The Parallel Parliament

Glen Pearson

Trade of Another Kind

Posted on October 2, 2018

One could almost hear the collective sigh of relief when news emerged yesterday of a tentative NAFTA deal between the U.S., Mexico and Canada.  Technically, Donald Trump wants it renamed to the “United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement – or USMC.”   Credit must be given to the negotiators from all three nations who were at it for a year despite obvious hurdles.

While citizens, pundits, economists and journalists work diligently to dissect the deal, it is essential to keep in mind that it is taking place in a larger global trading arena that’s in the early stages of transformation.  While the American president seeks to fundamentally alter the world’s trade balance in his favour, other economic players are increasingly cooperating in a fashion that seeks to circumvent the high stakes brinksmanship coming from the White House in recent months.

Many have been quietly meeting behind the scenes and in various global capitals to strengthen their own existing agreements and plan out new ones.  And sometimes it happens right under Trump’s nose.  After listening to the president excoriate the non-binding Global Compact for Safe, Orderly and Regular Migration, UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres presided over a meeting of the Compact, praising the fact that it had been approved by every UN member except America.  But it was his words at the end of the session that flew in the face of the unsettling Trump Doctrine: “This Compact recognizes that while every sovereign state has the prerogative to govern its borders, our interdependent world demands solutions that are anchored in cooperation and our pursuit of the common good.”

Just a few days later, as reported by Reuters, Canada’s Trade Minister Chrystia Freeland reminded her audience of those days, “when there was clear American leadership in the world.”  It is no accident that Canada’s Trade Minister, Jim Carr, spoke of our need to “diversify our trade.”  How? Through fashioned agreements with the European Union, as well as with Asian and Latin American nations.

France’s president Emmanuel Macron acknowledged the excesses of globalization in his speech at the UN, yet his solution was to advocate for “a new world balance” among participating nations. In a direct shot across the American president’s bow, Macron declared in no uncertain terms:

“We forget that the genocides that led to your being here today were fueled by the language we are growing accustomed to, because they were fueled by the demagoguery we applaud, because we are currently seeing international law and all forms of cooperation crumbling, as if it were business as usual – out of fear, out of complicity, because it looks good.”

Our reality is that with America being so central to our history and our present, not to mention our future, we must expend endless energies at negotiating with its complexities and impulses.  But we must also move on, enhancing other trading relationships with nations seeking more peaceful and equitable outcomes.  This is something that Macron and other leaders like Justin Trudeau must address.

We didn’t get into the mess we are in today because of Donald Trump or authoritarian practices.  We are here because the global economic system has been permitted to shape itself towards the few rather than the many.  It is the lack of equality, work and opportunity that has driven the push towards radicalism in the mostly deindustrialized prosperous nations.  If a future of realigned trading nations fails to address their own inequalities, little they develop will ease the public turbulence in their nations.

The days of globalized countries displaying deference to America will ultimately draw to a close should the United States continue to brandish its economic sword.  Even militarily this is already taking place, with France’s president calling 10 European nations together in Paris to plan a prepared military force of up to 100,000 troops, without an American component. New avenues of cooperation will inevitably be channeled into the fields of culture, science, research, climate change, space exploration and civil society.  When Donald Trump declared that “Europe has to take its fate into its own hands,” it is unlikely that even he was aware of the collaborations being struck in quiet conference rooms around the Westernized world.

Given this country’s earned expertise in diplomatic relations, it is inevitable that Canadian leaders are willing participants in this new world order no longer led by the only superpower left.  The extremism from south of the border will inevitably result in a new era of accommodation elsewhere, but the goal should never be supporting the “business as usual” economic practices of the past.   Instead it should result in the turning of economic might to the vulnerability of the hundreds of millions in their own collective lands.  Ignore them and all that newly formed collaboration will come to nothing.

The Secret Nook – Chapter 6 (Clifton Forge)

Posted on October 1, 2018

Historic Masonic Theatre.  Chartwell Motors Co.  Nicely Funeral Home.   Red Lantern Inn.

