by Gary Tedman
Today there is a problem, a spectre isn't haunting Europe, instead a vacuum has enveloped it. This vacuum is the absence of leadership in the face of the worst world capitalist crisis in economics since the last worst world capitalist crisis in economics. Our politicians seem unable to respond to it with anything but well worn phrases and old excuses. Fat cat capitalists (Goodwin, AIG executives) make off with huge bonuses for taking their institutions into the most colossal debts in corporate history, while politicians who can put 'enemy combatants' into an offshore prison and torture them with impunity, claim they are powerless to stop these businessmen 'for legal reasons' stuffing their filched taxpayers wealth offshore (as they are wont to do).
Things don't add up even superficially anymore, and it is becoming obvious to the masses with each passing minute that they don't, but the politicians still repeat the same platitudes as solutions: they will have new regulations (but tomorrow), they will tightly control (but at arms length), they will stimulate fiscally (but only the rich who don't need it), they will get lending going again (even while they blame debt for the problem), they will… etc, etc.
We now live 'in interesting times', and it is indeed a curse if this is anything to go by. And yet it also seems, in these times, to be a strange fact that even the ruling class don't understand why there isn't more protest, why the obvious anger hasn't turned out onto the streets as an, at least cathartic, outburst of anguish, they are a little mystified, pensive, subdued.
But the people want a real solution and they can see there is nobody to turn to, so homogeneous and bland has the political landscape become in modern advanced capitalist societies that authentic opposition is invisible, and especially so to its press, which has got into the habit of turning a blind eye to protest and real political innovation so much that it no longer knows how to 'write it up'.
Latterly they are trying, because they have to, for there have indeed been some real protests that have led to changes of government, Iceland and Latvia for instance, but they cannot help but express their own incredulity that they do in fact need to cover such events. Though even these events have been characterized by a lack of conviction in the solutions they have proposed or that have been offered to them. The people sense they are not real solutions, just stop-gaps and the prolonging of an illusion that governments know what they are doing.
They do not know. These governments and administrations have prided themselves for a long history on not knowing about how the economy actually works and on not 'commanding' it. The 'command economies' are always bad, the 'free' economies are always good, they have always said. Now the 'free' economies have gone bad it is still the fault of the 'command' economies, whose acolytes have conspired to cause the demise of this great free system by interfering in its freedom with stupid and unnecessary rules and regulations, and they look back all misty eyed at a time when the free market was truly free, which never existed because a market is, of course, a system of regulations; yet they persist with the myth for reasons of their own sanity, which is in effect their own necessary insanity: the cause of the global problem must be anything but the untrammelled profit motive, why? because they are this motive personified, or at least its visible expression. Their fundamental idea of a 'free market' is being able to take by violence, the rules are meant for the victims.
What's going to happen? There may be a recovery; there may be a long depression. Pretty graphs are charted showing next year's growth, they seem to be based on wishful thinking, not even the usual wishful thinking of the usual statistics of what people think and wish, but ideas drawn from pure thin air. The graphs go down in a curve below the line, but in the next year they magically appear above the line again. Suddenly the fiscal stimuli must have worked, the newly unemployed are invited to think, and there will be jobs again galore and credit again galore and all of this nightmare will be remembered as just that, simply a nightmare, and thus unreal; the slow to be installed regulations can then be ditched, the arms length policy can gain strength (or weakness!), the fraudsters and credit swindlers can start up again quietly, and the governments can get back to what they do best, providing a more believable illusion of leadership over it all. They wish.