Friday, April 27, 2007

A great description of malinvestment (and its cure)

.... see, I’m old enough to remember the ... depression of the ‘20s and ‘30s. That was a moment of greatness for the American people, and indeed for politicians like Roosevelt. I remember Gene McCarthy and I were talking about it once, and he said, “You know, the Depression was the only time when anything worked!” He said, “I’ve got a lawyer now who wants to be a songwriter. I’ve got somebody else who’s supposedly fixing the roof, but he wants to be a painter.” He said, “Nobody does what they should be doing in this society.” This is a guy who’d just run for president, and a very good one, too. Anti-war. And he said, “You know, this is ridiculous. I mean, in those days, you had a carpenter, and he was a real carpenter.” He said, “The post office worked. They weren’t dreaming about being rock stars; they were dreaming about getting the mail out!” And he said, “To watch all the services crumble, and everybody fantasizing about the future, because they’d seen people in the movies who fantasized about the future, and the future came true.” I thought that was wise. And ... I think the fantasies will stop when there’s no longer the leisure, and people will actually get back to work doing whatever it is they’re supposed to be doing, or even what it is they would really like to do. An awful lot of people who want to be painters rather than doing roofs—will, be a painter. Nothing’s difficult anymore; you can get the means for everything rather cheaply. With the Internet and all this kind of interchange all around the world so rapidly, you can make a reputation, I think, rather quickly, and present yourself as a writer, as a poet, as this and that. So, that, I think, the bankruptcy of the United States, which we’re looking at the edges of now, is going to be very useful to {bring} us to our senses. Gore Vidal


"Cassandra" said...

I've read most of Gore Vidal's non-fiction, and have an awful lot of time for him. He is an incisive wit, and perhaps the foremost American critic in the 20th century. Having said that, Gore Vidal speaking about economics is about as relevant, as the late Milton Friedman waxing lyrically about regional french cuisine. Not that one needs to be an economist to make intelligent economic commentary or relevant economic observations...but it certainly does help.

Ruby said...

I think GV just listed one of the effects of our techno-world. I'm a community college teacher and I see the same thing in my math classes. The majority of dreams run (for the youts) along the lines of TV broadcaster and movie director. The older, returning students are more realistic about paying the rent and are in training for specific jobs.

that said, i've been the same way. I never could figure out what I should be doing. I had a dream of being a musician, but playing free improvisational jazz didn't bring in enough to pay the bills. I went back to school (still gigging) and tried to pursue another dream of being a cosmologist. Sadly, I wasn't smart enough, or focused enough, to do that. I ended up paying the bills as a math teacher, but recently quit my great paying, full benefits tenured position to become fully unemployed and move to the hills!

should I apply for a job at the inflatable space hotel manufacturing plant? Should I apply for the job at the Defense Policy Institute to analyze Chinese space capabilities? Should I try to sell some of my very weak watercolors? What about helping people and installing micro solar power systems in the developing world?

I am the perfect example of what GV is talking about. Soon, post-crash, I'll get down to business and do what I'm supposed to, planting all the spinach and squash I can just to survive!

I guess it all boils down to that big question: Why are we here?

What is our purpose? The only answer I ever found satisfying is:
To create.