All that is solid melts into air...
December 10, 2010 9:39 AM   Subscribe

"Are the American People Obsolete?" an essay by Michael Lind of the New America Foundation.

"Offshoring and immigration [...] are severing the link between the fate of most Americans and the fate of the American rich. A member of the elite can make money from factories in China that sell to consumers in India, while relying entirely or almost entirely on immigrant servants at one of several homes around the country. With a foreign workforce for the corporations policed by brutal autocracies and non-voting immigrant servants in the U.S., the only thing missing is a non-voting immigrant mercenary army, whose legions can be deployed in foreign wars without creating grieving parents, widows and children who vote in American elections."
posted by Kadin2048 (45 comments total) 16 users marked this as a favorite

 
"Maybe we should all emigrate."

Fuck you. Maybe the rich can emigrate to Lichtenstein or where-ever. Hell, maybe.
posted by notsnot at 9:43 AM on December 10, 2010


Apple's coming out with a new one in February.
posted by The Whelk at 9:46 AM on December 10, 2010 [1 favorite]


"Maybe we should all emigrate."

Fuck you. Maybe the rich can emigrate to Lichtenstein or where-ever. Hell, maybe.


And where does this Swift guy get off saying it's okay to eat babies!?
posted by theodolite at 9:46 AM on December 10, 2010 [19 favorites]


Kudos on the title, Kadin.
posted by joe lisboa at 9:49 AM on December 10, 2010 [1 favorite]


America's rich are more than welcome to move up here to Canada.

Hope you like taxes!
posted by Sys Rq at 9:49 AM on December 10, 2010


This proposal seems modest.
posted by justkevin at 9:49 AM on December 10, 2010 [4 favorites]


Permanent underclass ahoy.
posted by Burhanistan at 9:54 AM on December 10, 2010


Interesting article, actually, despite the tongue-in-cheek headline. However, I don't like that it pits the American worker against his or her fellows in other countries. If our economy has become globalized, then we need to extend our social contract to all countries. It's not like industrial businesses were all like, "Hi guys, let me give you my tax dollars willinglin" post-WWII, and we can't expect them to willingly ignore their base insticts.

Lind's (serious) answer seems to be nationalism propped up by government regulation. My answer is globalism propped up by a globally empowerd working class. Both seem quite pie-in-the-sky.
posted by muddgirl at 9:54 AM on December 10, 2010 [6 favorites]


the only thing missing is a non-voting immigrant mercenary army, whose legions can be deployed in foreign wars without creating grieving parents, widows and children who vote in American elections.

Once you have a mercenary army, do you really need to worry about quaint things like "elections" anymore?
posted by JaredSeth at 9:58 AM on December 10, 2010 [3 favorites]


It's ok, we are all going to be the American Rich someday so it doesn't matter.
posted by spicynuts at 10:00 AM on December 10, 2010 [3 favorites]


America will keep providing fine resort locales for the Rich's second and third homes for decades to come.
posted by oneswellfoop at 10:01 AM on December 10, 2010


My answer is 42.
posted by oddman at 10:02 AM on December 10, 2010


Meet the New America Foundation...same as the Old America Foundation...
posted by Smart Dalek at 10:02 AM on December 10, 2010


This is odd, will the pendulum swing back around after years of neglect? Will the american populous once again be willing to work till they drop in coal mines, assembly lines and steel mills? Will pro business politicians gut the EPA and let corporations go back to poisoning everything they see to turn a buck?

Guess the bottom line is, how long till we are making soy sauce out of human hair and kids toys out of lead for the chinese.
posted by Ad hominem at 10:06 AM on December 10, 2010 [2 favorites]


If we're to emigrate, can I stop by the liquor store first? I need one for the road.
posted by hellojed at 10:11 AM on December 10, 2010


"Are the American People Obsolete?"

This debate has been done to death. It's the level of high fructose corn syrup in the average American diet, give them a break.
posted by fire&wings at 10:19 AM on December 10, 2010 [6 favorites]


I, personally, am obsolete. I can tell because I now have to wait for a post on Metafilter before I am aware of things like Chillwave. *tsk*
posted by everichon at 10:22 AM on December 10, 2010 [2 favorites]


Smart Dalek: "Meet the New America Foundation...same as the Old America Foundation..."

Just out of curiousity, what (besides an ideologically diverse board) do you object to on that page?
posted by l33tpolicywonk at 10:24 AM on December 10, 2010


The key to all of this is the ability of the wealthy elite to run the government, through control of the media (diverting Americans from being informed of an interested in the issues that actually affect them), and control of elected officials via moneyed influence on elections.

It's possible in principle to solve either of these problems but there's a chicken-and-the-egg problem because the solutions would have to come through the government whose corruption we're trying to fix.

