• Posted: Sep 21, 2008 16:13:19
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Within nature, carnage is a continuous occurrence. It is the reality of the food chain, the web of life. Life feeds upon life. Energy bubbles upward through the web from single cell entities capable of grasping it directly from the sun or geothermal vents to and through complex multi-cellular organisms such as sharks, whales, bears, hawks, spiders, and humans. That energy is used to create more of the consuming creature in the form of growth, and more of the consuming species in the form of progeny. The energy captured by life is never lost, but even in death roils outward in the form of heat and nourishment for scavenging insects, bacteria, and fungi.
Optimists view "free markets" as a manifestation of biological mechanisms. Large corporations grow by feeding on smaller ones. And in the end, as they lose relevance, are themselves consumed by scavenging entities. Liquid leverage is the fuel that fires economic engines, in the vernacular "power", power to influence or effect social outcomes. Some will point to the utility of measures of such power or liquid leverage as basis for their value, measures such as gold, grain, water, oil, or computer chips. Others will point to the promise of work or compliance as in contracts and debt obligations. Still others will point to threat of lethal violence as the conceptual basis of wealth and power. All of it is meaningless unless understood and believed in by the participants of the economic system. Even threat of violence fails to influence social outcomes if potential victims acquiesce to death. The ruling elite is denuded of power if the disadvantaged disavow the common measure of wealth has value.
Carnage in the financial markets of the preceding week is historically unprecedented if traditional monetary measures of value lost are employed in the analysis. But perhaps we are witnessing a shift in the belief structure of what constitutes value in the market place. Maybe debt obligations based on the utility of oil, gas, and coal are being abandoned in favor of measures of wealth based on sustainable energy sources. Maybe hype promoting an inside track to wealth and power over others is being replaced by a consciousness of social and environmental outcomes, where anyone's loss is felt as everyone's loss. Maybe the zero-sum game is being replaced by a let's make the pie sustainable for everyone game.
Wishful thinking? Could be. It's also possible the carnage left in the ditch this week will be trust in one another and cooperative effort of any sort. Could be the illogical next step will be a worldwide reversion to ethnic tribalism. In any case, the mechanisms of nature will undoubtedly prevail.
Friday, May 16th, 2008
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