Douglas Rushkoff’s latest Arthur column has been making rounds in the blogosphere since it was posted yesterday. It’s a good read, but strikes me as naive for an old fogy like Rushkoff. I don’t have time to reply in depth, but briefly:
1. I question his claim that people made more money in the middle ages. Yeah, maybe if you landowner and not a serf. I think that was not the point of using this as an example, but it makes him sound like a silly back to the middle ages type.
2. It would be nice if it were a possibility to actually let the economy fail. But too many entrenched interests (backed up by guns and bombs) have too much riding on this. Just “letting it die” won’t be an option.
3. Even if it were, it wouldn’t be a very pleasant process (though it might be necessary to build something better). I think the financial sector does a lot more than Rushkoff is giving them credit for.
4. He’s assuming all trade can and should be local.
The real problem is how much we’ve come to rely on the FIRE sector of the economy – or actually, how much they’ve coerced us into relying on them. There are a number of movements afoot to create more resilient communities, less dependent on the FIRE sector, oil, and other things that exist outside the control of individuals. This is a good thing – but there are a few problems:
A. Will they be allowed to operate or will they be shut down by the police? Alternative currency is particularly vulnerable to government intervention. Grey water systems are illegal in most states and cities. And so on.
B. Can these systems be implemented fast enough to absorb the shock of the crumbling economy? Or will they be brushed aside by more aggressive, less democratic totalitarian movements?
C. Can they scale?
D. Can they avoid becoming just as corrupt as what preceded them?
Problems A. and B. are directly related to problem 2. above.
Solutions are always welcome at the Recession Hacking Wiki.