The Ass-Kickings Begin: Joe Stiglitz Goes Seven Samurai
The feeling of living in America under the Bush Administration was very much like being jammed into the back-seat of an SUV on a rainy night with a bunch of screaming-drunk teenagers driving way too fast. An all-too common experience in my taxi-free teenage terrain. If you had the misfortune to be sober (or god help you, female) in that situation, it went like this: you'd keep begging them to slow down and asking to get out, and they'd keep roaring, "Shut up, ya f***in' pussy! Yeeee-hahahahahaaa! Hey, Matt, you gonna pass the goddamn bong back here, or f*** it with your pencil-dick?"
As broken glass spits through the passenger cabin and we hunch for the next climacteric crunch on our way down the economic cliffside, wondering if we're going to die or just fracture a skull, some state trooper types have appeared on the scene. Such as Joseph E. Stiglitz, the Nobel Prize-winning economist whom Republican De-Regulators have derided as dumber than owl shit. He has the unique distinction amongst economists of having been fired by the World Bank (see interview with Greg Palast, "The Globalizer Who Came in from the Cold") in the wake of the 1999 WTO protests in Seattle. He had the temerity to suggest mild land reform and regulation as solutions to free market failures.
In a Vanity Fair article, Stiglitz assesses the damage, and then goes effortlessly chop-socky on the irresponsible Icarian jobbernowls who have ruined so many lives. He describes a 20-year arc of systemic failure with the efficiency and clarity of a master, sketching five major phases of financial Walpurgisnacht. He understands finance like Picasso understood paint, dispenses an education in 2 pages, and ends his rap so:
The truth is most of the individual mistakes boil down to just one: a belief that markets are self-adjusting and that the role of government should be minimal. Looking back at that belief during hearings this fall on Capitol Hill, Alan Greenspan said out loud, “I have found a flaw.” Congressman Henry Waxman pushed him, responding, “In other words, you found that your view of the world, your ideology, was not right; it was not working.” “Absolutely, precisely,” Greenspan said. The embrace by America—and much of the rest of the world—of this flawed economic philosophy made it inevitable that we would eventually arrive at the place we are today.For us citizens, it all started when we went to a party and voted to get into that car with those people. Opinions may differ on intent and consequence of the bad decisions made there, but it is critical to accurately assign blame so we can move forward towards the MacGuffin embedded in Stiglitz's remarks. He's just getting warmed up, and will be joined by a gathering chorus to drown out the discredited grobian chanticleers who hang about with "who, me?" expressions. What remains to be seen is if the nation-states themselves, in the wake of relentless corporate organization, remain strong enough to enforce regulation on global entities without becoming one themselves.