I'm going to have to interrupt the HIV series to address exigent matters. If we must live under capitalism, then we must accept continual destruction as the price of economic dynamism. The Polaroid Corporation used to have its headquarters in that mystical, magical land across the river, The People's Republic of Cambridge. Then one day they woke up and realized they owned a buggy whip factory. Today, I use file cabinets we bought in their bankruptcy sale.
But the determination of the Senate Republicans to allow the U.S. auto industry to collapse invites a resolution of a different order. The death of Polaroid was the price of the rise of a whole new industry. A few thousand lives were disrupted, but there were other jobs to be had and investment losses were soon enough made up elsewhere. What we confront now, however, is very likely the end of an epoch. Karl Polanyi, in The Great Transformation, illuminated the origins of the age in which we have been living, the post-war economic order of the last half of the 20th Century. He describes the system which pertained before, and its end:
The key to the institutional system of the nineteenth century lay in the laws governing market economy. Our Thesis is that the idea of a self-adjusting market implies a stark utopia. Such an institution could not exist for any length of time without annihilating the human and natural substance of society; it would have physically destroyed man and transformed his surroundings into a wilderness. . . .Such an explanation of one of the deepest crises in man's history must appear all too simple. Nothing could seem more inept than the attempt to reduce a civilization, its substance and ethos, to a hard and fast number of institutions; to select one of them as fundamental and proceed to argue the inevitable self-destruction of civilization on account of some technical quality of its economic organization.
And yet, here we are again. Even George W. Bush now appears to get it -- but it is likely far too late. Hang on for a hard ride.