After writing for a decade on my political philosophy, it’s perfectly natural for many people to have an opinion about me. Some of my progressive friends make it clear that they view me with some suspicion, due to my tendency to support “the establishment” and my interest in economics – the dismal science of the elite. Some of my conservative friends see my interest in social justice and desire to make constant improvement as dangerous tinkering with the social order and a desire for perfectibility, an intellectual pursuit always fraught with danger.
Both are wrong in a way. Call it “enlightened self interest” if you want, but I see my view as nothing more than the only practical one given my one and only goal. Like Beethoven contemplating the Ninth Symphony, I only want to be happy. And my politics flows naturally from that.
Left or right? Democratic or Republican? Progressive or Conservative? These are the choices we supposedly make as we consider our political philosophy – our outlook on the nation and how we vote. It’s one end or the other, with a fair amount of room in the middle for those who see room for both.
But that doesn’t seem to be what divides us politically anymore. The sharpest division seems to run between something like optimism and pessimism, either staying the course with a few tweaks or smashing the system to give room for something totally new to come along. Yet even that doesn’t seem to describe it.
If you have a healthy news diet, you can easily be forgiven for thinking everything is going to Hell. Then again, that doesn’t seem too healthy. Perhaps “No news is good news” has a resonance far beyond the original intent of the folk saying.
Is there good in the world? Of course there is. People are helping each other and just being decent all the time. Yet in a world always closer together it seems as though there is a shortage of good things everywhere.
The difference, I believe, is what lies just outside of human scale. The world comes to us through machinery – ripped of context, stripped of humanity. It’s up to all of us to provide some context with our own empathy and judgment. Seeing good in the world is indeed about unplugging our brains from the noise and reveling in a good time with friends, a quiet moment alone, or even an hour passed in a patch of clover.
“Anyone who believes exponential growth can go on forever in a finite world is either a madman or an economist.”
– Kenneth Boulding
The figure for growth in Gross Domestic Product (GDP) growth for the second quarter came in, and it wasn’t bad – 2.3%, and the revision to the first quarter was a positive if sluggish 0.6%. Like so many economic figures it’s not great but it’s also not bad. We’re still muddling through this year hoping to make it through to better times ahead.
But will there be better times? The Federal Reserve accidentally posted on its website, briefly, some internal estimates from their own economists that show that where 2015 and 2016 won’t be too bad, with growth in the 2.3-2.4% range, it may taper off after that. But can we expect better? Should we, for that matter, expect more growth from the economy?
Or is one of the big changes in this new economy a much lower growth rate than we are used to?