|Greed'sFan: Bringing Friedmanite-marish visions to life.|
As we pour more and more data into the "cloud", we mass-hypnotize ourselves into forgetting that the purpose of a cloud is to vaporize its contents, taking moisture, data, from one place and pour it down elsewhere, sometimes in torrents so unrelenting and sudden that instead of giving the sustenance that's needed, it drowns those who had prayed for its arrival. So computer-users the world over decant their most personal and strategic data into a cloudbank where it resides to be siphoned into the enormous megamemory of the NSA's Computers, computers that suck more and more energy out of the industrial infrastructure, for the purported reason of giving us security. Which they don't ... can't.
What Cyprus showed us, or should have, is that your savings are nothing. They're certainly not yours. Even as Russian Oligarchs, now having been well-versed in the chicaneries of robber-capitalism by their Western criminal cronies, started pulling money out of the Cyprus banks, the Cypriot depositors were being re-assured by their over-stuffed bank officers that there was no problem (although, for a system to remain honest, all the remuneration of said officials should be deposited into their own banks, and not allowed to be siphoned offshore ..which they can, and which they were... wouldn't you do the same?). This vividly illustrates the new form of electronic bank runs, which also shouldn't be news, having been already demonstrated by the method by which Northern Rock was emptied of its resources. Everything, is, after all, in the cloud. Just waiting to be vaporized. Network access is everything: round and round the capital flows, where it stops, nobody knows.
But it isn't paper money, or printing presses, it's electrons. As we've been shown once again this week that even real commodities, like that barbaric relic, gold, can be collected by central banks, stuffed into their vaults, thereby causing its price to rise, which encourages its accumulation by the great unwashed, only to have its value vaporized by those same Central Banks who keep it piled high in their vaults for ....what? As long as it's sitting on the same shelf as all the worthless mortgage-backed securities (MBS) it's relieved the banking industry of, any amount of mark-to-market value can be assigned to it. Unlike the rest of us, the Fed or the ECB can buy securities, or gold, at a given price and maintain that it is worth the price they paid at 100% valuation. What do they care what the 'Market" says it's worth? It's only what they decree its worth that matters anymore. So your gold? That's valued at, oh, what is it today? $1320/oz? The Fed's gold? Whatever they say it s worth, just like the MBS. Anything the Fed or any Central Bank buys is quite obviously no longer subject to market valuation but to Fed valuation. Capitalism by Diktat, or Fascism, if you will, but Fascism is soooooo out of fashion these days, we need to find a different word, one that doesn't result in the world simply shrugging its collective shoulders.
So why not me? Why do I, alone amongst all my friends and acquaintances, bother myself, (and you, as much as I can) with these issues and concerns? Why do I feel an urgency about the topics I write of that makes me write about them, removing even the desire to engage in 'fine writing' (I started blogging because I wished to write fiction), settling instead for a style, or lack thereof, that modulates between anger, compassion, self-pity, satire, irony, tenderness, exasperation, and a kind of controlled insanity? Like so many others who have sought to understand the laws of economics, I am of Scottish descent, and it does seem to be something that springs internal. Like a character out of Zola's Rougon-Macquart series of novels, I seem driven by a genetic imperative, or at least predisposition, toward understanding the world of finance and political economy, but not from a desire to enrich myself or be employed by one of the great financial firms, but from an impulse that wishes to understand the hidden strings that drive human behavior, and a conviction that those strings are manipulated, not by a Divine impulse, as those who operate them would have us believe, and that we in our narcissistic self-adulation like to fantasize, thereby concentrating more on getting ourselves and our progeny coveted position in the next life, thereby neglecting the attention we should be paying to the only one we have, but by very real flesh and blood beings, intent on our destruction, as it is the only means they can think of to assure their own ascendancy. But no outside influence has prodded me in my study of economics, or, more accurately, political economy, the term used by someone whose essays I've recently stumbled upon, but who I'd never heard of before, John Ruskin.
See if the introduction to Ruskin's essays, entitled, "Unto This Last", written by Clive Wilmer in 1985, the same year Joni Mitchell released her "Dog-eat-Dog" album, don't seem cogent today:
What he sought to expose was a society statistically rich that could find no employment for its workers, one that lamented over-production as a cause of poverty, that accepted the notion of planned obsolescence, encouraged an arms race as a source economic growth, allowed extremes of poverty and starvation to coexist with ostentatious luxury, professed Christianity but saw such poverty as a law of nature not to be tampered with, and expected the majority of its people to rest content in conditions of squalor and brutal ugliness. The responsibility for these evils could not be laid at the door of wicked individuals who cared nothing for their fellow humans.
