Nearly all of us have been raised, from birth, to believe that there is no limit to economic growth, and to believe that everyone can have more and more and more - everyone in the world can have more 'stuff' - better cars, better food, computers, houses, education, better EVERYTHING, and that this will always be true - the world will always give more and more and more possibilities - no matter how many of us there are. There will always be more, more, MORE!
But all this belief in perpetual growth was only possible when it was us who were growing, and when we were taking from everybody else. We could feel that the world permitted infinite growth, as long as we could go anywhere for the fancy things we all wanted. Teak wood, ivory tusks, diamonds, whatever.
Then came the idea of free trade, and 'outsourcing' and 'right-sizing' (firing workers to hire people abroad for a fraction of the wages. It didn't take long to put the American worker in the dung-heap of history. Russ Perot was right - there was a giant sucking sound, but most of us somehow didn't hear it.
Now, it is becoming clear that the money just got moved around. The U.S. used to be number one in almost everything, and now we are number one only in the size of military budget, armed forces, and human potential frittered away. Perhaps we are number one in social inequality, as well, or if not #1, then rapidly climbing. Is there another industrialized nation with a larger military budget, per capita, or with greater social injustice, economically? Are we proud to be number one in these areas?
Where'd the money go? It's pretty easy to see that China has made incredible progress in the past 10 or 15 years. A lot of our money went to China, and a lot to India too. Not to begrudge the Chinese or Indians - they probably work harder than the average American couch potatoe.
Meanwhile, the world consumes more and more, burns more fossil fuels, puts more carbon in the atmosphere, burns more rain forests, kills more endangered species, destroys the hearing of more marine mammals, puts more rocket fuel (perchlorate) into the atmosphere, wipes out more fish species, melts more ice caps & glaciers.
It just goes on and on.
But now, it's not only the Americans who are wiping out the biosphere. It's the whole planet. Everyone else is consuming, just as Americans have been doing, and the more we consume, the less fish in the seas, the less oxygen in the atmosphere.
The money has just been moved around - it's not concentrated in the United States any more. Americans are working harder and harder for less and less income.
We, Americans, can't get ahead any more by taking advantage of foreign workers. That all ended with deals like NAFTA and CAFTA - all the deals that sent American jobs overseas. Now, we are falling behind, and the rest of the world is either catching up (asia) or moving ahead of us (europe).
The world isn't big enough to permit infinite growth. The seas and skies are depleted, and the more of us there are, the more quickly the fish will be taken out of the seas and replaced with - jellyfish - the more quickly the zebras will be depleted from the plains of Africa.
Speaking of zebras in africa - are any of you old enough to remember when there were hundreds of thousands of them with gigantic herds? Now, there are less than 40,000 zebras in the wild, and the numbers are diminishing. In a generation or two, zebras will only be found in zoos.