On Stephen D. King's "When the Money Runs Out: The End of Western Affluence," With a Nod to Gus Van Sant's "Promised Land"

So I’ve been reading Stephen D. King’s When the Money Runs Out: the End of Western Affluence, which seems like a perverse act. Of all the things to read in the world, why this? It’s mainly about macroeconomics, the global ebbs and flows of jobs, currencies, buying power, unemployment—all that cool stuff. (He said, tongue-in-cheek.) It’s a warning of sorts, that all our economic models and past data and experience won’t necessarily translate into the 21st century. At times he certainly seems on target. Today’s NY Times had an article about the high rate of unemployment in Europe, here, and it certainly fits within King’s bleak view of current and future economic prospects. What he doesn’t say (but at times implies) is that 21st century global capitalism is essentially broken, or a deeply flawed economic system. The problem is: It’s all we’ve got. Soon we’ll all be like the farmers in Gus Van Sant’s Promised Land, having to decide between leasing their land for fracking just to make some money, even when they know it may ruin the land. Matt Damon plays the rep for a fracking company who is trying to get the farmers in Pennsylvania (though it didn’t look exactly like Pennsylvania, as in the state where I live, but kind of?) to sign bargain lease agreements. When they push back and the deal seems in jeopardy, the company surreptitiously sends in a fake environmentalist to stir things up with lies, then the company uncovers the lies (that they created), and they look like the good guys. But Matt throws a monkey wrench in the works when he spills the beans at the end.  It’s no great film, but it did make the story personal and real. Even when they find out the company tricked them, it’s a bittersweet “victory” for truth. That still leaves them in a bind, and what can they do? When the Money Runs Out argues we’re all in this bind, though no doubt, some more than others.

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