Masthead graphic based on a painting by Gudrun Thriemer.

Thursday, April 09, 2009

"Harper's Economic Action Plan: Dead Horse Revival"

The dripping blood our only drink,
The bloody flesh our only food:
In spite of which we like to think
That we are sound, substantial flesh and blood—
Again, in spite of that, we call this Friday good.
T.S. Eliot
East Coker, IV

Is it significant that Stephen Harper announced his government's Economic Action Plan just before the holiday when Christians celebrate The Resurrection of their Saviour. Let us keep in mind, brothers and sisters, that the economy is not Jesus.

The new Conservative minority government's Economic Action Plan assumes that what it has decided to call "the recession" will be "over" some day. When this happens, Canada will face a labour shortage. Otherwise, life will resume along much the same lines as we are familiar with.

Harper and his government don't appear to have considered any other possibility. Nothing else has quite the rhetorical potential. However, suppose that we survive this (choose one: recession/collapse of the Western Empire/climate change and loss of fisheries, songbirds etc) by giving up our dependence on petrochemicals, growing food at home, and buying only what we can pay cash for? What will the next economy look like then?

Even that scenario may turn out to be optimistic. But it seems possible that we are witnessing a dramatic contraction of the exploited labour force and the job economy (eight years of George Bush hath taught me thus to wishful think).

It seems to me that the phenomenon of open access (open source, freeware, etc) is still in the ascendancy. Not so either capitalism or socialism.

If more people do only the work that is truly meaningful to them and then make the product of that labour available to whoever is interested, what we regard as necessary economic activity may occur mainly as a by-product of looking after those aspects of life that we all know are "more important than money."

In early Canada, Europeans engaged in what they saw as "trade." But in some cases, First Nations people saw the same activity as a ritual exchange of gifts, sort of like Christmas.

Historians of the Empire like to think that trade, in these cases, was merely disguised as an exchange of gifts in order to make it fit the false and naive world view of the aboriginal peoples. (Some ideas die hard.)

However, if we turn it around and imagine that to First Nations people it may have seemed that what was really a display of mutual generosity and spirit disguised as trade so that the Europeans could feel comfortable with their feminine side, then we are the ones who have lost the spirit of the ritual.

Should that spirit revive, then the large toxic workplaces that evolved from factories where children were chained to machines will disappear.

It's not to late to show the rest of the world that the path we have chosen is a dead end. It will make perfect sense. Many have figured it out already. Roughly a billion people are starving from it.

According to Suhannah Marchand at the CBC, we are now waiting for the effect of all those trillions that the world's governments have thrown at banks, manufacturers, etc to "kick in." We have ritually encircled the dead horse and showered it with confetti and other symbolic trivia--buttons, gaudy cloth, press conferences, high level meetings of the people who got us into this mess. Now we sit back and wait for it to work. It has always worked before.

Now we wait for the dead horse to get up and start pulling again. We have given the banks enough money to start making bad loans again. We've given unprecedented rewards to the executives who presided over the Twenty-first Century revival of muscle cars. Surely anything is possible. It's just a matter of time now.

Question of the week: What will the invisible hand of the market do when the demand for F-16s dries up and used nuclear supercarriers cannot be beaten into ploughshares?

Happy Easter
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Malcolm said...

One day, (soon), we must admit, (some easier than others) that those in charge, (banks, politicians, big business) aren't, (for sometime now) good at their jobs (don't have a bloody clue).