Tuesday, February 03, 2009
The Recession and the Flames of Change
For those who still believe that the coming Great Depression can be tamed by spraying money on the bonfire....or pissing on it with tax cuts.
Or think that we can hold back the burning devil of protectionism...with the watering can of rational arguments.
Or forget what could happen when all the deadly threats facing the planet come together in one roaring inferno.
I offer up this somewhat gloomier view from Britain.
The International Labour Organisation predicts that another 50 million or so will join the jobless queues around the world, out of a world workforce of around 3 billion. The wildcat strikes at refineries and power stations across the UK, and anti-government protests from Latvia and France to China and Mexico, may be just the beginning of much more radical, violent backlash against globalisation.
Despite pledges to resist "the retreat to protectionism", the pressure on governments to "protect" domestic industries and jobs has become irresistible; legislators on Capitol Hill plead that they can do no other than inject "Buy American" clauses into the fiscal packages and other bailouts now being assembled, such is the public anger about what has happened to the economy.
Having just elected the most protectionist Congress in 60 years, American voters expect their legislators – and their President – to deliver on promises about "American jobs", and are deaf to the arguments for free trade.
The scale of the economic, social and political problems the global rise in unemployment represents are frightening. Indeed, this recession could easily result in the biggest loss of paid employment seen in human history...
Pressure on land, water, food and housing, and levels of poverty, will soar; the temptation to argue with neighbouring nations over natural resources will grow. The world may soon witness its first "water war". The price of mass unemployment – human, economic, social, environmental – has always been high. This time it will be higher than ever.
But when I think about all that suffering, and my cheated generation, I'm afraid I'll go even further.
I'll predict that when all the Horsemen of the Apocalypse come together on the burning battlefield, a lot of people are going to question whether the jalopy of Capitalism needs more than an oil change....or a shiny new set of wheels.
And will shake the world to its foundations.
With demands for real change.
Can you feel the anger...and the despair?
Can you smell the tear gas?
Can you hear the song...