The Inequality Issue and Why It Matters

I picked up the chart above from Ezra’s blog. You’ll notice the peak inequality years are 1928 and 2007, which suggests a link between income inequality and economic instability. And there’s a long historic link between wealth inequality and political instability as well.

Economics professor Tyler Cowen addresses this in an essay I find deeply unsatisfying. He dismisses the idea that the growing income inequality could lead to political instability —

In terms of immediate political stability, there is less to the income inequality issue than meets the eye. Most analyses of income inequality neglect two major points. First, the inequality of personal well-being is sharply down over the past hundred years and perhaps over the past twenty years as well. Bill Gates is much, much richer than I am, yet it is not obvious that he is much happier if, indeed, he is happier at all. I have access to penicillin, air travel, good cheap food, the Internet and virtually all of the technical innovations that Gates does. Like the vast majority of Americans, I have access to some important new pharmaceuticals, such as statins to protect against heart disease. To be sure, Gates receives the very best care from the world’s top doctors, but our health outcomes are in the same ballpark. I don’t have a private jet or take luxury vacations, and—I think it is fair to say—my house is much smaller than his. I can’t meet with the world’s elite on demand. Still, by broad historical standards, what I share with Bill Gates is far more significant than what I don’t share with him.

Compare these circumstances to those of 1911, a century ago. Even in the wealthier countries, the average person had little formal education, worked six days a week or more, often at hard physical labor, never took vacations, and could not access most of the world’s culture. The living standards of Carnegie and Rockefeller towered above those of typical Americans, not just in terms of money but also in terms of comfort. Most people today may not articulate this truth to themselves in so many words, but they sense it keenly enough. So when average people read about or see income inequality, they don’t feel the moral outrage that radiates from the more passionate egalitarian quarters of society. Instead, they think their lives are pretty good and that they either earned through hard work or lucked into a healthy share of the American dream. (The persistently unemployed, of course, are a different matter, and I will return to them later.) It is pretty easy to convince a lot of Americans that unemployment and poverty are social problems because discrete examples of both are visible on the evening news, or maybe even in or at the periphery of one’s own life. It’s much harder to get those same people worked up about generalized measures of inequality.

I’m sorry, but I don’t think the average American wakes up in the morning and thinks, “Yes, life sucks, but at least we have antibiotics!”

Cowen is a professor of economics at George Mason University and also a successful author. Academia doesn’t pay as well as private industry, true, but if Cowen thinks the situation of a tenured professor at a top university is representative of an Average Working American he has led a very sheltered life. He hasn’t even noticed that increasing numbers of Americans have lost access to 21st century medical care.

Second — I’m not sure how Cowen is measuring “personal well-being,” but when he compares the quality of life of today to that of the late 19th century, he leaves out a huge psychological factor — expectation. The gap between expectation and reality is filled with dissatisfaction. If the gap gets big enough, it can also be filled with fear, and then rage. The fact that our quality of life generally is better than it was 120 years ago is less important to the nation’s politics than whether it is what we expected fifty years ago, or twenty, or even five years ago.

Third — Personal security is not measured just by how much stuff we have, but how close we are to losing it.

And fourth — Cowen seems to think that the issue of inequality is that people are envious of those who have more stuff than they do. I don’t think that’s it at all. I do not think most not-rich people begrudge the rich and their cushier lives. The issue is that increasing numbers of middle-class Americans feel their own financial situations are being whittled away, and the ground beneath their feet shifting treacherously, and no one in power seems to care. The issue is that the economic system has been rigged so that most of us can no longer get ahead, no matter how hard we work.

Which takes us back to expectations. Most people will endure hardship and deprivation if they see a road away from hardship and deprivation. In other words, most people don’t spin their wheels in envy of wealthier people if there’s a real possibility they could be wealthier themselves someday. And I think this is true even if the individual’s hopes are never fully realized, as long as he can see that his work and effort are being rewarded with improved circumstances. Opportunities for upward mobility are a great political stress reliever in a nation.

