Story 21 - 'Empty' People
I suggested that the baby boomers might still be able to recall those days when they could buy a brand new car for less than three-thousand dollars, which most of them did, who then used their great dream boats to cruise down Sunset Boulevard. In fact, they could even walk down that boulevard without fear of being shot at or otherwise attacked, or being propositioned by prostitutes. They might even remember that the economy worked so well in those days, that a family of four could be supported by a single worker's salary, and build itself a decent house to live in. I suggested that the baby boomers could surely still remember that world that once existed, because they had been a part of that world. They saw it functioning. They experienced its dynamism. They may even remember that it was actually possible in that world for a worker to retire and live a carefree life. And as they remember all of this, which exists no more, they may also remember that a lot of the commercial enterprises of that world do no longer
exist either; the very industries that had created their prosperity, that had created their employment, even the industries that
had once created their food, the family farm, which is virtually gone. They may also remember that one could go to a movie in that world and not be ashamed afterwards of being a member of the human race, because of the
violence that is being dished out as we have it today. They may even remember a time when they could look their friends into the eye with a smile, without this being translated into an invitation for sex as we see it so much in the world of entertainment. But mostly, when this past world is remembered, they will remember the physical prosperity they found in it, of a world in which almost everything actually worked. And if they can be induced to remember all that, they will want to get back to the world that worked, a world of actual prosperity.
Here another student stood up. He protested. "Life isn't a philosophical issue," he said acidly. "When the physical economy is gone, you can't resurrect it with philosophy."
I agreed. However, philosophy, or more correctly, the intellectual tradition behind the most advanced philosophy, is the foundation of the policies that determine how the physical economy operates, and that makes a huge difference. It determines the policies.
I told him that a long time ago a policy had been established to throw a debtor into prison, who could not repay what he owed. That policy, of course made the outstanding loan even more unrepayable. The policy was so bad that it was eventually
abandoned. Unfortunately, this didn't happen until it had done a lot of damage to society. Nevertheless, we
still have many similar policies in force that are just as bad, which make an economic recovery virtually impossible. This means, that quite literally, the survival of a nation, or the world, boils down to a matter of intelligent policy based on the best intellectual tradition.
I told the student who had protested, that the U.S. economy, for example is currently being strangled by thirty-two trillion dollars of debt that has been accumulated, because of bad policies. It costs the economy over seven trillion just to service that debt, which no magician in the world can squeeze out of a ten trillion dollars gross domestic product. This means that the debt can't be repaid, especially, since even the interest can't be paid. After all, people have to have something left over to live on. So, the bottom line is, the economy is bankrupt beyond hope. But how does one deal with a totally bankrupt economy? What policies does one use?
I told the student that the present policy is to let the corporations go bankrupt when they can't pay up, even huge corporations with hundred-thousand employees, and more. I told them that this sort of thing happens a lot, because the debt is killing these enterprises. I pointed out that this
shut-down policy is one way in which the outstanding debt gets written off the books. I also pointed out that in the process millions of people become unemployed and destitute, and eventually many of them become homeless. And to make matters worse, which is actually the greater tragedy, the nation deprives itself of the products that these enterprises had produced. "Now, is this a good policy?" I asked. "Is this even a sane policy?"