The title says it all. This article by the managing editor of the US Financial Times raises an issue that appeared with increasing frequency in various guises in the financial press as 2009 wended to its end. The general question being asked is what does one do abouit the growing gulf between the super-rich and the rest of humanity. Many have asked how one reconciles the immense bonuses that bankers are paying themselves with the stubbornly high unemployment rate. Others ask, as does this article, how the benefits of globalization might be better distributed. Part of the dilemma is that few of the super-rich appear to see the problem. The super-rich appear to have become totally tone-deaf and apparently quite indifferent to the wreckage that they have created. Part of the reason for the indifference stems, no doubt, from their apparent belief that the wreckage had nothing to do with them. This also appears to be true of business schools in universities. I have yet to hear any prominent academic apologize for being part of the financial disaster that befell the markets in 2008. Again, it seems to derive from a belief that none of what transpired had anything to do with what was taught. And, if they are not part of the problem, then there is no need to be part of the solution. If there is no problem, then there is no need for a solution. Freeland quotes Jim Manzi in his concern that “if we let inequality and its underlying causes grow unchecked, we will hollow out the middle class – threatening social cohesion and eventually surrendering our international position”. So how will the super-rich answer Freeland question as to whether they will become more “benign” and help “to bring the American dream [back] with reach of nearly everyone?”
Christopher Caldwell has written a simply fascinating essay on how our perception of time is different from the timepiece that we look to when we want to know the time. He uses a number of examples to make his point. A couple that really caught my attention: Reagan’s birth in 1911 is as close to the Battle of Waterloo in 1812 as it is to Obama’s inauguration in 2008. Waterloo feels like a very, very long time ago and something that happened “hundreds of years” before President Reagan. The hundred years between Reagan and Obama seem so much shorter. Another example is Elvis Presley’s Jailhouse Rock, which appeared in 1957 which feels to me like yesterday and not like “fifty-three whole years.” But if one goes backwards in time, Jailhouse Rock is closer to ancient events like World War I, the Boer War, Teddy Roosevelt and all that than it is to us today. That shrinking and lengthening of time is most intriguing. Caldwell says that events that we lived through appear much closer to us than events that we are told about. Read the full article!