06 November 2009

She Who Must Be Obeyed

She Who Must Be Obeyed got a wild hair up her butt. Said hair involves the Washington Post, which is running a Pundit for a Month contest (the name is something like that, anyway). One had to submit a 400 word piece and a 100 word bio. There was only one round, the 10 finalists get to write some number of pieces. The winner gets paid a few bucks to write a few pieces. The particulars are at the paper. The following is what I submitted, but didn't make the final 10. The reason it matters follows the text:

For want of a plague, the planet was lost. It is a much ignored factoid of history that the Black Death, Great Plague, Black Plague beginning in the 14th century, when it reached its height at inception, led to the middle class nirvana which we may well be exiting. Such exit will be whether we like it or not and whether we control it or not. The estimate of the number of people killed in the initial Great Plagues of the 1300's varies from 30% to 60% of Europeans. At the time, Europe was divided neatly between Haves and Havenots, with the Havenots doing the work of supporting the Haves.

With the plagues killing off so many Havenots, the wages of the survivors increased substantially. Not to Trumpian levels, of course. The result was also the beginning of guilding, which worked to regularize and protect the livelihoods of skilled peasants, who in a few generations progressed beyond peasantry. What we need today is a new plague. The nub however, is that OutSourcing was not an option in 14th century Europe. The internet hadn't been invented yet, and most work was physical by nature. The duke couldn't reasonably hire an Indian in Bangalore to birth a calf, much less do the fife's sums, you know.

Another couple of oft ignored factoids: in the year Before Reagan (BR) in the US, the top 1% took 8% of income, while now it is 23%; and the US, in toto, consumes about 24% of the world's resources.

Putting these three factoids together yields the following conclusion. If one were to nuke Africa, South America, and Asia, thereby eliminating about 4.5 billion humans only one of our predicaments (disappearing middle class) might be averted. With no more place to OutSource, the 1% would be forced to re-create a middle class and its current remnants wouldn't be forced to expire. That nasty part is done by others. The environmental catastrophe would be barely dented, since the per capita resource consumption of those 4.5 billion humans scarcely registers. There still isn't enough stuff on the planet to keep the US going for very long. A sub-Sharan village consumes less than an overweight, pre-diabetic, text addled teenager in Chantilly.

To save the planet, we must sacrifice upper middle class suburbs.

I submitted that around 18 October. I got my rejection about 1 November. A few days later, it was reported that world wide wages had declined. Where's a vigorous plague when you need it?

The reference to that teenager in Chantilly is an inside joke. Chantilly is/was a very affluent suburban area in Northern Virginia, which wouldn't vote for that downstate Cracker the Democrats nominated, a fact which was not yet revealed when I wrote.

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