Brave New World, Redux

After Thursday’s stock market crash, we find ourselves staring into the abyss of a potential double-dip recession. Republican’s, having ignored the history lesson of the business lobby 1937 Austerity Push, which managed to push America back into depression, seem to be clueless to the fate of most Americans. Of course, As the New York Times reports, their financial base is doing very well and luxury spending is reaching new highs. But America’s economy lives and dies on the confidence of the average consumer. In the go-go years of the late 1990’s the concept of “mass affluence” and “affordable luxury” dazzled marketers into believing that “aspirational marketing” was the path to the streets of gold in which the majority of citizens would have 60” inch flat screen TV’s running 500 channels of cable TV and 100 MBPS Broadband services, even if they had to hock their house to get it. But, as a new White Paper from Ad Age entitled, “The New Wave of Affluence” points out, “In 2011 however, in the wake of a massive reset, it appears that mass affluence may be a thing of the past.” Ad Age goes on to suggest that marketers concentrate their attention on the 3% of the American population earning more than $200,000 per year, “who account for almost 50% of consumer spending.” The esteemed Telecom analyst Craig Moffett, in a report titled “How the Other Half Lives” chose to look at the darker side of this picture. “After paying for food, shelter, and transportation, the average bottom-40% family is left with…. wait for it…. just $1,215 per year, or $100 a month, for everything else.  That’s $100 per month for all discretionary purchases, telecom services, cable or satellite TV, movies…  and everything else.  Indeed, after Healthcare, the number drops below zero.” A recent report on consumer discretionary spending from the Federal Reserve Bank of New York shows “this time is different.” Going back decades, such spending had never fallen more than 3 percent per capita in a recession. In this slump, it is down almost 7 percent, and still has not really begun to recover.”

​This set of circumstances should be a topic of great debate and begs the question of our political and economic future: democracy or oligarchy? It may very well be that the affluent can sustain brands like Apple, Lexus and Nike far into the future but it paints a worrisome picture of a world of gated communities and private police forces and certainly signals a break from the Horatio Alger myth of upward economic mobility. The New York Times recently reported that high quality guard dogs for executives were selling for $230,000. One of the sellers, Wayne Curry justified the price tag, “When you compare the costs of a full-time bodyguard versus a dog, the dog makes a lot of sense,” Mr. Curry said. “And the dog, unlike the bodyguard, can’t be bought off.”

What are these executives planning for with their $230,000 guard dog? Civil unrest. We may in fact be reaching a point where a majority of the country feels they have no stake in the general well being of the society—a New Anarchy. Imagine an explosion of technology aided Flash Robs.  This amazing anomie has been exploited by a sort of uber-libertarian like Michelle Bachman, who clearly expressed a desire in the last three weeks to see the U.S. Government default.  Lulz Sec and Anonymous’ desire to crash the computers running PBS, Sony, Citibank or the Defense Department is equally anarchic. As Bob Dylan once wrote, “When you ain’t got nothin’, you got nothin’ to lose.” The collective consciousness of a nation that brought us through a revolution, a Civil War and two world wars is being destroyed by the Ayn Rand fantasies of the uber-libertarians.

Whatever political will the country might have had for a WPA style program —putting millions of unemployed construction workers back on the job fixing America’s third world infrastructure—now seems to have evaporated. It was perhaps our last chance to avert the Coming Anarchy. With no government infrastructure programs to put people back to work, the private sector is left  trying to create jobs for the 28 million people who are either officially unemployed, working part time but wanting full time work or “discouraged workers” who have stopped looking for a job. This of course is not going to happen—and so we are all facing the problem of a “new normal”, in which a large portion of the high school only population may never find work. Liberal pundits mourn the loss of good jobs for this cohort, but as Bernard Avishai warned in “Strategy and Business” way back in 1997, “Any job that is still simple and repetitive enough to employ a semi- or non-skilled person is going to be even more pressured by new software or by contractor-suppliers in China and Brazil.”

