Life Inside The Bubble

Do Americans have any idea how different their lives are from the rest of the humanity?

Andrew Sullivan links to this interesting comment from William Deresiewicz, who starts out relating a story about an acquaintence of limited means whose mother is gravely ill but who makes the observation that “ ”Hey,” he said, not unkindly, “we could both die before her. You never know what’s going to happen.” This leads Deresiewicz to the following:

I am a member of the middle class, as you might have guessed, and the moment made me realize something about the way we see the world. No one in the middle class imagines they could die at any minute. The middle-class idea is quite the reverse: that the world can be controlled, risk eliminated, fate mastered. Grades, admissions, credentials—the steady, predictable climb up the ladder of professional success—that’s the idea. We’re going to live a long time, and the world is not going to take us by surprise.

Has there ever been another group of people, in all of human history, that’s possessed that kind of attitude? Of course, there are reasons it’s emerged when it has: our enormous modern life expectancy, our inconceivable prosperity, our overwhelming military power. But I wonder about its spiritual perils. My professor used to say that it was easy for Nietzsche or Sartre to do without God, because they had so much else to sustain them. (Or Dawkins, or Hitchens, or him, or me.) Which is not to say we need to let the little people have their God. It is only to remind us—to remind myself, which I need to do on a regular basis—that we live in a bubble, and that most people (in the world, in history, even in our own country) are on the outside. And also to wonder if it’s already bursting.

Heavy thoughts for a Sunday morning, no doubt, but it seems beyond question that, for a long time, the American middle class has lived a very sheltered existence for a very long time, especially compared to the vast majority of the population of the Earth. To some extent, there’s been an sense of invincibility that has been created and, perhaps most importantly, a sense of detachment from the rest of the world. Do American really realize that the lives they have lived are utterly different, not just from the way most of humanity has lived throughout history, but from the way most of the rest of the world lives, and indeed how many people in their own country live? For better or worse, many of us are living inside of a bubble and we have no idea how fortunate we really are to be where and when we are.

It also raises the question of what would happen if this bubble bursts and the sheltered life one has been living, where security is guaranteed, and one’s children will always do better than you did starts to fall apart. The social, political, and cultural implications of the end of American optimism would be far reaching indeed. At the very least, I’d suggest it would mean that our politics would become even more polarized and radicalized than it already is, and that our culture would become less united and more insulated.

We live a sheltered existence, my fellow Americans, and not only don’t we realize it, but most of us can’t even contemplate that it might go away some day.

FILED UNDER: US Politics
Doug Mataconis
About Doug Mataconis
Doug holds a B.A. in Political Science from Rutgers University and J.D. from George Mason University School of Law. He joined the staff of OTB in May 2010. Before joining OTB, he wrote at Below The BeltwayThe Liberty Papers, and United Liberty Follow Doug on Twitter | Facebook

Comments

  1. No Doug, do Americans realize their lives are shorter and more unhappy than those in Scandinavia?

    That question might tilt your policy prescriptions a bit … or at least it should.

  2. rodney dill says:

    @john personna: Uff-dah

  3. al-Ameda says:

    Do American really realize that the lives they have lived are utterly different, not just from the way most of humanity has lived throughout history, but from the way most of the rest of the world lives, and indeed how many people in their own country live? For better or worse, many of us are living inside of a bubble and we have no idea how fortunate we really are to be where and when we are.

    Until about 30 years we (Americans) were ascendent, if not at a peak and resting on our laurels. Now, we’re in decline, and it’s fair to say that many people in advanced industrialized countries outside of America are doing quite well, and in many cases have a better middle class standard of living than we do.

    American Exceptionalism? Well, we are the most powerful cultural and military force in the world, and we don’t seem to be very happy despite our self-congratulatory inclinations (“we’re number one”)

  4. The bubble is more encompassing than you think. This is from one of the blogs at The Telegraph on the rise of “Overeducated Elitist Snobs.”

    OES syndrome is an American term, coined by the US political scientist Charles Murray to describe the clustering of wealth, power and – crucially – intelligence at one end of the social spectrum.

    Murray’s new book Coming Apart: The State of White America is not as controversial as The Bell Curve, the 1994 volume in which he and Richard Herrnstein compared race and IQ. But its conclusions are every bit as alarming.

    A hundred years ago, says Murray, most Americans in the top five per cent of cognitive ability had ordinary occupations. They were very clever shopkeepers, farmers, housewives and factory workers. But they didn’t somersault over their peers.

    One reason is that they couldn’t marry very smart people. High intelligence was scattered evenly across America, so a gifted farm worker might have to travel 100 miles before he met a woman as bright as he was. Instead, he married an ordinary local girl, and their children, regressing to the mean, were only slightly cleverer than their schoolfriends.

    The explosion of college education changed that. Universities plucked bright kids out of their home towns like a tornado and suddenly they found that they weren’t in Kansas any more. Young people hooked up with equally intelligent partners and passed on two sets of smart genes.

    This mobility opened up Ivy League universities to competition from ultra-bright candidates. The old-money aristocracy at Harvard, Yale and Princeton shrank, but the average IQ at those universities soared – and with it the earning potential of alumni. The newly elite students married each other and the result, says Murray, is a hard core of Overeducated Elitist Snobs.

    Yet I am not too sure your thesis holds together altogether. After all, studyt after study has shown that religious affiliation rises along with incomes. It is the lower ends of the economic scale that are increasingly leaving churches, while attendance rises along with economic class. So there would seem to be some awareness among the middle classes (or even higher) that the bubble may burst.

  5. John,

    Two comments.

    The first is that the bubble we speak of here is likely bigger than just middle class America, but encompasses much of the Western world.

    The second is that “happiness” is a relative concept so comparisons of the same across nations seems kind of silly

  6. G.A. says:

    We live a sheltered existence, my fellow Americans, and not only don’t we realize it, but most of us can’t even contemplate that it might go away some day.

    Many of us know this and many of us tell it to others.

  7. @Doug Mataconis:

    Well, I think your article really started with something that we talked about a few days ago. Other commenters above talked about it too.

    We mentally think of ourselves as #1, and frame our choices from the mountain top.

    In reality, we have slipped on a great number of measures. Waving away each one as not a good metric … kind of works, for the dishonest mind. The thing is though, when you wave them all away you are only left with that starting contradiction. We feel we are #1, but sense ourselves slipping all the same.

    It’s sick really. Waving them away means you want to continue the conflicted slide.

    (I should have said ” do Americans realize their lives are shorter [riskier] and more unhappy than those in Scandinavia?” … risk here is definitely higher, given our American confliction about safety nets.)

  8. rodney dill says:

    The second is that “happiness” is a relative concept so comparisons of the same across nations seems kind of silly

    This quote aways summed it up for me — “People are about as happy as they make up their minds to be” — Abraham Lincoln

  9. Shorter: The bubble is not the one you think. Our bubble is that, even when we sense trouble, we can learn nothing from anyone.

