I’m in New York right now and the feeling here is quite visibly one of panic. I’ve just met, quite randomly, three people who were helping their friends clear their desks. Apparently, 12,000 jobs went, just like that, and Wall Street represents 20% of the city’s jobs and something like 90% its tax base. So there’s a definite sense here of systemic crisis.
A great financial economist and historian called Michael Hudson talks about how the US economy is basically fictitious, based on pretend earnings and pretend values. This will only genuinely become a crisis of capitalism if people generally become aware that much of the growth and prosperity produced by capitalism is a fiction, and if the consensus about where the real global value lies shifts radically. In other words, if people stop believing that apparently wealthy countries actually are producing wealth.
I don’t immediately expect to be living in some kind of Mad Max world. But this could be the death knell of the time when we were all singing the beauties of free-market capitalism.