That is the cover of this week's Private Eye. There is a picture of the apocalypse on the cover, floods of lava and earthquakes, and one of the fat renaissance ladies falling into the abyss has a dialogue bubble: "Time to think about decisive action, possibly."
Unlike The Economist, Private Eye is not wrong about these things.
The chickens really came home to roost for me today when my son picked up Private Eye from the bedroom floor and questioned me about it. I consider it my obligation as a parent to reflect reality back at my children, so I tried to explain how the lava and the earthquakes were symbols for the problems with the economy. I could not in good conscience after this summer, with Texas burning and the Cathedral falling, guarantee to him that no chaos of this degree would absolutely not befall us.
"Does "chaos" have a kicking k or a curly c?" , he asked. Spelling is important.
It does feel like chaos. Decisive action needs to be taken. But who is brave enough to do it? What stakeholder in the current power structure is going to relinquish his stake? I don't know. With Wall Street occupied, I do wonder if a Warren Buffet rule would work: rich people better step up to the plate and get things in line because they are good people (otherwise when we hold the revolution via google mail you're the first against the wall).
I have some ideas for the decisive action, whether they be at the intensely theoretical level (money is an expression of identity and should be valued as such) or international level (there should be one uniform banking code, and banks should be run as non-profits) or national level (people should leverage their sovereignty and add value to their budget by negotiating trade treaties and entering into long-term partnerships with like-minded sovereigjns).
I am not an economist, but as the Global Economic Outlook Worsens, I can't help but applying the skills I have acquired in my ridiculous life to this problem. The solution is not business as usual. The solution is not respect and deference to the existing economic structure, the solution is a short sharp shock to the institutions - banks, religions, sovereigns and corporations - that currently obstruct economic growth by trying to hang on to the way capital flowed in a great long period of growth. I am not sure our answer is, as The Economist continually mewls, getting to more growth. I think the answer may be to accept the lack of growth as a correction - as part of the game of capitalism (which I still think is the most successful distribution system of the ones we have come up with so far); there are booms and busts, and we are bust.
But I think that we are busted in more ways than a free market depression/recession. I think we are just busted: the way that banks have so much power over sovereigns, the way that global corporations do not pay taxes, the way that the best and the brightest are drawn to lucrative careers in capital markets instead of thinking of ways to cure the ills of humanity- our bloated weight on the planet, our, excuse me, shitting where we eat.
Someone said to me today in defense of an almost-no-screen parenting style: children can identify a hundred brands, but not the names of the plants in their backyard. That made me think. Life is only one part economics, and we have let it become 80%. That's why the riots happened: rampant consumerism. Look, I hate injected molded plastic as much as the next middle class mum, but look, if you really think that capitalism is the best distribution model (and I defy anyone to come up with one that has outlasted this one), then you have to live with marketing and you have to live with consumerism. The good news is that the personal is political, and you don't have to make the money part of your identity the primary part of your lives. Beat it back. Do it now by choice or soon by necessity.