Tuesday, June 06, 2006

Scrappy

Zakaria reminds us that history ain't quite over yet, and we have to keep from being lulled into the comfortable doze of complacency. We're the top dog now, but how much longer will it, or can it, last? He claims it could be indefinite, due mainly to our flexibility in assimilating technology to utility to comerce and our ability to attract the smartest people in the world to become Americans.

It is a Must read.

He critiques the following:
Our entitlement programs are set to bankrupt the country, the health-care system is an expensive time bomb, our savings rate is zero, we are borrowing 80 percent of the world's savings and our national bill for litigation is now larger than for research and development. None of these problems is a deep-seated cultural mark of decay. They are products of government policy. Different policies could easily correct them. But taking such steps means doing something that is hard and unpopular.

Sounds like a pretty holistic and bi-partisan view, but one that encourages change. I wonder what changes we can make while still keeping the flexibility that makes the American economy and culture so dominant. Where do you, gentle reader, think we should start?

3 comments:

Dante said...

Not to nitpick but our savings are less than zero. We're spending more than we make both as consumers and as a government. As consumers, it's really not as scary as it sounds. When interest rates rise again, you'll see savings increase. There will be more reason to save then. As a government, I've never been afraid of a defecit. Sure we're paying interest off the money we borrow but we as a government are gambling that the American economy will make us more money than we pay in interest over that time. That's a gamble I'm willing to take every time. Gambling on America is never a bad bet. In short, our monetary situation is just fine where it is. It's hardly a sign of decay. It's a sign of progress.

On the other hand, besides health care and defense, there's not much else our government spends money on. Realistically, we can't afford both programs to increase at the rates they are increasing at for very long.

A point President Bush made during an interview I read a few weeks ago is that if you don't count "Homeland Security" spending, federal government spending has actually decreased over the past five years. This really points out to me the massive amount we are spending on defense without even counting our escapades abroad.

I am upset that interviewer didn't get a clarification of what constitutes "Homeland Security" spending. Seems to me that there are some thing that don't fall under that umbrella that are being put there. Also, I wish the interviewer would've asked the President if "decrease" meant a real decrease or just a decrease in the rate of increase that most politicians call a "decrease."

The final point I would like to make is that we are the top dog because we're the only ones who haven't urinated away the wealth we've acquired. As long as we continue to not screw up, we'll be the top dog for years to come.

Laddi said...

We start at the school level. But the problem is public education is devalued among the student population, and teachers and school staff are not allowed to exert dominant control over disruptive children in such a way to show that school isn't a place to play outside of home.

If we cannot even educate our population on even why education is important in a way that makes them understand its necessity, we're losing the battle before it starts. And I'm not talking about a college education, I mean making high school a valuable education for all students. With the kids coming to college, no matter how high their SAT or GPA is, most students' knowledge-base and skills are a joke.

patsbrother said...

I think the teaching of Creative Design in a science class is unimaginably tar-tar. Yet I also do not beleive that the proposition human beings and apes descended from a common anceastor should ever be taught in a public high school, except as an aside. Why? Namby-pamby equivocation? No. Because it has no practical application, except as a general knowledge question.

We don't teach science in school. We teach the history of science. Put a gun to my head and I will be unable to tell you more facts about the way electricity works than about the random names of people who invented or discovered stuff. I wasn't taught (nor did I venture out on my own to discover) how electricity works, other than a cursory aside in physics; every time we came to a new "concept", we went over the names, backgrounds, collaborations, and dates of birth and death of whatever famous individual had any connection to the subject at hand.

And let's be honest. Yes, there are people who want children (and the adults they become) to believe the world began in 4004 BC (a Tuesday) and that either a) man walked with dinosaurs and there is a huge God-hating liberal conspiracy to enshroud the evidence of this, or b) that fossils are planted by God (or the devil) as a way to test man's faith. And yes, I believe we should engage in a containment strategy, to stem the flow of bad science a-rising (and hope for better success than with Vietnam). But we're making our children stupid in the process.

About ninety years ago (give or take), an American came up with the basic conceptualization of television. The American was, of all things, a teenager. He sat quietly through a physics lesson at his high school, thinking. After class, he went up to the teacher and, applying the concepts they were then learning, drew a schema on the blackboard. He asked, do you think this would work? The teacher was unable to say why not.

Even if I was a certifiable genius or savant, and notwithstanding the ready explanation of television I am sure is contained somewhere in Glynn Academy's library, I would not have been able to apply any of the concepts I learned in school to come up with a hypothetical process to produce a coat-hanger, let alone a TV.