Getting Short-Changed in Life
Economic Vagaries in America
Some forces once they gather momentum are virtually unstoppable. Specifically when we talk of economics it’s either about managing economic growth or decline. However what about a scenario that occurs over a prolonged period of time like three decades? That’s what George packer seeks to do through ‘The Unwinding.’
This book is a journey through the ups and downs of individual’s lives over thirty years. It traces their successes and failures and reads thus almost like a novel. Except that this is an entirely factual work and not fiction. None of the individuals come from privileged backgrounds and they often have conflicting fortunes but ultimately we come to the conclusion that their lives don’t really add up. Either they survive at low ebb or their lives disintegrate after initial successes.
The survey of these lives from a wide cross-section of society leads us to conclude there must be something fundamentally wrong with an economic system that engenders untrammeled competition with no safety nets. It’s a scenario where the state has retreated to all but the margins and individual’s lives are dictated to by corporations with often devastating consequences. Or they are in the throes of a political process in government where they are dispensable and of no intrinsic value.
Apart from that we see that community and social bonding is often weak or non-existent and individuals,with or without families are left to battle the vagaries of economic change by themselves. Families and individuals are often compelled to change places and vocations with little ultimate betterment. They ultimately continue to battle economic odds beyond their control. It's really an indictment as much of the American way of life as of free market economics.
I would describe ‘The Unwinding’ as indispensable reading for economic decision makers in the developing world enamored by the American model as well as all those who seek to migrate there in the hope of a better way of life.
© 2015 Siddhartha S Bhadrakumar