Meadow scanned the signs on both sides of the main road coming into Clifton Forge.  Some were new, but she was surprised to discover how many represented images from her childhood.  Yet even in this community, so rooted in history, many small establishments had sprung up, with some carrying a small sign saying “Air B & B” reservations were possible.  The street was mostly bathed in late-Spring sunshine before some rapidly dashing clouds crossed by on their journey over the mountains, leaving a chilled shade in their wake.

She pulled the pickup into a service station, stopping next to a pump with a large-lettered sign saying:

 

“NO SELF-SERVE HERE.  WE TAKE CARE OF OUR OWN”

 

Meadow looked at the other three pumps; they all displayed the same wording.  A smallish, thin elderly man sporting a straw broad-brimmed hat didn’t even look at her, but lifted the handle out of the pump and placed it straightway into the Ford’s fuel tank.  He put the latch on automatic and went directly back into the station office, leaving it to pump away on its own.  She could see the flashing of lights from a television set playing over his seasoned face.

A few minutes later, Meadow pulled out onto the main road once more and began scouting for a place to stay.  She eventually circled back and secured a room on the second floor of the Red Lantern Inn.  It might cost slightly more, she reckoned, but having been a staple in the town for over 100 years – Meadow recalled it from her youth – she opted to book a room. The town of Clifton Forge was nicely situated on the descending western edge of the Blue Ridge Mountain range and from her room she could see the vast valley spreading out into West Virginia – the border between the neighbouring states only a few miles away.

On the narrow desk, containing a flat screen television and a telephone, was one of those promotional glossy magazines boasting of the region’s attractions.  She smiled to see that it was dated the previous year. Still, it effectively set Clifton Forge against the beautiful panorama of the Blue Ridge Mountains – almost as if it was a gigantic ocean tidal wave rising in the background.  Sitting on the edge of the double bed, she began thumbing her way through its pages.

The photographs elicited touchstones from her childhood memories – the mountain hot springs, ski hills, Revolutionary War locations, the famous water mill now turned into a tourist shop, bubbling streams thriving with trout and grayling fish, and a photo of an old isolated church that James Madison, America’s fourth president, supposedly prayed in during the worst years of Britain’s occupation, when it looked like George Washington’s army had reached its last.

Her finger traced the rugged lines of the old church.  It was small and clearly run down, but the sight of it had sent a flutter through her stomach.  Meadow knew what caused it.  It carried faint similarities to the one-room building she had envisioned in her dream. They had both been situated on top of what she now knew was a section of the Blue Ridge Mountains.  Both had been empty, light peering through the weathered boards from the other side.

She unpacked her bag and proceeded to walk down the sidewalks she had traversed as a child. A few moments later, she stood at the front of the Jackson River Government School.  Meadow could still recount the names of all the teachers who had taught her through the primary level.  The school was still functioning, but modifications had been made to modernize it.

A short walk outside of town found her standing in front of a more imposing building.  She looked at the name carved in a sandstone block above the main door:

 

ALLEGHANY HIGH SCHOOL

Established 1963

 

When Clifton Forge’s own high school closed down at around the same time, students were re-directed to this spot and it was here that her gift for painting and drawing took flight. Even now she felt emotional in thinking back to those days when the world seemed to be opening up for her in ways no one ever expected.

And then there was Mr. Koay – art teacher in the school and the person most responsible for her rapid development in the techniques and disciplines of artistry.  Middle-aged, thin, with jet black hair swept back, he had arrived in the United States from his native China.  His father had been a professor and lecturer.  Fearful of the oppressive subversion of the later years of the Cultural Revolution, he had silently arranged to have his family join him for a lecture he was giving in Helsinki, Finland and asked for asylum, which was granted.  Two years later, they emigrated to Richmond, Virginia, where the young man excelled under art instruction.  His talents mirrored those of Meadow and, like her, he had suddenly lost them through tragedy.  An undetected embolism had become implanted in his brain and, soon enough, he lost feeling in his arms and hands, and to a lesser degree his legs.  After what seemed like endless operations, the embolism had been carefully dissipated.  The hope was that feeling would return to his extremities, but it didn’t happen – at least not to the degree required for a fine artist.