I got nothing.
posted by edheil at 10:24 AM on December 10, 2010 [3 favorites]


Guess the bottom line is, how long till we are making soy sauce out of human hair and kids toys out of lead for the chinese.

That is actually the plan. Asia, with its much higher populations, will be the global consumer class. The U.S. will be the cheap, efficient mass manufacturers. The U.S. will re-industrialize as soon as the minimum wage vanishes, or inflation makes the concept moot.

And yes, there will be some kind of extraterritorial soldiery to enforce compliance.
posted by clarknova at 10:25 AM on December 10, 2010


> That is actually the plan. Asia, with its much higher populations, will be the global consumer class.

I'm not so sure. What's more likely is that production will be distributed across the globe, with sharp divides between worker and consumer. National boundaries will largely be symbolic.
posted by Burhanistan at 10:27 AM on December 10, 2010


If I take the premise of this article (tongue in cheek or not) to be that the American elite should encourage emigration of middle and lower class Americans as a means of reducing their tax burden, then it is faulty. There is no need for emigration, b/c the US elite has already somehow managed to convince a sizeable enough portion of the electorate that the social services from which those in the lower economic echelons would actually benefit are an "unfair restriction on the market". The ability of the right to get working class people to vote against their own economic interests (sometimes by conflating economic issues with cultural issues) is a fascinating dynamic.

You can see this time and again -- look at how much support the Republicans are getting from working class folks in their battle to keep tax cuts for the top 5% of the population. Look at how difficult it was for you to pass anything approach in a public healthcare programme, even amongst those who would directly benefit from it.
posted by modernnomad at 10:29 AM on December 10, 2010 [8 favorites]


This, for me was the real eye-opened about the mortgage crisis. It was a fleecing of the system so huge, and yet it didn't actually need any of the huddled masses to operate (except as warm bodies to give mortgages to, and I'm sure they would have granted those mortgages to stray cats and cinderblocks if warm bodies weren't available).

At this point, I'm thinking we non-wealthy Americans may still have some use, assuming sweatshop workers and mercenaries will actually eat Freedom Chow (formerly Soylent Green).
posted by Legomancer at 10:31 AM on December 10, 2010 [3 favorites]


I have discovered a truly marvelous argument refuting all this endless naysaying about America I see everywhere now. This margin is too narrow to contain it.
posted by chavenet at 10:36 AM on December 10, 2010 [5 favorites]


Don't worry guys, if you work hard you too can be the next Mark Zuckerberg!
posted by Ad hominem at 10:39 AM on December 10, 2010


What do we need with mercenaries, when we can kill people with robots?
posted by steambadger at 10:58 AM on December 10, 2010 [1 favorite]


will the pendulum swing back around after years of neglect

Hey - things are picking up in India after several thousands of years.

Keep a good thought!
posted by not_that_epiphanius at 11:01 AM on December 10, 2010


Let's do it like this instead.
posted by Meatbomb at 11:07 AM on December 10, 2010


India's stock market may have just crashed btw so you might want to pick another example

and I wouldn't mind being Zuckerberg, what? instantly take a couple of decades off my age? yes please :)
posted by The Lady is a designer at 11:07 AM on December 10, 2010


Time to re-read Radiant Doors by Michael Swanrick.
posted by 5ean at 11:41 AM on December 10, 2010 [2 favorites]


But you're missing the flip side of the coin, which is that globalization reduces the cost of goods -- such as Snuggies. The average consumer can then leverage these cheap Snuggies into profitable ventures such as wrapping up bodies and covering up weapons caches.
posted by RobotVoodooPower at 11:44 AM on December 10, 2010 [1 favorite]


"Are the American People Obsolete?"

I read "Obese" at first... just me?
posted by hillabeans at 12:03 PM on December 10, 2010


"If our economy has become globalized, then we need to extend our social contract to all countries."

I hope you're being sarcastic, because if not you've got it all the way backwards. The fact that the social contract is not extended to everyone on earth is the whole reason the economy can and has become "globalized," in the sense that much productive material work can be given to workers who'll work for brutally low wages because that's the only work they may ever get.
posted by zoogleplex at 12:24 PM on December 10, 2010 [1 favorite]


Aw, I saw this Christmas special. In the third act, the Rich invite the Not-Rich back to come live with them in America because without the Not-Rich the Rich couldn't tell that they were Rich any more!
posted by No-sword at 12:37 PM on December 10, 2010


I hope you're being sarcastic, because if not you've got it all the way backwards.

Neither - I think you missed my point.

The fact that the social contract is not extended to everyone on earth is the whole reason the economy can and has become "globalized," in the sense that much productive material work can be given to workers who'll work for brutally low wages because that's the only work they may ever get.

