Saturday, May 8, 2010

Jtheme reflection

Main thoughts/conclusions/questions:

1) JTheme was a good chance to be reminded how little I know about American (or any) history.

2) "American history doesn't repeat itself, it just rhymes"-- Twain. American economic philosophy goes in such cycles, certainly. Very recently we were back in the 1920s in many ways, and now we're in the Great Recession. What will we do this time?

3) Did Reagan genuinely believe a return to free market philosophy would help the poor? ...Why is he my dad's favorite president?

4) Even today the myth persists that people who are wealthier automatically must be harder workers, and than less wealthy people are at fault. This follows a theoretical model of the world that says we all essentially started out equal, in theory, and so, in theory, those that worked hardest rose to the top. I encountered this viewpoint very recently when I was talking with a friend of mine who happens to be somewhat conservative. One question I have for people who actually hold this belief somewhere in their heads-- at what point in human history have all humans ever been on a level playing field in reality? What about geographical determinism? Slavery? Socioeconomic status? And even if there were a level playing field at some point in time (there wasn't), was it really recent enough to continue to base our current philosophy on the gems that resulted from it? How much do we deserve of the privilege given to us by occurrences in our distant past that weren't necessarily that desirable?

5) The concept of freedom in America has undergone fascinating permutations. What fascinates me now is why some people are willing to allow others freedom to reap the most benefit while the majority lose out, touting this as giving all the most freedom, and arguing that allowing everyone the chance to fall the farthest will give others the chance to make it way to the tip-top. But my first thought is, who cares about one person's freedom to make it to the top if it creates massive disparities in wealth? Is all of our life just trying to outdo others stupendously for our own self-interest? I find it so interesting that this follows an animalistic Darwinian model. But the irony is, that according to evolutionary biology, at the societal level what leads to the best survival is group cooperation at the sub-optimal level, with group solidarity despite variability-- not blind individual self-interest that destroys diversity of business. The animalistic Darwinian view values the animalistic individual only, even though humans live within a cooperative social sphere that requires its own set of evolutionary principles. The extension of the animalistic philosophy is that businesses can become big enough to take out and consume others. And yet, one of the most significant requirements for survival of a species is genetic diversity, otherwise the entire species (i.e. the economy) is similarly vulnerable to environmental change, making prone to extinction (i.e. recession).

6) For some reason, people are terrified of Obama for being 'socialist' and 'redistributing the wealth.' Wealth is always being redistributed! Before it was being redistributed to go towards the top 5%-10% of the wealthiest people in America. Having it go back down is not-so-scary.


8) History is so weird, it's amazing it actually happens the way it does.

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