Only two years before Meadow appeared for her first year of high school, Mr. Koay, who had acquired a teacher’s degree in Richmond, applied for the position of teacher of art at Alleghany.  The committee doing the hiring were initially dubious.  When he produced some of his earlier paintings, the mood in the room changed dramatically.  He explained how artistic ability ultimately resided in the brain and that his was in fine working order – a comment that produced smiles and an eventual invitation to join the faculty.

All the way back to the Red Lantern, Meadow’s thoughts focussed on her old teacher and just how much he had meant to her.  He would hover over her shoulder explaining how to move the brush or correctly mix the paint, since his own arms could offer little assistance.  Yet it was his words, his love of the magic of what brushes and charcoal could bring to life down to the finest detail, that drew her to him.

Meadow’s thoughts lingered on those days as she gradually fell asleep, well before ten o’clock.

The Secret Nook – Chapter 5 (Back in Time)

Posted on September 30, 2018

She checked the speedometer, gratified to see the needle hovering around 60 mph – the legal speed limit. The journey from her Charlottesville apartment to Clifton Forge, roughly from east to west, was only around 80 miles as the crow flies, but the winding track and steep climb up into the Blue Ridge Mountains took its time.  Meadow was still able to spot some beds of snow at various points in the higher elevations, but they were mostly gone now that summer was about to make its grand entrance.

The Ford-150 pickup easily handled both the climb and the turns.  Les had been insistent. He knew that Meadow had sold her mother’s old car after she died and had resorted to taking public transport in the decade since. There was a Greyhound that would carry her to Clifton Forge, but moving around in that part of the country would have proved difficult.

“Take it … please,” he said. “It’s a good truck – almost new – and it’s not bad on gas.”

When Meadow pointed out that he might require it himself, Les rubbed his chin and reminded her that his son had a spare old Chevrolet Impala in his garage that he would have no trouble using.

“Actually, I gave that car to him a long time ago.  He never drives it.  Think he’s hoping it will be a classic someday.  It will be a blast from the past for me.”

She smiled to herself now, enjoying the irony of traveling to uncover her own past, and the journey was only 80 miles long.  This wasn’t going to be some grand novel about a woman journeying back to Europe or Egypt to unearth her exotic past.

It was odd that her most formative years were spent in a region so near that she could almost see it, yet she had never visited it following the deadly crash and her mother’s move to the long-term facility in Charlottesville, near to Nana’s historic home. It might as well have been in California.  The trauma of those early years had somehow stripped her childhood from her, along with any sense or longing to revisit it.  But the dream had now changed all that and she felt a certain exhilaration at climbing through all that beauty – the trees, wildlife, quaint towns, rivers and lakes, and the magical sky.

She suddenly remembered one of her parent’s lessons they frequently gave when on car rides.  They were driving from Washington D.C., just across the border from Virginia, and working their way back to Clifton Forge. She had made the comment about how the topography seemed to be always changing.

“That’s what’s so wonderful about living in Virginia,” her Mom had responded.  “For such a small state it’s remarkably diverse, divided into three sections.  There’s the Tidewater, though some call it the Coastal Plain.  The Chesapeake Bay is part of it, along with some great harbours.”

“And then the Piedmont,” Meadow had chimed in, eager to show that she clearly listened to her teacher in class.

Mom smiled.  “That’s right, honey.  It covers almost the entire middle part of the state and is called a plateau – roughly level, but diverse.  And then there are the mountain ranges – Blue Ridge and Appalachian – that track through the west and northwest.  In just a couple of hours we’ll climb from sea level up to 6,000 feet. It’s nice that your father’s government job supplies him with this four-wheel drive, especially in the winter.”

Meadow thought of her father’s Jeep – forest green in colour and branded with a federal decal on each door. She and her Dad had crossed rivers in it, drove almost to the top of Mt. Rogers, and frequently slept out beside it under the stars in the summertime.

