The riots that hit London and other English cities last week have the potential to spread beyond the British Isles. Class rage isn’t unique to England; in fact, it represents part of a growing global class chasm that threatens to undermine capitalism itself.
Earlier in the week, economist Nuriel Roubini wrote about the destruction of capitalism. But even that article does not go far enough – it postulates standard economic fixes such as job creation, progressive taxes, etc.
I think that by the time this is over, there will be a completely new sort of economic system in place, one that will really take advantage of Information Age productivity gains in ways that benefit the majority of people rather than only the top 2%.
In the book, The Fourth Turning, the authors postulate a four generation cycle of society. In the late 90s, they predicted that, beginning in the late ‘oughts’, we would see a rise of conflict and social turmoil, all dealing with overcoming a huge social hurdle holding us back. The three previous times this same place in the cycle occurred, we had the American Revolution, the Civil War and the Great Depession/World War II. In each of those, huge numbers of people died but society after the crisis was completely different than society before.
I think here we might have identified where the current crisis may start – economically-fuelled violence based on wealth disparities. But, instead of pitched battles between massed armies representing nation states, it will be small autonomous groups, loosely networked and using bottom-up planning. Wikileaks is an example. So is Anonymous. So is the Arab Spring, which has even spread to Israel.
Truthfully, the rise of the Tea Party and for Progressive Movements stems from similar economic anger.
For several years, Global Guerillas has discussed just this sort of modern warfare – although today, the site mainly deals with approaches for surviving the chaos such warfare would encompass. While a little too libertarian for my taste, it does present some interesting and important ideas.
One is that the huge wealth inequities found not only here in the Western World but also in China, results in the misallocation of the nation’s resources – great for the top 2%, lousy for the rest of the population. There is a very informative graph.
The root cause for much of this unrest is, in my opinion, based on the weakness of most people’s existence compared to the wealthy elites running the country. As the Forbes artile stated (my bold):
But modern society cannot run according to the individualist credo of Ayn Rand; economic systems, to be credible and socially sustainable, must deliver results to the vast majority of citizens. If capitalism cannot do that expect more outbreaks of violence and greater levels of political alienation — not only in Britain but across most of the world’s leading countries, including the U.S.
I think the current barrier postulated by the Fourth Turning 15 years ago will deal with the huge wealth inequality found in almost every country in the world. It will not be based on political systems as countries as different as the US and China will both be hit.
It will be based on the changing economics of the Information World, one where Industrial Age approaches for wealth accumulation – which have caused such a huge inequities – is replaced by something else.
It will be based on the basic fact that people control the government they have, that the Social Contract – currently broken in many ways – has to be refurbished.
It will be based on using Information Age tools to overcome Industrial Age entrenched interests.
It will be a long and difficult process, I am afraid.
In previous such conflicts, there was a hard target to push back against. Now there is anger and resistance but no real knowledge of what will be the result, what will things look like when they ‘win.’
Here, we have many such targets, all being attacked in ways that really do not seem to yield any final victory but are rather designed to tip society. But what will that society look like, especially economically?
What will people be fighting for, rather than simply fighting against something?
I imagine that there will be lots of ‘experimenting’ with different solutions and the nation that finds the best solution fastest will have a huge impact.
Here is one idea. It would not only have the benefit of crating a more sustainable economy, it would also help create a more sustainable world. If it works in the real world
I had hoped that we might make it over this current crisis without too much bloodshed. Maybe we still will but there will be a lot of disruptions and hard times for many.
Hope I live to see the other side.