Saturday, November 01, 2014

A World in Which Policy is Divorced from Reality

“The oppressed are allowed once every few years to decide which particular representatives of the oppressing class are to represent and repress them.” 
― Karl Marx

We seem to be doing a lot of things these days without too much, if any, regard for predictable outcomes.  Then, when the obvious happens - almost never to our liking - we just shrug our shoulders, usually with the excuse that no one could have seen it coming, and move, none the wiser, into the next grand blunder.

I'm not sure quite how it happened but we seem to have become an addled society.  At times it almost appears that we've ditched every lesson we learned since the Enlightenment.

We have embraced this notion of our own omnipotence.  We are the Masters of the Universe.  It is for us to control extraction, production and consumption as we see fit - Our will be done.  It is for the future to confront the several crises we create today.  These we bequeath to them.  And, thus, we allow ourselves to detach from reality, freed of the bonds of knowledge and science and wisdom. Reality shall be whatever we wish enough that we may believe it to be.

Just a century ago, less, today's sort of thinking would have been more than enough to earn one the designation of "lunatic" and a trip to the asylum.  It was that recently that society spurned visions of nihilism  and collective suicide.  It would have been considered what it is - madness, self-destruction.

While wrestling with this dreary piece I came across Rajesh Makwana's excellent analysis of "The Coming Financial Crisis, a Harbinger of World Renewal?" at Canadian Dimension.  The author suggests we're headed straight for another, 2008-style financial meltdown, one that might finally force the political caste to put free market capitalism out of its misery.

The failure of our elected representatives to adopt a just and sustainable alternative to neoliberal capitalism has also set the scene for years of increased hardship and popular unrest that will inevitably follow any future economic crash.

...As James Medway of the New Economic Foundation explains, the real problem arises when high levels of debt (as are currently evident across the globe) combine with low rates of growth, which will almost certainly decline further in the period ahead. If there is not enough economic growth to repay these debts with interest, then the entire system will inevitably come to a grinding halt.
On top of this already lethal cocktail of stagnant growth, excessive debt and burgeoning speculative activity, we can also add the recent drop in oil prices, which will have dramatic implications for oil exporting countries. Venezuela, Iran and Russia, for example, are all heavily dependent on their income from this commodity to finance government spending or maintain the strength of their currency. And these economic concerns do not even take into account the financial impact of Ebolathe economic consequences of ISIS in Iraq and Syria, or the cost of climate change if we fail to reverse our current trajectory of inaction.
From any angle, the world financial outlook can only be regarded as rapidly deteriorating, and this starkly reflects how little policymakers have done to address the root causes of the 2008 crisis. Instead of dramatically overhauling the global economy and safeguarding the needs of the majority, governments have chosen to resuscitate a discredited economic ideology that preaches more of the same deregulatory, consumption-driven, austerity-backed neoliberalism. As the social and environmental impacts of the ongoing economic crisis become ever more apparent, how long will concerned citizens be willing to tolerate a political elite that is largely self-serving and neglects the needs of ordinary people?
...Despite the palpable frustration being expressed everywhere since the current cycle of public protest began, our leaders have failed to listen to the voice of the people, preferring instead to continue pandering to the same corporate interests they are so closely allied with. Consequently, the top 1% of the world’s population are richer now than they were before the financial crisis and this tiny minority own almost half of all available wealth. Meanwhile, half the world’s population now share a mere 1% of the world’s combined wealth, a staggering 2 billion people remain undernourished, and global income inequality has returned to 1820 levels.

Makwana doesn't foresee change in the near future.  What he does contend is that, without fundamental change in our economic models and in the relationship between the political and corporate sectors, unrest will build as conditions for the vast majority steadily worsen and eventually that will spill over.

I don't think we can hold it together, not for long.  To my mind, our resilience is largely assumed, not grounded in reality.  We're far more vulnerable to this ongoing neoliberal dysfunction than we imagine.

It's certainly telling that this fundamental threat to our society, our economy and our government isn't even on the radar of Canada's political caste.  It's going to take a seismic event, one beyond their control, before we'll see any light at the end of this tunnel.

1 comment:

astone said...

Sadly, I have to agree with your post ! I