17 May 2010

Paradise Lost

Greece's economy seems to be imploding from debt. People are upset, rioting. The Euro is dropping to long-term lows as the larger economies feel the need to step in to avert a larger European crisis.

Did no one read this book: Confessions of an Economic Hit Man, by John Perkins? Or if they did, did they just ignore it? This sounds like (a) a chance for some hedge funds and speculators to short the Euro and make a killing, and (b) an economic 'invasion' of the unified European Union.

Oh yeah, U.S. debt is at an all-time high.

As I mentioned in an earlier post, I'm still not convinced that last week's instantaneous market plunge wasn't some form of pump-priming financial sabotage. A case study. A test run. Setting the stage for what?

Again, did no one read his book? What about Hoodwinked: An Economic Hit Man Reveals Why the World Financial Markets Imploded?

Let's stop playing innocent. Enron engaged in an act of economic terrorism, if not outright warfare, against the state of California from which California has yet to recover, and its contagion spread to the greater U.S. economy during the eight laissez-faire years of the Bush crony regime. This is merely the playing out of the strategy of Grover Norquist, implemented during the Bush years, to shrink government "down to the size where we can drown it in the bathtub."

Here's another consequence of the hands-off approach: the debacle in the Gulf of Mexico. The approach of some, encapsulated by FoxNews's outrageously obtuse Brit Hume, is to deny its environmental impact until it hits land. Let the ocean absorb it. It's not real unless it damages us (politically, he means). Others, of course, insist this disaster means we should drill more.

Meanwhile, "computer models show the oil may have already seeped into a powerful water stream known as the loop current, which could propel it into the Atlantic Ocean."

I don't believe this was a deliberate act of sabotage. But I do believe that the sort of deregulatory and tax-cutting fervor of the American right which held political sway for most of the first decade of this century leads to the sort of carelessness, negligence, and outright calumny that resulted in these sorts of consequences. And, if we read Norquist aright, this is precisely the sort of world the American right envisions: corporate power allowed to run rough-shod over political power—just the sort of thing the U.S. Supreme Court in a 5-4 conservative bloc legitimized in its recent Citizens United v. The Federal Election Commission decision.

So here's how things stand: we have State power and we have Corporate power. Their interests are never symmetrical, though sometimes they are aligned. Neither is pristine. More and more, nowadays, we see the two coming into conflict.

In the modern era, state power is theoretically accountable to the governed with whose implied consent its managers claim legitimacy. Of course, this is only theoretical. So much of contemporary governance is so complex and so esoteric that the governed have no inkling of what their managers are up to, so that the idea of consent is at best merely rhetorical. Yet, the constraints are there and the biennial and quadennial and sexennial goon shows we call elections at least still pay lip service to this ideal.

Corporate power, on the other hand, is accountable only to the bottom line. Its managers are not accountable otherwise. Their power derives merely from their ability to turn a profit—often exclusively quarterly, but certainly annually. The current lax regulatory environment in the U.S. (in the energy and financial areas especially), sometimes termed the 'new world order' and justified by globalism, represents a victory for corporate interests over the interests of the state (and thus over the governed).

The problem is there is no effective counter-balance to these two powerful interests.

UPDATE: Ross Douthat op-ed columnist of the New York Times seems to have intuited the conflict between these two powerful behemoths, but characteristically sees their consolidation and confluence from a corporatist (i.e., anti-government) point of view. Don't be confused. Yet, in this, his piece is instructive w/r/t my analysis.

My point is more wide-ranging: these are the two forces at work in the world today—to the practical exclusion of any other force. Sometimes their interests coincide, other times they conflict.

Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels once wrote: "The [written] history of all hitherto existing society is the history of class struggle". To my mind that was a relatively non-controversial analysis in the early phase of the Industrial Revolution. Nowadays and henceforth, all history that is being written will be the history of the Statist/Corporatist struggle. Mark my words.


Frances Madeson said...

"As I mentioned in an earlier post, I'm still not convinced that last week's instantaneous market "plunge" wasn't some form of pump-priming financial sabotage. A case study. A test run. Setting the stage for what?"

Miners blown up in West Virginia. Oil workers blasted to death off their rigs in the Gulf of Mexico. The market "plunge." The "terror" in Times Square. All of these have felt like warning shots fired from the same sickening stun gun.

Jim H. said...

Signs of the APOCALYPSE? Not so sure. Things tend to seem to suck more during economic downturns—or at least we feel their impact more nearly.

My despair has to do with the fact that the only axis on which to understand our world and its contemporary history is the Corporatist vs. Statist x,y graph.

There is no countervailing Power. Class cuts across both poles and is no longer relevant. Religion ditto.
Greenness? Too easily co-opted by either. Teabaggery? Puh-lease. Anarchy? LOL. Power like nature abhors any void.

For neither either can I root. Each is toxic. At their confluence is absolute power. Total war b/w their interests would be devastating.

How long can the current tenuous homeostasis abide?

Frances Madeson said...

I don't think I'm imposing a frame so much as seeing an essence.

Remember the breakdown in Coetzee's Summertime? The protag-- you called him John as opposed to JM--didn't have the correct tool to fix a minor mechanical problem and so he and his cousin had to spend a potentially dangerous and uncomfortably cold night cramped in the car, stuck in the wilds exposed to the elements. I'm seeing the commonality, which I believe Coetzee also hoped we would draw, between politics (in our case in the present moment literally global survival) and plain old torque. In the latter, formulaically, there is a relationship between POWER and FORCE. Is it oh-so-wacky to see principles of physics mirrored in sociology?

Jim H. said...

Great use of the Coetzee.

I don't quite grasp the point about commonality b/w politics and torque. We don't seem to have any torque in our weak-tea politics. Which may not be a bad thing, given the previous century.

Or am I misunderstanding you.

Frances Madeson said...

The commonality quite literally hinges on revolution--what goes 'round (remember Lenin's dad was a physicist)--and counter-revolution. If a cabal of dispatriots wanted to undo whatever remains of the American democracy born of our 18th century revolution, it might engage in precisely this set of scare tactics. Every time, every single time, I see Bloomberg and NYC Police Chief Raymond Kelly (have you ever read a scarier biography? http://www.nyc.gov/html/nypd/html/administration/headquarters_co.shtml ) standing and invariably smirking together at the podium, any podium, which is often, a chill, not a Nabokovian tingle, runs down my spine. This is a partnership forged in the bowels of Hades.