The Shape of Things to Come in Spain

Fundamental misunderstanding, when it comes from animals, is funny; we find the animals’ innocence in terms of “not getting it” endearing. Hence, the “animal jokes”. You’ve probably heard the old one about the horse turning to the jockey and saying: what are you hitting me for, there is no one behind us?!

Fundamental misunderstanding from people is not funny. It reeks of pathos, which is depressing.

It must have been over twenty years ago. I was waiting for a friend at the headquarters of then Citibank in New York. The bank had recently increased the minimum withdraw from its ATM machines from $20 to $40. A young woman came to withdraw what must obviously have been $20 and could not. She made a scene, complaining aloud to the bank staff, threatening that she would take her business elsewhere.

If she were a horse, the episode would have been funny. But as she was not, it was not: the spectacle of a young woman who thought she had money until she came head to head with the mass of finance capital.

I remembered all this because today’s New York Times ran an article about the austerity measures in Spain. It said in part:
Spaniards once thought their country was largely insulated from the debt crises in Ireland and Greece. Their mood has changed from giddy, when their homes tripled in value and they were protected by an elaborate safety net of public aid and family support, to grim.

The New York Times is a sleazy paper, a systemic falsifier of events, as coverage of the events of the past several days showed. And its reporters are as clueless as a horse.

You see, the focus, the aim, the central point of the crisis in Spain is precisely to smash the elaborate safety network of public aid. That is what the hoopla is all about. Without that destruction, Spaniards cannot be made to work for low wages, in the same way that without the destruction of the feudal system which made serfs homeless, they could not be made to toil in factories.

This will not happen tomorrow, or the next week, but will happen with the inevitability of night following day. The inevitability is there, in the internal logic of the very development that tripled home prices.

Thirty years from now, Spaniards will look back and will barely recognize their country. It will not be all bad. Some of them will be driving shinier cars and living in bigger houses. But they will also see homeless people in numbers that they do not presently see – or can imagine. The old trade-off stuff, you know. As for that famous family support? Well, that is partially a function of the elaborate social safety net. So it, too, will be gone. It will be every man for himself.

I am not preaching or haranguing or warning, merely stating an economic reality that Karl Marx used the wording of a “fish-blooded bourgeois doctrinaire” – “fish blooded” because what he “blurts out brutally” was accurate – to state succinctly:
In poor nations, the people are comfortable, in rich nations they are generally poor.

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