Market Speak

There is nothing like money to get people really enthusiastic. Here are excerpts from a French intellectual and journalist giving his two cents on the global-economy-credit-liquidity-crunch-property issue.

The original is in French, hence the Stulted Stylisations.

Money–essential to the spirit of peace–congealed, like blood in veins.

Credit–this fine word is also expressive of people’s faith in others–like a machine that jammed, and then stopped.

Confidence–the famous “confidence” that is also integral to the pact among citizens and the reasons it must be perpetuated–like a spell that is evaporating.

One recalls “Leviathan,” Rousseau’s “Social Contract,” de la Boetie’s “Discourse on Voluntary Servitude”: theories that had almost fallen out of view but in fact described what is taking place now in plain view, during a worldwide crisis unprecedented in the history of our various capitalisms.

Is man a predator of man? Does the fear of this predator slumber within us? An anxiety, formerly concealed by a poorly applied varnish of civilization, about a state of nature that is re-emerging? Consider the princes of finance, once so polite, so complicit, so civilized, who have been facing each other at the edge of the abyss, waiting to see who will be the next to fall; consider that dance of wolves, the ferocious ballet of battered predators sniffing at each other, detecting the scent of death on their neighbors, coveting their remains; consider the tango of white-hot hate that has been discreetly called the “drying up of interbank credit.”

It is as though we have been watching a deadly dance around a fire, where those same people who, through their irresponsibility, devastating egoism and, it must be said, intelligence, turned mad and led the financial world toward implosion, thinking that they could pull themselves out of the furnace by pushing the others in first.

They are all feeling their way, stumbling along. Many leaders have had a terrible time avoiding here a gaffe, a rhetorical stumble there, at quelling the nearly imperceptible bodily ticks that betray one’s vertigo.

by Bernard-Henri Lévy