‘Normal’ ain’t normal no more.

By borrowing money, it is possible to maintain an illusion of wealth.  The United States created such a convincing illusion that everyone was fooled, including themselves.  Unsustainable levels of consumption were reached, and became what was considered as the ‘norm’.  Other countries were sucked in too, lending us so much money over the years that they don’t dare allow us to fail.

But we have failed, failed to recognize our own greed, failed to consider the consequences of our actions, failed to remember the future.  Now, our failure is threatening other countries, because they have bought into our illusion so deeply that our ways have become their ways.  Every one talks about when this ‘downturn’ will end, but no one wants to admit that there is simply no way to go back to the way things were.  So, what are we going to do?

Some way must be found to motivate people to work for something which they will not be able to have immediately, to save instead of spend, to contribute to the good of all instead of themselves.  Because we have so much debt to pay off, and fewer and fewer things that people absolutely need, finding activity to produce new value is going to be very hard.  Fixing roads is wonderful, but only if someone is going to use them.  If we are all broke, who will use the roads?

So much individual wealth have been created that there is little room to create any more, until the wealth of the community is increased.  Only when everyone has something to spend is money worth anything.  Figuring out what will make every person, everywhere, worth more is a difficult challenge.  Building new roads won’t do it, nor will shopping malls or office towers.  Even bridges and rail roads can’t raise the worth of everyone.

One thing can, though.  Expanding the sphere of human affairs.  Pushing back the frontiers, making more room for us to play in.  We have already used up just about everything that is easy to get to on this planet, but there is lots more where that came from.  Our Solar System is full of all of the things that we can find here, except for an environment that we can live in unprotected.  Energy is free out there, courtesy of the Sun, and everything from the water ice in Saturn’s rings to the hydrocarbons in Titan’s atmosphere are there for the taking.

Not only that, but there is lots of room to play with the stuff outside of our snug little home.  We don’t have to foul our air and water to make steel and aluminum, nor do we have to uproot our forests to get copper.  We don’t even have to drench huge piles of dirt with cyanide to win a few flecks of gold.  All of that stuff is up there, off planet.  Creating ways of getting to that stuff, and of using it wherever we want to, that is how we increase the worth of every human being.

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