Friday, April 11, 2008

The End of Capitalism as We Know It

Basically, as my dad would have put it, they keep horsing around until somebody gets hurt. The subprime mortgage meltdown is a case study on the topic. When there’s an opportunity to make money, people tend to pile on. They did the same thing in the dot-com bust some years ago. They do it on every market that heads upwards. Prosperity, real or hoped-for, carries its own logic and momentum. People keep going; they ride the surfboard right up to the sand. This ain’t gonna work in environmental matters, though. Sooner or later, somebody is going to make honeybees extinct; or a bazillion square miles of ice are going to cut loose from Greenland and flood dozens of coastal cities around the world; or there’s going to be a pandemic, born of a warmer environment or greater human incursion into animal habitat. Something, anyway, is going to kill a boatload of us, and scare the rest of us so badly as to turn public opinion decisively against the free market. It’s going to happen because people are just going to keep focusing on economic growth until they run head-on into a wall. Because, as my dad would have said, they don’t know when to quit.