As the nation’s political and economic leaders struggled to contain the 2008 financial meltdown, President George W. Bush famously summed the situation up: “If money doesn’t loosen up, this sucker will go down.”
Eleven years into the loose money recovery, this sucker is finally going down for reasons that have little to do with tight money and everything to do with the inconvenient fact that none of the structural problems have been addressed, much less actually fixed.
We live in a bizarre world dominated by magical-thinking, a world in which the Federal Reserve creating more dollars out of thin air is supposedly the solution to everything, while all the knotty structural problems–unsupportable pensions and entitlements, unsustainable dependence on debt to fund everything from infrastructure to a new iPhone, a sickcare system that is bankrupting the nation, a higher education system that is looting an entire generation for diplomas with marginal market value, a runaway National Security State that burns trillions on unwinnable wars and lies about it–are left untouched because they’re, well, difficult, and it’s so much easier to say that looser money will solve everything.
Alas, loose money has created a new set of metastasizing problems that will bring this sucker down: widening wealth-income inequality, the only possible result of our system of creating and distributing new money to banks, financiers and corporations; soaring systemic leverage that few see, much less understand; and perhaps most perverse, yet equally unnoticed, loose money has widened the gap between the real economy and the top layer of arcane finance to the point there is literally no connection at all.
How would extraterrestrial anthropologists characterize Earth’s dominant socio-economic system? It’s not difficult to imagine their dismaying report:
“Earth’s economy glorifies waste. Its economists rejoice when a product is disposed as waste and replaced with a new product. This waste is perversely labeled ‘growth.’
Aimless wandering that consumes fossil fuels is likewise rejoiced as ‘growth.’
The stripping of the planet’s oceans for a few favored species of edible fish is also considered ‘growth’ as the process of destroying the ocean ecosystem generates sales of the desired seafood.
Even more perversely, the resulting shortages are also causes of rejoicing by the planet’s elites, as their ability to purchase the now-scarce resources boosts their social status and grandiose sense of self-worth.
History often surprises us with unexpected ironies. For the past century, the slide to fascism could be found on the Right (conservative, populist, nationalist political parties).
But now it’s the Left that’s descending into fascism, and few seem to even notice this remarkable development. By Left I mean socialist-leaning, progressive, internationalist/globalist political parties.
What is fascism? There is no one tidy definition, but it has three essential elements:
According to polls, the majority of Greek citizens want the benefits of membership in the euro/EU and the end of EU-imposed austerity. The idea that these are mutually exclusive doesn’t seem to register.
This is the discreet charm of magical thinking: it promises an escape from the difficulties of hard choices, tough trade-offs, the disruption of vested interests and most painfully, the breakdown of the debt machine that has enabled the distribution of swag to virtually everyone in the system (a torrent to those at the top, a trickle to the majority at the bottom, but swag nonetheless).
As noted earlier in this series, collapse is not an event, it’s a process, a process we experience as things fall apart. The phrase famously appears in William Butler Yeats’ 1919 poem, The Second Coming:
Turning and turning in the widening gyre
The falcon cannot hear the falconer;
Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;
Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world,
The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere
The ceremony of innocence is drowned;
The best lack all conviction, while the worst
Are full of passionate intensity.