Summary: Strong social cohesion distinguishes successful from failed States, and has long been a strength of America. A side effect of the 1%’s successful programs to build a New America on the ruins of the America-that-Once-Was is erosion of our social cohesion. From that, should it continue, we can expect bitter fruit. Today we look at three telling articles about this evolution.
Conservatives fret that we will get inflation and devaluation — like Argentina. In fact Argentina’s fall came from its plutocracy’s greed, the loss of social cohesion, and the resulting social conflict.
Perhaps we should worry about becoming like Argentina.
- America’s system of High, Middle, & Low Justice
- Trust no promises by institutions in America
- Falling apart: decreased social cohesion
- For More Information
- Wide circles of trust make strong nations
(1) See America’s system of High, Middle, and Low Justice at work
“Kozlowski Is Granted Parole“, New York Times, 3 December 2013 — 100 months served, the last six were at home. Excerpt:
Come January, L. Dennis Kozlowski’s long tenure in New York State’s penitentiary system will near its end. The state’s Board of Parole granted parole to Mr. Kozlowski, the former chief executive of Tyco International …
Now the onetime multimillionaire will take another step toward freedom, more than eight years after he was found guilty of essentially using Tyco as his own piggy bank. His conviction in 2005 of grand larceny, conspiracy and fraud cemented his status as an symbol of corporate greed and earned him a sentence of 8-1/3 to 25 years in prison.
… In July of this year, Mr. Kozlowski’s status was upgraded to “day reporting” status, which required him to briefly report to Lincoln twice a week. Since then, he has been sleeping at his home and going to work every day, though his lawyer declined to identify his current location or job.
Parole still carries some restrictions for Mr. Kozlowski, including regular check-ins with his parole officer, a curfew and refraining from alcohol. But he can apply for permission to leave the state, among other things.
(2) Trust no promises by institutions in America; get what you are owed in cash now
Many State and local governments have underfunded pension plans. Now we learn how some will solve the problem: “Detroit Ruling on Bankruptcy Lifts Pension Protections“, New York Times, 3 December 2013 — Excerpt:
In a ruling that could reverberate far beyond Detroit, a federal judge held on Tuesday that this battered city could formally enter bankruptcy and asserted that Detroit’s obligation to pay pensions in full was not untouchable.
The judge, Steven W. Rhodes, dealt a major blow to the widely held belief that state laws preserve public pensions, and his ruling is likely to resonate in Chicago, Los Angeles, Philadelphia and many other American cities where the rising cost of pensions has been crowding out spending for public schools, police departments and other services.
The judge made it clear that public employee pensions were not protected in a federal Chapter 9 bankruptcy, even though the Michigan Constitution expressly protects them. “Pension benefits are a contractual right and are not entitled to any heightened protection in a municipal bankruptcy,” he said.
James E. Spiotto, a lawyer with the firm Chapman & Cutler in Chicago who specializes in municipal bankruptcy and was not involved in the case, said: “No bankruptcy court had ruled that before. It will be instructive.”
… Bruce Babiarz, a spokesman for the Detroit Police and Fire Retirement System, was blunt in his assessment. “This is one of the strongest protected pension obligations in the country here in Michigan,” he said. “If this ruling is upheld, this is the canary in a coal mine for protected pension benefits across the country. They’re gone.”
We have seen hundreds of large corporate pension plans fail — dumped on the Pension Benefit Guarantee Corporation, with pensions reduced to retirees (see the list here). The decision about Detroit is a pathbreaking decision for the many failures of public pension plan coming during the next two decades. For details see About the coming crisis in public pensions, 8 January 2010.
(3) Falling apart: decreased social cohesion (the glue that holds America together)
These days, only one-third of Americans say most people can be trusted. Half felt that way in 1972, when the General Social Survey first asked the question. Forty years later, a record high of nearly two-thirds say “you can’t be too careful” in dealing with people.
… Does it matter that Americans are suspicious of one another? Yes, say worried political and social scientists. What’s known as “social trust” brings good things.
- A society where it’s easier to compromise or make a deal. Where people are willing to work with those who are different from them for the common good. Where trust appears to promote economic growth.
- Distrust, on the other hand, seems to encourage corruption. At the least, it diverts energy to counting change, drawing up 100-page legal contracts and building gated communities.
Even the rancor and gridlock in politics might stem from the effects of an increasingly distrustful citizenry, said April K. Clark, a Purdue University political scientist and public opinion researcher. “It’s like the rules of the game,” Clark said. “When trust is low, the way we react and behave with each other becomes less civil.”
There’s no easy fix.
… University of Maryland Professor Eric Uslaner, who studies politics and trust, puts the blame elsewhere: economic inequality. Trust has declined as the gap between the nation’s rich and poor gapes ever wider, Uslaner says, and more and more Americans feel shut out. They’ve lost their sense of a shared fate. Tellingly, trust rises with wealth.
“People who believe the world is a good place and it’s going to get better and you can help make it better, they will be trusting,” Uslaner said. “If you believe it’s dark and driven by outside forces you can’t control, you will be a mistruster.”
(4) For More Information
Some posts about New America:
- Why Americans should love Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings – we live there, 13 December 2011
- We’ve worked through all 5 stages of grief for the Republic. Now, on to The New America!, 8 January 2013
- How do our leaders see us? Don the shoes of the 1%. Look down on the 99%. Describe the view., 5 February 2013
- Compare our New America to the America-that-once-was (a great nation), 12 June 2013
- Glimpses of the New America being born now, 18 June 2013
- Glimpses of the New America being born now, 18 June 2013
- An Independence Day special report: I have seen the New America!, 5 July 2013
- A tale of New America: a billionaire plays with his employees & shareholders, 19 July 2013
- Billionaires mold our schools to produce better help in a New America, 20 July 2013
- Another view of New America: inequality, low social mobility, rising heroin use. Fun, but not for all., 28 September 2013
- Why don’t we see the New America being built around us?, 1 December 2013
(5) Wide circles of trust make strong nations
Graphic from The Speed of Trust by Stephen M. R. Covey (see the website):