As mentioned before, there are a number of determinants or factors behind our social reality such as race, repression, economics, power, beliefs, and institutions which all have to be accounted for and brought together in the way of a comprehensive explanation or understanding of social reality. But the common thread which runs through all of these determinants or factors behind our social reality is the conclusion or the inference that what buoys and keeps the social reality up must also bring it down. Hence, the complexity, paradox, and uncertainty of our time. This conclusion, inference, and paradox of “what goes up must come down” is most pronounced in Karl Marx’s conclusion or inference regarding the basic relationship between capital and labor that is at the heart of our prevailing system and is in in turn is the relationship that perhaps determines or shapes all the other factors of our social reality.
As Marx argued: “Capital is…not only a sum of material products; it is a sum of commodities, of exchange values, of social magnitudes.” In turn, capital becomes capital by being “an independent social power, that is, as the power of a portion of society, by means of its exchange for direct, living labour power.” Creditors and central banks, for instance, demonstrate their ‘independent social power’ by virtue of becoming the main purveyor of credit, as certain economists and historians have highlighted. Leaders and policymakers then have to deflect attention away from this reality through propaganda and mania. As John Maynard Keynes once said: “It’s the art of statesmanship to tell lies but they must be ‘plausible lies.’” It follows that: “Once you enter the realm of plausible lies, you are in the realm of real-world policy.”
Certain scholars and thinkers have also drawn parallels between our current situation with the situation that developed in Rome as it approached its imperial collapse many centuries ago. As Michael Hudson wrote: “While the narrow ruling class benefited financially from Rome’s empire, the domestic debt burden led to constant civil warfare and helped concentrate landholdings into vast latifundia, which Pliny blamed for being ‘the ruin of Rome.’” Hudson added:
“Rome’s collapse into a Dark Age of subsistence production is the most relevant lesson to be drawn from ancient empire-building. Rome, with its imperial center’s domestic debt burden, polarization of wealth and bleeding of its allies, can be viewed as a precursor of today’s American empire. Rome’s resulting collapse into serfdom stands as a warning to civilization to avoid the dangers inherent in today’s similar financial and oligarchic polarization.”
Since World War II, the United States used its unipolar power in the international system to “subjugate” other economies and to thwart their ability to achieve “self-sufficiency” through various ways and means in an effort to prevent these economies from competing with the United States. Both economic and military instruments were used by the United States in order to foster and sustain this general state of dependence and subjugation on the part of other nations, all of which in turn drove the United States into the dangerous “debtor status” that it faces today.
But as Hudson noted, the United States has sought to turn its debt into a boon rather than a bane by getting other countries to lend their dollar inflows to the United States for “Treasury Securities” or “Treasury IOUs.” And in a sense, this circling or dancing around the debt in order to perpetuate an international system based on dependence and subjugation towards the United States through the diversion of foreign-held dollars for “Treasury IOUs” is a “House of Cards” that may collapse depending on how a largely complex, paradoxical, and uncertain situation plays out. One of the ways by which this delicate dance around the U.S. debt can collapse is if other countries decide that their economic interdependence – which the United States is separated from due to its geographical isolation and its largely independent market – translates into an alternative currency in order to settle their “mutual obligations.” In turn, this circling and delicate dance also has to take an evolving international system and a “multipolar” world into account, which means that changes and shifts are in the cards as a result of a delicate dance now becoming a walk on a tightrope for a number of the parties involved.