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Saturday, November 14, 2015

The various strands of history

I'm a political wonk.  I love reading about politics, seeing how things begin to change over time.  How things have come to be.

While I'll gladly admit that I'm liberal and consider myself a progressive: I was a fan of Democratic Socialism before Bernie Sanders made it cool, I'm also a realist.  Democratic Socialism has always been part of the United States, and it's only going to grow.  The fact that we are actually having a conversation about what that term means is progress.

While Americans have always had a discussion about the role of the unwashed masses in our society, this is probably the first time since the 1760's that role has been so openly discussed.

Basically it's a simple argument about what is best for America.  Do we allow only certain people to control us, and remember in America at one time the only people allowed to vote were white men that owned land (they were seen as being responsible as they had the most to lose or gain in a election).  Or do we trust the general populace to make a choice?   Every battle we have had since has been along those lines.

From allowing blacks the vote, to women's rights, to the current fight over the minimum wage.

What many politicians and media people are missing however is the very subtle shift that is occurring towards a more equitable economy.   It's in fits and starts and like everything in America it seems to be starting  small.  A barely visible moment at the lowest and most basic of places.  The neighborhood.

I'm seeing more community gardens.  I'm seeing progressive cities like my old home town of Pittsburgh, who recently tore down old dilapidated buildings and turned the now vacant lots into community gardens.   Allowing some of the poorest neighborhoods in the city access to fresh, green and healthy foods.   Helping to answer in some small way the growing "food desert" problem that plagues many cities.

I see it in the fight against gerrymandering.  I get that.  It's only natural to want to protect what you see as "your power."  So Ohio's recent decision to outlaw it is a victory for democracy in my opinion.   Let's have races actually run on issues.

When I hear of families of two or three generations living together under one roof in order to save money and cut costs, I see a changing economy.  When I read stories about polyamory, and how again a small community of people is redefining what it means to "be a family", I see a changing world and economy.

Driving home one day after work and listening to Marketplace on NPR I was shocked to hear a conversation about the idea of establishing a Universal Basic Income.  That to me meant that business leaders themselves are beginning to understand that the economy is changing in such a way that the old models are not sustainable.  All of this conversation was brought about by economic anxiety index; which serve as a gauge about the general feeling of the economy.

It's to radical of an idea for politicians to touch, yet if it's being discussed on a award winning show about business and slowly finding it's way into business magazines as a viable option, then you know it's a viable option.   Business is not always short term driven and "evil."  In order for it to survive long term they have to come to grips with a changing world.

Don't believe me?  Look into the history of civil rights.  You will see that business put pressure on states to change racist laws.  Or have supported gay rights - sure, it was to sell more of their product and look "progressive" but that's not the point.   In doing these things they "normalize" what many people protest.  Sure, some crazy religious group might stop buying Doritos because the chips are rainbow colored, and all they do is give the company free publicity.

To get back on track though...think of it this way.   If a company can't sell it's product or if the marketplace shrinks so much that their product becomes a luxury item for most people, then the sales drop.  Simple supply and demand economics.   BUT if everyone had a certain amount of income guaranteed then the market place opens up again and their more people to buy Doritos of any flavor and color.

Does that mean a possible loss of profit in the short term?   Probably.  Greater profits in the long term?  Most likely.

Does this mean I'm hopeful?   Sort of.  Change takes time, ideas like this take time.  Greater Equality takes time.  The wheels on the train are creaky and rusted but once you start them moving down the track they will only pick up speed.

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