From New Deal to Old Ideals

I sense the world is on the cusp of major economic and social change. Just what will eventuate is the subject of pure speculation but it is increasingly clear that a radical reformation is almost unavoidable.

Economically, the fallout from effectively insolvent nations has scarcely raised a ripple in the global financial pond. That cannot continue and eventually a day of financial reckoning will be brought about. This will have serious implications, not just for the nations directly affected, but for every country on Earth. The impoverished will have less access to foreign funds, the debtors will have to rebuild from a fractured base and the creditors will take a multi-trillion dollar financial ‘haircut’.

Such a circumstance will also bring about serious social change – born of necessity and a burgeoning realisation that the false god of materialism is not a sustainable substitute for a sense of belonging.

Being part of a family or a community is central to the human condition. Instinctively we are drawn to others to lighten our load, share our wisdom and learn from our ancestral history.

During times of unbridled prosperity this essential connection is often supplanted by pursuit of the trappings of success which ultimately is exposed as a hollow and unfulfilling achievement.

I am yet to meet one person on their death bed who has asked to be surrounded by their expensive trinkets or who wished they had spent more time in the office; in fact, quite the contrary. When faced with death, the stark realisation of what is truly important – family, faith and our personal relationships – become abundantly clear.

Yet too many of us wait to be confronted by our own mortality before acknowledging this fact. However, it doesn’t take a life threatening condition to draw people back to the essentials of being. It can also be brought about by other circumstances.

A serious financial crisis can present such an opportunity. Despite the hardship, the personal pain and sense of loss associated with financial difficulties, it can offer a prescient reminder about what is truly important in life.

Once one has come to terms with their changed personal circumstances, there is often a sense of relief that their days of ‘keeping up with the Joneses’ and running ever faster just to stay in the same spot are behind them.

When such an event befalls an entire nation, such as during a serious recession or depression, the collective belt-tightening can actually draw citizens together.

It can also fracture an otherwise seemingly cohesive society. Without a sense of a common moral foundation, embodied in law and through enduring traditions, a collective loss of means can drive almost irreconcilable wedges into the social fabric.

The challenge for us, individually and collectively, will be how we manage the impact of the forthcoming day of reckoning. There will be a temptation, particularly within government circles, to deny the severity of the crisis and pretend it is ‘business as usual’. Such an approach will simply compound the woes despite the initial ‘rush’ of a sugar coated economic placebo.

Just as every family will have to adjust their activities to cope with the new circumstances, so too will the government. There cannot be an FDR-type ‘new deal’. Rather, the response must be a return to the old ideals; a time when governments took less taxes, spent less than they took and encouraged the primacy of the family and a sense of community.

I sense that time is fast approaching.

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