My dear Friends, I really wasn't am not being flippant talking 'bout the "Great Recession", I'll try to explain: I've thought about and studied this subject for 40 years, and the "truth" as I see it, must delineate 'causes" from 'effects', and you can't do that with a 'sound-bite'). Oh well, "To each his onus." (as I claim I first said in front of witnesses, now lawyers, in 1969) So then, as THE Firesign (Theatre) put it:
"You Know, Everything You Know Could be Wrong."
("One knows, Everything One Knows Could Be Wrong"? ) To wit:
"As every individual, therefore, endeavours as much as he can both to employ his capital in the support of domestick industry, and so to direct that industry that its produce may be of the greatest value; every individual necessarily labours to render the annual revenue of the society as great as he can. He generally, indeed, neither intends to promote the publick interest, nor knows how much he is promoting it . By preferring the support of domestiek to that of foreign industry, he intends only his own security; and by directing that industry in such a manner as its produce may be of the greatest value, he intends only his own gain, and he is in this , as in many other eases, led by an invisible hand to promote an end which was no part of his intention . Nor is it always the worse for the society that it was no part of it. By pursuing his own interest he frequently promotes that of the society more effectually than when he really intends to promote it . I have never known much good done by those who affected to trade for the publick good." - Adam Smith, 'Wealth Of Nations', 1776 (substantially true to original text, depen. on edition)
This is where and when I believe the system of mass control of worldwide human evolution becomes 'self-aware', in a sense, with Locke and Hobbes, and Paine's "Age Of Reason" ; and so, with this contraindicative dipositive dialectic of capitalism, feudalism, with its "Divine Right Of Kings", devolves/evolves into the plutocratic and oligarchical hegemonies that today are nation-states and multi-national corporations, with their almost absolute economic power to dictate the very quality of life to humanity on a global scale. Few today seem aware that monetary policy, ultimately, is primarily a mechanism for control of the masses by the wealthy (plutocrats) IMNSHO (as I was first informed in "The Art Of War", by Lao Tzu).
Adam Smith, also, came to believe that the gluttony of the rich was a form of "unproductive labour" as do I, but he could not free himself from the philosophical constructs and beliefs of his milieau to make the requisite ratiocinative leap of faith and probability vector calculus summation to conclude that this self-defeating flaw in fact would quite logically then imply that capitalism per se would lead to ubiquitous oppression of the poor by the wealthy (read: exploitation of the proletariat by the 'ruling class' - or read some Dickens or Upton Sinclair).
Yet, such is the case today, I humbly avow, for I believe that capitalism has subsumed and thereby actually annulled the basic precepts of democracy, and defeated that noble ideal at least for the present in this republic. Alexander Hamilton and his 'royalists' made sure of that, the prescience of Paine, Jefferson, Madison and Morris notwithstanding.
REMEMBER, ORIGINALLY HERE IN THE LAND
"OF, BY AND FOR THE PEOPLE"
TO VOTE - YOU HAD TO BE:
RICH ENOUGH TO OWN PROPERTY,
MALE ENOUGH TO KEEP YOUR WOMEN FROM SUFFRAGE &
"WHITE" ENOUGH TO NOT BE MISTAKEN FOR A SLAVE!
The electoral college, and our irrational 'representative' (instead of 'participatory') electoral system is 'part and parcel' of that inculcated 'classist' ethical structure. As evidenced in part by the fact the phrase:
"Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness"
"Life, Liberty and the pursuit of PROPERTY" ! (emphasis mine)
Our society was deliberately and with great diligence engineered to be a Plutocratic Oligarchy! NOT a Republic & NOT a Democracy! Seems History can be ignored in general or generally missaprehended even before it is obfuscated and revised with contumely and disdain by the powerful ("History is only the word of the victors").
Anyway, back to the here and now, and the "great decline".
I just see this as no more that the reality of the inequitable, anti-egalitarian and insufficiently rational nature of capitalism finally becoming apparent to all, based in fact on the vanishing prospects of future generations to live in an economy as opulent and resource wasteful as modern day America. I have been an Anarcho-Syndicalist since the '60s when I first read Lao Tzu, Thomas Paine, Norman O. Brown and Marshall McLuhan, thus I knew of the probable gradual decline and inevitable collapse of a system based upon a fundamental error: 'development' as an rationale for acquisition and investment of capital eventually fails when there are no more goods of "real" value to be produced (based on something like, oh say, Maslow's "Hierarchy of Needs") and/or there ceases to be nothing from which anything can be produced. So it has to end sometime, right? This is a well foreseen (if one was paying attention to cutting edge social theorists during the 20th. Century) and evolutionary cultural denoument.
