Editor's note: This contribution by the late journalist I.F. Stone first appeared in our January 1975 magazine.
Excerpted from the August issue of The Progressive magazine
What if the bailout actually works, what if the financial sector is saved and the economy returns to the course it was on before the crisis struck? Is that what we want? And what would that world look like? The answer is that it would look like Sarah Palin. Hear me out, this is not a joke.
Palin was the last clear expression of capitalism-as-usual before everything went south. That’s quite helpful because she showed us—in that plainspoken, down-homey way of hers—the trajectory the U.S. economy was on before its current meltdown. The core of her message was this: Those environmentalists, those liberals, those do-gooders are all wrong. You don’t have to change anything. You don’t have to rethink anything. Keep driving your gas-guzzling car, keep going to Wal-Mart and shop all you want. The reason for that is a magical place called Alaska. Just come up here and take all you want. “Americans,” she said at the Republican National Convention, “we need to produce more of our own oil and gas. Take it from a gal who knows the North Slope of Alaska, we’ve got lots of both.”
And the crowd at the convention responded by chanting and chanting: “Drill, baby, drill.”
Watching that scene on television, with that weird creepy mixture of sex and oil and jingoism, I remember thinking: “Wow, the RNC has turned into a rally in favor of screwing Planet Earth.” Literally.
But what Palin was saying is what is built into the very DNA of capitalism: the idea that the world has no limits. She was saying that there is no such thing as consequences, or real-world deficits. Because there will always be another frontier, another Alaska, another bubble. Just move on and discover it. Tomorrow will never come.
This is the most comforting and dangerous lie that there is.
… Capitalism can survive this crisis. But the world can’t survive another capitalist comeback.
Naomi Klein is the author of The Shock Doctrine, The Rise of Disaster Capitalism. This article was adapted from her speech on May 2 at The Progressive's 100th anniversary conference.
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