Well, we can kiss off the first decade of the Third Millenium. Never have so many people been so damned glad to wrap up a decade, and at no time in the history of written civilization have so many people spent so much money and racked up so much debt with so little to show for it, and never have we had a period in which just about every asset lost so much values.
The decade saw a major terrorist attack on an American city that killed over 3,000 people. We entered two losing wars that will probably not end in our lifetimes and that are less likely every day to achieve their objectives. We elected two spectacularly inept presidents in turn who have each colluded with the country's financial kingpins to strip the population of not only the wealth it possessed but that of the next three generations going forward, by offloading the trillions of dollars of unrepayable private debt generated by the most egregious financial fraud ever perpetrated onto the backs of the public. Our incomes declined while our cost of living rose nearly 35%, and we managed to promulgate the biggest financial fraud ever perpetrated on Planet Earth, whose creation involved racking up the largest load of private and public debt relative to a nation's GDP in the history of civilization. The disparity in incomes has never been wider, and we have at last managed to sell ourselves lock, stock, and barrel to a country run by a thug government dominated by an ideology we are officially opposed to.
It's hard to say what comes next, and while I've made some accurate calls here and there, I wouldn't presume to forecast the coming decade. I can only say that we're not exactly off to a promising start. One octegenarian commentator, at the High Plains Reader, reflected on the comparisons between his first decade of life during the Depression of the 30s, and his 8th decade, and mordantly remarks that we're headed for worse times now and that "I doubt even the grapes will grow in 2010." It is not encouraging that our leadership continues to toss trillions of dollars at the housing industry to make housing more expensive for people whose incomes are dropping, and billions at the obsolete American auto industry, thus siphoning off the capital that is badly needed to rebuild our frayed electrical grid, let alone the power plants and railroads we will need, or to develop promising new technologies that could mitigate our slide down the slope of fossil fuel depletion and perhaps improve our lives while offering careers with a future, and the potential for economic growth from something other than swapping fraudulent financial products and selling overpriced houses. Or building redundant highways and purveying goods made by semi-slave labor in communist countries.
Our hope lies in the willingness of our middle classes to accept that new externalities have drastically changed the game forever, and their creativity and adaptability in crafting appropriate and rational responses to new and vastly more difficult conditions. Traditionally, the middle classes have been our most dynamic and adaptable populations, and are generally the first to embrace necessary changes and are usually in the vanguard of innovation. The middle, and often, the better-off working classes have given us our entrepreneurs, inventors, scholars, philosophers, and artists, but our middle classes have been financially weakened and greatly demoralized by the losses they have taken in the past 10 years, not to mention the past 30.
On the plus side, our population has become, at least for the time being, more frugal and cautious, and the population in general seems to accept that the high-flying lifestyles of the past couple of decades are out of reach, probably forever, and that they never were underpinned by reality. We are at least still able to eat regularly and the grocery stores are amply supplied. The power flows through the lines and goods are in the stores and the city is repairing the streets, and the trains and buses are running.
Let's just hope that we've seen the worst that thirty years of dying productivity, increasing financial fraud, and reckless spending and debt creation can do, at least for the time being. Most of us have an ugly inkling in the gut that the future has worse things in store for us, and we can only hope we can meet them with courage and the willingness to let go of what no longer serves us, and with the same spirit that inspired the achievements of the past century that have given us so much.