Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Peter Radford — Quote: Capitalism

While preparing for a speech here I came across this:
“The shrinking of the middle class is not a failure of capitalism. It’s a failure of government. Capitalism is doing exactly what it was designed to do: concentrating wealth in the ownership class … That’s the natural drift of the relationship between capital and labor, and it can only be arrested by an activist government that chooses to step in as a referee.”
That’s Ed McClelland writing in Slate. 
It’s also the point I have been making here for ages. The conflict between capitalism and democracy needs to be managed. We cannot leave either unattended. Unfortunately America has, for four decades or so, bent over backwards to privilege capitalism over democracy. The result is the ongoing economic crisis that we continue to live through. 
It also accounts for the egregious levels of inequality we are suffering through and which threaten our social cohesion. perhaps it will take the demise of the middle class to focus voters on the need to re-establish a balance between the two. In the meantime it behooves us on the left to remember that we have the antidote to capitalism at hand. It is a force that allows us to constrain capital and make it work for all of us and not just the ownership class. And it is a force that allows us to accomplish the redistribution of the fruits of economic advance without risking the loss of that advance. Nor does it rely on exaggerated or extravagant claims that its utopian rivals are built upon. Nowhere within it are claims of great historic movements towards salvation that inevitably deteriorate into authoritarian dictatorship. Nor are there naive reductive claims of individualism that bear no relation to reality. 
We can bend the arc of capitalism to our will if we wish. But to do that we must protect democracy. And in recent years we have overlooked that protecting democracy is an ongoing process not something that once done is done forever. 
Our complacency has as much to do with the triumph of plutocracy as the desire for power of the ownership class has.…
"The price of freedom is eternal vigilance." If a people doesn't value democracy enough to protect it, it will go away.

Capitalism and democracy are antithetical. "Capitalism" means prioritizing capital over labor (people) and land (the environment), while "democracy" means the rule of the people. The American Revolution only got the US halfway there in the creation of a republic that gives institutional control to a power elite.
Unfortunately the severance of politics from economics has left economics a tool in the hands of the plutocrats. It is perverse for a social science to be so relentlessly anti-social. Or, rather, to have adopted such a strange and essentially anti-social definition of social.…
I would not say so much that politics has been severed from economics but that economic liberalism has been conflated with political liberalism, which claims that the market state is natural and the welfare state is an artificial distortion that bound to fail. This is about replacing the welfare state, which emphasizes living a good life in a good society, with the market state, which is the outcome of spontaneous order owing to unfettered market forces operating in accordance with natural laws. Or some such self-serving BS.

The Radford Free Press
Quote: Capitalism
Peter Radford

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