Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Why I Worry: Reasons for Pessimism

I know it serves no purpose to worry about what you can't control, but I can't help it.

I worry about terrorism. Just a few examples: mutated smallpox released in an airport lobby, hacking a "too-big-to-fail' financial institution including the U.S. Treasury, a reservoir poisoned with a communicable pathogen, a suicide bomber detonating a nuke from his truck in Times Square or near a major power station.

I worry there won't be enough work to go around. Ever more onerous costs of employing an American will accelerate use of technology and offshoring to replace human workers.

I worry that despite 75 years of massive effort and multi-trillion-dollar spending on education and job training, the achievement gap remains as wide as ever. And as ever more jobs require ever more reasoning and technical skills, I fear the achievement gap will expand yet further. 

I worry about Americans' health care.  The system is already overwhelmed, killing 440,000 patients due to medical errors every year.  Add millions more people, mainly low-paying, and we're all at literally grave risk.

I worry about a country that can't restrain itself from spending more than it has, no matter how big its debt nor how fast that debt is growing. Eventually it will come back to haunt us: perhaps the U.S. owned by China, perhaps wildly inflating dollars, rampant poverty. I'm not smart enough to know what will happen. I do know that massive debt is a house of cards.

I worry that the least intelligent people have the most babies.

I worry about dying--usually painful, protracted, ending in nothingness.

I worry that I'm not as savvy as I need to be as a counselor. I try so hard with every client yet too many don't end up successful.

I worry that I'm not a good enough husband.

I worry that all my books, articles, blog posts, and tweets won't have made enough of a difference.

I wish I could be more optimistic and where that's not rational, that I could anesthetize myself with fun or religion. Alas, I can't.


Kevin Newell said...

Hi Marty,
Just a couple of comments. Your clients success is ultimately their responsibly. I think that even if people are completely miserable in their jobs, the prospect of, or work involved in, changing their careers discourages most people. This is even if such a change would likely give then much more happiness. Most people are risk averse and would rather stay as is, no matter how uncomfortable. Whether all your published work may not have made a difference: I suspect you have helped many more than you realise through the radio show alone.

Marty Nemko said...

Thank you, Kevin for your kind, supportive words. I do try.

Jim Bracco said...

There are 3 glimmers of hope you might reconsider.

1 – You’re correct about the dangers of liberalism. You are correct about the poisonous effect of liberalism on education and competitiveness and the ability of people to think straight. You’re
right. And right now we are in the throes of liberal control which will have a damaging impact across the board. But did you consider that it will eventually screw itself? It always does.

Hopefully before it’s too late, even the low information voters will see and feel the result of
liberal policies and start pulling the lever for self-sufficiency, for liberty for the values that
made this country formerly great.

2 - Technology – A glimmer of hope. There are lots of things happening in tech:

Consumerization, Mobile, Internet of Things, Cloud, Big Data, Biotech, medical, environmental science...

Luckily liberalism hasn’t totally dimmed innovation yet.

Some, like cloud, are over-hyped but still vital and there is a good chance that an evolving
technology will reach critical mass, creating another boom. Mobile and cloud are still in
the wild west / gadget stages but the end game around those will be revolutionary change in the nature of where and how we live and work. What will be the offshoots of that?

Maybe booms and crashes are going to be how our economy works for now. Not the entrĂ©e I would order, but as long as there are both I’ll live with it.

3 – Energy

The US will be a net energy exporter in the short term. Not my area of expertise, but how can that not have a revolutionary impact on the future? Maybe we can even get our light bulbs back.

Marty Nemko said...

Thanks, Jim but alas they are insufficiently mollifying to me.

I do not see people, especially the ever higher percentage of voters who are, as you call them "low-information voters" opting to shrink government---they're waaaay too dependent on its largesse. People DO, disproportionately, vote their pocketbooks.

2. Tech will both provide boons to people and kill a large percentage of the jobs.

3. Energy exporting is a short-term small-potatoes factor. It won't begin to affect the long-term viability of Redistributive America.

Jim Bracco said...

I totally share your pessimism, the only difference is I think there are a few rays of hope.

2-Are you against advancements in technology from a jobs perspective?, economic growth? The conventional wisdom says it brings more jobs long term than it displaces, albeit different types of jobs. You don’t buy that apparently and I would be interested to hear more of your view on that.

2-One clarification re: energy, I wasn’t referring to the value of energy exports.

It’s about the transformative effect that lower energy costs, lessened dependence on the Middle East, less terrorism, etc. will have on our economy and job opportunities doing things like converting vehicles and transportation systems to natural gas (starting with the government fleet, hopefully). There’s got to be some hope there.

Someone said that advances in technology and energy always result in changes that were unimaginable 10 years earlier.

Marty Nemko said...

I do think this time, technology will result in a decrease of jobs for the reasons I outline--notably that today's products are disproportionately software, which require no additional people to manufacture. Also as technology gets ever better, it's ever more possible to replace people with robots. And in our era of redistribution, costs of hiring a person, especially in the US are ever less enticing compared with a robot or offshored worker.

Energy savings, for the same reason, won't create a lot of jobs. Much manufacturing--such as software--is minimally energy-dependent.