Saturday, May 17, 2014

Is Multiculturalism Destroying Society?

As the U.S. economy is stuck in a rut, natural born Americans search for someone or something to blame for our problems. Unfortunately, the foreigners have caught the eyes of the Americans. Thus, some Americans claim multiculturalism is destroying our society as the foreigners undermine our American values.

How do we define culture? Culture binds the people together to form a society. Thus, culture becomes a glue as the people share the same language, religion, history, culture, and cuisine. Then they teach and pass down this culture onto their children. Subsequently, culture breathes life as people share the same experiences, identity, and fellowship.

Are the foreigners diluting and weakening our culture? In the old days, the U.S. government let foreigners move into our country. The foreigners moved into a neighborhood filled with people from their country or even from the same region in their country. Then the immigrants learned to speak English and sent their children to public schools. Their children learned English while they assimilated into the American culture. Many of these children became Americans and moved out from the immigrant neighborhoods in the pursuit of their dreams. Along their journeys, they forgot their language, history, and roots of their home countries and adopted everything American.

Now, things have changed. New immigrants entering the United States are not assimilating into society. They form tight knit communities that retain their language, customs, and culture. Some of these communities became large enough to influence elections in their districts. Then our government and institutions frown on our American culture and encourage these communities to retain their culture and identity, avoiding the assimilation into society. However, many factors could undermine our culture, but we notice the foreigners who choose not assimilate into society.

In the old days before cable and satellite tv, people had a limited number of tv and radio stations – usually five tv stations and 7 radio stations. With everyone watching the same programs and shows and listening to the same music, the people shared similar experiences. Moreover, they read the same books listed on the bestseller lists and watched the same movies while sitting in the cinemas. As people huddled around the water cooler during breaks at work, people discussed what they had seen, had listened, or had read the previous night. Our media bonded people together so we formed an identity, a shared experience.

Through technology, people currently have access to a numerous assortment of shows and media. Basic cable offers around 30 channels while satellite tv can provide hundreds of channels. Furthermore, satellite radio allows listeners to choose from a variety of music genres. Some people listen to radio talk shows that center on political or Christian themes. Presently, people do not watch the same shows and movies as they split themselves into small groups and cliques. Since they no longer share the same experiences, they isolate themselves at work and eat their lunches alone at their desks. Unfortunately, culture no longer brings, binds, and bonds people together.

We witness the same phenomenon with books, magazines, and newspapers. For instance, Amazon allows readers to select and buy roughly ten million books because Amazon lets artists and writers self-publish their works, immersing consumers with a large amount of music and books they can enjoy. Thus, everyone reads different books, listens to different music, and watches different movies and tv shows. With the internet, people have access to thousands of blogs, international newspapers, and websites. Thus, people no longer share the same experiences or think the same ideas. Thus, culture becomes fragmented, lost, and damaged.

Leaders in government, organizations, and schools helped chisel away at our culture. Children no longer pledge their allegiance to one flag, to one nation under God. Thus, the children never learn to appreciate their heritage, culture, and history. Moreover, many leaders view religion as an antiquated institution that an enlightened society must eliminate. However, religion becomes another force uniting and binding people together. Now, many Americans no longer attend church on Sunday, and they no longer feel proud to call themselves Americans.

Our leaders spread their disdain to the traditional family – another antiquated institution that must be broken up. Before the 1990s, everyone stressed the nuclear family – the husband, wife, and children. Now, leaders in our institutions encourage the new age relationships – lesbians, gays, bisexuals, and transgender. Perhaps the leaders encourage these new age relationships because religions of the world stress the union between a man and a woman. However, this new sexuality comprises a small portion of the population with some estimates ranging, at best, up to 3.5% of the U.S. population. Nevertheless, sexuality issues dominate the news, media, and public policies. Of course, heterosexuals must keep their details of their relationships in the bedroom secret while the new, sexually free can scream in your face about their exploits.

Several factors are destroying our culture and heritage. Multiculturalism represents a small factor, but one that everyone easily notices. Everyone has driven through the unassimilated communities with the foreign language written on the signs and windows. Even if the United States banned foreigners from entering the country, we would still experience a fractured, fragmented society. Technology has evolved that allow consumers the freedom to choose a multitude of foods, music, books, tv shows, and movies. We belittle religion, encourage people to explore their sexuality, and frown down upon marriage. Thus, we no longer share the same media, experience, and heritage as our society has fractured into many cliques and small groups with diverging interests. We, Americans, have lost ourselves while our culture no longer binds us together.

Thursday, May 15, 2014

Has Technology Made Our Society Worse?

