When I listen to world leaders on the subject of the freefall economy, I come away with the impression of leaders who really want to balm the hurt we are facing. They approach the issues with a sense of mission; and no mission can be greater than that of restoring us to our pre-crunch prosperity and security. The real question of course is whether it is wholly desirable.
We need to figure the distinction between prosperity and profligacy. The economic times have compelled political leaders who are usually mealy-mouthed and two-faced to adopt a level of candour that would have cost them votes and seats a year ago. They have had no choice in the matter. But the real question to ask is whether that realism goes far enough.
What for instance to make of heads of state that encourage citizens who are already maxed out on their credit to go borrow thousands of pounds to buy cars they do not need in order to keep car makers in the business of making cars that are far too big and expensive to run, in order to keep auto workers in employment, in order to…
One gets the sense of a pyramid scheme, of an audacious mass hallucination in which we are all complicit. Every once in a while, our hot air balloon fails and collapses around us, and it is the duty of the great and good to borrow, borrow, borrow, and encourage us to do the same until we can get the confidence (trick) running again.
There is an unholy nexus between public money and private agenda that should give us pause for thought.
There must be another model, one that is stapled to more modest, SUSTAINABLE cycles of growth, production and consumption. In the past governments have stuck the nipple of credit in the mouth of the public and turned away to blow their budgets on counter-productive projects. This crisis is a opportunity to redesign everything: cars, work, lifestyle… It is time for the world to put away childish ways, to do more thinking, and to tame the credit reflex.
If a little less profligacy is the price we have to pay, now, to reduce the extremes of poverty around the world, to reduce the chances of a cyclical crash in 15-20 years, and to deliver a healthier world to our children, that, I think, would be a bargain.