martes, 23 de junio de 2015

Colapso


Enternece un poco esa idea de colapso que tienen los anglosajones: esa escenografía distópica, postapocalíptica, en la que unas especies de zombies deambulan por ciudades incendiadas, semiderruídas, parcialmente convertidas en escombros. No, chicos, eso es para Hollywood. El colapso es, en primera instancia, moral, cuando las élites, los intelectuales de un país se morfan el caramelito monetarista neoliberal sin decir ni pío. En segundo lugar, y de no mediar una guerra, el colapso es lento. Los argentinos hemos vivido un largo colapso, desde la aparición de José Alfredo Martínez de Hoz aquel 24 de marzo de 1976 hasta los sucesos del 19 y 20 de diciembre del año 2001 (y aun después: el próximo mes de Octubre de 2015, millones de argentinos votarán, en elecciones libres, a las mismas marionetas que nos llevaron a la bancarrota con José Alfredo). Sorprende entonces cuando, aquí y allá, aparecen análisis un tanto más sobrios sobre el tema del colapso en los países centrales. La siguiente nota, en dos partes, se aproxima en varios aspectos (no en todos) a esa sobriedad. Fue escrita por Charles Hugh Smith y posteada en su blog Of Two Minds (http://charleshughsmith.blogspot.com). Acá va:


Título: Collapse, Part 1: Greece

Epígrafe: When systems are broke and broken, collapse is the only way forward.

Texto: The theme this week is collapse. It's a big, complex topic because there are as many types of collapse as there are systems. Some systems appear stable on the surface but collapse suddenly; others visibly decay for decades before finally slipping beneath the waves of history, and some go through stages of collapse.

The taxonomy of collapse is broad, and each unsustainable system (i.e. a system that will fail despite claims to the contrary) has its unique characteristics.

Which brings us to Greece. (…) With the bankruptcy of Greece now undeniable, we've finally reached the endgame of the Neocolonial-Financialization Model. There are no more markets in Greece to exploit with financialization, and the fact that the mountains of debt are unpayable can no longer be masked.

Europe's financial Aristocracy has an unsolvable dilemma: writing off defaulted debt also writes off assets and income streams, for every debt is somebody else's asset and income stream. When all those phantom assets are recognized as worthless, collateral vanishes and the system implodes.

The peripheral nations of the EU are effectively neocolonial debtors of the core, and the taxpayers of the core nations are now feudal serfs whose labor is devoted to making good on any loans to the periphery that go bad. (see chart of Greece's debtors below)

Greece's financial/political Elites milked the entry into the EU for all it was worth, effectively destroying the Greek economy in their limitless looting: Misrule of the Few: How the Oligarchs Ruined Greece.

What has already collapsed is the faith that institutions within Greece and the European Union can effectively manage the inevitable Greek default. As noted in the essay linked above, Greece's power structure is designed to do one thing: protect vested interests and dissipate accountability.

The same can be said of the European Central Bank (ECB) and the European Union (EU). Both were sold as abstract financial magic: the Elitist power structures of every nation in the union--the ultimate source of the rot that is now emitting the foul stench of collapse--would be left intact while the economies of all member nations would magically produce more goods and services based on ever-expanding debt and leverage.

This leads to the critical question of the hour: who's saving whom? Are last-ditch bailouts saving the Greek people and the integrity of their nation, or are they simply saving the political/financial Elites who benefited from EU membership and the systemic expansion of debt?



Here's another key question: who's being punished by the Troika's "nobody defaults and gets away with it" policy? Clearly, the Greek people are being punished--but to what end? What about punishing the political/financial Elites who benefited from Greece's entry into the EU and the banking Elites who profited from the irresponsible expansion of loans to Greece?

If Greece had defaulted four years ago when default was already visibly inevitable, the Greek citizenry would already have worked through the painful crisis of adjusting to a dearth of external credit and perhaps a new currency, and maybe they would have jettisoned their corrupt and self-serving Elites, clearing the way for sustainable growth and governance.

Instead, the Greek people have suffered for nothing. Default is still inevitable, as is the resulting EU-wide currency-political crises.

When systems are broke and broken, collapse is the only way forward. Only collapse breaks the grip of vested interests and opens the political process to non-Elite participation. By pushing default/collapse forward for four long years, the Greek Elites have punished their citizens for absolutely no yield on their immense suffering. Greece can no more escape the black hole of default than it could four years ago.

Central and private banking magic has failed. The idea that corrupt, self-serving Elites would magically create widespread prosperity by borrowing money that could never be paid back has collapsed, though the Power Elites of the Troika cling to this foolish fantasy because they have no other choice if they want to retain power.

