by Captain Future
Fri Oct 10th, 2008 at 04:34:24 AM EST
There are all kinds of financial experts on this site, and I am not one of them. I am not only not an expert, I am by many financial standards, poor.
But this is what I understand about what's going on. As I write this, European and Asian stock markets are either following the American markets down, or they're leading Friday's U.S. downward plunge, or both. This fall is explained by "experts" as "loss of confidence" or fear. What it seems to me to amount to is this: rich people are cashing out. They've made as much as they're going to make for the time being from this financial house of cards, and they're taking their cards out while they still can.
Here's something else. I've heard the experts and commentators saying that surely the U.S. stock market can't go too much lower because prices are approaching the point that they reflect the real value of the companies. In other words, they are admitting that all this wealth that's being lost was never real wealth at all.
How unreal wealth translates into $4,000 a night hotel rooms (though only $500 for dogs) for government bailed-out AIG execs who promptly spent every cent of the $80 billion or so they got and are back for more, is a bit of a mystery to me, but I see that for a certain period of time, unreal wealth does translate into some kind of reality.
And if you think about it, the concept does work if you look at long enough time periods. Wealth has been created that has depleted resources and destroyed to some extent the ability of the environment to keep sustaining us, at least without a lot of work to renew it. Similarly, our built infrastructure. So the wealth created is, over time, unreal wealth.
Our only chance at sustaining civilization in the long run is to use this period of unreal wealth to organize a new economy and financial system that are sustainable and that will create real wealth over the long term.
The first step to doing that is understanding that this needs to be done, and electing the leadership to start doing it. And in this we in the U.S. are lucky: the next election is less than a month away, and we have a candidate in Barack Obama with the knowledge, the intelligence, the temperament and the political ability to get us started on the path we need to take.
But probably before that, the governments of the world are probably going to have to pass a preliminary test. They are going to have to work in concert to stabilize the global financial system. So far this crisis-laden week, the record is spotty. The European Union, which has succeeded in unifying enough to guarantee peace on a continent that pretty much sparked two world wars, is so far failing to meet this crisis as a single entity, as a United States of Europe, or even to coordinate effectively.
There was talk Thursday that the U.S. and the U.K. may coordinate policies on banks. There are meetings ahead. That George Bush is involved is not a hopeful sign, but perhaps there are statesmen (of both genders) who will step up.
Still, it seems to me what we are seeing in essence is a purging. Virtually all of the economic structures and orthodoxies that began with Reaganism are being destroyed, including the consumer economy forged in those years.
At the same time, I remember that we had a good U.S. economy in the 1950s and 1960s that included real production as well as consumption, and more equal roles for government and the "private sector" of corporations and small business. It's not impossible.
We need to move to that kind of balance, but in a whole new way: a sustainable, renewable, green economy that can create real wealth over the very long term.
I'm sure you all can tell me how I'm wrong.