Musing on the Middle Class

The middle class is an inherently unstable construct, it seems to me. It is easier to be poor or wealthy than to leverage oneself safely into an awkward place between the two (a place that is awkward because it requires the suppression of natural volatility: the nature of success is to be volatile, to overturn systems, to reward populations asymmetrically). The middle class in the US was built most recently on a widespread need for relatively cheap labor that has evaporated (as the market has naturally evolved to include more players, driving prices up and down to destroy the conditions that made the 20th century so nice in hindsight).

Today we have more people than ever, and we need fewer (to perform the old tasks that used to make a large number of our parents and grandparents members of the middle class). Our immediate economic future is not going to be a repeat of the immediate past. Nobody is going to invent a policy that magically allows us to keep living in the 1950s on an endless recursive loop (pretending that things don’t change, that we can build a system that will be immortal and non-volatile). The message of the market is historically consistent over the long term: evolve or die, and every system dies eventually. The question is not how to become immune to death, but how to die best (with the least amount of painful blowback: there will always be blowback, and it will always be painful, especially for that delicate flower that is the middle class).

—Joseph Gresham Miller

About kalekotxakur

Joseph Gresham Miller grew up in the southern United States, where his parents provided a well-stocked library and a large garden in lieu of school. As a young man, he left the States for two years to live in northern Spain, where he worked as an LDS Mormon missionary (basically an unpaid intern in corporate sales). After this adventure he went to school for more than a decade to acquire a doctorate in classical studies. Along the way, he met a very nice girl in Latin class, and they had two boys. Today, he and his family live in the mountain West. While his wife works full-time in academia, he adjuncts at local universities, writes, and takes care of the kids. He is interested in finding practical applications for more or less defunct ancient philosophies (especially Cynicism, Skepticism, and Stoicism) in modern life.

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