The American Interest
Analysis by Walter Russell Mead & Staff
Week in Review

This week two essays looked at America’s post-Blue Model future. The first argued that blue elites are wrong to think that wealth and power will be ever more concentrated in the hands of a beneficient elite that provides for the rest of the population. We can manage the transition from an industrial to an information economy so that it empowers the majority of ordinary people with self-sufficient prosperity:

The task facing America today looks something like the task we faced after the Civil War. How do we manage the transition from a well-established political and social system to something more productive? Both then and now, many of the negative features of the transformation appeared first, while the benefits came slowly. The population boom and the agricultural transition drove millions into cities looking for work when there wasn’t yet enough factory employment. There were many people in the 19th century like our gentry liberals today who believed that the new world would pauperize the majority, and who thought that the elite had to band together to defend the values and practices of a vanishing past. Fortunately, history rolled right over them and Americans were ultimately able to build a society that was both more prosperous and more free than anything the pre-industrial world had ever seen.

The second essay argued that the future of the middle class is bright, and the class will overcome the main obstacles it currently faces through a revolution in how we organize our economy. IT and new technology will both lower the costs of goods and services like healthcare, eliminating jobs in the process. This will leave people both unemployed and with more disposal income, which will, in turn, stimulate new kinds of jobs:

There are all kinds of things that we don’t have now that we would like: personal nutritionists, who put together family menus that match up the health needs of the different members of the family, the priorities (how much time is there for cooking), and the food budget; who arrange to purchase the food and have it delivered. Many of us could use a service that would help us analyze calling plans, cable plans, and other aspects of our lives to help us figure out the right technology and the best price for the services we really need. We’d like educational consultants—especially as the school choice movement gives more K-12 alternatives and as higher ed is reshaped by on-line tech. We’d like personal agents who help keep our job life on track, alerting us to openings in our field, advising us about changes that will affect our field and helping us figure out what to do when our set of job skills threatens to become obsolete. We’d like personal ombudsmen (ombudspersons?) to manage billing and credit issues, or to handle problems with products we’ve bought. Those of us with older parents would welcome people who helped out as we negotiate the various problems and options they have – including the ins and outs of Medicare.

All of these jobs exist today, but they are priced at a level that only the rich can afford. As the information revolution unrolls, it will be possible to offer more and more of these and other services to more and more people at prices the average family can afford.

News this week from Asia showed that China’s serious environmental problems are killing its economy. A Chinese company took over a strategic Pakistan port, and we argued, contra Dan Drezner, that this grab points to some significant long term trends in Chinese foreign policy. Francis Fukuyama blogged on how Japan will shape Asia, and we noted that the country is still trying to balance China’s power by deepening it’s ties with other Pacific Rim powers.

In the Middle East, The Muslim Brotherhood denied the Holocaust even as it failed to stabilize Egypt. In Israel news, the WSJ argued that Pres. Obama and PM Bibi Netanyahu will learn to become good friends, but peace is still as distant as ever for that troubled country. Elsewhere, Iran ramped up its nuclear program and the Syrian rebels are considering talking with Asad.

In that global war on terror that doesn’t exist, priceless Timbuktu manuscripts were first reported burned, then saved. Malians celebrated their new freedom by kicking Islamists out of their villages. The French took over the last Islamist stronghold in Mali and Obama set up a drone base in the region. Defense Secretary Panetta warned of US vulnerability to a Cyber pearl harbor, and we examined how the global war on terrorism is akin to a game of whack a mole. Sec. Kerry has a big task ahead of him.

In assorted international coverage, the French turned their back on the TGV and Italian politics continues to be extremely entertaining. Foreigners drive up London’s real estate prices to astronomical levels, and Obama’s attempt to revive a productive US-Russia relationship failed. Outside Eurasia, there’s new evidence that Sweden’s red policies work, and that Nordic countries on the whole are moving beyond the blue. In South America, the IMF censured Argentina for it’s statistical hanky-panky, while the MSM missed that Mexico is poised for rapid economic growth.

Obamacare’s implementation dominated domestic coverage this week. The Economist joined unions and families to note that under the ACA, many people will indeed lose coverage. Our health care system is crippled by its own complexity, and wonks don’t have the answers. Outside health care, we saw the hedge funds fleeing blue NYC, while Illinois’ pension system cuts off investments in roads and schools. People like telework—including Thaksin Shinawatra, Thailand’s ex-PM and de facto ruler. In education, many college loans are going bad, and underperforming investments are worsening higher ed’s revenue crisis.

We argued that obsolescent school cafeterias offered a good analogy for the fraying blue model, while the WSJ reported that older Americans are, thankfully, putting off retirement. In religion, Catholic leaders took action on child abuse, while political divisions replace theological ones as the central battle lines in American Christianity. Silicon valley Democrats could lobby for American power and national greatness within their party, and Matt Ygelisas’ brush with bureaucracy has important lessons to teach us about moving past liberalism 4.0

Energy policy saw both good and bad news this week: global warming isn’t as bad as we thought, but the US also isn’t funding energy R&D. Oil and Big Ag squared off over biofuels, and the NYT reports on how the shale boom effected North Dakota.

Published on February 3, 2013 3:30 pm