A new housing shortage has broken out in Germany’s major cities. Average wage earners currently pay around a third of their income for housing — and rents continue to rise. The fact that this elementary living condition is a luxury the working majority can hardly afford is officially recognized at the highest levels as a “social problem.” Especially during election campaigns, politicians promise to ensure that housing remains affordable. And really that says it all: after 150 years of capitalist growth, for many it is not.
There is one achievement the capitalist mode of production can count on making a good impression with, or at least commanding respect: unstoppable technological progress, seen in all kinds of consumer goods along with the means for producing them. It is popularly illustrated by sophisticated equipment in fashion at the moment. On suitable occasions it is measured in the few hours and minutes of working time required for producing a certain product nowadays as compared with the past. “Downsides” are not ignored: the oversized “footprint” left by the consumption of resources, destruction of the environment, loss of jobs due to “rationalization” — all this is recognized as problematic. But “rationalization” is still called by that name; and the solution of choice for the excessive load on “nature” is considered to be — alongside a personal willingness to do without things — more technological progress. Yet it is quite clear that neither free choice nor rationality is the reason for the unstoppable technological progress the capitalist mode of production impresses with. It is caused by a practical constraint that industrialists actually create for themselves.
In the market economy, growth is an officially and quite generally recognized necessity. It is taken for granted that the growth of the economy is the precondition for prosperity; when growth slows down or actually stops altogether, there is a risk of want and need. Those who warn that continuous economic growth is an absurdity go more or less unheard in the culture section. Critics who maintain that a growth geared solely to immediate economic performance is too narrow a focus for society’s well-being and who call for broader criteria and values to be included are suspected of being anti-consumerist or anti-progress, or accused of ultimately having no idea of human nature and inherent human needs. Even the most sober reference to “natural limits of growth” will face the accusation of being divorced from reality. And indeed it is — reality being that those in charge of business definitely do not know or recognize any ‘natural limit’ that could thwart the economic purpose that is in effect and being practiced: a market economy needs growth. The only question is why? Where does this absolute necessity come from?
A. Conflicting ways out of the recession
I. Culture War in America
II. Obama’s economic and financial therapy for the nation’s ailing economic base
III. The Republicans’ counterplans
IV. Worries and warnings about the catastrophic consequences of the political dispute help to intensify it
B. The U.S. has to be concerned about its money
I. The U.S. economy is the major exception in global capitalism
II. The identity between America’s national credit and the world’s capitalistic wealth has a price that has fallen due in the wake of the recent financial crisis
III. And the competitors are no longer the same either
Conclusion: New steps in implementing the crisis through the states’ crisis policies
One thing is clear to states as a result of the destruction of all sorts of capital, on whose success they and “we all” live: the services of financial institutions terminated through mismanagement are one, if not the, pillar of the common good. The economic capacity of the financial sector is to be maintained or, as the case may be, restored; the banks are to be enabled to use their financial power once gain. Their rescue is being carried out by the authorities providing the funds that the banks are authorized, and usually also able, to generate.
Now that the world’s biggest banks are collapsing and assets valued at many billions are vanishing into thin air, politicians, economic experts, and journalists worry about the effects of these collapses on such a thing as the “real economy.” This is noteworthy, for until just recently a difference between stock market prices and bank yields on the one hand, and the wealth that comes out of production and sale of useful things on the other hand, was entirely unknown.
One is supposed to imagine it roughly the following way: the crisis drags on because business simply hasn’t got going again. That’s because the banks, “lifeline of our economy,” aren’t supplying business people with the loans they need. They don’t do this because they are sitting on “lots of toxic assets,” which is why there is simply ”no more trust” between them nor in their dealings with the rest of the business world. So it’s clear that the state absolutely has to help them trust again, thereby helping all of us out of the crisis.
At least as far as the domestic agenda is concerned, the program for good governance has been settled all over Europe. All the nations that have become rich and important through their market economy, and want to remain so, need reforms. The necessity of these reforms is beyond doubt. The respective government leaders, otherwise committed to conserving their community in the face of disturbing changes, have themselves let it be known that there can be “no alternative” to the “trenchant,” “fundamental,” “extensive,” “permanent,” et cetera, reforms that they are planning. A state of emergency has come to the fore: the state’s budget is ailing, “the economy” is stagnating, and Europe’s important sites for capital investment aren’t what they used to be. All this demands state decrees that do away with disastrous hindrances to the nation’s business life. The damage done to the public good, which — as national budget, economic growth, and success in global competition — is supposed to be guaranteed by proper governmental action, has been found to be the undoubted result of expenses ponied up for the livelihood of people who either work, or else do not carry out this service due to their established uselessness.