Look at the transformation of business in the communications sector that we study at the USC Annenberg Innovation Lab. Apple and Google have revenue per employee well over $1 million per year. Contrast WalMart’s $192,000 in revenue per employee to Amazon’s $1.8 million and you can see that the productivity of these new businesses are not going to employ a lot of Americans. Imagine a dozen giant Amazon warehouses manned by robots, “picking and packing”, compared to 5000 giant WalMart supercenters, manned by thousands of employees with health and welfare benefits.  The workforce growth that will take place in the new economy is among a large talented group of undergraduate engineers. And unfortunately, as any one walking on a campus like mine can see, the Chinese and the Indians are making a lot more smart engineers than we are.

That’s why economists now believe we have a structural unemployment model. There is a profound mismatch between the talent growth companies need and the American workforce. The other irony is that these new communications giants are sitting on record hoards of cash: Apple-$41 Billion, Google-$41 Billion, Microsoft-$55 Billion, IBM-$41 Billion.  More cheap money from the Fed would make no difference to their investment policy. Quite frankly, they see nothing of scale to invest in, so they are under pressure to return the cash to their investors in the form of a large dividend. They are loath to do this, but their margins are so high that they can’t possibly reinvest the profits. Apple’s gross margin is 41.7% , Google’s is 67%.  These are businesses that never have to compete on price and so they do not adhere to nostrums of the perfect market beloved by conservative economists.

But of course the cynic would point out that the media industries have a major role to play in avoiding the kind of Civil Unrest in our cities that you are seeing in Damascus and Athens, in Cairo and Madrid. The two most important dystopian fables of the future were Orwell’s 1984 and Huxley’s Brave New World. It turned out Huxley was right. With right combination of anti-anxiety drugs (Soma to Huxley; Valium, Prozac,etc to us) and the right entertainment (Huxley’s “Feelies”; our 3D) you don’t need Big Brother to keep the proles in line. A recent report shows that “Antipsychotics remained the top-selling class of medications in the U.S., with 2009 prescription sales of $14.6 billion.” Of course the power of distraction and pacification has been well understood since the Roman poet Juvenal described the mood one hundred years after Christ’s birth, “everything, now restrains itself and anxiously hopes for just two things: bread and circuses.” Our current version is called reality TV and its explosive acceptance by the general public has been a boon to the bottom line of media companies across the world. Who needs to pay actors or writers when there is an endless stream of Snooki’s to fill up the 500-channel universe? But the real fable is the belief that bread and circuses can permanently pacify a developed economy, undergoing what can only be described as the opening shots of class warfare.

Of course Hollywood has always been partial to science fiction and the most eagerly awaited new film in the genre is Hunger Games, adapted from the tremendously successful young adult novel by Suzanne Collins. Set in a post apocalyptic North America where children fight on television to the death to secure food rations for their region, Collins noted that the idea “came to her one day when she was channel-surfing, and the lines between a reality show competition and war coverage began to blur in this very unsettling way.” Unlike Scholastic Press’ earlier smash hit, Harry Potter, there are no fantasy monsters in Hunger Games, just the crushing reality of a resource starved future with authoritarian rulers and a few mega rich capitalists. If Hunger Games is a cultural marker for the general view of the Millennials on their perceived future, it is as disturbing as the Ad Age White Paper that urges marketers to concentrate on the rich elites.

Why there isn’t some sense of panic in the political class, perceiving a future of what the Harvard Business Review called an “Apartheid Economy” with permanent real unemployment of 15%, is a mystery. We all understand that in America (as well as many second and third world countries) the top one percent controls 40% of the wealth. You can get into this Upper Class either by birth (the lucky sperm club) or by “earning” your way through education or a skill like singing or acting. But the problem with a society that has so few controlling so much, is that “security” becomes more important than freedom. This is perhaps the central theme of The Hunger Games. And perhaps it is weirdly, a left wing idea that appeals strongly to the Tea Party.

