On the one hand, there’s earnest little think-pieces like this, that limn lively ideas whose time’s long since come, whose time’s been settled for a good long while now in the chair over there by the door, tapping its toe, looking at its watch; basic, simple ideas, easy to communicate, desperately necessary, more than able to carry us through the state in which we seem to have stuck ourselves:
As productivity increases, we seem faced with a choice between environmental disaster or massive unemployment. Unless, of course, we slow down by reducing working hours and sharing the work. Half a century of economic growth has not increased our happiness. More free time might well do so. It will certainly improve our health.
And on the other, there’s a couple of septaugenarian billionaires who’ve decided in their wisdom to poison the none-too-healthy political discourse of the United States, skirting genocidal levels of ethnic hatred; to pillage and loot the remnants of the vibrant middle class that was this country’s finest achievement, the whole point of all that hullabaloo of freedom and liberty; to repeat until we all can’t help but say ourselves: we can no longer afford to take care of the things we’ve built, the schools we need, the art we love, the friends and relations too old, too ill, unlucky at just the wrong time; they’ve coldly plotted, these two, the murder of millions if not billions of people yet to come, just as any supervillain might; they decree that my daughter and your son must live lives so much smaller than they possibly could have been, so much meaner than they potentially could be—and all because these two men in some abstract sense feel they are not making enough money, here and now; in some abstract sense (which no doubt they could explain to you at some length, with charts and diagrams), they feel they pay too much in taxes.
(Meanwhile? The nominally leftist party in this country, on the verge of historic midterm defeats, is standing up for unpopular tax cuts for the rich and quietly working to gut the last vestiges of its former triumphs.)
And, for an instant, she stared directly into those soft blue eyes and knew, with an instinctive mammalian certainty, that the exceedingly rich were no longer even remotely human.
(Yes, Papa. We know. They have more money. —Watch how big that more becomes, you let it grow unchecked a bit.)