Toward Sustainable Habits and Durable Prosperity
As Lewis Black said last week on the Daily Show while talking about the indoctrination of children, The problem is that everything became ideological. But how did we get there, at the beginning of the 21st century, still debating 19th century experimental ideologies that are keeping a nation divided? The featured picture of this article is a snapshot of this society where a man with a permit to carry a loaded semi-automatic riffle came to preach extremist views on individual liberties in a park occupied by protesters demanding social cohesion.
Porch, the man with the gun, introduced himself as a defender of pure capitalism and I felt this was my opportunity to explore points of view that are still obsure to me and that seem to be dictating policy from the new Congress that was elected last year. Support given by the American public to politicians promoting the virtues of capitalism with small government seem to emanate from a widespread sentiment that the democratic process has been abused by the political power of demagogues making unsustainable promisses during the last part of the 20th century. Adding to the tension between those benefiting from promises made by politicians and those who are not directly eligible for government help, is the negative perception of the poor in the United States.
The sense of duty and patriotic fervor with which we are regularly reminded that this country is the country of opportunity have been convincing enough to make most Americans believe that hard work is the necessary and sufficient condition to attain the plush life we all want and that the poor simply have not tried enough. Further feeding the gap with the poor is the propensity the poor have to doubt and despise themselves because of the little they have in a society that keeps reminding them that it’s their fault. The result is that the poor are perceived as lazy and unable to take care of their property, often seen neglected or abused. The message for social cohesion from the Occupy movement and the beautiful diversity of people composing the movement will eventually make this country stronger, but while the movement unavoidably gains popularity in a global economy that benefits a few at the expense of the rest suffering from intense global competition, politicians supported by the movement will need to refrain from slipping too deep into emotional popular rethoric. The movement will also have to be represented by a long term perspective on sustainable habits and durable prosperity because reaching these goals will also protect us from the race to the bottom.
Back to the man carrying a loaded AKM (romanian made AK-47). Porch was indeed the other extreme, the angry ones at the government, wanting no less than absolute freedom and after talking with him for several minutes, I was able to clarify that his idea of pure capitalism doesn’t necessarily imply that the “invisible hand” works better when each finger operates individually. I mentioned to him him that the government had contributed to progress throughout history with investments and projects that fueled innovation, built the foundation for a modernization of industrial production, and removed bottle necks to free-market efficiency, and that it would be possible in the near future to see prosperity in countries where governments would take initiatives allowing free markets to realize a more efficient allocation of resources. To the the question of, if models of urban planning would be proven succesfull for creating a space within which resources are utlilized more efficiently with widespread prosperity, would he accept the adoption of such model in his country, Porch said, “if the model implies telling people what to do, I would be against it, even if the model means more efficient markets.”