People at one time were self-sufficient and made many of their goods at home. They grew vegetables in backyard gardens, and planted fruit and nut trees around their properties. They raised chickens in backyard coops supplying the household with fresh eggs and chicken. If they had enough land, they could raise pigs, goats, horses, and cows. Then people used natural ingredients to prepare their family meals. They pickled and jarred their own vegetables and made their own jams and jellies. Some families brewed their own beers and fermented their own wines. The men fixed and repaired the homes, barns, and mechanical devices while the women sewed their own clothes, blankets, and quilts. If a family over produces a product, they could barter with a neighbor for another.

Then technology happened, which led to large-scale specialization. Businesses sprang up and manufactured products and services, filling the stores' shelves with mass-produced products while they transformed labor into automatons working on the assembly lines. The young people migrated from the farms as they searched for jobs in the cities with greater salaries and acquired specialized skills to work in the factories. Then society began losing its craftsmen, artisans, and know how. The young no longer want to maintain the traditional ways while the old can no longer pass down their trades and skills to the next generation. Both China and United States are losing skills and traditions of the elders as everyone consumes the same mass-produced products and services that fill every stores' shelves.

Being self-sufficient, people need not rely on outsiders for their jobs, incomes, and security. They create their own work at home and isolate themselves from the vagaries of the national economy. Even if a country were suffering from a severe recession or depression, self-sufficient people would lightly feel the economy's problems. They rely on themselves for their income, wealth, and prosperity. Unfortunately, technology has converted self-sufficiency into economic growth as companies grew into monstrosities wreaking damages on our psyches, health, and souls.

Look at our society! Whole industries sprang up to replace self-sufficiency. Unfortunately, people rely on grocery stores, fast food joints, and restaurants to provide processed foods saturated with preservatives, chemicals, and dyes. Many people forgot the art of cooking but they can plop processed foods into a microwave to heat them up quickly. Then some people begin wondering why so many people are stricken with sickness, debilitating diseases, and poor health.

People producing their food would never add chemicals, preservatives, and dyes to their food and feed it to their children and loved ones. Even restaurants that do not add chemicals always dump sugar, oil, fats, and salt to heighten the food's taste. Subsequently, companies and corporations have taken over the family farms and boosted the insanity of technology. The corporations genetically modify vegetables and animals to boost yields. Our political leaders promised genetically modified food would never enter the human food supply, but they lied, of course. When the voters are not looking, the companies and corporations lavish the politicians with kickbacks, bribes, and gifts.

The whole food supply chain feels the insanity of technology. Monsanto genetically modifies corn and soybeans, so farmers can spray Roundup on the weeds and crops to kill the weeds. Remember Roundup is an herbicide that kills plants on contact. Then poultry farms reengineered chickens, so they grow from egg to a fully-grown chicken within a month instead of the usual two months. Sometimes the chickens grow too fast that they keep falling to the ground from their own weight. Finally, farmers raise salmon in ponds and feed them leftover wastes. Farm raised salmon contains little healthy fats while natural ocean salmon brims with healthy fatty acids and nutrients.

Modern production and technology have transformed our society into a throwaway society. Industries and companies sell their products for the lowest prices. People no longer repair clothes, and they quickly throw clothes away after they become faded, torn, old, or out of style. In the good ole days, many electronics and appliances lasted several decades. Currently, electronic gadgets and appliances easily break or quickly become obsolete. People no longer bother to repair their broken appliances. Instead, they toss them into the trash and speed to the nearest store for replacements. Unfortunately, the technicians and repairmen have become a causality of our throwaway society.

Technology causes shifts in our society as some industries rise while others fall. For example, people switched their incandescent light bulbs to the energy-efficient fluorescent ones. Thus, the factories producing the fluorescent lights bulbs expanded and grew while the factories making incandescent fell still, silent, and inactive. Workers who made incandescent light bulbs saw their skills become obsolete and useless as society no longer needs them anymore. Thus, skilled workers must keep updating their skills, or they will perish in our modern society.

Technology has turned full circle as companies have begun competing fiercely. Manufacturing companies and factories continually replace their workers with machines because humans have become too expensive to employ while a machine can stamp out thousands of parts per hour and never demand wage hikes. Then companies try to sell a product or service for the lowest price. Unfortunately, to produce at low costs, companies manufacture clothing, textiles, and electronics in third world countries by paying slave wages to the workers. Accordingly, the developed world has relocated its factories to the developing countries, enslaving them with technology, exterminating their culture, and filling their heads with materialistic needs.

Technology has become synonymous with computers, reducing human contact and intimacy to strokes on a keyboard. People and families enter virtual worlds in the machine as they navigate through artificial worlds or play computer games. They no longer play cards or board games with friends and family. They stopped reading books, newspapers, and magazines. Then the books and magazines gather dust as they sit on the neglected shelves. Thus, young people become smart using technology but they can no longer read and write. Young people listlessly sit down and become lost in their cellphones, ignoring the world around them. Technology has quickly isolated us from our fellow humans and channeled our contacts through cold, impersonal devices.