Capitalism is a social and cultural construct, no more. It was not "Divinely" inspired - read Adam Smith's biographers - the dude spent much of his waking life in jocular and animated audible conversations with beings that were not visible to anyone else, and as a Deist never once asserted that his inner voices were divine. Such is the legacy of the social theorist (along with John Locke) who most impressed our Founding Fathers, upon whom in turn much of the mores and folkways, the "gloss". if you will, of our society's interstitial structure depends.
The Founding Fathers did the best with what they knew then, no doubt. WE NOW KNOW MUCH MORE !
We have the right to modify this revered, but perhaps obsolete, or rendered less than ideally efficacious, social structure (capitalism) at will if we as a free people so choose, no matter what a skulk of greedmongers, outnumbered 99 to 1 may say. And that is what they fear, and for what will bend any rule, break any law, buy any judge or politician, rewrite any History book. Look at what happened to Allende in Chile, for example, or the US invasion of Costa Rica because the price of bananas went up a dime for the popular benefit of its citizens. This stuff still goes on, and it is so sad because the wealthy are trying to combat Entropy itself, and they honestly can never win. If a preponderance of the evidence can be agreed upon by a majority of the voting populace, having thus ascertained our new assertions may provide us with clues to what might modify or amend it to achieve a greater good for a greater number, where's the beef, eh? "They got the guns, but we got the numbers." as Jim Morrison said.
Given the current ossification of political chutzpah and judicious ability to question the 'dogma' of attitudes relevant to the Deists, Masons and tipplers (and make no mistake - almost to a man, the Founding Father's "original intents" were well steeped in rum on a daily basis) who crafted our Constitution, though, I despair at there being a 'populist' solution to this slow decay of "Truth, Justice & The American Way".
Nevertheless, economies CANNOT expand forever (unless there really are extra-terrestrials somewhere to whom we can attempt to market our old atom bombs and iPods) because at some point there will be no-where and no-thing left in/to which to expand (unless we colonize space, and seed colonies on habitable planets 'out there', but the vast distances involved, combined with the limitations of light speed on travel, will make commerce irrelevant except in singular cases).
The current diminution of standard of living was, and is, as I say, inevitable, given the finite nature of the biosphere, and the expansion of human population (read: consumers) which will eventually reach an economic "point of diminishing returns" where 'money' will no longer be able to "grow" in "value", because (as you and the 'Paul's', Ron & Rand so rightly assert, Denise) it is not based upon the "value" of anything concrete, only the productivity (GDP) of the issuant nation-states or corporate hegemonies, which will decline as room to grow, and natural resources dissappear.
But never fear, the 'captains of industry' will devise various and sundry means whereby the populations of "have-nots" will be guaranteed JUST enough of a standard of living as to preclude gross revolution. "Bread and circuses" and "a chicken in every pot" will mollify most into passive acceptance of their diminishing lot, and eventually even the most strident of the "free-trade" crowd will be forced to concede that everyone has enough 'widgets' and 'gizmos' (when the material of which these consumer products are made becomes more valuable than the manufactured items themselves as predicted by Mcluhan).
I see no huge world-wide economic collapse looming, because the powers that be will find it in their best interests to continue to delude man'un'kind into complacency by manipulating currency standards to prop up this ultimately senseless insistence on 'economic growth'. Or perhaps some plague of global proportions will be engineered to only wipe out those least able, or least favored, to afford consumer products (uh - er - hmmmm - that may have already happened ).
Then, perhaps 200 years hence, barring some breakthough in theoretical physics before then, and only then, will things settle into a scant semblance of economic equilibrium, based upon some notion other then the illogic of: "Be fruitful, and multiply, and fill the Earth." (see "Life Against Death",by Brown) when even a fool such as I can see we're faced with obviously finite room, and resources.
It's kinda' like what another whacko such as I once said to me long ago when I mused then (during the anxiety of the Energy Crisis of the '70s) upon much the same issue/argument as you have raised here, Denise, my esteemed 'sister':
" You know, the sooner we use up all the fossil fuel, the sooner things will get back to normal, Grasshopper!" - David Carradine