At the other end of the scale, I understand that a people subjected to utter poverty, who have no hope and no expectation of their lives getting better, rarely rise up in rebellion. The truly discontented are not those who have nothing, but those who don’t have what they expected to have. (It should come as no surprise that the loudest political movement in recent months, the Tea Party, is mostly filled by people who aren’t really being hurt, yet, and is led by unvarnished demagoguery.)

So when Cowen writes …

So when average people read about or see income inequality, they don’t feel the moral outrage that radiates from the more passionate egalitarian quarters of society. Instead, they think their lives are pretty good and that they either earned through hard work or lucked into a healthy share of the American dream.

… I think he’s missing a big point. No, people generally don’t get worked up about income inequality per se. They get worked up about income inequality when they think they’re getting hosed by it.

I think Cowen is wrong here, also —

A neglected observation, too, is that envy is usually local. At least in the United States, most economic resentment is not directed toward billionaires or high-roller financiers—not even corrupt ones. It’s directed at the guy down the hall who got a bigger raise. It’s directed at the husband of your wife’s sister, because the brand of beer he stocks costs $3 a case more than yours, and so on. That’s another reason why a lot of people aren’t so bothered by income or wealth inequality at the macro level.

I don’t know how Cowen became expert in where people’s resentments are directed, but let’s go on … again, I don’t think people resent wealth per se. But in the age of mass media, “local” is a pretty big place. We’re talking about a culture in which people are more personally invested in who wins Dancing With the Stars than in what’s going on with the family next door.

This is something I wrote about on the other blog a few days ago — advertising, especially television advertising, presents to us a picture of what a “normal” life is supposed to be that is increasingly out of reach. These days, it seems every other television ad is about getting either new car (with a bow on top) or diamond jewelry for Christmas. We’re also perpetually being told which financial services companies can best handle our investment portfolios so that we can retire to our dream beach house someday.

Possibly more than in any other time in history, people are getting prosperity and abundance rubbed in their faces, as they sit in their own living rooms, every day. That’s pretty damn “local.”

That’s OK in a society in which upward mobility is possible, and people have reasonable hope they could have some of those sparkly things too, someday, if they work hard and save their pennies. But when there’s a strong assumption that this prosperous life is “normal,” and for most people “normal” is utterly out of reach, you are looking at the seeds of massive political instability.

That’s what Tyler Cowen doesn’t get.

And then, every time we turn around, we’re being told that those of us losing ground already must sacrifice more so that the wealthy are not inconvenienced. Professor Cowen, envy is not the issue here.

I think the only reason there isn’t more anger and discontent out there is that after thirty years of relentless assault by right-wing propaganda, people have internalized the ideas that government can’t help, and if your life sucks it’s entirely your own fault. I postulate that a lot of the gap between expectation and reality currently is being filled, quietly, with shame. People are doing their best to appear “normal,” to not admit their lives don’t measure up and that they are afraid of what might happen next.

The people on television who get new cars for Christmas don’t seem worried, after all.

If normal political channels are closed to us, and it is increasingly obvious that they are, it may be that what progressives need to do now is to stop selling the public on this or that policy. It should be to tell the people they have nothing to be ashamed of if their lives don’t measure up to expectations. The failure is not personal; it is national.

39 thoughts on “The Inequality Issue and Why It Matters

  1. beautifully said. Our society is a game of, by and for the corporate class, and more people now realize that money rules political activity, and therefore it can never get better.

  2. I think this is the money quote from Cowen: “…we need to accept the possibility that the financial sector has learned how to game the American (and UK-based) system of state capitalism.”

    And this from a guy that Brad Delong argues with in a way that is reminiscent of, say, Yglesias and Douthat. IE, Cowen is no leftie radical.

    • Gordon — I take it Cowen is a moderate libertarian, meaning mostly oblivious but not completely crazy.

