by Jerome a Paris
Sun Jul 6th, 2008 at 08:14:51 AM EST
Many of you have noted that my diaries persistently focus on bad economic or financial news, and often announce more to come. A few complain that I'm gloating over other people's misfortunes; some point out that it's too easy to be systematically negative, as I'll eventually be right, if temporarily (in a "broken clock" kind of way), but that means little; and many more are seriously scared by all my doom'n'gloom.
I'd like to note, for the record, that bringing up such bad news (the real estate crash, the increasing energy prices, the financial crisis, etc...) has a very real political purpose and is at the heart of what this website is about.
A simple argument, that I have made on occasion, is that bringing up such negative news a couple of years ago was necessary, given the then prevailing bullish discourse. The prognosis was correct, both about the crisis we are in now, and its causes. This is not about shouting "recession" every year until it happens as part of a regular cycle: this was about identifying underlying failures of the economic regime we were in, and pointing them out despite the general cheerleading (or denial) in the media and the political world. It was about being reality-based.
But more importantly, this is about identifying causes and allocating responsibility for what's happening today. The crises I have been describing are a direct - and in many cases, desired - result of political choices that have been imposed on us, and it is fundamentally important that the underlying ideology be (i) identified and (ii) blamed for what happened, rather than amorphous and uncontrollable things like "globalization" or "economic cycles." There is a crime, there is a culprit, and there is a motive.
Even more vital is the need for an alternative discourse to take root against what still is an apparently overwhelming consensus amongst economists, analysts, pundits, politicians and other "serious" people about what should be done. Given that this dominant discourse still claims a lot of legitimacy by trashing out (an imaginary version of) the alternative model, there must be a coherent effort to underline that today's problems come specifically from the policy recommendations of that consensus, and that their calls for more "reform" today is quakery, not statesmanship.
We are at the end of a 30-year process which has brought a very simple principle to the fore: "Winning is Everything." Making extravagant amounts of money is a good thing (and a proof of success), stepping on others to get there is normal, and not doing either means that you are a loser and deserve your status (and thus should not be helped).
Taxes for the rich have been cut drastically; wages have been kept down (it, rather than fighting asset bubbles, is at the heart of the anti-inflationary policies we have "enjoyed"), and the arch-dominance of the New-York- and London-centered financial vision of the economy has spread to the body politic (something has value only if it can be expressed in monetary terms, and its future price discounted today, the rest is populism or conservatism). Meanwhile, culture wars have helpfully distracted the populace, with the more recent help of large doses of fearmongering.
Growth means 'more billionaires'. Progress means 'less taxes' and 'lower wages'. Freedom means anything that brings "growth" and "progress."
This is a purely political process. It can only be reversed by a similarly political process. And that will happen only if the current situation is correctly diagnosed for what it is, ie an overdose of neo-feudalism (or, as I have labelled it, the Anglo Disease), and if that leads to a full repudiation of the underlying politics, and a symetrical rehabilitation of concepts like "government policy", "long term planning", "infrastructure development", "equality", "fairness", "resiliency"
The current crisis has been caused by the greed of a few, and the policies they have foisted upon us all. It's time to blame them, and make them pay back. The facts are on our side, even if the conventional wisdom of the pundits hasn't caught up yet. It's our job to push these simple notions in the open, so that policies can change.