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Archive for January, 2010

In my discussions with activists and orthodox religious Jews, its become clear to me that there are two components of “being Jewish”.

One is the association of being part of a community, a nation, that survived and nurtured in diaspora. The key motivations that springs from that association is preservation.

The second theme springs from the first, preservation for what? and how? That is described in Torah, as the purpose of G-d’s “intervention” in our community’s formation and evolution. That is “You are to be a nation of priests”.

A nation of priests. I read that in terms of our purpose on this planet is to serve, to pursue what is good in the apex (goal) and in all processes of life.

Where most instinctly preserve themselves, their families, their species as an end in itself (not entirely rationally in too many cases), for Jews the question is a different one. Our preservation is a means to an end, NOT the end in itself.

I question whether our current ways are that, or have devolved to the easier preservation and association theme. I see it in much of conservative Zionist thinking, that devolution of attitude to only preservation, rather than preservation as a means to a greater purpose.

There’s a lot of vanity in calling oneself a “servant”, rather than emphasizing being one. So much so that even the presence or any appearance of vanity is a “stone in one’s shoe”, whereas if the shoe itself was a stone it wouldn’t be noticed (internally or externally). I think that explains a great deal of anti-semitism actually.

What is the goal of life?

As just another species on the planet, self-preservation doesn’t seem very significant. We have technical abilities so we have the potential of very negative impact on the planet (which we’ve realized too much of). I’ve heard some ecologists end there, that we are at best not parasites.

I think we do have a role, that there is some subsequent purpose for the earth, for humans, and then specifically for Jews and other service-minded communities to pursue. That is the evolution of consciousness, of awareness, as the subject of what existence is (ironically an “objective subject”). I took the works of Teilhard de Chardin and Sri Aurobindo, even Hegel and others to heart as a young adult as framing what purpose is.

Teilhard de Chardin described the earth as having qualities of consciousness, that had evolved over the billions of years that the earth has been coherent, that largely represent the qualities of consciousness of genus’. So, the earth was ascribed as having characteristics of reptilian consciousness during the period when reptiles dominated (preservation, territorialitiy). Of mammalian consciousness when mammals dominated (sociality, sentiment). And, then of human consciousness when humans dominate (reasoning, self-awareness).

Obviously human consciousness includes preservation and sociality (reptilian and mammalian), and reasoning and self-awareness don’t seem to predominate human behavior in fact.

But, to the extent that self-awareness is the content of what is happening on the planet, then that is the character of the planet, a purpose, a relationship.

To Teilhard, the purpose of self-awareness was for meta-purposes, for understanding and living a relation with the One.

Hegel described the process of social evolution as a process of similarly achieving self-awareness. He described a transition of social structure first supporting self-awareness in single or elite individuals (isolated, philosopher-king), to supporting self-awareness in elite communities of individuals (isolated, monasteries), to supporting self-awareness as a value more generally (enlightened democracy, in contrast to mob democracy).

So, as Jews our mission is written. Its explicit. We can reject that mission, or we can learn to apply it. There are MANY ways to apply it.

We can provide for needs (business). We can empower others tangibly (teaching, mentoring, assisting). We can integrate what is disintegrated or stressed (nature). We can physically heal individuals (physicians). We can psychologically heal individuals, families, communities (psyhologists). We can mediate conflicts (law). We can guide public policy (governance). We can suggest potential consciousness (art). We can dissent and complain (first steps to reform). We can rabbi (a verb to teach integrated coherent individual and social life).

Means to ends, not ends in themselves.

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We live in an “ownership society”. The owners own. With the shift in retirement management responsibility socially from employers to self-managed 401(k) plans, 403(b), IRA’s and equivalent, MANY individuals see themselves as owners (if only for the returns of index mutual funds).

Among the idealistic baby boomers (talking about my generation), there was a class split between idealistic working people and idealistic affluent, with children of affluent trust-dependant acquiring control of their trusts and seriously thinking about the moral and other responsibilities of ownership (a good thing). Many distinguished social and ethical concerns as predominant over the rights and power of ownership as is articulated in the more anonymous financial economy.

To date, the state of the art in practice of social responsible ownership hasn’t proceeded very far. There is a great deal of funds (estimated at $3 trillion) in screened investment portfolios, including a majority that is institutional.

At the same time, many individuals and many entities that one would assume would adopt social responsibility approaches like university endowments and many large foundations with a charitable purpose, seek maximum return as their primary criteria of selection.

