I didn’t really like Bioshock a decade ago. In many ways it felt like a bloody cracking world in want of a game and story that did it justice. I got that it was trying to be cutting, but in most respects, it just felt incredibly forced. Andrew Ryan’s speeches sounded like the sort of economic dogmatist that you’d see head into the corridors of power in the name of conservatism – and even with my economic conservative leanings I find those most dogmatic about the discipline are the ones that understand it the least. In other words Andrew Ryan was just your standard economic madman; just not a particularly deep or well-written one.
Playing through the remaster in 2016 though – well that’s completely changed my perspective on it. Fact is Bioshock could not be more relevant right now. Because Donald Trump is trying to make the United States into quasi-Rapture.
And the catalysts for his rise in popularity on the back of his policies aren’t much different, either. He argues for low tax. He is defending good old hard-working American values and American jobs against the centralists in People’s Republic of China. The world is in economic turmoil and Trump believes he’s the one to save the United States from itself. “Is a man not entitled to the sweat of his own brow? “No” says Washington. It belongs to the poor”
What was that about not paying taxes making one smart, Donald?
The slow decline of the house that neoliberalism built. Near-zero inflation in a low-rate world. Slow growth. The rise of China. We’re in unprecedented economic territory. And just as the limitations of Keynesian economics were exposed in the high-inflation era of the 1970’s and 1980’s, we’re beginning to reach the limit of our current suite of economic tools. To quote former Bob Hawke in the late 1970’s, “it would seem to me…economics has reached a crisis point”.
We need to have conversations about perpetual economic growth. About population growth. About most of the fundamental assumptions that underpin our economic systems. About the effects of low cash rates on asset prices. The list goes on.
The scary thing is, the backlash against Trump’s lunacy means that sadly, we may never have them.
Quick Offloads are short posts when we need to get things off of our chests but – quite honestly – can’t be arsed writing the General Theory of Employment, Interest and Money. And on issues of economic management, well it’s probably best I keep my mouth shut. But please, would you kindly take potshots in the comments?