Economic gloom again:
The doughty ECONOMIST seems invariably to find a bright side in everything, but now there is an exception.  (Lexington The American Dream, RIP? ECONOMIST vol. 408 no. 8854 September 21, 2013 page 35) The article reviews a book Average is Over by Tyler Cowen.  The prediction is that 10 to 15% of Americans one day soon will be smart enough to work with smart machines and lead splendid lives.  The unproductive in this new world will not be able to compete: computer programs will sniff them out.  Simple honest hard work will no longer be rewarded.  Public services will be poor; places that provide good ones will not be able to compete.  The left expects there will be riots; they certainly have history on their side for that one.  Panem et circenses is Latin for “Bread and games,” a phrase coined by the Roman poet Juvenal.   The idea was that you kept the mob happy by giving them free food and entertaining them.  And we certainly have computer games to entertain us.  I once had to get in touch with Social security.  The phone robot said not to be surprised if there was a wait and said they wrote a whole lot of checks each month.  I do not remember the number but it seemed to be a check for each of about half the population of the country.  We have our bread and games; expect no civil unrest.

A key problem will be conflicts between generations.  Do you remember the Hippies of the 60’s?  No, I suppose not.  One of their claims was that old people are evil; only youth is pure.  Well that very same cohort will be the ones getting free things when they are elderly and denying them to the young and truly needy.  Funny old world, I should think.  The article says that both the political left and the political right see the destruction of the American Dream of having a long, honest and prosperous career based on work you knew you could do, and each blames the other while neither has a reasonable suggestion about what to do to reverse the trend.

Back in the 50’s and 60’s if you were lucky enough to be a straight white male, then prosperity was yours for the taking.  It may be heresy to suggest as much, but it seems to me that others were not that far behind.  And it may be blasphemy to say that straight white males seem to be a smaller percentage of the country than we were.  But the past is irrelevant.  It is the place we know the most about but where we can never go. 

But when I see children I feel hope.  If we had enough of those, I think we could fix anything the future will throw at us.

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