There is a fundamental economy of the United States that is grounded in the lives of real people. It is and will always be a living reality, inherent in the entrepreneurial spirit, hard work and productivity of ordinary Americans.
This real and essential economy has been subverted, not surprisingly, by the single-minded profit-making zeal of large scale corporate enterprise. And it is with no little irony that we have seen the corporate world itself subjugated by the wizards of high finance.
It is important that we distinguish the principles of free enterprise, which are essential to a productive economy, from the predatory and destructive forces that have corrupted economic order in the interests of power and greed.
It is also necessary to recognize the complexity of our predicament, which is more than simply economic. A broad range of disruptive forces have led to a disintegrating state of social and economic order.
It is on this storm-tossed sea that we must learn to navigate, and, ultimately, to regain our balance and integrity.
Despite the near total destruction of the real economy, the financial elite have managed to stay alive by co-opting the political order and misrepresenting their importance to everyone else.
This cannot possibly continue. Without a vibrant consumer economy, these people have no foundation upon which to continue their gaming. Without decent jobs there will be no consumer economy of any significance.
Ultimately, the world of high finance requires a productive economy to fuel its activities. One can commandeer a vehicle, but it cannot operate without fuel. Or, to put it another way, when a parasite kills its host it must find another.
And there is no other.
The financial elite, with all its illusions and pompous posturing, is self-destructing. Don’t stress about this; it’s a done deal. The danger will come with the fall-out.
Whether the transition is short and violent or takes a long time, we cannot wait to organize secure communities and rebuild our lives. American working people, including the business owners (past and future) who we all depend upon, need to start thinking in new ways.
Ordinary Americans have been pushed into a corner, but the crisis will generate creative opportunities and new ways of thinking. Big business may or may not survive the long crisis, or it might go away and then come back. Either way we need to find ways to take control of our economic lives. And, it will be in our local communities, and in cooperating clusters of communities, that we can assert our economic independence.
This will depend on our willingness to put our heads together and work well with one another. It will also depend upon our ability to respond to the unexpected.
As long-time readers know, we have been discussing the importance of defining our shared values and adhering to principle if we are to navigate successfully through a rush of new and unexpected circumstances.
If we are to stay upright in this great storm, even with good ship, we must correctly judge changing conditions. Principles are like the rigging that makes it possible to sail a ship, but even a good ship will be doomed without a crew that is flexible and understands teamwork.
Next week we will take a look at the long-standing dilemma of structural unemployment in the United States, an ever-growing problem that many of us have been living with. Americans have been watching their jobs vanish steadily for more than a generation.
Whether or not the world of high finance and big business implodes and falls on its face, working Americans need to get creative, to take control of our lives and forge a genuinely American future. No one is going to do it for us.
To reach out to our neighbors, both friend and stranger, is to affirm the most essential of American principles.
It is time to start rebuilding the foundations.
Next week: Overcoming Structural Unemployment