First a quote from an interesting article I found at Reality Sandwich:
"The consequence of all this pyramid building is that there are not enough goods and services on Earth to equal, at current prices, more than a small percentage of the face value of stocks, bonds, derivatives, and other fiscal exotica now in circulation. The vast majority of economic activity in today's world consists purely of exchanges among these representations of representations of representations of wealth. This is why the real economy of goods and services can go into a freefall like the one now under way, without having more than a modest impact so far on an increasingly hallucinatory economy of fiscal abstractions."
My reading of this is that such perverse hankering after 'wealth' is a direct consequence of a deep and pervasive cultural forgetting of where value lies. This from John McMurtry (The Cancer Stage of Capitalism, 1999, p109):
"Speculation in money value itself has become an epidemic overwhelming economics at 50 or more times greater than the value of all trade in goods and services."
From Bernard Lietaer:
"George Soros, who's made part of his living doing what I used to do - speculating in currencies - concluded, "Instability is cumulative, so that eventual breakdown of freely floating exchanges is virtually assured." Joel Kurtzman, ex-editor at the Harvard Business Review, entitles his latest book: The Death of Money and forecasts an imminent collapse due to speculative frenzy."
We are culturally insane, lost in, or given over to a blind frenzy we (often violently) hope will keep all this fictitious wealth real. If we juggle fast enough, long enough, with sufficient skill and technological glitter, the whirring house of cards we have magicked into existence will stay firm, no, become firm, become we know, deep down, it is not. It will not happen (hat tip Jesse):
Automatic Earth sums the chart up well:
"US homeowners lost more, by a factor of 26, than they "gained" through clearing mortgage debt. Thus, if we estimate that there are 75 million homeowners in America, they all, each and every one of them, lost $93,333. "
With collapse, insanity and decay in clear evidence everywhere we look, even in this time of obvious historical, even millennial significance, in the mainstream to talk of not-capitalism (capitalism being a mere few centuries old), to talk of genuine alternatives is to be a fool, ignorant. Bizarrely, capitalism remains, even among many openly discussing ways out of this mess, and certainly on the news and in the papers, efficient, free, democratic, natural, and so on. If I weren't such a placid chap I would be screaming 24/7 in amazement. This blog is my placid scream.
McMurtry again (1999, p53):
"But if this system is progressively more efficient and productive, as its essential legitimating argument claims, why must people be increasingly less free and secure the more efficient and productive it becomes?"
The way out of this mess is also the end of the status quo, the end of capitalism. So much has to change, so much of what we think we know must be re-learned, and that in the true scientific light of humility and in the open spirit of 'I don't know', down to the lowest depths of every assumption that supports our human world, no matter what, change will be collapse. Change now can only be collapse, and no one in the status quo wants that. Too great a proportion of our structures -- intellectual, political, social, philosophical, mythical, psychological etc. -- are rotten to the core.
So, people, what is value, why is growth good, and what is the pursuit of perpetual growth absent value?