I saw the U.S. chief editor of the FT, Gillian Tett, last night on Channel 4 talking about this new-not-so-new crisis in China. I have to confess that her self-righteousness made me sick. I guess it comes with the job (hers and mine).
It is very sad to see all these clever, educated and eloquent people, the cheerleaders of global capitalism who did not foresee the big financial crisis in the U.S. and Europe, the myrmidons who turn a blind eye to financial and political incompetence when it suits their masters, demanding that the Chinese Government completely deregulate access to financial markets and stop “bureaucratic” intervention (whilst snarling their upper lip).
We had deregulation and re-regulation in the USA and the UK and the whole thing crashed anyway.
So, what’s a fair diagnosis for the Chinese Crisis?
Well, it is a structural fault of global dimensions: the Social Structures of Accumulation that come with this phase of Global Capitalism are collapsing and there is little we can do to prevent this from happening. Conventional regulation and deregulation can only slow down the collapse in some places or for some people, but nothing else. (If you want to know more about Social Structures of Accumulation, there is plenty of academic and non-academic readings and videos about it).
Is there anything else that can be done?
Capitalism is self-destructive, so Hopefully it will take care of itself. However, there is no room for complacency: Our Governments should alleviate the pain caused to people across the world, with our solidarity. We can engage as individuals in rebuilding, culturally, politically and economically, our own communities. We can help others to do the same.
But what is wrong with capitalism? It would be easier to answer this question by explaining what capitalism is and what is good about it:
Capitalism is a combination of values, social relationships, practices, institutions and legally binding rules enshrined in national and international laws, that has enabled a few people in the world to extract and abuse for their own benefit the economic resources of the majority.
Capitalism is based on the supremacy of human predatory self-interest, disregarding most other aspects of human nature, and it is supported by cultural domination. Contrary to what many people believe, capitalism does not respect individual freedom or private property as a universal human rights.
Capitalism cannot work well at the same time in all places across the world because it relies on inequality. The wealth of someone is the destitution of someone else somewhere else in the world.
The good thing about capitalism: If you are lucky enough to be born in the countries whose States have been supportive of the economic interest of their “industrialists”, mainly in North-America and Europe in the last two centuries, then you may be able to benefit, as a worker, as an independent professional/trader or even as a non-producing individual, from the economic surplus that flows around you, but only by virtue of the “Welfare State”, a sort of deal between business, common people, cultural elites and politicians for all of us to have a decent life without causing trouble to each other.
Unfortunately, the “Welfare State”, comprising socio-economic rights, in the workplace and beyond, and public services, is being dismantled in the places in the world where once worked, and will not take off in most places in the rest of the world because of the lack of resources in those places. The inherent inequalities of the capitalism have become more acute at this stage are there are no signs that this will change.
Is this an apocalyptic vision?
Sort of. But I am confident that there are a lot of talented people across the world working on alternative forms of co-operative economy and on peaceful sustainability. There are also many other people promoting political and cultural movements that will Enable our transition to a different form of global society. Crucially, human ingenuity is on our side. All the technological inventions, scientific discoveries and social advancements of the last century were the work of common people like you and me, either a) people who were paid a salary for their intellectual and physical efforts, very often working in publicly funded institutions or b) self-employed people who had to fight their way as individuals in a network of corporate (capitalist) interests.
So, there is a future, of course, but you won’t read about it in the FT.