So, we have the phenemena of definite improvement in corporate social accountability, but realized only incrementally, and often their core businesses are not socially responsible so we have the dilemma of their success being a social failure, even as they are best in class and doing the best that they can in the businesses that they are in.

Socially responsibly screened funds are in pre-existing securities in pre-existing institutions. They just exclude some from their population or emphasis.

There are VERY FEW angel or venture paths for capital for innovative socially responsible organizations. The ones that do exist emphasize juicy cool investments in new technologies often (requiring large aggregations of capital to realize successful products/services), and do not attract much capital to common sense conservation oriented, low capital, smaller entrepreneurial applications. (Economies of scale in deal-making. Fixed costs of deals relative to variable return. Why not put $10,000,000 into a a single desert solar array, than $10,000,000 into 500 contracts for home energy deep retrofits?)

Between the tax law favoring investing/speculating in pre-existing securities, and socially responsible screened funds investing in pre-existing securities, that is where money goes, especially freely disposable funds. It structures at least a partial bubble, but more importantly it distracts from investment in the new.

Corporations are naturally risk-averse and are reluctant to spend money and people/talent on risky ventures, at least without high return or favorable market positioning as a consequence. An advocate for the greater good proposing a venture to a large corporation or any other source of private new capital is inevitably in a two steps forward, ? steps back situation, of trying to accomplish good by appealing to opportunism and not just as an abstraction.

It is good work to get a corporation to adopt a more energy-efficient methodology. Much much better done and struggled to accomplish than not.

There are people today that have noted some of the contradictions in the current socially responsible investing world, and have attempted to develop more responsive capital aggregations, that actually create new norms. They are few and far between.

Objectively, if there is any venture risk, they have higher risk profiles than the natural investment community will accept. The risk/return logic is imprinted, and only applied to measurable criteria.

Financial return is relatively easy to measure even with investment in a long-term horizon. “What is the liquidation/market value of my portfolio today compared to last year”. (or five or twenty years ago, whatever time horizon is relevant). Measurable.

Charitable value is harder to discern. Did my investment in x venture realize an improvement in the quality of life in my community, the region, the planet? How can I measure that?

So, if you combine the proportion of capital that is influenced to be return oriented from passionate greed, and the proportion from habitual orientation, and the proportion from ambiguity of measurement, and the proportion from absence of socially beneficial investment options, and the proportion from fiduciary law (compelling emphasis on return n trust or corporate entities unless specified by originator), it is obvious that capital will flow towards return.

Any current effort for sustainability will then have to lean on synnergies of profitability and social responsibility, moreso than social good or innovative long-term transitional thinking.

The features that would shift that proportion include:

Development of comparable social metrics thereby answering the question “what is the social affect of my social investment”

Development of charitable passion/values among those with discretionary capital

Promotion of the acceptabilityof “financial capital preservation with social capital return”

Development of scalable and successful genuinely social enterprises as a model (beyond serving the LOHAS population willing to pay premiums in product/service pricing)

Development of legal forms of organization and contracts modifying traditional fiduciary responsibility to include social return more prominently in the mix.

Development of means to reward in other forms than monetarily (or realize intrinsic reward) those that choose to invest for the social good prominently.

Its a big nut. Doable. Necessary if we are to redesign our economy for the sustainable future.

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Birth, death and taxes are described as unavoidable in this life. Things change.

I’m not close to dying (that I know of), and am only “middle-aged” (55).

But, I do think about death, and I think about death as an empowerment, not death itself but one realization about death in particular.

My uncle recently died. He was previously quite judgemental, opinionated sometimes helpfully, sometimes far less than helpfully. He was oriented to real-world accomplishment and dying must have been very difficult. I’m sure that he held on “for dear life”. He died during a coma, which might have been the only way that he could have died peacefully.

Most of the old people that I know, and I include myself partially in that category, live by routine largely rather than reinventing lives frequently. Even in nomadic communities, that reinvent their relations to the environ frequently, the old people live in the shelter of their families, their routines respected and accepted.

They seem to not learn, and seem to have difficulty learning.

But, that belies a critical fact, that at death we are in a state of utterly profound newness and learning. We have to accept a fundamental change in literally every aspect of our condition. Everyone that lives, undertakes that learning (of ultimately willing transition) and is able to at a status of knowing that is more compelling and authoritative than any truth or intention that we know intellectually.

