Bubbles, Booms & Busts

The ‘shock and awe’ (if you’ll forgive the borrowing) in global financial markets is but the bursting of the latest bubble in world capitalism.


For a brief span, imperial economists suggested that the age of boom and bust was a relic of the dusty past, saved by a kind of brilliant economic technocratic thinking that worked the markets like a well-oiled machine.


Inflation too high?  Lower it by tightening the money supply.


Neat. Predictable. Manipulatable.


Except theory never fully captures the vagaries of life.  Because theory ignores human compulsions like greed, avarice, or mindless stupidity.


It also ignores social and political realities, for example, that capital is divorced from national government structures, and as such, are not answerable to them.  They are thus able to easily avoid taxation, regulation or extra-corporate oversight.


In the 19th Century, the robber barons simply walked into government buildings and capitals with satchels swollen with money.  They literally bought off politicians to do their bidding.  They do the same thing today, but they do it with a little more finesse.  Today, they don’t bring suitcases on the Senate floor, they donate to PACs, or invite their intended on golfing treks, where real business is done on the green.  Then they take their pots of gold offshore, say, to the Caymans, and fuel the latest speculative, capital bubble.


The bubble swells, and eventually busts, and that’s where the bought-and-paid for politicians come in handy. They transfer public money into private hands, all the while screaming "deregulations!", or "free market!"   So the big dogs get paid on both sides of the bubble — while it grows and after it bursts!


How can you lose? (Well, not you.)


If you believed in the hype and bought into the bubble, you lose.  And  as taxpayers, you lose.  If you’ve been foreclosed on, you’ve already lost.  If you want a good paying job, you’ve lost.


If you want a decent education for your kids or grand kids, you’ve lost.


For capital is hungry, and the beast must be fed.


Let me tell you what capitalists really think of the notion of "free markets."  In 1995, Dwayne Andreas, then-chairman of the agribusiness giant, Archer Daniels Midland, told and interviewer, "There isn’t one thing in the world that is sold in a free market.  Not one!  The only place you see a free market is in the speeches of politicians.  People who are not from the Midwest do not understand that this is a socialist society."*


‘Free market’ is a talking point.


The only thing free, is the pain.


 [*Patel, Raj, Stuffed & Starved: The Hidden Battle for the World Food System (Brooklyn:Melville House, 2008),  p.90].

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