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Friday, September 26, 2008

Just to Make My Position Clear...

I sincerely doubt that there's anyone who checks on this blog with the intention of finding out the latest news, but still, as part of a probably vain attempt to make my take from yesterday current with the still-developing struggle over the bailout in Washington, three relatively quick points:

1. I don't like the bailout, perhaps mostly because I don't like being told by elite economic opinion-makers that if we don't "trust the Treasury [Department] to find a way out of this crisis," then "[f]inancial institutions would fail, part of your savings would be wiped out, jobs would be lost and a lot of economic activity would grind to a halt." It sounds too much like exactly the same sort of panic talk that always drives establishment pundit opinion whenever their ox is potentially being gored: "save us, for if we go down, we take the nation with us!" Daniel Larison's call for us all to slow down and consider the consequences is worth heeding.

2. And yet, I'm not sure how we--meaning you and me, dear reader--can avoid hoping for some sort of bailout (and preferably sooner rather than later) given the way our financial system has been jury-rigged by our own consumptive habits (a house! a bigger house! a bigger refinanced house!), our own toleration of speculative investments (did my retirement fund grow this year? what, only by 5%? off with the boards' heads!), and our glorification of credit and debit and outsized growth (too may examples to even pretend to list). We are not economic sovereigns in our own places, as we ought to be; we are hooked up to and made dependent upon and are expected to anticipate and exploit the mostly-just-on-paper growth which Wall Street is supposed to magically provide us with, whenever we pay for college or buy a home or make a savings plan. Since we are not sovereigns over our own economic affairs, why should we be astonished when we ultimately have no say--when our voices seem tinny and besides the point when we try to have a say, as the opportunist John McCain and the petulant House Republicans have been doing over the past 18 hours--over the economic crises which befall us? Is this game really playing out any differently than did the S&L crisis, or the fall of Enron? The only difference is the size of the final bill.

3. So what do I want? I want to live--I want us all to live--in small(er), more self-sufficient, interdependent but not thoroughly globalized, socially democratic states (preferably with parliamentary governments), where the financial resources of my community is not in hock, by definition, to markets and schemes that have next to nothing to do with actual production and everything to do with the interests of elite snake-oil salesmen who manage to make most of us look away most of the time by showing us an ever-expanding bottom line. In other words, I want small-scale socialism, I want to live where the habits of the people and the provisions of the state make populism possible. Sweden? Maybe. But then, I also want to live in America, with all its bigness, because I love my country. As long as there's a way to muddle through without completely selling off our sovereign soul, I'll take the bailouts and compromises as best I can.

More later.

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