      I’d say he needs to accept the reality that the gaming of the system is not a possibility, but standard operating procedure. And has been for a while.

  3. “not getting ahead”

    Close but I’d say it is really that we can’t even hold on to where we are or once were.

  4. Cowen’s not usually this out of touch.
    If you go back 100, or a 125 years ago, you had immigrants streaming in. But, regardless of whether you were born here, or came here, you had little to no exposure to the truly rich. They weren’t paraded in front of you every day on TV, in papers and magazines. In NY, if you showed your shanty ass in a wealthy neighborhood, you wouldn’t show it for long (at least not in one piece). Those were the original gated communites (NYers know about Grammercy Park, and the key to the little park).
    But, regardess, or irregardless (which I abhor, like all RepubliConfederates, even beyond hatred), the poor and middle class people, native or immigrant, had one hope. And that was that their children would have a better life than they did. Because of FDR’s relativley quick action, that dream, despite a huge hiccup, was slowed down, but there was no rude awakening.
    There is one now. People will go through a lot if they feel that their kids will do better. And that hope, like the middle class life from the past that Boner cries about, is receding faster and faster in the rear-view mirror with every day.
    It may not be the Lexus with the bow-tie or the diamond is forever bauble that hubby’s showering on the little wifey (probably because he had more affairs than he could remember in the last calendar year), that really makes your asscheeks tighten tighten and your sphincter close – it’s that your kid may not ever have the opportunity to even buy a good used car, or a piece of Zircon jewelry for their significant other.
    The Romans were smart enough to have ‘bread’ to go with their ‘circuses.’ I’m not sure our RepubliConfederates are that smart. If they depend too much on “Dancing With the Stars” and “American Idol,” without helping those who are idle through no fault of their own have some bread, well, all bets are off as to what may happen.
    As I grow older, and I look more and more like Lenin (it’s a look many Slavic males get), I’m starting to think that the best think may be a revolution, or to die trying. And, if I were physically capable of leading a group, I’d seriously think about it.
    The system is imploding. Fast. If you can get out, do it. If not, ‘hold on to your seatbelts, it’s going to be a bumpy ride!’ If Cowen doesn’t think it can happen, well, in many respects, I hope he’s right.
    The next 2 to 4 years will tell.
    Maybe more than we want to know…

  5. Oy, this sentence, “But, regardess, or irregardless (which I abhor, like all RepubliConfederates, even beyond hatred)…” should read ‘But, regardess, or irregardless (which I abhor, as much as I DO anyone who’s a RepubliConfederate, even beyond hatred)…
    My apologies for any confusion.

  6. Also, another way to look at that chart is to flip it upside-down – to show how well off the middle class was from the early ’30’s to the early ’80’s.
    Just sayin’, and ’nuff said!’

  7. Tenured professors almost without fail become amazingly good in the art of sophistry. Mr. Cowen is no exception.

    How about this, Professor Cowen. Money can’t buy happiness but it can buy you the kind of misery you prefer.

    And completely off topic but I just read in my latest ‘Harpers’ that scientists have discovered a gene for liberalism. We liberals can now unite and in one voice scream “We can’t help it.”

  8. In NY, if you showed your shanty ass in a wealthy neighborhood, you wouldn’t show it for long (at least not in one piece). Those were the original gated communites (NYers know about Grammercy Park, and the key to the little park).

    That’s what I’m sayin’. Before the age of mass media, while most people were aware that Somewhere There Are Rich People, ostentatious wealth wasn’t rubbed right in their faces day after day. What they personally witnessed was other people living about the same way they lived.

    Anyone who assumes Americans have higher personal well-being now than 120 years ago because today we’ve got televisions and microwaves don’t know nothin’ about human nature.

    • I just wanted to add — if you want an example of the power of expectation — a long time ago I read that in America, white men have the highest rates of successful suicides, while black women have the lowest suicide rates. And this had been true for decades, apparently, even before the Civil Rights movement.

