massacre in the marketplace
to this, Mark Barton's neighbour said: 'He was just a typical American
family man. He wasn't particularly friendly, but he seemed like a nice
enough man'", Old Possum said.
were sitting outside the café in the brittle winter sun, drinking
cider, reading the papers, and chewing over the latest mass murder in
the US of A.
was one of those disturbing events where all the great irrationalities
intersect in a moment of mad synergy -- a grim metaphor for the inevitable
end of the bubble economy.
was a scoutmaster who took his family to church every Sunday. He had
chucked in his trade as a chemist to get rich quick in the on-line share
trading revolution sweeping America.
was also mad. The day before he rampaged through two on-line trading
rooms he battered his estranged wife to death and killed his two children.
He had probably murdered his first wife and her mother six years before,
according to police.
Atlanta, talking heads stood in front of cameras and gibbered things
like "... the daunting task of sorting order from the chaos"
and "Americans are asking how it could happen", but elsewhere
in the world people made cruel jokes about the dead speculators. Like
the parson's egg they said, some parts of the tragedy were really quite
trading means there'll be a lot more of this", I said. "It'll
be a worse problem than on-line gambling. Where people at the margins
have 24-hour access to instant bankruptcy, many will crack up and they'll
take a lot of people with them. And the spread of 'people's capitalism'
will bankrupt millions when the bubble bursts."
trading isn't a new phenomena, it's a dangerous extension of an old
one", said Old Possum. "One of the things that triggered the
crash of '29 was that during the late '20s, while the blue-chip stocks
were on their dizzy climb to disaster, there was an influx of hundreds
of thousands of small players. Brokerage offices opened in little towns
all over America and even on ocean liners. Hundreds of thousands of
people were playing the market and when they all panicked at once it
was like a tidal wave."
all this stuff about the internet being the 'Second Industrial Revolution'?"
I asked, passing him another cider.
are missing two things. The first is that all new technologies are hyped
by those who have a stake in them. Remember radio? It's a bit player
among today's media, but in the 1920s it was going to totally change
our whole way of life. Radio Corporation was Wall Street's glamour stock.
In March 1929 it peaked at $114. But even before the worst day of the
crash, it had tricked downhill to $60 and by 1932 it was worth just
$2.50. Then, after the war, radio was pushed into the background by
TV. For all we know, the internet's bull run might already have peaked."
you said there were two things."
second is a lot more subversive. New technologies always lead us in
unsuspected directions. Remember Gutenburg. Around 1450, he perfected
metal type and the printing press. His first print job was a couple
of hundred copies of the Bible. To the establishment it must have seemed
an innocent endeavour, even a boon, but it wasn't long before secular
knowledge spread by cheap printed books shook the foundations of the
how's that related to the internet?" I asked.
the only real alternative to the Great God Market would be the distribution
of goods and services by some sort of universal rationing system, but
until now there just hasn't been a communications network that was open
to all and instantaneous enough to make it work well. If the internet
is linked to the databases of industry, everybody could have access
to everything there is to know about supply and demand and we could
control it rationally."
first the internet will help burst the bubble", I said. And that
was where we left it.