That our political system is so sclerotic at the very moment we need it to be inventive leads one back to a question posed by the Founders: Can a large republic govern itself? Jefferson and some of the anti-Federalists had their doubts and cited Montesquieu’s warning that in a large republic “men of large fortunes” could distort the governance of the republic. The Founder, George Clinton, writing under the pen name Cato saw “this unkindred legislature therefore, composed of interests opposite and dissimilar in their nature, will in its exercise, emphatically be, like a house divided against itself.”

Is this not a grand description of the situation we find ourselves in? The Republican majority in the House was elected with the financial support of Wall Street in the belief that their taxes would never be raised. This devil’s bargain with the Tea Party was made without regard to the possibility that once in office the ideologues might bring about a default that could crash the market. The irony of Sarah Palin and the Club for Growth threatening to run primary challenges from the right against compromising Tea Party Congress members would not have been lost on James Madison who worried about the power of “factions” in Federalist No. 10. Madison defined them as, a minority “who are united and actuated by some common impulse of passion, or of interest, adverse to the rights of other citizens, or to the permanent and aggregate interests of the community.” That the Republican’s moved forward even when it was clear from polls that the majority of Americans supported a more balanced approach to deficit reduction proves that well financed factions can essentially ignore the will of the people.

Given a Republican primary process so dominated by the right, one would think that Democrats could re-form the Center Left coalition that gave Barack Obama a 10 million vote advantage over John McCain in 2008. But as pollster Stanley Greenberg pointed out, the current economic malaise brings the whole legitimacy of the Federal Government into question and thus harms Democrats.

This distrust of government and politicians is unfolding as a full-blown crisis of legitimacy sidelines Democrats and liberalism. Just a quarter of the country is optimistic about our system of government — the lowest since polls by ABC and others began asking this question in 1974. But a crisis of government legitimacy is a crisis of liberalism. It doesn’t hurt Republicans. If government is seen as useless, what is the point of electing Democrats who aim to use government to advance some public end?

Greenberg’s conclusion is that the public believes that Democrats are just as willing to bailout irresponsible elites as the Republicans. To create a true alternative to the Republican’s Wall Street driven no tax orthodoxy, Greenberg suggests four planks to a Democratic platform.

  1. Campaign Finance Transparency, including free broadcast time near elections on both broadcast and cable outlets and requirements for all donations to be immediately revealed and put on line.
  2. Tax Transparency, including a radical simplification of the tax code removing all loopholes and special interest deductions and a simplified financial transaction tax.
  3. Comprehensive Immigration Reform, including “strong enforcement at the border and in the workplace, and the expulsion of troublesome undocumented immigrants. While favoring toughness, they also want to find ways to put undocumented workers on a path to citizenship.”
  4. Responsible Deficit Reduction, including major cutbacks on defense spending while preserving Medicare and Social Security for future generations.

I think these are good ideas, but my belief is the core change that needs to come from Democrats is a fifth principle should govern their strategy for the next decade—a return to Jeffersonian principles about Federalism and a return to championing the city. I have been writing about this idea of the New Federalism since 2007 and I am convinced that the experimentation that is needed to find our way out of this crisis will only be found at the local level. In my first essay I cited Justice Brandeis who said, “It is one of the happy incidents of the federal system that a single courageous state may, if its citizens choose, serve as a laboratory; and try novel social and economic experiments without risk to the rest of the country.” Where are the governable progressive polities in America? In cities like Los Angeles, New York, Boston, Austin, San Francisco, Seattle, Chicago, Miami and Portland. Yes they have revenue issues, but they also have a solid  tax base from sales and property taxes that probably can be raised to pay for essential services like education, public safety and infrastructure. In addition the municipal bond market with it’s 5.5% tax free yields looks remarkably stable compared to much lower yielding paper. As Parag Khanna has written “In this century, it will be the city—not the state—that becomes the nexus of economic and political power. Already, the world’s most important cities generate their own wealth and shape national politics as much as the reverse.” Democrats need to stop defending the Federal government as the solution to all of the nation’s problems. If it shrinks in the next decade (which it surely will) there will be less money to fight senseless wars in the Middle East and perhaps more money that local cities and towns can raise to fund the things that really matter in our lives.

