March 30, 2015


America's Hinge Moment : Presidential politics in 2016 will reflect the shifting reality of America. (DOUG SOSNIK, March 29, 2015, Politico)

Years from now we are going to look back at this period of time and see it as a "hinge" moment, a term Princeton Physicist Freeman Dyson used to describe a connection point that ties two historical periods in time, one before and one afterwards.

The University of Virginia historian Philip Zelikow has observed that "for only the third time since the founding of the United States we are in the early or transition phase of a new era in American and global history." He goes on to say that "from the narrower point of view of economic and social history, however, we are in the early stages of a transition phase faster than anything we have encountered in more than 100 years, the largest since the economic and industrial revolutions of the late 19th and early 20th century."

As the Industrial Revolution made clear, these kinds of moments don't happen overnight; they build over time. Like then, a series of factors are now contributing to the tipping point we are rapidly approaching--most notably the economic uncertainty, global instability and technological advances that the country is experiencing. On top of these drivers, there is a demographic transformation taking place that is literally changing who we are as a country.

Of course, the political phase began over 30 years ago, when Thatcher and Reagan broke the momentum of the union movement and with it inflation, then instituted a massive free trade movement and defeated the only, even theoretical, alternatives to capitalism, all the while unleashing waves of free migration of peoples.  Meanwhile, the innovations of the information/computer age were chugging along in the background.  Additionally, the demographic changes in the workplace mean that rather than adding women and minorities to a white male workforce, all groups are now competing for only such jobs as are actually required.

The result is we're tipping into an economy where we achieve higher output (wealth) with less human input (labor), meaning that the former can not be redistributed fairly via the latter.  

We are then faced with two choices : we can try to cling to the labor redistribution model, at only a cost of reducing the wealth created in the first instance and requiring of people that they work in meaningless jobs to obtain that decreased wealth; or we can continue to maximize wealth creation and find another means of redistribution for that increased wealth.  

Posted by at March 30, 2015 6:35 PM

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