dystopia

The Dystopian Reality That Actually Came To Pass

I sometimes fantasize about writing a book in the 1970s predicting future U.S. macroeconomic trends based on what I now know today.  Of course, it would be dismissed as unlikely and far out. After all, who would have predicted the technological and economic trends as they have transpired over the past 5 decades?

But perhaps the ultimate irony is the number of Americans who still don’t understand the facts and continue to deny the evidence of history. The fundamentalist ideological denial of the right, and the propagandistic reach of a wealthy few shareholders has created a hermetically sealed environment inpenetrable by the real record of events.

What Nobody Ever Predicted

Back in the 1970s and 1980s, nobody would have predicted this general scenario, which I call Today’s Dystopia.

– The advent of trade agreements and the decline of labor hollows out the great middle class, as their jobs are shipped overseas to former geopolitical enemy China and third world India where the work is done at slave labor costs.

– Deregulation reverses Glass Steagall, merging consumer and investment banking, results in a spate of mergers and acquisitions  creating systemic unemployment, lack of competition, and unprecedented market volatility.

– The creation of mortgage-based derivatives drives an unsustainable housing bubble, whose collapse precipitates a Great Recession.

– The destruction of the World Trade Center in NYC by Saudi terrorists causes extremist elements in the government to scapegoat an innocent Middle Eastern nation, driving a costly, unpaid-for war that kills nearly 4,500 Americans and squanders an estimated $1 trillion, resulting in the largest Federal budget deficit in history, massive unemployment and a prolonged systemic recession.

– Large corporate takeovers of small business enterprise enabled by corrupt political giveaways creates a form of wage slavery in which workers are forced to rely on government benefits to meet their living and health care expenses.

– Fossil fuel energy reserves become increasingly more costly to extract causing prices to spiral and destabilizing the climate, resulting in increased weather disasters.  Meanwhile, powerful large oil oligarchies continue to support political policies that slow the development of more viable sustainable energy technologies, making the U.S. lag in safe, sustainable energy.

– Munitions corporations tap into the emotionally fragile and paranoid fears of the population to market weapons on a wide scale, and to lobby the government against sensible regulation, resulting in a surge of mass murders and gun accidents.  Between 1968 and 2012, 1,384,171 Americansare killed by guns compared to  1,171,177 Americans killed in all wars, including the Civil War, World War 1 and 2, Vietnam, and Iraq.

Why Nobody Would Have Believed It

Of course, if the story had been told, nobody would have believed it. That’s because of another development that no one would have been likely to have predicted at the time – the decline of the Fifth Estate, in which corporate news channels would effectively deemphasize the role of the corporate interests as described above, and a propaganda machine on the right would present a set of assertions denying the pattern of events as they actually unfolded.

Denial and Polarization

The book Today’s Dystopia would document the official voices of denial. These voices would make far fetched attempts to lay the blame for the housing crisis on President Clinton for encouraging Federal loan agencies Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac to expand loans to needy borrowers, although in fact they were the last to lower lending standards to respond to competition from large national banks. Voices of denial would attempt to lay the blame for the war deficit on the ensuing president who was left to clean up the mess and actually presided over a declining deficit trend. In brief, the voices of denial would not only disavow the blame, but attempt to pace it on the average worker.

They would deny the scientific reality of climate change, and perpetrate the myth that U.S. oil reserves were not in fact quickly depleting.

The book would detail how average citizens would be propagandized into believing things that are counterfactual, through bald assertions that would tap into their angst, capitalizing on the principles of confirmation bias to drive belief in an alternate set of facts that had no basis in reality. Finally, the book would paint a bleak picture of a public polarized and divided against itself and a government in the grips of paralysis.

The Good News – Change

As the dystopia has unfolded, another story that’s been hard to come by involves positive developments to advance known solutions to these problems that are also unfolding. Of course, for this reality to emerge, one must first acknowledge the historical record, and the record level of economic inequality that has resulted from these macroeconomic delvelopments.

Today, there are technologies that can make America energy independent, and changes in the electorate that can exert pressure on the government to reverse economic trends that are destructive to the working class. There are regulations, like Glass Steagall, that have proven effective in preventing Great Recessions, and that could help labor get greater representation in the corporate structure. To understand and effect these solutions, inertia needs to be overcome and citizens will need to learn to think independently, outside the political rhetoric and news sound bytes they will hear.

Time To Write Another Book

If I had written this prophetic book in the 1970s, I would have emphasized that those were the best of times, and that we must guard against complascency in the face of the growing liklihood of an unprecedented upward redistribution of wealth to a tiny 1%, and the resultant economic instability and economic decline of the average household.

It’s doubtful that the book would have garnered very much attention at the time. However, now that these events have actually come to pass, there are signs that more people are beginning to acknowledge the reality of them. Despite the mechanations of the corporate media, the internet provides rich resources for the actual record to be researched and pieced together, and there are responsible economists who are making the facts known.

If this awareness reaches a critical mass, the future could be be better, and, hopefully,  50 years from today, someone will be fantasizing about the book of hope and inspiration he or she could have written today.

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