One of the most interesting features of post-2007 America is that despite the plummeting incomes and labor force participation across the board, many of the aesthetics and aspirations of the remnants of the middle class remain absolutely the same.
In fact, if you go through the millions of lifestyle-design-and-architecture blogs which have rushed into the void left behind by the closures of many glossy magazines in the genre, it’s as if nothing has changed in terms of the imagery and expectations of the formerly upwardly mobile classes, even though they are no longer upwardly mobile in real terms. The participation rate chart from the BLS is down and to the right.
Despite the substantial drop in wealth and work among the vast majority of the population, the images on television and in magazines become more hysterically aspirational. Part of the reason for this is because economic elites believe and teach that promoting an optimistic social mood is more important than promoting a sound currency and sound economic policy. A robust ‘consumer’ is seen as critical to spurring the popular conception of economic growth, even though production and saving must precede consumption for it to be a sustainable process.
Given that new business formation is at a historic low, but aspirational hysteria around ‘startups’ is at an all-time high, there is clearly some disconnect there between fantasy and reality.
What’s interesting about the increasing ‘virtualization’ of culture is that the physical world of reality tends to be neglected in favor of the world of screen-images. 69% of adults over 20 are overweight or obese, with a little more than half of that being obese, but you wouldn’t be able to tell from all the photos and advertisements showing a population of toned and tight Übermenschen wearing spandex workout gear, greased for the camera.
This means that a majority of the country suffers from a serious major health issue, along with all the other related health issues that flow down from being fat.
Incomes apart from those in the top segments have declined or have not kept up with price increases:
This is rather what you would expect with a small portion of the society being the beneficiary of a fully paper-money financial system and a state ideology that limits broad access to property rights, because the entire point of a paper money financial system is to violate property rights and make it more challenging for ordinary people to accumulate savings and avoid taxation.
This data (which is of questionable reliability, especially when ‘inflation-adjusted,’ particularly considering that the definition of ‘inflation’ is always being ‘hedonically adjusted’ by a government council, with important sectors being excluded from the calculation) is reflected by broader social mood
Because academic, governmental, and banking economists tend to be heavily Keynesian, they lack the conceptual framework to respond to this state of affairs in an effective way. They see ‘inequality’ and presume that that is itself the problem, because of ideological prior beliefs that they have redefined as wise ‘economic science.’ Having misidentified the problem, they proceed to follow up with improper treatments, usually designed to redistribute from the higher segments to the lower ones, with special efforts spent on raising up the lower half through some measure of ‘enrichment’ and welfare.
It is very hard for Americans to break out of their intellectual framework because doctrinaire nostalgia for the disastrous era of the New Deal is pervasive and unquestionable. It is next to pointless to even try to convince the average ‘far-right’ American that the New Deal was misguided, because the political faction that opposed the New Deal was suppressed, marginalized, and kept far away from the education system.
All this being said, our goal isn’t to fix America, in large part because the problem can’t be fixed. The progressive leadership class has an unshakable faith in its beliefs and ways, and is no more amenable to persuasion than any other entrenched leadership class in a declining state is. In fact, the more that their policies tend to fail, the more fervently that they cling to their beliefs, in the face of any evidence that contradicts the ideology.
Instead, you produce something that can compete with the US — only strong competition can force it to evolve or fail. It’s important to stop thinking in terms of how you will help a country ruled by barely-updated 1930s doctrine to repair itself. They’re never going to do it. The prominent beliefs are never going to change until circumstances force it to change. When the negative characteristics of a culture begin to dominate all the positive ones, that culture often finds itself flailing at an environment that no longer supports its habitual behavior. This is the situation that the un-reformable Americans find themselves in.
If we can learn anything from history, an attempt to reform would probably be the worst thing for America, because nation-states, due to the way that they are structured (reliant on fixed institutions of ever-metastasizing growth), a mere slowdown in the rate of growth is sufficient to implode most of its critical institutions, in part owing to the ironic lack of flexibility inherent in an ‘elastic’ monetary system requiring ever-exponentially-rising issuances of new debts to support older debts.
The reason why it’s ironic is that the elastic monetary system, resting on ideas that hold that the quantity of money can be ‘insufficient’ to fuel economic growth, is supposed to be the flexible option, whereas hard-money systems are supposed to be a ‘straitjacket’ which prevents economic growth. The truth is actually inverted — a hard money system permits expansion and contraction in the economy depending on real conditions, whereas a pure paper-money system demands permanent expansion regardless of real conditions, which leads to routine collapses in activity owing to that predictably excessive enthusiasm.
Returning to the title of this post, the US is no longer young and upwardly mobile, but old and downwardly mobile, adopting many long term policies that will lead it to converge in terms of behaviors and political beliefs with the lukewarm-managed-market-Marxism of Western Europe. The response should not be to try to convince a large portion of its leadership to stop this path, which is its fate to pursue, but instead to persuade a sufficient portion of the better class of person to defect away from that order, and to make a new one which is competitive.
This is a viewpoint which most conservatives are not yet willing to take, because it involves shoving Uncle Sam down the stairs and not caring how many bones he breaks on the way down, or otherwise just letting the fellow navigate the stairs by himself, and not lifting a finger as he slips, rolls down a few flights, and collects bruises and knocks to his old noggin.
That would be a profound change in mental framework for most Americans, which most are not going to be willing to make, because changing habits and beliefs requires more energy than they can muster. Knowing that fact is to also know that the US will not desist from its doomed path, chosen decades ago.