The only faith remaining in the EU Elite is belief in the goddess TINA--there is no alternative. But there is always another alternative: collapse of the status quo and the assembly of an alternative arrangement that doesn't concentrate power in the hands of a few at the expense of the many.


***

Título: Part 2: The Nine Dynamics of Decay

Epígrafe: Rome didn't fall so much as erode away. That's the template for collapse.

Texto: While collapse may be sudden, the decay that generated the collapse had been rotting away the foundation for years or decades. In distilling the vast literature on collapse into nine dynamics, I am drawing upon many other authors' work, including: The Collapse of Complex Societies; The Great Wave: Price Revolutions and the Rhythm of History; The Long Emergency: Surviving the End of Oil, Climate Change, and Other Converging Catastrophes of the Twenty-First Century; The Shock Doctrine: The Rise of Disaster Capitalism; Overshoot: The Ecological Basis of Revolutionary Change; The Upside of Down: Catastrophe, Creativity, and the Renewal of Civilization; Collapse: How Societies Choose to Fail or Succeed; The Long Descent: A User's Guide to the End of the Industrial Age; Reinventing Collapse: The Soviet Example and American Prospects.

Here are the nine dynamics of decay that lead to collapse:

1. complacency and intellectual laziness
2. profound political disunity
3. rise of unproductive complexity
4. those bearing the sacrifices opt out/quit
5. decay of effective leadership
6. rise of bread and circuses social welfare and entertainment to distract/placate restive citizenry
7. decline of wealth-producing capacity--status quo living off financial trickery
8. sclerosis--status quo controlled by vested interests
9. resource depletion/environmental damage

All of these dynamics are currently in play around the globe.

Michael Grant touched on many of these dynamics in his excellent account The Fall of the Roman Empire, a short book I have been recommending since 2009:

There was no room at all, in these ways of thinking, for the novel, apocalyptic situation which had now arisen, a situation which needed solutions as radical as itself. (The Status Quo) attitude is a complacent acceptance of things as they are, without a single new idea.

This acceptance was accompanied by greatly excessive optimism about the present and future. Even when the end was only sixty years away, and the Empire was already crumbling fast, Rutilius continued to address the spirit of Rome with the same supreme assurance.

This blind adherence to the ideas of the past ranks high among the principal causes of the downfall of Rome. If you were sufficiently lulled by these traditional fictions, there was no call to take any practical first-aid measures at all.

If our idea of intellectual rigor is Paul Krugman dancing around the Neo-Keynesian Cargo Cult campfire waving dead chickens and spewing nonsensical claims of grand success, we're doomed. Placing our faith in failed monetary-legerdemain and policies of the past is the height of hubris and complacency. There is a cost to complacency and it's called collapse.

A lengthier book on the same subject by Adrian Goldsworthy, How Rome Fell: Death of a Superpower, found that a key driver of decline was the constant political struggle for power drained resources and led to ineffective leadership.

This profound political disunity is not the usual staged battles of the Demopublicans vs. the Republicrats. The real disunity is between a doomed Status Quo and those willing to deal with reality. Right now those willing to deal with reality are few, but they have the distinct advantage of reality on their side, while the Status Quo has only propaganda, artifice, phony political theater and empty promises.

Another dynamic of decay is expansive, sclerotic bureaucracies that lose sight of their purpose while piling on unproductive complexity. The top leadership abandons the pursuit of the common good for personal gain, wealth and power, and this rot at the top soon spreads down the chain of command to infect and corrupt the entire institutional culture.



Grant describes how key classes of productive citizens opt out as their sacrifices are squandered on propping up rapacious elites. Those making the sacrifices look around at what they've sacrificed to maintain and decide it's no longer worth it. So they opt out or quit, draining the status quo of talent, drive and wealth-producing assets.

As the masses become debt-serfs or dependents on the state, the costs of providing bread and circuses becomes unsustainable. The state and central banks are currently papering over this mismatch by printing or borrowing money in the trillions of dollars. But financial trickery is no substitute for actual wealth creation: printing money is not the same as printing real-world wealth.

As for resource depletion and environmental damage--look no further than aquifer depletion, soil erosion, the stripmining of the seas and the poisoning of our air/water/soil on a grand scale.


Rome didn't fall so much as erode away, its many strengths squandered on in-fighting, mismanagement of resources, complacency and personal aggrandizement/ corruption. That's the template for collapse, and you see it in every status quo globally.


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