      Considering that through most of the 20th century black women have lived with much more adversity than white men, why are white men so much more likely to off themselves?

      As I remember (I haven’t checked recent numbers) men of all races are more likely to kill themselves than women of all races, and this might possibly be attributed to the destabilizing effect of testosterone. Women are more likely to attempt suicide but fail, possibly because some women use half-hearted suicide attempts to get attention.

      But the racial difference is harder to understand. My theory is that white men have a stronger expectation of success, and so take failure a lot harder than men of color. Expectations are a really critical part of anyone’s psychological make-up. You can’t know anything about the emotional well-being of any group of people without knowing what their expectations were.

    • at what point does violence become okay?

      I don’t know that it ever does. IMO a violent revolution in the U.S. likely would turn into a long guerrilla war that never resolves anything. Revolutions can be won without war — India’s independence from Britain; the fall of the Soviet empire; etc.

  9. Fellicity,
    Thanks for the info!
    Well, that may answer the nature v. nurture argument for Liberals.
    Did they find one for Conservatives?
    Or, is there still a debate over nature v. torture?
    Enquiring minds want to know…

  10. wonderfully said, maha, on every point.

    I look at my parents’ generation in their late retirement years now, and I KNOW I will never ever have that standard of living when I’m in my 70s and 80s. It’s simply a financial impossibility at this stage of my life for that to be so. It’s too late. That really frightens me.

    But what makes me really angry is that I have worked just as hard as they did, I’ve done all the things I was “supposed” to do, and I will most likely live in poverty, or as a burden on my children, just when they’re trying to get their adult lives underway, in a way that my parents never had to be a burden on me. I know I’m not alone in this, and I don’t think it’s all my own fault — the deck has been stacked against us. As for my children – well, Lord help them, because I know our government and the corporations who now rule our world, and our wealthy betters who control them, are going to throw every roadblock in their way.

    Watching it happen before our very eyes, with help from both political parties, is simply infuriating. Who knows? Maybe us old geezers will go out in a blaze of glory, with torches and pitchforks and the rocks and molotov cocktails of our youth, to try bend the curve of equality back to where it once was in this country.

    Anyway, thanks for the marvelous post.

    • Gypsy — I’ll consider myself lucky if I don’t end up living in a cardboard box under an overpass. Maybe someday us geezers will pool our resources and live in communes again.

  11. I don’t know that it ever does. IMO a violent revolution in the U.S. likely would turn into a long guerrilla war that never resolves anything.

    I saw a *fascinating* debate about this re: India and South Africa. The big point raised by the folks from India was that, if you fight to change the government that you hate, then, when you hate the government, you decide to fight again.

    They were *not* disparaging the suffering of South African folks who were jailed, tortured, murdered, etc., nor suggesting that it was wrong to want to fight back against such oppression. It was just the purely pragmatic point that, hey, once you decide it’s okay to fight and kill, you’ll have a body of people ready to fight and kill.

    In short, I agree that this would be a terrible risk.

  12. Women are more likely to attempt suicide but fail, possibly because some women use half-hearted suicide attempts to get attention.

    Herm. Very nervous about this wording. I don’t know the overall stats, but I’ve heard it said that men were more likely to choose a more violent, more certain method of suicide. A man (they said) was more likely to shoot himself in the head, while a woman might try a handful of pills – the pills might be a serious attempt, but they take longer so there’s a lot more time to change her mind.

  13. The gap between expectation and reality is filled with dissatisfaction…It should come as no surprise that the loudest political movement in recent months, the Tea Party, is mostly filled by people who aren’t really being hurt

    The teabaggers are mostly on some combination of Medicare, VA benefits, or pensions/medical directly or indirectly paid for by government spending, yet they bitch incessantly about “soshulistic medicine”.

    Their most coherent expression of dissatisfaction is that the President has too much melanin.

