Beyond the labels.

Posted on 27 October, 2008. Filed under: Economy, The world | Tags: , , |

“As we make the regulatory and institutional changes necessary to avoid a repeat of this crisis, it is essential that we preserve the foundations of democratic capitalism — a commitment to free markets, free enterprise, and free trade. We must resist the dangerous temptation of economic isolationism and continue the policies of open markets that have lifted standards of living and helped millions of people escape poverty around the world.”

So sayeth George Bush, at a meeting with some G8 leaders to plan a summit to discuss the world’s possible economic meltdown.

Some of his European counterparts are feeling boisterous, saying that sweeping reform, and perhaps even re-writing capitalism, might be what is needed. But not Mr. Bush, knight of the mighty dollar, defender of the empire. No, a little whitewash is all that’s needed, he reckons.

The economic crisis, needless to say, is a source of great concern to many. When I listen to even intelligent people balking at the very mention of socialism, it amazes me. But not too much. I do understand. I know the very mention of the term, in the minds of many, equate grey, stoic uniformity. Food rations, bread lines and government issued toothpaste. Brezhnev’s USSR and Castro’s Cuba. Or even worse, Kim Jong Il’s North Korea!

Now I have no reason to believe that pure socialism is a good idea, and quite a few reasons to believe it isn’t. But then, I can say the same for pure capitalism.

My main problem with socialism is that it assumes that most people, given the opportunity, will behave responsibly and look out for others.

My main problem with capitalism is that it assumes most businesses, given the opportunity, will behave responsibly and look out for others.

I think most people, given the opportunity, look out for number 1. I also believe that, with a little nudge and push, people do care enough for others to look out for them, as long as it’s not too inconvenient.

I don’t want to go into a lengthy comparison or analysis of the two ideologies today, but I do want to vent a bit about what has brought us where we are today – capitalism. Concepts like free markets, global initiatives, etc don’t sound too bad. Greed does. And I believe it is greed allowed to run rampant that has brought us to the brink of this disaster. When enough is never enough, and more is more, and when people become so ruthless in their acquisition of wealth that they can build fortunes on other’s misery, we have lost part of our humanity.

In large part, the growth of wealth for some has been fed on credit. Debt is a vicious monster, that feeds on its own young. It is a trap often succumbed to as a result of our inability to distinguish need from want. It is the mother of modern banking systems, and it is collapsing in on itself. Indeed, “things fall apart, the centre cannot hold”.

The whitewash that Mr. Bush, and I am sure many others, are advocating, simply won’t do. It might offer superficial, short-term relief, but the cancer will remain. We do need broad, sweeping reforms, a total rethink of economy, ideology, and our view of self and other. I believe the answer is not in socialism, but in a hybrid. Not the kind of pick-and-mix economy we so often see, but a planned and well-thought out solution. It might not be the same for all countries, but certain principles of commonality will have to be agreed on.

This, in my mind, is as important as environmental change. Neither has a quick fix, both will require time, commitment and sacrifice, both will encounter immense resistance, and will need heroic statesmanship to steer through the sea of reluctance. But both, if not addressed, have the potential to radically alter “the world we thought we lived in”.

Let the thinking begin!

William Butler Yeats, “The Second Coming”

Turning and turning in the widening gyre
The falcon cannot hear the falconer;
Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;
Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world,
The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere
The ceremony of innocence is drowned;
The best lack all conviction, while the worst
Are full of passionate intensity.
Surely some revelation is at hand;
Surely the Second Coming is at hand.
The Second Coming! Hardly are those words out
When a vast image out of “Spiritus Mundi”
Troubles my sight: somewhere in sands of the desert
A shape with lion body and the head of a man,
A gaze blank and pitiless as the sun,
Is moving its slow thighs, while all about it
Reel shadows of the indignant desert birds.
The darkness drops again; but now I know
That twenty centuries of stony sleep
Were vexed to nightmare by a rocking cradle,
And what rough beast, its hour come round at last,
Slouches towards Bethlehem to be born?

 

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    Welcome to my personal soundboard, where I can muse (you might call it ramble on) about things that interest, irritate, infuriate or impress me. In time, I hope this will lead me to understand the meaning of life, the universe, and me.

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