Monday, April 6, 2009

Populist Revolt and Distributivist Dreams


Yesterday, I mentioned the problem of phony capitalism warped by political elites.  I worry that this — not any specific, more temporary stock market fluctuation — may be what’s keeping stocks low (despite some recent improvement).

That is, much as I’d like to agree with optimists who say we’ll soon recover from this slump as from all the earlier ones — what if this time is a bit special in that people have lost their faith not in any specific stocks or even whole types of stocks but in the very idea that the stock market will behave rationally, be regulated and/or bailed out “impartially,” and generally reflect conscientious, sound economic decision-making?

What if the terrifying full depth of our tragic situation (as summed up by future historians, if any) is that we’ve reached the limits of abstract, impersonal trust — screwed by stock markets and now doomed to have our fates controlled by banks, political bodies, and the UN climate czars — yet are unable in any effective way to rebel by “going local,” since there’s only so much one cranky right-wing man with a blunderbuss or one cranky left-wing woman with a Molotov cocktail (so to speak) can do against vast, impersonal forces shaped as much by stupidity and simple intellectual error as by any sinister, identifiable cabal.

It might be wisest to just stock up on canned goods, wait out the current extended order’s collapse (which will be accompanied throughout by the socialistic intellectuals’ cries for “More of the same!”), and quietly build new ways and new networks while the older ones shatter.  Maybe our best hope is not the recovery of the stock market or the economy as we know it but people fifty years from now (using highly decentralized e-currency and backyard nuclear power plants) saying, “Oil and the New York Stock Exchange were important once?  I didn’t know that.”

Luckily, the world has changed as drastically before, so this is not a completely idle hope.  I don’t think the obvious outlets for frustration with the existing order — some sort of likely-ignorant populist revolt or “distributivist” dream of keeping the economy local, organic, sustainable, small, and crunchy- or left-anarchic (i.e., inefficient, disconnected, wasteful, and poor) — will have much to do with building an eventual better future, though.  May just have to watch for surprisingly good new things to happen.

1 comment:

theCL said...

Yeah, don’t get too excited about what’s going on in the market right now. I have years of experience in the business. First thing to wonder is why, at 7,800, is everybody suddenly feeling rosie? After all, it wasn’t that long ago that the DOW was over 14,000. Hmmm, seems we’re still along ways down if you ask me.

I recommend everyone do this: Watch 1 hour of ESPN, then one hour of CNBC, one more hour of ESPN, and one more hour of CNBC. You’ll soon realize they’re the same thing.

Also, I don’t know if you watch the markets at all, but if you do, do you remember all the excitement over the suddenly profitable banks a few weeks ago? Well, here’s why:

I don’t mean to sound like a negative-nelly, but we ain’t seen nothin’ yet. Things are going to get ugly.