Lamentations For A Lost World
The world seems to be spiraling into deepening doom down multiple cataracts feeding a foaming cauldron of chaos. All alliteration aside, is anybody in charge of this clusterf**k? If so, who? And why, despite strident democratic cries to rein in the beast that is dragging us down, does our supposedly representative government seem unable to do anything but paddle harder toward the lemming-drop falls?
We live in a world that was built by a worldview called capitalism, that is ruled by capitalists who believe in that worldview and serve its necessities, values and purposes. Capitalist civilization is an integrated set of beliefs and values whose logic and purpose drive this doomed descent into the now clearly visible maelstrom of social, economic, and environmental calamity. Sitting astride this rough beast and driving its inexorable course is a myopic money system whose arithmetic logic digs a deep pit of debt for humanity to build a glittering mountain of riches for its lords and masters.
I am not convinced that capitalist civilization is capable of changing its course. Communism -- the abolition of private property -- is not a viable alternative. Each of us needs to profit from our efforts and contributions toward sustaining and enhancing our material life in this world. Without the realistic prospect of that reward as a motive, we are slaves. We cannot give charitably unless we first produce something to give. Shared poverty is not a destination that humanity will follow you toward. Collective effort -- as in the capitalist industrial corporation that is big and rich enough to purchase and exploit the benefits of technology and mechanization -- can produce a level of wealth and material security that ruggedly individual human effort cannot match.
Capitalism produces vast material wealth. But capitalism fails at equitably distributing the costs and benefits of that collective productive effort. Machines replace men, but unemployed men still need to eat and live.
Capitalism's favorite moralist Herbert Spencer says let 'em die off. The world is a Darwinian struggle for survival, so winners win and losers, well, just go away and die off already. It's your moral duty to not be a burden on (capitalist) society. Dying off is (capitalist) nature's way of getting rid of riffraff like you. So why haven't you died off yet?
In a world of sociopaths, psychopaths and narcissists whose only care is for "me and mine" (and corporations whose sole purpose is to enrich "me and my shareholders" at the expense of everybody and everything else), social reality really is a death-struggle for exploitation, domination and survival.
But most of humanity is not psychologically deranged. We don't have the heart to let people suffer and die off, just because the capitalist system of political economy has rendered their economic contributions obsolete and consigned them to the dustbin of useless eaters.
There is plenty of "economic production" for everybody. Our houses and garbage dumps are overflowing with the stuff. Half of all food gets thrown away, because we buy it and it goes bad before we eat it; or because nobody buys it and it goes bad before it can be sold.
The capitalist economy is overflowing with "economic production". What the capitalist economy is short of is people who have money and want to buy the stuff the capitalist economy produces. Capitalist industrial productivity has made economic scarcity obsolete. But the capitalist money system preserves scarcity, by its miserly tricklings of money down to people who need and want to buy stuff.
With Leopold Kohr and EF Schumacher, I believe excessively large scale civilization is the author of its own inescapable discontents. We are living in global civilization built by capitalism. And we see where it is heading, for all of humanity who supports the beast rather than rides atop it with billion dollar parachutes to sail softly away from collapse (or at least that's the game plan). Human scale societies -- local and regional communities -- might succeed at developing horizontal economic democracies; where mass societies cannot but be ruled by power and wealth hierarchies.
If there is any realistic hope of changing the course of this dead-man's raft, it begins by seeing and understanding the beliefs and values of its worldview, and the logical implications that are enshrined in capitalism's institutional structures. There is no hope of changing course if we do not see and understand what is steering that course. It may not be possible to redirect the raft from the logical inevitability of its massive momentum. But if it becomes clear that the course of capitalist civilization cannot be diverted from its doomed destiny, then the rational response is to disembark from the raft and make our own human scale way of living on this planet.
Meanwhile, the raft plunges forward, and the raft-masters see ever-richer horizons ahead. They exult -- in the financial and economic blogosphere that has become the new intellectual commons -- in mythical technological remedies that will save us from every myopic error.
Buy the rumor, sell the news. Expectation drives demand for stock in innovations. Buy early, ride the rise, and sell at the top before expectation is dashed on the rocks of non-viability. Money changes hands. Early birds get the money, late birds pay the money. Buy-side 'analysts' spread the rumor. Pump and dump, rinse and repeat. Money changes hands. The casino owners and winners 'earn' their winnings, for performing the economically valuable service of "price discovery". They discover how much suckers are willing to bet on rumors, and how little investors are willing to invest in fantasies.
And the raft-masters moan, with every quantitative addition to the money supply, which threatens to dilute the value of their substance, their money, their vast stores of liquid wealth. Is this added liquidity the only salvation that prevents the raft from ripping out its bottom on the wrecked shoals? Yes.
But the raft-masters don't believe in arithmetic. They focus on central banks creating bank reserves which are the banking system's money, but they are blind to commercial banks creating all of the government's and the economy's spendable/investable money supply by making loans of bank deposits. So the wicked government that prints money, not the virtuous private sector bankers who inflate the money supply by lending into asset bubbles, is to blame for money supply inflation.