  10. G.A. says:

    No Doug, do Americans realize their lives are shorter and more unhappy than those in Scandinavia?

    lol why not immigrate? John?I’m sure they would love you over there……and you would be happy….and live long and……………blagh…gimps be speaking German Japanese or Russian if it was not for our bubble…I wonder how hard it is to be forced to learn Muslim…

  11. @rodney dill:

    I think people with a biological bent would see a “human nature” as fairly universal, and not simply stopping at national boundaries.

    Individuals with a centering in politics (or should I suggest “tribalism?”) would see people across the border as completely different (dare I say “the other?”).

    Gawd, that’s a sad realization. We can’t learn from the Danes, because they aren’t really human.

  12. G.A. says:

    Shorter: The bubble is not the one you think. Our bubble is that, even when we sense trouble, we can learn nothing from anyone.

    Are you saying that we don’t learn form our mistakes or theirs?..if so I’m with you on that.

  13. A short summary of the biological view is here:

    Dan Gilbert asks, Why are we happy?

  14. Herb says:

    Heard a Louie Anderson joke on CNN (early) this morning. He was talking about going through customs in Canada. They asked him if he was carrying ten thousand dollars or more. The joke: “I’m from the States. I don’t have ten thousand dollars.”

    Meanwhile, China is financing Avatar 2. What’s going to happen when the Scandinavians take over software?

  15. Jib says:

    At the very least, I’d suggest it would mean that our politics would become even more polarized and radicalized than it already is, and that our culture would become less united and more insulated.

    This is exactly what has been going on for the last the 30 years. It is clearly continuing in this direction so yes, we will become less united and more insulated.

    But I dont think it is a middle class bubble. A bubble is not sustainable, ethereal, but with relatively small changes, we can restore and sustain what we have. We have gone too far in the supply side, too much wealth and capital wasted in mal-investment. It is strangling our growth and that makes the future look bleak. But it is not hard to fix. The rich are like every one else, give them too much of anything and they waste it. They have too much wealth and we need to move it from them to the productive economy.

    We need to tax income at the same rate as capital gains. We need to have balanced trade, as much free trade as we can as long as we export as much as we import. Restore Glass-Stegal and require investment banks to be partnerships, not corporations (like they were for most of the post-war period).

    Do these things and over the next 30 years capital will move from Wall Street to Main Street, from mal-investment to real investment. We have plenty of capital in this country to maintain our life style. Maybe we need to tweak it, smaller cars, smaller houses etc but that is not going to have a material change on our life style.

    We can do this. We just need to realize that some of what we did the last 30 years actually made things worse. Not all deregulation is good, maximizing corp profit is not better than maximizing good jobs, debt is not wealth, giving money to a Wall Street bank to hedge currency or do M and A is not investing. Stop doing those things and we will be fine.

  16. @G.A.:

    I think we are “pants-wearing monkeys” and while we should reach for better choices, we should recognize our limitations.

  17. al-Ameda says:

    @G.A.:

    I wonder how hard it is to be forced to learn Muslim…

    Muslim is a language?

  18. superdestroyer says:

    @john personna:

    Do you have a cite concerning the difference in life expectancy between whites in Scandinavia and whites in the U.S. Or are you making a Simpson’s paradox error that progressives are fond of making.

  19. michael reynolds says:

    It’s not a question of some “other” taking over, whether it’s the Chinese (hah!) or the Scandinavians of whom there are only a handful. It’s a question of whether this life is a very temporary phenomenon born out of unique circumstances post World War 2. It’s been less than 70 years, that’s not a long time. There’s been a single queen in England for almost all of that.

    We’ve had this unique situation where the US came through WW1 and then WW2 essentially unscathed. We had a whole world to rebuild. Major portions of the world — the USSR, eastern Europe and China — all took themselves out of the game due to ideology. So we had a clear field.

    Take that unique situation, add the the GI Bill and the democratization of education and technological revolutions and you have a perfect place to grow a huge middle class. But over the last couple of decades we’ve kept alive the illusion of that new normal by borrowing money and inflating bubbles. I suspect if you subtract the bubbles and the mad borrowing to sustain those bubbles you’d find we had been on a downward glide path for some time. Now reality is setting in. The bubbles have popped and we’re mortgaged to the hilt.

    This is not to say we’re going to fall into some Mad Max scenario, but rather that American lives will be more like European lives. Smaller houses, smaller cars, more parsimonious energy use, less money spent on health care, smaller defense establishment.

    France has a GDP per capita that’s only 75% of ours and yet I don’t find that France is a post-apocalyptic nightmare. Put another way, if we experienced an inconceivable 25% drop in income and wealth we’d be France, which would still put us living a good life out of reach of most of humanity. We can do quite well on less and maybe we should get on with the business of living a more realistic life rather than obsessing over remaining number one — which, incidentally, we haven’t been in per capita terms for some time.

  20. @superdestroyer:

    I would cringe, consider it personally dishonorable, to write off non-whites in America.

    According to a study published in the March 21 issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association, the long-standing life expectancy gap between black and white Americans is finally beginning to close. In 1993, the average African American could expect to live 70.9 years, compared to 78 years for Caucasians—a disparity of 7.1 years. But by 2003, the gap had narrowed to 5.3 years, with the average life expectancy for blacks rising to 72.7 years.

    Just curious though, what would you have told us in 1993? That the gap was immovable?

  21. al-Ameda says:

    @superdestroyer:

    Or are you making a Simpson’s paradox error that progressives are fond of making.

    We can all agree that only progressives make Simpson’s paradox errors, conservatives never do.

  22. @michael reynolds:

    This is not to say we’re going to fall into some Mad Max scenario, but rather that American lives will be more like European lives. Smaller houses, smaller cars, more parsimonious energy use, less money spent on health care, smaller defense establishment.

    The subtext Doug likes is that we will drift toward a milder version of Mad Max, rather than European lives.

    He’s telling us, between his lines, that we must accept decline, with a libertarian penalty.

  23. Errr, I live in Brazil. Brazil is not your average “Western World” country in any sense(Whatever that means), and I have lots of friends and acquaintances that are what we consider, poor. The idea that the middle class in the United States have lifes that are considerably different from other people is ludicrous.

    It´s true that people in the United States have more money than the average compared to the rest of the world, but´s it´s also true that there are countries that have easier access to things like healthcare and quality food. That does not change aspirations or even the way that people sees life.

  24. @André Kenji de Sousa:

    And smaller median swimsuits.

  25. JKB says:

    We live a sheltered existence, my fellow Americans, and not only don’t we realize it, but most of us can’t even contemplate that it might go away some day.

