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The Downsides of Cheap Abundance


The Downsides of Cheap Abundance

Ralph Nader

In college, Economics 101 is often described as the social science discipline that deals with the production, distribution and consumption of goods and services. MIT Economist Paul Samuelson liked to focus on scarcity, or more specifically, the allocation of scarce resources. “Abundance” was always a pretty word with an idyllic connotation for Professor Samuelson. I often wonder why there weren’t a few classes about the real-life consequences of abundance, along with scarcity and people’s material welfare.


Very nicely put Mr. Nader. It reminds me of so much wisdom I have had the fortune of perusing over my adult life from another Ralph--Ralph Waldo Emerson. It is funny how history does repeat itself. I shall take a walk in the woods with my dog today to reflect on the wisdom of the two Ralphs.


So where do we start Ralph? Who set the prices for leases, rents, royalties, use of airway rents? I bet it is Congress. Good luck with that, they have not been doing their jobs for decades and now we have another Gilded Age to be polite and a Fascist State to be not polite.

You always make so much sense and in simple terms. Thank you Ralph.


I agree, very nicely put. I supported Ralph when he ran for POTUS because Ralph Nader is man of integrity and a real statesman.

Too bad Ralph cost Gore the election! Oh! Wait a minute! The SCOTUS voted for Bush the younger but that had nothing to do with Gore losing, now did it?

I have enjoyed Ralph Waldo Emerson; especially, his Essay's like on compensation as well as his many other sapient writings.

That reminds me of an old joke about dim son when he was asked if he had ever read Emerson and he replied: Gosh, I thought they quit manufacturing T.V. s a long time ago!


I will take issue at the depiction of our current era of info/young people as 'worse.' Let you tell me my story.

I was 10 in 1967, not quite old enough to understand things, but I had a free flow of info coming into my house. I had at times, sports mags (and the society changes were in those, Mohammad Ali, etc) National Geographic, Wall Street Journal, Christian Science Monitor, Nature mags, and outside I could read alternative publications such as The Fifth Estate (still around). That is only a peek of info I had available.

But like most youth, I tended to like popular culture and friendships first. That's what the young do at first, learn to fit in and learn the world in bits and pieces. Their brains keep having those growth spurts and they are also on roads set out for them, mainly go to school, get a job.

Ralph, that is a lot on the plate for them. For me, I had a life of changing courses, trying to find a niche I liked. But I continued to learn, continued to feed my brain knowledge of sciences, societies, etc. and it wasn't until my thirties that I felt established in a set of principles and beliefs that put me in some sort of category. I had become a lefty, a liberal, a progressive, a socialist, call it what you will, but I knew myself on that side of the bar.

How is that much different than today's youth? So they have the Internet, they don't have to wait for the mail to deliver a mag,...bg deal. It will take the same amount of reading and thinking that I took to form their opinions.

Some won't go through the same path as I, my friends back in the day didn't mimic me. I think you have a sort of 'old man impatience' for our youth. I imagine older people than I may have had the same impatience with my generation too. I'm an older man, but I am doing my best to not mythologize my past. Things are not so different, I believe.


An interesting side note, Nader mentions economist Paul Samuelson, well Paul Samuelson's nephew is the infamous Larry Summers. Larry's father ( Paul's brother) changed his name to Summers.


Stock buybacks are stealth methods to increase executive compensation, nothing more.


Me too. (I don't think he cracked 2% here. Did your state do any better?)

Well, Gore did fail to carry his home state. If he had won Tennessee, all of the Florida/hanging chad/SCOTUS kerfuffle would have been nothing but a bad novel. Fact is, he ran an abysmally bad campaign, and even at that, if the whole country hadn't been so damn tired of Slick Willie/Ken Starr, he probably couldn't have lost. (The opposition WAS a certified idiot, after all!) (Not that I'm still bitter, or anything... :wink: )


You make so many good points, e.g.,

Besides being a fine analysis, that reads like poetry - well done.

What is it like to try to be a parent in circumstances much reduced from those of one's childhood? Are we all the way back to the world described by Dickens?

