are so against taxing the rich more than the poor - because we can only imagine ourselves getting richer, not poorer.

    Anyhow....it's a rant within a rant and I hope someone finds it something to at least think about.
  14. PatriotsReign

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    Wistah I agree with 95% of your rant. But another huge factor you left out was the beginning of the "squeeze on the middle-class". That began the 2-income family in America. Once former stay-at-home moms began to work, neighborhoods became quiet by day. Then the day-care center explosion began and the real American rat-race was born.

    Today, the average mom & dad get in their car, start their engines and prepare for the race to hell....every single day! By the time they drop off their kids at daycare, go to work, pick them up at daycare, get home, order out....all they can do is put the kids to bed and pour themselves a drink!

    Honestly, it's sad and almost seems hopeless. Is this what Americans must do to feel comfortable & secure? I've always said, by far, the most important "class" is the middle-class. But now you have to be willing to sell your soul just to keep up.

    Last edited: Oct 10, 2010
  15. TBradyOwnsYou

    TBradyOwnsYou Rookie

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    re:Bullying/empathy
    I think kids are punks.
    I think it's not that we are insensative, it's that we are over sensative!
    Additional side rant on the side rant of a side rant:
    I have nothing to rant about this time and it makes me mad! Byarg!
  16. Mrs.PatsFanInVa

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    #12 Jersey

    So you are saying that the teenaged girls who attended the wake of a girl they bullied mercilessly in life and who then openly laughed at the way her dead body was dressed were suffering from over-sensitivity?

    Or are you saying that her family was overly-sensitive in letting it bother them?

    If there has been soul-searching among the bullies in Mentor – a pleasant beachfront community that was voted one of the “100 Best Places to Live” by CNN and Money magazine this year – Sladjana’s family saw too little of it at her wake in October 2008.

    Suzana Vidovic found her sister’s body hanging over the front lawn. The family watched, she said, as the girls who had tormented Sladjana for months walked up to the casket – and laughed.

    “They were laughing at the way she looked,” Suzana says, crying. “Even though she died.”


    High School Bullies Laugh Into Open Casket – Indyposted
    Last edited: Oct 10, 2010
  17. TBradyOwnsYou

    TBradyOwnsYou Rookie

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    I was speaking on a macro level
  18. PatsFanInVa

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    One thing we've all pointed towards, and you'd have to be blind to not see, is the difference of the last few decades regarding the need for two parents to work in most cases.

    On the Macro level, you could describe the history of that change as follows:

    1. Industry composed of men, women staying home (perhaps taking in washing etc.) until automation made it profitable to put women in sweatshops alongside men. In agriculture, everybody worked, but in close proximity to the home. Most people are materially poor. We pine for their social model but their lives were shorter and harder. It was the exception, not the rule, that all your kids even lived to grow up.

    2. Around the time of WWI, the "women in the workplace" trend accelerates, as the men go off to war. In WWII, "Rosy the Riveter" is even more the model. American prosperity truly begins to take off, and technological advances and public safety workplace regs blunt some of the impact of increasingly universal workforce "conscription."

    3. From post-WWII to the 1960s, women go back home. We still pine for this anomaly as well: the US was on top, the Soviets were the eternal enemy but had not achieved parity, and the "grand bargain" among government, industry, and labor kept part of the money flowing to the working family. "Middle class" meant honest physical labor in exchange for enough to provide for a family, with one wage-earner. Alongside the invention this ideal of the middle class there is persistent poverty, concentrated in family units not led by a white male (i.e., single women, black America). That is not to say there is no white poverty; it is a matter of where it is most concentrated per capita.

    4. Mid-60s-early 70s: the self-aware push by women to remove workforce barriers coincides with the addressing of persistent racial disparity in the workforce, culminating in Nixon's affirmative action solution. Many here came of age against this backdrop, and many of us solely concentrate on racial and gender issues as the entire story of the current state of affairs.

    What happens here is important. Since the general impoverishment of the middle-class coincides with the addressing of disparities, two different narratives emerge:

    a) the per-capita pie for someone who works is getting smaller, whoever they are, whereas investors/shareholders' share grows (i.e., the investment bankers all the way to the e-trade babies of the world)

    b) the pie is divided differently, at the same time.

    Many Whites focus on the loss of centrality of the White male head of family model. This focus - focus (b) - continues to this day, but is only one of two phenomena; labor in general is getting squeezed as well.

    How labor gets squeezed is instructive itself: every recession, you simply do not hire people back. It may be in one industry or another, or it may be across the board.

    As a recession ends, the newer sectors created by another wave of automation increase productivity. The person who can run the next machine wins and gets the job. The person who did the work that new machine now does never gets rehired. The whole purpose of automation is to leave behind multiple workers for every new worker who runs the new machine. You need new niches, new industries, to create the next wave of jobs.

    Back to the history: The previous beneficiary of the "old order" is a "head-of-household." Now increasingly his wife, having won the "right" to work, has to work. Economically more empowered and no longer discouraged by moralistic laws forcing "grounds" for divorce, more women can now leave a marriage. Divorce rates increase, and in two-parent households, both parents increasingly work. Even if half of divorces are the man's idea, now the other half of divorces can also happen.

    In "White America," where there is better per-capita earning power, there is a crisis of vanishing community, whereas in "Black America," community is already in crisis, but is emphasized as a value that must be consciously supported. (i.e., the community ethos is wholeheartedly embraced, because the crisis has already struck home so fiercely.)