    Go away? Most can’t comprehend when they move outside of it for a three hour tour. To be fair, there are capabilities you can buy that will snatch you back from say, a life threatening injury or illness in Africa, if you don’t venture to deep into the countryside. Capabilities not available to the middle class of that country. I came to call this the 911 bubble. The area where you can call and the calvary will be over the hill in a matter of hours if not minutes.

    I realize this is only one aspect of the bubble but the West doesn’t know death as a capricious character. We see death of the old, death by some cancers, death by some violence but we no longer see death by sneeze or death by sudden epidemic. Not in the wholesale nature of a hundred years ago.

    This is from a book published in 1909, the city is NYC. The tragedy of this woman’s life is unknown today. The book is on education, the author as an aside pointing to how kids could read and learn while providing some comfort to those now ignored citizens. But it is telling, that the loss of 5 children in 2 weeks to an infectious disease is now nearly inconceivable in the dankest parts of any city in the West.

    At about that time one of my students, interested in the early history of New York, happened to call upon an old woman living in a shanty midway between these two schools. She was an old inhabitant, and one of the early roadways that the student was hunting had passed near her house. In conversation with the woman he learned that she had had five children, all of whom had been taken from her some years before, within a fortnight, by scarlet fever; and that since then she had been living alone. When he remarked that she must feel lonesome at times, tears came to her eyes, and she replied, “Sometimes.” As he was leaving she thanked him for his call and remarked that she seldom had any visitors; she added that, if some one would drop in now and then, either to talk or to read to her, she would greatly appreciate it; her eyes had so failed that she could no longer read for herself.

  26. superdestroyer says:

    @michael reynolds:

    MR

    Many economist have pointed out that the GI Bell and the industrialization that occurred during and after World War II was low hanging fruit. The marginal returns on education is very low given that any job gets dozens of applicants and given the number of college graduates or even graduate school graduates who cannot find jobs that require their training.

    The U.S. also no longer has low cost natural resources to help fuel the economy and is stuck with its legacy infrastructure. What killed the middle class was the push in the 190’s onward to stop doing anything to that has a long term impact in order to make short term payroll and pay off political power blocks.

  27. rudderpedals says:

    Most of us if we live long enough shed Deresciewiczs’s bubble of immortality.

    I think it’s a mixed bag for society because immortals can afford altruism.

  28. superdestroyer says:

    @john personna:

    According to wikipedia, the average life expectancy in the U.S. is 78.2, That means that the life expectancy of whites is higher than 78.2 . http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_countries_by_life_expectancy

    What would be interesting is to plot life expectancy with diversity of those countries. Given that the Japanese live the longest, many there is more to living long than high taxes and high levels of government services.

  29. JKB says:

    “…but rather that American lives will be more like European lives. Smaller houses, smaller cars, more parsimonious energy use, less money spent on health care, smaller defense establishment.”

    You are failing to see the impact of your choices. If the US has a smaller defense establishment, then the defense of Europe will be less, which would lead one to see that then Europeans would need to step to fill the gap or get on their knees to whomever wishes to dominate them. Not to mention, historically, the Europeans have been unable to manage their petty grievances without resorting to war, of late dragging the rest of the world into their petty fights. Europe is what it is because the US is what it is. Change the US, you change Europe, most likely not for the better.

  30. Moosebreath says:

    “It also raises the question of what would happen if this bubble bursts and the sheltered life one has been living, where security is guaranteed, and one’s children will always do better than you did starts to fall apart. The social, political, and cultural implications of the end of American optimism would be far reaching indeed. At the very least, I’d suggest it would mean that our politics would become even more polarized and radicalized than it already is, and that our culture would become less united and more insulated.”

    I suspect the opposite would be the case — that a large enough shock would be what it takes for the country to see that we are all in this together, and all will need to sacrifice, rather than the mood which has developed over the past generation or so, where the goal is to make sure the other side sacrifices and your does not.

  31. michael reynolds says:

    @john personna:

    The subtext Doug likes is that we will drift toward a milder version of Mad Max, rather than European lives.

    He’s telling us, between his lines, that we must accept decline, with a libertarian penalty.

    Libertarians have their quasi-religious faith that arises from every college freshman’s favorite pseudo-philosopher, Ayn Rand, and of also, I believe, from a complete mis-understanding of evolution in which they over-emphasize competition, under-emphasize the benefits of co-operation and buy the whole Jack London view that predators are somehow atop the evolutionary ladder.

    In reality of course civilization and its handmaiden government are responsible for the prosperity of homo sapiens. Our ability to organize, to plan ahead, to specialize, to manage our environment, to form the very hierarchical structures that Libertarians mistrust as intrusions into personal liberty, is the reason we are the dominant mammalian species on earth. Without government at various levels we’d be eating bugs and the occasional sickly rabbit.

    And of course this planet is not run by the predators. Predators are almost all hanging on by a thread while rabbits and squirrels and deer are doing quite well. Jesus may have been a pretty good biologist when he said, “Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth.” And that’s just the mammals. I’m sure roaches and ants and even e. coli all have a good laugh at human arrogance. (Well, if they had a sense of humor.)

    But there’d be no fun in belonging to a small beleaguered political party devoted to the superior anthropology of the sermon on the mount. Not when there’s a crazy Russian woman to worship and self-pity to fuel a lifetime of satisfying resentment.

  32. G.A. says:

    I think we are “pants-wearing monkeys” and while we should reach for better choices, we should recognize our limitations.

    lol….a bubble full of monkeys..

    Believing in monkey tails has only hurt us so far.Perhaps maybe if we would have went with fairies….

  33. Tano says:

    @Donald Sensing:

    After all, studyt after study has shown that religious affiliation rises along with incomes.

    That is not a fair summary of the data. Some studies have found no correlation at all, others find higher levels of church-involvement with income, but lower levels of expressed belief. Higher income levels do seem correlated with adherence to more liberal theologies with the poor, and poorly educated being more conservative.

    And of course there is the confounding age factor – religiosity is significantly lower among young people, who tend to be lower-income.

    On a larger scale of course, the most religious countries in the world are places like Egypt, Bangladesh and Congo. The least religious are the Scandinavian countries.

  34. G.A. says:

    Muslim is a language?

    it was a joke….geez…

  35. michael reynolds says:

    @JKB:

    I think that was true – in fact I’ve argued exactly that point with Europeans, who generally agree. But it’s no longer true or no longer as true. The economic logic of conquest has changed. The Europeans have no scarce resources that some invader could profit from taking. Not so long as they can buy those resources, or that intellectual work product. Put it this way: If Russia got it into its head to invade Germany it would destroy the value of what it had conquered. Just about the only place on earth where invasion and conquest would make any economic sense is the oil-rich areas of the middle east, and unless you’re talking some very old-school methods, even that’s more trouble than it’s worth.

