Eat your vegetables
Friday rant, lamentation edition
Not feeling as ranty today as lamenty. It feels like we have fallen into the zero-sum trap. People do NOT behave well in zero-sum situations. Robert Wright's great book, Nonzero, which I have referenced before, lays out a somewhat non-intuitive but persuasive case that humans have a subtle instinct to recognize positive-sum solutions, and that's what has (inevitably, in his telling) driven human progress forward over time. The not so-happy other side of this, which Wright does not emphasize, is that humans have a FEROCIOUS instinct for zero-sum situations, and the results can be brutal.
People marvel at the success of the American experiment, and rightly so, particularly the ability we've had at assimilating different ethnic and cultural groups. But look at the context here. A vast, resource-packed continent, craving nothing so avidly as a growing work force. Well, the non-zero benefits here are pretty easy to understand. Everybody wins!
(Except, of course, that subset who were, ahem, NOT PAID.) Optimism is an American character trait! But starting with the 1970's, the game rules started changing to look a lot more zero-sum. The market-oriented, supply-side "miracle" that ran from the 1980's until a year or so ago SEEMED to bring back the good old days, but when the dust cleared it turned out that the top 1 percent were the winners, and really the top tenth of them. Everybody else, not so much. Our new character trait is ANGER.
There is a lot of debate about whether people are angrier now than they've ever been. Maybe so, maybe no. But it doesn't take a lot of imagination to consider that with a non-growing pie, people are more likely to turn on each other. And NOW, of all times, conservatives have decided to block a second stimulus, and this could lock us in this pattern for unnecessary years. My opinion is they think it is worth it to sink the Obama presidency, (since deficits seem to be a rather, um, recent discovery for most of them), but I would urge them to reconsider that. I would also encourage that top one tenth of 1 percent to look down from that sky-high stack they are sitting on and ask themselves if that is a healthy place to be. --Tom Toles
Other Syndicated Editorial Cartoons:
Posted by: bobbo2 | June 26, 2010 9:49 PM | Report abuse
Posted by: Rhodan | June 26, 2010 2:06 PM | Report abuse
Posted by: bertzel | June 26, 2010 8:25 AM | Report abuse
Posted by: gary4books | June 26, 2010 7:54 AM | Report abuse
Posted by: bobbo2 | June 25, 2010 1:30 PM | Report abuse
Posted by: ATrueChristian | June 25, 2010 12:33 PM | Report abuse
Posted by: bertzel | June 25, 2010 11:59 AM | Report abuse
Posted by: alex35332 | June 25, 2010 9:04 AM | Report abuse
Posted by: batigol85 | June 25, 2010 8:39 AM | Report abuse
Posted by: batigol85 | June 25, 2010 8:33 AM | Report abuse
Posted by: quiensabe | June 25, 2010 8:08 AM | Report abuse
Posted by: BernieO | June 25, 2010 7:53 AM | Report abuse
Posted by: gary4books | June 25, 2010 6:38 AM | Report abuse
Posted by: tradeshoes04 | June 24, 2010 10:48 PM | Report abuse
Posted by: carbonhog | June 24, 2010 9:04 PM | Report abuse
Posted by: Kevin71707 | June 24, 2010 8:32 PM | Report abuse
The comments to this entry are closed.