November 26, 2011 in Features

As sure as is the fate of Tom the turkey, American fortunes will decline

Donald Clegg
 

So here we are again, eating Thanksgiving leftovers, and I suppose it’s OK to start playing holiday tunes. I am the Grinch of Christmas music, and would declare our home a Frosty the Snowman Free Zone, but that’s about as likely as Occupy Wall Street is to occupy, say, the White House.

But there are a lot of other Grinches these days, fine folks who are unwilling to face up to the fact that the class war is over and we lost.

They come in two basic flavors. One is the uber-rich, who hold most of the wealth in our fine corporate oligarchy, but perish the thought that they have unequal advantages like maybe having their pet Congress write laws just for them: “Class war? Surely you jest. Now peel me another grape.”

“Democracy is the theory that the common people know what they want and deserve to get it good and hard” – H. L. Mencken, curmudgeon and journalist

Then, of course, there is everyone else. America’s basically on the way to Third World status – we’re an “undeveloping” nation – but, hey, we’ve got great toys! (Made by the Chinese, who own us.)

It might seem strange to lump “everyone else” with the rich Grinches, but too many of the have-nots are also opposed to progressive taxation, the very core of a civil society.

“I made it, I should keep it,” goes the refrain. But the “self-made man” is just a bad joke. Like the idea that a flat tax is fair.

Oh, I know the self-made man is practically a truism in America, isn’t it? Well, I guess if you ignore the vast contributions of society to the successful: physical and mental infrastructure (roads and people thinking about how to make them better), non-despotic government, sufficient wealth, etc. You don’t get a Bill Gates, if Bill Gates is a starving child who’s never seen a book, let alone a computer.

“We can have democracy in this country or we can have great wealth concentrated in the hands of a few, but we can’t have both.” – Supreme Court Justice Louis Brandeis

So there we have it, not that I like it, and not to throw cold water on anyone’s warm holiday spirits. Rather, to acknowledge that this is a particularly hard season to make it through if you’re, say, a Washington state liquor employee. Sorry, you don’t make enough for a bailout.

We’ve been conditioned to think that unlimited growth and rising fortunes are the natural state of the world, and are terribly unready to face the prospect that a steadily declining economy is in all likelihood the new norm. Throw in a few more stock market crashes and name your environmental disaster.

Good old Bertrand Russell had it right, as usual, discussing the age-old fallacy of inductive thinking. “Russell’s chicken” is famous to those unfortunates (like me) who have read too much philosophy, but since his fine prose is unusually dry in this case, I’ll close with a Thanksgiving fable instead:

Tom, the family turkey, is living large. Tom has several big bipeds to tend to all his needs and he’s one fat happy gobbler. Gradually, though, summer turns to fall, the first snow flies, and then (and then) one fine morning, a few days before the fourth Thursday of November …

Oops.

Donald Clegg, a longtime Spokane resident, is an author and professional watercolor artist. Contact him via email at info@donaldclegg.com.


Thoughts and opinions on this story? Click here to comment >>

Get stories like this in a free daily email