Perambulating the Bounds

Thursday, October 09, 2008

Off the edge

On the topic of unchecked, destructive chaos...

In discussion of the current economic crisis, I haven't run across anything that interprets this as economic end times, the absolute collapse of the economic system as we've known it. It's probably bad analysis, or maybe irresponsible, or too scary. Oh, and there's probably someone out there writing this, I just don't read that avidly.

I don't have any empirical basis for my sense of what we might be facing. It's a reaction to the tenor of things. Is this the big one, the final structural crisis that has been predicted over the years by left wing theorists? The stock market keeps plummeting. Is there any reason it couldn't go to zero--that we just can no longer fund productive enterprises this way, no one will hand over money to people they don't know who say they are using it for a productive enterprise, but who knows, the level of fraud and pure bullshit is so high and the incentives so skewed to encourage it. And there will be less going to the market because we moved from a regime of dispersed consumption to a regime of dispersed deprivation. Say the airlines keep cutting back flights and making the ones they have more expense, until there's little reason to even try to travel by air. A whole sector of the economy essentially disappears.

The slow or not slow unraveling of the globe as a hospitable environment keeps throwing us into a hole. It becomes more expensive to do everything, and more of life is a recovery effort. Nashville, thanks to the storm-driven gas shortage, got a taste of a Mad Max future.

Is the question now how we will survive and who will survive? Is there any model for people, communities, or nations to come together in the absence of a functioning market to produce and distribute food and services? What are the aggregations we need to form--do all people need to be tied in some way to productive farms? Does it come down to provision of potable water or household level energy? Yes, there are theories, but is there anything that's worked in practice?

It seems the crisis comes at an inopportune time, when alternate social structures are not waiting for their turn, the pursuit of something different anemic after years of disillusion.

Maybe everything will look better in a few weeks. Maybe we'll bump on bottom. Maybe Obama will make a difference--I'm looking forward to the prospect of his victory, and maybe the very idea of him will give people the idea that something decent actually can happen in our national culture.

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