Connect the dots

September 1, 2010 at 11:08 pm | In politics | Comments Off

Three articles popped up on my radar in the last few days. I got the impression there is a connection between them – all three chronicle a kind of hijacking of democracy and – dare I say it? – meritocracy in favor of expedience and will to power. Prepare to be disposable, they seem to suggest.

First, Vivek Wadhwa on Silicon Valley’s Dark Secret: It’s All About Age. Brilliant piece, reminds me of his talk on the difficulties in finding the women and minorities in tech:  video here

Wadhwa’s most recent article builds as well on his observations in a 2008 Business Week article, How to Foster Tech Entrepreneurship. The thread that ties these pieces together (to my mind) is in how they illustrate a disconnect between reality “on the ground” and its various mediated forms.

And what of that mediation? Read the August 28 opinion piece by Frank Rich in the NYT, The Billionaires Bankrolling the Tea Party, and follow that up with “Were You Born on the Wrong Continent?”: America’s misguided culture of overwork in the August 25 issue of Slate.

Consider:

Tea Partiers may share the Kochs’ detestation of taxes, big government and Obama. But there’s a difference between mainstream conservatism and a fringe agenda that tilts completely toward big business, whether on Wall Street or in the Gulf of Mexico, while dismantling fundamental government safety nets designed to protect the unemployed, public health, workplace safety and the subsistence of the elderly.

Yet inexorably the Koch agenda is morphing into the G.O.P. agenda… Their program opposes a federal deficit, but has no objection to running up trillions in red ink in tax cuts to corporations and the superrich; apologizes to corporate malefactors like BP and derides money put in escrow for oil spill victims as a “slush fund”; opposes the extension of unemployment benefits; and calls for a freeze on federal regulations in an era when abuses in the oil, financial, mining, pharmaceutical and even egg industries (among others) have been outrageous. (Frank Rich/ NYT)

Then, turn to Slate’s interview with Thomas Geoghegan. Here’s his comment on measuring economic worth (especially if using GDP):

We don’t have any material value of leisure time, which is extremely valuable to people. We don’t have any way of valuing what these European public goods are really worth. You know, it’s 50,000 dollars for tuition at NYU and it’s zero at Humboldt University in Berlin. So NYU adds catastrophic amounts of GDP per capita and Humboldt adds nothing. Between you and me, I’d rather go to school at Humboldt.

So much of the American economy is based on GDP that comes from waste, environmental pillage, urban sprawl, bad planning, people going farther and farther with no land use planning whatsoever and leading more miserable lives. That GDP is thrown on top of all the GDP that comes from gambling and fraud of one kind or another. It’s a more straightforward description of what Kenneth Rogoff and the Economist would call the financialization of the American economy. That transformation is a big part of the American economic model as it has morphed in some very perverse directions in the last 30 or 40 years. It’s why the collapse here is going to take a much more serious long-term toll in this country than in the decades ahead. (Thomas Geoghegan in Slate)

The idea that’s mediated is to keep working harder, to keep bootstrapping, to innovate and to be entrepreneurial. This is great – seriously. Who wants to live in a world where everything is preordained? I don’t, so I agree it’s a nice ideal to believe in merit, in change, and all that. But at the same time there’s a reality working against that ideal – the reality created by those who either already have power or who are (in the case of the insane politics taking hold in the US) working to consolidate something quite different.

Theme: Pool by Borja Fernandez.
Entries and comments feeds.