A sleeping giant, or just unaware of what’s really happening

Here are two thoughts, actually two brief passages that I take from op ed pieces in today’s WSJ. Would that everyone read them. Many of our problems stem from the fact that few people, few of us read, and those who do read read, if anything at all, read what they already know and believe, a bit better perhaps than what they are told to read, usually something unique to their own group or tribe, or community. And this kind of reading, when it does happen, serves more to separate Americans than to bring them together.

While Americans ought not to be all reading the same things they certainly ought to be reading/sharing more of the same things. This is what drives the common core movement in our thinking about our schools. This is what drives our even having public schooling. But so far in regard to developing a “common core,” the schools have been without success.

In any case these two passages and the two articles they are taken from ought to be widely read and widely shared, and here’s my Blog’s two cents worth, a tiny step to help make this happen.

 

First there is George Shultz,

George-Shultz1a good man, admired in my experience by just about everyone for his long years of service to his, to our country. He is now 93 but he has lost nothing of his ability analyze a problem and come up with the steps leading to a solution. The problem is, of course, “how to get American moving again.” Shultz persuades me of the truly beneficial role that the United States might play in that world if only it would wake up to the realization and utilization of its own strengths. Go here to read the whole article. Shultz begins this way:

Adm. Isoroku Yamamoto, who led the Japanese fleet at Pearl Harbor, had spent some time before World War II in the United States. After the attack, he allegedly said, with a sense of foreboding, “I fear all we have done is to awaken a sleeping giant and fill him with a terrible resolve.” Well, the giant is sleeping again. What does it take to wake us up? How many times can we be kicked in the belly before we take notice? ….

We do seem to forget that we are a sleeping giant. Shultz tells us what we need to do to wake up. And his prescriptions are well within our abilities to make them happen. Will we? Probably not in my lifetime. Helas!

 

And then there is Joel Mokyr,

Joel_Mokyrsomeone of whom I was not even aware before reading this article in the WSJ, What Today’s Economic Gloomsayers Are Missing. He is younger that Shultz, has Israeli American nationalities, and is currently professor of economics, field economics history, at both Northwestern and Tel Aviv Universities.

In a sense he is also telling us to wake up, to what’s really going on, to reality. Not sleeping perhaps, but unaware he would say. Here he is in his own words, but I encourage you to go here to read the entire article.

There is nothing like a recession to throw economists into a despondent mood. Much as happened in the late 1930s—when there was a fear of so-called secular stagnation, or the absence of growth due to a dearth of investment opportunities—many of my colleagues these days seem to believe that “sad days are here again.” The economic growth experienced through much of the 20th century, they tell us, was fleeting. Our children will be no richer than we are. The entry of millions of married women into the workforce and the huge increase in college graduates that drove post-1945 growth were one-off boons. Slow growth is here to stay.

What is wrong with this story? The one-word answer is “technology.” The responsibility of economic historians is to remind the world what things were like before 1800. Growth was imperceptibly slow, and the vast bulk of the population was so poor that a harvest failure would kill millions. Almost half the babies born died before reaching age 5, and those who made it to adulthood were often stunted, ill and illiterate.

What changed this world was technological progress. Starting in the late 18th century, innovations and advances in what was then called “the useful arts” began improving life, first in Britain, then in the rest of Europe, and then in much of the rest of the world….

 

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