It doesn’t take a sharp observer to realise things of late are going pear-shaped for capitalism, one needs only to follow the news: globalisation gone mad, financialisation, private debt growth, housing bubble burst, GFC, bailouts, repos, recession, unemployment, inequality in all shapes and colours, wage stagnation, the bloody aftermath to the Arab Spring, terrorism, rise of the surveillance state and the far right, Europe, US, South America. And that’s without mentioning climate change, ocean acidification, mass extinction, the risk of global pandemics, and now the growing likelihood of Cold War 2 or even a nuclear war.
Don’t believe me? Even as I wrote this, our reptilian plutocratic overlords were performing their ultimately inconsequential but newsworthy Davos annual hand-wringing ceremonies.
Things didn’t seem so bad twenty years ago, yes?
|1999 Seattle WTO protests [A]|
Well, yes and no.
Yes: Those were the days of the late Clinton Administration and early Tony Blair. In Oz we were transitioning from Bob Hawke/Paul Keating (Labor) to John Howard (Coalition). History had just ended, Francis Fukuyama had said a little earlier. It was a happy ending, too (Fukuyama never said anything about masseuses, btw).
No: Contra Fukuyama, the seeds of today’s troubles had been sown and some had noticed. A concrete example: 1999 Seattle WTO protests. Things weren’t all hunky-dory, matey.
But that was just the rabble, right?
Well, no. Not really.
To their credit, even some among the least likely were having second thoughts: for example, Paul Krugman, Joseph E. Stiglitz and Dani Rodrik (here’s Mark Thoma’s very comprehensive report on the Rodrik vs pretty much everybody else debate on globalisation; read with particular attention the Rodrik-Mankiw exchange, keeping Marx in mind).
The anti-neoclassic economics protest movement among economics students also dates from those seemingly long-ago days (Do you remember when Deirdre McCloskey (PDF) was playing the Princess Leia to the rebels, sorry, students? Well, since then she turned to the Dark Side).
(TO BE CONTINUED)
[A] "WTO protests in Seattle, November 30, 1999 Pepper spray is applied to the crowd". Nov. 30, 1999. Author: Steve Kaiser from Seattle, US. Source: Wikimedia. File licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 2.0 Generic license. My usage of the file does not indicate its author endorsement of me or said usage.