In short, we have it in us. We are able to learn, to change. Spiritually minded Buddhists and Christians and others have the exercise of death/rebirth in their pallette of cultivated skills for the purpose of heightened “living learning”. (Buddhas four noble truths, including “death is inevitable for all living”. And, Jesus’s quote “I die daily”.)

I hope for and thank that innate ability (both realized, potential, and reluctance).

This is a “living learning” time, a time when we need to be able to make grand rational and trustfully irrational commitments to make needed and desirable changes.

Lets note the learning that we all experience radically in dying, and bring that “wisdom” on home fearlessly.

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New England is the macro-region in which I live. A macro-region is the social scale that can theoretically contain the majority of means to provide for an integrated modern economy, resources,  industry, services, agriculture, education, urbanity and rural.

Typically, a macr0-region would contain between 50 and 100 million people, and cover a scale resembling 250,000 sq miles (500 x 500). New England is a small macro-region by both accounts, but still can function as a regional integrity.

The macro-region as primary economic scale is preferable because it optimizes the combination of economic efficiency with social accountability and distinctness. People are people, engaging in consented exchange, when the macro-region is the primary economic scale. Work is available, costs are liveable, communities are relatively secure (from economic predation). That contrasts with global scale institutions, in which people are homogeneous consumers, living costs inflate, and communities exist in boom/bust dynamics (social problems from booms, desparation from busts).

Macro-regions still require import and export, and boundaries between macro-regions are vague. New England is only vaguely distinct from the mid-Atlantic region. Inexpensive transportation makes the identity and boundaries between integral regions less distinct. Cultural distinctness follows economic. It is not surprising that the New England speaking accents that were so distinct 50 years ago (in my lifetime), are far far less distinct now.

The macro-region is the rational scale of economic planning. It is a more rational scale than a nation. A macro-region is really a nation. The United States as a national economic scale more resembles a global scale than a natural economy, arbitrary from that perspective.

So, what is the future of New England, economically, socially? It is uncertain. The large urban areas in New England where most of the population reside are integrated into a global economy, industry, financial services, national scale educational institutions, defense industry. Boston, Hartford, Bridgeport, New Haven, Providence, Springfield, Worcester, Stamford. The older cities still have a local flavor, some lively, some dying. The newer cities are socialized into sprawl and neo-sprawl (affluent spread widely but isolated rather than tract).

The more rural areas are alternately bedroom communities for global economy or distinctly serving New England and/or local. As odd it sounds, the rural small cities and communities are the future. To the extent that they can create value-adding specialties and skills, they will grow in numbers, size and wealth. To the extent that they are over-burdened by pre-existing brownfields, land use is saturated, and the communities are not led by forward-thinking individuals and networks, they will rust.

Intentional design within intentional design.

Efforts that will facilitate effective macro-regional economy are similar to the efforts that facilitate effective micro-regional. Land use planning is essential.

From a macro-regional perspective, thought of as potentially supplying “all” of the region’s needs, it takes making sure that minimum necessities are available within the region. That includes fresh water, energy, transportation infrastructure, communications infrastructure, housing, education, health care, commercial centers.

Urban life has a prominent economic and social role in the macro-regional scale, in contrast to the micro-regional which is more rural-centric. Unique, like old European cities are distinct and vibrant.

The trends currently are both functional and dysfunctional. The sprawl around Boston and Connecticut large cities is dysfunctional and should be encouraged to form into smaller cities with more satelite small cities and villages. Brownfield lands and buildings need to be removed and the land use redesigned for function. Transportation/freight centers (likely near Springfield and Worcester) need supporting infrastructure. Hub to hub personal transportation infrastructure needs to be developed. Regional scale financial institutions need to be supported. Regional trading systems, a regional currency, need to be developed. (Many idealists now think in terms of local currency as desirable, to stimulate intra-regional trade. Where a macro-region is the dominant economic scale, most trade can be intra-regional and served by a regional/local currency).

The difficulty with macro-regional orientation is what happens when the primary resources aren’t available within the region, or the region is dependant for external services of some kind.

In most cases, services can be migrated to within regions. For example, right now much higher education happens on the east and west coast, but leading institutions can be developed in each region. Some regions have an abundance of fresh water and sustainably sourced energy, while others have little.

In New England in particular, energy conservation is a necessity. EVERY home should be mandated to and assisted to (like the health insurance proposals) function at a very level of energy efficiency. Transportation services NEED to be mass oriented, which requires a village orientation to accomplish efficiently. Agricultural land NEEDS to be preserved for agriculture. Forest lands NEED to be harvested sustainably and retained.

