Not, that's not the dog pound. It's the pound sterling. Or something approaching it. Thailand Chani raised an interesting question yesterday in her blog: Does anyone think capitalism is a good thing? I have been wondering the same myself, and it's a good question in view of the economic chaos in which we now find ourselves. The domino-style collapse of major American financial institutions is evidence enough that capitalism is not the invulnerable fortress it was supposed to be.
If capitalism is in crisis, it has been ailing for some time, though the symptoms have been well hidden from general public view. Not a hard trick, perhaps, in a country that appeared to be thriving so well on the system for so many years and became--for the blink of an eye, at least, in the long history of the planet--the top dog in the financial world. But it's pretty clear by now that this situation can't last for very much longer. Capitalism--with the help of more than a little slave labor, let's not forget--produced this country's wealth. Today, under the capitalist system, that wealth is slipping more and more from the hands of the average citizen and into the hands of the corporations and their wealthy beneficiaries. I don't believe it's a "good thing" for the vast majority of people.
By the same token, though, socialism has also showed its weaknesses. I was brought up in the belief that socialism would best serve the interests of the underprivileged and the needy, but it has not worked out the way many hoped it might. The collapse of the Soviet Union and its empire is evidence enough that this alternative--and rival--to capitalism has also run its course.
I'm thinking more and more small. I was intrigued to hear a report on the BBC World News about the Lewes pound: the little town of Lewes in Sussex, in the south of England, recently took to printing its own money, for use exclusively in its own community, with the idea of stimulating the local economy and keeping the money made and spent by its citizens within the general confines of the town. It might seem a step backward, in a globalized world. But it could also be seen as a step forward, into a future where tight communities become more and more self-sustaining, and self-regulating. Where democracy can be practiced on an intimate scale more successfully than by countries engaged in internecine competition and conflict.
Naive? Perhaps. According to the BBC report, the desired result of keeping local money in circulation locally has been foiled, thus far, because people are buying the Lewes notes and hoarding them for souvenirs or selling them on Ebay. The whole thing reminds me a little of a Peter Sellers movie (remember "The Mouse That Roared"?) But still a nobly eccentric British experiment, and one that stimulates further thought about the twentieth century financial systems that have so badly failed us, and that are so urgently in need of adaptation to the needs of a changing and ever-growing population of the human species.
I know I'm not alone in believing that the current century will have to see the evolution of a whole new way of thinking about money, the use of resources, and the provision of life's essentials to vast new numbers of human dwellers on this planet. I personally lack the economic prescience to imagine what this new way will look like, but our post-industrial systems have clearly failed to provide the matrix for a safe and humane future for our species. We will need to to do much better than this if we are to survive.