Sunday, December 2, 2012

The Other Cliff

We had occasion to listen to David J. Rothkopf in an interview he gave on C-SPAN yesterday. Rothkopf is an astute political and economic observer. He was on because a new book of his has just issued. It is entitled: Power, Inc.: The Epic Rivalry Between Big Business and Government — and the Reckoning that Lies Ahead. In a nutshell, he pictures different kinds of capitalism competing in the world today, differentiated by the degree to which they internalize the need to produce public well being (“happiness”). The various competing capitalisms use government as an agency more or less—and the likeliest to win the big race are those, according to Rothkopf, that seem to be aiming for the right balance. Government is essential in the mix; GDP growth is not a good or exclusive measure. An article he wrote for the New York Times (link) gives the flavor of his thought.

It was the sort of expansive, big picture, and comprehensive view of things one rarely hears. Brigitte and I were nodding in approval. Rothkopf reached way out in time, tracing his theme. Looking way forward is, of course, also part of any comprehensive view. The narrow view came up in a phoned-in question. Alas, C-SPAN is always giving voice to the public—to my irritation. The question was about the Fiscal Cliff. Rothkopf put it nicely into perspective as a short-term phenomenon and went on looking way ahead.

After it was over I noted that, ranging well out into this century and possibly beyond it, our author saw a relatively optimistic picture. The epic rivalry would be resolved—if not necessarily in our favor unless we, too, reformed our ways and found a way to strive for wide equity for the population—rather than vast profits for a tiny elite. And I sighed. Rothkopf had dealt with the Fiscal Cliff quite well, but at least in this interview, he didn’t mention the Other Cliff. It is the fact that—by about the end of this century—we will have used up our fossil fuels. And that will be a genuine game-changer. I have a very difficult time imagining world population remaining at 8, 9 billion after that happens—even during the run-up to that day. Capitalistic economies competing? In the short term, perhaps, yes. But what about the elephant in the room that we seem unable to see? Not to take anything away from Rothkopf’s excellent presentation, but his next book, I suggest, should be titled: Power, Inc. — Not.

No comments:

Post a Comment