As economic indicators continue to worsen, people from all walks of life are personally feeling the effects of the recession. Unemployment continues to rise as layoffs spread and businesses fail. Public resources continue to be thrown at corporations deemed too-intertwined with our financial system to collapse. Retirement accounts shrink as the stock market plunges. Demand at local food banks, shelters and other safety net systems continues to rise.
The poor are used to struggling and worrying every day about the precariousness of their financial position; today many more of us are in the same boat. As a result, news and discussions tend to focus on the here and now. Few are asking the “big questions” about what this current situation means for our future.
Thomas Friedman, author of The World is Flat and Hot, Flat and Crowded, is one who likes to explore the big questions about our economy and society. In a provocative N.Y. Times Op-Ed, he contends that the current crisis may be much more than just a hiccup, but rather may serve as an indictment of our economic growth model:
Let’s today step out of the normal boundaries of analysis of our economic crisis and ask a radical question: What if the crisis of 2008 represents something much more fundamental than a deep recession? What if it’s telling us that the whole growth model we created over the last 50 years is simply unsustainable economically and ecologically and that 2008 was when we hit the wall — when Mother Nature and the market both said: “No more.”
We have created a system for growth that depended on our building more and more stores to sell more and more stuff made in more and more factories in China, powered by more and more coal that would cause more and more climate change but earn China more and more dollars to buy more and more U.S. T-bills so America would have more and more money to build more and more stores and sell more and more stuff that would employ more and more Chinese …
We can’t do this anymore.
I fear that unless we restructure our economy along the lines that Frideman contends need to be “smarter, more efficient, more responsible,” we may all feel ourselves being in a constant state of precariousness.