Economic Outlook: Decentralization and Personal Economic Responsibility

Causes for concern within the 1980s economy include rising unemployment and decreasing the spendable average of working earnings and personal savings rates.

| January/February 1982

  • Joblessness
    Take personal responsibility for life — because the government isn't going to.

  • Joblessness

Since this column began (way back in 1975), it has — with all the force that conviction and constant repetition could muster — put out the same clarion call: The days of inexpensive energy and a happily expanding economy are gone forever.

Of course, simply sounding that early warning of the economic and social uncertainties that are today beginning (but, I'm afraid, only beginning) to affect all of our lives has some value, but we've tried to go beyond merely pointing out problems by advising you to get out of the credit card/worthless-paper-money economy and work toward the point where your family can satisfy most of its needs without having to depend upon food raised by soil-killing agribusiness "farms" or energy produced at the expense of a clean environment.

Well, for a long time our nation's leaders — and most of the media — pretty much discounted such warnings. However, it seems that the situation has finally gotten so far out of hand that some of the powers-that-be — both in government and in the press — are being forced to abandon their former policy of "let's ignore it and maybe it'll go away." Unfortunately, the very attention being given to our economic predicaments — in the President's speeches as well as the pages of the Wall Street Journal — appears to be causing many folks, out of fear, to be more willing than ever to follow unquestioningly whatever course the government proposes.

Now there certainly are problems in our immediate future severe enough to frighten anyone — and fear can sometimes help people break out of the seductive traps of lethargy and indifference and prepare themselves to face up to whatever they fear. However, when great numbers of men and women are afraid and neither understand exactly what's frightening them nor are given any concrete advice about just how they can work to eliminate or lessen the reason for their fears, a very dangerous situation can develop.

The Slumping 1980s Economy

That's just what seems to be happening in the U.S. today: Folks are afraid. They see the value of their earnings dropping far more rapidly than their wages can rise (a family that earned $9,867 in 1970, according to a recent study, would have had to bring in $24,035 in 1981 just to have the same purchasing power that they had a decade earlier!) and they recognize (particularly people living in most of the major crop-producing areas of North America) that the last two years' dry weather has drastically lowered the water table in many regions. They also know that decent jobs are getting more and more difficult to find (and those who are out of work, ironically enough, see that many of the products being made by people who are working seem to reflect neither pride nor concern for quality) and they're faced with the fact that it's somehow harder than it used to be to hold a family together and that — in the country now as well as in the cities — our loss of such social grounding is helping to produce more and more individuals who will gladly steal whatever they want, and even feel a whining sort of self-justification in doing so!

So people are afraid — and, worse yet, they're convinced that they unknowingly helped bring about much of what they fear — and it has suddenly become all too easy to persuade many of them to accept an answer, any answer, that promises to ease the fear and (perhaps more important still) take away the burden of the responsibility that they have somehow, with no malice, mishandled. That is perhaps the greatest danger facing the world today!

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