Johnson’s “Great Society” – Trump’s “Make America Great Again”. What Are We Talking About?

In 1964, President Lyndon Johnson said. “The Great Society is a place where every child can find knowledge to enrich his mind and to enlarge his talent.  It is a place where leisure is a welcome chance to build and reflect, not a feared cause of boredom and restlessness

Technological improvements can certainly be critical to industries’ growth and productivity (e.g., the car industry in Detroit).   But “Government intervention to enhance greatness will not be a simple matter.   There is a risk that well-meaning change may make matters worse.   Protectionist policies and penalties for exporters of jobs may not increase long-term opportunities for Americans who have been left behind.  Large-scale reductions of environmental or social regulations or in health care benefits, or in American involvement in the wider world may increase our consumption, yet leave us with a sense of a deeper loss.  

We have to go beyond Trump’s slogans for true economic greatness.  What are the real goals?   How do we measure their achievement?   In the quotations above from Yale economist Robert J. Schiller and inthe one to follow, we are given a more accurate assessment of what this greatness should be. “Greatness reflects not only prosperity, but it is also linked with an atmosphere a social environment that makes life meaningful.  In President Johnson’s words, greatness requires meeting not just ‘the needs of the body and demands of commerce but the desire for beauty and the hunger for community.'”  (Martin Luther King helped us see that too, remember him today).

Ray Myers

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