To understand why our economy (ies) are unable to recover, we must get a bit of history.
First. The transformation of the productive economies of the fifties and sixties into parasite economies started in the seventies.
Until that decade we lived in “productive societies” since then we have lived in “consumers societies”.
From the end of the World War II until the seventies (the exact year varies s from Country to Country) the economy had to satisfy real needs (housing, clothing, food, education, transportation, etc) from the eighties we have been satisfying artificial needs, needs created by marketing and advertising, e.g.: smaller cell phones, 3D TV, signature clothing, shoes, etc.
We purchase products and service we do not need “need” but we are asked to believe we “do need”.
Coupled with this two other phenomena did appear, the overpaid manager (not an entrepreneur but a salaried person) and declining demography.
Example 1: the manager of the sixties brought home 30 times the salary of the production line worker, now he brings home 3000 times the salary of the worker.
Example 2: the high income people were taxed at a rate of 76% (USA) to 96% (Sweden). Now most avoid paying any tax.
Second. As our society has grown older, and after years of “buying” we have reached a point of saturation of real and perceived need that no advertising can change. To see the truth of this just look at Japan, for 15 years stuck in a no growth economy and … living quite well.
Third. The Western society (North America and Europe ) are in a non stoppable decline, like many other empires (big and small) before us. Decline is easily to forecast when three phenomena appear.
1. Our armies are manned by mercenaries instead of citizens (happening throughout the West), see the Roman Empire.
2. Decline in fertility and frenetic sexual behaviour (again happening everywhere around us). Again see the Roman empire, the Most Serene Republic of Venice, …
3. Move from production to consumption. See the above plus Spain, Britain, France, …
We are in decline, and like in the above examples, we may have some short time reversal of the trend, but the rate of decline soon takes over again (see France from the 18 century, or Britain from the First World War, etc …)
Now let us look at reality and move away from the fiction our leaders try to sell.
Growth. We are fixated on “growth” measured in percentages of GDP (gross domestic product).
Assume that the Mafia families will get involved in a major fight. We will get lots of deaths, lot of guns and ammunition purchased. The GDP will jump!
Now take a real example. Due to Obama Bin Laden we have seen the growth of a new major industry: security in the airport. Needless to say the whole array of people, machine and procedures (that by the way reduces our productivity: if I spend two hours waiting in line to get cleared, these two hours are deducted from my “productive” time, designing stuff).
As it has been demonstrated over and over again these security barriers can be easily circumvented, but anyhow it is perfectly possible to hijack a plane with no weapons, just our bare hands (no, I am not telling you how!).
The security industry has created jobs but no wealth, in fact it does have a negative impact on our productivity, like the Mafia wars, but … the GDP could grow.
Let bus go back to the beginning, the sated society, the society where people do not have major needs but are quite happy to go by: the society we live in. (A parenthesis: it is not true that ALL people in our societies have ALL their needs satisfied. Unfortunately we still have millions of children going to bed hungry, and million of seniors awaiting death in squalor, but they do not count … because we do not care about them, we prefer to buy a new phone with some new gadget).
Having traded the creation of goods for the creation of artificial needs we have killed our industries (look at Britain, the mother of the industrial world reduced to a nation of civil servants and paper peddlers, alias the financial industry) we have become spectators in a world where new Powers are emerging, like China, the Far East, Latin America and even Africa! (I just came back from Kenya, a major cauldron of new enterprises and factories).
When our leaders accuse the emerging Powers of stealing away our jobs, they are moving in the land of Oz. We have killed our jobs, we have moved away from farming, mining and industry and chosen welfare or the financial world, both equally parasitic statuses.
Can we recover if we face reality and go back to work? Theoretically yes.
We can redistribute wealth, we can make again jobs productive, eliminate the parasites in government and private industries, the hundreds of NGOs with no other purpose of making money for their staff/owners, …
It could be done if there were a will. But we are not willing to accept sacrifice, our lives are just as good as we want them to be. After all the Japanese can still be seen all over the world visiting our museums and our art towns. Why not us?
Practically a real inversion of our decline is almost impossible, our politicians are easily (for multinational, banks, financial institutions) purchasable and purchased. And so are our media, the ultimate bastion of democracy.
And God help us from the appearance of the “strong” leader. In this case better decline that destruction!
The best we can do is to hope the decline will be gentle, not like the one of the Roman Empire (that lead Europe into almost a millennium of barbarism) but the one of Venice and Spain, a gentle sinking into insignificance, but still a reasonably good life.
All right, like in the famous song of some ten years ago, I really have got no valuable advice to give, except “when you go out, use sun-screen”.