Wednesday, November 26, 2008
A note to my readers
I worry at times whether my readers concerned about the war and healthcare and ... well, survival ... will find anything of interest here. My focus over much of this year has been so single-mindedly on the economy, and more especially finance.
But this is not because I've suddenly developed a latter-day interest in, say, tranches of financial derivatives, but because such obscure matters have far more to do with stopping the war, reducing imperial outreach and creating an economy in the interest of the people than the recent U.S. election will ever have. Putting a President and Congress in place whose goals are virtually identical to the goals of the party going out of power is not a recipe for change. A collapse of the world economy is.
Our leaders know this—which is why they are working so feverishly and expending so many resources to preserve the status quo. They have finally acknowledged among themselves that some change is inevitable. The challenge for them is to minimize it. The challenge for the rest of us should be to maximize it.
What our leaders are trying to preserve is no different from what kings and aristocrats have always sought to preserve—privilege.
The Bush administration, justifying itself through the legal doctrine of "executive privilege," has vastly extended the power of the President and his minions within the executive branch. This is the privilege of unrestrained power.
The privilege sought by "the private sector" is the privilege of unrestrained rapacity. This is justified through the economic doctrines variously known as neoliberalism, free-market economics or economic libertarianism.
Whereas the privilege of the President is said to be derived from Constitutional law, the privilege of the privileged is said to be derived from some natural economic law that the priesthood of economists has discerned.
This is swiftly bringing us to a state that future historians (if there are to be any) may one day refer to as the "neofeudal period."
While our modern-day kings and aristocrats may bicker among themselves, they share an abiding interest that keeps them yoked in their labors—to assure that neither the levers of power nor the goods of the economy fall under the control of the people. Unfortunately, this is a great deal easier to do than you might suppose.
I would venture to say that in modern times—with the Orwellian, omnipresent media to distract and propagandize us and the omnipresent surveillance to monitor us—only economic or ecological catastrophe or all-out war can bring real change to 21st century society.
We may have arrived at just such an event. If so, there is no guarantee that the system that emerges will be any better, from the standpoint of human welfare, than what preceded it.
I am, however, convinced that positive change will require a greater popular understanding of finance, because it is here that we can best see what our rulers have been—and are—up to.
And that, by way of a rambling explanation, is what Simply Appalling has been about of late.