    5. The "era of diminished expectations." The 1970s: America is not applying its muscle internationally, and high oil prices (not to mention Iran's new Islamist regime) are blamed on this. High inflation accompanies high unemployment. Growth is tepid. The Soviets achieve nuclear parity. The stage is set for the 1980s, a time of union-busting and an increased pace of the types of labor-market changes we're discussing.

    Again - we focus on who gets which piece of the pie, when the general pie for what we think of as the middle class is shrinking. People hate unions - as now - but the lifestyle built by the now-disappearing unions is precisely what people pine for.

    6. 1980s-present. For about 30 years, those of us who grew up in an era of "stagflation" think everything must be okay now. In the 1980s, we progressively ignored real problems, and kicked the can down the road into the future by borrowing (and keeping interest rates low.) We finance the ability of the American consumer to buy cheap consumer goods and continue and even magnify "the American way of life."

    So we come eventually to the era of gated McMansions, several cars to the family, etc., in the "upper middle class", which by previous standards would be described as unambiguously rich. Needs include private schools, kindergarten to college, and other costly replacements for previously public institutions. This is an observation, not a condemnation. Because of workforce changes, every child must at least get a 4-year degree, and in this slice of the "middle class" an advanced degree is the real goal (because the equivalent of a "line worker" now "gets by" with a Bachelors.)

    Meanwhile, more and more people with every recession get dumped out of the middle class and into the ranks of the poor.

    What's left of the old paradigm of the middle class is exactly what you describe: harried, one paycheck away from slipping into the "top rank" of the poor, and more and more likely to be desperate. Both parents work. Today, those who did not lose their jobs in/because of the 2008 catastrophe cling to their present livelihood, and advancement is rarer. The middle class is squeezed... again.

    The poor themselves are likely to slip from subsistence employment into underemployment. The sporadically employed become unemployed. The unemployed-but-looking become the persistently unemployed. Globalization and immigration multiply these effects.

    Yet the problem on the community side is needing to work all the time, and therefore neglecting those parts of life constituting community.

    So yeah that was a broad-brush history of how we got here. I'm sure we can argue the particulars. I've completely left out the age demographics. But here we are, regardless of the labor/ownership breakdown. The middle class continually shrinks, divided between progressively polarizing upper and lower classes. The traditional "home life" disappears with it. Day care, as you point out, becomes the norm.

    What's reversible, about the above, and what is it desireable to reverse? What are the bright spots, if they exist at all?

    I can think of a couple.

    We have the norm of a commute from hell, as the 50s and 60s eras roads try to handle two or three times their previous volume (and it's worse in cities, where there is nowhere to widen the roads.) We are now capable of telecommuting, removing vehicles from the roads. Once it was the norm that good middle-class people took buses and trains (or streetcars), which we stopped doing once cars became the norm. That's low-hanging fruit too (which can reduce congestion and give us back an hour of our lives for every 10 we're "out there.") For those who telecommute it may even be two or three hours a day.

    Economics force our hands. But if you ignore that, you realize that we have less time to be parents because we have to work so much. At the same time, we have the ongoing phenomenon of too few jobs for the demand. So if the economics are left aside, the obvious fix is for everybody to work less and pay more attention to kids. Yet economics can't be left aside, and must be dealt with.

    One inescapable fact underlies much of this long-winded reply: We are a country where people can become very, very rich. Our poverty is not as horrific as poverty elsewhere, but it is bad enough that many are incentivized by it to embrace a principle of guarding what they have.

    "Upwardly mobile" types here can attest that you can pat yourself on the back that you "made it" further than your dad... but somehow you don't live as well as your family did when you were growing up. That's a "middle-class to middle-class" comparison of course, and doesn't apply if you grew up poor or blew up huge in your own working life.

    PFnV
  19. PatriotsReign

    PatriotsReign Rookie

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    I believe the growth in the number and percent of public corporations has syphoned off middle-class wealth slowly since the 60's. It used to be that more than half of large corporations were privately held. Now, very, very few are private.

    Wall street is not a place for the middle class. We'd like to think we are, but we're not. Of course, the wealthy LOVE us to be there. We're like the amateur poker player showing up with a group of pro's. They wring their hands in anticipation of taking our money.

    That is why I'd support ending public corporations all together....every single one of them! Get rid of Wall Street and all the bells & whistles that go with it. It's not necessary and most of it is a total waste of trillions.

    You see, I believe if we had a class war in America and if it were based upon a set of common goals, it would be successful. Our problem is that the very wealthy few who control everything have done an excellent job of dividing the middle class along party lines and idiotic "issues" to the point we don't even realize who the enemy is.
    Last edited: Oct 11, 2010
  20. PatsFanInVa

    PatsFanInVa PatsFans.com Supporter PatsFans.com Supporter

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    Can't say we disagree on the general outline of the problem: It's "divide and conquer" on the part of the wealthy as regards all others.

    Oddly when we analyze how we've been divided and conquered, we tend to disagree (after all, we've been divided, haven't we?)

    But there's an extension of what you are talking about that rears its head over and over again: Wall Street ain't for the amateurs. Hell, right now people are trying to place their supercomputers closer to Manhattan, b/c the electrons get there faster if you're closer, when you're trying to make less than a penny per deal 40 million times a day (yes I got this from "60 minutes" LOL.) You really think we can compete with this through e-trade? Not long-term, not the great mass of individuals. YET, there are constant calls for the privatization of government programs, so that each individual IS pitted against Wall Street - oh and by the way, with gazillions in fees realized by "the house" for the right to gamble on the long odds.

    This is an aside to the rest of the thread. I don't want to make this about "class war" but about finding where we do agree about creating the kind of place we want to live in.

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