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Unpredictable Disruptions Will Occur

"The world is a scene of changes; to be constant in nature were inconstancy." - Cowley

All descriptions of matter and energy, all descriptions of everything, are temporary.

Marxists know that everything is in a constant state of change. Most changes are easy enough to assimilate into our lives. "Common sense," the accumulation of past experiences, helps us adjust as changes occur. Sometimes, we can anticipate the changes. We can, for example, draw a graph indicating the direction of a trend; then we can assume its next movement.

Outside the realm of "common sense" lie changes that we cannot fully anticipate because they are unusual, or because they have never happened before, or because they are too enormous. These changes often catch us flat-footed.

Marxists speak of the accumulation of small "quantitative" changes that, eventually, lead to a change in "quality." Here's an easy example: we know that we are accumulating age -- or getting older -- constantly. Sooner or later, we know, these little quantitative changes will add up to a completely different situation. Our bodies will stop functioning altogether! That's a qualitative change. It is hard for us to grasp.

Here's another example: In the 1920s the American stock market was extremely good to investors. They could see certain weaknesses developing, but predicting a stock market crash was very hard to do. In 1929, millions of investors paid a heavy price for not being able to anticipate a qualitative change.

Qualitative changes are virtually impossible to predict. Even if we predict one, we have difficulty trying to figure out how it will affect everything else. And yet, a long view of history and a little dialectical thinking reveals that qualitative changes are coming, just as they always have.

Below are a few of the trends, quantitative changes, evident today. What qualitative changes may occur? How soon? How might they affect our overall situation?

* All branches of the American military are falling short of their recruitment goals

* In the advanced countries, people are living longer than they used to

* The threat of new terrorist attacks in America grows. The Bush Administration would likely use such developments even more effectively than they used the attack on the World Trade Center

* Japan is diversifying its currency holdings away from U.S. dollars. Euros are growing popular as the best currency to hold.

* Medicare, Medicaid, and the Pension Benefit Guarantee Corporation are approaching dangerous shortfalls. The right-wing government may let them fail

* Several Southamerican countries have ousted pro-U.S. governments and elected more progressive ones

* Corporate CEO's, "insider" traders, are selling their stocks

* Latinos are the fastest-growing ethnic group in America

* The amount of equity held by American homeowners has steeply fallen. A "bubble-bust" in real estate is imminent

* American households hold record amounts of debt. The government holds record amounts of debt, much of which is held outside the United States

* American workers are extending their hours of work and retiring later in life. French workers just lost the law requiring a 35-hour work week

* American union organizers are bringing in more women than men

* The polar ice cap is slowly melting

* Gasoline prices are creating new record highs

* American wealth is being transferred from the poorest strata to the richest

* Radioactive materials continue to accumulate and there is still no method of disposal

* Education and information accessibility is increasing all over the world. An increasing number of people have access to computers and the internet

* Corporations are taking over the world's drinking water and selling it as a commodity

You can probably think of many more. Should we ignore these important trends because we can't accurately predict the timing and the nature of future qualitative changes? Should we do our best to anticipate the changes? Do you think it is possible for capitalist leadership to extend the good trends and avoid the disastrous ones? Is it time to consider an economic system based on rational thinking?

--Jim Lane

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