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Web Letter

That Mr. Greider writes so effectively and beautifully, and that his prose contrasts so starkly with the Big Government Collectivist views that he spouts, just reaffirms the maxim that liberals should be placed in charge of conceiving of good intentions, and nothing else.

Does Mr. Greider even realize that he has the freedom to espouse his claptrap only because our forefathers took this land and its resources, at gunpoint, from the Native Americans that originally inhabited it? A people who, by my accounting, possess all the values called for by Mr. Greider in his new master race of enlightened humanity.

The very least that Mr. Greider could do to contribute to humanity would be to write some excellent fiction, instead of subjecting us to the wanton hubris that fills his pulpit of sanctimony, to coerce people to live their lives in a particular way, all in the name of the Greater Good.

Eugene S. Park

Chicago, IL

Jun 3 2009 - 11:32pm

Web Letter

Exciting ideas... but why are they so jingoistic?

Until we supply more of the world's immediate, pressing needs for food, water and medicine, we have no business fantasizing about our own national utopia.

There's not an ounce of this in Greider's thinking. He ends up being as selfish as the current business-first model.

I believe the new calling is much more communal. We have an inborn yearning to provide for others, and our current system simply fails to factor it in.

Even churches don't exercise imagination here: either they play Lady Bountiful, and commit all the relevant sins of pridefulness in doing so; or they do good works for the ulterior motive of gaining members, which plays to the manipulative attitude so prevalent in our society already.

The idea of a legitimate exchange of goods and services at fair rates just doesn't get discussed. Perhaps this is because we are so far from being "for others" in the sense Christ encouraged.

I'm tired of remedies for America. I want global discussion of problems, shared by many ranks and affiliations.

It's a much more religious vision than we're comfortable with.

The conservative Christians and Muslims have something to teach us here, just as we have something to prod them into facing, as mainline Western people of faith. It starts, I believe, with nonviolent resistance of injustice at every level, regularly and charitably, as a way of life.

Arthur Dan Gleckler

Baltimore, MD

May 14 2009 - 8:18pm

Web Letter

While this article is a great read with a utopian dream, it is too far off the mark of reality. Do not get me wrong: I would like to see everything in this article accomplished.

My biggest fear in this day and age is that there are a lot of good ideas out there, and books written on how to accomplish them, but no concrete evidence that anyone is taking them seriously.

Perhaps I am so negative because of my own personal lack of professional progress, for which cannot really blame anyone but myself. I am college-educated, and work for a broker/dealer, but really do not see any professional progress in my life for the last ten years.

I would love to see American change into a kind of socialist-capitalist state as suggested in this article. I really think it is needed, but again I think in order to do this would take a revolution!

Lee Lipman

San Diego, CA

May 14 2009 - 2:12pm

Web Letter

Mr. William Greider writes about the ideas and life-targets that have many times been the subject of my questions to my Western friends. Why do you hurry? What does "life" mean to you ? When do you want to use your own life and your skills for your own personal satisfaction, to feel you are useful ? In the name of the permanent profit of capital, you are spending sixteen and more hours a day working for a salary that gives you just the possibility to eat and to be dressed and to have a roof over your head, and there is no time to really realize life.

Everything starts with the social system. The right to get a job and to be decently paid for it. Then working-time regulations and the right to have a rest. This will give families time to live together, and for parents to teach children to behave when they need it. It will refresh minds and allow time to create personality. But this requires social solidarity. From an early age children need the possibility of free time to engage in interest groups where they may learn arts and crafts, to produce by themselves simple or more complicated products with the help of a qualified older teacher. This will give them a sense of responsibility, a sense of skillfulness and pride in their own ability to create, to discover for themselves.

America is strongly oriented to family life, OK, but what does that mean? Sitting in the living room together and watching TV? Taking a trip by car, going to the local McDonald's, drinking some beers and going home?

In the Czech Republic, we were brought up with something called active rest. It was possible only because there was a strictly regulated working law for parents, reducing the work week to forty-two hours, giving women some rights to take care of family and children etc. Everything depends on the society and its priorities.

History teaches us that all societies where the priority was given to money etc. were lost because money made it possible to buy anything, even rights and law. From this point of view, America should change everyday life, but it will be not easy. "Custom is an iron shirt," but life's validity is not in material richness and money. To change means first to want to change and second to create, step by step, patiently, social instruments to support these social changes.

From history it is also well known that these changes never come "from the top"--they have to be initiated from below.

George Dvorak

Saigon City, Vietnam

May 14 2009 - 1:54am

Web Letter

I found William Greider's article uplifting. I am a high school social studies teacher caught up in the struggle of 108 teachers being laid off in my school district because of the poor economy and not saved by Obama's stimulus plan. I'm one of the lucky ones. I've still got my job.

So Greider's article cheered me up, at least for a while. Then I got into his daydreams. I liked the first one--a livable wage. The second and third ones are pretty good, too--having to do with democratizing the workplace and creating the social corporation, but they seem to be way up in the clouds for me. Here's my Numbers 2 and 3. For number 2, we simply need to enact single-payer universal healthcare. It just shouldn't be so hard to do what every modern industrial economy does in this world--provide reasonable cost healthcare for all of its citizens. Number 3 is a little harder. We need an educational system that allows every high school graduate with a B average a fully paid college education up to and including a doctorate as long as the student maintains satisfactory grades.