The closer she came to Clifton Forge, the more nostalgic, but tremulous, she became.  It had been almost 15 years now and had likely changed, but in this part of the state progress tended to take a bit longer than in other areas.  Meadow recalled how her parents had been oddities in the town.  Clifton Forge still held to its historic connection to America’s great founding era.  So, when Ethan and Elizabeth Hartley had been relocated to Clifton Forge from Alexandria, it caused a bit of a buzz.  They were clearly educated, refined and reserved when it came to subjects like politics, race or anything else that could quickly introduce dissension.

People got to like Elizabeth almost immediately.  She taught their kids in grades four and five and displayed such genuine enthusiasm for their learning that their parents realized the benefit this would have for their children.  When she was off giving birth to Meadow in a Roanoke hospital for a few weeks, her various replacements proved wholly inadequate at enticing the students – to the point where some of the parents questioned the principal concerning how long their kids would be “undereducated” until Elizabeth returned.

Her father was different. The inhabitants of Clifton Forge had an immediate respect for him since he, like they, was diligent about preserving the region’s history.  The difference was that Ethan Hartley was a professional in history – educated and experienced in unearthing the past and applying for federal funds to assist in the preservation of old structures, family genealogies, and, especially, anything to do with inhabitants who had played a role in America’s great Revolutionary War. He had been fascinated learning how the region had been largely split in its loyalties to the British or the upstart American rebels under George Washington.  The conflict had deeply scarred places like Clifton Forge since it pit members of the same families against one another.  But when the war had ended and independence was finally legitimized, many small communities in the region remained half-empty. Thousands of soldiers had been either killed, taken as prisoners, or simply refused to come back to an embittered community.  The entire process took time, but recurred only 80 years later as the Civil War tore them apart once more, only with far greater consequence.  Virginia had been deeply divided over slavery, and racism remained as one of its more tragic vestiges.

These were minefields that her Dad learned to navigate with a kind of wisdom and respect that resulted in everyone he encountered openly unfolding their history and knowledge. The government soon enough recognized that in Ethan Hartley they had secured someone able to get more done on the history and heritage file than any who had preceded him.  He was, in reality, a diplomat with a penchant and training for history.

Into all this, Meadow arrived – eager for life, emotionally secure from being so loved, and always inspired regardless of which direction she looked in the midst of all the natural grandeur.  She had always thought that her gifts for drawing perspectives were directly linked to the giant vistas that had entertained her every morning on the way to school.  She retained those images in her head while the other kids discarded them in favor of cartoons or television programs.  Elizabeth had always brought her home from the same school where they learned and taught together and, following some kind of drink and a cookie, Meadow traipsed out to her father’s woodshop, where he had permitted her to set up her own mini-studio, replete with two easels and paints and pencils galore.

Every afternoon in that wonderful place, she put down on paper or canvas what she had seen that day. Sometimes the subject was people or animals, but in most cases, it was mountains, streams, aged roadways, even insects.  Eventually Ethan would arrive home in time for dinner, but not before heading out to the shop on the pretense of having to work on something, but, really, to get a picture of what was going on inside his daughter’s head through the paintings she had hung that day on pieces of wallboard.

Meadow would faithfully follow him and they would talk over layers, strokes, colours, perspective, and the subject of light.  For Ethan and his wife, it was strikingly clear that their daughter was, likely, at a prodigy level – a conviction strengthened and enlightened by their own levels of education.  So, it wasn’t really to enjoy Meadow’s works but, instead, to gauge her progress that Ethan took that short journey back to his shop.  At night, lying in bed or on one of their frequent walks, Ethan and Elizabeth compared notes on how best to arc their daughter’s future path.

Thinking of it now, behind the wheel of the Ford truck, Meadow supposed that she had been only distantly aware of just how involved her parents were with her gift.  What she clearly recalled was just how delighted they were every time she produced something new.  Her work had been good enough that they likely found it difficult to produce any real criticism that would help.

