There Is No Economy

The Iron Lady (Margaret Thatcher) once stunned England (or at least holists) by announcing “There’s no such thing as society . . . There are individual men and women and there are families.” Perhaps that sentiment will be adopted as the slogan for the new Friedman Institute.

But rising inequality now means that we have another ontological crisis on our hands. There is no economy–there are disparate income and wealth classes. Some are doing spectacularly well, while others are wracked by rising inflation and falling job security. But sadly most of the national media class appears totally unfamiliar with the latter group’s reality, and the crises it’s leading us towards.

For instance, consider a Wall Street Journal article’s demand “Where are the Hoovervilles camped out under the Washington Monument? Where are the soup lines?” Or the “angels on a pinhead” quality of recent economists’ debates over whether the US has truly entered a recession. Or the ever-rising orders for luxury goods as ordinary American families tighten their belts.

Thankfully, a few journalists are starting to tell the story. Here is a great review of a work I’ve recommended here a few times:

You might not expect a book on economic policy to be a page-turner, but Peter Gosselin’s High Wire is just that. Gosselin, a national economics reporter for the Los Angeles Times, has written a systematic investigation of the many ways financial risk has been transferred from employers, the federal government and insurance companies to individuals and families. Gosselin shows, in frightening detail, how our lives as Americans have become riskier over the last few decades. Instead of believing that we are mutually responsible for each other, we now rely on markets that have repeatedly demonstrated that they are distorted by greed, corruption and irrationality.

Of course, I don’t expect Gosselin’s framing to make it onto the evening news any time soon. . .

Its anchors are pretty far removed from these concerns:

Brian Williams [is just] Regular Folk, and he thus speaks for the heartland, despite the fact that he mocked John Edwards’ expensive haircuts (and asked Edwards about them during an NBC debate he moderated) while simultaneously using his $10 million/year salary to live[] in a restored farmhouse in Connecticut where he parks his 477-horsepower black Porsche GT2 (that is, when he’s not decamping on the Upper East Side).

I guess he’ll never be a part of the “nation of whiners.”

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