For weeks now the global economic crisis has been the talking point. It's rare to find stories about the impact this long predicted crash has had on ordinary people. Even harder to find in the welter of words about this latest Market meltdown, an exploration of the major driver: greed. Or the impact this latest fiscal dive might have on democracy.
But last week Huffpost.com, an influential American website, provided insights other than those relating to institutional self-interest. Benjamin R. Barber wrote of the US situation:
So although it was bad loans and greedy bankers and stupid hedge fund managers and ignorant investors who made the mess, it has been four decades of de-democratization that has done the real damage. A haemorrhaging of social capital that nobody noticed because government was supposed to be the problem and markets the solution. Runaway Thatcherism and exuberant Reaganism railed against government until citizens were literally talked out of their democracy.
In New Zealand other voices have raised concerns about the same erosion. Yet every day the financial narratives are generally about institutional self-interest. Perhaps that's because when the dollar becomes the centre of every transaction as it did in New Zealand in 1984, people become commodities, impersonal numbers in a balance sheet prepared by the same New Right influences mentioned by Barber.
Some day historians might look back over the past 30 years and ask how it was that we could blind ourselves to the flaming obvious: that markets - especially when they failed and became parasitic - stood for our worst qualities.
They might rue the fact that just when we needed to embrace other more enduring values like compassion for each other and the Planet, we clung to beliefs which history had long ago told us were fake. We consumed more, made less and in the end got, well, what we deserved, the price of endorsing a freedom fantasy. Trouble is those people writing those histories about that barren legacy might be our grandchildren.