If we can provide that three-point level of social safety net, then everything is possible, including Greider's daydreams.

Bill Crowley

Fort Wayne, IN

May 13 2009 - 5:32pm

Web Letter

I share Greider's vision of a society that saves itself from collapsing by putting a premium on human pursuits other than consumption. There is, however, one erroneous assumption stated several times in the article--that scarcity and deprivation are forever behind us. We are facing a resource-depletion crisis that will make the current financial crisis look like the good ol' days. Oil, gas, water, metals, topsoil--you name it, and the world will soon not have enough of it to meet the demands of a rapidly growing population.

Alongside the cultural and philosophical shifts Greider dreams of, we need to focus (quickly!) on some very pragmatic problems, such as how to feed 7 billion poeple without fossil-fuel-based fertilizers, pesticides, farm equipment and delivery trucks. Greider calls for full employment, but as resources dwindle, unemployment must soar. What will a post-carbon society look like? I'm not sure, but we had better start envisioning and building it rather than allowing the end of oil to catch us unprepared.

Greider's article is welcome, but he and other liberal-progressive economists such as Paul Krugman need to start acknowledging natural resource constraints in their analyses (as even Thomas Friedman has done of late). Seen through the lens of resource depletion, an even more radical transformation of our economy--for better or worse--is clearly in the cards.

Erica Etelson

Berkeley, CA

May 13 2009 - 10:53am

Web Letter

While I applaud Mr. Greider's suggestions for redefining the American Dream, it seems that control of our collective destiny is slipping further and further away from the "dreamers" and may already be out of our hands altogether. We must keep in mind, in stark clarity, the fact that America is a nation that imprisons an astounding percentage of its population, far more than any other "developed" nation. For ethnic minorities in many parts of the country, America is still a place where the iron ceiling of opportunity grows steadily stronger and more oppressive. Schools fail, families are broken, and amid lost jobs and a shrinking economy, the "prison-industrial complex" is one of this country's strongest growth industries.

Mr. Greider's assumption, on which he bases much of his discussion, that the United States is a rich nation is also seriously open to question. The myth of America's great wealth is belied by soaring national debt, and by the fact that, increasingly, what wealth this country has is concentrated in the hands of fewer and fewer individuals and organizations that hold and exercise power and control over the actions of our political leaders and over our national discussion of matters such as those Mr. Greider puts forward for our consideration.

While this article is noble in its intent, it brings to mind many of the articles I've seen expressing nostalgia for the "good old days" when life was simpler, crime was lower and anything was possible for anyone. These articles always neglect to mention that in the "good old days," in much of this country, a person of color couldn't safely travel beyond or even within his own community, that the role of women in the workplace was limited to nonexistent, that American wealth was based on and built in large part on the exploitation of the labor and resources of other, less powerful nations.

Mr. Grieder, who is going to tell the real wielders of power in this country that they must relinquish their power for the common good? Who will enforce this vision when they laugh in our faces or, as is more likely, simply ignore us, as they have done to the voices of courageous people such as Michael Moore? Please keep dreaming, Mr. Greider, but don't forget that history teaches us that real change will require both dreams and struggle, as well as both tears and joy, and the end result may well be far different from our wildest imaginings.

Lindsay Haisley

Leander, TX

May 13 2009 - 10:36am

Web Letter

After reading this article, I cried out loud.

Thank you, Mr. Greider, for writing about what my heart has, for years, whispered.

Debra Killian

Nederland, TX

May 13 2009 - 7:14am

Web Letter

Over the past thirty-plus years, we have been given a range of social and economic policies that, I believe, guarantee the end of the US as we knew it.

Through those "good times," when people were rolling in disposable income (or debt), a steadily growing chunk of America was falling deeper into poverty. We didn't care. We forgot about economic cycles, and decided to rip the social safety net out from under us. If you "work hard and play by all the rules," you won't be poor. We foolishly thought that welfare "reform" would effect only "the losers," unaware of how powerfully these policies would impact the whole of the working class. Wasn't hard to figure out, though...

We flooded the workforce with a (growing) mass of desperate people who can be required to do our jobs at a fraction of the pay. More workers, fewer jobs. And we can't do anything about it anymore. Go on strike? Don't bother, you'll be replaced by morning with workfare labor.

This has never been a full-employment economy. The difference now is that without that "failed welfare system," fewer people have the means to work their way back up out of poverty. Out of ignorance and/or apathy, we ended up shooting ourselves in the foot. Too bad.

We have lost all concept of how we (of different economic classes) are interrelated.

The oldest known strategy in war: divide and conquer. And We the People have been severely divided and, evidently, conquered.

Dianka H. Fabian

Fort Atkinson, WI

May 12 2009 - 7:49pm

Web Letter

Greider's article is right on the money! We have lost ourselves in the quest for personal wealth. The mechanics of his solution are a bit beyond my ability to judge--democratically run businesses seem to imply an equality of education and focus that I'm pretty sure doesn't exist --but the notion that the real joy of life is about something other than money is only too obvious. How to achieve it is another matter.

The article obviously set off a lot of "commie-pinko" alarm bells--see other responses--but I think everyone should just take a nice deep breath, and be happy that someone is looking for a better solution. Because, clearly, whatever we're doing now isn't working all that well.

Bart Braverman

Los Angeles, CA

May 12 2009 - 6:56pm

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