Tuesday, January 29, 2013

The pessimism of blue elites

Here's a magnificent essay by Walter Russel Mead on us continuing theme of the decline of the "blue" economic mode and changes in the economy.

There is deep pessimism among "blue elites".

The blue vision of the future, as I wrote in my last essay, is a bleak one in many respects. If the establishment liberals of our time are right in their future vision, most of the population will be economically surplus; globalization and automation will empower a creative class on Wall Street and in Hollywood and Silicon Valley. Most of the rest of the country will be stuck in low productivity, low wage jobs as manufacturing fades and is replaced by … nothing, unless you count government benefits and food stamps. The blues think that a redistributive and regulatory state (naturally enough administered by wise and well intentioned people such as themselves) can pump enough money from the growing parts of the economy onto the plebs and the proles in the post-industrial doldrums, providing at least a degree of middle class life to the sidelined majority.

But the transition can still lead to something better, as happened when employment in agriculture collapsed. Education levels had to rise.

The task facing America today looks something like the task we faced after the Civil War. How do we manage the transition from a well-established political and social system to something more productive? Both then and now, many of the negative features of the transformation appeared first, while the benefits came slowly. The population boom and the agricultural transition drove millions into cities looking for work when there wasn’t yet enough factory employment.

It is the great question of the age. But as I keep arguing, it is as much an ethical question - what do we value? What do we reward! What is the good life? - as economic.