Turning the Economy
into a Casino
DAVID B. MATIAS
SOPHIA V. BURRESS
The events of 2008 are unprecedented in the history of civilization. Never before have so many people been affected so dramatically and has so much economic wealth been destroyed in a matter of weeks, days, and even minutes. Yet today, years after these events, we still have an incomplete understanding of the causes and an even lesser understanding of the impact. The underlying currents of neglect and greed, amoral—if not immoral—bankers, and political corruption are easy targets in the aftermath of the collapse. It seems as if culpability is so widespread and runs so deep that placing blame on specific entities only opens one up to criticism.
The premise of this essay is that an insightful analysis of the crash recognizes the tectonic, almost glacier-like, changes in society. We attempt to explain these events to the best of our ability using both the realms of political and economic theory. No one realm can handle the intricacies of the situation: combined, they begin to explain the interplay that created a third realm of modern finance and its agent, the financial services industry.
At the heart of the financial industry’s growth since World War II is the belief that our value to society is found in our bank accounts. This growth has its origins in the failure of our politicians to effectively limit and control the unbridled and ultimately destructive growth of finance. In the context of the transition to a consumerist society in which we consume three dollars for every four dollars of production, the symbiotic growth of consumerism and financialization provided for extraordinary asset inflation and economic collapse.