Recently I heard the rather brilliant Estonian president Toomas Hendrik Ilves. He was proudly touting the computerized system used throughout his country which coordinates all sorts of information about everyone. Frankly I think it is great not to have to always fill out forms for everything and coordinate all your health etc records. It couldn’t work here though. It would be “unamerican” and violate our “privacy” and other “freedoms.” You seemed upset that our government will not just refuse entry to anyone from west Africa, but imagine the hullabaloo that would raise. It would interfere with business yet the objection would be couched in other terms of rights and freedom. Everyone speaks of privacy from government snooping but no one is willing to stand up and complain about privacy from marketing interference. The Do Not Call Registry is a joke and why is it that no politician has dared to complain that Target stores kept our personal identification? When I pay cash that’s the end of the transaction, why should it not be the same if I use plastic except that would interfere with marketing. It is about time that someone insisted on defining terms like “privacy” and “freedom” and “rights” recognizing that such definitions evolve. As they stand now they are meaningless except as rabble rousing shorthand.

In the post war era into the nineteen sixties Americans got used to a standard of living that they could only afford because there was no competition left, not because of their work ethic or some innate industrial superiority as they liked to believe. I recall in the seventies how the auto unions were still talking about theirs being the most productive labor force in the world. At the same time the car companies were unwilling to warrant cars for more than one year. And wasn’t everyone surprised when Toyota sent us lower priced cars packed with all the more desirable American car options and with doors that didn’t start rattling after a few thousand miles. The auto dealers and magazines tried to project it as unamerican to buy one of what they quickly labeled “econoboxes” though they looked much like a Mercedes box. Neither the industry nor the unions got the message. We keep expecting to somehow return to this superior lifestyle which is seen as a base line. We see the economy as bad because we don’t get high wages and benefits.

The 90% with the money want US labor to become accustomed to a more competitive standard of living. The other 10% are missing the point by blaming the 90% entirely for their lower take home pay. But the present situation cannot continue. The graduated income tax was a great idea. Since all profit is from business that was a fair way of taxing it through the employees. (I’ve seen enough of the attitude of employers to know that if taxes were paid directly by employers every employee in the same position would be paid the same regardless of his personal expenses: “No one told you to get a house, to have children, etc.”) But if the shrinking working class can’t support the government and corporations won’t – preferring to cut programs to the poor and tax breaks for the “middle class” – than who will pay taxes?

I might add that protectionism got a bad rap in the latter 20th century but I’ve also observed that despite their complaints industry generally will live with higher taxation so long as their competitors face the same cost. Globalization however has thrown that equation off and some protectionism is needed today to level the international playing field. The internationalization of industry itself has, however, complicated that equation. How much of a “made in America” car is actually made here. Most is assembly of parts from overseas which parts themselves are sub-assemblies of things made elsewhere, sometimes in the USA. Very complicated.

Face it. A lower standard of living, more in keeping with the rest of the world, is the new (and more natural) reality.

I have long felt that the trouble with even the best meaning health and poverty programs is that they get bogged down in “dealing with” the situation, not ending it. It is the old saying about teaching a man to fish but on a global scale where there will soon not be enough fish to feed everyone. We’re exhausting that resource like all others.

May wife asked me what will be done about global warming? My answer was that nothing substantive will be done. A rotting edifice will be whitewashed … again. The cruel math is that the life style of the well off has always depended upon the enslavement of many others under one name or another. But today fewer and fewer slaves are needed while the slave population continues to grow or at best has stabilized at a high level. Global warming will reduce the population by drought but no one able to change it will bother too, just as the problem has been avoided for decades though it was seen to be coming. Al Gore tried to warn of global warming but was sidelined by a campaign that depicted the one-time vice president as alarmist. And just try to sell Nuclear power to either the miners or the mine companies in Tennessee.

There is much wringing of hands by the best people, those who refuse to turn their backs on the helpless like the levite and priest did in the story of the good Samaritan. They deal with the problem but even these saints don’t envision solving it.

Meanwhile the levite and the priest contribute some cash and try to feel that they have done their duty. (Yes, there are a few who do more but they are in the minority and do not control governmental policy which is set to advance business, trade, and industry. Ie: the wealthy CEOs and stock holders.)

