Saturday, August 25, 2012

Too much magic

I'm almost finished reading James Howard Kunstler's Too Much Magic. The book is good reading in places, but in no way approaches the grade of his previous best, The Long Emergency.

A pertinent observation, postscript to the sixth chapter, going broke the hard way.


...The United States became the economic engine of the developed world in the past century not just because of its abundance of mineral wealth, it amber waves of grain, and its fantastic endowment of oil, but largely because the rule of law was so firmly established here that people knew where they stood with things they'd worked for all their lives. Property and contract law in the United States unambiguously spelled out what they owned free and clear, how they could dispose of these things, and what their obligations were. These rights and responsibilities were enforced with more than the usual rigor found in other parts of the world. They enabled business to be conducted freely and mostly fairly. The confidence that people all over the world felt for the rule of law in American financial matters was expressed in their respect for our money and the moneylike instruments issued by our companies and banks, the stocks and bonds, et cetera. We threw it all away; our honor, our faith in ourselves, our credibility with others, and the legitimacy of our institutions.

Fair dealing in a bounteous land was apparently not enough for us, who had established it and cultivated it. We became greedy and craven and decided that lying to ourselves incessantly was the same as telling the truth. And all the wreckage that remains to be sorted out is testimony to that tragic change of heart.

As go the people so goes the nation.

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