Friday, January 1, 2021

Post-Modern America is as vicious and dysfunctional as Victorian England, the Weimar Republic, and 17th century France

If you get your news from network television, you are being bombarded by commercials about prescription medicines and financial services. 

These ads typically show prosperous older Americans who look remarkably fit, live in lovely homes, and spend their days cooking gourmet meals, wind-surfing, and flyfishing with their adorable grandchildren.

These advertisements purport to show life in 21st century America--the best of all possible worlds where everyone is healthy, happy, and financially secure.

But I don't live in that America, and you don't either. Instead, most of us live in a society that is remarkably similar to dysfunctional regimes of bygone centuries.

Our government is printing money at a frightening pace to prop up the financial markets, much like the Weimar Republic did in the 1920s. And we know how that turned out. Germany experienced runaway inflation that set the stage for Adolph Hitler.

We may celebrate the fact that the United States abolished debtors' prisons, but 21st century America treats debtors much the way England treated them in the Victorian age. 

We don't deport debtors to Australia or put them in jail as England did in Charles Dickens' time, but we've created a virtual prison for student-loan borrowers, millions of whom are trapped in income-based repayment plans that last 25 years. Compounding student-debtors' misery, our supposedly benevolent Congress has made it almost impossible for insolvent student-loan debtors to get relief in the bankruptcy courts.

And the American tax system is remarkably like the tax regime in Louis XIV's France. W.H. Lewis, who wrote a masterful social history of seventeenth-century France, described the French tax structure this way;

[T]he whole fiscal system was in itself radically and incurably vicious; as a contemporary remarks, if he Devil himself had been given a free hand to plan the ruin of France, he could not have invented any scheme more likely to achieve that object than the system of taxation in vogue, a system which would seem to have been designed with the sole object of ensuring a minimum return to the King at a maximum price to his subjects, with the heaviest share falling on the poorest section of the population.

Doesn't that sound like the American tax system? Sure it does. As financial tycoon Warren Buffett has repeatedly observed, he pays federal taxes at a lower rate than his secretary.

And the COVID pandemic didn't change the system at all. Indeed, the latest coronavirus relief package includes 100 percent deductibility for the so-called "three-martini lunch." Think about it: wealthy Americans can write off extravagant meals that can cost more than $1,000, while the working stiff gets a $600 coronavirus-relief check.

 In short, although Americans may deceive themselves into believing that our society is evolving into a paradise based on the principles of equity, diversity, and inclusion, in fact, we live in a world not so very different from Victorian England, Weimar Germany, and 17th century France.

Louis XIV: Is everybody happy?


2 comments:

  1. We are well on our way to being a failed state, because our elites have done nothing but corruption since 1980. e.g. https://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2009/05/the-quiet-coup/307364/
    But that has nothing to do with hyperinflation, and neither does Hitler.
    https://braveneweurope.com/philipp-heimberger-hyperinflation-and-the-rise-of-the-nazis-distortions-of-history-by-hans-werner-sinn

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  2. I don't think I agree with you. Germany in the late 1920s was plagued by hyperinflation because the government recklessly printed money. And our government is following the same path. Moreover, Germany was experiencing violent protests in the 1920s and early 1930s, and the perpetrators were not punished. Hitler received a minimal sentence for his part in the Munich putsch. Similarly, the people who rioted continuously for three months in Portland were not punished. German elections were held in an atmosphere of intimidation and turmoil--as was the 2020 presidential election. Finally, racism in Germany was on the rise in the 1920s and early 1930s. And we are seeing open racism in our country. We shall see. I hope you are right, and I am wrong.

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