FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

Time to Plan for the Worst

by GREG MOSES

Anyone taking a crash course in market theory these days is seeing downside risks aplenty.  Market theory uses the term “correction” to describe the general system of a down.  But if these downside risks become reality, are progressive organizers ready?  So far, market theory merely describes downsides for investors.  The point is to put it to work for a more progressive correction.

Prior to the August recess of 2009, state actors might have done something to alleviate the crush rather than postpone it.  Instead, our policy machinery has been spinning away in bubble land.  As Mike Whitney sez, “It’s been two years since the crisis began and nothing . . . NOTHING has been done to fix the banking system.”  A public ethic that is prepared to anticipate and seize opportunities for correction might do some good work in displacing the gaps that policy leadership won’t close.

Of course, we should pray to be wrong when we forecast a hurricane headed our way.  But we should also get busy making preparations – both individually and socially.  What would a progressive response to depression look like?  Food, shelter, utilities, health care, education, and opportunities for productive labor – these are a few items to get us started.  We certainly won’t be allowed to forget the challenge of peace.

A progressive approach might begin by imagining the correction of workable relationships not yet displaced, whether they are public, nonprofit, cooperative, or profit-seeking.  This notion of relationship correction is developed as a first response against popular images of crisis that divide reality into so many warring units of self-preservation.  Individualistic – and usually well-armed – imaginations have striking cultural power.  They are certainly the kinds of ideas that count for ‘original intent’ in the USA.

Grassroots progressive planning can help to grow another kind of imagination, but it won’t be the dream of all things collectivized.  Transforming all relationships from private to public is not the same thing as making the world productive, ethical, or just.  Versus agendas for complete nationalization on the one hand or complete privatization on the other, therefore, a progressive agenda might prepare some realistic guidelines for crisis planning that are corrective, liberating, and respectful of the workable past.

Grocery stores and department stores can deliver goods to market.  Soup kitchens and homeless shelters can meet basic needs.  Schools – with their lunchrooms, classrooms, and gyms – help people to grow in many ways.  Progressive planning can try to keep these institutions functioning together even as they are – all of them – corrected.

By rehearsing progressive responses in advance of crisis it may be possible to prevent excesses of panic and conflict that we are just beginning to see.  As some forms of assets continue to implode and take productive capacities down with them – putting people into frightened and frightening moods – we might focus on assets that can be preserved, reconstructed, reorganized, and even extended nevertheless.  Already some voices are talking of depression as re-education.  We might think of a great depression as a great teacher and then throw ourselves into the learning and unlearning that great education requires.

Against the already growing conflicts between one-sided responses, I think progressive plans for depression might anticipate the blame game.  One side is prepared to blame socialism.  Another side will blame capitalist greed.  Progressive reformers can perhaps strike a mediating position that looks for corrections both in the buildup and misuse of state power and in the pursuit of market growth.  While some voices would have us learn the neglected value of personal responsibility, others will encourage nurturing communal interdependence.  A progressive agenda might remind both sides how neither can speak the whole truth.

On questions of capital, I have been drawn to San Francisco economist Henry George because of the way he thinks about public and private coordination.  He has a strong sense of public responsibility and a keen respect for entrepreneurial talent.  A progressive approach to corrections in capital development would be neither public nor private en bloc.  Our right to commons does not have to overturn our right to private properties – or vice versa.

Right wingers focus on workers’ dependence upon capital growth and earnings, while left wingers point out there can be no capital without labor first.  A progressive agenda schooled in market theory might be able to transform these colliding interests into a more humane and more flexible economy.  Capital is like seedcorn as right wingers claim, because capital contributes to next year’s harvest.  But capital is also something very different from seedcorn, as left-wingers can demonstrate, because the collective organization typically demanded by capitalists prevents actual harvesters of seedcorn from calling it their own next year.

Perhaps the great opportunity of the correction challenge is to work out a more progressive approach to the relationship between capital and labor such that the seedcorn we all help to harvest throughout the work-day is treated as a resource worthy of intense public concern.  This doesn’t necessarily mean that capital is taken out of private hands, but it does mean that private holders of returns on investment have real obligations to the social labor that makes all earnings possible.

