Guest Commentary

Want to truly fix the economy? Then let's destroy it completely and start over

On Halloween, The Associated Press continued a funereal drumbeat for the American economy with this headline: "Beaten down, American consumers burrow deeper."

It seems that consumer confidence has crashed, and the spooked populace is holding its cash tight. Amidst scary numbers and dire forecasts, the article managed to employ the word "grim" twice--as in, "retailers are bracing for a grim holiday-buying season"--and warned that there are no "silver bullets" to slay the approaching werewolf of recession.

Well, I've got an idea: Let's make this holiday-buying season as grim, slim and trim as possible. How about we just stop buying shit altogether? I mean it. Don't buy anything. No plastic crap from Wal-Mart, no superfluous clothes from department stores, no useless trinkets from the mega-mall. Not one goddamn thing that you don't really need. Just stop.

You want the CEOs to share the pain? Pull the dollar rug out from under them. Our economy--check that, their economy--depends on excess. It is bloated, inefficient, wasteful and incredibly damaging to workers, the environment, global social well-being and just about everything else that really matters. The more workers produce, the less they get paid, and the more their wealth gets redistributed upward to fat cats who are at this very moment floating away under golden parachutes, dreaming of their next scheme to get even richer.

In order to save this toxic economy, it will be necessary to destroy it. Our mantra now should be: "Shrink, baby, shrink!"

I know what you're thinking: Won't this hurt everybody? Won't people lose their jobs? Well, sure they will--but they already are! Beyond that, a lot of people's jobs are literally killing them, and many more do not pay a living wage in any event. This situation will not change until we rip up the current economic design that is based on squeezing every last penny out of every human and natural resource, and rescale the economy in a way that favors stability, frugality and local self-reliance over rapacious excess.

Our government has graciously opened the treasury to the "suffering" giants of Wall Street to the tune of hundreds of billions of dollars--our dollars--much of which will be handed out as year-end bonuses to the very greedheads who created this mess. Well, here's a way to put the squeeze back on the D.C. whores and the Wall Street pigs: We can get our cut by creating a crisis that forces the government to shift untold billions away from stupid wars and corporate welfare, and back into our starving and crumbling communities.

You'll have to buy some things, of course, so let's prioritize. Buy nothing from national chains. Make what purchases you must from the smallest and most local businesses possible. Buy used items instead of new. A necessary fundamental evolution toward a more sane economy is to make the most of what we have rather than making so much more than we need. And don't worry about other countries passing us by. When Wal-Mart goes down, China will go with it.

Speaking of targets: The largest profits in history continue to flow out of our pockets every single day to the filthiest, most violent industry of all, fueling the slaughter of millions and an exponentially worsening greenhouse-gas crisis that threatens every species on Earth. You want to make oil companies and terrorist-sponsoring nations pay for decades of price-gouging and murder? Stop buying gas!

Perhaps the greatest benefit to this scheme would be its impact on climate change, which will render economic choices moot if it is not addressed in the very near future. The only significant reduction of greenhouse gases that has ever been achieved resulted directly from the economic collapse that followed the fall of the Soviet Union. Russia's emissions fell by half and remain lower than 1990 levels. Considering the utter failure of society to effectively address this problem, dramatic economic contraction may be our only hope of avoiding catastrophic climate change.

Manufacturing a crisis such as the one I'm describing may seem irresponsible. But ask yourself: Is it any less responsible than allowing the captains of industry to skate away and repeat their cycle of thievery and destruction indefinitely? Or worse, continuing to over-produce and over-consume until our planet simply cannot support us any longer?

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