I've been thinking about it. Work, being a core part of life, is meant to be interesting, engaging, and meaningful. Otherwise, why are we wasting our time on this planet? Yet, for many, work is not living up to its name. Work of the good kind is less and less on offer in the jobs being created. I've been reflecting on possible reasons why, and decided it's really simple. The problem is not the jobs. It's us. Most humans are simply not the kind of people a boss would want to hire.
Cheer up. Things could be worse. We could be living in the Eurozone. Oh wait. Some of us do live there. Wonder how that austerity's been working out ...
Expressions of anti-establishment sentiment among the poor, the disenfranchised, and the educated are generally expected by the authorities, but signs of broadly based middle-class agitation are taken more seriously. Rumor has it that after each election, wherever it is held in the world, suspicious ballot papers are kept aside by the secret services for further scrutiny in the ongoing fight against open-mindedness, independent inquiry, and critical thinking, more popularly known as the 'War on Terror'. In this way, grassroots radicalism, antisocial behavior, and even moderate disquiet in the privacy of one's home can hopefully be foiled. The ongoing commitment to austerity in many nations has opened up pockets of discontent, including but not confined to the expression of youthful exuberance on YouTube and satirical social commentary in the edgier comedy clubs. Every now and then, documentation of one of the more extreme instances of middle-class fervor leaks out. Today, sadly, is one of those days.
Regular commenter and blogger, Magpie, has brought to my attention the third chapter of Ludwig von Mises' The Anti-Capitalistic Mentality, which delivers an amusing diatribe under the heading Literature Under Capitalism. The sections entitled "Remarks About the Detective Stories" and, especially, "The 'Social' Novels and Plays" caught my attention. It is the anti-capitalist strain in the work of many writers that is the cause of Mises' ire. Having once authored an obscure anti-capitalist novel, now long out of print, I feel entitled (just call me a "taker") to comment.
Over the previous few weeks a grumpiness had overcome me. This was not helped by a recent survey indicating that at least 53 or 55 percent of my fellow citizens, depending on the measure, are mean spirited and/or idiotic, choosing to vent their anger and/or hatred at the unemployed. Disgusted, I retired to a balcony overlooking the city, where I fasted, eating only when hungry, and allowed myself just to feel, rather than think. On the third day, Invasion Day, a day that many of the mean spirited and idiotic think worth celebrating, a helicopter hovered beside the balcony. A wealthy man with white hair and beard wearing gaudy jewellery stepped out, taking a seat across from me at the table where I sat. A moment later, a younger guy with long hair joined him, interacting with some newfangled piece of phone technology. I didn't recognize them until they identified themselves. The older guy was God, the younger one Jesus. They said they had an important message to share with the 99 percent. I agreed to act as scribe once it was made clear that free will is an illusion.
We don't wish to be rude, but if you are not one of us – part of the 1 Percent, that is – you are not meant to be reading this message. With some exceptions, you should go back to whatever it is you have been doing. If you happen to be some kind of troublemaker, inclined, say, to question things or work toward change – a terrorist, to be frank – be assured that we know what you are doing. Thanks to our creeping surveillance apparatus we will soon put an end to your efforts, whether by misrepresenting your position, holding you up to public ridicule, sending you to jail, or making war with you. If you are not a terrorist, then we don’t much care what it is you have been doing. But be comforted in the knowledge that you must be doing it well, because you have not inconvenienced us in the slightest. We thank you for your cooperation. Now kindly go away.
"Happy holidays, everyone." No. Too obvious. "Merry Chr …" Potentially offensive. "Happy New …" Too early. Oh dear. I had hoped that this would be unnecessary. Either the end of the world or my ascension into the fifth dimension were supposed to spare me the arduous task of composing a message of well wishes to heteconomist's "many" readers. (Actually, there are quite a few of you, which is rather sobering, really.) And the task is arduous. There would appear to be no way to satisfy everybody – or even anybody – considering the incredible diversity of those who hang out here coupled with my own social ineptness. To emphasize the heart over the head might please some (yes, I'm thinking of you, jrbarch) but only taunt the tortured souls of others (not you, Magpie). Then there is the antisocial element (e.g. Trixie's sock puppet, Henri). Admittedly, this mindset comes easier to me. But, all in all, it is surely an impossible task to cater to everybody. The heteconomist community is a hodge podge. For that we make no apology. Just as I have no qualms in presenting what may be the most garbled holiday message ever posted to an economics blog. Let's face it, some of us mustn't like economics that much. Why else would we behave in this way?
This morning I reflected, for a moment, on the one percent and the ninety-nine percent, and how the crisis and ensuing depression have not yet induced meaningful change nor, in more lackadaisical societies such as my own, even serious demand for change other than from a tiny minority. The appalling thought occurred that the same old, same old might simply re-emerge after the present problems pass, and that the one percent, minus a scapegoat or two, might once again be on their merry way, and the ninety-nine percent, back to our way. Then the even more appalling thought occurred that there might be a serious blog post in this. However, upon setting myself for the task, all that came out was a frivolous short story of sorts – if it even deserves the name – that hardly seems befitting of a blogosphere as sober and serious as the economic blogosphere. I suppose if the chaps in the story are thought of as the one percent, the masters as the government, the substitute teacher as a whistleblower, the scapegoat as, well, a scapegoat, and the town folk as the ninety-nine percent, there might be some loose connection with our current state of affairs. But that would be a stretch.
The non-occurrence of a Romney landslide and re-election of Barack Obama in the U.S. presidential election has caused angst in right-wing circles. Any thought by liberals of moving to Canada has been put on hold. It is now disaffected conservatives looking for a new home. In view of the domino-like spread of communism across the globe -- I would say, universe -- over the past three or four days, in anticipation of Obama's re-election, it may seem that there are very few promising avenues for such emigres to pursue. I wonder if they might like to consider my home?
I have given some thought (about two minutes) to what is wrong with the economic theory that gave us the Great Moderation, with its eternal promise of no worldwide flood ever again, only the colors of rainbows. The temptation for theorists, in seeking a way forward, is to throw the baby out with the floodwater, and then the ark at the baby. But perhaps that would be a mistake. Perhaps the ark could be salvaged if a simple genetic modification were made to the baby. It has been customary to suppose that this baby is a rational human being, and moreover that this rational human being is representative of other human beings. Now, in all honesty, who here among us can claim to be represented by this?