Time To Fix Things Not Ideas

Many of us ring our hands each day over our elected representatives’ dysfunction.  Congressional talk seems to about left-right, progressive-conservative, or blue-red issues.  America seems adrift.  Is this the end of the American century?

Of course it could be.  On the other hand, which country or region is likely to supplant the US as the most productive and wealthiest country?

History teaches that all great nations in time fall from greatness.  Sometimes their demise comes from the outside and other times it is internal decay.  The families of the rich and powerful, for example, hardly last the next generation before those families become the ordinary or worse again.  The same seems to be true of nations.

Europe in size and existing wealth seems an obvious candidate to overtake the US.  They have sophistication, religious sensibility, technology, and over 300 million residents .  Europe as a US rival seems plausible until one considers how chronically divided European nations are.  Europe as a viable region seems likely, but as a world leader there is something missing.

Asia has two candidates.  Russia (even though Russia is technically a European country, most of its land mass lies in Asia), and China.  Russia still holds onto a less than optimal government structure (a dictatorship masked by an elected assembly) and a populations that has mainly known peasant life style or communism.  More recently, where Russia has introduced capitalism, they have harvested a grossly uneven distribution of its wealth.  More simply stated, Russia is incapable of growing its economy sufficiently well that there is enough money to satisfy its citizens and project Russia influence far beyond its borders.

China with its 1+ billion citizens and until recently 10+% growth rate, is a formable challenger.  China, however, must also carry the burden of an authoritarian leadership.  Suppression of free speech while valued by authorities also runs the risk of hiding important information that is vital to economic growth.  The Chinese themselves are entrepreneurs and hard workers.  A huge limitation for China is the mass of Chinese who still form a peasant class.  How to rapidly grow the country, bring the peasants into the mainstream, and also project China’s influence around the world just does not seem doable at this time (if ever).

(India is another country with 1+ billion people.  It has an estimated 300+ million people with average wealth greater than the US.  Unfortunately as a country, India is hopeless on the global stage.  The caste mentality coupled with religious subdivisions have put India in a position of being incapable of dealing with their uneducated and dirt poor sections of the population. India too must deal with homogenizing its entire population before it could expect to project far beyond its borders. )

So, if this perspective is close to correct, the US has only itself to worry about.  If we allow our population to lose technology leadership or we allow our infrastructure to decay too far, we could get caught in a “can’t win” position.  Loss of technology and an inadequate infrastructure will make everything the US might try to do uncompetitive.  This situation would quickly translate into much higher interest rates for financing the national debt.  The interest would quickly take precedent over other government spending (like on education or infrastructure) accelerating the downward slide.

Our politicians, it seems, are fighting over taxes and entitlements and other equally amorphous ideas.  What needs to be pushed into the center are programs like technical apprenticeships, centers for technical innovation, and good old fashion infrastructure construction and maintenance.  A pothole or a crumbling bridge is neither blue or red, progressive or conservative, or left or right issue.  These are things which can be measured and their value measured.

Most of what we argue about these days are in predictions about what would be best for the future.  Neither side can prove today what they advocate is best or will achieve desired results.

Will eliminating women’s access to safe abortion facilities reduce abortions?  Will family planning reduce abortions?  Will sharp reductions in entitlements encourage the population to work harder and therefore no longer need as many entitlements?  Or, will continuing entitlements help people to weather the bad times and return to the work force so that they no longer need entitlements?

These are social propositions which require the fullness of time to prove.  The development of technology and its effective application coupled with a sound efficient infrastructure are measurable activities.

While we might hope our politicians would stop their divisive left-right rants, it is unlikely to happen.  Our best hope is to keep this dialog to a minimum and to hold our politicans accountable for fixing “things” not ideas.

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