Exactly, which is why we need to extend the social contract to all countries. I look at it this way:

Currently, America gets all the benefits of industrialization without the negative aspects, since we pushed most of the negative aspects to countries without basic economic protections for workers.

Michael Lind suggests that we use government regulation to force businesses to choose between either bringing all the bad parts of industrialization back to the United States or forgoing the economic benefits of incorporating in the US. We can see where this is going - there's a reason all banks incorporate in Delaware, and pretty soon all businesses will incorporate outside the US.

I suggest (and I'm not the first one) that it's more logical for us to fight for human rights and basic economic protections for all workers, no matter what country they live in. If there's no benefit to exploiting poor labor, the positives and negatives of industrialization may be more equitably distributed. Of course this is nearly impossible to acheive, but so is Michael Lind's plan.
posted by muddgirl at 12:37 PM on December 10, 2010 [1 favorite]


Obeseolete is more like it.
posted by drogien at 12:52 PM on December 10, 2010


"Exactly, which is why we need to extend the social contract to all countries."

muddgirl, I may have seemed hostile, but let me assure you most wholeheartedly that I agree with you 100%. It will most definitely be, to say the least, an uphill fight that will take decades, but so did changing the US in the same way.
posted by zoogleplex at 1:28 PM on December 10, 2010


A new life awaits you in the off-world colonies...
posted by bitmage at 1:59 PM on December 10, 2010 [2 favorites]


In order for "human rights and basic economic protections" to be extended to all workers regardless of domicile, the values of their host societies will have to change and progress beyond the master - peasant dichotomy that has governed them effectively forever. And the reason why the upper class elite / lower class masses divide persists is because it works so very well for those with control over the -- what's the expression? -- means of production. It's sad; I don't like it; but there isn't a damn thing anyone outside of those societies can do about it.

(...It is in this regard that Western societies may be historically unique: for some reason, enough people within them -- including among their upper classes -- thought that the master / servant social arrangement could be improved upon. They never perfected an alternative; what they have won't last forever; but they should at least be given credit for the collective effort.)
posted by cool breeze at 2:01 PM on December 10, 2010 [1 favorite]


Americans decided about 15 years ago that the most important thing in their lives is being able to buy cheap, Chinese-made shit at Wal-mart.

No health care? Longer working hours? A critically high level of job insecurity? Two unwinnable wars against brown people as a last, desperate attempt at projecting an American hegemony that no longer exists?

No fucking problem as long as I can buy that flat-screen for under 400 bucks.
posted by bardic at 9:11 PM on December 10, 2010


The disconnect between the nationalist and anti-nationalist elements of the far right has always confused me. This article puts it in pretty good context.

Currently, America gets all the benefits of industrialization without the negative aspects

wut
posted by mrgrimm at 12:34 PM on December 13, 2010


wut

Can you clarify what part of that statement you don't understand? Maybe you've misread and think I stated that we have outsourced all the negative aspects?

(1) America has pushed much of its hazardous industries to foreign countries,
(2) We then buy these products made without our labor or our resources at unsupportable prices (yay free trade!)
(3) Therefore, we benefit from industrialization without suffering air pollution, high worker mortality, the degredation of our own natural resources, yadda yadda yadda.
posted by muddgirl at 1:38 PM on December 13, 2010


without suffering air pollution, high worker mortality, the degredation of our own natural resources

That's the claim I would take issue with.

Maybe you've misread and think I stated that we have outsourced all the negative aspects?

...

Currently, America gets all the benefits of industrialization without the negative aspects, since we pushed most of the negative aspects to countries without basic economic protections for workers.

I'm not sure I'd call that misreading. Your phrasing was awkward, i.e. "the U.S. gets all the benefits without the negative aspects ... because we've pushed most of the negative aspects ..."

I think you need a qualifier before the first "negative aspects" such as "major" or "significant." I would still disagree though.

The roots of the U.S. agriculture clusterfuck arose from industrialization.

Mountain top removal? Acid rain? Institutionalized economic equality? These are not insignificant issues.

The U.S. may have exported the most brutal elements (slave wages, sweatshops, egregious environmental destruction), but much of the U.S. population still suffers greatly from the effects of industrialization.
posted by mrgrimm at 2:59 PM on December 13, 2010


*inequality*
posted by mrgrimm at 3:33 PM on December 13, 2010


"Americans decided about 15 years ago that the most important thing in their lives is being able to buy cheap, Chinese-made shit at Wal-mart."

I think most of the folks shopping at Wal-Mart are more concerned about being able to buy day-to-day staples and basic goods, in an era where their real earning power has been sinking steadily for decades. If a few of them manage to splurge for a cheap flat-screen TV once in a while, more power to them, but they're mostly there cause they can't afford the luxury of sticking it to Sam Walton by shopping somewhere else.
posted by edheil at 1:57 PM on December 16, 2010 [1 favorite]


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