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November 08, 2012


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I'm skeptical about empty places vs. crowded places, which sounds like something that city dwellers would say. It's out in the country that one most often feels exposed to, and experiences the effects of, nature--blizzards, crop failures, floods, power losses. Not always, cf Hurricane Sandy, but more often.

I think this is all about opportunity and class structure. Middle-class life is a huge struggle and we (middle-class people) are worried about affording a home and basic education (i.e. college), surviving when we're old, the potential for a health care crisis to wipe out what little savings we have. One pressure I think has been almost totally ignored is the way that private industry is pushing workers to the brink. Salaries are stagnant while workweeks and pressure has vastly increased (many people regularly work 50-60 hours per week and need to be constantly accessible via mobile phone and email). It's less and less possible to work only 40 hours for a decent paycheck. Many people see their children on weekends and that feels like it's about it. These pressures are almost entirely invisible to traditional economic measures, except indirectly via productivity values; but basically the capitalist system has pushed people psychologically (in terms of lack of leisure and family time and predominance of work pressures) to new extremes. This colludes with societal forces (much more time spent with electronic gadgets and much less outdoors and face-to-face with others) to put significant strains on the human personality in concert with the plain economic challenges at hand.

People aren't stupid. The middle-class among us know their middle-class parents lived differently,that class mobility has been significantly reduced, that disparities in wealth are obscene, and that we're not happy. I think more people may feel in some ways that government is highly imperfect but that it's one of the few forces able to balance the pressures of the capitalist economy.

(I sound like a total Marxist here, but I'm not.)

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