Pendulum

Styles change so regularly it’s as though there were a regular pattern being enacted.  It’s been said that shifts in fashion, artistic movements are as regular as tides, possibly even like the swing of a pendulum.  If it’s human nature to observe these tidal behavioural shifts why shouldn’t political movements be subject to similar patterns as well?  I’m not saying that politics is a matter of taste, so much as that we’re talking about human nature, as manifested in several realms.  There are some people who are wedded to a position, left or right; the remainder change allegiance from time to time, depending on circumstances, or maybe upon the way their position is being portrayed, represented, marketed if you will.

The last quarter of the 20th Century seemed like a revolution.  Disco surged, heavy metal pounded, and the fashion industry grew.  But the revolution I’m thinking of isn’t a metaphor.  Ronald Reagan & Maggie Thatcher made it safe to be a blatant capitalist again.  You have to be old enough to remember the world of the 1960s and 70s to recognize the profound changes that followed.  I was going to say “understand”: but that’s the wrong word.  I am not sure anyone understands what really happened, although each side has their version.  Wherever you want to draw the line, however you might want to ascribe blame or responsibility, there are a few things upon which everyone agrees.  In the aftermath of the Great Depression, financiers acquired some humility, after the heady days of the 20s, when everyone wanted to be rich.  Oh I’m not saying that suddenly people didn’t want money after that, but wealth was in some respects tainted.  Was it a question of values (that is, what people understood as right and wrong) or a matter of aesthetics (that people were watching Henry Fonda in Grapes of Wrath let alone the idealistic films of Frank Capra)? I don’t think we can easily separate one from the other.

In the 60s and 70s there was an actual middle class, comprised of people working at jobs throughout North America.  Individuals at every level of society felt entitled to certain privileges, such as schooling, jobs, homes; and by and large people could find their way to their dream if they worked hard.  The underlying assumptions –that determine both our sense of right and wrong, but also identify the heroes and villains in our films & plays—have seemed to be changing several times since then.  The years with the Bush Presidencies seemed to be times when happiness was possible for the wealthy, but slipping away for the dwindling middle class.

Currently? For the first time in a long time, wealth is again problematic, as it was in the Great Depression.

Ralph Nader has been here the whole time –since the beginning of this cycle—and is using language that I haven’t seen before.  The gloves are off, when for example, Nader speaks of fascism

Or Bill Maher speaks of class war.

The Munk debates being broadcast on CBC tonight bear the provocative title “Taxing the Rich” (tune in HERE)

Just for the sake of argument, what is the argument for not taxing the rich? I’ve heard the argument that they will simply leave.  Is that so bad?  I pay taxes.  If anyone wants to live here it’s a privilege for which they should have to pay, especially if they’re doing well.

You know that saying “give it to a busy person”?  Or to put it in a slightly different way, imagine you’re holding in your hands a job that needs doing, looking at a pair of workers in front of you.

  • One has his/her feet up, while s/he’s on the phone
  • The other has a pile of work, and is busting his/her butt.

Who do you give it to if you want it done?  It’s counter-intuitive, but the one with his/her feet up will not get it done as fast as the one who is busy.

Suppose we then extend this to think of wealth & wealth creation.  Some people –the Bill Gates and Mark Zuckerbergs of this world—are good at making wealth.  If we follow that busy –lazy person analogy, let’s ask:

  • Do I reduce the taxes on that creative engine of the economy
    or
  • Do I increase the taxes on that creative engine of the economy

If they really are such brilliant creators of innovation, engines of wealth, the tax load means nothing.  They will work hard anyway.  Tax them. Their brilliance will not be stopped.

Now of course if we overdo it, maybe they’ll leave.  So perhaps there’s a limit.

But we should never forget Bill Maher’s pinăta.

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