Isn't that weird? I'm conditioned to consider that era "stodgy," but it was probably the peak of the New Deal era. I do know this: If, as a people, we had heeded Eisenhower's farewell address (the MIC warning), we'd be better placed to face what's "just around the bend"...


Fact is Gore ran an abysmally bad campaign. BINGO!


I found the article a little confusing-I agree we live in a giant mess of a world. But one thing we should fight for is free or low cost internet service. It should be treated as a public utility. And I'm surprised we don't hear much of this from candidates running for office. I loved history when in school but the stuff I pull up on utube blows my mind.---So with cable or satellite there are 800 channels of BS(about five or six worth watching) this is the allusion of abundance. The same could be said with our grocery stores-most of it is processed soy, wheat,bad fats,and sugar products. The illusion of abundance. But to look for work today a person needs the internet. And I can see how the internet could change a kids life who lives in poverty but can learn via the internet. The whole concept of the library was free access to information. The internet is the new library.


I work in a community college library and I can attest that you are "on the money." We still check out a lot of books, but the preponderance of our traffic is laptops for students to use, both for academics and for entertainment. (BTW, smart phones are catching up, but we don't provide them. [yet])

Right? It's not like any of the mega-companies that are running it today had anything to do with developing it. No, it's a classic example of the "public development, private profit" model of oligarchy. It's corrupt, and it's nonsense.

Well said. It's what I like to call "people chow." (Not that original, I know, since it's reminiscent of Soylent [Insert color here.].)


Firefox (browser) with NoScript (addon) are your friends!


Wow. Abundance, huh? Middle classers sound more like an alien species every year.
For a chunk of the population that has been growing (uncounted, since we no longer have a means of counting them), reality is about surviving in an era of scarcity. We have a chunk of the population that has no incomes, no means of providing for themselves. Our better off, those with jobs, work harder for less to make products to be sold in the more successful countries, maximizing the profits of US corporations, until it's their turn to be dumped.

We actually do have abundance in one respect -- We now have a huge surplus of job-ready people who are absolutely desperate for any job at any wage, who would be grateful to do your job for half of what you are paid. There's nothing to fall back on.


Another sufferer of boomerphobia. Would it help to assure you that the entire "boomer" thing is merely a media invention? Those of this generation are as deeply divided and pitted against each other as any other generation. It's hard to learn the difference between media myth and reality, but is worth the (ongoing) effort. Of course, the middle class masses still laugh at those Boomer hippies who rejected the Reagan/Clinton agenda, and have been doing all they can that is consistent with their values -- advocating for/working in the homeless shelters, food banks, street outreach, etc., trying to save the lives of fellow humans. It's no way to get rich. It's just the right thing to do.

Now then, what do you know about Nader, of all people, considering that there has been little about him (much less, about his current ideas) in media, and why are your feathers so ruffled? Nader took the lead in launching the consumer advocacy organizations that have, tragically, been the only means of (any measure of) restraint on corporate powers in decades.


Learn to overlook it. Seriously. We're stuck with it -- that's how media itself is primarily funded. It doesn't mean you are required to pay any attention to it (unless it''s as intrusive as pop-ups, have are actually counter-producvtive,.since people get very annoyed at the products being pushed).


A fun bit of trivia for today's liberals: Did you know that what came to be called AFDC was actually first included in FDR's Social Security Act -- the New Deal? Bill Clinton got rid of that, and began dismantling Social Security by targeting the disabled. Liberals said, "Cool!" and began waving the banner of middle class elitism. Just this year, Democrats agreed to virtually end food stamps to the elderly poor and the disabled. Liberals responded with... well, I'm sure they'll get a round to it, when they have time.


Regardless of the truth in your comment, it fails to address the underlying premise in Ralph's article, that is, the wish to survive this 'transient anomaly' in something of a meaningful way and in a reasonably healthy condition.


" my very astute and intelligent and historically accurate and psychologically powerful comments..." Pretty sold on yourself. You ARE a baby boomer, no doubt - the worst kind.


"The only difference between the democrats and the republicans are the names. Both are corrupt to the eyeballs."

First intelligent thing you've said on this "comment" section......