While a considerable number of the postings of late on both alt.machines.cnc and rec.crafts.metalworking have been off-topic in the narrow and immediate sense, in a larger frame of reference most are directly on topic in that these consider the larger context in which for-profit and home-shop metal working is embedded.
Many American social, cultural and political changes are not favorable to metal working [or any other productive/creative activity]. These range from security concerns [you might make guns, knives or infernal devices] to economic concerns [do I buy that 1/4X20 tap or feed the kids], zoning restrictions, and various cultural changes [such as where do I put the lathe and casting furnace in the apartment that I had to move to, because I could no longer afford a house].
While I do not agree with many of the opinions expressed, it is never-the-less encouraging to see these many ominous trends (and their likely consequences) are at least being considered and discussed. The bad news is this is being done in a few highly restricted forums and none of the major political parties/candidates or main-stream media will touch any of these issues with a 10-foot [3.048 metre] pole.
It appears that many of the trends can be traced back to a small number of (overlapping and converging) root causes, a few of which include:
(1) There is no longer (and probably never was) an America or United States in a monolithic sense. What has changed is that the national strategies, goals, objectives, policies, etc. are no longer dominated or dictated by a single or a few elite socio-economic classes and/or economic groups, with mainly provincial/parochial [translation: national] viewpoints. Rather the elites have become « citizens of the world, » far more comfortable with their counterparts in other countries, who share their view of reality, than the average or typical citizen of their own country. Additionally, the traditionally disenfranchised domestic socio-economic and ethnic groups are no longer content to keep their mouths shut and do as they are told.
(2) Communism and the USSR are no longer a viable threat to the world. When the choice was the US or the USSR, nations could reasonably be expected to choose the lesser of two evils and compromise their national interests in support of US interests vis-a-vis USSR interests. With the removal of any credible threat, nations are free to advance their own best self interests, as they perceive them, even against those of the United States. There is an insidious and dangerous tendency to confuse actions of sovereign states such as France in their perceived best self interest as being somehow anti-American, when it is simply pro-France, and in the best interest of the French.
(3) The lack of any plausible alternative or threat to their control (see 2. above) has allowed the plutocrats and oligarchs to take advantage of existing conditions to maximize profits by minimizing expenses such as taxes and wages through the vehicle of the « Brave New World Order ».
(4) The United States and most of the countries in Europe meet many of the criteria for a « failing state ». A google search of « failed nation » OR « failing nation » produced 5,810 hits. The basic criteria of a nation include: a. definite and controlled borders, whereby the nation controls who and what enters and leaves; b. control and identification of who are its citizens and residents; c. a monopoly on armed force; and, d. issuance and control of its currency (and by extension its economy) in all forms.
(5) The appears to be deliberate and increasing misuse of business decision techniques such cost:benefit and risk:reward analysis. For example, I will most likely come to completely different conclusions when comparing your risk and my reward, my risk and your reward, your risk and your reward, and my risk and my reward, although the numerator and denominator are exactly the same in all 4 cases. In too many instances, business and political decisions are being taken on the basis of « heads I win, tails you lose. »
(6) One of the most rapidly proliferating techniques to increase apparent corporate profit is « cost externalization » whereby legitimate/traditional business expenses such as wages (all or a portion), pensions (deferred compensation), debts, medical costs, taxes, environment costs, training, infrastructure, and financing are shifted from the company onto their suppliers, customers, employees, creditors, and the general public. This makes it unfeasible for the consumer to determine the true/actual cost of a good/service, rendering the operation of the « free market » impossible.