Sunday, January 08, 2006

Reflections on a Policy Void

It used to be that it took over 50 years in power for one of the major political parties to become so corrupt that they had to be replaced, and during that time the opposition was compelled to actually learn something of benefit to the culture in order to deserve the mantle. But the Abramoff scandal comes barely ten years after the Republicans finally achieved power in Congress... and even that wasn't absolute. Even as late as 2000 the Democrats were competitive, and even now Democrats have a slight edge in party registration. Yet, the Republicans have managed to manifest one of the most profound corruption scandals in US history and the democrats will have to re-assume control of congress without having introduced a single new idea in 50 years, and during an era in which most Americans simply don't trust them (with good reason) with the security of the nation.

A year ago I would have said that the Democrats were on the verge of extinction as a party, and that by 2008 the future would involve a single-party "unity" government that would eventually spilt into two competing factions, both of Republican origin. Moreover, I don't regard the failure of the Republicans as a misreading of history. They have failed. As far as the economy is concerned they've simply demurred, barely even bothering to pay lip service to some good ideas (originally introduced by a Democrat, Patrick Moynihan). There really is no such thing as the "ownership society" you know, nor is there likely to be within our lifetime. And not only have they done nothing to diminish the deficit, they've done nothing to so much as recognize the primary challenge. For all the good they've done, they might as well have been Democrats.

While it's true that most of the new ideas in governance have come from Republican think tanks, they haven't even addressed the central issue: the comparative nonproductivity of US labor compared to a combination of technological capital and offshore labor. So we now have a situation, in the midst of what appears to be a genuine war (and not, as Michael Moore would have us believe, a "war mirage") where we'll be compelled to switch from one barely competent party, to another decidedly incompetent party, simply because we have no other options. The "engine of competitiveness" has simply not worked and both parties are out-to-lunch. We are sorely bereft of leaders, and of ideas... with an implacable enemy looking down our throats, cocked and ready. Anyone inclined to rejoice had better think again. And there's really no reason to believe we're at the bottom of the curve, either. While the Chinese are scaling up their human potential, we're scaling down. While they're investing we're divesting.

I, for one, am unsure. It's hard for me to even imagine a place for myself, let alone a bright future. I have some ideas, but haven't sold any, let alone myself. Like many in my generation I'm grievously underemployed, and my impression of the thirty-something generation that's currently ready to assume power is that they're impressed by superficial appearance but have not a clue what "substance" means. They're even more vain and distracted than my own generation, if that's possible. They amount to the equivalent of what R.B. Fuller once described as "Industrial Designers" who, if they were tasked with building a ship, would produce a sinking raft of toilet plumbing and wallpaper designs floating down the Hudson to the sea. For the most part they're rather mean-spirited and ignorant brats who will be compelled to learn 40 years of life in 10 just to survive, and who have been handicapped with an unserious attitude about serious things. They'll end up killing most of us before our time.

But you know, I don't really mean that... I'm just saying it for dramatic effect.

Sure I am.

(Cross-posted to Demosophia The Jawa Report)