  36. G.A. says:

    lol, Harry. you are a good fiction writer when not screaming racist:)

  37. Dave Schuler says:

    @michael reynolds:

    I think that was true – in fact I’ve argued exactly that point with Europeans, who generally agree. But it’s no longer true or no longer as true. The economic logic of conquest has changed. The Europeans have no scarce resources that some invader could profit from taking.

    Europe has a security problem but that’s not the security problem it faces. The security threat is each other.

    During the violent collapse of Yugoslavia the Italians and Germans weren’t all gung ho to intervene and, more importantly, for the U. S. to intervene out of purely humanitarian motives. They were concerned about the degree to which a flood of Croatian, Serbian, Bosnian, Slovenian, etc. refugees would destabilize their own countries.

    Why didn’t the Italians and Germans just intervene by themselves? Why did they need U. S. participation? Because it was part of their strategic posture. That strategy hasn’t chnaged. We’ve seen another example of it in the intervention of Libya.

  38. OzarkHillbilly says:

    @michael reynolds:

    Just about the only place on earth where invasion and conquest would make any economic sense is the oil-rich areas of the middle east, and unless you’re talking some very old-school methods, even that’s more trouble than it’s worth.

    Too bad it took Bush/Cheney/Rumsfeld and the rest of the neo-con crew to remind us of that.

  39. Tano says:

    @superdestroyer:

    What killed the middle class was the push in the 190′s onward to stop doing anything to that has a long term impact in order to make short term payroll and pay off political power blocks.

    I don’t know what you meant to refer to with your reference to the “190’s” – but if you meant “1980’s” (the age of Reagan), then I would basically agree. What you describe is the logic of “running the government like a business” – for this shift of focus from the long-term good to the immediate pay-off (the stock price, or the next quarterly report) has been driven by the private sector – and they would argue, driven by the demands of the marketplace.

  40. Dave Schuler says:

    @michael reynolds

    France has a GDP per capita that’s only 75% of ours and yet I don’t find that France is a post-apocalyptic nightmare.

    The people of France, Denmark, and the United States are all living within a shared bubble. Our lifestyles are more similar than they are different. That’s true of people living in São Paulo, too.

    But that’s tremendously different from how people living in rural India, China, or even a farmer from Sertão live.

  41. OzarkHillbilly says:

    @Donald Sensing:

    Murray’s new book Coming Apart: The State of White America is not as controversial as The Bell Curve, the 1994 volume in which he and Richard Herrnstein compared race and IQ. But its conclusions are every bit as alarming.

    The only thing alarming about Murray’s conclusions is that some people continue to take them serious. Any one who can write this kind of claptrap,

    One reason is that they couldn’t marry very smart people. High intelligence was scattered evenly across America, so a gifted farm worker might have to travel 100 miles before he met a woman as bright as he was. Instead, he married an ordinary local girl, and their children, regressing to the mean, were only slightly cleverer than their schoolfriends.

    Can’t even see that by that reasoning, there would never be any smart people around to begin with. Murray is regressing to the mean all on his own.

    Talk about living in a bubble….

  42. Tsar Nicholas says:

    It’s better to be inside the bubble of success than looking in from the outside upon a platform of shit-eating failure.

  43. JKB says:

    @michael reynolds:

    Which was it, WWI or WWII that was sparked by conquest for resources? Sure you can buy resources but why should you when your great-great granddaddy used to own that very same land and those other guys shot his favorite dog, that means war. True we’ve abated the tendency some by not following pathetic genetic reject called Your Highassedness but only it still looms just outside our visual range.

  44. jan says:

    “To some extent, there’s been an sense of invincibility that has been created and, perhaps most importantly, a sense of detachment from the rest of the world. Do American really realize that the lives they have lived are utterly different, not just from the way most of humanity has lived throughout history, but from the way most of the rest of the world lives, and indeed how many people in their own country live? For better or worse, many of us are living inside of a bubble and we have no idea how fortunate we really are to be where and when we are.”

    Much of the invincibility, IMO, can be attributed (thus far) to simply our geographic location. We share two borders, with relatively friendly countries — Canada and Mexico, accompanied by two oceans on the east and west separating us from conflicts. The terrain and resources of this country are abundant, compared with those of other countries. We also have a melting pot of diversity, grown and protected via a long-standing Constitution, originally created with the premise of allowing personal freedoms under the umbrella of a limited government holding enumerated powers.

    The fluidity offered to people, under such a geographical/political package, has been second to none. We were allowed to rise and fall, only to be given opportunities to rise again. Whether it was due to luck, hard work, having an extra creative mind, or good intentions, there has been the availability of realizing dreams hovering out there on the horizon. Even if they didn’t come to fruition, at least a mirage, or faintly sketched image, was never out of the realm of possibilities in our American society.

    The bubble, as I see it, that has stymied these innate advantages, is that people have grown to ‘expect’ certain lifestyles, extraneous from any of their own input. It used to be when people saw others faring better than themselves, it motivated them to stretch and set higher goals or standards for themselves. Now, the inspiration to do better has been transcended, replaced by feelings of envy, followed by anger. And, that is the bubble we are in today.

    The bottom line, of this societal change, is to make everything ‘fair’ for everyone, whether it is earned or unearned. Consequently, entitlement programs are off the charts. Food stamp recipients have doubled. Retirement ages remain stuck, where they were years ago, even as people exalt in the fact longevity has increased, with many healthily living well into their 90’s.

    While individuals may be pleased and relieved with so much government assistance, I don’t believe it produces much satisfaction nor real happiness. It’s like when a child earns their first money doing some kind of job. There is usually incredible pride exhibited in such a feat. This same kind of pride, in one’s own work, is exemplified when a person does anything that shows some kind of personal excellence — albeit in craftsmanship, business skills, parenting. People receive immense pleasure in growing and becoming accomplished in something, anything! I don’t think the same holds true when opening up an envelop containing a government assistance check.

    Finally, so much has been made of money — rich versus poor. IMO, though, happiness does not come from piles of money. It is generated by finding one’s own meaning/purpose in life, and energizing it by being proactive in cultivating it to the maximum of your abilities. A passion for life can fall in many categories — parenting, artistic endeavors, entrepreneurial ventures, community or missionary work — the list is endless. Painting out graffiti, volunteering in the classroom, visiting shut-ins, planting a garden can all produce contentment, a sense of well being.

    Frequently, it is these small deeds or random acts of kindness which give us the most pleasure, aka ‘happiness.’ For instance my husband carries $2 bills around with him. His uncle used to give these to him, as gifts, saying they were meant to bring him good luck. So, as an adult he has carried on the tradition. For instance, the other evening, after we finished some pizza, he walked over to a young woman expecting her first child in two weeks. He handed her the bill, saying it was meant to bring good luck to her baby. Another patron in the room spoke up, showing the $2 bill he carried in his wallet for the same reason, to bring him luck. People have actually contacted my husband a year later, saying that good events had happened to them, thanking him for his gesture. That’s where happiness oftentimes resides — being interested in the life around you, and voluntarily making your own small or large contributions showing you care…..