The present political cultural trajectory is unsustainable. Republics cannot function as Oligarchies or Corporatocracies. The only way we are going to rebuild this country is at the City Level, where the broken down schools, bridges, airports, train stations and highway’s are supposedly maintained.  There is a whole new Locavesting movement that is trying to help make it easy for people to invest in their own communities. Most Republicans (and much of the media) will take issue with my dystopian view of our immediate future if we are left with the current Republican economic austerity plan that eliminates any public investment. Their belief is in the media’s power to induce what William Gibson called a “mass consensual hallucination” to keep civil unrest at bay. They have more belief in the passivity of the young, the colored and the disposed than I do. Let us hope that the country comes to it’s senses before the coming anarchy really takes hold.

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48 Responses to Brave New World, Redux

  1. Jon:
    As your contemporaries would say, “right on.” However Millennials aren’t into reality TV and certainly wouldn’t care for the dystopian notion of “the hunger wars. Their popular format would be more like “Conspiracy for Good.” That said, your notion of finding fixes locally is so Millennial I can’t believe it came from a Boomer like you. Millennials are Pragmatic Idealists who embody the slogan, Think Globally, Act Locally, in just about everything they do.

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  3. Jeff says:

    Great article. Jon, you’ve been preaching this for a long time. It always made sense and even more now, with the demise in front of our eyes, of the Federal Government.

  4. Glad to have you back Jon.

    Perhaps you are finally ready to let go of the DC model? If so your point above makes sense.

    If you are letting go, you can demand a far lower tax base for the nation, and allow the progressive city centers to keep their money to build provable utopias, that other cities / states will learn from.

    If you are not letting go, you are doomed, because the progressives in those cities cannot afford both the national taxes and local taxes.

    I know it sucks, but ultimately if you answer is “less war” – it goes nowhere, because when the money gets sent to DC,t he whole country gets a vote on how to spend it, and you lose.

    BUT! if you send less money to DC, in many ways you are defunding war – because once people get a sense of how cool life can be when they get to spend their money on the city, they will view military incursions differently.

    Right now, people figure well it is better to have a strong military than a giant welfare state – and you lose, so go local!

    It’s a tough moral dilemma for you I know, you WANT to be the boss of EVERYBODY in the country, but to get the world you want, you have to pull back and focus your money on a local place instead.

    To convert the country Jon, you have to to go local, be a shining example, and trust that you are right, and let lots of other cities / states compete against your approach.

    As a genius once said, “states’ rights is the free market version of democracy”

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  6. woodnsoul says:

    Our very own “Arab Spring” — what a thought.

    I wonder how the founding fathers would have looked at that idea? From both sides as they always did, but in reality, the tyranny of the Panarchy may just inspire folks to fire up their phones and cameras and have a local demonstration or maybe several hundred.

  7. John Papola says:


    I’m going to take some real time to read through this again, line-by-line, and craft a reply of substance that will be half rebuttal and half “here here”. There’s some great, some fine, some dubious and some tragically wrong in this essay. Here’s to the dialog to come.

  8. Jon Taplin says:

    Morgan-I agree that the local is where the action is. Let’s try to have a very civil conversation as to how to get there. My problem with the “all government is bad” talk, is that it leads us into a blind alley where the rich have their private security forces and gated communities and the public services for the rest are insufficient to public health and safety.

  9. Vasily Gatov says:

    Jon, great article, much to agree. Cities were the place where democracy was born (Athens), later they needed to join forces to confront Persians – the form of federation of free cities emerged in Greece. I do strongly believe that metro culture and fantastic economic powers that are collected in the cities by all preceding generations are a good basis for the New Federation idea. Although I am not American, will strongly support such case.