Will this happen? Hard to know. We’re getting older. The global economy is still confused. There isn’t now a path for younger new entrants to the economy to secure reasonable career paths. At the same time it is the young that they will be asked and need to deliver on as boomers age. Boomers shortly will withdraw from the economy and live on social security (which needs to be funded by current workers) and investments (which need to be profitable). We are very dependant on our children long-term, but we are not making room for them.

We still encourage sprawl rather than think long-term. We’re acting either desparately, or as if nothing will change into the future, rather than coolly considering the needs of the mid and long-term future, designing, and implementing long-term plans accordingly.

My personal advice to boomers, my peers. Move to small towns and villages now, before there are no buyers for your house in the suburbs, with as low a mortgage as possible. Simplify your expenditures. Invest your savings into regional community development funds, and prudent regional banks. Make many friends, and reestablish close relationships with your family. Form many cooperatives. Keep learning always, even after you are “successful” and secure.

Mentor and innovate for the period that we remain productive. Odd to be thinking this way. But, life is of finite duration.

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Its hard to predict the future.

Most of the characteristics that describe Greenfield (aging people, aging buildings, lack of clarity as to future, increased cost of living) affect the people of the Pioneer Valley (our micro-region).

Land is still being gobbled up by sprawl, though the pace has declined since the 80’s and 90’s, when the fertile bottomland development and the forested hill-land went into high gear. With the amount of sprawl in the valley, the Connecticut River bottomland will likely never serve as a regional breadbasket (whether for cash crops – tobacco, or actual nutrients). Noone uproots McMansions, even when they are twice more expensive to heat than their mortgages.

So, we will have to use the less obvious silt pocketland (rather than bottomland) for local agriculture, with land use continually competing with residence use, and making the economics of agriculture very very difficult.

The state is struggling, so agricultural preservation through purchasing development rights on a grand scale is less likely.

Energy will remain a concern as there is no obvious replacement energy for oil and coal on the horizon, and the only means to make ends meet is by conservation and design efforts. One advantage of the open field McMansions is that they do have wide exposure to the sun and the ability to well utilize and retrofit in passive solar design, but few do.

Transportation services to sprawl are the most difficult to design and are entirely dependant on automobiles. Here, with harsh winters and people still considering themselves farmers, most still drive SUV’s AND pickups in a family.

In most of the Pioneer Valley, the population is aging. The region remains an attractive residence with very high quality of life for culturally minded, youthful adults, with the high concentration of colleges, nature, and the spin off culture that goes along with that. The baby boom generation still dominates the residences in the Upper Valley, but does not dominate the urban centers (towards Hoyoke and Springfield). Malls are young. Holyoke and Springfield are rust-belt with many poor minorities (African-American and Latino, white working class and new immigrant groups). Greenfield is a mix of  Yankee, baby boomer, white working class (minority populations).

During the next decade, the population patterns and patterns of attractive residence are likely to change slowly in the beginning of the decade, quickly later, as rural hill-town suburban “neo-sprawl” becomes more and more difficult for aging baby boomers.

Positive responses include efforts in villages to organize alternative approaches, most notably Shelburne Falls (which is geographically separated from Greenfield and no longer organizes as a suburb, but a distinct community).

Where we live and settle, is the most important feature to designing sustainability.

To the extent that we choose sprawl (or accept sprawl by negligence), rather than concentrated villages, we commit to our auto and oil addictions.

Downward trends in the valley and everywhere include the increasing percentage of viable incomes in

food (increasing percentage as land becomes scarce, depleted, rejecting of toxic methods, and as trasnsportation costs increase)

health (increasing percentage as health costs continue to rise and are processed through the mandatory insurance model with unimaginative service delivery models)

housing (increasing percentage, land is getting scarcer and scarcer, with increasing energy costs, still rising housing costs as a percentage of earned incomes)

Transportation (increasing percentage, as fuel is getting more and more expensive, and manufacturers do not introduce less expensive vehicles as competitive entry into marketplace, but only consistently more expensive)

Taxes (increasing percentage, to pay for large prior and current and future deficits)

Education (increasing percentage, as college education costs soar, and government investment in publicly funded education at all levels decline)

Not a pretty picture. If the potential savings rates currently for a typical two-worker family in the valley is 5%, and the proportional costs of food, housing, transportation, education, health all increase more than average compensation, then we will repeat our recent history of low savings rate and debt.

