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Tuesday, January 11, 2022
The unravelling begins
THE REALITY OF SCARCITY, THE SCARCITY OF REALITY
In nineteenth-century England, pictures of great events and famous personages could be purchased “penny-plain or tuppence-coloured”.
Where the world economy is concerned, the price of flattering colouration has soared into the trillions, but the value of a “penny-plain” view has never been higher.
The penny-plain picture now, of course, is that a vast gap has opened up between the consensus expectation of continuity and the hard reality of a post-growth economy. This gap is the counterpart of the chasm that exists between the ‘real’ economy of goods and services and the ‘financial’ economy of money and credit.
Our understanding of these dissonances sets an outline programme for ongoing analysis. The best routes to effective interpretation are those which (a) compare reality with perception, and (b) calibrate the relationships between the ‘two economies’ of money and energy. In the coming months, the aim here will be to add interpretive and statistical detail to the picture that is emerging as the aquatint wash of delusion fades away.
The divergence between expectation and reality isn’t – in itself – a new development. Many of us have long known that, over a very extended period, most economic “growth” has been a cosmetic product of breakneck and hazardous monetary expansion, that the underlying economy has been faltering, and that the confidence placed in ‘continuity’ lacks a basis in fact.
We can go further, recognizing that even the simulacrum of “growth” can’t last much longer, that the real prices of assets are destined to fall sharply in a context of broader financial distress, and that the balance of political power might be poised to shift, perhaps in a direction that, once upon a time, used to be called “left”.
What IS different now is that a process of fundamental change is already underway. The consensus case for continuity is crumbling, and is being exposed as a product of self-deception, wishful-thinking and economic incomprehension, spiced with absurd amounts of techno-utopianism.
The outcome mightn’t – and needn’t – be the wholesale “collapse” predicted by doomsayers.
But the game is up for what we might call the ‘continuity consensus’.
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