  10. rhbee says:

    Mad as hell, you say.
    Not going to take it anymore,either.

    Welcome to oh well part two.

    Now that Obama is set to go down as the greatest appeaser that never was, and the wars go on, and the Chinese now begin lecturing us about living within our means, now you come back to tell us to somehow still trust in as Arlo once put it “The Great Compromise” that is government. Huh?

  11. Jon Taplin says:

    So much fun to see some of the old partisans weighing in.

  12. Ray Paret says:

    Jon, I might have missed this latest gem had it not been for Ken B. who sent me the link. I agree with Jon Papola and will need to read this again to completely understand it all, but on first reading I do concur with a great deal of what you write. One of these days i will have to come down to USC and audit another class. A bigger forum for you would be wonderful!

  13. Anonymous says:

    This is a comment that caught my eye somewhere surfing the web anyway I think it is apropos. It is Sunday god bless.

    If the earth and nature are really the realm that God has created for his people, why are conservati­ves and the religious right so unwilling to take care of it? Why have they turned to profits and bottom-lin­es over conservati­on and care of the world they inhabit? Surely God meant for us to cherish his creation, not kill each other over money, material wealth and possession of land or power. It seems like the religions of the world have completely been taken in and warped, distorted and manipulate­d by the ideas of capitalism­, greed and material wealth.

  14. BERNARD. says:

    Its me I am not (yet) anonymous. Nice to be back on your blog JT.

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  16. Marc Cooper says:


    A great essay. Of course the core question, as we agree, is whether or not we have already chosen the Huxleyean model of civic non-engagement. The Israelis, this week, are showing us some hope in this regard. But maybe there’s something in the water over there.

    Anyway, I blogged your great blog –>

  17. Jon Taplin says:

    Marc-Demonstrations in Tel Aviv, Riots in London. It’s all of a piece.

  18. Stephen says:

    From your mouth to God’s ears. “Let us hope that the country comes to it’s senses before the coming anarchy really takes hold.”

  19. Anthony Nelson says:

    Its so great to have a USC education. Thanks Jon for coming back to
    comment on the current craziness. The city model is a real interesting
    idea, it makes me think back to your lecture about “Glocolization”, which
    has been a platform for my theatre plan across the US. BTW, I am currently
    in Duluth, the goverment here, or city officials have designated a street
    to Bob Dylan, who apparently passed through here during his rise to fame.
    Ironically, he won’t return to do a benefit concert to help save this city
    on the shores of Lake Superior. Perhaps, you could give him a call and
    let him know how desperately this CITY needs to be re-added to the map.

    Anthony Nelson
    USC 05

  20. woodnsoul says:

    Tel Aviv, London – guess it isn’t just an Arab Spring… or summer.

    There is a huge amount of discontent – thus far it is pretty directionless here. I wonder if the media would actually cover that sort of happening here. I can just see the Fox News commentators and comments now…

    Alas, the discontent is still directionless and sublimated for now.

    A significant difference between the disturbances oversees and those here is that we have a lot of folks with guns here – lots of guns and lots of ammo.

    I wonder how that would change the equation – if at all.

  21. rhbee says:

    Later that same day. Yes, Jon, we have missed your intelligent collections of information and yes, we do sound familiar to my ears. But frankly, I don’t think we have much time to resay all of our same old stuff. Anyone got something new? I heard an astrophysicist say the other day that our problem is that we no longer make things. Then I saw where a former economic advisor said that the next stimulus should go directly to us citizens. My own thought was that we could all do with a moritorium on credit/mortgage interest rates, say 5 years at 0%.

    Pie in the sky or double dipped fried fucking cool aide, I’d add.

  22. Anonymous says:

    Republicans plural Republican’s possessive

  23. Randy says:

    Great essay Jon, good to have you back.

  24. BERNARD. says:

    I wouldnt mind a city with an efficient electrical transportation , bullet trains instead of short air transportation. a massive solar grid an more effecient electrical suppliances, small high tec farms,
    and a new approach to medicine, its all there.

