As a present for my recent birthday, my wife bought me a copy of Jeffrey D. Sachs new book, “Building the New American Economy, Smart Fair and Sustainable.” It has joined the Los Angeles Times, as part of my breakfast table reading.
As an aside, every time I see the city name Los Angeles I am reminded of the possible excesses of editorship. It is much better in Spanish but I am hopeless in that language. I communicate with my gardeners, who speak no English, with a series of grunts , nods and pointing. My communication successes are limited. However, I do far better than the editors of the title of the metropolis known as the City of the Angels. That sounds sweet but it is not even in the same ball park as the city’s original title which was “The Pueblo of Our Lady, Queen of the Angeles” The last words in Spanish are “Los Angeles”. The rest of the name ended up on the cutting room floor. Did the editor have something against Ladies? Or against Queens? Who knows, but I think it is a landmark in the world of poor editing.
But I digress. My wife and I span the political spectrum. I am at one end and she the other. Politics is a forbidden topic at the dinner table. I had a clue that Jeffrey Sachs book was not from Donald Trump’s end of the room when I saw that the foreword was by Bernie Sanders.
I have not finished the book which I am enjoying immensely. Jeffrey and I agree on a number of things. He advocates a value added tax as I do. He talks about income inequality but he does not use my regressivity index. An oversight I am sure. While we agree on many of the problems, we differ markedly on the solutions. Since Jeffrey is probably not a Trump supporter, this is to be expected.
I am relatively certain that Jeffrey did not intend this book to be amusing but parts of it almost knocked me out of my chair laughing. I have long been aware that the intellectual capital of this country is in the Northeast. That is where the people who matter live. Their view of the West was spelled out in Mark Twain’s book, “ Roughing It” and has not changed. They think we do reasonably well given our disadvantages such as dodging Indian arrows and riding our horses to work.
Jeffrey proposes that much of our need for renewable electrical energy can be solved by tapping into the hydropower resourses in Hudson’s Bay. This power can then be transmitted from Canada down to the Northeast, solving the problem. I presume that since those of us in the West are reading by candlelight our needs do not matter.
Another section causing uncontrollable giggles was his treatment of future automobile use. He proposes that the people in the cities of the Northeast such as Boston, New York, Washington and even Pittsburg should end their individual ownership of their family cars in favor of ride sharing where they presumably tap into the network of commonly owned cars when they need one. He assumes that public transportation will fill the gaps.
For some reason, I do not think the idea of ride sharing is going to be very popular in Battle Mountain, Nevada, Lubbock, Texas or Hobbs, New Mexico.
I spent four very enjoyable years in Reno, two as an inland marine and miscellaneous lines insurance underwriter and two years at the University of Nevada, as it was called in those days, obtaining my Masters Degree in Economics. The residents of Battle Mountain made an indelible impression on me. As I recall, heavy rains resulted in flooding in Battle Mountain. The railroad ran through the town, essentially cutting it in half. The railroad right of way was acting like a huge dam holding the flood waters into the city. The town folks, hat in hand, respectfully asked the railroad for permission to dig a culvert through the right-of way to drain the water. The railroad replied with an abrupt NO. That evening there was a very large explosion near the railroad. In the morning, the flood waters were gone and a ten foot wide gap existed in the railroad right of way with the accompanying tracks completely missing. I made a small note in my notebook, “Don’t mess with the folks in Battle Mountain.”
Anyway, the Northeast is where the intellectuals are located, and those of us in the West just continue to muddle along.
Professor Joe Launie is a Professor Emeritus of Risk Management at California State University,
Northridge. His latest book is “The Road to the Ox Carts”, where he warns that continued abuse of the middle class by the government may lead to an insurrection.