There have been many articles written about abuse and exploitation of the world’s environment; over-fishing of the oceans, deforestation of the rain forests, and extinction of various species of birds, mammals and amphibians. What’s not covered as often is the depletion of the American wallet.
Much as the planet’s ecosystem has been exhausted by the forces of greed and quick profit, so have the finances of ordinary people been plundered and the populace exhausted by avarice. For those who think of the economy in Darwinian terms, this comes as no surprise, though there are many of us do not accept the fashionable notion that an economy is a natural system and should be left alone to regulate itself.
To the contrary, little now exists which is outside of the influence of human activity; even the earth’s atmosphere and great oceans are succumbing to the effects of civilization. In a so-called “natural” ecosystem, people either are either a marginal part of a no-tech, primal hunter-gatherer society in balance with the environment, or do not inhabit a region at all. Few places on earth meet that definition of natural.
Thus it is we must acknowledge that as over-use has destroyed the ability of various ecosystems to survive, so has the continued plundering of the American wallet destroyed the ability of elements of our society to survive. We are two years into the deepest and most prolonged recession since the Great Depression of the 1930s. The seizure of the wealth of many by a privileged few leaves little in the way of possible recovery, despite the false hope of increased consumer spending; when a fishery collapses, like the great cod and tuna stocks, it’s too late.
The stock market is up, but that simply means the wealthy are playing with money, not that the economy is actually improving. Amid a stock market built largely on derivatives trading, which is nothing more than making money by hedging bets on the chances of winning or losing, Wall Street continues its manufacture of nothing. Paper profits turn to vapor all too easily, as the events of 2008 so amply demonstrated.
Though inflation is low, the necessities of life are too costly. Gasoline, electricity, natural gas, food and housing all consume the bulk of the monthly income of average Americans. The bargains of fast food barely qualify as nutrition. Health care security remains out of reach, despite new regulations; now that our health care has been entirely relegated to the insurance industry (masters of denial, deceit and deception) few ordinary folks are sleeping better.
When depleted ecosystems collapse, parasitical species invade or a barren landscape results. Desertification renders vast areas of formerly arable land unfit, destruction of the rain forest for farming yields only a few years of decent harvest. On our economic system, what will replace a populace stripped of its currency? The gray economy of barter and black markets are already in full swing, and increased white-collar crime and computer theft are exploding worldwide.
Meanwhile, the financial and banking industry continue to cast their economic drift nets, indiscriminately issuing credit cards and other instruments of plunder into the sea of human confusion. There’s precious little left to catch; they’ve turned to harvesting their own while I and other small fish hide in the rocks.