Summary: Here are three stories about the decline of America. They’re too complex and too good to abstract. Please read them. The Republic is happening on our watch. It need not be so. That is the vital thing we must realize. Everything flows from that.
I use Twitter (@FabiusMaximus01) to flag interesting and valuable articles, replacing the weekly posts. But here are three powerful stories about the decline of America, each examining a different facet, that deserve special attention.
(I) “Losing Sparta: The Bitter Truth Behind the Gospel of Productivity“, Esther Kaplan, VQR, Summer 2014 — The best reporting I’ve seen in a long time. It’s told in long form, capturing not just the deep dynamics of this event but also its emotional impact on the people involved. It’s about the deindustrialization of America, about the myths we’re told about it, about its madness, about the evil complicity of our political leaders, and the devastation left in its wake.
(II) “Oligarchy Blues“, Michael Ventura, The Austin Chronicle, 27 June 2014 — “Without fair elections and a viable legislative process at federal and state levels, the republic no longer exists.” Yes. But couch potatoes are ruled by oligarchs. As we learned as children from Disney films, it’s the great circle of life.
(III) “ISIS and Iraq: The T-Shirts, the Cats, the App, the Hasbara“, Lambert Strether, Naked Capitalism, 11 July 2014 — A brilliant forensic analysis of the “news” about ISIS. In addition to useful guide to stories about the latest we must wet our pants in fear threat, it provides powerful evidence about two themes of the FM website.
- Yes, we’re among the most gullible people that have ever walked the Earth. We fall for the same propaganda again and again, from the same people.
- No, our shiny new tech — instantaneous access to all the world’s knowledge — has not given us the superpowers we need. It has made us neither smarter nor better informed.
It’s happening on our watch. It need not be so. We can change the course of America’s future.
To see how read the posts listed on the Reference Page Reforming America: steps to political change. It’s a work in progress, neither textbook or cookbook. Post your comments and suggestions. Better yet, do something. The Founders bequeathed us the machinery for self-government. We have to work it. It runs on our input of time, money, and — above all — work.
3 thoughts on “Three stories of America’s decline for your weekend reading”
The Kaplan article is a gem. Her reporting from the hollow core, from a place that did all that large corporations asked of it, is poignant, albeit familiar. However, she asks a question rarely, if ever, asked of downsizing and offshoring: What’s the point? That this first-rate journalist can’t answer her own question is more than disturbing.
Totally agree, really, I was about to say basically the same thing, except I couldn’t come up with anything clever to add. It’s a real account of real people who are affected, and written with feeling and compassion.
As far as why, I think this is the ‘money shot’ here. It sounds so crazy and so strange, maybe that’s why it’s hard to process.
“There’s a momentum that gets in place when people say we’re going to close these plants, and it becomes a point of weakness for anyone to stand up and say, ‘No,’” she told me one evening. “No one feels strong enough to do that. Because they feel like it’s showing some sort of human weakness, that they’re making an emotional decision—when in fact, there’s a business decision there. And so it gains a sort of momentum in an emperor-has-no-clothes sort of way. And so people are compelled to do the wrong things. And then you start adding incentives based on the execution of those plans and now you’ve got everybody marching straight off a cliff.”
It’s the quarterly earnings and the stock price. Investors sit at terminals make decisions based on sound bites. Philips says “we’re cutting costs by off-shoring” and if you think about this for only two seconds, well, maybe that’s plausible. That imaginary future cost cutting turns into real actual money right now as investors factor that into the price. Does it work, does it make sense? Nobody goes into that. It’s all about creating the appearance of the potential for future improved earnings. It is madness, but there you go. That’s how it goes down these days.
“As I combed through the Team Sparta business plan, I became skeptical about whether this kind of granular analysis was ever performed by the Philips executives who decided to move the plant to Monterrey.”
Indeed. Large companies are rife with” siloism”, the process of one department or subunit doing something which looks good in isolation but ends up costing more than it saves. For instance the example in the article, where any savings from consolidation are likely to be spent in shipping losses.
And since the costs and savings never appear on the same balance sheets, they are never connected.