  25. woodnsoul says:


    You and your blog have been sorely missed!!!

    Thanks for coming back!

  26. Jon Taplin says:

    The riots that are taking place in London, Paris, Athens are perhaps a harbinger. Lot of fear in the upper class. And also the computers are trading 80% of the market with no human intervention. Thats why the computers keep selling Apple at 12X earnings!

    Woodnsoul-There are a lot guns in America as well as Israel.

  27. BERNARD. says:

    Riots are happening because the youth simply doesn’t trust their leaders anymore. There is a general distrust in the “institutions”. No future, that’s the problem. Lots of disgrunted people out there.

  28. woodnsoul says:

    There are a lot of guns in Israel, but I have observed a very different mind-set between the two places with regards to firearms and their use. I’ve never seen an Israeli bumper sticker that says “Protected by Ghalill” or the like.

    I’m not exactly sure how that plays out today, but I think it is a serious factor – here. If we “take to the streets”.

  29. And we’re gathering people who think the rich should be taxed at :

  30. W. Combs says:

    In an article about flash mobs robbing stores you were quoted asd follows:

    “You are essentially having a world where you have 25 million people who are underemployed and 2 percent of the population doing better than they ever have,” Taplin said. “Why wouldn’t that lead to some sort of social unrest? Why wouldn’t people use the latest technologies to effect that?”

    Teens with no morals, no manners and no money robbing for fashion and thrills. These kids are not former workers. They are the fruit of socialist welfare. You are twisting the facts to suit your socialist agenda.

  31. Jon Taplin says:

    W. Combs- The reporter left out my caveat that I wasn’t excusing the rioting. I was just stating a fact that desperately poor people have no attachment to the society’s norms.

  32. Alex Bowles says:

    So good to see this blog light up again JT, though goodness knows what you’ve been doing in the meantime is also fascinating and excellent.

    In the last few months I’ve actually developed a peculiar sense of optimism. The pervasive badness epitomized by the rise of the hard right seems to be crystallizing in a consensus that was conspicuously absent in the last couple of decades. People in the poor world know all about corrupt and generally unresponsive government. Now that people in the rich world are noticing that their consensus is not producing the anticipated effect, they’re starting to realize that ‘leaders’ in these countries have been quietly disabling fire-alarms and locking exit doors for some time. The Bananafication of the Republic isn’t a joke anymore, and that’s a major change.

    But as Leonard Cohen observed, there is a crack in everything – it’s how the light gets in. While California’s much maligned Initiative system is the target of much richly deserved criticism, it’s also preserved a pool of ‘unmanaged’ democratic will that will prove valuable and powerful well beyond the state’s geographic boundaries. Specifically, the electoral reform that just happened here is a trigger that will, I suspect, turn into a political tsunami.

    The LA Times is the only outlet I’ve seen that has even a glimmer of this, and even they haven’t connected the dots between closed primaries and gerrymandering (the two practices that CA just ended), and how – exactly – they work together to produce supremely bad lawmakers. And by supremely bad, I mean that they’re both absurdly uncompromising when it comes to the wider public interest, and ridiculously pliant with it comes to the very narrow interests of campaign donors. It’s a dynamic that applies nationwide, and cuts to the heart of what’s allowing (now competing) rampages by the Tea Party and Wall St. alike.

    What’s California’s breakthrough represents is a chance to elect reasonable legislators who (and this is critical) place their own state’s interests ahead of their party’s interests. This is unheard of, and extraordinarily important. After all, CA lawmakers no longer have to fear crossing party lines, but do have to fear the wrath of voters who are not being frustrated by closed primaries. In essence, political parties are being stripped of power, while independent voters are seeing theirs expanded dramatically. Needless to say, the interests of elected officials realign very swiftly. Apparently a number of CA’s worst legislators are already deciding against new terms, knowing full-well that they don’t have a snowball’s chance in hell of winning non-rigged districts. This is beyond wonderful.

