Wednesday, February 04, 2009
A Wander Round the Economic Crisis
“The only function of economic forecasting is to make astrology look respectable”. That, at any rate, was what the economist JK Galbraith once said. His point being that economists are terrible at prediction. How many economists predicted the current downturn say 3 years ago? I don’t remember reading any such predictions, though obviously as the sub-prime crisis developed into the credit crunch and then into collapsing banks, more and more people could see a downturn coming.
I don’t think that many astrologers would have predicted the ferocity of the current downturn, but I think any half-way literate astrologer would have predicted some sort of recession or correction as Pluto entered Capricorn. That in itself doesn’t give us a privileged understanding. It just means there is a magic box that we know how to work.
I think where astrology can deepen our understanding is that it sometimes forces us to look again at what is happening. Why should there be a recession in 3 years time when the economy seems to be booming? Our magic box tells us it’s coming, so what factors are happening right now that people are not looking at? Whether it is people or world events, you get a very creative and interesting situation when the apparent story is one thing, and the astrology says another thing.
Anyway, one politician who is honest enough to say he doesn’t know what is going on economically is Gordon Brown. There’s no road map to economic recovery, he said. I don’t think any of us know where this thing is going. Collectively we have had this axe above our heads for some months now, as politicians make dire warnings about how bad things are going to get. People seem to be carrying on as before, there still seems to be plenty to eat and plenty of fuel for our cars etc, and there isn’t mass unemployment, even though it’s up a bit and some people are losing their homes.
But there’s still this big shadow over us. We know this thing is deepening, and we don’t know how far it’s going to go. There are parallels with the 1930s, in terms of both events and astrology. But there are now other factors as well which change the situation: not just increased globalisation, but the environmental issue and looming shortages of fuel and commodities.
Economists differ on how long this recession is going to last – some say one year, some say 2 years and so on. What astrology tells us is that it’s not like that: Uranus is about to start squaring Pluto, and that means we are not going back to the same old world in a year or two, with a few safeguards in place to keep the banks under control. It is not like the 1930s Uranus-Pluto square either, because that was the closing square of a cycle. The coming configuration is the opening square of the cycle that began in the 60s. So something very new, seeded in the 1960s, is going to be coming about. A lot of the ideas that seemed revolutionary then – the environmental movement, the reactions against modern materialism and American imperialism, equality for women and for black people – will be coming to fruition. The election of Obama as the first black President is an early sign of things to come under this square, as is his promise to develop non-fossil fuel energy sources.
So it won’t just be a matter of getting the economy back on keel. A load of other things will have to be factored in as well that can no longer be ignored.
Though we can’t know where it’s all headed, the chart for the Ingress of Pluto into Capricorn last year keeps me optimistic. It’s particularly the stellium of Venus, Jupiter and Pluto in Capricorn trine to Saturn that I like. The Saturn/Capricorn emphasis speaks of hard work and limitations, but also achievement. Venus in Cap speaks of a proportionate attitude to money, and Jupiter the belief we can do it, the optimism that if we keep at it we will get there.
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So I think we’ll get there OK. It may take 10 years, who knows, and we may go through a deep recession, but this thing is going somewhere that will be ultimately OK and very solid.
For now, the politicians are just having to do their best to stop the slide into recession/depression, while at the same time acknowledging the limitations to their knowledge of where the crisis is headed. In both the US and the UK you have the more right-wing politicians saying the governments need to cut taxes and government spending and sit this thing out. And the more left-wing politicians – who happen to be in power and calling the shots in both countries – are both saying no, you need to pour in borrowed government money to stimulate the economy out of recession.
I don’t know who is right, and if there even is a ‘right’ answer. The Republican/Tory approach seems to me to be a bit heartless, as it is likely to lead to mass unemployment. The US took many years to leave behind the 1930s Depression, and it was government spending in World War II that ultimately sorted it.
So it seems to me that historically, Obama’s approach of increased spending is the one most likely to work. And within that his emphasis on e.g. infrastructure re-building is in tune with Pluto in Capricorn and its emphasis on solid foundations; and, as I said, his plans to create alternative energy sources is in tune with Uranus-Pluto.
Barack Obama is now reaching a critical point in his Presidency in his attempts to get his economic package through the Senate. He got it through the House of Representatives, but that was easy because he has a considerable majority. No Republicans voted for the package. In the Senate his majority is slimmer and he needs some Republican support. Whether he gets any will be a sign not just of how bloody-minded the Republicans are feeling, but more importantly it will be a sign of Obama’s stature as a President.
Lots of politicians can give good speeches, and anyone can have good ideas for the country. It’s getting your measures passed and then implemented that is the hard bit. You have to be able to get the other side – or at least some of them – to go along with you. This requires considerable leadership skills, because why should someone who doesn’t agree with you go along with you?
On election day in November, Saturn was exactly opposite Uranus, making the first of 5 crossings over a 2 year period. So this series of oppositions is going to be very significant for the early part of Obama’s Presidency. It is interesting that the second exact opposition, on 5th Feb, is occurring as Obama faces this crucial test of his leadership abilities. An opposition is about opposition, but out of that you can get a coming together.
This Saturn-Uranus aspect is happening very literally in US politics. It is the conservative wing (Saturn) versus the progressive wing (Uranus), it is Republicans versus Democrats. The opposition is now exact, and the Republicans are not playing ball at all. Not a single vote from them in the House. This scenario was always possible due to the exactness of the Opposition in the election chart. Whoever got elected was going to have to deal with an unusually partisan Congress. The next few days, therefore, may well give us a measure of the calibre of the US’s new President.
Meanwhile Europe is screaming ‘protectionism’ at America because of Obama’s proposal only to allow American steel to be used for rebuilding its infrastructure. It can be hard to get an intelligent discussion around this issue because ‘protectionism’ has become an automatic sin. Just as you weren’t supposed to even think about regulating the markets - and look where that got us – so too are we not supposed to even think about protectionist measures, by which I mean a country favouring its home-produced goods over those from foreign countries. It’s just another ideology that reached its peak in our recent age of ideology, Pluto in Sagittarius. We are now in ‘what works’ Capricorn. So these dogmas are now having to be re-examined to see if they are practical.
Capricorn is about boundaries, so a return to more protectionism would be a natural interpretation for Pluto’s new sign. Just as the dogma of deregulation was a myth, so too is the dogma of free trade a myth. There was always loads of regulation in the financial markets, there just wasn’t enough of it. Similarly there has always been loads of protectionism. Europe and the USA are always having spats over it. And I think there can be a lot of good things about protectionism, particularly if you are an emerging market. How can your industries develop if you are flooded with goods from countries that already know how to make what you are trying to make, and can therefore probably do it cheaper? This dogma has crippled many developing countries. The US itself was fiercely protectionist when it was starting to grow its own economy, and rightly so.
The only argument I can see for free trade is if you are worshipping that other dogma, ‘growth’, in which the world economy and individual economies always have to keep growing, and there is no such thing as contraction or readjustment, only ‘negative growth’! If an economy is producing enough wealth for everyone’s needs, then why do you need to keep growing it? And yes, if wealthy countries between them have low trade barriers, they will overall produce more wealth. But now is not the time for this. Now is the time to take measures to keep people working, and to emphasise basic, rather than luxury industries. I think it also about self-reliance, another Capricornian virtue. It’s undermining to a country’s confidence if it becomes too reliant on others producing its goods. And it also produces an alienation from the means of production and from the products themselves.
I’m not arguing for absolute protectionism, far from it. Trade between countries has its own important place. I just think a shift in that direction is necessary for now, just like the banks need a few more rules.