The Corpus Callosum

This month href="http://www.usatoday.com/news/nation/2008-03-18-ccc75th_N.htm">marks
the 75th anniversary of the href="http://www.cccalumni.org/history1.html">Civilian
Conservation Corps.  This item caught my attention,
because I had an uncle who was part of the CCC.  He did
forestry work in the href="http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Upper_Peninsula_of_Michigan">U.P.
 This helped my father’s family eat during the href="http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Great_Depression">Great
Depression.

Currently the world economy is teetering on the brink of a recession.
 The triple threat of recession, climate change, and resource
depletion makes this economic precipice especially perilous.
 Could it be that we will need to see the revival of something
like the CCC?

If so, what would that mean for our society?  Would there be
some fundamental transformation?


We may get out of this financial situation with only a moderate level
of difficulty.  After all, our former President, Herbert
Hoover, href="http://us.history.wisc.edu/hist102/lectures/lecture18.html">said
in January 1929:

 “It has been twelve months of unprecedented
advance, of wonderful prosperity. If there is any way of judging the
future by the past, this new year will be one of felicitation and
hopefulness.”

Similarly, somewhat later, in the same year, John D. Rockefeller said:

“In the 93 years of my life, depressions have come
and gone. Prosperity has always returned and will again.”

But we got out of that one with massive industrial expansion.
 This time around, we may have neither the customers, nor the
resources, to make enough widgets with which to restore the economy.

Another thing that got us out of the Great Depression was an increase
in the workforce.  Women started working outside the home in
increasing numbers.  

While that still is true, what is not clear is whether we will be able
to have two people per household working in as great of a proportion as
we do now.  The reason for that, quite simply, is the price of
food.  Basic foodstuffs are getting more expensive.
 Prepared foods, naturally, are getting more expensive, too.
 Will it get to the point where it is more economical to have
people grow and prepare their own food, compared to having a second
person working outside the home?  

During the Great Depression, something like 40% of our vegetables came
from victory gardens.  Eleanor Roosevelt planted a victory
garden at the White House (Would Bill Clinton do the same?)  

i-c2af88545b4cfc658009b12c9f5feb3e-ww18.jpg

If we go back to a model in which one person works outside the home,
while another stays home, what will that do to the women’s movement?
 

Furthermore, if it gets to the point where it routinely takes two
people to operate a household, what will happen to all the single
people?  Marriage — or lifelong partnership — is neither as
popular, nor as stable, as it once was.

Some of that might be taken care of with CCC-type programs, in which
young people are conscripted to do farm labor.  

A lot of what happens to US society will depend on the kinds of jobs
available.  It is hard to anticipate what would happen to the
job market if there is a prolonged economic crash.  

I suspect health care will change quite a bit.  That is one
sector that remains strong.  As the average age of the
population increases, the demand will increase as well.
 However, if the equities market does poorly for a long time,
health insurance companies will find themselves under increasing
pressure.  It may get to the point where they simply cannot
afford to do business.  As the cost of health care increases,
while the profit from investments decreases, our current model of
health care finance may be unsustainable.

The military-industrial complex may be in for some downsizing too.
 We may find that national security efficiency (expressed in
terms of lives saved per dollar spent) is better achieved by having
more hospitals and fewer tanks; more doctors and fewer soldiers.
 

The next decade could be a very interesting time to be a sociologist.
 Too bad there won’t be any funding to pay a sociologist’s
salary.

Comments

  1. #1 chezjake
    March 19, 2008

    I agree that it would be worth considering bringing back the CCC. I also think that another area where there can be real opportunities for education and continued employment is in the development of “green collar” jobs. http://www.greenforall.org/

  2. #2 Crystal
    March 19, 2008

    I served 2 years in Americorps NCCC which is a take off of the ccc in the 30’s. We worked on conservation projects, educational needs, disaster relief, public saftey and so on. It was the best two years of my life.

  3. #3 speedwell
    March 24, 2008

    It’s unclear whether conscript labor falls afoul of various regulations, including Constitutional amendments, involving involuntary servitude. These days, when everyone is so litigious, it may turn out to be a works program largely for lawyers.

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