The laws of the Medes and the Persians, so the old saying goes, were unchangeable. It seems to be a feature of all animal life, including that of most of our human race, that we live in a situation, good or bad, that we expect will stay the same. If we have a period of rising affluence and general well-being, such as most of western society has enjoyed for the most of the last half century, then we expect it to continue forever, probably getting better. Only a few have forseen the current downturn about to happen and, such is the power of hope and optimism, the majority of those who have the ability their opinions publically, go on thinking of it as a temporary blip that will soon go back to affluence again. Having read some more history than most, and being inclined to question rather than swallow what I hear about me, I profoundly disagree. I can see rather good reasons why the current depression might continue for a decade, a generation or even longer. In fact there are good reasons for thinking that they might never get better, that the old wasteful times of capitalist growth will come to a final end and be replaced by a new world order.
First of all, we are facing a large number of world shortages, some of which are already here for large parts of the planet. One of the is water, which, unless we can find a faily cheap way of converting salt water, much of it already heavily polluted, into drinking water, means that millions
will die of thirst and disease as a large uncounted number of people already do. Next is oil, which cannot be replaced ever. Althought alternative sources of energy will increasingly be found, they will cause other shortages, mainly of necessary food. Minerals will run out and climate change, which we are dealing with too late and too slowly, will ensure that we can never guarantee enough food preduction to feed, however badly, a world population that will never stop growing because no government will ever be willing to deal with the consequences of human fertility. The sex drive may ultimately be the biggest factor in the final destruction of life on earth,which many people now think is highly likely in this twenty-first century. Besides the problems created by shortages which can only be partly alleviated by rationing, there are all the others which now are part of a mentality that puts honesty, integrity and non-selfishness at a very low level of general acceptance. Once religion played a role at making people accept their lot, whatever it was, but religion, where it still exists, is now part of nationalist or ideological fervour, non-logical or moralistic, and tending to encourage hatreds and divisions. Religion now rends communities apart as it always has except where there was one single unquestioned faith. Such violence is the inevitable future prospect unless governments are willing to make steps which we know they will never do. They may well make situations worse by simplistic measures which they think will get them support, such as deporting minorities that are different, as they already often do. Organised crime will grow to make things worse again.
But even the most clear-headed pessimist must hope to be wrong and to think out possible ways to make things better. First of all, we must forget about recovery. There will be no recovery. What we can do is create employment by taking over, without compensation, everything that used to be nationalised, by using the law to break up global companies and everything that tries to put profit first by replacing people with machines, and by creating a new structure of state employees to hold the jobs and work properly at them, to run them honestly and properly at salaries that are reasonable by modest, and above all by getting rid, one and for all, of the whole market economy apparatus. The stock market has had its day and will never work again. It should shrink and finally disappear.
This means that a new party to accomplish all this must come into being and get elected. There are people around who would be trusted if they came out of their present semi-obscurity, got together to form a new policy of a well-run, disciplined and financially egalitarian economy, whatever name it might adopt. Such a thing is unlikely but possible, made more by the present disillusion with every existing party, some less bad than others, but none willing to take the kind of radical measures that I am advocating. Otherwise we are in for a revolution, probably starting in Europe and spreading by imitation, or there will be a coup d’etat, almost certainly of the right.
It is in our nature not to expect change, but already this year has seen massive changes and much more is to come. 2009 may be a key year like 430 (Roman Empire founded), 800 (Charlmagne), 1066, 1095 (The Crusades), 1517 (Luther and the beginning of Protestantism), 1776, 1789, 1815, 1848, 1914, 1939, to mention a few. It is a matter of luck whether you live in a time of tranquility or a time of turmoil. The next few years will be all turmoil and unless we can put our own house in order in Great Britain in harmony with our neighbours, life will become unbearable.
Things are stirring out of sight, some certainly very bad, but perhaps some have hope. We need a new political and economic regime, one in which we can believe and participate. Now is no time for indecision or inaction. Let us find credible and competent people to manage our affairs in a way that make society congenial and tolerant, sharing what we have and putting the greedy years behind us. Most people want it, so let’s try to make it happen.
John Calder 5/7/09