Thursday, January 8, 2009

Yet another economic post, and a little critique on "The Secret"

If I keep on this track, I'll probably drop my readers from one (yes I count you H, I can't even get my wife to read my blog lately), to zero, but oh well, the act of writing and publishing is intoxicating, addictive, and a massive learning experience. Just the thought that somebody out there may be reading this is a bit exciting, especially if I have no idea who that person might be.

Anyway, here's an e-mail I wrote someone who really believes in "The Secret" (I do too):

To say that we are 100% in control of our own well being, I don't feel is right. It ignores our interconnectedness in our world. It ignores that fact the behavior of my neighbor affects me, and my behavior affects my neighbor.

During the 1930's, for example, Hoover felt this very strong confidence in the free market economy. He was a legitimate self made man, and he felt that because he was able to rise from obscurity to achieve financial success, everyone else should be able to as well. So, the government did practically nothing while the country burned.

Roosevelt, by contrast, was not self made at all. He inherited his own charisma, his wealth, his opportunity, his education. Practically everything was given to him. But it was his polio that struck him out of the blue that made him the politician he became. He understood that sometimes bad things happen completely out of our control. That hard working, dedicated, and optimistic people lost everything during the depression, many were literally living in boxes. And it was not their fault. He understood that the government could and should step in to make lives better for everyone.

Roosevelt took us off of the gold standard, allowing the central government more opportunity to manipulate the currency. He instituted social security, minimum wages. He took control of farming so that farmers were not over-producing driving down prices. He instituted a bank holiday that lasted a week that allowed people to come to their senses and kept more banks from failing.

One way to look at life is that we're a surfer riding powerful ocean waves. We have virtually no control over the waves, we're powerless to fight against it. But if we understand the waves and ourselves, we can position ourselves correctly to take advantage of its strength to our own advantage.

So, in some ways I agree, we can make the best of bad times by having absolute optimism and working hard on our passions, and not losing our nerve. Right now, we should be donating money to our causes, making sound and wise purchases, building our lives.

But if the masses completely lose confidence in each other and in our institutions, the collective choices of the whole will be that wave that will affect us. We can ride the wave as best as we can, but we don't have total control, and it could wipe us out just like everyone else.

Its the great wonder of our existence, we are both all powerful and completely vulnerable all at the same time. We are completely independent but also completely interdependent. The biggest complaint I have with the philosophy behind The Secret (or maybe I don't understand it well enough), is that it ignores that second part of our existence, how completely vulnerable we are in this world. This world is both full of abundance and full of want. We are both immortal and painfully mortal.

People dying in Sudan are not dying because of their own lack of optimism, they are dying because they are affected by a sea of negativity and fear surrounding them.

So, we do need Obama and our government to step up and do what it can do. And we have a responsibility to call our congressman to make sure he does it.


H said...

:) I'm glad I count! And psst, Sara doesn't read because she knows what you're going to say anyway and is probably a little overwhelmed by life and 3 kids.

You didn't lose me entirely, in fact your opening line was right on:

"To say that we are 100% in control of our own well being, I don't feel is right. It ignores our interconnectedness in our world. It ignores that fact the behavior of my neighbor affects me, and my behavior affects my neighbor."

You wrote that, right? I don't think you've ever said (or written) anything I agree with more in all our 5 year history. Cool, common ground!

JRV said...

Scott, I read almost every one of your blogs. You'll never lose me. I completely agree...with it all.

tempe turley said...


Thanks for your kind comment. You're right about my wife. She's usually heard me talk about it so she doesn't see the need to read it...

Rachel said...

Scott, Davey and I always read your blogs and although we're not as vocal online, we have long conversations between ourselves about the topics they raise. This one is no exception, we've long been critical of The Secret in the ways you've raised. It seems to me that the Secret doesn't take into account that we live in a fallen world. That God never promised us what The Secret promises, He only promised He would help the terrible or good things that would come to us (beyond our control) consecrate our souls instead of harden them. That's the only thing we have complete control of, the rest of life is a blurry gray, in my opinion.

tempe turley said...

Feel a little guilty to be fishing for comments so shamelessly. Sorry if I made you feel obligated. Good to know there are still a few people with me, after Obama won the election...

Marco said...

Hiya, Scott!

I just wanted to pass along that I stop by about once a week to see what your writing about. Good stuff. You inspire me to actually update my own poorly scripted blog.