42. Essay: the economy and politics
April 12, 2009 § Leave a comment
News is getting harder to follow, because there are no clear trails. The early debate about the banks, the stimulus, unemployment is dissolving into many voices, much anxiety. As time goes, each person, or group reacts with self interest and local perspective. These efforts g in multiple directions, cris-crossing each other and brining the whole to a stop. Gridlock, on health, education, taxes, reforms. The environment and climate change move off the front page.
In this context the demise of Obama is predicted but there is nothing to replace it. The Republican “tea parties” are silly and misdirected, if one wants truth. Their effect can only be to mobilize the gullible to support policies that feel good to corporations.
If the situation continues to deteriorate, as I am fairly sure, being led my unemployment and unemployment caused short falls in buying, an urgency will emerge that seeks more authoritarian actions. Governing in this environment will be difficult. It could be seen as the necessary incubator for more decentralized, innovative, experimental approaches to housing, food, school, transportation.
But such efforts are likely to enhance regional and local initiatives, at the cost of losing leverage on global energy, pollution and climate futures.
Increasing (demands for) centralization, and then, who owns centralization, seem to me to be the trends we have to live in, with and understand.
We are embedded in complex cultures of material things and routines.Any significant change requires that all the things around us in our daily life, many must change. In the consulting world it is clear that an off-sire meeting has little effect when the managers return to the same configuration, from the clocks on the walls, the placements of desks, the line of sight to whom and what. The real intervention comes in helping the group manage that environment to fit the new realities.
Probably same with social change. Education, opportunities, the nature of factional politics, the way the media portray these, must all change if there is to be any change..
We are bound up in institutions such as private property that are the result of struggle between nobles and kings. We are bound by the nation state which is the ersult of peace being found in the power of tight boundaries, and we are in the presence of governments that grew with war (Napoleon and Lincoln) and the post ware bureaucracies.
Larger even, we can see that the transition from agriculture to industrialization made citizens into consumers, but the managerial evolution this required has taken us into a partially post industrial period where elites do not need the rest of us. As society has painfully shifted from agriculture to industry, details of management allowed money to be freed from specific projects and “capitalism’ emerged, as di corporations, both working together to control markets rather than, as ideology would have it, glory in them. (glory it does, like a shark in a pond of seals.)
This amalgam has led to a series of difficult time, of which the pre-1929n period just before the roaring twenties can be seen as typical – industry away from farm, with new required ways of living in slums and cities. This seemed to be sufficient to feed the populations and maintain peace, so stagnation ensued, wit the collapse of speculations. The crash of ‘29 was solved, more or less, by the bubble of WW2 spending, and that bubble replaced by a series of others up to the banking and credit-debt bubble of recent months. But the bubbles can be seen as aspects of the continuing struggle of the agriculture to industrial to post industrial bumpy train ride.
We cannot not be in this struggle, and in it there has been lip service to democracy, education, “freedom” and other progressive ideas, but in fact they have never been central to the whole structure of society and remain hints toward a better future, it descriptions of current realities.
This is the context Obama – and the rest of us – have to cope with. there is promise, but there is also the danger of urgency leading to more centralized and authoritarian and repressive attempts at solution.