The Past is Present
|December 31, 2013||Posted by Edward Dodson under Editorials||
We are reminded constantly of the accelerating concentration of income and assets into a smaller and smaller number of individuals and households. Thoughtful people understand the threat this poses to the stability of any society. An ideological filibuster prevents a sincere and objective debate over the causes and what ought to be done to redirect our society under policies that strengthen equality of opportunity. The just society is as elusive as ever.
Only by what can be described as herculean efforts by caring people are the impoverished millions in our society not left to starve, not left without access to some form of housing, not left without access to medical care, and, essentially, not left without access to the “goods” necessary for a decent, human existence.
The United States has never lived up to its promise as a land of opportunity. Entrenched privilege has plagued this society from the very beginning. A “rentier class” enslaved some, forced others to work under long-term indenture, turned still others into sharecroppers. And, when the extraction of raw materials evolved into industrial enterprise, rentiers formed company towns from which few workers ever escaped.
We seem to have forgotten just how much of this legacy still exists.
A reprieve of sorts emerged after the Second World War. Veterans were repaid for their sacrifices by subsidies to acquire educational credentials or specialized skills. Millions of new families started in the late 1940s were offered the opportunity to become property owners in the countless new housing subdivisions that changed the landscape surrounding every major city. The post-war boom was not enjoyed by the nation’s racial minorities, however; their struggle for equal protections under the law and some degree of economic opportunity remained out of reach for another quarter century.
What seemed like genuine progress peaked in the mid-1970s, was killed off by years of stagflation, and the past brought forward with the resurrection of institutionalized privilege beginning with the election of Ronald Reagan to the U.S. Presidency.
The struggle continues, but the power of the rentier class is unabated, untouched, and defended by some of the most highly educated members of our society. It might help if one could not obtain an advance degree in economics or political science or law or sociology or history without a thorough understanding of moral philosophy.