Saturday, August 22, 2009

Too Big to Fail, Too Big to Bail?
You betcha!

We are constantly being assailed, from all sides; the for profit media, government spokespersons, the talking heads on radio, TV and the inter-tubes, that there are companies and concerns that are “too big to fail”. They are “too big to fail” because, should they collapse, the economic reverberations would be too dire to contemplate. Therefore, due to their economic and political size, if they are in danger of failing it is incumbent upon the government (i.e., the taxpayers) to bail them out.

There is an excellent article today by Dave Lindorff, “Whatever Happened to Antitrust?”. He points out very clearly how much of the problems that the economy is now experiencing comes from the relaxation and non-enforcement of many of the antitrust laws. Many of these antitrust laws date back to the Theodore Roosevelt and Taft administrations. Unfortunately, this relaxation and non-enforcement of these antitrust rules cannot solely be laid at the feet of Bush the Lesser. It was during the Clinton administration that a premier anti-trust agency, the Interstate Commerce Commission, was abolished in 1995.

Additionally, IMHO, the entire concept of “too big to fail” is perverted and largely an aspect of the “American way of life”. The entire idea of “mass production” has morphed into unsupportable gigantism. Gigantism, by definition, “ a condition characterized by excessive growth...” (emphasis added). Certainly, mass production has led to lowering of price and increase of availability of most commodities. However, this very lowering of price and increase in availability has led to overproduction. For example, were we to produce fewer automobiles the prices of cars would go up. However, that would in turn mean that vehicles would be kept longer, maintained better and people would, of necessity, place a higher value on the vehicles they have. People would, in turn, stop thinking of cars as disposable commodities, hence slowing the rate of cars being junked.

Ah, I hear you say, “But! That would mean a slow down in growth! Our economy would crash!” Well, yes, the consumerist version of our economy would crash...and more the better! A great deal of our economic problems come from that self same consumerist economy. As we have become ever more a “throw away” culture, we have amped up the use of natural resources. As it is, the U.S. has only about 4% of the world's population yet we use about 25% of the world's resources! This while, all during the Cold War, we went about the world selling the “American way of life”. Now, that China and India are becoming more wealthy and aspire to the “American way of life”, one can readily see that that situation is insupportable. Were the rest of the world to adopt the “American way of life” at this moment, it would require 4 more Earths to supply the current world population! There are no other Earths out there to provide those resources. There are two and only two possible ways out of this predicament. Either the Earth's population, ourselves included, will have to drastically cut back on their consumption or drastically cut back on the world's population. Yes, neither is a very palatable choice but, that's what we are stuck with. We must go back to a time before Edward Bernays and his heirs and their public relations forced America (and the rest of the world) into our present consumerist culture, back to a pre-consumerist world. A world where a citizen's worth was not measured by their consumption. A world where one didn't discard perfectly good items simply to get the “latest and greatest” gadget to replace it. A world where items were economically reparable and where you didn't have to discard an otherwise operable item for lack of a replacement gear. Frugality is still a virtue.

Also, if we were to slow “economic growth” and bring back the idea of frugality and repairability, there would be a growth in the real economy, i.e., local appliance repair shops, local repair facilities of all kinds. Slowing “growth” is not a bad idea. Cutting back on consumption is a good idea. Promoting population control, worldwide, is a good idea. A modicum of sanity by politicians and polities would be a good idea. I fear it won't happen until material circumstances force it upon us.

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