Good Americans Go Shopping
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
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)