Gennady Shkliarevsky

The last several years have been a roller-coaster ride for American political elites.  They have experienced a genuine fear that their “business as usual” is in real danger and their domination is under threat.  The fear has mobilized the elites.  They have marshaled enormous resources to counter this threat and bring it under control.  Although the election of Joseph Biden as President of the United States has allayed some of their worst fears, they certainly do not feel secure since the country is still divided and its numerous problems remain unresolved.

The Biden administration faces a formidable task of bringing the country together.  There is no more ritual kneeling in support of the extremists from BLM.  Now the administration adopts policies directed to rein in extremism, and not just of the right white supremacy variety, but also left-wing radicalism of BLM and Antifa.  There are numerous signals coming from the government that it will try more moderate approaches and will be inclined to make compromises—all for the sake of stability and order.  In other words, it will try to bring back “business as usual” that has been disrupted in recent years.

While this approach may appear reasonable to many, it reveals that liberals have not learned much from their recent experience.  They think that they can put their worst fears behind and go back to their old ways.  There are no signs that liberals will go beyond their current explanations for what has happened in the last few years and reexamine the foundations of their theory and practice.  They still put the blame for the country’s problems on Donald Trump and racism.  The country has changed and there is no going back to the way it was.

The source of the turmoil that has engulfed America has deep roots.  The signs have been in evidence for quite some time.  The accumulation of unresolved problems—the declining rates of growth, the growing gap between the rich and the poor, environmental problems, and much else—has indicated that the country is running short of resources needed to sustain it.

There is always a persistent pressure for new resources.  Most resources deplete when used.  Therefore, in order to counter the inevitable depletion, we must constantly create value—new possibilities that offer access to new resources.

There is one resource, however, that never depletes when used.  It is our capacity to create.  In fact, this resource appreciates when used.  It generates new ideas, new insights, new approaches that open new possibilities.  Value creation allows us to escape the inevitable grip of depletion.

The fact that resources available to us are becoming increasingly scarce indicates that we are not using our capacity to create to the degree necessary for sustaining our society.  Many people do not participate in value creation and their capacity to create remains underutilized.  We need to reverse this trend.  All people have the capacity to create.  In order to ensure sustainability, all people should be part of value creation.

There is nothing in the policies proposed by the Biden administration that addresses this fundamental issue.  Redistribution of wealth will simply reduce the amount of money available for investment.  Investment is the blood line for the creation of value.  If investments are down, we will create less value and consequently have fewer resources.  Moreover, redistribution does nothing to include people in value creation.  They will still be excluded and their capacity to create will remain underutilized.  As a result, we will have fewer resources available for sustaining our society.

Biden and his administration have stated their commitment to fight climate change.  Addressing environmental problems will require huge resources.  Yet the policies that Biden and his government propose make no mention of the need to enhance the use of our most important resource—our capacity to create.  Harvesting wind and solar power cannot make up for this waste.  Reducing consumption is not a solution either.  It will only lead to a decline production and resources.

Biden’s policies do not address the most important problem that we need to solve—the problem of growth.   A maximal utilization of human capacity to create is the only solution.  Anything short of it  will bring back “business as usual.  Indeed, liberals may succeed in calming the current unrest.  But their success will be a Pyrrhic victory.  The need to sustain our society will continue to exert its persistent and powerful pressure for value creation and new resources.  If we fail to counter this pressure, all the problems we face will come back to haunt us with vengeance and sooner rather than later.


Professor Shkliarevsky is a Professor Emeritus of History at Bard College.

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