There is only so much that we can do individually. Other efforts have to occur by intentional planning, and at the public policy level intentional public planning designed to facilitate families’ and cooperative planning.

The role of intentional community networking and development is critical. Friendships, churches, intentional cooperatives.

The role of innovative business modeling is critical, with the emphasis on innovative. We need mentors, capital, skilled workforce, same as ever, but the need for innovation is unique.

And, the role of innovative public policy development and implementation, applied boldly, is critical or we will drive ourselves into a wall, that was avoidable.

There currently are not micro-regional governance institutions that can fill these functions. We used to have counties as a level of government jurisdiciton, but the urban-thinking (and opportunist at that) eastern Massachusetts state government disbanded counties a few years ago. They don’t fulfill the needs of governance in megalopolis’, but they do in mixed regions like ours.

Culturally, people do think of themselves as from the “valley”, even economically. The valley is isolated by mountains except for a couple transportation arteries, but often “you can’t get there from here”. The eastern-Mass innovation of annexing the Quabbin area in particular in the 30’s, committed the Pioneer Valley to be ostensibly separate from Worcester and Eastern Mass, a broken chain.

With planning and empowered innovation, then “the future’s so bright, I gotta wear shades” might be true. Absent that, we’re going down a slow (and increasing fall), due to social design that ignores reality.

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My hometown of Greenfield, Mass. is confused currently about what it is going to be. The town’s finances are in trouble. If they do nothing bold, then the stresses will slowly and slowly increase until important public institutions disappear. The town has waited for a state funded intermodal transportation center and state funding for a new courthouse and “justice center”, but they’ve been waiting for those for a decade. The state is broke and using federal money more and more for governmental overhead and less of that money is going to direct projects.

The town itself is now back to old conservative Yankee governance, that values the unencumbered marketplace over intentional governmental leadership, which ends up “whoever shows up with private money is welcomed”. No serious land use planning is contemplated. We have a few conspicuous irritating large proposed investments that the town is accepting (bio-mass plant, and continued prospect of additional mega-retail), but the absence of any significant planning from either the mayor or town council is the larger problem.

The maximum private investment that the town is likely to achieve without successful planning and then focused development, will not lift the town’s finances. Its sad for me to see the meandoring, the slow but consistent decline.

There are two development options for the town. The town can pursue either or both.

1. The town can emphasize a residential focus, a combination of bedroom community serving employment centers in neighboring communities more than industrial and value-adding development in town, and retirement destination for individuals from Boston/Connecticut/New York megalopolis’ seeking the best of all worlds for retirement (relaxed community, inexpensive homes, close to culture, nature).

Policies would emphasize intra-regional trade, personal and professional services.

Applying principles of sustainability, that path would firmly define residential areas from others and encourage moderately concentrated construction, using verticle space well and ecologically, mostly near downtown served by intra-modal transportation center/services, and supporting downtown office, shopping and restaurant development.

Multiple villages within the town’s borders would establish neighborhood satelite centers along similar principles, facilitating good community transportation services, distributed small commerce, and minimizing sprawl.

Zoned, for new transportation modalities rather than the sprawl model based on ubiquitous auto transport.

If the town pursues a residential focus, then there is a down side effect for those that live and work in town, which is inflated housing prices beyond the reach of those living on minimum or even defined “living wages”, with continual inflationary pressure from multiple competing uses of finite space, especially if fueled by retirees moving from higher cost locales.

2. The town can focus on industry and other value-adding activities supporting inter-regional trade.

That requires available land in large enough parcels to site plants on, educated non-professional (and professional) workforce, clear distinction between residential and industrial areas.

Like many other towns that experienced ad hoc zoning and planning over a century rather than intentionally planned, Greenfield has a very odd mix of siting. There are three areas in which industry had been sited in what is now residential areas. In one case a former plant is now a brownfield (toxic), within a currently residential neighborhood with the industrial zoned sites requiring steep winter hill climbs for truck traffic (on a residential street). If the industrial sites that are within residential areas employed co-generation of industrial heat for residential use, the current siting might be considered rational by a sustainability perspective, but that doesn’t happen.

There is an industrial park in town, but much of that space has been used for local warehousing (rather than large distribution center, although the town is ideally sited for distribution) and for governmental and service support centers. The declared purpose of the industrial parks realized some industrial development, but only to a minor extent. Currently, there is no room for any major development in any area with accessible transportation access.

