Saturday, December 20, 2008

Trust & confidence

Given all that is taking place around us, I have been giving a lot of thought to the notion of "confidence". Consumer confidence. Investor confidence. Real estate confidence. Citizen confidence in politicians and our political system. How can anyone have any confidence in the people and institutions that have pillaged people's pensions and other savings and investments, devalued their homes, cut deeply into their buying power and cut their jobs? We're supposed to have confidence in these high-flying millionaires, already so richly rewarded for their "mistakes" and their failed promises. We're supposed to trust them to get us out of this mess?

We are witness to another spike in the continuing transfer of wealth from working people to the very wealthy. First they got their massive tax cuts. Deregulation opened the door to legal and illegal ponzi schemes, unabated pollution & greenhouse gases and a shift of resources toward a war economy, particularly in the US. The bigger picture includes getting rid of or defanging unions in order to reduce living standards to those of the developing world. And we're supposed to trust them to put things right?

The auto deal says it all. Pump public money into a large fossil fuel burning industry while forcing workers to make concessions. Before the "crisis", we "couldn't afford" to take steps to try and shift our economy in greener and more sustainable directions. But we can find the money to carry on, business as usual.

The current economic mess is a product of the systemic, cyclical, ups and downs of the capitalist system and its never ending greed. The very government agencies that are supposed to protect us have been defanged while most politicians maintain a narrow view of "what's possible".

I came across this article today about "trust" by Richard Thieme and thought it had some good insights into this "phenomenon". While it doesn't directly address the environmental crisis facing the planet, some of the same dynamics are at play as greed trumps sanity in the race to avoid the cimate breaking point of a two degree rise in global temperatures.

The Betrayal of The Commons
The cornerstone of capitalism, it has been said, is a handshake...

Trust, not money, makes the world go around. Money is an emblem of the exchange of trust. It doesn't exist except as an invention. And trust has been broken...

Because of S&P, we dare not buy bonds, because who knows what they might be worth? Because of the SEC, we dare not invest in stocks or mutual funds or funds of funds because who knows what they might be worth? Because of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac and the investment banks with whom they slept and partied, who knows what those arcane and opaque investments might be worth?

After such knowledge, what forgiveness? Who will be the first to dare to believe the words of a leader or economist now? Who dares to pretend that the trauma that shocks us now is trivial or mild?

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