  45. steve says:

    @jan- Like your last two grafs, but think you are wrong about people wanting to do better. When jobs are available, people go to work. Our problem is that it now takes a bubble to create enough jobs. (See 1990s and 2000s)

    Steve

  46. john personna says:

    @jan:

    It is actually a known bias of pants (or skirt) wearing monkeys that they reject hard facts which conflict with their world view and (importantly) identity group values.

    So of course you reject higher measures of European happiness. How could you not?

  47. michael reynolds says:

    @Dave Schuler:

    Why didn’t the Italians and Germans just intervene by themselves? Why did they need U. S. participation? Because it was part of their strategic posture. That strategy hasn’t chnaged. We’ve seen another example of it in the intervention of Libya.

    Of course as long as we’re willing to pick up the check — in arms development, in training and maintaining a large military, in stockpiling ammunition, in devising the command and control, etc… — they’ll let us. Why not?

    But if we downsized by half we’d still have the world’s most capable military and it would force only minimal changes on the Europeans. They could upgrade from Corolla to Camry but won’t do so as long as we’re giving free rides in our Rolls Royce. I don’t think the cost would harm Europe much if at all, and I don’t think it would materially degrade their security. I think their Acquired Helplessness Syndrome is a bigger problem than their budget constraints.

  48. Dave Schuler says:

    @michael reynolds:

    But if we downsized by half we’d still have the world’s most capable military and it would force only minimal changes on the Europeans. They could upgrade from Corolla to Camry but won’t do so as long as we’re giving free rides in our Rolls Royce.

    As I’m sure you know, I agree with that completely. However, the Germans can’t do that, continue to pay less than 2% of GDP on their defense, and preach at us how unnecessary all of the military spending is in the modern day.

  49. michael reynolds says:

    @jan:

    Your husband is seriously ill and your child needs special education. You want to be home to help your child, but if you cut back hours at work you lose not just income but your health insurance.

    Explain to me how that makes you happier than a Frenchwoman who, in identical circumstances, can care for her child without losing her health coverage. Then explain how that’s all about bootstraps and giving out two dollar bills.

    Jan, you’re not a bad person, but you have no imagination. You don’t see anything beyond your personal, present circumstances. It’s a genteel solipsism, but solipsism just the same. You’re surrounded by mirrors.

  50. michael reynolds says:

    @Dave Schuler:
    Of course like many people of my ethnicity I’m still pretty comfortable with Germans speaking against military spending, even when its just self-serving. I wonder how long that effect will last. Do you suppose Chinese still get nervous seeing Mongolians riding ponies?

  51. The people of France, Denmark, and the United States are all living within a shared bubble. Our lifestyles are more similar than they are different. That’s true of people living in São Paulo, too.

    Well, just ask Glenn Greenwald. His boyfriend/almost husband(The famous “namorido” in Brazilian Portuguese) comes from a very poor background(He is Black by American standards and was born in a favela) and the two are extremely happy together. And they, like, met on the beach, without any of them knowing a common language.

  52. @this:

    Down-vote the existence of confirmation bias, lol, that will make you feel better!

    Notice though that I (and the following) don’t say that just you suffer from it, we all do, and we must all guard against it. We must stare into uncomfortable facts even as our minds wish to reject them.

    Our thinking is the result of our own perception, judgment, experience, and bias. Our brain distorts reality to increase our self-esteem through self-justification. People perceive themselves readily as the origins of good effects and reluctantly as the origins of ill effects. We present a one-sided argument to ourselves.

    But waving away all the happiness studies seems a classic case of the bias. It’s the pattern after all. It isn’t that just one or another study is questioned. It’s that people of a particular bent (GDP and deregulation first?) will always find something to reject about any study.

  53. bobbo says:

    This “middle class bubble” you refer to also goes by the name “progress.” The goal should be to make this sense of security – which you seem to think is some sort of weakness – something shared by more people, not just here in the U.S., but around the world. Yes, we have been blessed with great prosperity, but a lot of the world is catching up if not surpassing it. The greatest threat to middle class security in this country is not complacency or the “spiritual peril” of the great swathe of people you consider your inferiors, but a political elite which seems to think that that security is undeserved by most and should be the exclusive province of a vey few – hence the constant cries that we “can’t afford” Social Security, Medicare, and the rest of the social safety net, though we can continue to afford a behemoth security state and ultra low taxes for the richest among us.

  54. Racehorse says:

    @Donald Sensing: Around here the lower income area churches are growing the fastest. Maybe it is because they concentrate on the Gospel and mission instead of buildings, recreation, and entertainment. The middle income churches seem to be the ones losing ground the quickest. Higher income churches are holding steady, which is still not a good sign: “you are either increasing or declining”

  55. anjin-san says:

    It’s a question of whether this life is a very temporary phenomenon born out of unique circumstances post World War 2

    My sense is that vast expansion of the size and wealth of the American middle class in the post WW2 era is a historical accident, and that events are now attempting to return to the historically normal course where roughly 2% of the population controls 90%+ of the wealth, monopolizing opportunity, access, and political power.

  56. Dexter says:

    @bobbo: Many of the other countries that are improving or “catching up” (they really aren’t) from the help, technology, materials, and expertise that the US has provided over the last several years. Look at what was done in Japan at the end of WWII through the leadership of General Douglas MacArthur, Deming, and several other people from the US. They not only rebuilt but thrived with the help of the US. This did not happen overnight.

  57. Ebenezer Arvigenius says:

    If the US has a smaller defense establishment, then the defense of Europe will be less, which would lead one to see that then Europeans would need to step to fill the gap or get on their knees to whomever wishes to dominate them.

    Of for chrissake. How I hate this overblown crap that gets trundled out every time the US bemoans the European freeriders.

    To put it clearly: The EU is, by spending, the world’s second biggest military power. France and the UK roughly match the spending of China, the second biggest single military power and double that of Russia, the only credible military threat in the vicinity.

    The EU is also one of the most densely populated and most industrialised regions on earth and contains several of the top military suppliers. It’s inability to maintain sustained serious military action is not due to a lack of capability, but rather to a lack of will. In a serious crisis (aka existential threat) these kind of shortages could be fixed quickly and easily enough.

    While we may not have the same access to the latest in high-tech armaments or to the most experienced troops (at least in significant quantities) as the US, these disadvantages are unlikely to be relevant in any fight the EU is likely to enter. Smart hardened bunker-busters are nice to have but will probably not play a significant role in adventures like toppling some two-bit near-eastern autocrat.

    If the US stopped slushing their military the EU would lose some easy options like “we can’t collectively decide whether to support Serbia or Croatia so let the US handle it” or “we would like to intervene in Syria but can’t be bothered to budget for it”.

