November 2008 Archives

Commodity or Community?

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This pivotal economic crisis in 21st century finance capital now underway is so fundamentally different from others we have lived through that it will be years before we know its full impact on American life. After all, when GM looks like its going under, housing stock has lost 30% of its value in 18 of the 20 largest American cities, Lehman Bros. goes the way of the Edsel, every American with a pension is losing sleep over declining net worth, and the American public is asked to bailout JP Morgan Chase and a few other dozen banks, you know it sure isn’t the same 'ole-same'ole. When you add in that we’re trying to figure out what the hell $62,000,000,000, 000 credit swaps could mean when our national GDP is only a measly $16,000,000,000, 000, you begin to see why people these days tremble now and again.

So, yeah, it’s a mess, bigger than your usual, every-fifth year fiscal crisis, a close cousin to the Great Depression, minus only the catchy name. I don’t have anywhere near the economic smarts to know how it’s going to shake out, but I do know it’s also connected to the politics of how people act on their own behalf and, secondarily, for those with whom they relate as having similar interests. As someone steeped in community organizing, both in practice and reading a few hundred histories over the years, some of how our society ends up depends on how people shape their own answers to meet those needs.

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