Preparing for the American ice age (part 1 of infinity)
Since a second Clinton presidency is growing increasingly certain by the day, it’s never too early to prepare for some of the “macro” changes in our government, our economy, and our culture over at least the next four years.
Politics and government don’t drive the major trends, but they affect how those trends manifest and have too much to do with who wins and who loses.
America, and indeed the developed world, is in an information age. Never before has information been so critical. Yet at the same time, technology (namely the Internet and wireless technology) has broadened and democratized access to information. One overlooked result is a seeming paradox; information has never been more valuable, yet it has never been cheaper. It’s a buyers’ market.
The traditional knowledge gatekeepers, who we know as the white-collar workers, the highly educated, and highly credentialed professionals, are fighting several losing battles. While overall demand for their knowledge is growing, that demand growth is coming from lands far away. Many of those consumers have other and cheaper options and believe (correctly or not) they can access that knowledge for far less.
American consumers have learned to rely on do-it-yourself guides when they aren’t turning to offshore professionals (who promise comparable quality often under the umbrella of major multinationals licensing their brand or contracting services abroad). American and global consumers are increasingly circumventing the traditional knowledge gatekeepers and changing the pricing paradigm.
The impact on white-collar Americans is as disconcerting now as it was on the blue-collar workforce in our Rust Belt decades ago when automation and foreign competition drove down the price of comparable products and ultimately kneecapped the pricing power of American labor – that is, what pay American workers could command on the market.
One dislocation in the developed world is the gradual loss of power of the information cartels, that is, the traditional gatekeepers of both access to information and admission to the industrial guilds. It used to be that select professions could monopolize entry to their professions, thus limiting supply and protecting their ability to set prices and standards of practice. Those barriers are falling, or at least, being increasingly overcome. The old Western trade guilds are no longer the secure road to a comfortable career and social status, which they were perhaps as little as 15 years ago. There is dislocation in terms of a resetting and recalibrating of expectations and coping with resistance to change.
The American professional class is still the envy of the world. But the lesson is that yesterday’s validation of merit, from the schools you attended to the companies you worked for, is not necessarily indicative of your ability to survive today – or next year. The assumptions that getting certain degrees, experience, and imputed credibility from the institutions from which you graduated or worked are the ticket to tomorrow’s financial or career security may have been true and may have provided security a generation ago. But not now. Not in a decade. And likely not for this or the next generation.
The trend lines from American politics present a strong headwind for the American white-collar class. At present, competition here is growing from arriving foreign students and professionals. Domestic demand is growing slowly, if it isn’t flat, and the demand growth is offshore. But four or even eight years of a Clinton presidency, buffeted by strong pressures from now-open-socialists to move to the far left, will only increase the surge towards open borders; meaning open markets for more and cheaper competition in the information fields.
It means there’s no end in sight. It means America’s information professionals’ wage pricing power, job security, and social status may be in free fall. It means that American information professionals – including many readers of this article – must accept these changes as reality, accept the need to adapt, and start working to outrun the changes. It means embracing new technologies, learning new skills, and learning new languages. It may even require seeking new markets abroad, not only to get clients but also as possible new landing spots.
I am talking about wholesale relocation to offshore markets, which are hospitable to responsible citizens who are hard working and respectful of basic human and property rights – the foundation for a self-sustaining civic society. I’m talking about buying property abroad, establishing roots abroad, even seeking dual citizenship and pursuing full participation in the civic affairs of a new homeland.
As America implodes and our standard of living erodes, competition is going to go both ways. There will be emerging offshore markets which will adapt to the change as American professionals seek the safety, security, and promise for the future they once assumed they’d always have at home. The supply will respond to the demand.
Capital is mobile. Information is even more mobile. Americans desiring to continue in a comfortable lifestyle must resolve to remain ahead of the curve. That isn’t just about what we want, it’s about working for what we want. And that is indeed the American way.
Consider what the first European settlers experienced four centuries ago. The colonists who braved a tough ocean – crossing in rickety wooden boats, fierce carnivorous predators, and often hostile native inhabitants – were trailblazers. Also remember that we only read the history written by those who survived! Many perished without a trace, in the attempt to cross the Atlantic or survive a literal wilderness. Their contemporaries who stayed in their homelands of monarchist Europe may have preserved their (relative) comforts of home, but also endured continued religious persecution in a world which did not know separation of church and state or the concept of a secular society.
So change is uncomfortable. And pursuing change may be outright terrifying. But not preparing for the journey may be a huge mistake that you and your descendants may pay for many generations. Now, you might resist the message. Surely there are commentators out there who will soothe you with the reassuring claim that America has never been better,
My response? I have three words for you: Consider the source.
Are the sources first generation? Were they born and raised here? That makes a huge difference. Newcomers often think (justifiably) that today’s America is wonderful, but consider why that’s the case. It’s because their points of reference are from the past in other countries lacking our Constitution, our legal system, our institutions, and even our standards of health care. It’s all relative. Of course, America today is better than the past they knew in a country from which they fled, just like our American colonial forefathers four centuries ago. But many Americans who grew up here, who have the frame of reference to compare the present to conditions 35-40 years ago, have a different perspective.
Many Americans know instinctively that America has already changed and that tomorrow is not likely to be as good as today – not for many Americans who grew up here and did know a better America. Very few people have the ability or the courage to verbalize this sentiment. However, those emotions are there and it is likely manifested in the anger of those crowds we see for the insurgent candidates; both Donald Trump on the alt-right and Bernie Sanders on the Marxist-socialist left.
Do you want a better present? Do you want a better tomorrow? Maybe this means that Americans who insist on maintaining their desired standard of living and preserving their core values must start coming to grips with a new reality; American values may be best preserved in lands far away from America.