"The wealthy, not only by private fraud but also by common laws, do every day pluck and snatch away from the people some part of their daily living. Therefore, when I consider and weigh in my mind these commonwealths which nowadays do flourish, I perceive nothing but a certain conspiracy of rich men in procuring their own commodities under the name and authority of the commonwealth.

They invent and devise all means and crafts, first how to keep safely without fear of losing that which they have unjustly gathered together, and next how to hire and abuse the work and labor of the people for as little money and effort as possible."

Thomas More, Utopia

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Financial Crisis 101 (and what the Left can do about it)

It's really been fascinating the last few days to watch the highly paid clowns on CNBC mumble and stutter as the obvious bankruptcy of capitalism is further exposed. Their clown prince, Jim Cramer of Mad Money, has been especially entertaining. Trillions in theoretical wealth has vanished into the dark void of nothingness from whence it came and no one in elite circles really knows what to do. Every "remedy" that US Treasury Secretary Hank Paulson and his counterparts in Europe have implemented so far have had but one goal: rescuing insolvent financial institutions. Meanwhile, the real economy of productive work in which tangible things of value and utility are created is being left to die on the vine. The rot on Wall Street has not yet fully infected the real economy or "Main Street" in popular parlance, but that may change quickly if the buffoons now calling the shots are not reined in--and soon. Even hardcore self-professed conservatives and true believers of capitalism such as investment professional Karl Denninger are utterly disgusted with the Paulson Gang.

What I'm not seeing anywhere on bubble-vision or reading in the Wall Street Journal is criticism which fundamentally questions the efficacy of capitalism itself as the best means of addressing a modern society's needs. This should hardly be surprising given that the mainstream corporate media's primary function is maintaining the status quo while preaching the gospel of consumerism. No, as always one must look to other sources.

Sj D'Arcy, a writer with whom I've only recently become aware, has laid out a compelling proposal for dealing with the crisis from a Left perspective and sees the current discrediting of capitalism at the systemic level as a unique opportunity for true progressives to leave the sidelines so to speak and get into the game. Infamous neo-liberal economist Milton Friedman once noted that during a crisis the ideas that are generally adopted to cope with it are the ones that "happen to be laying around". Naturally it helps if the ideas "laying around" were placed there by elites who are at or very near the levers of power. For the Right this has nearly always been the case over the past half century, however, the current crisis has the Right on the ropes, disoriented and reeling as opposed to the Left as is the usual pattern. Capitalism as a theory hasn't tumbled to these depths since 1930's--the last time the Left was resurgent in the US. This presents a unique opportunity for the Left to be relevant again in the US and shouldn't be squandered on sectarian squabbling (a Left staple).

D'Arcy's essay is a must read for those unfamiliar with the mechanics of this crisis and are unsure of how the Left fits in the present debate regarding a way forward.

[PS. The links that follow D'Arcy's essay are extremely valuable as well.]

6 comments:

Anonymous said...

Hey Coldie!!

Put back up that link from Rue-y for Straight Dope. Either it is me or something happened.

Thanks.

"leftisthebest"

Coldtype said...

I backtracked to it on Rue's site and it worked for me Lefty but in case there's something else going on just at his end I'll leave it here. Let me know if this works.

Anonymous said...

Great article, Coldie. In fact, one of the best you ever posted. Says some of the things I (and suspect you) have said for years. A "true" progressive candidate is ignored or sacrifices his beliefs to be elected.

If you dare question the great Obama you are attacked. I have been a member of a Yahoo group (SecularHumanist) for a bit. It started out fine, seemed to promote progressive issues.

It was soon populated by those pushing the Democratic Party. Last week I dared to criticize a posted article which slammed third parties.

The moderator stated the site was "an Obama support group" and perhaps I should look elsewhere. I didn't realize one had to back Obama to be a Humanist.

"leftisthebest"

Coldtype said...

Yeah Lefty, Street also has an excellent new book out on Barockstar that is a must read.

Rue St. Michel said...

Rue-y is here, bitches!

Hey Coldie - I like the new layout...very cool. Well done!

I got the link but haven't read it yet....working and reverting.

Ciao!

Coldtype said...

I thought it was time for an overhaul.