    So how does that shellacking play out on the national level? Start with size: California is huge. It sends more representatives to Congress than any other state, by a wide margin. Freed from the constraints of the pure party-line style of parliamentary politics that’s been developing in DC, the CA delegation becomes the swing-vote on everything. They are like a nuclear powered version of Justice Kennedy, while their opponents are armed with little more than mean scowls and pointy sticks. Not surprisingly, they can be expected to put California first in just about any question where they feel it matters. And given the size of the economy (thanks to the presence of not one, but two very major cities), there’s very little that won’t matter to California.

    In short, the state is going to start eating the lunches of everyone. Hamstrung by hopelessly divided parties, other states will realize how insanely powerless their closed primaries and rampant gerrymandering have made them. It’ll be a classic case of an inability to beat becoming an impetus to join. Florida (another major population center) is already moving in this direction. Fairly swiftly, I think we’ll see a two-tier system developing in Congress. The dominant class will represent free states. The weaker (and fast falling) class will represent states still dominated by the toxic duopoly that’s presently driving the country to ruin. Americans, being Americans, won’t tolerate this for long. The result will, I suspect, be a death spiral for local party affiliates who don’t adapt. Politically speaking, I think America circa 2021 will be as different from 2011 as New York in the 70’s was from New York in the 80’s. But without so much hair gel.

    As the Economist is fond of pointing out, no nation has more long-term advantages than America. Yes, we’ve got huge political problems – ones that will probably get worse before they get better. But this is a question of inertia. We don’t need to wait for the pivotal moment. It’s already happened. The effects won’t appear immediately, but their eventual emergence is now a matter of mathematical certainty.

    The big question, in my mind, is how much damage do we suffer before the cavalry arrives?

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  34. Jon Taplin says:

    Alex- You lifted my spirits. You are right in that no noe is writing about this change in California’s election system. Makes me want to unfurl my California Republic Flag.

  35. peirastic says:

    Add a third vision, Well’s Time machine.

  36. BERNARD. says:

    Unfurl the truth Jon.

  37. Alex Bowles says:

    Happy to help, JT. It’s all about the long view.

  38. BERNARD. says:

    Ideas like this should be made public on a film.

  39. Flint says:

    Hey Jon, A lot of stuff to comment on, and I’m slow and impatient on the iPad.

    Let’s agree that ‘investment’, is a spent term. Not going to happen. We should have used the stimulus to do something bigger than prop up state and local government unions and a stinking diamond lane on the 405.

    And as far as tax hikes, I’m quite sure that the 2006 Dem senators had a very direct chat with Harry Reid and that caused the cave. More taxes aren’t happening. The ‘tax the rich’ stuff works when nobody is paying attention. People are paying attention. They are post-panic (never let a crisis go to waste’ was two years ago) and they want their money, rights and country back.

    Look at the British unrest and I see no racial component whatsoever. Plenty of stories about rich white kids out there. Most of it is about people with pointless lives having a tantrum. And these people have free health care, endless benefits, free homes and they’re rioting. What’s that tell us? In a way, something positive — people aren’t happy when they have coddled, worthless lives. We need to overcome fear and satisfy greed to be happy. Hence the most recent and perhaps poignant refutation of socialism.

    And we haven’t gotten to the western financial collapse. (uggg… Can’t maneuver around this interface. And have to go. More later)

    Figure that the same torrent that ripped into the private sector is going to rip through the public sector now that there’s no cushion.

    As far as violence, figure that you will be living in a seceded west side with something like Blackwater watching the perimeter.

  40. Morgan Wastrel says:

    We have to satisfy greed.

  41. Morgan Wastrel says:

    We have to satisfy greed to be happy.

  42. Mark Morris says:

    “a sort of uber-libertarian like Michelle Bachmann”

    I don’t think she is a libertarian, she is more of a Christian Reconstructionist or Dominionist.