    Perhaps they are angry that this has exposed the fallacy that they thought the white Xtian guys always in power would take care of them because they were like them.

    Now they realize they have spent their lives being chumps, working too hard without the benefits those Yurpeens get while being sold a bunch of flag-waving bullshit about how special they were for being born in ‘Murka.

    And they’re pissed, though their intrinsic obedience, herd-mentality and provincialism has them manipulated into being pissed mostly at the wrong people while supporting the guys who screwed them.

  14. “You’ll notice the peak inequality years are 1928 and 2007 …”

    I was noticing the opposite: That the trough comes right in those Good Old Days the Republicans keep pining for.

  15. Maha, about “expectations”…

    Even back in the 19th century when people didn’t have expectations of owning a color TV and iPod, they didn’t expect their standard of living to continually decline. Many Americans who worked their whole lives to own a home (actually, the bank owns it) and receive social security after age 65 are now finding that they may lose the home and the social security check. And, as you alluded to here:

    I’ll consider myself lucky if I don’t end up living in a cardboard box under an overpass.

    That indeed is becoming a frightening possibility for many families. Never mind the iPods and social security checks, how about food and a roof over your head? Even in the 19th century, most people had that. When Cowen talks about “personal well-being” he ought to consider that many people are losing everything they had. And when that happens, if they’re armed (in the USA, many are) and they others flaunting wealth in front of them, you have a recipe for instability and violence. This is the stuff that revolutions are made of.

    Unfortunately, there is no guarantee that the revolution will work out as intended. I can envision the USA coming apart as the former Yugoslavia and USSR did, with equally messy (probably messier) results.

  16. Look at this from the other side. Using US Census numbers –

    In 1970 (the year I graduated from HS) households in the bottom 20% got 4.1 % of the total national income. In 2009, that shrunk to 3.4%. Unimportant? That reduction of seven tenths of a percent is a 20% change (loss).

    The next 20% of households got 10.8% of the pie (total income) in 1970. Now that next step from the bottom gets 8.6% – the difference of 2.2% is a change for the worse of almost 26% from 1970 to 2009.

    How does the middle 20% of households fare? In 1970 they got 17.4% of total income. In 2009 that’s shrunk to 14.6 – a change (loss) of 19% when you compare the new share to the old share.

    How did the top two groups do? In 1970 the next-to-the-top 20% got 24.5. In 2009 they got (surprise) 23.2 – a LOSS of 6% when you compare the old share to the new share..

    So who won? In 1970, households in the top 20% got 43.3% of total income. In 2009 it was 50.3. That’s the only group that gained, and it’s only a gain of only 16% because they were already getting the biggest share in 1970 – Now the share of the top 20% is MORE than half of the total income.

    Here’s the kicker. The richest 25% in the top group took 71% of the gain. Of the only group that ‘won’, almost all the gain went to the richest of the rich.

    The source is the US Census Bureau, I was looking at a spreadsheet H02AR_xls
    Share of Aggregate Income Received by each Fifth and Top Five Percent.

  17. I don’t know that it ever does. IMO a violent revolution in the U.S. likely would turn into a long guerrilla war that never resolves anything. Revolutions can be won without war — India’s independence from Britain; the fall of the Soviet empire; etc.

    I don’t think you can decouple India’s independence from Britain from WW2, also there were certainly violent aspects to the Indian nationalist movement among its many parts as well. I honestly can’t think of a revolution that was gained without violence. That said I think violent revolution is ultimately a failure. Not because it doesn’t change things, but its existence indicates a failure along the line in the process somewhere.

  18. Most resentment tends to flow downhill in the US. People don’t resent their boss owning a fancy car, they resent the guy at the MacDonald’s wanting to get his teeth fixed.

  19. MNPundit is on track. Gandhi was perfectly in favor of violence if the Japanese used it to kick the British out of India. He said as much. He just didn’t believe in being violent himself.

