Bailure update

by CarlD

There’s a nice post from Progressive Historians that draws a historical parallel with the collapse of the railway bubble in mid-19th-century England as analyzed by none other than old commie Karl. Marx points out that the speculative crisis is itself merely symptomatic of a crisis of overproduction, which it temporarily masks. Basically, as I understand it, when the market for goods and services saturates, capital has but two places to go: reinvestment on the consumption side in the form of increased wages and salaries; or increasingly leveraged speculation in increasingly shady financial instruments (described, creepily, as “products”) unbacked by production side fundamentals.

The latter works great right up until it doesn’t. Pop! The former carries the danger of inflation, and furthermore requires great discipline for individual capitalists to forego immediate speculative profit in exchange for eventual balancing and stabilization of systemic profits through renewed consumer liquidity and demand. Capitalists seem to understand only intermittently that they need to invest in the health of the consumption side (and not just by exploiting it further through the extension of consumer debt) if they want the production side to thrive. Jim Livingstone has been arguing something like this for a long time. Perhaps that lesson will be refreshed by the current unpleasantness.

Fascist corporatism, on the other hand, is characteristic of bootstrapping semi-peripheral economies and does not look to me like a likely outcome here until the rest of the world finds a way to wiggle out from under needing our economy to work so theirs can. And when that happens, fascism will be the least of our worries.

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2 Comments to “Bailure update”

  1. “fascism will be the least of our worries”… One of those cheering sentences good for office noticeboards and parties. 🙂 Of course, it was pretty much Hitler who ended the Great Depression, so…

  2. Yes, and weren’t we all grateful. 🙂

    Actually, I probably am just rehearsing my step-back party patter. The relevant comparison, after all, is not Germany but the British Empire, which for the most part managed to scale back from global hegemony with relatively minor authoritarian interludes and no fundamental disruption of the mechanisms of bourgeois-democratic political economy.

    The thing I do think we have to watch out for here in the U.S. is the withdrawal of imperial funding from the maintenance of our social peace. This was a problem for the Brits too, as Paul Gilroy, Stuart Hall et.al. showed in The Empire Strikes Back.

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