This post is the first installment of a 20 page article. After posting all the installments it will be made available as a complete document. Meanwhile, FIRST please read my Oct. 21, 2012 post "Our Unemployment Crisis (Solution): Work, has its Nature Changed Permanently?" for background.
I have seen that people from many parts of the world appear to have been reading these installments. Places like Poland, Russia, Latvia, Indonesia, China, etc. I would be very grateful if you would leave some comments regarding your impressions and if you think this might work in your country, or if you plan to do something political with the idea.
2. Needed -- A New Set of Attitudes and Behavior
3. A National Quarter System Could be the AnswerA Young Suburban Family
4. Sample Lifestyles Under a National Quarter System
4. Sample Lifestyles Under a National Quarter System
An Inner City Family
A Government Worker Approaches Retirement
An Urban Wage Earner Escapes the City
5. Advantages to Businesses
6. Labor/Management Cooperation
Sample Labor Contract Language
7. An Improved National Economic Indicator (RNP) is Needed
Collecting the Data
Social Utility of the RNP
This idea was first written and developed after the oil crisis of the early 1970s. Some dollar figures may be from that period. A few items were updated for later crisis periods. On rereading, I was amazed at how little had changed in terms of basic problems in almost 40 years. Brackets [ ] are used where new information is needed or updated for 2012. This is a semi-final draft, your thoughts and input will be much appreciated. After posting all the installments I will make this available as a single document. Lee Aikin, email@example.com
Things Fall Apart is a Nigerian writer's book about the effect on his people of the change from tribal to modern life. Many would agree that a book “Things Fall Apart” could just as well be written about what is happening in this country and economy today.Not since the beginning of the Great Depression almost 50  years ago has there been such an upheaval in our peacetime economic and social life. Certainly the Civil Rights Movement and Youth Revolt of the sixties affected many people. Yet there were numerous pockets of normalcy where people tisk-tisked over their TV sets [PCs], but were otherwise unaffected.
Now no one is immune. Whether it is the housewife at the meat counter, her husband at the gas pump, [or the family facing foreclosure or unemployment] everyone knows there is a [worldwide] crisis brewing.
The gloomy predictions of rising [or continuing] unemployment and [high] food prices, gas and fuel costs, and possible world-wide depression are, of course, the culmination of years of poor [or nonexistent] planning and ostrich-like behavior [not to mention downright criminality by corporate and financial elites]. Many of these signs and symptoms have received public attention in the past and that continues to this day.
Temporary improvements in international politics [and national policies] can bring about improvements in the short-range picture, but the long-range economic picture is most definitely on a down-hill grade.
ECONOMIC AND SOCIAL INDICATIONS AND PROBLEMS
1. We are running out of resources. More and more we have to import raw materials. The winter of '72-'73 saw fuel and power crises in numerous areas of the country; only our mild winter kept them from being more serious. This year, of course, the problem finally became startlingly apparent to even the most short sighted. Meteorologists suspect that warm winters will soon be a thing of the past. [I will need to develop paragraphs on greening the energy picture and the climate change issue, also the impact of fracking on gas and oil recovery.]2. We have a continuous unemployment problem which only appears to be alleviated when large numbers of our young men [and women] are in the army. [and even that is not working any more and will get worse as we downsize the military] All predictions are for considerably higher rates of unemployment in the near future. [No one could have predicted the dot.com bubble, the McMansion/housing bubble (perhaps fueled in places like Florida and Las Vegas with money laundering activity) or the outrageous unregulated behavior of the major world financial institutions, and how they temporarily increased economic activity and employment.]
There are predictions for considerably higher rates of unemployment in the near future [as is now seen in Europe and the Middle East] [Well those chickens have come home to roost now, and we will not have any housing boom to bail out this situation any time soon. Of course we also have a change in expectations. Years ago 6% was considered a reasonable unemployment level, but now people are looking for under 5%. This is probably unlikely without a significant change in the way we conduct our economic life.]
