Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Crises and Political Possibilities

My friend Jon Shayne (AKA Merle Hazard) recently remarked that the U.S. was likely on the brink of serious social unrest a year ago. I think he is right. My fear is, we need that threat (or reality) of crisis to make possible the political changes we need. But if we have patched up the system just good enough now, it makes those decisions more difficult, if not impossible. I am thinking particularly of the balance between self- interest and common goods that needs to be recalibrated, which will require the promotion of civic virtues--and what the Germans would term solidarity--that are difficult in wild-west free markets in mature economies. Yesterday, David Brooks (in one of his most insightful columns ever) wrote that we have to decide if we are going to be an unforgiving but highly dynamic economy/society or a more staid, secure, and in his word civilized, society.

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