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This is a very provocative idea, but an important one.  If collapse is inevitable, is it a case of ‘the sooner, the better’?  Good article overall, though I think a stronger anti-capitalist analysis is needed here. [alex]

‘The best outcome is probably for humans to hit the wall soon and hard.’
By Roger Baker / The Rag Blog / October 2, 2008

Is industrial collapse the BEST way out of our current economic mess?

Arguably yes and here is why. But does it even matter? Perhaps not. Capitalism, in its global form and as we now know it, is likely finished in any case, so the choice is likely to be an illusion. But the best outcome is probably for humans to hit the wall soon and hard.

The Economic Context

Capitalism as an economic system depends on an endless expansion of material goods production at a rate that allows lenders to earn interest on money saved and invested. The only way to get potential lenders to lend rather than spending their money immediately is to reward them with a real rate of return on their savings. This is done by promising lenders that they will be rewarded with the ability to buy more material goods in the future. A reward must be offered to lenders for not buying and stockpiling bars of gold, barrels of oil, or any other desirable goods or services now as opposed to putting their money in banks or investing it in stocks or bonds or whatever else can earn them a real rate of interest as a reward for offering their savings up for investment by others.

Keynesian economics tries to maintain a mild inflation rate of a percent or two in order to encourage people to save their money in banks and other alternatives that offer a return above the rate of inflation. This is necessary to keep people from simply putting their money under a mattress. If the rate of inflation is one percent and they can earn three percent in a bank, they will bank their spare funds and will, in theory, be able to come out ahead and buy two percent more in the amount of physical goods or services than they had originally put in.

That is how those managing the economic system (like the Federal Reserve representing the banks) try to set things up. It is meant to encourage people to behave predictably and to keep them saving and investing. Under conditions in which in which it is possible to keep the material world always expanding and yielding a production of desirable goods at or above the rate of interest on money saved, this system remains viable and stable. This assumes that the financial system has been well-managed, and that there are no external limiting factors.

Enter Peak Oil

We now live in a world economy that is rapidly approaching the limiting factor of fossil fuel energy sources. The specific limiting factor that is most relevant is a looming shortage of liquid fuel based on petroleum as the total world oil production peaks and declines.

The peaking of world oil production strongly affects the investment equation that underlies the global capitalist economy and rewards investments and savings. The global economy is based on a cheap-oil-related infrastructure for its expansion of the production of real goods. Capitalism requires cheap energy to deliver the exponential expansion of material goods through investments that can pay real interest rates on loans. But this expectation is probably more than the expansion an oil-addicted global production system can really deliver. It changes the system’s economic potential by making it impossible to earn a real rate of return on the money saved by lenders, who in the case of the United States have increasingly been foreign lenders.

The underlying problem is that nobody can think of a way to keep expanding the material production of a global economy that is experiencing a shrinking supply of liquid fuels. These oil-based fuels move almost all goods in our global economy. This economy is based everywhere on the cheap transport of people, goods, and the capital goods needed to expand global production, whether it be by ship, by rail, by road, or by air. When the ability to move almost all goods declines, the expansion of the ability of capitalist investments to exploit nature for human uses must also decline. Read the rest of this entry »

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With Congress giving in to this historic power-grab by Secretary of the Treasury and former CEO of Goldman Sachs Paulson and his friends in the banking industry, to seize control of the country’s finances (despite loud and obvious public opposition), it appears the end of capitalism is at hand. [alex]

Originally published by CNN.com, Oct. 3, 2008.

Stocks slump despite bank rescue

Dow suffers worst weekly performance since the week after 9/11 attacks, as investors remain fearful about the economy.
NEW YORK (CNNMoney.com) — Stocks slumped Friday, as a brutal week ended with President Bush signing the historic $700 billion bailout plan after weeks of contentious debate.

Credit markets remained frozen, despite the vote, with two measures of bank jitters rising to record highs. Investors also looked to Wells Fargo’s planned purchase of Wachovia and a dismal job market report.

The Dow Jones industrial average (INDU) lost 1.5% Friday and 7.3% for the week. On a point basis, the Dow lost 818 points this week, its biggest weekly point loss in seven years and the third biggest weekly loss ever.

