We’ve lived so long under the spell of hierarchy—from god-kings to feudal lords to party bosses—that only recently have we awakened to see not only that “regular” citizens have the capacity for self-governance, but that without their engagement our huge global crises cannot be addressed. The changes needed for human society simply to survive, let alone thrive, are so profound that the only way we will move toward them is if we ourselves, regular citizens, feel meaningful ownership of solutions through direct engagement. Our problems are too big, interrelated, and pervasive to yield to directives from on high.
—Frances Moore Lappé, excerpt from Time for Progressives to Grow Up

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Why Austerity Makes Sense For Capitalism

Borrowed from this posting by Charlie Post from Solidarity. 
For the Solidarity Midwest Regional Crisis School, Charlie Post delivered a talk explaining the political economy of the crisis, or why austerity is rational from the point of view of capital. In contrast to Keynesian explanations of the crisis (a la Paul Krugman), Charlie suggests that you can't simply stimulate demand to get out of the crisis because the source of the problem is a falling rate of profit rather than low demand.

I found this lecture to be challenging and very thought-provoking. It seems to me that it might explain a lot of the history of capitalist crises in the 20th century and beyond and how ruling class have dealt with these crises. 

For example, in the 1930s New Deal programs were instituted by the US ruling class because they felt very threatened both by domestic radical activity and the rapid economic gains that were being made at that time in the Soviet Union which had no unemployment. Thus, instead of austerity in response to the 1929 crash, they pursued the New Deal to provide political stability for the capitalist economies. The solution to the crisis was solved by the destruction of capital in WWII, a war that was permitted and encouraged by Western ruling classes.

Thus, Post's conclusion for this current crisis: working people must organize a massive disruption of economies so that the political operatives of the One Percent feel sufficiently threatened into abandoning austerity policies. But, is he suggesting that we should disrupt the capitalist economies in order to force the ruling classes to use Keynesian policies to solve the present crisis of capitalism? (From scanning his other writings, I don't think so.) Their steadfast actions to pursue austerity policies in the face of widespread militant protests suggests that they feel there is no alternative. I think it is likely that the political operatives of the One Percent do not see Keynesian policies as a realistic option because of increasing costs of energy due to depletion of easily accessible fossil fuels.  

Therefore, a revolution in our social-economic arrangements is the only answer not only for the salvation of the lives of working people, but for the salvation of the ecological system that can sustain human life.