The New New Deal

A long time ago, when I was younger and more naive, I studied astrology. Some astrologers believe that around the turn of the century, we entered, or will enter, what's called the "Age of Aquarius," a time when people become more individualistic and self-guided, as opposed to the previous age of Pisces, that was defined by strong leaders like Jesus Christ, Charlemagne, Napoleon, Hitler, Franklin Roosevelt, and Stalin.

Well, astrology might be a crock, but I think they're onto something there.

Since the dawn of the Industrial Age, for roughly 200 years, western civilization has held an informal social contract. We would allow a small number of capitalists to own the means of production, and we would restructure our society to suit their needs.

Schools were constructed to turn children into good factory workers. Infrastructure was built to make products easier to move. In exchange, the owners would provide jobs and keep society rolling.

It worked. Better than feudalism, at least, but the owners got greedy. One Roosevelt divided their power and forced them to consider the needs of their workers. Despite his efforts, the economy crashed, and another Roosevelt created a New Deal of government safety nets.

And so after a few tweaks, the system was great. The '50s and '60s were times of prosperity, and despite a few bumps in the road, that prosperity lasted through the '90s. It was so simple. All you had to do was go to school, cut your hair, and get a job.

But in 2008, things once again fell apart and threw us into a recession that may never end. And slowly we've came to a terrible realization: Our leaders no longer have any idea what they're doing.

Maybe it was cronyism gone amuck. Perhaps too much inbreeding. Or could it be that the world now moves too fast for anyone to keep up with? Regardless of the reason, we are becoming increasingly aware that newthe only people we can depend upon are the ones we look at in the mirror.

It's an exciting time, if you look at it the right way. The problem is that we're in a time of transition, and the system is slow to adapt. Our schools are still churning out factory workers when we need leaders, artists and entrepreneurs. We still hope for pensions and life-long employment, while we would be just as productive dreaming of unicorns and wizards.

Don't believe me? Take a look at the math. Let's say you buy into the old way of doing things. You spend your entire life working, saving for the day when you can finally retire, meanwhile putting your money into mutual funds and bonds.

We'll assume you did well for yourself. You retire at the tender age of 65 with a million dollars. Of course, you don't want to touch the principle, so you stick it in the bank and draw interest.

Today, you'd be lucky to get an interest rate of 1% on that million. That brings you in a whopping $10,000 a year. If Social Security is still around, you might do slightly better than double that. How much do you think $25,000 a year will buy you by the time you retire?

There has to be a better way. When you spend most of your life working for a system that leaves you, at best, a broken pauper, then that's a system that's not working.

We are in need of a New New Deal. But this time, the one dealing it won't be a rich factory owner or a president. It will be you, and you alone.

As author Seth Godin says, there are no more maps. If you want one, you'll have to draw it yourself.

Over the next few weeks, I'll be telling you about a few books that will help you draw your own map and teach you the skills you'll need to adapt to the Aquarian Age.