Four Converging Problems


As I see it, there are four converging problems a New Politics must deal with. Any one of these is bad, but taken together they create a synergy which could be very challenging to the stability of the current American scene:

1: 80% of the work force [non supervisory workers] working for 1950 wages by the year 2,000 -- in the face of a 280% increase in productivity since 1950! [Lester Thurow].
2: Largest incarceration/judicial supervision of Black & Hispanic males in the history of the country [Unintended consequence of the war on drugs, yet the results are too close for comfort to certain German policies of the 30ties.]
3: Spending on prisons is about to become greater than investments in public education. Already we see educational programs being cut for lack of funding. How can this be the best allocation of resources if we are moving into an economy based more on mind and less on muscle? Our past mistakes are defunding our best road to success in the future: investing in prisons is causing dis-investment in education. As Lester Thurow points out in his "The Future of Capitalism":
      Building a first world economy on top of a massive third world
      workforce does not create the strongest of economic foundations.
4: Demographic shift reducing the foundation of Social Security to fewer than three workers per beneficiary. This is not sustainable.

Do these factors create a super-critical, dangerously unstable configuration? Certainly, no amount of talk about the best is yet to come can paper over this situation. Is it not an essential first step to admit the problems and call them by their names? Only then can we begin the dialog which might lead us to creative solutions. It is essential that we understand these problems as dynamically linked in a complex feedback mechanism. Clearly, they are not separate and unrelated 'smoke stacks' which we can clean up one by one.

As usual, I see a role for the New Media in this process. The transition from one way communications of the legacy media to the two way communications of New Media is not a matter of degree. It is a non-linear jump to a new set of possibilities. A key advantage is New Media's possibility to restore our ability to treat each other as partners, not as target objects. Are these problems in fact a by-product of the 100 years of 'targeting' by the legacy media? "Call a man a target, treat him like a target and he will become a target." Is it the case that only by treating each other as partners, not objects, can we extricate ourselves from this 'four strikes and you're out' quandary.

These four problems are rich material for a New Party. To the extent that the Republican and Democratic parties fail to directly confront these issues, they reduce their relevance. A relevant political party offers useful feedback, diagnosis and thoughtful guidance. The old, industrial era frame works are failing to deliver any of the above. It is a great opportunity for some new ideas.

[For a clear and vastly more detailed presentation of the inventory of our economic challenges, I recommend Lester C. Thurow's new book "The Future of Capitalism: How Today's Economic Forces Shape Tomorrow's World"]

                                Jock Gill
                            Penfield Gill, Inc.
                               Boston,  MA