Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Are Boomers to blame?

An interesting article over at the Burning Platform site - a nicely expressed summary of the widespread sense in the USA that our current crisis is caused by Boomer fecklessness, corporate greed and other cultural and psychological failings. This is the comment I posted:

Nice article but still just a footnote to the culture-wars debate. No real analysis of capitalism as an economic system, so not likely to get to the real nub of the matter. Just as your car is ultimately driven by its underlying engineering and your driving style only affects what it is capable of in relatively small ways, so the basic rules of a capitalist system are clear and simple and all this anger about corporate greed and reckless Boomers is secondary. So are complaints about CEOs offshoring America’s jobs: if you don’t get the basic fact that globalisation is the natural expression of capitalism and completely indifferent to American interests then you are just going to be reduced to another branch of the Tea Party any day now. A capitalist economy pursues the maximum possible ROI – and that is necessarily greater than any sustainable return from the real economy. So this structural requirement for ever-increasing profit will soon cease to be met by any conceivable real economy, especially in peace-time, and the unreal economy, where imaginary values can be made to look real just long enough to cash the cheques, will start to take over. But even the financial sector is only the pure form of capitalism: _all_ sectors of a capitalist economy – including the real economy – will eventually be forced to resort to the same tricks – short-termism, unsustainable debt, insane risks, creative accounting, illusory economics, perpetual motion machines, ridiculous leverage, subsidies to the biggest and richest companies, the constant destruction of (and forced demand for more) goods and services to fight imaginary security threats, and finally just plain dishonesty. Where else are the profits in a mature, free and open economy going to come from? Well, you could try being less mature, free and open, but I don’t think that’s a policy direction any of the subscribers to this site would like much – being cheap labour and having a security-obsessed state isn’t much of a future. None of which has anything to do with Boomers or greed or other cultural or psychological explanations. They are the symptoms – along with environmental devastation, the looting of developing countries, the appalling levels of poverty within America itself, the absurd dishonesty of so much of the media and government, and much else. But they are not the disease.

Not, I suspect, very congenial to most of the readers on that site, nor likely to be responded to, but what the hell.

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