Businesses over rely on computers and have become a hostage to technology. Businesses use computers to power cash registers, ATM machines, and electronic commerce. Unfortunately, computers fail during blackouts as businesses cannot sell products and services. Then commerce breaks down and grinds to a halt. Of course, people cannot use the internet or cell phones without electricity. They sit in the dark, pouting, wondering why they cannot read their email or access Facebook.

Technology has made our modern society less stable. Self-sufficient people would feel a small impact from downturns in the economy. During the Great Depression, many U.S. families lived on farms and produced their own food. People who have the ability to produce their own food or make their own things do not need to work in the nation's factories. They remain their own bosses in their homes and work near their families.

Unfortunately, our modern society has become flawed. Agriculture comprises a tiny fraction of the U.S. economy. A severe downturn in the economy can be quite disruptive if a large number of people become unemployed. Then people and families would see their incomes plummet, and they would reduce their spending. They are no longer self-sufficient, cannot grow their own food, or produce their own things. When laid off workers stop paying their mortgages, the banks will foreclose and evict them from their homes. As the people become homeless, they are left starving on the streets with no ideas of self-sufficiency. In the rush to join the technological world, the people forgot their roots and how to sustain for themselves without relying on technology.

Saturday, May 10, 2014

Thomas Piketty, Income Inequality, and the Wealthy

Thomas Piketty, the new red-hot French economist, has taken the world by storm by writing his bestseller – Capital in the Twenty-First Century. He studied income inequality for many nations and summarized them in his book.

Thomas concluded family dynasties control the economy and not the new wealthy. Furthermore, the rate of return on capital exceeds the economy's growth rate. What does this mean? Everyone takes a slice of the economic pie by working and spending in the economy. A growing economy expands the economic pie, so, in theory, everyone in society can take a larger slice. However, the wealthy earn incomes from owning the capital. Thus, their share of the pie grows faster than everyone else. Thus, the rich are becoming richer while the poor are getting poorer. Dr. Piketty has recited Karl Marx with the same twist, which leads to Rule 1.

Rule 1: Every society has a wealthy or privileged class.

Name a society that eliminated their wealthy and made everyone equal? The Soviet Union! Although Vladimir Lenin and his gang seized all the capital – land, buildings, machines, and equipment, they created a new privileged class – the members of the communist party. They called them apparatchiks – the Russian root meaning apparatus. They became the devices of the state, cogs in the bureaucratic machinery, to carry out the communist philosophy. This system had failed.

As the Soviet Union was disintegrating, the top ranking communist party members grabbed the state's assets and became the new businessmen in Russia.

If countries adopting communism are so great, why do these countries imprison their citizens behind barb wire and walls? The military guards and patrols the borders, preventing its citizens from escaping. Communist governments also form large prison camps and incarcerate any dissident or citizen with the slightest inkling of dissent. Reading the wrong book at the library could trigger a life sentence in a political prison camp.

Communists held another tenant - everyone must work. Although the communists freed the workers from the capitalists, the workers became slaves to their new masters – the state via the communists. Societies can achieve great things with slave labor such as building the pyramids of Egypt or harvesting the cotton fields in the southern United States during the hot, humid summers.

That brings Rule 2. China, Cuba, Russia, North Korea, and Vietnam have tried Communism, and all of them had failed. All these countries except North Korea started incorporating market economics and capitalism into their systems. Communism in its pure form does not work and will never work.

Rule 2: No country has ever adopted and used Communism successfully.

As Deng Xiaoping regained power and became president in China, he said, "I have two choices. I can distribute poverty or I can distribute wealth." Then he gradually opened China to free markets. Starting in the late 1970s, he began deregulating the agricultural markets and allowed people to grow and sell their own food. Then he allowed entrepreneurs to start and manage small and medium size businesses. However, the communist party of China still controls the large-scale enterprises.

The communists claim these countries took shortcuts and never adapted Communism correctly. Experts are right. A communist government never adopted the ideas of Communism correctly. If countries cannot adopt it correctly, then why try it? On the other side, if we did adopt communism, whom do you think will be the new communist party members? The same politicians, we have elected into office.

I have read Karl Marx. He never said everyone should earn identical wages, and everyone should receive equal pay. He stated workers should earn the value they contribute to a good. For example, if a worker contributes $500 to a product, then he or she should receive $500 in wages for that work. However, the owners of capital siphon away the worker's contribution and pay the worker a fraction of his or her contribution. Marx never said all workers should earn the same wages.

