Hannah Blog

January 15, 2013

Mobility

Filed under: another perspective,Economy — hannah @ 2:20 am

It is argued that the people of the United States have lost their mobility.

Well, a lot depends on how you define mobility.

If you take it literally as the ability to move from place to place in physical space, then Americans are definitely mobile.

They not only relocate their residence, on average, every two years, but much of their daily activity involves driving around, albeit in vehicles that keep them contained. The latter is a false mobility, to my way of thinking, but it seems to content a lot of people. Some probably find it safer than perambulating on their own two feet.

The equation of the accumulation of money and property with wealth is also questionable. In a society in which individuals are assured the necessities of life and most assets are communal and shared, it isn’t necessary or even an advantage to own a lot of things that require maintenance and repair. Single family houses, for example, are really inefficient, if the residents only use them to sleep an insufficient number of hours because much of the day is spent running around. Already in the early eighties, before it took two incomes to keep a roof over one’s head, single family houses were “generating ten automobile trips a day.” (I put that in quotes because that’s urban planner talk for why streets and avenues needed to be widened and sidewalks are useless). That meant that even stay-at-home family members didn’t stay for long.

If there’s to be class mobility, then there’s got to be a social hierarchy, which U.S. culture has long abjured. So, the definition of the American Dream as climbing the hierarchic ladder is really a mistake. From where I sit, as an involuntary child immigrant, the accumulation of property (much of it disposable and disposed of at the dump) is a sop to compensate for the fact that individual properties and the rights that arise are pretty much ignored. The right to life ends at the moment of birth; liberty is conditioned on obedience and compliance with legal strictures; and “pursuit of happiness” is like a dog chasing its tail or a gerbil running on a wheel–false mobility.

That some few people have accumulated very large quantities of money, as reflected in the books of their banks, is really not very different from the accumulation of books in libraries where they were hardly ever read. So, the information in them was, effectively, restricted to a few people who could read but, in many instances, were unable to make use of what they learned. So, they copied what they found impressive and important and became famous as scribes. Did that improve human welfare? Not hardly. And the reason for that? Because there wasn’t even a universal measure for welfare. And even now that money is used almost everywhere as a measure we discover it’s not reliable.

Money can’t buy happiness. Happiness is the result of not being deprived of our humanity — of the right to eat, to sleep, to recreate, to procreate, to associate, to be whole, to be left alone, to perambulate, to be unconstrained. And the culture of obedience does not allow for that. Neither does human husbandry, the exploitation of the many by the few.

It is the ex-men who need to be constrained, not the majority who care and share what they’ve got. Those who share don’t accumulate. The nice thing about money is that there’s never a problem getting rid of it.

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