Harvey from space...
Harvey from space... NASA

Texans are in for a big shock. The market cannot handle this and future climate change-related catastrophes. Private insurance companies plainly see the writing on the wall. The storms have been increasing in frequency and force over the past 6 years and diminishing their precocious revenues. This summer, they got the governor of Texas, Greg Abbott, to sign a law that removes penalties for stalling or not responding to claims. This law goes into effect on September 1. (The insurance companies are certainly wondering why Harvey could not wait one week more.) But if you own a home whose roof was destroyed by Harvey's winds, and JPMorgan or State Farm or Allstate or Farmers Insurance is your insurer, you have to file the claim by Friday or you risk not getting paid for the damage.

The main penalty that will be removed, by way of tort reform (meaning, insurance companies argued that the new law has nothing to do with increased climate-related risks, and everything to do with consumers making too many frivolous claims), is the addition of high interest on claims that are finally paid after a long delay. That kind of money makes insurers act fast. The enervation of this punishment will energize insurance companies. They'll have nothing to fear. After Friday, they can tranquilly sit on your papers and just wait for you to go insane or end up on the street.

What all of this comes down to is the blunt fact that private insurance (the free market) can't operate in a normal manner (accumulating capital) in regions being rapidly and violently transformed by global warming. And the government, which provides flooding insurance, will be all that's left for the citizens of climate-prone regions to cling to. Indeed, if your house was destroyed by Harvey's water (government insurance) and not by its wind (private insurance), you are in luck. You do not have to file your claim in a state of panic.

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Yesterday, Donald Trump stood on a fire engine and told devastated Texans that the government is working as hard and as fast as it can to get them to back in their homes and normal lives. The emptiness of the president's head was matched by the emptiness of his words. The terminal point of American capitalism (white baseball cap is selling for $40) stood on the edge of a world-historical catastrophe and said all that it could say: nothing. It could not say the truth. It would never tell Texans that Harvey and climate change will change the whole city and region. There is no going back to the home of the past. All there is is the future: how a famously unregulated city will become more and more regulated, how the location and construction of houses and infrastructure will be planned, and how the government's flooding and climate policies will be reorganized. In short, in the age of global warming, socialism will no longer enter through the backdoor (flood insurance policies that are approved by the National Association of Home Builders) but come through the front door (flood risk policies that are not approved by National Association of Home Builders or the GOP). Trump's voiding of Obama's Flood Risk Rules can only be temporary.

Expect the socialism of the Depression years to be called back into existence to ease the ever increasing political pressure from climate-related misery and disenchantment. But it won't end there. The socialism of the Second World War, with its mass mobilization of action and the displacement and tight management of the market economy has to be next. But global warming is not something that ends in victory. This is what made 20th-century American socialism so brief (30 years)—the war was not long and bad enough. By the 1970s, the class that was decimated by two wars and a market crash (read Thomas Piketty's Capital in the Twenty-First Century on this head), the rentiers (those who make money from financial assets), and whose decimation expanded the American middle class at a scale never before seen in history, returned to power. It has been their world since the 1980s.

Climate change, however, is the limit that capitalism cannot transform into a barrier. There is no getting over or under it. Catastrophe, rather than euthanasia, will extirpate the rentier class. The very violence of this extinction (its terrific size and force) is in fact the source of leftist melancholy. As with the great wars, the destruction of the rentier class shall be the blood of the poor. A sad socialism is inevitable.