(COMMON DEAMS) Ralph Nader, October 22, 2015 — In college, Economics 101 is often described as the social science discipline that deals with the production, distribution and consumption of goods and services. MIT Economist Paul Samuelson liked to focus on scarcity, or more specifically, the allocation of scarce resources. “Abundance” was always a pretty word with an idyllic connotation for Professor Samuelson. I often wonder why there weren’t a few classes about the real-life consequences of abundance, along with scarcity and people’s material welfare.
The present generation of internet technology is a proper subject of study within an economic framework. It might help us understand what is happening to our society.
Let’s start with today’s highly-touted information age. At our finger-tips is the greatest free trove of information in human history. We can get it quickly and efficiently. Are we more informed? Are we hungry for more information? Do we read more books in an era of record production of books? Do we know more about what our congressional and state legislators are about? Are we more knowledgeable about history and its lessons?
My sense is that the present generation of students knows about popular art and music, and has a nascent awareness of current events. But an unfortunate consequence of the abundance of information available to them is that too many students have left themselves less informed than their predecessors about serious information regarding our overall society and the world. This includes geography, politics, economics, literature, history, the side effects of technology, the interactions between consumers, workers, taxpayers and corporations, the doings of City Hall, or even how to cultivate gardens. Alas, the virtual reality of the culture of addictive distractions and stupefying daily routines still reign.