  20. Great post, maha. I’ve got so much to say on this subject but just don’t know how to say it because my thoughts are so fragmented and I can’t gather them into a coherent statement. I guess it’s best to just say..I hear you! I’m no stranger to the economic pressure cooker that we all are finding ourselves. For the last 2 years I’ve been locked into the survival mode and my piece of mind has been taken from me. That fear of the cardboard box has gained a lot of ground in my thoughts.

  21. Peace…see! I can’t even concentrate enough to spell correctly because my economic burden has crowded out my clear thinking.

  22. maha,
    Count this old Socialist warhorse, and whatever the government grants me in SS (if anything), in for Great Gonzo Geezer Commune, too.
    Though a bit physically handicapped, there things I can help out with.
    I love to cook – and that includes prep – even clean-up.
    I’m good with kids (so if anyone’s grandkids come, I’m ok until they go totally ape. Warning: I’m usually the guy who’s the one who drives them totally ape).
    I know literature, movies and music.
    I don’t mind household chores.
    I’m a lot of fun, especially after a few cocktails (or, to save money, we can brew our own wine and beer).
    My downside is that I’m completely not handy. I’m anti-handy. A friend once said that if he needed someone for some DEstruction, because I’m strong, I’d be the first one he’d call; but if he needed CONstruction, because I’m clumsy, I’d be the last one he’d call. I am willing to help those who can do work around the house in whatever capacity.
    So, that’s me.

    On a serious note. This is not a bad idea for the future. Organized private senior facilities cost a fortune and are only for those with some money, and the ones that are for the people who are not well off, are frequently poorly run and dirty, with an unreliable and unsympathetic staff.
    A group of seniors banding together in the form of a commune is a great idea, and may be necessary for the future. Everyone can do whatever they do best, and help in whatever they don’t do well so that they can learn from those who do. There is built in sharing and caring. And, a grievance committee can be formed for the occasioanal spat.
    I even have some suggested names.
    If we want to be open and welcoming to visitors: “The Dew Drop Inn.”
    If not: “Oldies, but Cooties.”

  23. Mike G. – Teabaqggers and today’s conservatives in general are people who feel they have lost something, or who have actually lost something. They see themselves as victims. In fact ‘victimhood’ has become the primary talking-point of right-wing politicians (and right-wing media hacks) capitalizing on the mind-set of their audience. Conservative is now the party of loss.

    Interestingly, hatred of those they hold responsible for their loss is rampant while the system that created the objects of their hatred is invariably seen as good.

    Also it should be noted that Christian fundamentalism is a narcissistic faith concerned most of all with the wrong suffered by the righteous who then become hell-bent on the purification of their ranks. (I’ll bet, but don’t know that most teabaggers would qualify as Christian fundamentalists.)

  24. Pingback: economic misery | What's that you said?

  25. Yes, Dr. Cowen does certainly seem completely out of touch with working class life. I think about three months of living with a struggling family would clear his head. Maybe not. Working with disadvantaged, underclass or lumpenproletarian people can be an eye opener. We have so many people who will die twenty years before their time, whose teeth are rotting out of their mouths and have no idea how to make informed choices about their healthcare because they have never had access to it. Many are illiterate or functionally illiterate and have never traveled outside of the county where they were born. (Yes county, not country) In fairness to Dr. Cowen, most would not be angry if they were to read about income inequality. The concept is so removed from their daily experience, that it would be meaningless to them. God, I just will never understand how people who call themselves Christians, could accept this. Where are their little “WWJD” bracelets when you need them?

    As I wrote before, our little farm started when I put forward my thoughts on an “old persons’ commune” about 15 years ago. I still think it is the way to go and have some friends of a similar mind. It may be the only way for retirees to get by if the Randoids have their way. I should make it clear that the only other people who have lived with us were my father-in-law and my mother. So, I have not really had the communal experience. But, even the folks reminded me of my college room mates. We had frequent spats about the temperature of the house or who used someone else’s favorite cup. (My mother was a bit off her rocker for the last few years, so weird, seemingly inconsequential things would get her going.) But, I think any geezer preparing to enter a communal situation would do well to recall the follies of their youth and prepare to be patient. I think it would be easier and more rewarding to live with people my own age who didn’t need personal care. As it was I was just grateful to be able to keep my mother out of a nursing home.