The Standard & Poor’s 500 (SPX) index lost 1.4% Friday and 9.4% for the week. On a point basis, the S&P lost 114 points, the worst weekly point loss in seven years and the third biggest weekly loss ever.

The Nasdaq composite (COMP) lost 1.5% Friday and 10.8% for the week. The 10.8% decline was the worst in seven years and fifth worst ever. But the weekly point drop of 236 points fell outside the ten worst in history. Read the rest of this entry »


I’ve reposted a nice article which highlights the class dynamics at the heart of the current financial meltdown and potential bailout. It gives a very simple and straightforward summary from a revolutionary point of view, so I’m reposting it.

This is by no means a complete analysis however – for example it overlooks the critical role of oil, which is the lifeblood of the US capitalist economy and motivates many of its military aggression around the world. Specifically, there is a need to understand how the peak in global oil production has affected and continues to undermine the US-led industrial capitalist system, particularly in regards to the bursting of the housing bubble in the first place, along with the rising gas prices, food prices, heating costs, and subsequent inflation of the failing dollar.

Because oil production will never recover to its 2005/6 level, but will continue to decrease more rapidly, there can be no long-term recovery of the global financial markets, and for that reason I disagree with the declaration here that “Capitalism will not collapse…” On the contrary, it WILL collapse, because any system that structurally depends upon constant growth and speculation-upon-that-growth cannot coexist forever on a finite planet where necessary and crucial resources are in permanent and deepening shortage.

The current economic crisis is often compared to other historical crises of capitalism, where after appearing on the verge of death, the system restored itself and came back stronger than ever. Thus we are warned that capitalism is a self-destructive beast, but not a suicidal one. On its face this is solid logic but it overlooks the specific nature of the current crisis and its roots in the global peak oil phenomenon. It is my contention and the purpose of this website to demonstrate that the oil crisis is sucking global industrial capitalism dry like the vampire it is, and that there is no combination of “alternative” energy sources – whether coal, gas, nuclear, ethanol, wind, solar, whatever – that can do for this system what oil does.

Oil is not only the largest energy source, it also provides the material for 99% of pesticides (along with the entire industrial agriculture system), all plastics, almost all pharmaceutical drugs and chemicals, and a massive array of other products and components that keep the industrial economy chugging along. But the real killer is that oil literally fuels almost all transportation of materials and people for this system, including 95% of transportation in the US itself, as well as essentially ALL global air and sea transport. There is simply no way to keep this monster running without more and more petroleum.

Now, just because we’re confident that capitalism won’t recover from the current death-blows doesn’t mean a more vicious and destructive system won’t replace it, which is why this article’s conclusions are relevant and necessary. If we’re headed in the US towards fascism – which is where the rich and their Washington cronies seem to want to take us to protect their wealth and power – the only solution, which will become more and more apparent daily, is to organize a massive resistance here in the US that can stop the vampires and build towards a society based on freedom, justice and democracy.

[alex]

SOME TALKING POINTS ON THE FINANCIAL CRISIS
By Kate Griffiths and Isaac Silver

1. The era of the United States as a “the world’s only superpower” is ending.
The United States economy has not been this bad since the Great Depression. The rulers of the US hoped to retain global power militarily, through the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, as the country’s raw economic superiority slipped. But these wars cannot be won: opposition among the occupied populations, and growing dissent within the military, prevent any victory on US terms even as the death toll climbs.

2. Beginning during the 1970s, manufacturing stalled, while government and investors focused on the financial sector: banks, real estate, and insurance.
Increasing competition, strong unions, and victories of the Black freedom movement had begun to limit the profits made by US corporations and threaten the power of the ruling class. In response, employers shifted good-paying manufacturing jobs overseas and to nonunionized areas of the USA. As wages stagnated, and workers’ purchasing power declined, workers maintained a precarious hold on our livelihood through working longer hours, sending more household members to work, and buying extensively on credit. The globalization of US capitalism and growth of credit both fueled the financial sector, which provided fluid economic resources that could be quickly moved and re-invested – unlike a physical investment such as a factory or railroad.

3. In 2008, years of government policies favoring the rich provoked instability and sparked collapse of major Wall Street institutions.
As the cost of the basic necessities went up, and wages failed to cover them Read the rest of this entry »

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