Saturday, February 4, 2012

End of the Kali Yuga: 2

The Kali Yuga will not end because a great cycle in the ancient Mayan calendar draws to an close in 2012 or the heavens signal to astrologers that epochal change is afoot.

It will end because of a concerted global effort by people sick of the malignant reality we now endure.

There are three prerequisites to such an effort: a general awareness of the need for change, an understanding of what must be done, and a realistic hope of success.

The first condition has already been met: the varied economic, social, environmental and political crises of the last decade have created a global awareness that the world order is violently and grossly unjust, inefficient to the point of criminality, and increasingly dangerous to all life on the planet.

The second condition has not been met. As the broadcast debates about Capitalism at the recent World Economic Forum at Davos made clear, even the leaders of the existing world order don’t have a clue about what must be done. The problem is complex and profound but simply stated: corporate capitalism as a business model is obsolete. Just as the invention of the automobile pushed the horse and buggy into history, the Information and Communications revolutions have pushed into obsolescence the once formidable power of centralized, hierarchically managed corporations.

This has happened because the Network has dethroned Capital. The perennially corrupt grip of corporations on “other people’s money” that Adam Smith fulminated about has been broken and the “invisible hand” he conceived of is now, at long last, able to guide the Free Market to serve the greater good. (The "invisible hand" has been much derided by ignorant people, but Smith, who first rose to fame with The Theory of Moral Sentiments, was undoubtedly correct: human beings are inherently moral, and a free market would reflect that quality.) 

To understand the new economic realities of the Information Age we have only to consider the Eurozone Crisis. It exists only because the small corporate elite that created and profits from the problem of sovereign debt is holding everyone else hostage to its own interests. European bankers have the temerity to insist that millions of ordinary people be thrown out of work and societies as a whole be subjected to austerity so that they can continue to rake in obscene profits; but like cartoon characters that run off a cliff and do not realize it until they look down, they no longer have the ground under them.

The power of bankers has been rooted in their capacity to concentrate and command the money that greases the wheels of commerce: Main Street, as the saying goes, is dependent on Wall Street. However, the Network has transformed that equation. The capital necessary for businesses to function can be raised from millions of ordinary people rather than from small groups of rich money lenders. If bands of entrepreneurs organize networks to do that, they can replace Wall Street and revolutionize the world.

It is not just banks that will feel the revolution of Democratized Capital. The entire housing industry can be made self-financing and the very concept of a “mortgage” – the word is of French origin, and literally means “engaged to the death” – rendered archaic.

To understand how this can be done, consider the United States “housing crisis.” It is essentially a crisis of liquidity: in the aftermath of a “real estate bubble” that drove up house prices beyond the reach of most people, the banks responsible for the situation went bust and had to be bailed out with taxpayer money. Prices are still too high for most people to buy, and banks unwilling to put themselves at risk again; as the housing sector stagnates, the rest of the economy has also slowed.

The simplest solution to the problem would be to create an online housing lottery, with arrangements for winners to sell houses they did not want to occupy; the United States has a licensed and regulated brokerage industry that should make such an arrangement relatively easy. This will have two quick results: housing prices will dip to realistic levels without sellers who paid inflated prices taking a hit; and the market as a whole will revive, with a tonic effect on the rest of the economy.

Such a solution would be impossible without the Internet and the Worldwide Web, which have made the market for housing as liquid as those for stocks and bonds. They have also flattened the playing field. If the lottery system of housing finance is properly institutionalized the whole concept of “low-income housing” would become meaningless. Further, the money generated by the lottery could be used to improve existing housing stock and modernize urban areas that are now languishing from lack of investment.

Networks of entrepreneurs and activists have the potential to transform every aspect of the national and international affairs. They could vastly accelerate the economic and social development of poor countries by creating an accessible global architecture for knowledge-sharing and technical support. Funding development could become much less bureaucratic, much less prone to the "leakage" that is now a major problem. The delivery of aid, both financial and technical, could be finely targeted.

More broadly, the entire United Nations System could be reformed and the processes of international cooperation brought down to the community level. In a networked world tyrannical governments would be at a huge disadvantage and could not survive. In every aspect of global affairs, the vicious cycles of special interests using violence to achieve narrow ends would be replaced with virtuous spirals benefiting societies as a whole.

As this process gets under way, people will be able to see that the end of the Kali Yuga is not an idle hope but a realistic prospect, and that will spur transformations that today we consider Utopian.

In Part 3: the profound possibilities for personal transformation as we exit the Kali Yuga.

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