Despite the hard work of the well meaning and the cash sent by the wealthy to ease their consciences, millions of slaves will die from hunger, disease, war, and drought. There will be hand wringing but the life styles of the “haves” will not decline one bit. Recently I heard some unusually forthright CEO answering a question about it being unpatriotic to relocate corporate offices offshore. His honest answer was to the effect that patriotism wasn’t his concern. He was employed to increase profit.

The sad truth is that had we made a more conscious effort to limit births decades ago to perhaps half of what we had there would be enough jobs, fish, etc for all. Of course every mom and dad want children. In some countries children are a parent’s only retirement plan. So that was unpopular and only China could effectively do it (though India did try.) I’m a bit tired of third world men who complain on the news that they have no job and can’t feed their nine children so it isn’t entirely the fault of “the West.” I understand that the mentality that many children are necessary is changing now that survival rates are high, compared to past centuries at least. But the change is slow.

Bottom line? A hundred years hence after the coming devastation there will be a warmer planet with a much smaller population but with jobs for all who survive. Those with wealth know this but won’t face it.

For the record, I believe in capitalism. No other system has worked nearly as well on a large scale. I do not want Goody Two Shoes types running corporations for they would run them into the ground and that would help no one. Corporations must be run by hard headed businessmen who don’t think more than a few years ahead.

It is the second and third lines of executives who do the damage, for their jobs are not leadership but to advance the profits of the companies and its executives without regard for anything else, be it their employees, the environment, the slaves worldwide, or any damage done today that will harm tomorrow. The most conservative of conservatives should therefore see the necessity of someone to constrain these vice presidents and financial experts. Business organizations on their own have shown near zero ability to make more than cosmetic changes. (Consider the tobacco industry which fought regulation kicking and screaming in the USA and continues to promote itself worldwide.) It is the work of government to defend our national interests and promote the common prosperity. Yes, this means business but also the citizenry. These two bodies have always clashed and the overseas horror is only tangentially the business of governments. For this they have set up the United Nations but the UN is famously bureaucratic, wasteful, and nepotist where each state promotes its own business interests more than they do common goals.

The best third world governments see the media as an educational tool, for they often quite correctly view their people as too ignorant to handle our ideas of democracy and freedom of the press. After all, even ancient Athens was unable to do so in the end. Of course their ideas of education are not the same as ours. To be more correct, their worldview is very different than ours and not always wrong just because it doesn’t support American business interests. It can be a difficult balance: either have their people – often their children – work at slave wages, or starve. That has been the conundrum of India since its independence. Wages and hours are abysmal but some years ago India was able to boast that none of its citizens had starved to death that year. It’s a matter of perspective. But after seeing a documentary that my company had made of the working conditions of the Indian boys who do the brass plating of those items we import, I decided never to buy one. The boys go blind. Very occasionally the publicizing of some such conditions do marginally increase the conditions of the workers as happened after the factory fires in Malaysia (?) a while ago. But it doesn’t help long term. There is a company in China whose sole purpose is to find the cheapest labor force in the orient for any western backed business. How can a local industry or country which tries to improve conditions compete against such craven western businesses that hide behind a Chinese company and have plausible deniability? The only real answer is a smaller work force but no one seems to be talking about population control in recent decades. (Since the creation of super strains of grains temporally took the pressure off, fewer excess people starve but they still live in extreme poverty.)

If there is a positive note it would be that TV entertainment may yet improve millions of these lives. Because of TV people do look to a better future for their children. In the past fatalism has reigned and it continues to reign in nations not in the European tradition. The very word Islam means to be reconciled to the Divine will, and despite the best efforts of the Indian government there is still discrimination against those who are assumed to have greatly sinned in some previous life. Fortunately this fatalistic attitude is becoming a harder sell. People in the developing world see another life on TV and want a piece of it. No, they do not want to be like Americans and give up their old ways entirely, but they do want at least a piece of the action and that piece is rarely delivered by their local oligarchs who relate more to other wealthy in other countries than to their own people.

So people will die from global warming and epidemics carried world round by the globalized economy and then the world may get better for the reduced slave population that survives. Futurists tell us there will be little real work to be done in the coming entirely electronic world. Life will improve for the survivors much as it did for the reduced population of serfs in medieval Europe after the Black Death.