Friday, September 19, 2008

Endgame for a Gilded Age

The financial crisis that grips the United States has the potential to transform American political economy. Whether that transformation helps the many or the few, historian Steve Fraser argues, depends on how you interpret our rolling disaster.

Our national economy, he points out, has become dangerously dependendent on the industries of finance, insurance and real estate. The federal goverment has a role to play in getting us out of this mess, but the shape of that role is an entirely political matter. In a recent post on Tom Dispatch, Fraser makes a point well worth remembering:
Washington's mission may, at this late date, be an even greater one than Roosevelt's New Deal faced. The government must figure out how to deploy its power to shift the flow of investment capital out of the mine-fields of speculative paper transactions and back into productive channels that will help meet the material needs of American society. Real value must be created in place of chimeras. In the meantime, we all have ringside seats -- in fact, far too close to the action for comfort -- as another gilded age is ending. What comes after is, in part, up to us.

To read more, check out Fraser's article "The End of a Gilded Age."

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