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Seeing beyond the recession: The sun also rises

Amidst all the gloom, remember that this recession, too, will pass.

Reading through an excellent essay in Saturday's Wall Street Journal entitled "Will this Crisis Produce a 'Gatsby'?", left me remembering the title of a book I once read, Hemmingway's The Sun Also Rises.

We've spent the last decade spending like prodigals. Perhaps we shouldn't be surprised, then, that so many of us now strain to simply get by. In many ways, as the article points out, we just relived the 1920s and American idealism is now being harshly battered by 1930s style depression, which simply illustrates just how uneven the promise of American mobility actually is:

...[T]he United States actually became less equal and less fluid in the 1920s, as the era's prosperity increasingly benefited the wealthiest. By the end of the decade, the top 1% of the population received nearly a quarter of the national income, an historic peak that would not be approached again until this past decade. Indeed, the term "social mobility" was coined in 1925 by the sociologist Pitrim Sorokin, who used the phrase to identify a phenomenon in apparent decline. "The wealthy class of the United States is becoming less and less open," Sorokin wrote, "and is tending to be transformed into a caste-like group."

That's the bad news. The good news, as Peggy Noonan calls out in "Remembering the Dawn of Abundance," is that there is much for which we can be grateful. "In hard times we should not forget the magic of life, and the mystery." She was referring to WiFi as she flew across the United States, but she could have been referring to the many other wonders our industry produces.

Things will get better. The 1930s gave way to the 1940s and the idyllic 'Happy Days' of the 1950s. The sun also rises.

Today a friend emailed me to let me know he had secured a job with Canonical, the company behind Ubuntu. What a great place to land, and what an opportunity to change the world! There are more Ubuntus out there, even in the midst of all this creative destruction. It's mostly destructive today, but the creativity will emerge from it and build greater opportunity and greater wealth than before.

In the meantime, keep in mind that most good things don't cost a dime. Family and friends are free.

Follow me on Twitter at mjasay.