The man who dies rich dies disgraced.
Paul Krugman, economist and NYT columnist, said in a recent column that we Americans are right now too divided to reach any public policy consensus, and it will likely remain so for some time. A problem of course is that the rest of the world is not waiting for the United States to adapt to a changing 21st century.
World without a country
It was perhaps discernible more than thirty years ago for many people that lived and worked overseas. It was not unusual to discover that you had, in many cases, more in common with citizens from other countries, united by education, interests and, yes, class, than you did with your fellow Americans.
The Atlantic has an interesting article entitled The Rise of the New Global Elite by Chrystia Freeland. It talks about a relatively small group of people existing in a kind of 21st century parallel universe, certainly connected by class and extreme wealth, but also by ideas, entrepreneurship, philanthropy, along with a mixture of entitlement and perhaps some shortage of empathy toward the majority of humans that inhabit the planet.
The article also has something to say about a global workforce, where the elites can acquire the “workers” virtually anywhere. Americans might take a harder look at the pervasive anti-intellectualism that haunts much of the country and ponder the results of a poorly educated citizenry.
Ultimately of course the gated community elites, regardless of how many rent-a-cops are keeping out the “mob,” will likely succumb to the chaos around them. The piece by Ms. Freeland, in some ways, conjures up the 2006 movie Children of Men, a dystopian tale about humanity’s survival.
History, distraction and class
Harvard historian Jill Lepore has said that, “When in doubt, in American politics, left, right, or center, deploy the Founding Fathers.” Lepore has little patience or interest in what, say, John Adams might have done, because he’s not coming back to enlighten us one way or the other. See No Thanks for the Memories.
Whether or not one agrees with everything Ms. Lepore says, obsessing about the Founding Fathers is not something that will likely move us forward to where we need to be, the sooner the better.
And while part of American mythology has sanctified capitalism, the reality has been throughout much of our history that the “market” is what most Americans lived in, while the wealthy and the connected thrived because of welfare capitalism and the clear understanding of both major political parties. Admittedly, this is not part of the “official” collective memory.
As early as 1858, two years before the start of the Civil War, Abraham Lincoln spoke of “class war.” Lincoln said that, “The existing rebellion means more and tends to more than the perpetuation of African slavery—that it is, in fact, a war upon the rights of all working people.”
This was abundantly clear a few short years after the Civil War and it’s being revived by some in 2011.
‘History is argument without end’
Charlie Rose interviews Presidential historian Robert Dallek in 2007