    As an EU citizen my reaction to that dreadful scenario is simple: “bring it on already”. Yes, it would make some things harder but on the other hand it would be an easy check on military posturing a la Sarkozy. A fair trade imho.

    The only realistic threat we, as Europeans, can picture in the near future would be some kind of EU civil war. And in that case increased military spending across the board is unlikely to make things better.

    So if you want to cut your military spending in half and let us prissy peaceniks out to dry, be my guest. Given the living standards the US has in some regards you will probably find a better use for these 300-odd billion dollars.

  58. Tillman says:

    @rodney dill: Said the man suffering from depression. There’s plenty to be said about one’s thinking dictating one’s mood, but chemicals in the brain are pesky things.

    @john personna:

    But waving away all the happiness studies seems a classic case of the bias.

    It sounds like your confirmation bias leads you to think other people aren’t aware of theirs’.

    Confirmation bias doesn’t excuse epistemological concerns about what studies are claiming to report vs. what they are actually reporting. I’m well aware of my own confirmation bias (or at least my confirmation bias seems to confirm I’m aware of it) and even I don’t like “happiness” studies.

  59. @Tillman:

    No. For symmetry you’d need to challenge me with a study, data you feel I might reject, rather than a vague accusation that if what I say is uncomfortable to you, it must be wrong.

    There is a wealth of data here: World Values Survey

    I would in particular point you to the top graph on this page, the one showing survival and well-being as a function of GDP/Capita.

    I think I’ve incorporated that data, that GDP and wealth are important, but that they bring declining returns for wealthy countries.

    No?

  60. (Basically, Tillman tried to tell me that an acceptance of data was equal to a rejection of data.)

  61. More data:

    This paper studies happiness in the United States and Great Britain. Reported levels of well-being have declined over the last quarter of a century in the US; life satisfaction has run approximately flat through time in Britain. These findings are consistent with the Easterlin hypothesis [Nations and Households in Economic Growth: Essays in Honour of Moses Abramowitz (1974) Academic Press; J. Econ. Behav. Org., 27 (1995) 35]. The happiness of American blacks, however, has risen. White women in the US have been the biggest losers since the 1970s. Well-being equations have a stable structure. Money buys happiness. People care also about relative income. Well-being is U-shaped in age. The paper estimates the dollar values of events like unemployment and divorce. They are large. A lasting marriage (compared to widowhood as a ‘natural’ experiment), for example, is estimated to be worth $100,000 a year.

    Did you get that Tillman? Happiness has plateaued in the US, as GDP has grown. We are in the top left of that well-being and GDP graph.

  62. Just 'nutha ig'rant cracker says:

    @michael reynolds: Well Said! But I would note that not every college freshman’s favorite pseudo philosopher is Ms. Rand. Where I went to school (in the 70s–a private Evangelical Liberal Arts University) everyone’s favorite pseudo philosopher was Francis Schaffer. In defense of him (something I would never imagine I would be called on to do) I will note that although his thinking is in no meaningful way superior to Ms. Rand’s, I would hold that the end product of that particular brand of fuzzy thinking is considerably less noxious.

  63. gVOR08 says:

    @JKB: I’ve never made sense out of what caused WWI, although I understand it better now, watching the confused, irrational, beggar thy neighbor (and customer) response with which European governments are failing to deal with the current Euro crisis. WWII, on the other hand, was largely driven by Germany’s desire for “lebensraum” to their east and Japan’s desire to steal resources in Manchuria. Rational? No, but what’s that got to do with it?

  64. anjin-san says:

    Japan’s desire to steal resources in Manchuria

    Its worth taking a moment to put this in some historical context. The US opened Japan to the west by force because we wanted their markets. England sold them a moden navy because it was good for their shipyards. We both encouraged Japan to build a modern industrial society knowing they had scant natural resources.

    This in no way excuses the myriad of crimes Japan committed during the war. But we should be cognisant of the role the west played in events.

  65. Tillman says:

    @john personna:

    No. For symmetry you’d need to challenge me with a study, data you feel I might reject, rather than a vague accusation that if what I say is uncomfortable to you, it must be wrong.

    Ha! So vague, even I didn’t know I was making it! That’s a good one. Also love how I never said the happiness studies were wrong, I said there, and I quote, “[could be] epistemological concerns about what studies are claiming to report vs. what they are actually reporting.” Since you hadn’t previously included any links in the thread to a happiness study, I find it hard to imagine I could be calling you wrong without having seen anything, and there’s no way in hell I’m going to do research myself just to post it for a bunch of strangers on the Internet. Your confirmation bias really doesn’t like me.

    Also, symmetry? You didn’t seem to understand the possibility that studies could be wrong. I was trying to point out a reason why people can dismiss studies based on such an ill-defined word like “happiness,” but sure, I need a study to remark on your observations, that makes sense.

    Finally, no, I didn’t. I have no clue where you’re pulling that from. Only downvoted that one for being blatantly false instead of based on misinterpretation.

    John, you’re a smart guy. Stop jumping to conclusions about other people’s motivations the moment they doubt something you say.

  66. Ron Beasley says:

    The bubble has burst and things will never be the same. With oil at $90 a bbl we will never see growth at 5+ percent again. So your children are not going to live the life you have lived – they are going to have less things. Does that mean their lives are going to be worse? I’m 66 and have lived in several foreign countries. No third world countries it was Europe and Japan. While they all had less things then Americans they were all happier than Americans. Things don’t make you happy but marketing makes you think they do – that’s how they sell stuff.
    Yes our children are going to have fewer things and smaller houses but is that a bad thing?

  67. J-Dub says:

    @michael reynolds: Ants already rule the world: http://www.environmentalgraffiti.com/news-x-terrifying-things-you-didnt-know-about-ants

    Humans only think they rule the world because of their inflated egos. Ants were here before us, ants will be here long after we are gone.

  68. @Tillman:

    Also, symmetry? You didn’t seem to understand the possibility that studies could be wrong. I was trying to point out a reason why people can dismiss studies based on such an ill-defined word like “happiness,” but sure, I need a study to remark on your observations, that makes sense.

    One does not simply say “studies can be wrong.” If you suspect them, you must dig in, as in this excellent example at Scientific American:

    When I first saw the coverage of the article appear on Jezebel saying that exercise doesn’t help depression, I didn’t believe it. I read the press release, and really didn’t believe it. And then, I read the article.

  69. Rob in CT says:

    1. Sure, we’re in a bubble of sorts. It’s a function of our society’s success.

    2. So?

    Is the point of this to say “shut up, quit whining?” If so, why does that not apply more and more the wealthier you are within the bubble (which is to say: if the point is that relatively poor Americans should shut up, then American billionares should apparently commit ritual seppuku).

