There are two young fish swimming along and they happen to meet an older fish swimming the other way, who nods at them and says “Morning boys. How’s the water?” And the two young fish swim on for a bit, and then eventually one of them looks at the other and says “What the hell is water?”
Some of the most obvious, important realities are often the hardest to see and the most difficult to talk about. Our economic environment is no exception. I try and look at every new book that hits the library within the Dewey decimal range 320s (political science), 330’s (economics) and 340’s (law), and then read the most interesting and provocative ones. I’ve done this for years and still struggle to see the “water” of our political economy.
My strategy has always been to adopt an extraordinarily practical view of economics and just keep swimming. William frickin’ James pragmatism! Some people see things that are and ask, why? Some people dream things that never were, and ask why not? And some people have to go to work, and don’t have time for that crap. But it’s still useful to stop and think about the economic water in which we all swim.
Our economy is extremely stratified. The rich are really, really rich. Public policy debates about wealth inequality continue to rage on in news, books and articles. I’ve never understood the policy recommendation of confiscating wealth and then redistributing it to others. It seems both immoral and highly impractical. However, I recently read Robert Reich’s book Saving Capitalism (2015). It helped me understand the humanity of wealth redistribution a little better. Reich tells a story that illuminates the heart of the matter. I’ll explain next week. Until then, be aware that your Estate Planning Warchest is immersed in socioeconomic “water”.