Heinlein said if you must travel in time, do it forward, never to the past, because in general (with interludes) the future is better than the past.
I realized last night that one of the most unsatisfactory aspects of this election is that both main candidates are trying to run to the past.
Hillary’s whole plan “More government paying for things and more redistribution” is, as the left’s program has been for years, an attempt to return to the thirties when collective action was the future.
I’ve said it here before and I’ll say it again that part of the dem fascination with nationalized health misses WHEN nationalized health was implemented in most other countries. In the thirties and forties, it was possible to provide “universal health” without having such demands that it requires the enslaving of most of the population to provide for that “right.” Also, the spare quality of government provided health would be about the same or better than the patchwork private solutions. At the level of healthcare we are used to experiencing, there is simply no way to provide it by government fiat without enslaving not just doctors and nurses, but medicine researchers, medical apparatus creators, and most of the population to pay for this drain. Medicine today and the medicine that the dems see when they say “single payer” are not even comparable, much less the same art.
Then take their crazy fascination with unions. Unions were important, not to say vital, when most of the work force was non-English-Speaking and just learning to be citizens, not subjects. In the great industrial cities, crooked and skimming though unions were (it’s a human collective thing) they were better than being taken advantage of. Now, most of their “gains” were not the result of of “shoulder to shoulder.” As with feminism, most of the gains of unionism were the result of science — in this case in the form of labor saving that allowed the same gains in less time. But at any rate, they kept demands alive until they were possible.
The problem now is that their demands have reached the “blue sky” level and do in fact impair the functioning of any entity they take over. The post office does a lot of things for its own comfort, for instance (have I mentioned I DESPISE the bank-of-mailboxes thing?) and it’s losing badly to private package carriers. Would be out of business I suspect, if it didn’t have a monopoly on first class mail. (And if Amazon weren’t throwing business their way.)
The “future” Hillary envisions is all “collectives” and “collective action” as the vast masses of widgets assemble to petition the great industrialists and the ever-benevolent government. One gets the feeling — and considering everything the feeling is probably right — that the cyber revolution hasn’t processed. She doesn’t get that technology is now running the opposite way of mass production and mass action.
As for Trump, having listened to his speech, I was shocked at how much he wants to go back to the imaginary fifties. Take his beef with Amazon — and before you say it wasn’t prompted by their owning the Washington post, he himself brought it up in his speech as why Amazon needed to be taken down a peg. Considering this was in the context of Hillary supporters and he never brought up either facebook or twitter, it just shows his mind is in the past — he wants to smash Amazon with punitive taxes, so that “department stores stop struggling. They’re struggling and it’s very bad.”
Or he could lighten the tax burden of department stores, of course, but that is never part of the plan, is it?
He also wants to bring back manufacture, by means of taxes and tariffs.
One gets the idea that the end point of his vision is some sort of Smallville, with department stores, and Sunday drives. Given his head he’ll probably come up with a plan to revitalize driving on vacation and bring back all the small picturesque motels. (And given the way his mind works this will be by taxing airlines, big hotels and airbnb.)
He either doesn’t understand that all the taxes and tariffs will also take Americans back to fifties levels of wealth (and if you think that was great you don’t know anyone who actually lived in the fifties. I didn’t, but I’ve read bios and seen pictures) and bring innovation to a halt.
Look, I get it. Intellectually I get it. The human race is now and has always been in a fight between those who want to create and innovate and those who want to go back to the past when things were comfortable.
Chances are when fire was invented the old timers talked about the wonderful benefits of chewing raw mammoth the young were missing out on, and how that was why they all had such weak chins.
But the one thing we know about human development/invention is that it’s unstoppable. You can manage to stop it and regress it for a while, in a small area, at great human cost, but it won’t still be quite the same. And it will cost in lives. For instance, I’m sure the real Korean middle ages were a better place to live than North Korea.
You can’t go back again. Even when the future scares you.
The future scares a lot of people. I think Obama’s promise to undo everything Reagan did (he’s getting there) had to do with bringing back the “safe” cold war world he’d grown up with. Safe has many meanings, and in his mind I think the bipolar world with the smug underlying certainty that the USSR would win (remember on whose side his parents were) was “home.” Which now I think about it, explains a lot of his ilk’s blind, unreasoning hatred of Reagan. He took away their safety.
I was talking last week to a Libertarian gentleman who both welcomes the new media and is afraid of the upheaval it is creating in his own life, as a journalist. I love the opportunities opened by indie publishing, but I won’t lie and say I’m not just a little scared that I won’t be able to make a living, if it all goes tits up and I have to go indie-only. Though honestly, to be a writer is to live with insecurity, any way.
Most of us right now are caught in this. To me the changes in publishing loom so large, that everything else seems opaque. Even my husband’s job is a puzzle to me, let alone other people’s. BUT whenever I sit down to talk to someone, everything from teaching to dentistry is changing and changing very fast, as technology has hit a turning point.
And I think most people are both excited by the new things in their field, and wishing they could go back to a place of safety. “I want all of indie, but I want the houses to be healthy enough to know that I can continue publishing traditional forever” for instance. Or “I want the new media, but the paper I work for should remain healthy.”
But that’s now how the tech change works. Could we have Amazon and department stores? Maybe, for a while. We certainly need competitors to Amazon.that do things the way Amazon does. And I’m not going to lie and say not having local sources is a way of shopping that is secure in emergencies, but here’s the thing: just as boutique indie bookstores and craft shops and local-grown shops and coming up, I suspect we’ll see others. NOT department stores, but smaller, specialized stores, with knowledgeable retail people, whose slightly higher prices are more than compensated for by having the type of support Amazon can’t give.
But department stores? that’s like saying the government needs to bring back Borders and shore up Barnes and Noble. (Don’t give them ideas.) These same stores who were the devil to the left, became an object of nostalgia, once they were replaced by something even more futuristic.
I understand the feeling and the longing. It’s not that the human world was ever fully stable, tech wise, but it used to be more stable. Change took longer. The left probably thought they could bellyache about chain bookstores forever. They’re none of them involved in real commerce or invention.
When my dad gave me a typewriter when I was 14, and went out of his way and spent more than he should to make it a GOOD one in the belief I’d spend my entire life working on it, he had reason to think that it was true. The fact I’m typing on a gadget he couldn’t imagine tells you how fast tech has changed.
Perhaps the curious “time machine set to the past” effect of this presidential campaign is the result of us running really old people for the presidency. But I don’t think so. I think it’s because things are changing so fast that people chose these two horrors under the idea they’d take us back somewhere safe.
They won’t. Or at least I’m fairly sure one of them can’t command enough physical force to do to us what was done to North Korea and make us a sort of dysfunctional time capsule.
Because technology is moving forward. And the way it is now, we’re moving away from mass media and mass production and mass everything and towards a future in which the individual is the measure of everything.
Which is why in the end we win, they lose.
We just have to get us past the shakes, first.