Then Piketty added the rich inherit their wealth. Did he have to tell us that? Everyone already knew this. How many millionaires and billionaires donate all their wealth to charity after their death? Only a handful of the wealthy such as Bill Gates, Warren Buffet, and Mark Zuckerberg donate large sums to charity. Piketty is correct – the wealthy garner larger shares of the capital, which leads to Rule 3.
Rule 3: Wealthy can easily maintain, expand, and propagate their wealth.

For example, Bill Gates founded Microsoft that successfully copyrighted the software for an operating system. Since then, Microsoft has not developed innovated products. However, when the company sees something new, it buys and assimilates the company into Microsoft. This has been occurring in the U.S. economy during the 20th century. In the early 1900s, the industries for tobacco, cars, beer, soda, and so on had dozens or more companies operating in the market. One hundred years later, two or three large corporations dominate these markets.

Wealth carries a dangerous side effect. Most people do not realize a country with a good legal system and private property rights will protect owners of the property. The wealthy will use the state to help protect them. For instance, I start a new company and introduce a new operating system. People like it and people begin switching from Microsoft's Windows to my system. Subsequently, Bill Gates contacts his friends in Washington, D.C. – the politicians whom everyone hates. The politicians can sic the tax authorities and regulators on me. With the numerous laws and regulations, they will find severe violations and use them to close me down or bankrupt me with massive fines. That leads to Rule 4.

Rule 4: In capitalistic countries with free markets, the government establishes institutions to protect private property. Then the state protects the wealthy who hold and own the property.

Piketty and others clamor a wealth tax or want government to impose more taxes on businesses. He is from France, and France imposes high taxes on everyone. Moreover, it had passed a wealth tax in 2006. Some of the wealthy fled France and moved their wealth to other countries. Although the French government raised $2.6 billion per year in new taxes, France lost about $125 billion in capital as the wealthy fled the country. Thus, all countries must pass the same wealth tax to stop the wealthy from fleeing. Of course, several countries will hold back such as Hong Kong, Monaco, and Singapore, giving the wealthy a haven to flee to.

I have liberal friends who criticize our political leaders. Then they turn around and want the government to tax the rich. Thus, the liberals want the politicians whom they despise to determine how to spend the tax money, leading to Rule 5. Politicians controlling more money can control and manipulate more things in society. As an illustration, just examine President's Obama's Healthcare Plan and the mess it has created.

Rule 5: A tax only expands the state's power and gives the government more control over the economy.

Paul Krugman, an advocate of Thomas Piketty, won the noble prize in economics in 2008. Sometimes, he can be brilliant and raise a good point in his blog and writings while, other times, I wonder if this guy came from a different planet. Sometimes he goes off the deep end, and I wonder if anyone takes Paul Krugman seriously anymore? Hey, hold on. He did propose the U.S. government should use Keynesian economics to build a defense against a Martian invasion. This brings us to Rule 6. Economists isolate themselves from society, and sometimes, they develop policies and recommendations that deviate far from reality.

Rule 6: Most economists come from the upper middle class and higher. If they teach or do research in a university, then they isolate themselves from the world and its problems.

Although I am not a Keynesian and do not want the government to expand taxes, I am also not a Republican. The Republicans can be scarier than their democrat counterparts. After the 2008 Financial Crisis, they began calling the wealthy the job creators. They cleverly spun a new twist on an old word, which becomes easy to dispel. In the last 20 years, what kind of jobs has the wealthy created? The good-paying jobs continue disappearing and being replaced with part-time, low-wage jobs.

I know because I remember growing up in Michigan. When I was a boy, many people worked in the factories producing cars and products for the nation and the world. Factory workers joined unions and earned high wages with excellent benefits. When I entered the workforce, these union jobs had disappeared - the first causality of international trade.

I am not bitter at the wealthy. Who cares about the rich? People who cannot find good-paying jobs should be allowed to create their own jobs, which becomes Rule 7. True capitalism lets anyone become entrepreneurs to create income for themselves. During the last three economic expansions, small and medium size businesses created the most jobs while large corporations created few jobs. As the economy expands, local and state governments also create jobs, hiring regulators to control the economy – the state's apparatchiks. Unfortunately, governments at all levels in the United States must control and regulate businesses.

Rule 7: A society with a good legal system should encourage its citizens to become entrepreneurs. Successful entrepreneurs establish growing prosperous companies that hire workers.

For example, Thailand has a poor legal system, but the Thai government lets its citizen work and support themselves. I walked by a street corner several times with a space of 10 feet by 20 feet on the sidewalk along the curb. In the morning, the entrepreneurs sold t-shirts. Then they transformed this space into an outdoor restaurant in the afternoon and a bar at nighttime. Imagine how many rules and regulations this business would violate in the United States if an entrepreneur tried to do this on any street corner in any U.S. city.