Our Crazy-Making Economy's Endgame: Festering Frustration Seeking an Outlet

The consequence of policies that exacerbate injustice, inequality and double-bind demands is a madness that will find a social and economic outlet somewhere, sometime.

We all know crazy-makers: people who make contradictory claims about reality, who say one thing and do another, who change their stories constantly to justify their own pursuit of self-interest, who demand the impossible of others while giving themselves unlimited excuses.

When they can't change reality to suit their purposes, they change their accounts of reality, and stick with the revised stories even when they are contradictory.

This describes the entire financial structure of the U.S.: crazy-making.

We all know the U.S. economy is diseased, and the Powers That Be are attempting to mask the sickness with contradictory accounts of reality.

To get ahead, you need a 4-year college diploma. But oops, the student debt you'll need to shoulder acts as a brake on getting ahead. And it turns out many of those who became debt-serfs to get a diploma actually end up in jobs that don't require a college education.

One reality--soaring student loan debt and diminishing value of the product, a college diploma--and two contradictory stories.

Systems theorist/anthropologist Gregory Bateson developed (with others) the concept of double bind, a psychological and social conflict in which contradictory demands generate a form of schizophrenia:

Unlike the usual no-win situation, the subject has difficulty in defining the exact nature of the paradoxical situation in which he or she is caught. The contradiction may be unexpressed in its immediate context and therefore invisible to external observers, only becoming evident when a prior communication is considered. Typically, a demand is imposed upon the subject by someone who they respect (such as a parent, teacher or doctor) but the demand itself is inherently impossible to fulfill because some broader context forbids it. For example, this situation arises when a person in a position of authority imposes two contradictory conditions but there exists an unspoken rule that one must never question authority.

Consider the schizophrenia-generating contradictions underpinning all U.S. economic policy.

We have to keep interest rates near-zero forever because the economy is weak, but the economy is strong--look at the low unemployment rate.

Well, which one is it? The official answer: both. The U.S. economy is both strong and weak at the same time. Interestingly, it's strong in terms of official measures of employment and jobs, but weak in financial terms.

This means there's nothing to be fixed for those working for a living, and everything to fix for financiers and banks, who are struggling due to weak financial fundamentals.

Meanwhile, corporate and financier profits are soaring to record levels and wages have stagnated for years. Wait a minute--weren't we just told that the financial fundamentals are weak, hence the need for zero interest rates for ever, and that job growth was strong?

These are internally inconsistent accounts of reality, i.e. crazy-making. Here are corporate profits--to the moon, baby:

Here are wages/salaries: going nowhere for 15 years (or 40 years, if we go back to the 1970s):

Financialization has enriched the few with access to free money for financiers and those who own assets favored by the Fed and left everyone earning a living in the dust:

The Federal Reserve insists on maintaining this crazy-making double bind because the stock market depends on both conditions being true at the same time: the economy must be expanding so profits can loft ever higher, but the economy must also be weak and ill so the Fed will continue its policies of zero interest rates (ZIRP) and free money for financiers that have pumped trillions of dollars into "risk-on" assets like stocks.

If either of these contradictory conditions is erased, the stock market will tumble, as neither a weak economy nor zero interest rates (ZIRP) alone is sufficient to maintain the stock market's current sky-high valuations: profits must continue rising and rates must stay zero to enable carry trades, stock buy-backs, and all the other financial finagling that has driven stocks into the stratosphere.

In effect, the Fed and all the other organs of propaganda are telling the American public: don't you dare trust your lying eyes, ears, mind and awareness of rising insecurity--believe us.

Crazy-making contradictions generate free-floating anxiety, frustration and rage that then seek an outlet. The essence of official crazy-making is that dissent--protests that the official stories are patently false--is suppressed, marginalized or ridiculed. This is the purpose of a militarized Police State--to suppress anything that questions authority and that might undermine the schizophrenic policies and propaganda.

The endgame of crazy-making is that just about anything can suddenly become an outlet for the rage, frustration and anxiety that is the only possible output of schizophrenic policies. A minor civil disturbance morphs into a major riot; a limited melee at a sports event metastasizes into a destructive free-for-all, and a peaceful gathering turns ugly seemingly without cause.

These are expressions of the social and economic double-binds that are being imposed on the citizenry as the last-ditch method of retaining control of the nation's wealth and power--both of which are flowing into the hands of the few at the expense of the many.

You can impose crazy-making policies and propagandize a schizophrenic economy, but you can't bottle up the resulting frustration, anxiety and rage forever. Our oligarchic Elite reckons it can suppress anything and everything with Police State tactics, but the madness they have created will not be so easily controlled.

The consequence of policies that exacerbate injustice, inequality and double-bind demands is a madness that will find a social and economic outlet somewhere, sometime, and probably at a moment when few in the Power Elite expect it.

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