It can’t hurt to deliberate progressive plans and principles for a coming correction.  Even if the crisis never comes, the exercise will help us to discover how real peace can be fought for.

GREG MOSES is editor of the Texas Civil Rights Review and author of Revolution of Conscience: Martin Luther King, Jr. and the Philosophy of Nonviolence. He is a contributor to Red State Rebels: Tales of Grassroots Resistance in the Heartland, published by AK Press. He can be reached at: gmosesx@gmail.com

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

More articles by:

Greg Moses writes about peace and Texas, but not always at the same time. He is author of Revolution of Conscience: Martin Luther King Jr. and the Philosophy of Nonviolence. As editor of the Texas Civil Rights Review he has written about racism faced by Black agriculturalists in Texas. He can be reached at gmosesx@gmail.com

Weekend Edition
February 23, 2018
Friday - Sunday
Richard D. Wolff
Capitalism as Obstacle to Equality and Democracy: the US Story
Paul Street
Where’s the Beef Stroganoff? Eight Sacrilegious Reflections on Russiagate
Jeffrey St. Clair
They Came, They Saw, They Tweeted
Andrew Levine
Their Meddlers and Ours
Charles Pierson
Nuclear Nonproliferation, American Style
Joseph Essertier
Why Japan’s Ultranationalists Hate the Olympic Truce
W. T. Whitney
US and Allies Look to Military Intervention in Venezuela
John Laforge
Maybe All Threats of Mass Destruction are “Mentally Deranged”
Matthew Stevenson
Why Vietnam Still Matters: an American Reckoning
David Rosen
For Some Reason, Being White Still Matters
Robert Fantina
Nikki Haley: the U.S. Embarrassment at the United Nations
Joyce Nelson
Why Mueller’s Indictments Are Hugely Important
Joshua Frank
Pearl Jam, Will You Help Stop Sen. Tester From Destroying Montana’s Public Lands?
Dana E. Abizaid
The Attack on Historical Perspective
Conn Hallinan
Immigration and the Italian Elections
George Ochenski
The Great Danger of Anthropocentricity
Pete Dolack
China Can’t Save Capitalism from Environmental Destruction
Joseph Natoli
Broken Lives
Manuel García, Jr.
Why Did Russia Vote For Trump?
Geoff Dutton
One Regime to Rule Them All
Torkil Lauesen – Gabriel Kuhn
Radical Theory and Academia: a Thorny Relationship
Wilfred Burchett
Vietnam Will Win: The Work of Persuasion
Thomas Klikauer
Umberto Eco and Germany’s New Fascism
George Burchett
La Folie Des Grandeurs
Howard Lisnoff
Minister of War
Eileen Appelbaum
Why Trump’s Plan Won’t Solve the Problems of America’s Crumbling Infrastructure
Ramzy Baroud
More Than a Fight over Couscous: Why the Palestinian Narrative Must Be Embraced
Jill Richardson
Mass Shootings Shouldn’t Be the Only Time We Talk About Mental Illness
Jessicah Pierre
Racism is Killing African American Mothers
Steve Horn
Wyoming Now Third State to Propose ALEC Bill Cracking Down on Pipeline Protests
David Griscom
When ‘Fake News’ is Good For Business
Barton Kunstler
Brainwashed Nation
Griffin Bird
I’m an Eagle Scout and I Don’t Want Pipelines in My Wilderness
Edward Curtin
The Coming Wars to End All Wars
Missy Comley Beattie
Message To New Activists
Jonah Raskin
Literary Hubbub in Sonoma: Novel about Mrs. Jack London Roils the Faithful
Binoy Kampmark
Frontiersman of the Internet: John Perry Barlow
Chelli Stanley
The Mirrors of Palestine
James McEnteer
How Brexit Won World War Two
Ralph Nader
Absorbing the Irresistible Consumer Reports Magazine
Cesar Chelala
A Word I Shouldn’t Use
Louis Proyect
Marx at the Movies
Osha Neumann
A White Guy Watches “The Black Panther”
Stephen Cooper
Rebel Talk with Nattali Rize: the Interview
David Yearsley
Market Music
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail