Re “Why Worry About Government? We’re on Automatic Fast Forward,” Commentary, Nov. 25:
FM-2030 (what a droll name, sounds like an e-mail nickname) raises important ideas on “traditional values” that need rethinking as we approach the 21st Century. Among them are traditional values about work and the work ethic. Business is downsizing and automating, government is looking to trim or dismantle programs, leading to even fewer jobs. High-paid employees receive “golden handshakes” or are simply fired to be replaced by lower-paid or part-time employees without fringe benefits. Increasingly, full-time workers earn poverty-level or lower wages. Yet we continue to celebrate the “work ethic” and propose to reduce or eliminate welfare, food stamps, infant nutrition programs, etc.
How can we even think creatively of FM-2030’s thesis that a postindustrial society will have sufficient prosperity so that people can “work less and coast more” when the current reality is that many people must work two or three jobs to meet basic needs and many people are in low-paying jobs that may be eliminated as we “advance” toward his ideal. Or, does he imply that an underclass, perhaps a very large one, is an inevitable part of society where the government is largely irrelevant?
It’s comforting to know that there won’t be any shortage of precious irony in the future, if “visionaries” like FM-2030 continue to proliferate.
The main problem with his “Mr. Spock Goes to Washington” thesis is the one thing that ruins every social engineer’s paradigms: good old human nature.
Yes, in 2030 a kiss will still be a kiss, a sigh will just be a sigh, and guys are still going to fly into a jealous rage if they catch their significant other “encouraging new lifestyles to ensure intimacy and continuity in our new environments.”
Of course, most Americans are going to be busy preparing the right hemispheres of their brains for all the empowering leisure time those hard-working machines are going to create. After all, scanning back and forth through 5,000 cable channels of junk, instead of just 50, is much more mentally fatiguing than you might think. I’m sure my grandsons will take the aesthetic high road-holographically projecting reruns of “Charlie’s Angels” right into their bedrooms.
As for some new decentralized federal government which will rarely intrude in our lives and be virtually powerless to “decelerate the profound recontextings” of American life, don’t count on it.
There’s about as much chance of that happening as there is of living in a post-futurist/consultant world!
(a.k.a. R. TIM PHILEN)
Written by Tim Philen and published by the Los Angeles Times on December 2, 1994