3. Pollution has become a major problem. Every day we consume more, waste more and throw out more. Until recently wasteful consumption has been promoted as a virtue—at last we are discovering that it is a foolish, intolerable vice. [Famously , or infamously, President Bushes response to what people could do to help us recover from 9/11 was “shop.” We even have a The Worlds Longest Yard Sale, 700 mile from Michigan to Alabama, and others of 250 and 70 miles. I think that people are discovering we have too much STUFF and are sensibly trading it around. Of course, this does nothing for manufacturing, but it is good for the environment, and our garages.]
4. Although agriculture is finally coming into its own as a major economic strong point for our country, the migration to urban areas continues as more and more small and medium-sized farmers are forced off the land. This in turn is having the effect of converting our agricultural practices from soil conserving to soil mining, as well as forcing small units out of production completely. [The “locovore” movement is a welcome counter to these trends, but corn ethanol and genetically modified crops have significant impacts on the food situation that need to be altered.]
5. Youth alienation, [unemployment] dropping out of school and establishment life, juvenile delinquency, etc. are rampant. Although youth may have been the first to sense that something was deeply wrong with our way of life, everyone else is finally reaching similar conclusions. [The computer driven social media revolution has accelerated this move and has even become worldwide as seen with The Arab Spring. Youth unemployment is much higher than for older people and is creating worldwide instability.]
6. While B.A.'s in liberal arts are a glut on the market, good laboratory [and computer] technicians and auto mechanics are hard to find. Our school systems are obviously failing in the area of technical education and economic adaptability. [A sensible idea has been suggested that the vocational education track should include small business management classes.]
7. In former times youth was needed for productive work at the age of physical maturity. Our present system of child (read adolescent) labor laws and continuous schooling to the age of 18, or to the age of 22 or more for white collar and professional work, is against nature and our youth is rebelling [I saw that many in the Occupy movement were young and unemployed.]
8. The increasing number of elderly and ill persons is creating vast problems of wasted human potential and excess institutional facilities. [Much needs to be done in developing creative solutions to these issues, and this plan should make a useful impact.]
9. Homes are breaking up, children [and women] are beaten and abused and women kill themselves and their offspring at a shocking rate in this country. [A 2004 study by the Center for a New American Dream indicated that nearly half the Americans surveyed are willing to accept a smaller paycheck to have more time with their families and for leisure activities.]
10. A few years ago at the meetings of the White House Conference on Children and Youth, it was found that delinquent behavior among the children of businessmen and executives had become a major problem. [This is probably not a problem that has been improved by the astounding growth in the ratio of top CEO and other upper management wages compared with that of their low level employees. While 30 or 40 years ago this ratio was about 40 to1, by the time the economy was tanking in 2007 these ratios ranged from 400 to 1 up to 1,000 to 1. Although these ratios have diminished measurably, they still are far from the level that seemed quite comfortable for the upper class 40 years ago. The Occupy movement has it right. We are the 99%, and the 1% has still run off with most of the marbles. The argument of some politicians against restoring the Bush tax cuts at the top by 4.5% is symptomatic. McCain had it right, GREED, GREED, GREED. Or is it a guilty fear of the future. Candidate Romney has even suggested removing ALL taxes on dividends and interest. I guess paying taxes at the 14% level is too much for him. He would rather pay 4%.]
Despite these many indications of fundamental ills, those attacks which have been made on the problems have only occurred on a piecemeal basis. In essence, we have been applying band-aids to bomb victims. [We have been operating on the assumption that material wealth is all important. We need to consider that perhaps non-material items like time, entertainment, leisure and creative activities, and friendships can substitute very nicely for some aspects of material wealth. Thus we could maintain a high level of national well-being at a lower costs in nonrenewable resources. My Sept 4, 2012 post "Are You Better Off Today vs. 4 Years Ago: 'Better' Defined," hints at this concept.]
The only comprehensive approaches to change have come from extreme leftists and militants [and tea party conservatives], but their suggestions would disrupt the status quo of too many citizens and hold the threat of far too much chaos to be acceptable. Nevertheless, by now there can be little doubt in anyone's mind that fundamental and broadly based changes are needed in the way we conduct our economic life. [The concerns of the Occupy movement seem more centered on the great disparity in wealth, but changing that would only fix part of the overall problem.]
In the 2nd installment I will look at attitude and behavioral changes that can improve our economic life and happiness, and in some cases our environment.]