Two approaches to economic collapse

The nervousness about the world's ongoing, meandering economic collapse showed up in two quite different news stories today.  One was a BBC interview with "trader"Alessio Rastani in which the fellow offered sober advice on the best ways to PANIC!  His exaggerated rhetoric brought many to conclude that the TV segment was actually a Yes Men stunt.  I doubted that conclusion right away because the Yes Men are never malicious in their well aimed barbs.  While they poke fun at corporations, governments and the global economic system, they would never offer the jump-out-of-the-nearest-window perspective of the kind Mr. Rastani was peddling.  Now the Yes Men have denied any connection to the interview, but use the occasion to urge people to join the ongoing people's occupation of Wall Street. 

Rastani is not in Liberty Plaza
By Andy Bichlbaum on Sep 27 2011 - 9:56am 

The Yes Men wish to commend Mr. "Alessio Rastani" for his masterful performance as "trader" on BBC World yesterday. Mr. Rastani's real name is Granwyth Hulatberi; he once appeared on CNBC MarketWrap as a "representative" of the WTO. Well done, Granwyth! You're getting better and better.

Just kidding. We've never heard of Rastani. Despite widespread speculation, he isn't a Yes Man. He's a real trader who is, for one reason or another, being more honest than usual. Who in big banking doesn't bet against the interests of the poor and find themselves massively recompensed—if not by the market, then by humongous taxpayer bailouts? Rastani's approach has been completely mainstream for several years now; we must thank him for putting a human face on it yesterday.

If you'd like to see the human face of the human perspective—the perspective of the 99% victimized by our demented and out-of-control financial system—come join the occupation of Wall Street. Michael Moore did so  last night, and pointed out that in America, it's just 400 people who own as much as most of the rest of us put together—and that when we decide we really want to change the rules of the game, those 400 people won't be able to do squat about it.

On a much different plain of reference, philosopher Ben Brucato directed my attention to Paul Kingsnorth's article in the Guardian -- "This economic collapse is a 'crisis of bigness:Leopold Kohr warned 50 years ago that the gigantist global system would grow until it imploded. We should have listened."

Leopold Kohr was a self-described "philosophical anarchist" whose book,The Breakdown of Nations, analyzes the problem of sheer size as the cause of the dysfunctions and, he argued, eventual collapse of the modern economy.  In Kingsnorth's able summary:

The crisis currently playing out on the world stage is a crisis of growth. Not, as we are regularly told, a crisis caused by too little growth, but by too much of it. Banks grew so big that their collapse would have brought down the entire global economy. To prevent this, they were bailed out with huge tranches of public money, which in turn is precipitating social crises on the streets of western nations. The European Union has grown so big, and so unaccountable, that it threatens to collapse in on itself. Corporations have grown so big that they are overwhelming democracies and building a global plutocracy to serve their own interests. The human economy as a whole has grown so big that it has been able to change the atmospheric composition of the planet and precipitate a mass extinction event.

One man who would not have been surprised by this crisis of bigness, had he lived to see it, was Leopold Kohr.  Kohr has a good claim to be the most important political thinker that you have never heard of. Unlike Marx, he did not found a global movement or inspire revolutions. Unlike Hayek, he did not rewrite the economic rules of the modern world. Kohr was a modest, self-deprecating man, but this was not the reason his ideas have been ignored by movers and shakers in the half century since they were produced. They have been ignored because they do not flatter the egos of the power-hungry, be they revolutionaries or plutocrats. In fact, Kohr's message is a direct challenge to them. "Wherever something is wrong," he insisted, "something is too big."