… The 1991 edition of Pantheon is based on page 10 of Max Hayward and Manya Harari’s 1958 book Boris Pasternak’s Greatest Novels. Doctor Zhivago; The words are spoken by the character Nikolai Nikolayevich to Ivan Ivanovich:
Goodness, what a sight, you lucky devil. Although I guess you don’t see her living with him every day.
DBXAlthough Nikolaevich refers to the view of the physical landscape, his understanding is generally applicable. It also applies, for example, to our perception of our economic reality.
It is amazing how we view our economy that we deny the modern global economy. let’s see daily Automobiles whizzing by, countless miles of paved and wide roads, commercial boats glistening in the sky, mobile phones sending and receiving messages from friends, lovers, colleagues and family members, deaf ears, no hunger, strong houses, businesses and tall buildings all with strong roofs and strong floor and indoor plumbing and electric lighting and air conditioning and Wi-Fi (and almost every commercial building higher than one floor has an elevator), restaurants catering to every taste and budget, appliance stores, department stores and Supermarkets.
The economic reality we see every day is the economic equivalent – your favorite geographical or ‘natural’ view – the Grand Canyon, Niagara Falls, the Atlantic from Cape Cod at sunrise, the Pacific from Big Sur at sunset, fields of lavender in Provence, the Northern Lights. All interesting views. But of course, if we see one of these natural beauties all day and every day, the ‘wonder’ will soon wear off. As Nikolai Nikolayevich said, “seeing” seems so familiar that it seems familiar.
I submit that this same ‘blinding’ effect applies to the people we live, work and play with in today’s global economy. If 50,000, or 5,000, or 500 years ago — indeed, in many cases 50 years ago — there were ordinary Americans who had risen from the dead to visit the economy every day, that ancestor would have been worried. In the beauty, splendor and magic that he or she sees for the first time. “What a sight!” That ancestor screams. And rightly so.
But we don’t see. Or, rather, we only see it, through a familiarly distorted view, as well as through ignorance of a disgusting view of the economic reality that is – and for many people remains – normal.
We moderns live in a wonderful world. This world is not perfect (obviously). But many of our avoidable weaknesses and problems stem from our failure to recognize the reality of modern economic awesomeness—a failure that prompts economic intervention that threatens to once again turn economic reality into the ugliness of all human existence.
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