Saturday, May 8, 2010
My dear pal on this, and other blogs Sion Liscannor is today a guest ranter. Have at'em Comrade!
I would like to post a comment in response to one of Zaek’s recent comments:
“That's exactly right, Ed: a permanent decline for western economies. Things will never return to what they were.”
Zaek has been saying this kind of thing for a while. I suppose I would agree with him. Things will never be the same again. But I’m not sure it’s altogether a bad thing.
I shall regret the pain and discomfort, of course – and I shall certainly regret the pain and discomfort that it will cause me personally. However, there are alternative ways of looking at it.
The Western economies have enjoyed a long period of domination of the world economy. I would probably date the beginning of that domination at some time around 1800 (the initial efforts of Western powers to break into the economy of China...). By the 1970s several Western economists were making calculations about the long term consequences of this domination and concluded that it was unsustainable.
The original Brandt Report (1980) is probably as good a date as any to define a watershed in economic expectations. The three decades since the Brandt Report have demonstrated the veracity of almost all of its predictions.
Unfortunately Western governments did not act on the Report’s recommendations.
We are now in a mess.
Being in a mess is a wonderful opportunity for change.
The immediate cause of this mess is not the fact that Western economies are being challenged by the economies of India, China, Japan and other industrialised nations of the East. Not even the fact that Indians and Chinese are nowadays eating more because of their increased prosperity and are thereby pushing up the world market prices for food (a fact discovered by that brilliant social scientist, George Bush Jr) – not even this shameful satisfaction of hunger on the part of two and a half billion people who previously survived on a diet of rice and rice has caused the present mess.
The immediate cause of the mess is not the growth of world population and the pressure on resources. The immediate cause of the mess is money and how we deal with it.
A metaphor: Money is to the world economy as blood is to the human body. When it keeps moving the body thrives. When it pools and accumulates in one place you have problems.
Money is what? A promise? A piece of paper? A trust? Ultimately money is what money does – it makes things move. It therefore works best when applied to things – and people – who are moving already. When you tie it to bricks and mortar or pension schemes or other illusory and static inventions it ceases to move.
What we are seeing right now is a global redistribution of money. The riches we had laid in store for ourselves in our trust funds and pension schemes and all the rest of it are evaporating.
We in the West are going to have to adjust. We shall probably have to start taking seriously the way that we use scarce resources. We shall probably have to wean ourselves from our addiction to consumer goods. How families will suffer! No more heaps of toys under the Christmas tree, kids – just love and hugs from your Ma and Pa and a cake your Mother had to bake because the shop cakes were too expensive.
Will we survive?
The West’s pious-sounding anxiety about ecological and economic issues for the last half century has not been about sustaining life on this planet: it has been about sustaining the living standard and lifestyle of the privileged Western nations.
We spend a lot of time calculating our wealth – the wealth that an industrial economy has given us.
Do we calculate what it has cost us? Who really believes that we are better off in the areas that really matter – in interpersonal relationships above all – than we were two or three generations ago?
Where we have made real progress is entirely in the spiritual realm. We created – once – the beginnings of a liberal society that respected the individual and threw off the trammels of religious dogma and religion-inspired prejudice, and all our other atavistic garbage about race and sex and gender. We don’t have to lose what we have achieved. These achievements do not depend on economic prosperity. They don’t depend on income and consumer goods and the rest. They will very possibly thrive all the better in a poorer soil.
Thanks Sion. Words to live or at least survive by. Above are the founding slave holders,...eh, I mean founding fathers. Founders of the gleeful madhouse we call Liberal Democracy. Note that none of these folks had cars, insurance, ipods, tv's or security clearance.
Despite that they gave us the best game in town.
..."poorer soil" indeed.
Btw, I was going to call this a "Guest Editorial", but the word "rant" turned up during the dress rehearsal for this post, and sort'a stuck. Sorry Sion.