Tuesday, February 17, 2009

One day at a time

David Seaton's News Links
If you think reading me is a bummer, you should check out one of my favorite commentators, Gideon Rachman, chief foreign affairs columnist over at the Financial Times, who has turned out one of the bleakest and blackest futuristic fantasies going since, "Blade Runner" in today's piece, titled, "November 2012: a dystopian dream".

Here is a sample:
It is November 7 2012. At three in the morning, an exhausted-looking President Barack Obama appears before weeping supporters in the ballroom of the Chicago Hilton and concedes defeat. The euphoria of his victory-night speech in Grant Park four years earlier is a distant memory. The Obama administration has been overwhelmed by America’s economic problems. Sarah Palin is the new president of the US. Elected on a ticket of populism at home and nationalism overseas, President-elect Palin starts to take congratulatory phone calls from foreign leaders. First on the line is Avigdor Lieberman, the prime minister of Israel; then comes President Vladimir Putin of Russia. Five different leaders claiming to speak in the name of the European Union try to place calls – but they are all put on hold. As for the Chinese leadership, the new president is not speaking to them. How could she, after she has campaigned against the “communist currency manipulators of Beijing”?(...) The world event that had most damaged Mr Obama was Iran’s successful test of a nuclear weapon in 2011. The Republicans had hammered home their message that Mr Obama was “a second Jimmy Carter”, who had been duped by hopes of striking a grand bargain with Iran.(...) As the morning of November 7 wore on, President Palin herself took to the stage in Anchorage, Alaska. Her supporters cheered and waved ice hockey sticks. “I’ve got a message for the mullahs and the commies,” she roared: “America is back.”
The reason that this is so horribly funny... so horrible and so funny is that the probability of something like this coming to pass are quite high. The situation we are in at the moment looks very much like what is called in the Marxist jargon an "organic crisis" or to use Murphyist language, whatever can go wrong will (has already) go (gone) wrong, and at the worst possible time, in the worst (we hope it can't get worse) possible way.

The chances of all this turning out well, are very small, even if Obama were FDR, Abraham Lincoln and Laurel and Hardy all rolled up in one.


Assuming no financial regulators or bank chairmen are reading this post, none of
us brought this crisis on, but, as it always happens through the history of our system, we the fussvolk are going to end up paying for the broken crockery and holding the bag. In many ways, ours is the role of the proverbial mule caught in a hail storm... we have to just stand here and take it.
Man is distinct from all other animal species in that his needs have no limits and are completely elastic; no other animal can repress his needs in as extraordinary a way, and limit his conditions of life to such a minimum. Karl Marx - Capital
The only way that this ghastly mess can be made a "lemonade from lemons" situation is if it causes enough people do some very serious thinking about the system itself... and I am sure that is going to happen and in fact is already happening.

However, I am just as sure that there are many people, and not just the Rush Limbaughs of this world, that don't want all that thinking to lead to any significant change in the status quo.


The classic ways of interrupting this process of thought - pregnant with action - from leading to anything meaningful is for those who feel threatened by it to cultivate paranoia, xenophobia, nationalism and religious hysteria, all of which have often proven to have fertile soil in the USA.


As you can see, Gideon Rachman has covered that in his satire.


These, as the Chinese curse would have it, are interesting times.
The great danger arising out of this economic collapse is war. We have to be alert for that and denounce that and fight against that. Useful work I think. More useful than shopping till you drop. DS

3 comments:

forensic economist said...

Highly unlikely scenario. Here are some alternate nightmares:

Prime minister Lieberman, in a bid to shore up his declining poll numbers, drops napalm on Nazareth. Nobody cares. He then drops an A bomb on Natanz. It does not help his ratings enough, and the Israeli Government collapses over the issue of mixed gender movie theaters.

Iran does nothing, since it never had any nuclear weapons. However -

Saudi royal family flees Arabia as civil war breaks out between shia (who live in the oil fields on the east coast) and sunni. Oil exports are shut off. Moslem brotherhood takes over in Eqypt, shuts Suez canal.

Putin demands tribute from West Germany or the gas goes off. Refuses to accept US dollars, demands something of real value. Germany complies. Russian troops reoccupy Eastern Europe, but are too drunk and are defeated by the Latvians. Germany then reopens mothballed coal fired plants.

China is no longer powerful and is undergoing civil unrest brought on by drought and famine. Chinese fleeing civil unrest settle in Siberia.

US house prices never recovered from recession. Most housing, car companies, and banks are now owned by US government. Unemployment is low because government now runs half the economy,trade barriers have been raised against the Chinese. Obama declares national emergency, announces that there is a conspiracy of terrorists who hate our freedom, and locks up an undisclosed large number of "suspects". Habeus Corpus was suspended by W but never restored. Obama is immensely popular. He declares government of national unity, suspends constitution. Appoints Sarah Palin Secretary of commerce, she goes shopping. Fox News, after being allowed to buy CNN, announces that Obama is actually a white person and only islamofascists will vote against him.

Bangladesh is under water. So is Florida.

Meanwhile, Gog and Magog approach the vale of Megiddo.

David Seaton's Newslinks said...

Forensic,
Sounds better then what I'm reading in the Financial Times.

Anonymous said...

One can only hope Rachman is right, except for the preening, "woe is me", Left-wing (Facist) point of view towards economics.

In the name of Almighty Science let Krugman be proven wrong.


Adam