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Headed for The Last one Standing

By       Message Philip Greene     Permalink
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I am not talking here about the wars which drag on endlessly in Iraq or Afghanistan (this generation's Forgotten War, even as it continues), but the economic war that has raged since the Industrial Revolution and Adam Smith's vision of the world.

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I realize that this takes a bit of explaining.

The Second World came about due to the economic and political sanctions forced upon Germany after the First World War. The victorious Allies wanted to crush any possibility of Germany's ever again rising to power and threatening the stability of the world the Allies wished to inhabit.

When the Great Depression came along, Germany, probably more than any other western nation felt its effects. Inflation rose to astronomical levels -- a wheel barrow full of money was not enough to purchase even a loaf of bread -- and unemployment reached the point beyond crisis.

All this gave rise to Hitler who promised a better world if only the people of Germany would let him have the power to do what he knew was best for them. The result was that all of Europe and most of the rest of the world was driven into war by the Axis powers allied with Hitler.

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When it was all over, only two combatants were left standing -- the U.S. and the U.S.S.R. -- two giants who were exhausted, but still on their feet and still able to produce goods and services. That ability created them as Superpowers and gave rise to the Cold War.

Supposedly, that Cold War ended in 1990 with the collapse of the Soviet Union as an empire, leaving only the U.S. as a superpower in the world. American could finally have its way unchallenged and could make the world over in its own image.

As I look back over the same period of time -- and further back into the 18th Century and the Industrial Revolution, I see the same struggle taking place in terms of the power of commerce and money, with much the same outcome.

When industrialization began, the field was open to anyone enterprising enough to come up with an idea and raise the capital to put their idea into action. The image was sold -- and still is, if we read some of the books on the matter -- that anyone could be a success if only they had the resolve and the drive to do so.

We know that is as much poppycock as, for instance, Latvia staging meaningful resistance against Hitler's Blitzkrieg. There were doubtless hundreds of thousands of people throughout the now-industrialized world who, just as today, had fantastic ideas but could never achieve them because they were too busy trying to keep food on the table and a roof over their heads to be able to put time, money and effort into the project.

Still, there was a window of opportunity in which one could -- and many did -- elevate themselves from poverty into wealth. And, we are told, it can be done today, if only . . . so on, and so forth.

But the fact is -- and here is the connection with the Second World War -- with each economic cycle, wealth is centered in fewer and fewer hands. Economic survival, just as in survival in war, centers on having the resources to survive it. Those who got, shall get, those who not shall lose.

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It is no secret that, while they may moan and complain, the "gots" are not suffering all that much. If they make sacrifices at all, they are so miniscule as to be unnoticeable to those of us who worry about losing our homes or possibly our jobs. It is no irony that those who are on the bottom are the ones who are at the mercy of those who are at the top -- as always.

Just as the U.S. was the "last man standing" in the chain of events leading from WWII through 1990, so it is, in essence, with the economic superpowers; those we know as the ultra-rich. In this case, it is not so much a single power as a single entity; an oligarchy with a very limited membership.

In the 1980s, Ronald Reagan proposed that his economic philosophy, which he called "trickle down", would bring increased wealth to the nation. But just as the term "trickle" implies, the farther downhill the stream trickles, the smaller and weaker that trickle becomes, until, at the lowest level of the stream, it is all but nonexistent.

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For 12 years, as a professional journalist, I covered education, environmental legislation, criminal courts, and politics. Throughout my career, I described myself as from the "Dragnet School of journalism -- Just the facts, ma'am, just the (more...)

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