I just have to keep kvelling over some of the remarks made by Robert Hormats in that paper I last quoted. Here's a little more, where he goes on to say:
"In my judgment, the single most significant piece of economic legislation in the last 60 years was not a particular tax cut. It was the G.I. Bill of Rights. It provided, for a whole generation of people, the opportunity to go to college. "
I would not only ditto this remark, but go on to suggest that it was not just an economic and education bill, but also the most successful piece of social engineering, ever.
What should "social engineering" aim to achieve?
First, I have deliberately used provocative language in even mentioning that phrase. At worst, the term elicits images of Big Brother. At BEST it rouses notions of meddlesome, paternalistic liberals sticking their noses into everbody's business.
And yet, are societies not fantastic machines that deliver justice, opportunity and - through markets - things to nourish every need except those of the soul? (And a fair amount for the soul, as well.) Anyone who thinks that these vast machines have not been "engineered" is naive beyond belief. One of the chief purposes of politics is to mediate conflicting views over how to fine-tune their operation.
In fact, as we speak, some powerful groups are trying to re-engineer our society's basic format, from diamond-shaped (emphasizing meritocracy, open competition, small business and a vibrant middle class) back toward a more traditional pyramid shape, emphasizing interlocking directorates of inherited privilege. Again, find me a culture that had metals and farms, across 4,000 years, that did not see this kind of attempt happen. Generally successful.
It was exactly in order to counter that ubiquitous and ever-lurking trend that so many experiments in "leveling" have been tried over the centuries, for example, by seizing assets from elites and distributing them to those below. Often violent, these rebellions never achieved their utopian aims - though the European revolutions of 1789, 1835 and 1848 did incrementally help farmers and foster some movement toward a middle class. Far more often, such revolutions simply replaced one set of repressive ideologically-justified overlords with another, as happened when horrible Czars were replaced by horrible commissars in 1917.
Here is where the American Miracle has truly made a difference. Yes, it is reliable that some fraction (not all!) of any decade's aristocracy will try to find new ways to cheat, using their privileged position to grab more. (Instead of competing fairly by helping to create new and better products and services.) But each generation of Americans has found clever ways to stave off this relentlessly consistent behavior. And it has been mostly done without very much in the way of confiscature or simpleminded class warfare. Indeed, it can be argued that we have followed Jefferson's prescription of "a revolution every generation"... with only a few of them violent at all. Most weren't even seen as "revolutions" but mere waves of tweaking and reform
Above all, it is vital that "social engineering" must pass the basic test of do no harm. In other words, while trying to achieve some desirable rebalancing of forces within markets or democracy, etc. it is essential not to harm other parts of the machine that are working well. Especially the market based incentive system that spurs creative competition into a cornucopia of new goods and services, propelling a fecund economy. The goose that lays all the golden eggs. Including the taxes that arise from burgeoning wealth, a fact that liberals seem all-too often to forget
This is exactly what the GI Bill did, and it perfectly exemplifies modernism at its best. (And is it any surprise that it had George Marshall's fingerprints all over it?)
First off, it devastated the tight grip that elites formerly held upon higher education, sending millions of motivated, mentally disciplined, veterans to land grant universities, which in turn attracted many of the best professors away from the Ivy League. One result was a burst of creativity and small business so huge that the middle class, always America's pride, so burgeoned in size and confidence that the whole ideas of "class" began to vanish from public awareness.
This bill, at low cost, achieved all of the beneficial effects of "social levelling" without any of the usual nasty effects on market capitalism, because it was not repressive but stimulative.
For nearly all our lives, we grew accustomed to there being very little effective difference between middle class americans and the rich. Socially - and even economically - this was largely true. Only people in their 80s can today remember how things were back in the 1920s and 1930s, when it was not.
That is, till now.
Look around and recognize what's happening for the very simple thing that it is. All administration policies fall into place in light of a vast raid by kleptocrats. Not the brightest portion of the aristocracy, only the most rapacious part, willing to send us into war (stupidly) but unwilling (for the first time in US history, to tax themselves to help pay for it.
(At even a hint that anyone wants to discuss this, they shriek: "Class warfare!" knowing that Americans despise social levelling. All of us fantasize about joining the ranks of the rich, not cutting off their heads. But of course, this attitude won't last, if this goes on. Proving that these frat boys really are the stupid wing of the aristocracy. The Warren Buffets of the world - who look forward more than a year at a time - are not on their side.)
I could go on about the GI Bill, whose effects were too numerous to elaborate here. For example, I believe it directly caused both the incredible richness of musical creativity by the sons and daughters of GI's - back in the 60s and 70s - AND the incredible deficit in new melodies being written and performed today.
But enough for now. I'll add one more Hormat's snippet later.
For now, let me conclude with a few fun links!
Hey Verne! Hurry and have a look at: http://www.nantes.fr/ext/royal_de_luxe_2005/ Maybe that Rutan guy is barking up the wrong tree with his rockets and composite hull material. Giant cannons, that's the ticket!
An interesting commencement address given by Steve Jobs at Stanford University: More humble and reflective than you might expect, filled with things you never knew about a modern Edison.
See the sci fi futurist "Year 2056 edition" of the Onion humor magazine at: The Onion is normally terrific. But this special issue is just wonderful. Try looking at the choices of languages you can view the document in (supposedly). And the sci fi author-bases horoscopes. Dang. I guess I don't rate. Yet.
(#$%$#! I only 'algored' the whole Web in Earth.! And check out page 206 of The Transparent Society! How good a prognosticator do you have to be!)