Thursday, November 13, 2008

The Market

Paul Stiles is a former Merrill Lynch bond trader and the author of "Is the American Dream Killing You?", a passionate outcry against the ravages that the pace and pressure of the market can wreak upon life and society. In particular, he cites urban sprawl, obesity, and depression as the collateral damage of the American addiction to the helter-skelter rhythms of the stock market. Now living in the Canary Islands, Stiles is part of the American diaspora of those fleeing what they see to be a great cultural implosion caused by over-inflated self image, ruthless competition, and the polarisation of a society divided into predatory sellers and passive buyers. Seven million Americans live outside the US at the moment and much fewer of them than one would think are expats for work related reasons.
Stiles is not attacking 'Capitalism' per se. Capitalism and the Market are two different things. The former is an ideology, the latter an emergent property of human economic activity.
"The Market" is an elusive entity, difficult to define. Stiles compares it to an immaterial "mind" belonging to the physical body of the economy. Like the human mind, the Market does not exist in any physical sense; it is a poor basis for identity and the allocation of 'value' to things.
He argues that the Market has caused many of the major disasters of modern times: in its Great Depression form precipitating fascist reactions that led to WW2, polarising East and West into the Cold War, and by its corrupting influence on traditional cultures, contributing to the reaction of Islamism that brought about 9 11.
One reason people are moving away from areas dominated by the Market is that they are tired of feeling that they're being driven by it. Like the mind, there is no doubt that we need a market, but we should drive it, not let it drive us.


Vic said...

Nice blog. But thankfully, this depression has caused the Americans to see reason and not vote in a far-right regime. So the return to sanity with the Obama election is amazingly unprecedented.

jeronimus said...

Hi, Vic. Yes, I think the whole world collectively gave a sigh of relief. I was on the street here in Sydney, Australia, and observed people ringing each other on their mobiles to say how relieved they were when the result became a sure thing.