    Here is an article by the son of the guy that influenced these people:–_here%27s_why_that%27s_terrifying?page=entire

  43. Fentex says:

    I have long thought that people who imagined a world of efficient industry would see a utopia for people unshackled from labour were mistaken.

    It was always obvious to me that the benefits to be gained would not be shared.

    It is well established that poorer people are more generous than the wealthy. It isn’t hard to conjour a thesis that scarcity buttresses appreciation of cooperation and sharing of success and failure so as to even out the trials and tribulations suffered by those with no surplus to fall back on.

    And it seems to me that a perverse consequence of the increased wealth innovation and invention has brought the richer world these past decades is a rivening of societies driven by more wealth making more people divorce themselves from genorosity to their neighbours.

    It makes me wonder if the credit fueled feeling of affluence let people learn to believe they were rich and may have encouraged them to support politics and attitudes favouring wealth they confused with favouring themselves.

    Exactly why much of the world is now arguing the benefit of society (which Maggie thatcher famously decreed did not exist) is unclear to me, whether it’s the success of self serving propaganda by the wealthy or delusional thinking of credit stuffed folly or some other source there’s a fundemental battle over the concept of common social responsiblities and interests around the world today with the upper hand held by proponent of doing away with society and all competing against each other.

    A sad ambition I think.

  44. Fentex says:

    Speaking of Hunger Games (a book I liked a great deal) I wish the makers of the movie would just give the fan producers of this short some money (and production aide) to expand on their efforts.

    I think I’d prefer the rough result over anything Hollywood might be tempted to smooth out of the story.

  45. Pingback: News Flash — Jon Taplin Is Back! | Dispatches from ConsterNation

  46. len says:

    Taplin: “democracy or oligarchy?”

    There is a choice? Democracy by choice, oligarchy, of course. All the city state means is more of them with more control of local resources. It has a good feel to it. I don’t expect it by peaceful means although I see that your approach is it happens because of the chaos coming as war among the upper classes begins to break the strength of the global oligarchies. The UN papers on transnationalism tell the tale that global wealth is a bigger challenge to localization than anything American or unique to any country. Wall Street is now only an American institution by location, not regulation.

    While it is fun to think about the anarchy, I don’t believe the kids are having any of it. They see opportunities and consider this latest cultural brouhaha as a boomer neurosis blooming into psychosis. The street actions you see in London and elsewhere may come here but they may just surprise you. There is an online group trying to recruit a 20k person sit in on Wall Street.

    The Interregnum you see is of your locale. On the one side you critique the oligarchies that are Apple and Google and on the other hand you laud them for innovation and that supports your argument that localism is a strategy for success. On the other hand, you won’t long be able to argue for that strategy without acknowledging the negative effects it has on transparency, openness, sharing, all the things the kids actually do buy into at the tender age of action however they might reconsider later as the boomers have.

    In fact the gardens of Apple and Google are as fertile as they are because of the very high walls around them. As Burnett pointed out about entertainment: it’s about access. If they young cannot get access, they make their own way and will not be stopped by our arrogance or belief that somehow our cultural elite are any more trustworthy than the financial elite even where they are the same people.

    And a lot of actors and singers are very well educated. Most of the best in fact for a given culural elite. Our generation is a little special in it’s reverence for the soulfulness of illiterate artists.

    What is the hidden coupler in what is coming in the interregnum: a well-trained and very experienced management class is about to enter the *US* markets. They are not globalists. They’ve seen the globe and are mostly unimpressed. They are the former US military forces that have served with honor in the last ten years.

    One of the not-often-discussed facts of the success of the NASA of the 1960s and it’s large scale engineering successes is it was a child of the US Army and that experience in the logistics of war was a critical element of managing a half million. This may not interest the fans of the Internet and computer engineering, but when it comes time to build, field, maintain and sustain very large engineering projects, not just the knowledge that a browser can enable access to, it is the will to complete the task that most guarantees success.

    And they understand oligarchy as no economist ever has or ever will. And they know how to fight their way to the op of one.

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