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Good Americans Go Shopping
Delia DeLyon
A growing chorus of media commentators and politicians in the Western World, especially in the US, is calling upon to public to demonstrate resolve against terrorism and help out the economy by going shopping. Sen Bob Graham (D.,Fla), said ordinary citizens can help by "living like Americans." Common Dreams

But the system faces a contradiction in promoting this end. Its media have been covering the 9/11 mass murder and its aftermath non-stop, promoting the notion that the US has been wounded, the nation is at war (though we don't really know who with), more attacks are likely here, and Americans need to get serious and expect to sacrifice both money and civil liberties. This has led to a general downer, and greatly expanded fears of flying and even of hanging out in public places like shopping malls. The growing signs of a huge economic crisis, already evident before 9/11, also can do little but make people weary of spending money and going further in debt. The system's very need to create a fear of "the enemy" has thus gotten in the way of promoting a "who cares" self-absorbed attitude that has been the dominant mindset of the so-called '90s prosperity, fueled largely by speculation and massive debt expansion.

When it really comes down to the basics, though, shopping (i.e. consumption) is not what drives this system. The lifeline of capitalism, indeed its very reason for being, is capital accumulation, to which consumption is but an aide. And the reality is that global capital has been facing increasing problems with the tendency of the rate of profit to fall, a tendency that is inherent in the very nature of the ongoing development of capital. Increasingly, enterprises rely on replacing human labor with machinery to get a competitive edge, and this becomes more and more widely used. But the result on a society-wide basis is the elimination of human labor from the global production process, the very human labor which produces the surplus value from which all profits accrue.

The system has means of delaying and ameliorating the effects of the tendency. In recent years, the chief means has been massive debt expansion. But increasingly over the last 10 years, the crisis has manifested itself in a variety of ways, including a seeming global overproduction. For example, the world's auto industry can produce 80 million cars, but there is a market for only 60 million.

As could be expected, debt expansion has run into limits, as has the speculation wave centered on the stock market, especially in high tech, the Florida land scam of the '90s. The problems that affect the global system (and the downturn is global indeed) will not respond to a few Americans rushing out to do their civic duty by buying something, anything. The die is cast: this could be a very spooky ride indeed.

(October 2, 2001)

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