She was thinking of those tender moments when she rounded a corner and spotted a sign denoting the entrance to Clifton Forge, population of around 4,000 people.  The years suddenly fell away and a sense of curiosity mixed with dread overtook her thoughts.

The Secret Nook – Chapter 4 (Doodles)

Posted on September 28, 2018

It took Meadow longer than planned.  A late-Spring snow storm had ground traffic to a standstill.  By the time she arrived at Storm’s, she knew she was late, but it really didn’t matter.  Les was poring over the sports section of the local paper and didn’t even look up.  He only motioned to the coffee pot and said, “Grab a cuppa.  We’re not going to get any business until this blizzard lets up, which they say will be mid-morning.”

Meadow hung her coat in the back and took longer than usual unlacing her boots since they were so packed with snow and slush.  Eventually she emerged from the back, routed through the kitchen so she could grab a muffin, and then appeared in the restaurant.  She dropped some steaming coffee into a cup and sat down opposite Les.

“I knew you’d make it in, Meadow, but, honestly, if things are this bad, just phone in.  I can cover it.”

She smiled, saying, “No matter how hard I try, coffee as good as this is impossible with my little filter machine.  This is the place to be on a cold morning, believe me.”

Les merely nodded, but though he appeared to be perusing the newspaper in front of him, casually noted, “Thought you seemed a little … I don’t know, out-of-sorts yesterday.  Just wondered if everything’s okay?”

“Aw, Les, I didn’t know you cared,” she replied while laughing.  Nevertheless, his observation struck an appreciative note in her. Since his wife had passed away seven years previously, all he had left was a son and the restaurant.  At some point in that year, he had stopped being Meadow’s boss and treated her more like a partner.  It was a subtle transformation that both surprised and delighted her.  Since then they just “fit” and settled into a comfortable working relationship that could occasionally cross over into friendship.  This morning was clearly one of those times.

“I just had a bad night, that’s all – a bad dream, really.  It caused me to think back to my parent’s accident and then to look at an old family photo album.”

“Must have been hard?” he said, at last looking up.

“Actually, it was awful. But today I pored over the album some more and actually found things a bit better.  I had great parents.”

Les lifted himself up off the counter and put more coffee in both their cups.  “Find anything interesting?” he asked quietly.

“No … not really,” she answered, thinking back.  “O, well, except for seeing some photos of paintings and drawings I had done when I first got into high school.  It was an interesting collection.”

“I’m sure.  I have one of my own, you know,” Les said through a gravelly voice, smiling slightly.

Meadow put her coffee cup down and looked at him quizzically.  When Les failed to offer anything else, she reached over and punched his shoulder.

“Ouch,” he mocked.  “Carrying around all those dishes each day has turned you into a feather-weight champion, I’ll tell you.”

He continued pretending to rub his shoulder while saying, “Well, you don’t really recall such things, but when your Mom was moving into her final year, you spent a lot of time on the counter phone here taking care of all the arrangements.  It took months and was hard on you, I know.”

Meadow reached over and placed her hand over his own.  “You were so supportive back then, Les – I’ll never forget it.”

“Seems to me you have a funny way of showing it,” he groaned, rubbing his shoulder once more. “Anyway, every time you were on the phone in those months, you doodled.”

“I what?”

“You doodled – drew on napkins, old menus or your order books.  Remember that one time when the printing company sent us those 11” by 17” menus that were actually blank?  They didn’t want them back, so I arranged to subtly leave some conveniently by the phone, along with a couple of pens, and gratefully watched as you drew an art gallery full of doodles that were actually great drawings.”

Meadow was speechless. “You’re kidding, right?  Les, I had no idea – not even a hint of one.” She thought of just how considerate an action her boss and friend had undertaken, but didn’t know what else to say.

Then the thought came. “So, where is this grand collection you talk about?  I mean, you could just be making this all up.”

“If you want proof, then you’ll have to go the Louvre in Paris.  I sold the lot for a cool three million.”

They both burst into laughter, but he eventually moved into his office, returning with an old stationery box, placing it directly in front of her.