  70. JKB says:

    @Ron Beasley:

    I disagree. We can still have 5% growth. What has to happen is throwing off the dead weight. Some regulation good, but strangling regulation is very, very bad. Most of what is pushed these days as smart regulation is designed to strangle the economy. Perhaps not intentionally but then the promoters have no ability to see the consequences of their actions; apply the scientific method.

    So you predict smaller houses and fewer things. I predict a repeal of idiot regulation, the prioritization of farms over 2″ fish, the opening up of US territory to oil and gas development. What might inhibit this? The monied elite, especially on the California coast, putting their man in office to keep them doing fine while the rest suffer under the heel of the regulator. I do not see that scenario ending well for the elite.

    It doesn’t have to be violent. Reagan lifted the regulator’s boot from the economy’ throat and great things happened. But as happens those who seek to strangle rather than nurture the economy worked to stop all that nasty freedom and wealth creation as the wrong people were succeeding so they “must share the wealth.”

  71. anjin-san says:

    Some regulation good, but strangling regulation is very, very bad. Most of what is pushed these days as smart regulation is designed to strangle the economy.

    Perhaps you could provide some specifics. We have already heard that talking point a few times.

    Also, its worth noting that with all this “strangling” regulation, the economy is doing quite a bit better than when the freewheeling GW Bush left office. Perhaps you could explain that too.

  72. grumpy realist says:

    @jan: Jan, you sound like someone who has drunk far too much of the libertarian koolaid. You may hate regulations and safety nets, but I bet you’d be damned upset if they were all taken away. Do you like rat turds in your peanut butter? After all, if they’re ground up and you don’t know that they’re there, not a problem, right? And who cares if the antibiotics you get for your child’s infection are counterfeit–the fact that the medicine isn’t useful isn’t a problem. You can always bring a tort case against the company after your child dies, right? And that will make things all better, right?

  73. MBunge says:

    @JKB: “The monied elite, especially on the California coast, putting their man in office to keep them doing fine while the rest suffer under the heel of the regulator.”

    There’s so much projection going on in that sentence it should be up on an IMAX screen. The “monied elite” certainly have a candidate in this race and it’s not Obama. It’s the one who thinks the “monied elite” should continue to pay lower tax rates than their nannies, gardners and secretaries.

    Mike

    Mike

  74. Rob in CT says:

    It doesn’t have to be violent. Reagan lifted the regulator’s boot from the economy’ throat and great things happened

    You know, ten years ago I’d have just nodded about this.

    The problem is, this is mythology. There was a Fed-induced recession in the early 80s, in order to get inflation down. Then the fed eased back, the government spent lots of money, and cut taxes at the top. The result was actually solid but unspectacular economic growth, and rising income inequality (which is to say that the growth was not widely shared).

    What’s your explanation for the 90s?

  75. Rob in CT says:

    Put another way: regulation is a means to an end.

    Most of what people complain about nowadays seems to be environmental regs. If we reduce those, I see no reason to believe the result won’t be increased pollution (which has a cost!). Call me jaded, but 13 years of looking at environmental claims tells me that industries (people, my friends) do not self-regulate well.

    A particular regulation might be too tight (diminishing returns), or simply misguided (or even nefarious rent-seeking by established industry seeking to put up barriers to entry). Show me that regulation and explain why it’s bad, and I’m fine with changing it.

    But these debates never seem to go that way. It’s all in the abstract. Concrete examples would help.

  76. anjin-san says:

    @ JKB

    The monied elite, especially on the California coast

    Your success envy is showing.

  77. anjin-san says:

    @ grumpy realist

    One of the very first things the GW Bush administration did was get to work making it more difficult for consumers to access product safety information. They had a particular focus on tires. WTF would anyone want to make it more difficult to find out which tires are the safe, and which perform poorly?

    That’s the road Jan wants to travel. As another commentator recently pointed out, she seems to lack the imagination to conceive that these sort of things might have a negative impact on her own pleasant lifestyle some day. Or perhaps she just figures that she can afford top or near top quality products, and those who can’t will simply have to make due.

  78. JKB says:

    @Rob in CT:

    Well, there are so many regulations, this is hardly the place to start picking them apart.

    My point was, rather than live smaller lives, American could decide to throw off some of the deadweight. Regulation has its place in limiting bad actors but to much regulation kills the golden goose. Everything has a cost be it regulation, government services or government assistance. But when those costs become debilitating, one either imposes those increased costs upon taxpayers via taxes or you cut back on the costs through cutbacks in programs. The former usually fails as the programs just expand as fast or faster than the taxes rise. The latter while creating the most laments is the most effective as it forces re-prioritization and a move back to basics.

    Inside the bubble, the trend has been toward increasing taxes to avoid the hard choices of cutting back on Santa government. If the bubble is now bursting or ready to pop, the trend will go toward cutbacks as those who foot the bill feel the pinch.

    This isn’t an either/or situation. Some regulation is good, to much is bad. Some socialist type programs are desirable to provide safety nets, socialism everywhere is very, very bad. The key is balance. Well, also, I’d recommend to stop kicking the milk cow (productive capitalist class) lest it go dry.

    Wonder why the economy is dragging?

    Here are two charts which show why both increased regulation and policy uncertainty are very significant

  79. grumpy realist says:

    @anjin-san: This is why libertarians are absolutely nuts. They don’t seem to understand that one of the benefit of regulations is to provide bright lines for companies. If they act according to the regulations, they’re not going to get whacked with a negligence lawsuit. If they don’t, then they’ve opened themselves to that risk. Otherwise, a company will always have to worry about a lawsuit around the corner and having to squabble about what is “negligent” activity.

    Oh, but we shouldn’t have strict liability for products anymore you say? Well, we tried that too, historically. Used to be that you couldn’t sue the manufacturer for a defect unless you bought it directly from the manufacturer. We discovered the problem with that: turns out that “reputation” is a really bad way to carry out self-regulation. Hope you like having blenders that shock you, mechanical devices with sharp edges that cut you, and electronic devices that blow up, because that’s what was happening.

    (This is why I can’t stand libertarians. The bulk of them never bother to look back in history to see if there was already a period where their policies were being carried out.)

    And let’s not get into why we have FAA regulations….

  80. rodney dill says:

    @Tillman:

    @rodney dill: Said the man suffering from depression. There’s plenty to be said about one’s thinking dictating one’s mood, but chemicals in the brain are pesky things.

    True. I’m only happy about what the voices in my head tell me to be happy about.

  81. WR says:

    @JKB: So you want to throw off the yoke of bad regulations — and you can’t even come up with one that qualifies. That’s pretty convincing.

  82. Rob in CT says:

    this is hardly the place to start picking them apart.

    No? Why not?

    I’m not asking for a laundry list of every reg you don’t like. I’m asking for some examples of real-world situations and real-world regulations that are making this worse instead of better.

