Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Little Gods, Little Demons

On the "Opinion" page of the newspaper (any one), you can tell immediately by the headline over the letter in what idea or concept the writer is a true believer. And these hot air blasts are clearly just another example, among millions, of the propaganda tactic of endless repetition used to recruit believers among the masses.
Taxes: We hear that their massive reduction is the only way to benefit the economy. The top tax rate in our most prosperous era of expansion, the 50s, was 90%. All of these beliefs, like this one, are simplistic and only part of the equation. The goal behind pushing this concept is to destroy government so business and exploitation of our resources may proceed unregulated and unhindered with the cost borne by us, not the developers and spoilers who take the gains and run. They started with California (Prop 13 and Gov. Reagan's "kitchen cabinet"): look at the results. Government bankrupted intentionally to prove we shouldn't pay for its functions. Electricity de-regulation in California: Enron went wild, billions were lost, huge bills to be paid by the people who voted for it. Whatever works, break it. Despite former Senator Phil Gramm and the Reagan juggernaut's wildly successful efforts, it would be better for us to be mindful that Wall Street, energy giants and utilities have to be reined in like career criminals on the loose.
Competition: It does good, it does harm. It is not, in itself, a little god to believe in fanatically to the exclusion of thinking through a situation. Cooperation is usually better for the human tribe; Ultimate Fighting-rules competition has no thought for tomorrow, no idea of community and how it works. We get today's incredibly cheap price at WalMart and then, inevitably, we suffer the unstoppable loss of American jobs in production to poor overpopulated countries. The economics of Aesop's grasshopper. Our new Chinese-made printer failed to print the second day it was here. Its three predecessors were similarly cheap, easily available, and long gone; and there are no real alternatives to choose from at retail or on-line. I could make a long list of things that went into the trash because of the failure of some small cheap electric part. Competition has little to do anymore with providing quality. We're forced to go on buying this junk produced by global outsourcing. But as the letters state every day, competition is all good. When RCA dominated American electronics up to the 60s, before Asian competition killed them, their products were built like tanks by people in Camden, NJ, who took a lot of pride in what they produced. (Their mass consumer products, like the early color TVs, were another story). We had an old RCA control board at WFMV-FM, used around the clock for decades, that never failed once. At home, we had a Hallicrafters B&W TV that lasted 20 years; you got a replacement vacuum tube at the drugstore (they provided a tester -- you weren't on your own to buy testing equipment) when it needed one. Now the basement fills with TVs and electronics that can't be repaired, or certainly not by you. But when Michelin steel-belted radial tires showed up, we found out how poor and unsafe our domestic brands were. There is a case to be made for what the Japanese and Chinese have done: copy what's great and employ trade barriers quietly and effectively (ours are usually just those pushed by lobbyists) to keep domestic industries alive. Use competition -- don't commit suicide because you believe in the concept so unreflectively.
Journey implored, "Don't Stop Believin'," but we had better. Those little gods we're pushed to follow are demons in disguise. I'm more with George Harrison: "Think for Yourself."

1 comment:

  1. If left to our own devices, would we succeed?
    Can the being survive without group direction?
    We will find out.
    You don't have to buy the new 3-D TV or an i-pod or some silly appliance which will break and fill up space. You also do not have to accept bad service, or what on a phone chain or pay taxes for services not used.
    Go GGG.