In order to get the town set up to actually support industry would require removal of some current buildings, investment in supporting water and utility infrastructure likely paid by the town.

The two development prospects can co-exist, each separated from the other, clearly and firmly separated (even if in close geographic proximity).

We have anarchy now, grandfathered or not.

We need to zone for the next hundred years, not the last. It takes vision, money, follow-through.

The residential approach is easier. Investment in industry is risky. If nothing changes, nothing will change.

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That is what the 0’s are being called now, “The Lost Decade”.

Objectively, that is being observed from two perspectives. One is the net decline in the stock market value.The S&P500 declined in value by 24.1% in valuation, by 12% or so if you reinvested dividends, by over 30% if you compared to inflation.

http://www.nytimes.com/2010/01/02/business/economy/02charts.html?ref=business

http://www.nytimes.com/2010/01/02/your-money/stocks-and-bonds/02money.html?ref=business

That is over a ten-year period, a statistically significant length of time. The timing of economic cycles can explain a portion that loss, but only a recognition of decline in the world economy can explain the majority.

The second criteria domestically is of loss of median income, increase in unemployment, loss of purchasing power, and increase in the number of hours required to work to meet minimum necessities.

http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2010/01/01/AR2010010101196.html?hpid=topnews

Are the numbers reliable? Do they describe what actually occurred? What do they mean?

The numbers are largely reliable though not perfectly to conclude really anything. One reason is that the beginning of the decade was the period of a “perfect storm” of overvaluation of stocks (high price/earnings ratio) that burst, combined with 911 and affects. The response to that perfect storm was to go to war in Afghanistan (without taxing to pay for it, or then responsibly collectively deciding), then to go to war again in Iraq (without taxing to pay for it, or then responsibly collectively deciding).

And, in both “response” to both/either the build-up of federal surplus, and then the likely resumption of large deficits, the Bush administration enacted the reduction in capital gains and dividends taxes, which on the surface would have greatly increased the value of preexisting securities. If you take into account the expected affect of the tax cuts, the apples to apples decline in the stock market’s valuation adjusted for inflation was a loss of 40-50%.

So a portion of the loss is attributable to the relation between the starting point of near peak in economic cycle to after-the-fall recovery. Most analysts regard the current stock market valuations as fair, not inflated, close to conformity with “fundamental” financial analysis, not a bubble from collective psychology.

Wall Street and most economic policy makers all hide the reality of significant economic decline from the public. They want to keep the US market in high demand, that it actually will remain the place that foreign and domestic institutional and individual investors put their money. That conventional wisdom among investers is declining. People are putting their money into bonds, and international stocks rather than in domestic stocks, and very little into new enterprise.

Hiding that reality is the worst that can happen, as that delays response to the condition. Its not staying hid, but the large media outlets are not yet considering fully the causes of the decline.

One wonderful aspect of the probing financial press (Wall Street Journal for example), is that they do probe for causes, and they don’t hold many taboos as to what to look at. I once heard Noam Chomsky (radical dissenter) say that if he wants to know what is going in America, he considers the Wall Street Journal’s inquiries as much as the New York Times say (or more), for its candor. The business world is a bigger tent than the political. There are more opposing positions, perspectives, needs. (They acknowledge that both sellers and buyers perspectives are relevant.)

In India, Southeast Asia, China, it was not a lost decade. They now have the social problems of discontinuity of development more than of universal poverty, problems of transition from “sustainable” traditional underdeveloped context -> toxic development ->mature developed sustainable context.

If we as a society had made progress in individual and social simplicity and sustainability, then a decline in stock market values and a decline in median wages would not have been horrible. As a result of good design, we might have still increased our median well-being even with a decline in net worth and income. We could have reduced both the cost of living and the social costs (economic and not), but we didn’t largely.

During the decade, the cost of living increased, even much moreso than official published cost of living data.

The most significant changes are for new entrants into the economy. At the same time as there is less work available, the costs of acquiring housing in particular are much higher than a decade ago. New costs are minimum necessities. Over the last three decades new minimum necessities came to include cars (from a convenience to a necessity), computers (from a luxury to a necessity), and now nearly a necessity cell-phones.

Relative to our increased apples to applies cost of living, plus new minimum necessities that weren’t prior part of the cost of living, American discretionary income has declined much more than the 2% published.

We really have to learn, and develop the means to be a responsive society.

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