With all the talk about how to stimulate it, you’d think that the economy is a giant clitoris.... The immediate challenge...is how best to get the economy engorged and throbbing again.
The joke works, too, if the economy were a giant penis. Either way, politicians' desire to stimulate our economic lives is the politics of the pimp, a $1200 come-on from the Wall Street john. For most of us struggling in the middle classes, all this economic stimulation will produce at best fleeting pleasure, consumerist titillation, climaxed at the cash register, and usually ending there. To be sure, $1200 is not nothing, which is what we would otherwise get, what we usually get. But is that what we really want? Will such consumerist titillation change anyone's lives?
Even if this stimulation works and gets the economy throbbing again, the politicos' obsession with the consumerist fetish doesn't begin to address deeper questions:
- Does economic growth really make us wealthier?
- Does it make our world better?
- Does it make us happier?
2) Even if our politicians won't connect the economy to the environment, many people, especially in places like Santa Barbara, are now beginning to realize that a stimulated, throbbing economy predicated largely on the dizzying production and consumption of stuff ain't natural. Global economic growth, especially in China and India, is stretching resources and stressing the planet. Choose your Armageddon: peak oil or global warming. Rather than addressing the question of sustainability, politicians can only think to provoke our consumerist fetish in order to stimulate unsustainable economic growth.
3) Finally, fortunately, is the question of happiness. As Bill McKibben argues with grace and hope, "the more we nurture the essential humanity of our economy, the more we will recapture our own." He advocates sustainable, local economies, that value connections to people rather than wealth as the source of human happiness. Why work so hard for money if it doesn't make us happy? Why destroy the environment if there's no happiness in it? Why do we focus on our consumerist fetish when what we really want is so much bigger and more human?
I'm not advocating that our leaders do nothing to prevent recession or depression. I also have to struggle to feel the hope promised by local economies in some murky, idealistic, post-apocalyptic future. I'm not sure what the answers are. But I'm not turned on by stimulating economic growth or tricked by the john's promise of $1200.