Meadow pulled off the lid and was shocked to discover what must have been 200-300 doodles, done with either blue or black ink.  Reverently, she pulled them out and passed through them in a process that took 15 minutes. It wasn’t the quantity but the surprising quality of the drawings that struck her.  While some were of the inner layout of the restaurant, the majority were depictions of things she was seeing in her mind – all drawn absently while spending hours on the phone.

“Les … Les, these are …”

“I know – amazing, right? I had no idea you possessed such talent, Meadow, but this is more than talent.  It’s … it’s God-given.”

His words had stopped registering with her, as she slowly lifted one of her depictions and drew it closer to her face.  It almost appeared as a caricature.  It looked like an old building, with a little tower on top.  She had given it dramatic curves as it looked out over a deep valley beyond.

I know this place,she thought to herself. But where, and why did I draw it?  In some strange fashion the drawing before her immediately drew her mind towards the dream she’d had in the last two nights.

Les had come around the counter and placed a hand on her shoulder.  “What, Meadow?  What’s wrong?”  The shock on her face had given the mistaken impression that she was distressed.

“No … I’m fine, Les.  This one here reminds me of that dream I was telling you about.  For whatever reason, it has Dad and Mom written all over it.”

“What is it?  A church maybe?  It looks kind of odd.  Whoever built it must have had too much local hooch.”

“It’ a caricature, Les – a drawing that purposefully exaggerates something in order to create an impression.  It’s me who made it look so odd.”

He grunted, causing her to look over at him.  “What?” she asked.

“Well, this is the only doodle where you did that.  The rest all seem pretty normal – beautifully normal.  This one, though, seems to me to be trying to say something.”

“You mean, I was trying to say something, since it was me that drew it.”

“I suppose,” Les said in a kind of resignation.  “But where is this, and why did you draw this one so differently?”

“I … I just don’t know, I’m afraid.  But it does seem familiar somehow.”

It was only then that her friend took some of the other pages and laid them side-by-side on the counter before them.  “These all look kind of old – like they were from when you were young.”

It’s true, she realized. She had nonchalantly penned depictions of her childhood home, her school, even their old station wagon. There was her Mom in a patterned dress, and another one of her dancing around a campfire.  It was clear now that all the phone conversations about the closing out of her mother’s life had drawn the early years out of her, causing her to put them into drawings.  She had done that exact thing hundreds of times when she was young – putting images of her life to paper.

Meadow spent a few minutes going through the doodles, explaining them to Les.  “But this place – it just seems so different.  You don’t recall where it is?” he asked again.

His pudgy finger was resting directly on the old structure towering over the valley.  Seeing it again caused her to catch her breath. Why did she do that?  What was so special about it?  She could tell by the very different nature of the drawing she had put on paper years ago that it was a structure that meant something special to her.

“I can’t say because I just don’t know.  But, somehow, it’s calling to me, Les – in here,” she said, pointing to her heart.

He pointed to her head and added, “And in here.  And if it’s calling you, seems to me you need to go.”

Meadow hadn’t thought of that, but the idea was appealing to her.  “I just don’t know where it is,” she said.

“Seems to me that you drew it at a time when you depict other parts of your childhood.  That’s probably where you should start.”

She held the paper to her chest, turned, and asked, “What are you saying, Les?”

“Taking some time off from here,” he said, casting his hand around the room.  “I owe you tons of holiday time anyway.  You never take all the weeks you are owed.”

“That’s because of all the time you granted me in that final year of Mom’s life, Les.  I could never repay you for that.”

“The most you could do for me right now is to go there,” he said, pointing his finger at the paper she clutched.

“It would mean heading up the hills of Virginia and into my past.”

“That’s not far from here. Just go, Meadow.  I would appreciate it if you could let me know how it’s going.  Not required, of course, but I’ll worry about you a bit otherwise.”

And that’s what launched Meadow onto a journey to her past and her future at the same time.

