By now I think most of us are familiar with the concept of the ‘housing bubble’…the over-inflation and explosion of housing prices across the country, but most troubling on the coasts. Unfortunately, this bubble leads to another and another and another. As Paul Krugman pointed out in mid-December in the NY Times, our economy and the Madoff scheme look amazingly similar. One is legal and one is not…both depend on greed…neither is sustainable.
We know bubbles float around and are very pretty…while they last. We also know that when they burst they are gone except in our memory. Of course, our natural tendency is to create another pretty bubble to replace those we’ve enjoyed momentarily in the past. Such seems to be the tendency now with many of our financial and political leaders, even as more bubbles are on the verge of exploding. It appears that President-elect Obama is calling us into therapy, so we can deal with our child-like dance after the latest bubble. And already, many voices from diverse perspectives are rising up to defend their ‘ideas’ as each tries to ‘sell’ shares in the next promising bubble.
We call them ‘ideologues.’ It doesn’t appear to matter if they are liberal or conservative, business or government, in media or in religion. They sell ‘idea bubbles’ to unsuspecting consumers with promises of ‘life-time warranties’ and ‘plausible deniability.’ Fellow ideologues need each other, even when they compete. They are the talking-heads on 24-hour cable news programs, and they quote each other to keep the bubbles floating.
So…what do we need to do? It appears to me that the only way to limit or control the continued proliferation of empty ‘idea bubbles’ is to practice critical-thinking in our everyday decisions and conversations. Ultimately, this is the method devised by philosophers around the world and through the centuries to differentiate one idea from another, and to integrate the most fulfilling and sustainable ideas into our relationships at all levels. Let’s talk these issues so we can learn something valuable from the crises we’ve created together…and about how we can keep from creating more for our children and grand-children.