Sunday, August 9, 2009

dangers of happinomics

Susan seems to think that I might not pay much attention to politics and problems like our economy and health care, at least she suggested that in her response to a comment I made on the post previous to this one, but it just ain't so.

Dear Spadoman,

No, no, no - I meant that you'd been away doing better things with your time but please accept my apology for a hasty answer to the well written comment you left last week. It was flippant and didn't take into account what you'd actually said, nor what I know about your life and the truly gallant way you have of dealing with life in a country we were always told was the greatest on earth. You spent a good part of the summer showing your children and young grandchildren how truly magnificent is this land where they were born.

I was never a passenger on the 'Hope Train' that whistle-stopped around the country last year but deep inside I thought some things might change. We still have Guantanamo, we still have wire tapping of citizens, we still have Presidential Signing Statements, we still have no help for the masses of unemployed, we have no climate agreement, we have no hope of national health care and on and on. I guess I'm just naive but let me explain further and turn this into a Sunday post:

'It is no measure of health to be well adjusted to a profoundly sick society.'

When I posted the quote and the somewhat shocking image of the President I was relating it to all the people I know at work and in general who have returned to their comfortable delusions now that the major banks have been permanently bailed out by the government. They've equated too big to fail with the assumption that if they get even bigger and greedier they will never, never fail but they don't care that regular people will. For them it's all about speculation based on complex computer algorithms and not about lending money so new businesses can be started or adjusting mortgages on homes where people live. There is no such thing as a jobless recovery for a society at large and that's exactly what's going on now.

I've spent far too much time this spring and summer reading financial news reports and watching Congressional testimony by Hank Paulson who actually admitted that if they hadn't bailed out the banks that the whole theory of Capitalism would have been recognized by everyone as being hollow and worthless. In my opinion that would have been a good thing. It's capitalism that killed 10,000 people in Bhopal, India when the unregulated Union Carbide Company released 42 tonnes of toxic methyl isocyanate gas in December of 1984. Thousands more have died since. It's unfettered capitalism in the guise of the Monsanto Corporation that forces third world farmers to buy seeds from them that have been made sterile so the farmers can't plant, harvest and plant again as they've done for millennia. It's capitalism represented by Big Media and the lobbyists of the Health Care Industry that won't allow a national health care plan to be presented before the people in this country when it's so obviously what most people want. As you well know it's capitalism too that's responsible for the only big manufacturing sector left in this country - the Arms Industry. Boeing, Lockheed Martin, Northup Grumman, Raytheon and General Dynamics represent the biggest part of the Military Industrial Complex that Eisenhower warned about so many years ago. Weapons need to be tested and we all know who they test them on, don't we?

The logic freaks of economics don’t like to talk about ecology – their models don’t account for melting glaciers, dying coral reefs or the possible collapse of the entire Australian continent. But the reality is that it takes centuries to restore codfish to the Atlantic or to reboot a coral reef and it takes a thousand years to grow a single inch of topsoil. This is the kind of bio-speak that falls outside the theoretical framework of neoclassical economists who are much more comfortable talking money – the language of liquidity, stimulus packages and hedge fund regulation. There is no discussion within their profession of the real-world impacts of their economic philosophies.

People in general are numb and I blame television. I haven't watched it for years but I do understand how insidious it is:

I'll look forward to your post explaining everything :-)


marja-leena said...

Nodding head vigorously to all that you write here...even as observer in Canada! And our PM emulates all that your previous prez set in motion, so we can head down that path too. No, I don't practice happinomics either.

The Crow said...

I would laugh my butt off, but it hurts to laugh about poverty when you have to live in it.

Loved this post, Crow. Thank you.


Seraphine said...

i'm a believer in capitalism, if only because its more efficient than socialism, communism or dictatorships.
but but but... i also believe in fairness, a "level playing field," a safety net for those unable to care for themselves, a livable wage and social responsibility towards the environment.
being a capitalist isn't a license to steal.

lindsaylobe said...

Fortunately, however there are many steps we can take to get out of this mess; both at the macro-level and micro level including sustainable economics. Economics by definition refers to household management and I think maybe its essential roots are actually more in sync with ecology, and not to be confused with the excesses from an unregulated market.
At the behest of the neo economists, politicians have felt justified in reducing economic regulatory oversight to allow a burgeoned debt to arise from twin deficits of the government budget deficit and the ballooning current account deficits- relying purely on interest rates and the “markets” to be self adjusting which is in direct opposition to what economics have suggested as is appropriate to include both sustainable fiscal and monetary policies essential to the heath of any capitalist society.
Economics has always assumed there are only limited resources and we will have enough common sense to recognize the need for a continued industry policy to support local industries best suited to ones climatic, geographical, educational and natural resources and to only export the sustainable excess to those countries that lack that same advantage. The reverse applies for imports. But you also have to remain vigilant to ensure the dumping of product below cost or human rights abuses and so on do not in any way connect with such trade.
But even the best macro-level designs will not work unless they are underpinned by our cultural values - away from a nonsensical goal of ever increasing consumption but rather towards a much better balance between consumption, designated personal time and the health for the environment. This depends upon the culminative personal choices we make and the willingness to adapt to our changing environment, just as economics assumes the continued quest for good housekeeping. Most of the large scale failings you talk about in the post I think are due to poor regulation and a lack of good policy- laws by themselves are not enough.

Best wishes

Spadoman said...

Don't worry about a thing. I also said I was as dumb as a tack, and I meant it!
I agree with you 100%. Everyone is forgetting that our country is still at war. Maybe the policies from the Obama administration aren't as harsh as Bu$hCo, but they still sting.
I believe the world is too big now. Too many people to please them all. There is no way a solid majority is going to go all the way with any proposal like health care. Politicians seem to be taking advantage of that and doing what they want, that usually is, lining pockets of someone.
As I lean to the Left, my idea is to have benefits for all and not only allow rich people health care and safe automobiles, etc etc. Oh, and end the war.


Randal Graves said...

Hey now, don't cast all the blame at television. It gave me Buffy, dammit.

susan said...

marja-leena - Harper was indeed an unfortunate choice. If we get back there before he's gone we'll help vote him out.

the crow - Sometimes we have to laugh or we'd just do that other thing.

sera - I'm sure there's a kinder, gentler form of capitalism. Free enterprise is okay with me too.

lindsay - I agree with you. Part of a successful equation has to include the biosphere and all the creatures who live here.

spadoman - Even though we're in the majority population-wise there is a small group of very wealthy and powerful individuals who prefer things the way they are. The wars do need to be over.

randal - Okay, I'll agree their might be a little wheat among the chaff. You can keep Buffy - if you can catch her ;-)

Seraphine said...

lindsay always has interesting things to say. and he's right- laws alone won't solve our problems, because the ethics-challenged will always worm their way into a new loophole.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for setting me straight Crow. You're right. Capitalism seems to exist in it's theoretical bubble by not taking into account the stress we put on and the limitations of the Earth in which we live. However, I'm not sure if it's ignorance or a desire to manufacture a need for de-population that drives this oversight.

susan said...

sera - Lindsay's always right, I agree but sure wish there was a way to tame the savages :-)

spartacus - That's a tricky one, isn't it? I've always wondered about those who need to ensconce themselves in gated communities of one kind or another. What do they plan for their children in the world they're remaking?

Nancy said...

Oh yeah. I agree with every single thing you said. We voted for change, but we seem to be getting same ole, same ole.

Liberality said...

"Meet the new boss. Same as the old boss." Truer words...