Ruskin suggests that the causes of these failures were the result of the great European apostasy, but that doesn't, can't, explain its current breakdown. The Empire of America is a superficially self-proclaimed Christian country (as it must be, its actions and philosophy being in diametric opposition to the words Christ spoke, per the Book they supposedly believe verbatim, albeit only the Old Testament ... a strange state of affairs given that Christianity is based on the New Testament, the words and message of which are assiduously ignored), but its real philosophy must be found elsewhere. It favors a mechanistic , almost Skinnerian, understanding of human nature, a belief in liberty (although for most of its 50 million people on food stamps and lacking any health care coverage, the reality of deprivation renders such liberty worse that useless), and the belief that communal prosperity is only to be achieved by the individual's pursuit of his own interests, even as the main institution they trumpet as being the bedrock of its society, the family, is based on principles that are the exact opposite: that strength, happiness and security is best arrived at through the cooperation, support, and, dare I say, love, of its constituent members for one another.
It is similar contradictions that I find most disturbing in the rhetoric being used to dismiss the current Banking crisis, the most telling of which is 'printing money' in a world where not a single piece of paper need be printed in order for billions of dollars of liquidity to be poured down from the CloudBanks. Like peak oil, the reality of the fact that electronic money is a completely different animal, as different in its nature and substance as gold is from paper currency, is not denied: it is simply not even considered. This despite the fact that the ramifications of this new reality are constantly being thrown in our faces.
Some of those ramifications, although hinted at in the 2007 'Credit Crunch', and brought home, to subsequently be ignored, in the 2008 collapse that followed, were further illustrated by the Cyprus shenanigans:
- What you think you have in financial assets, no matter how they are accounted or valued, is not in fact what you DO have ... all of it is subject to the whims of the collaborative efforts of your Bank and government working together to seize them for their own nefarious purposes whenever they see fit.
- Savings are secure only outside of the banking system. And that security is then up to your own ingenuity. A metal box buried under a tree in the yard stuffed with cash is more secure than a bank account where the 'cash' is represented by electrons and is in actuality not physically there.
- The push toward a credit-based economy as opposed to a cash-based one, gives great arbitrary power over our lives to un-elected, and therefore unaccountable, oligarchs who sole driving force is their own enrichment, always at the expense of yours.
- The belief in the accumulation of wealth as a source of prosperity has receded. The importance of consumption - and the consequent danger of so-called austerity - is beginning to be widely accepted.
- The bedrock on which Capitalism is supposedly resting, the sense of honor in its upper echelons, has been eroded so profoundly that the judge we once respected, believing that in all important acts of his life, justice comes first, his own interest second, we now know is completely erroneous, the judge completely bought. The physician, from whom we would shrink in horror if we suspected he received bribes from persons (legally big-pharm companies are, indeed, persons) interested in their profits more than our wellness (as legally, they must be), we now know is courted, usually fairly successfully, for exactly that purpose. And, not to leave out those who are tax-exempt, the clergyman, who, although their intellect is invariably small, is respected on the presumed ground of his unselfishness and servitude to a higher power, but who, as has been shown time and again, is married to Mammon, and declares that success in amassing riches, for himself as well as his grasping flock, is the greatest sign of god's approbation of one's actions.
This has turned the rhetoric of Capitalism on its head, or perhaps merely torn the veil from what it always was about: robbing the poor because they are poor, taking advantage of people's need in order to obtain his labor or property at a reduced rate. One need only look at what the Neo-liberal philosophy is to see the fact that this is no new force, that it was in fact their entire rationale behind moving entire industries to Communist China in order to obtain labor at a reduced rate by taking advantage of an entire continent's poverty. We found no problem with this as long it was the Chinese. We needn't even worry about the slave-like conditions they worked under or the destruction of their air, land and water, since we were the catalysts of their newly earned wealth, our motives should not be impugned. But as the same dynamic works its way through our own economy, as it must, and as the implications of electronic money flows impinge on our own bank accounts and 'savings', the underlying fact that questions of economics, art, and science, are inextricably woven into the fabric of morality make it increasingly apparent that, in Ruskin's words, "There is no Wealth but Life".