Thursday, February 19, 2015

Wealth and the Big Conundrum

We’re doomed to repeat the history we can’t understand. And, in our case, the education necessary for understanding the connection between past history and future events is slipping away. With college unaffordable by more of our young people, and even high school difficult when both parents are working two jobs, the middle class is becoming nearly extinct. One question worth asking is, are the richest of us any safer or more comfortable having created a tangible barrier between them and the rest of us? The answer, in my mind, is that the growing gap between rich and poor creates an increasing probability of a revolution.

Follow this logic and look back to see the historical precedents:

At the end of World War II, returning veterans were offered inexpensive home ownership and low-cost college education as the “reward” for fighting battles. It built the middle class, and the middle class built up the economy. One unintended consequence of a vibrant economy was increasing the speed of the growth of technology; new tools coming at a faster and faster rate of development. Look back fifty years ago and you’ll see a life that, by today’s standards, was unlivable. Only a society with a thriving middle class can do that.

Now, with the middle class bordering on extinction, and families increasingly financially crushed, the level of political unrest is growing. Our politicians are almost universally hated. Yes, it’s probably true that most are stupid, dishonest and inept, but that’s beside the point. The voters are too ignorant to be able to make judgments about who would lead us best. Elections are the worst form of reality television. No wonder the majority of Americans don’t bother to vote. Politicians take notice: with money being the most important factor governing the outcome of elections, what will happen eventually is that instead of voting, citizens will begin rioting in the streets for all the things that politicians should have been getting for them: Education without ridiculous indebtedness. A viable future with an affordable home and a good-paying job.

I fear an armed revolution, too close now and getting closer. Every day, things in America look a little more like the Middle East.

Has this happened before? Yes, and often. A few examples: Ancient Rome’s “bread and circuses” sapped the vibrancy of the empire, and it fell. Preceding the Magna Carta, the gap between the royals and the serfs grew so wide that the king was threatened with overthrow. The French Revolution was the result of the monarchy’s treatment of the poor. The Revolutions of 1848, known in some countries as the Spring of Nations, Springtime of the Peoples or the Year of Revolution, were a series of political upheavals throughout Europe that resulted from monarchs who were crushing their own middle class citizens. It remains the most widespread revolutionary wave in European history. In 1917, the Czar of Russia was overthrown. In every one of these eras, the gap between the richest and the poorest was at its peak.

Do we have the will to correct our current situation without resorting to violence? Ask someone you know who is wealthy: What would you sacrifice to maintain a portion of your wealth and keep your head on your neck?

No comments:

Post a Comment