Monday, 2 February 2009

The Great Breakdown

There is an interesting exchange going on Professor Willian Buiter (LSE)'s blog at the FT. 'We must avoid protectionism' was the only message with any passion behind it, from an otherwise drab and washed up Davos. It's really hard to place yourself next to this power word; the most exploitative acts of modern economic colonialism such as speculating in food land while the word starves, the race to the bottom in global labour exploitation, the gutting of economies in both processes ('Ugandan coffee is too expensive at 10p/Kg, let's open up Vietnam instead...'). Protectionism is one of those words like 'freedom' - it's hard to disagree with at one level - but to side with it is to endorse acts like invasion, in this case by the IMF.

Anyway they are all much too up on their fiscal policy for me to post my 2c over there. The really interesting thing in the thread is that there is a clear divide emerging between those trying to shore up the system with more of the same, vs those who think this is quite mad. As one put it "The drunk is puking up blood but the solution is more whiskey?" In that spirit for what it's worth this is what I added to the comments:

"Can I propose a change in terminology? Can we not call this ‘The Great Breakdown’? In metaphorical terms, the current system is not in a little ‘dip’ (a recession), nor in a melancholy episode of life losing its meaning, interest and pleasure (depression). Rather it seems to be collapsing as the direct result of its own neurotic, self-destructive, tragic logic (ie colloquially - a breakdown). I agree with many of the points about the madness of more of the same (and can only add that we face a far larger crisis in climate change, one directly coupled to the economic growth that we seem so desperate to restore). There is also maybe more hope admitting that this is The Great Breakdown. As Wilfred Bion, the psychiatrist, used to say of his patients; ‘you never know if they are breaking down or breaking through’." Greenormal


paul macfarlane said...

"The light at the end of the tunnel may be an oncoming train."

The perennial Davos group is on a cloud of their own making and can't see, wont see the human beings who are affected.

For example, no one citizen voted for NAFTA in the USA or Canada or Mexico. Yet lives were ruined indigenous tribes were slaughtered.

Better idea? Representative input and feedback from the populace of the countries and people affected before decisions of the mighty are made. A video conference from remore areas with interpreters, a huge scroll delivered...something.

But the WTO, IMF et al do not care.
A breakdown indeed is needed.

Thomas Barker said...

Actually I thought the minister from Turkey at Davros was quite sensible. ("You need to do what we did. But there's no-one to force you, so it'll be even harder.")

No-one voted directly for NAFTA, but it's a treaty, and they did vote for the governments that signed it.

Blaming the IMF etc [who do give plenty of bad advice with the good] is often just a lazy way to dodge questions about bank regulation, insider deals, or lose gov. spending. Which were all pretty big problems in pre-crisis Asia, and have become so in the West now.

paul macfarlane said...

True --but treaties that affect millions of lives need more public involvement don't you think?
Would you like a government that you didn't vote for (as in massive voter fraud in Mexico with millions not allowed to vote?) to push you off your land and change your people's way of life for 500 years for a business deal you will not see any benefit from?

I wouldn't.

Thomas Barker said...

But that's going to be solved by Mexico cleaning its corruption up. Not whether or not NAFTA's there.

(Although it's existence would make some property more valuable and tempting to steal.)