Sunday, August 21, 2011

Something Large

The average wage an American earns is among the highest on earth. During 2009, the typical yank earned about eight times more than the his counterpart in China, ten times the salary of the Indian, and over 100 times as much as the gentleperson form Burundi (Central Africa). How sorry can you feel for the Virginian, Appalachian, or Californian who is likely to collect more in his or her unemployment check than the Chinese or Indian does by working? Gosh--his food coupons and access to Medicaid are likely to go farther than the Central-African's paycheck.

Yet here we are, mired in in the economic doldrums, wondering if it's a recession, depression, or jobless recovery we're talking about. America's problem has festered for a while, and it's quite simple if you think about it: We don't make enough things or offer enough services that the world wants to buy. I'm not talking about cell phone components, clock radios, or even cars. The globalites buy these from the guys that work for less than $4 per hour. I'm talking about the stuff that humanity (American and otherwise) is willing to pay more than $22 per hour to get because it's so large.

The rest of the planet will pay more than $22 per hour for cures for Alzheimer's disease, diabetes, and pancreatic cancer. It will gladly shell out more than $22 an hour for the production of robots that do all sorts of things faster than people do them. Sadly, but truthfully, nation after nation will also offer up such a price for well trained, and well equipped armies to defend them. And then there's my favorite...Those nations and their constituents will invest such sums on space commercialization. The latter, not merely to see what's out there, but rather to be more comfortable (less crowded), more efficient (travel faster and be better suited for harsh climates), and more entertained (vacation in the most exotic of places)!

Ed LaSalle and I have commissioned students to help write and illustrate a book entitled Six Flights Out of This World: The Science Fiction and Astronomy Reader. We hope it will inspire them and their fellow learners to engage in large thinking, because too many Americans have been thinking small for decades. The chickens are coming home to roost! How many times have you run across someone who refuses an education and then refuses to work in an unskilled environment because of poor pay and job conditions? Do you know adults who have quit their occupations merely because they no longer like them, without regard for how they will earn $22 per hour? And what of the guys and gals who say there's no money in legitimate work, but there's a booming drug trade?

Against this backdrop, it's hard to fathom where the government fits in...problem, solution, both or neither? Public involvement in 2008 and 2009 saved the nation from a much deeper recession or even a depression, but at what cost? Were Washington's efforts to charge us less in taxes, even as it did more to supplement our salaries, softening the blow of a global economic fallout, or merely enabling us to keep thinking small?

We'll see. Leaving the answer to your interpretation, I predict that the United States is three years into an economic blah period that will last 25 . I hope I'm wrong. You'll know we're out of the hard times though, when large numbers of Americans are making things the rest of the world will pay more than $22 an hour for. You'll know it's a brand new morning here when Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid are the social safety net for a few of our infirm or destitute countryfolk rather than an alternative to earning the $22 we spend. And you'll recognize the return of our vibrancy and resiliency when the Federal Reserve is conducting monetary policy to smooth out the business cycles rather than supplement the underemployment, Social Security, and unemployment insurance Americans rely on to keep consuming at present levels.

So let's prepare beau coups of those large things the world will pay our $22 per hour wage for--space buildings, militiary technology, robots, and cures and treatments for exotic diseases. For more than 200 years this has been the land of opportunity. Notwithstanding a blemish here or there along the way, we have been the most inclusive society in the history of the earth. This is no more apparent than when I travel abroad. What other nation could send any combination of Red, Yellow, Black, or White people to represent it abroad and not raise an eyebrow? Make no mistake about it; inclusion establishes opportunity, just consider what the Nazis lost when they discriminated against Albert Einstein. America will emerge from the economic malaise, but not until we are transformed into thinking large along the way.


Jennifer Hurst ECO 202 said...

Very interesting thought. Do you think perhaps, along with our shrinking abilities on the world stage, that our sense of entitlement and work ethic has something to do with this? If you look at the basis of our society being capitalistic, then there is equal opportunity for everyone willing to work for what they want. The key word is work. This may seem counter-intuitive, but the smarter we (as a nation) get, the further behind we fall from the rest.

MWilcox said...

A fine blog. Would enjoy reading more of your thought.

Turner, P said...

I think you are correct about the change that is needed here in our country. I just fear that we may have to hit rock bottom before we realize that greed sinks a country.