By L&T Publisher Earl Watt
A phrase that I would like to reject wholeheartedly is the defeatist term, “the new normal.”
Gas prices hovering at $4 per gallons for the past four years — the new normal. Economic growth of an abysmal 2 percent — the new normal. Unemployment above 7 percent for the longest time in American history — the new normal.
After three centuries of unbridled growth, expansion and an attitude that tomorrow will be better than today, we have brought the wheels of progress to a grounding halt and have excused the lack of advancement as “the new normal.”
There are two facts that may support the idea of the “new normal” being so minimal.
The first was the effect of the Industrial Revolution.
Prior to the phenomenon in the late 1700s to early 1800s, the standard of living across the planet had remained relatively the same for centuries.
The quality of life for the colonists that lived along the eastern seaboard was not very different from the Romans hundreds of years before.
From health advancements to food supplies, the methodologies were similar. The types of jobs were similar. For hundreds of years, there was slow growth, little change and seeing little to no advancement from one generation to the next was the norm.
But with the Industrial Revolution, that all changed.
The types of jobs changed. Society changed. The standard of living increased dramatically, and everyone seemed to have a hand in the prosperity.
Children saw their standard of living surpass their parents, and their children saw it again.
Food supplies improved as well as medical care.
And just as that revolution and its effect started to wind down, a Second Industrial Revolution began right here in America.
While the steam engine was the leading component of the first Industrial Revolution, coal and the assembly line sparked the second. They led to the universal use of electricity, and the internal combustion engine revolutionized the mobility of the masses.
Again, the quality of life skyrocketed, and generations continued to have a higher standard of living than the one before.
Now, for the first time in 300 years, we are being told that the next generation will not have a higher standard of living than its predecessor, and that this is the new normal.
Why have we lost hope in our future so easily?
Those who developed America believed in limitless possibilities.
They created a world with unbridled access to wealth.
This didn’t happen in socialist nations. It didn’t happen under communist leadership.
It was the free world, the capitalist nations that sparked an increased standard of living for all, from the rich to the poor.
Even now, the industrial giant China, who has had little innovation to offer but much in the way of plagiarism, has seen the wheels of progress grinding down.
The question, then, is simple: Do we accept a future of no growth, where our children will have a lower quality of life than we did, or we do we continue to drive the economy into the future?
There was one key factor to a lower quality of life for those that lived 300 years ago. Their diet and health care kept the population growth under control.
Today, with increased health, longer life expectancy and high birth survival rates (not including abortion), populations continue to grow. The advantage is that growing populations create new markets all the time.
But the problem is if there is not an increase in the size of the economy, then more people are competing for the same resources.
President Barack Obama cited that fact as a cause for racial tensions, telling the New York Times, “And racial tensions won’t get better; they may get worse, because people will feel as if they’ve got to compete with some other group to get scraps from a shrinking pot.”
He understands the pot is shrinking but has no idea that he is responsible for the retraction.
The ground has been laid for us all to become small thinkers, to read the signs and belive that life will not get better for our generation, and be worse for the next.
But again, history has already taught us that cheap energy (coal, gasoline), capitalistic innovation and a drive to push the economy to new heights can lead to a higher standard of living for everyone.
There are ways to prevent access to that prosperity, and they are all self-induced.
For one, we can restrict access to cheap energy, we can regulate innovation and use taxes to remove the incentive to invest in new technologies and products.
So the answer is simple, if we want to see continued growth, we have to be committed to policies that encourage growth and innovation thorugh competition. If we want to hold humanity back, if we want to provide a lower standard of living, we can continue to do what we have done in the past five years of a self-imposed eight-year exile from prosperity and tell our children and grandchildren that their lower standard of living that we provided is simply their “new normal.” Perhaps they will be better students of history and provide a better future for their children than we have chosen to provide for ours.