Photo credit: Patty Schwartz

Some Wicked This Way Comes

Posted on September 27, 2018

Economist Jim Rickards was one of the very few who predicted 2008’s Great Recession and no one really listened.  Now he’s at it again, claiming that the financial leaders haven’t learned from that last great debacle and that something far worse is now coming.  On this occasion, however, he has some powerful support.  Warren Buffett, George Soros, the Economist, Financial Times, and even the Nasdaq’s own in-house publication have agreed and warned it is time to prepare.  It’s a bit enervating to hear them talk since they view it as the next bump in the road of capitalism’s wild ride, while in reality it will leave millions of families devastated.  We should be listening.

This delicate balance between capitalism and democracy turned out to be highly beneficial to both sides when it worked.  Capitalism provided the training, wages and the workers necessary to create economies, while governments absorbed many of the costs for social security, healthcare and other stimulations that turned vulnerable workers into contented citizens.

Yet, when things went out of balance, the result became a remote and wealthy elite of capitalist barons or a welfare state imposing so many regulations on businesses and corporations that their generated wealth was greatly reduced.  It was never easy, but in those times when it worked, as it did in the immediate decades following World War Two, it changed the quality of life for hundreds of millions.  But when it didn’t, the results were bankruptcies, unemployment, financial collapse, and a restive populace.  Reforms were essential to restoring some sense of balance.

In recent years, however, no such correction has returned, even following the financial fallout in 2008. In fact, elitist pressure from without and forces of greed from within have resulted in government loosening even more regulations on capitalism, allowing it to move away from society at ever greater velocity.

Just how bad it has now become was revealed in a ground-breaking 2013 book by five authors – Immanuel Wallerstein, Randall Collins, Michael Mann, Georgi Derluguian and Craig Calhoun – entitled Does Capitalism Have a Future?  While the authors frequently held to different points of view as to the cause of capitalism’s troubles, they were united in their introduction to the book: “Something big looms on the horizon: a structural crisis much bigger than the recent Great Recession, which might in retrospect seem only a prologue to a period of deeper troubles and transformations.”

This conclusion has also been reached in September 2018 by Andrew Ross Sorkin, author of the bestseller Too Big to Fail, who noted in an interview that “something dark and ominous, far greater than the Great Recession,” is about to befall the financial order.

As if the shared introduction to Does Capitalism Have a Future?wasn’t terrifying enough, its conclusion turns even more ominous:

The events of the last forty years have deeply disrupted the institutions that kept capitalism relatively well-organized through the post-war period.  Looking for an unemployment rate of between 60 and 70 per cent within the next three decades.  There is no way society can prevent capitalism from causing accelerated displacement and the attendant stark economic and social inequalities. Some new system will have to take its place.  Revolutionary the change will be – but whether it will be a violent social revolution that will end capitalism or a peaceful institutional revolution accomplished under political leadership cannot be known beforehand.

So, there we have it. Capitalism, as in ages past, has gotten ahead of itself, pushed things to the extreme, and is now disrupting society in a universal fashion so that its very excesses might result in its demise. Globalization has now outpaced democracy’s ability to retain accountability, leaving politicians with plenty of promises but no way to acquire the funds to fulfill them.

The kind of capitalism driven by small and medium-sized businesses that produced most of the jobs and overall benefits to community life have been kicked to the side of the road in favour of an unaccountable form of wealth generation, where money is made from money and not community investment in goods, services and physical and social infrastructure.

This is the world in which we now live, infused by a global economic system whose motivation is mostly propelled by greed and whose benefits are increasingly going to the few. We are in a vulnerable state.  Capitalism arrived just as navigation, trade and discovery were emerging, and it successfully propelled the movement toward modernism.  Each time it overreached, it was brought back, but at no such time was it able to elude the grasp of those established authorities assigned with restricting its tendencies to excess.  Such oversight is now in retreat, and capitalism owns the field of play.

What comes next is something no one can predict.  Those possessing great sums of money will ride it out, looking for further opportunities. But for the rest?  Well, it will be devastating and wicked and there will be little equity left to endure the storm. Companies that were too big to fail, or to jail, never learned, and we as citizens too often voted for governments that facilitated the flight of money away from our dreams.

%d bloggers like this: