With a higher propensity to invest comes the debt-driven crisis that Minsky predicted, and which we experienced in 2008. However, something that Minsky did not predict, but which did happen in the real world, also occurs in this model: the crisis is preceded by a period of apparent economic tranquillity that superficially looks the same as the transition to equilibrium in the good outcome. Before the crisis begins, there is a period of diminishing volatility in unemployment, as shown in Figure 4: the cycles in employment (and wages share) diminish, and at a faster rate than the convergence to equilibrium in the good outcome shown in Figure 3.
We can look back and identify any number of individual decisions taken and not taken that made this hurricane such a social disaster. But the larger picture is more than the sum of its parts. It is not a radical conclusion that the dimensions of the Katrina disaster owe in large part not just to the actions of this or that local or federal administration but the operation of a capitalist market more broadly, especially in its neo-liberal garb. The refusal to tackle global warming is rooted in the global power of the petroleum and energy corporations which fear for their profits and which, not coincidentally, represent the social class roots of the Bush administration’s power; the New Orleans population were vulnerable not because of geography but because of long term class and race abandonment – poverty – exacerbated by the dismantling of social welfare by Democratic and Republican administrations alike; the incompetence of FEMA preparations expressed cocooned ruling class comradery, cronyism and privilege rather than any concern for the poor and working class; and the reconstruction looks set to capitalize on these inequalities and deepen them further. Not at any point in the next few decades will African Americans again account for two-thirds of New Orleans’ population.
Suicide is an age-old problem, one that is unlikely to be solved with any individual policy changes or technological innovations. The causes, conditions, and means of suicide are too diverse, and the problem too widespread, to imagine that we will ever prevent this problem, in the same way we’ve been able to prevent many diseases through the widespread availability of vaccination. Instead, we’ll have to chip away at it steadily, trying to rescue more and more people out of poverty and hopelessness through robust redistributive social programs and through education and awareness-raising. We’ll also need to actually invest in our mental health system, to identify those who need help and provide such help to those who seek it. To do so, we should have the national conversation we’ve put off for too long and become more comfortable discussing a topic that still retains a powerful taboo. The time is now; suicide has already cost us far too much.