    For information look up the history of “Center for Independent Living”. The first was in California, probably in the Bay Area. A group of people with disabilities decided to pool their resources and manage their own heath and personal care. It would be a great model for elderly communes. I used to know a lot more details about this place because I worked in the independent living movement for many years. But, dementia never sleeps.

    Two other things:

    Some time ago there was an article in that leftist rag, “Business Week” that compared the upward mobility rate today with the past. I was born in 1951, 25% of my working class cohort would make it into the middle class. Now only 10% of young working class people will make it into the middle class. Worse yet, I believe the article was written before the “Great Recession”. I apologize for not providing a link or title.

    Second: Cundgulag, I seem to have a bit of the “Lenin look”. I guess it’s the beard. On a trip out west I went into a shop run by a very nice, middle aged Ukrainian woman. She told me that I looked a lot like Lenin, but my wife says she was just flirting with me. Hey, we codgers have to take those rare pleasures where we find them.

  26. India’s war of independence came after the end of the Raj, and in some sense it continues today.

    My expectation is that when the combined collapses (inability to service our debt, climatic dislocation, post-peak oil supply contraction, . . .) we’ve been dancing around hit, the US continental empire will shatter.

  27. goatherd,
    Coming from a Ukrainian women, that might not have been a compliment. V.I. was not exactly beloved there. I hope you checked that she didn’t take one snip too many in a place you wouldn’t notice, but others might.

  28. I’ve spent a few days with my head in the sand, just couldnt take it anymore and can’t afford vodka or pot….so, I got brave and came back today…..what a great post to come back to!! I cannot think of a better bunch of people to commune with so count me in….willing to do anything and am great at minding my own business…ha ha…it’s a trait I developed after years of working with forensic patients…parolees with drug problems (sounds so much more dignified the other way).

    I watched a PBS documentary on Paris between 1907 and 1930 about the beginnings of modern art….it was great. These people were broke and developed the cafe society for companionship, sharing of resources and to share their various arts. Poets, authors and painters all communed and poverty was not a true issue….I envied them and wish I could relive that…maybe I did in my dreams last night a bit. To me, that is what a commune is. Paris, the Luminous Years, is the title. Gertrude Stein bought the first Picaso and became a huge collector….I also envy the life of Georgia O’Keefe in NY and NM. I am a former Brooklynite, but have not been back since the seventies. I can and have lived just about anywhere so when you get to location for the commune, I’m not one to disagree. I live with an adult (if you can call 21 and adult) grandson, his girlfriend and take care of her two children, ages 7 and 2… has helped my finances incredibly, and the kids have contributed to my good health and I practice meditation much more now…anyway, can’t wait to go back and read what I missed while counting granules in the sand. All great posts and thanks for enlightening me on so many areas.

  29. Pluky, you just struck the nerve.
    I think we are on the same path Great Britain took in the 1800’s, crashing after the Raj fell in India/ Pakistan and Afghanistan took a toll on the military and treasury. I get a shiver up my spine when I read Kipling.

    I mentioned before I have some property that would make a great mini farm / commune; it is very close to “The Villages” in Lake Co. Fl.
    I could perhaps get an intern from Echo to help get it up and running.

    Here is their link:

    We got hit pretty hard by this week’s cold snap; the peppers and tomatoes are toast; The dragon fruits ,Lychees, and macadamias made it because I covered them; the Jatrophas ( bio fuel plants) are defoliated, but will recover, the bananas look terrible, but will come back too. If this pattern continues, we may be stick growing iceberg lettuce………….

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