The End of Capitalism is Announced

The Decider announces the end of tri­umphal­ist cap­i­tal­ism.
Whose zoo do these simi­ans belong in now?

Bush announces the end of capitalism

(Inter­na­tional Her­ald Tri­bune 19 Sep­tem­ber 2008)

The Soviet behe­moth with its offi­cial fan­tasy of the com­mu­nist broth­er­hood of man looked after by appa­ratchiks who could make a mil­lion shoes to fit the wrong foot and keep every­one in fear­ful penury finally stum­bled into vodka soaked obliv­ion in 1991. It had taken roughly a gen­er­a­tion from the death grip of a psy­cho­pathic Stalin for Gorbachev’s glim­mer of human decency to assert itself.

Another psy­chopath, Mao, rightly saw the Soviet tran­si­tion as a fatal per­sonal threat and did his best to destroy the Chi­nese peo­ple before they got any funny ideas about mak­ing a decent liv­ing. Luck­ily good old fash­ioned mor­tal­ity dis­patched Mao’s corpse to the under­world in 1976, and China could get on with pre­tend­ing that black cats were white cats, fat cats were alley cats, and glo­ri­ously get­ting rich was social­ism with Chi­nese char­ac­ter­is­tics.

Bestrid­ing the world like an inflat­able colos­sus in 2000, George Bush and his cabal set about forc­ing the world to be for him or agin’ him. It turned out we were mostly agin’ him, but that didn’t trou­ble his voter base too much since like George they thought the other 94% of the world’s pop­u­la­tion came from the Dis­cov­ery TV Chan­nel, and weren’t god fear­ing Chris­tians any­way. While the world went to hell, back on the ranch George and friends presided over a remark­able tran­si­tion in America’s for­tunes. He turned the treasury’s record sur­plus into a record deficit that would indebt ordi­nary Amer­i­cans for gen­er­a­tions. Bucks by the bil­lion were shov­eled out to every mil­i­tary pri­va­teer, cor­po­rate crook and pork bar­rel­ing politi­cian who could buy an invite to his Wash­ing­ton prayer break­fasts. The bucks came eas­ily since they were a fiat cur­rency float­ing on lofty rhetoric in an econ­omy that hardly pro­duced any­thing except Wall Street bank­ing sharks. Plane loads of these dol­lars could eas­ily also be shipped to oil sheiks, queru­lous Kore­ans, eva­sive Japan­ese tycoons and smelly Chi­nese busi­ness­men in track suits. These dopes, after pay­ing for their children’s edu­ca­tion in pri­vate Amer­i­can col­leges, had lit­tle option but to ship the rest of the dol­lars back to buy nearly worth­less Amer­i­can trea­sury bonds.

Mean­while your ordi­nary Amer­i­cans turkeys grew fat, then gross on ham­burg­ers and ice cream, learned that his­tory was recit­ing the names of America’s past pres­i­dents, worked fit­fully giv­ing each other hair­cuts, sold them­selves into serf­dom to pay off a cars they shouldn’t have needed and a houses they couldn’t afford, were afraid to take hol­i­days, and died from pan­demics of unnec­es­sary dis­eases, hum­ming the Star Span­gled Ban­ner and grog­gily unaware that whole swathes of those infe­rior for­eign­ers lived lives vastly supe­rior to the Amer­i­can way. George and his friends had been given their Yale ‘C’ passes pre­cisely because the self-styled Amer­i­can rul­ing class knew that own­ing this whole patho­log­i­cal turkey farm was their devine right, and plun­der­ing it was their devine plea­sure. You didn’t need brains to run a turkey farm.

It took a while, but like the Soviet fan­tasy and the Mao insan­ity, Amer­i­can hubris has finally come crash­ing down. Or has it? Some­body had a bad acid trip, and the lousy mood snow­balled. House prices dropped. Mil­lions of turkeys really couldn’t pay their hous­ing loans, even work­ing in three jobs. That lit­tle incon­ve­nience ripped the masks off some mer­chant bank­ing slime, who’d flogged lousy risk mort­gages in bundles as high grade secu­ri­ties. As that card fell, it turned out that the whole finan­cial sys­tem was a house of cards, a ponsi scheme with flim-flam sales­men all the way down the line. Now they are all sit­ting in cof­fee shops with flat lap­top bat­ter­ies, glar­ing at each other, and with­out a sur­viv­ing rich sucker in sight.

Enter the cav­alry. George rides up on his white horse, try­ing to con­cen­trate long enough to pro­nounce ‘cri­sis’, and announces that he decides the rules of the casino. It’s pretty easy. So we pri­va­tized profit? Heck, we can nation­al­ize debt. Just print more tons of dol­lar bills, load the Amer­i­can turkeys with a tril­lion dol­lars of pub­lic debt, and the Wall Street glit­ter­ati can get back to encrust­ing paper mache castles with tin­sel.

So the crookedest brains in Moscow, Bei­jing and Wash­ing­ton didn’t want to make a sys­tem that worked for you or me. Has any­one man­aged to do it? Well, yes, more or less, for brief moments in his­tory. Virtue, like vice, is a tem­po­rary affair with unpre­dictable out­comes. There are and have been good gov­ern­ments and fine lead­ers. If we are born into such a place under such guid­ance, we take it for granted, get lazy, get greedy and the whole thing slips into the abyss. The next gen­er­a­tion is duly lied to, mostly never learns from his­tory, and the whole hope­less strug­gle begins again.

As for those blips on history’s radar, cap­i­tal­ism and com­mu­nism, and shandy social­ism, well they are like the inflat­able colos­sus of George Bush. Poke them with a pin and they expire with a sigh into age­less prop­er­ties of the human char­ac­ter. Laugh­ter and tears, gen­eros­ity and greed define each other as surely as black and white. Cap­i­tal­ism and com­mu­nism are spokes in the wheel of every cul­ture. Smash either and the wheel rim of dreams will col­lapse, the hub of prag­matic liv­ing will no longer turn. There is a felic­i­tous mid­dle way between extremes that our fore­fa­thers wisely called the golden mean.

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