    You might find me agreeing with you, if you can provide examples.

    The key is balance. Well, also, I’d recommend to stop kicking the milk cow (productive capitalist class) lest it go dry.

    Balance, absolutely. But who is arguing otherwise (other than doctrinare libertarians and communists, the combined numbers of which is what, a few thousand people?)? No argument there.

    I do think you’ve misidentified the milk cow, though. The “capitalist class” (aka “job creators”) are not the milk cow or the golden goose. They’re the farmer, who collects the milk/eggs. The goose itself is a healthy middle class. An unhealthy middle class with slack demand lays fewer golden eggs. The farmer is important too, sure. But at this stage, it’s pretty funny to be worrying about the care and feeding of “the capitalist class.” They’ve been getting what they want for 30 years running, with very few setbacks (even the Clintonmonster agreed to the Glass-Steagal repeal and was and is buddy-buddy with the financial sector).

    I’ll have a look at your link, though.

  83. Rob in CT says:

    Ok, so I had a look at the link. As to the specific post you linked to – I’d like to know more about how he’s classifying the governmental employees involved in regulation. It’s not clear from the post. There isn’t much detail there.

    Then I went and read a bunch of his other posts. It reads like the usual right-wing list of what to do, always. This is the clearest one:

    Restoring Robust Growth in America
    Why has the recovery been so slow? What can we do about it? Alan Greenspan, George Shultz, Ed Prescott, Steve Davis, Nick Bloom, John Cochrane, Bob Hall, Lee Ohanian, John Cogan and I recently met at the Hoover Institution at Stanford to present papers and discuss the issue with other economists and policy makers including Myron Scholes, Michael Boskin, Ron McKinnon and many others. Here is the agenda.

    We plan to publish a book on the conclusions, but here is a very brief summary of the presentations. George Shultz led off by arguing that diagnosing the problem and thus finding a solution was extraordinarily important now, not only for the future of the United States but also for its leadership around world. Tax reform, entitlement reform, monetary reform, and K-12 education reform were at the top of his pro-growth policy list. Alan Greenspan presented empirical evidence that policy uncertainty caused by government activism was a major problem holding back growth, and that the first priority should be to start reducing the deficit immediately; investment is being crowded out now. He also recommended starting financial reform all over again because of the near impossibility of implementing Dodd Frank. Nick Bloom, Steve Davis and Scott Baker then presented their empirical measures of policy uncertainty and showed that they were negatively correlated with economic growth.

    Ed Prescott had the most dramatic policy proposal which he argued would cause a major boom and restore strong growth. He would simultaneously reform the tax code and entitlement programs by slashing marginal tax rates which would increase employment and productivity. John Cochrane focused on the bailout problems in the European and American financial sectors, arguing that they would continue to be a drag on growth until policy makers stopped kicking the can down the road.

    Bob Hall argued that fiscal policy was not working, and focused on alleviating the zero lower bound constraint on monetary policy. One of his proposals was a gradual phase-in of a tax reform in the form of a consumption tax, which would make consumption today relatively cheap and thereby increase aggregate demand. I presented research with John Cogan on fiscal policy showing that it had not been successful in raising government purchases and was ineffective regardless of the size of the multiplier. Finally Lee Ohanian showed that unemployment remained high in part because of restrictions on foreclosure proceedings which increased search unemployment by allowing people to stay in their homes for longer periods of time.

    In sum there was considerable agreement that (1) policy uncertainty was a major problem in the slow recovery, (2) short run stimulus packages were not the answer going forward, and (3) policy reforms that would normally be considered helpful in the long run would actually be very helpful right now in the short run.

    So, unemployment is high in part because foreclosures take too long (translation: those good-for-nothing squatters would *really* be looking for work if they couldn’t stay so long!), the route to prosperity is more tax cuts (shocker!), education reform (I have to assume the right-wing version, aka break the teachers union), entitlement reform (cuts) and monetary reform (not sure what this one is). Given that this guy is really big on reducing the deficit, if tax cuts are needed then the spending cuts have to be *huge*. This is presented as pro-growth. But he also spends a bunch of time waxxing poetic about the 80s recovery! The government ran huge deficits in the 80s!

    There are a couple of things buried in there that actually sound interesting (the presentation by Bob Hall in particular) but in general it sounds like the same stuff Conservatives have been saying for 30+ years, regardless of the context.

  84. JKB says:

    @WR:

    Even if I could count you your reasonableness and convince you of the perniciousness of some regulation, it would not change a thing since neither of us are likely to be party to the negotiations should the matter come to repeal. Therefore, it is hardly worth my time and effort.

    Feel free to be unconvinced. Won’t bother me a bit.

  85. JKB says:

    @Rob in CT:

    Well, if you look at those 30 years with an open mind, you’ll see the conservative economic views proved quite beneficial for the economy.

    Clinton was on his way to defeat in 1993 till he got smart and stole Republican ideas. A lament I always chuckled at back in the day, who cares if he stole the conservative ideas as long as they are implemented and prosperity bloomed.

  86. Rob in CT says:

    JKB – that’s true and all, but equally true regarding all the other stuff we discuss here at OTB.

  87. Rob in CT says:

    JKB,

    Actually, my looking back on that time period with an open mind convinced me of the opposite. I started off with the unexamined belief that the GOP was right on everything but those pesky social/religious issues. On the economy and foreign policy, I came into adulthood with the idea that the GOP ideas were superior.

    As for Clinton – it was a mixed bag. There were income tax increases (that the GOP said would have horrible economic consequences, by the way), welfare reform and other wrangling with the GOP on entitlement spending, glass-steagal repeal, and a capital gains cut. From the perspective of 1999, it looked like a rather good deal. From the perspective of 2012, like I said – mixed bag.

  88. WR says:

    @JKB: So there are terrible, terrible regulations strangling the country, but it’s just too much bother to come up with even one.

    Why not just save yourself time and type in the number of the RNC talking point instead of claiming something like this as your actual belief?

  89. JKB says:

    @WR:

    Well, no doubt small business men could tell you plenty. Of course, they will be reluctant because should they speak out, suddenly they will be the subject of an enforcement action.

    Here, since you are down on the RNC or, is it conservatives, watch two heavyweights weigh in on the problem of regulations.

  90. anjin-san says:

    Well, no doubt small business men could tell you plenty

    Please be clear on where you are getting your information.

  91. Rob in CT says:

    Well, no doubt small business men could tell you plenty

    So, in other words, you don’t have any examples.

    Of course, they will be reluctant because should they speak out, suddenly they will be the subject of an enforcement action.

    Aaaaaand straight to victimhood. Please. This is just sad.

  92. anjin-san says:

    So let’s summarize. According to JKB, overregulation is strangling the economy. But he can’t give us even one example of one of these capitalism killing regulations.

    Plus, black helicopters are waiting to strike small business owners…