The richest large economy in the world, says Temin, is coming to have an economic and political structure more like a developing nation. We have entered a phase of regression, and one of the easiest ways to see it is in our infrastructure: our roads and bridges look more like those in Thailand or Venezuela than the Netherlands or Japan. But it goes far deeper than that, which is why Temin uses a famous economic model created to understand developing nations to describe how far inequality has progressed in the United States. The model is the work of West Indian economist W. Arthur Lewis, the only person of African descent to win a Nobel Prize in economics. For the first time, this model is applied with systematic precision to the U.S.It's interesting that the unraveling of the American economy has played out on about the same timeline and pace as the dangerous effects of climate change have become more readily manifest. Both events have played out such that we've raised two generations (Xers and Millenials) under a cloud of dread.
The result is profoundly disturbing.
It's not apathy, though. There are plenty of smart, motivated, and mobilized people desperate to do something. But when we're being honest, nobody expects matters improve regardless of what we do. That's what I worry about most; that what we think of as even the most intolerable of conditions are actually quite sustainable; that oppressive political systems can succeed for extended periods of time as long as the elite classes remain at consensus; and that we haven't even begun to test the limits of our endurance.