Japan refers to their last recession as the “lost decade”. We are now at the climax of our “four wasted decades”!
The present “economy” crisis is not the result of the “financial” crisis, it is the results of four decades of social, cultural and yes, financial irresponsibility.
Since the seventies the gap between the top executive of a company and his workers has changed from 30 to one to 350 to one. The take-home pay of a stock broker has risen – for some of them – to hundred of millions per year. The present “meltdown” has demonstrated that these executives and red blooded capitalists were incompetent and, in many cases, crooks.
Since the eighties the USA went from a reasonably egalitarian society to a three class system: the hopelessly poor, the striving masses and the super rich.
We have spent four decades producing, marketing, consuming thousands of useless, poor quality products and services, and we have done so willingly, even enthusiastically because “we keep the economy going”.
We have been and we are asked to follow “go out and consume, the advice coming from such luminaries as President Bush and Mr. Berlusconi – the Italian premier.
Go out and purchase junk to add to the pile of litter we have created, to cut more trees, to poison our water and air; closer to home to borrow money we cannot pay back and become more and more enslaved by the banks, and the credit cards company. We can also pursue instant reaches with lotteries and the stock exchange – an institution crested to provide funds for business and transformed into a a gambling casino.
But forget the history and let us look at how to get out of the mess. And here is where our real problem starts. Yes, we can probably get out of the recession by going out and consume, if the state provides us with money through bailouts, tax cuts, tax incentives, etc. Since 1980 we have gone into five or six recessions, and we have survived them. The trouble is that, if we do not make huge changes in our habits, economy and values system, in five or six year we will face a new one “crisis”, one we might not survive.
The world has changed and is changing, new industrial powers have surfaced, Russia – an old one – tries to restructure itself. China is close to spend more on research than the USA.
This time the emerging economies have been caught with their pants down: their hard earned cash (trillions of US dollars) invested in US bonds, stocks and probably sub-prime mortgages. They won’t be caught again, next time when we will face the recession of the new bursting bubble, whatever that bubble will be, , their economies will be by then really “disconnected”, and we will “really” go down the drain of history. (Mind you, it is even possible that the emerging economies may decide to bite the bullet and disconnect now, the president of China did gently hint at this possibility at the “Meeting of the 20″, last November).
Now that all the great experts have recognized that we made huge mistake, we must look for a way ahead, not just out of a recession.
Unfortunately so far the proposed actions -while they might mitigate the suffering – are not proposing a “system change”. We will probably end-up with better supervision of the financial sector, but we will still be dreaming of riches by gambling in the stocks casino.
This crisis offers us the opportunity for a drastic change resulting in a better quality of life and a more just society and a stable, sustainable system.
We must get rid of waste, of “consuming to keep the economy going” and avoid keeping alive industry and services that are incompetent, useless or damaging – a few examples: gas guzzling cars, packaging, throw-away products, most financial advisors, ….
There are millions of jobs waiting to be filled to make our lives more secure and pleasant: nurses, caretakers of the old, forestry, town management (cleaning, gardening, rebuilding our sewage and water lines, harbours to be cleansed, air filters to be produced for power station, small, efficient cars …
We must recognize that we cannot afford a lifestyle based on waste and throw-away and go back to quality (more expensive to purchase but cheaper in the long run and – being more labour intensive – creating safe jobs).
We must avoid the siren’s song of the builders of the better mouse trap: electric cars do pollute (we only do not know how much), fluorescent bulbs do pollute (same as above), solar panels and wind turbines are great but will only make a dent in our present energy consumption …
We must learn that we must do without, and not hope we can get away without giving up on our consumer culture. A huge change faces us, but a good one; and not as difficult as it sounds.
A girl went to her doctors asking for advice:
“Doctor, I love this boy, but I don’t’ want to become pregnant, what should I do?”
“It is simple, eat an apple”
“When, before or after?”
This crisis offers us the opportunity to save our society and civilization, and “we can do it”.
January 12, 2009