Phoenix in the China Shop

Forgive the mixed metaphor but it seems appropriate. The phoenix, burned to an ash, arises to live yet again. In the process, the current status quo will undergo a bit of thrashing about and much will be broken.

Mariner has been in a quandary for some months about the approaching tsunami of economic failure. He is one of the tiniest voices expressing concern as giant corporations, think tanks, the United Nations and many global prognosticators share the mariner’s concern. In recent days mariner has been blessed with two very cogent and focused sources that have resolved his quandary. The sources don’t have all the answers but importantly, they are wise and have promoted new concepts of government beyond capitalist piracy and socialist complacency.

The first, a book brought from the local library by his ever vigilant wife[1], describes the current status quo as one caused by shifting demography mixed with competition for a positive trade balance – a strategy put in place at the end of the Second World War[2]. Zeihan blames this economic philosophy, among other things, for stagnant wages and higher prices. Zeihan suggests that the American economic crisis is accelerated by the retirement of baby boomers that largely stop generating products and marketplace cash flow upon retirement and instead draw down on savings. The imminent retirement of the boomers (and the same in other nations) has led to one of the highest savings percentages in history. Recognizing only current economic practices, that is, sustaining positive trade in a fading world market, spending is more important than saving – even for indebted governments. But one cannot blame those nearing retirement for self-protection in a roiling capitalist environment as the world moves to global economics.

For many reasons – from a better demographic spread of young people to the fact that our trade economy is spread across the continent because of eleven navigable rivers (far more than any other country) to the fact that the continental trade picture already is in place (Central America [CAFTA], Mexico, US and Canada [NAFTA]) – free trade AKA Bretton Woods already is fading. As the rest of the world’s nations scramble to seek stability within the old economic order, America, that is, a united trade market covering North and Central America, is set to emerge as the leading economic power by 2030.

A good example of the plight of stand-alone trading nations is Germany: Germany has a large trade surplus making it the prominent economy in Europe. However, the side effects of maintaining a strong free trade position keep paychecks low, leading to a declining domestic economy and therefore less imports. Free trade is a two-way game.

Peter Zeihan’s book falls short of describing a new economic philosophy. His content covers the broad world of economy and suggests that economic power alone will solve America’s problems. There is a human side to economics that must change significantly. For that information, mariner turns to Gar Alperovitz and his online organization, TheNextSystemProject[3].

In the introduction (see footnote) Alperovitz suggests not only is the political system failing but the capitalist economy is collapsing as well. Evidence is the expanding gap between wealthy and poor; it breeds pain, decay, disillusionment and discontent that call for a new form of government. Alperovitz suggests that already the transition to new systemic processes has begun in spite of the presence of Donald.

To keep this post from becoming a book, mariner will reduce a large amount of data to a paragraph or two. If the reader is interested in more clarity or connectivity, see the footnote below, go to the website and enjoy. The scope of Gar Alperovitz’s future is comprehensive. Mariner will mention a word or two about each area. Each area is available on the website in the footnote.

“If the design of corporate capitalism is unable to sustain values of equality, genuine democracy, liberty, and ecological sustainability as a matter of inherent systemic architecture, what systemic ‘design’ might ultimately achieve and sustain these values?”

“Further, how specifically might it be possible to move forward, especially in difficult political times, to lay foundations for a transformation in the direction of a serious new systemic answer?”

It is suggested that change already is happening. New institutions, that is, officially formed groups that are part of the political landscape, have begun to form. Alperovitz mentions Black Lives Matter, the women’s movement, global warming, and other special cause organizations. The term ‘institution’ implies more than just incorporation; it means a group of citizens who own political policy on the political scene. One can only affect change through membership in an institution. At the turn of the twentieth century, organizations such as Grange and trade unions ‘owned’ their politics rather than being controlled by traditional government parties. Consequently, elected officials had to consult these institutions when creating legislation that affected them.

Alperovitz suggests that the current institutions, corporate policy, wealth management and banking, do not feel obligated to represent the ideas of democracy, life, liberty and equality. The underlying point is if democracy is to flourish, citizens must belong to meaningful institutions with sway. Democracy does not take care of itself. One immediately thinks of the rebellion to changes in health care. Incumbent officials don’t know how to deal with an active electorate and struggle with allegiance to their party at the peril of losing their next election. At the moment, the rebellion owns its politics.

Mariner opines that local institutions may be diverse and influential enough to overcome gerrymandering whether that practice is eliminated officially or not. District majorities may have to be formed by coalitions of institutions – very much like parliamentary majorities.

Mariner will stop at this point to avoid ideological drowning. He will draw from Alperovitz’s book over several interspersed posts.
Ancient Mariner

[1] The Accidental Superpower – The next generation of American preeminence and the coming global disorder, Peter Zeihan; published 2014 by Twelve Hachette BookGroup; ISBN 978-1-4555-8366-9.

[2] The chief features of the Bretton Woods system were an obligation for each country to adopt a monetary policy that maintained the exchange rate (± 1 percent) by tying its currency to gold and the ability of the IMF to bridge temporary imbalances of payments. Also, there was a need to address the lack of cooperation among other countries and to prevent competitive devaluation of the currencies as well.(Wikipedia)

[3] Principals of a Pluralistic Commonwealth, Gar Alperovitz. See: http://thenextsystem.org/principles-introduction/ Also use search engine to find other sources on CSPAN, YouTube, video and lectures.

Leave a Reply