Saturday, July 16, 2016

Is the old order unraveling?

Martin Amaya, Motor Trend magazine reader - Motor Trend

Every day brings reports of another mass killing. In America, reality TV star Donald Trump, the Republican nominee, who seems to be running for president from his couch with a cell phone and a Twitter account, is neck and neck in the polls with the establishment candidate Democrat Hillary Clinton. Trump routinely refers to Clinton as "Crooked Hillary."

Boris Johnson - iImages/A Parsons
In the UK, Boris Johnson, a buffoonish former two term Conservative Party London mayor who led the "Brexit" campaign to leave the European Union, was yesterday named the foreign secretary, which is like our secretary of state, by the new prime minister, a woman who took over from a man who resigned in disgrace. Johnson once compared Clinton to nurse Ratchid from the film One Flew Over The Cuckoo's Nest and recently won a nationwide poetry contest with a poem that talked about Turkish president Racep Erdogan, who survived a coup attempt yesterday, as having sex with a goat.

But while all this happens, and even as Western Civilization with its Capitalist economic system is demonstrating it can deliver a "middle class" living standard to fewer and fewer people, its power is increasing and it gains control over more of the world economy day by day.

Many people are alarmed by Trump and Johnson and their unconventional ways. They expect the ruling class, or the ruling elite, whatever you want to call it, that constellation of wealthy and powerful people and the political establishment over which they exert a dominant amount of influence -- to act in a dignified manner and within established bounds of decorum.

But the nature of the Capitalist system is that it has dynamics of its own, irrespective of who is in nominal control of it. Not that Capitalism is divorced from humanity. It's internal dynamics are in fact the result of human nature, which for the most part operates below the level of conscious awareness. And human nature isn't just an individual characteristic. A group of people living in a society react to each other and with each other, also in ways that they often aren't very consciously aware of.

People worry about "stability." They worry about "the markets." The Capitalist system experiences periodic, regular, inevitable periods of crises: that is, regular recessions, every few of which is deeper and longer than the rest, a depression. Those happen because too many people have gotten on the Capitalism bandwagon, too much stuff has been produced, prices have to fall, and the too many factories and machines that have been bought on too much credit can't be paid for, people are laid off and can but less stuff, prices fall more, and there's a downturn, a process by which all the excess productive capacity gets cleared away.

Falls in "the market" are attributed to various causes, but they are in fact just reality catching up with peoples' optimism. Optimism is an irrational feeling that has been fueled by the hope that we can escape insecurity; it's that complex of human emotional and thinking patters we think of as greed. We have daily worries and fears, yes, and we waver back and forth all the time, but the overall thrust of our actions is that we act as if there's not going to be a downturn until the second we're sure there's going to be one.

Our massive military spending, which absorbs a lot of the "excess capacity" I mentioned earlier, helps keep the economy chugging along, until enough of us begin to think we have to spend the money on something else, or save it. The wars we conduct also play an emotional role. They are seen, and felt, as carrying with them a potential for investment and profit. New markets, new supplies of labor, more resources, etc.

The Capitalist system is an evolved state of an earlier succession of more primitive economic orders, and it replaced those earlier orders because of advances in travel, communications and technology. It might be supplanted by an even more advanced order, but it, too, will be dictated and limited by human nature, which is more or less constant. The system isn't unraveling, even if we might worry that it is. It will continue to play the role is has always played, until the moment there's something to take its place.

Faith, or confidence, is also an irrational complex of human emotional and thinking patterns, More people are questioning the existing system, at the moment, than they have been for a long time. They, overall, have less faith in the system and the people who have been running it and with the rigid and arbitrary traditions of decorum those people have conducted themselves by, which were only, after all,  contrived and artificial and meant simply to increase peoples confidence in the system and to heighten personal power, and can't see a problem with putting a Donald Trump or a Boris Johnson in charge.

There are other ways of ordering an economy and a society. There's the big Mondragon cooperative that dominates the economy and the society in a large part of western Spain. There's the landless peasant movement in Brazil, and the Zapatistas in southern Mexico. There are cooperatives and collectives here and there. These are all relatively unknown, but if enough people come to know enough about them to have more faith in them than in the existing order, something will happen like happens now and then, like happened in Turkey yesterday, and they will try to overthrow the existing order in favor of trying something else.

For now, out of habit, and convenience, and necessity, and for lack of an alternative, Capitalism will roll on like a giant mud slide, fine for those riding high and disastrous for those in its way.

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