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Capitalism in America: Giving Crazy a Bad Name While Subverting Democracy


Capitalism in America: Giving Crazy a Bad Name While Subverting Democracy

John Atcheson

Ever since Milton Friedman’s series of essays on Capitalism and Freedom, conservatives have tried to link democracy and capitalism into essential handmaidens. But as the evidence shows, it’s a reality-busting bundle that only a psychotic could love. Or believe.

The fact is, capitalism as practiced in America – far from being democracy’s handmaiden -- is anathema to freedom, and ultimately, impoverishing to the vast majority of its citizens.

And it’s driving us crazy.

Let’s Take a Look at Crazy


It is what results from faith in an “invisible hand.”


Great piece. Capitalism is the greatest and most deadly scam in human history. It is a psychopathic system of corruption and theft. Corporate alliances have become a supra-national dictatorship that is rapidly destroying the biosphere while enforcing poverty and serfdom everywhere. If we are to survive as a planet, much less a species, we have to defeat the corporate monster and move to a post-capitalist world that prioritizes the environment and human needs.

All of us or None!


“Ever since Milton Friedman’s series of essays on Capitalism and Freedom, conservatives have tried to link democracy and capitalism into essential handmaidens.”

And the media too are always connecting capitalism with freedom and democracy.

What nonsense.

Why should anyone expect democracy in a capitalist country?

Capitalism is run for, and by, a plutocracy. The people are merely tools used for increasing profits, and they must be excluded from any consideration of government policy.

Pseudo democracies - such as that of the US - must constantly hammer away at their populations, telling them what a great democracy they have, since lies often repeated are often accepted.

The political system that fits quite nicely with capitalism is fascism - control of the economy and society by an economic elite.

Socialism, on the other hand, is run for, and by, the people. The only purpose of economic activity is to serve the people. Private capital and profit are an impediment to a smoothly functioning socialist society.

Under socialism, the motivation for work is cooperation for the betterment of society, not competition and greed for the purpose of personal wealth.

The political system that fits quite nicely with socialism is democracy - control of the economy and society by the people themselves.

The natural connections then, are capitalism with fascism, and socialism with democracy.


Find myself wondering about the suffixes -archy (rule) and -acy (quality of) (eg kleptocracy and democracy; oligarchy and, not a real word - kleptarchy, now why is that?).

Apparently - as has been noted by others, the FED - a cabal of private banks, is still, in the minds of many, a government (as in the same minds of 'democractic governance) institution with dynamics of democratic representation. Not so.

Note: (and correct me if this is wrong) a State Bank has, by law, the right to establish currency. That is, say, the Bank of North Dakota, though it does not print a separate currency, CAN function with metrics based not on national or international speculative dynamics but rather on traditional lending in investing in community and serving as depository of savings etc… In other words, it’s records reflect ACTUAL ECONOMY.

By making that decision, though it does not reflect the massive numbers being played into spreadsheets in other bank structures, it has not only survived but thrived. Also, and here one should probably keep an eye on any legislation proposed to change this, the bank must be legally established as a “State Bank”.

An interesting conversation about ‘Quantitative Easing’ and a proposal for 'quantitative easing for the people (demos).Keiser Report, Episode 741


Of course I agree with the spirit of the article (it’s easy to see the author’s priorities in the statistics he cites), but as always, one should pay attention to the qualifiers in order to see what’s really being advocated. At issue is “capitalism as practiced in America,” “unconstrained capitalism,” and “pure unadulterated capitalism.” In itself, and irrespective of the author’s highest motives, this sets up a distinction between, as it were, “good” and “bad” capitalisms, where “bad” means “unconstrained” and “unadulterated” and “good” the opposite. In this sense, capitalism itself is posited as a kind of victim of its own excesses.

This is the old, familiar liberal line: it’s not capitalism as such that is destroying us, but only a lack of regulation and oversight. What we therefore need to do, on this line of thinking, is to return to the kind of “constrained,” “adulterated” capitalism that held sway for a few decades in the mid-twentieth century, the so-called “Golden Age” of capitalism, when there was near-universal wage-slavery, robust economic growth, and a set of rules that ensured most people got a share of the collective pie. To be sure, we need new regulations, e.g. to protect the environment, workers’ rights etc. – but the overall logic and priorities are the same, and indeed the function of these regulations is not to diminish or undermine capitalism but rather to bring it even more fully in line with its concept, its essence: “clean energy systems would create more jobs and more economic growth.” More employment, more growth – in short, the deployment of “sustainability,” i.e. clean and abundant energy, as the condition of possibility of the full realization and perfection of the capitalist project.

I think the author has good intentions, though he remains far too wedded to the liberal myth of capitalism as the end of history. The problem is not “pure,” “unregulated,” “unconstrained,” “unadulterated,” “crony,” “corporate,” “American,” or any other sort of purportedly perverted, partial, footnoted capitalism. The problem is the logic of capital itself: more for the sake of more, to infinity.


Not a great piece - it lists all the usual trendy bourgeois liberal “middle class” critiques of capitalism, but none of the fundamental and substantiative ones such as:

  1. The savage social relations of production and the subjugation and alienation of person’s labor.

  2. The reification of commodity-value over human values of community and brotherhood

  3. The impoverishment of the great mass of humanity in service the concentration of wealth in a comparative few.

He never uses the word “the poor” he never used the word “labor”. He never used the word “union.” He never says: “Your capitalist BOSS is fucking you in the ass!!!”

Things like global warming and “wall street” are of course important issues - but does Mr. Acheson honestly think a working class USAn desperately working paycheck-to-paycheck cares can relate to the effete liberal babble of his article at all? They have no time for that! All they care about is not being late for work - and paying the rent and bills. We need to explain things on those terms - and WHY their lives have been reduced to this level of misery and meaninglessness. And to do that, nothing works like Marx put into updated 21st century English and the sort of sailor language I used above. Becasue if we don’t - they will continue to fall prey to their boss’ propaganda that it is “Socialistic Big Government” and the “Socialist Obama” who somehow is the cause of their misery.


This post deleted. Finally finished my earlier post.


This post has been deleted.


It’s ok, Yunzer. Your comments and others’ here remind me of the incisive stuff Commondreams used to be known for. I think if more of the old contributors return, we’d have great conversations again!


I’m glad you pointed this out.


There is this view, which while showing how Big Money erodes Democracy, continues to argue for a system that closes out any real choice (in the way of a vote):

“Let’s Elect the People Who Hate Government to Govern: We the people share a big part of the blame. While the Plutocrats take over the country, we keep electing people who hate government and want to turn it over to the private sector – aka the plutocrats – to run government. Yet government is the only force capable of stopping the march of the fat cats and oligarchs.”

And then there is this far more honest and accurate view (all from Ellen Brown’s article published on C.D. yesterday):

"According to a new study from Princeton University, American democracy no longer exists. Using data from over 1,800 policy initiatives from 1981 to 2002, researchers Martin Gilens and Benjamin Page concluded that rich, well-connected individuals on the political scene now steer the direction of the country, regardless of – or even against – the will of the majority of voters. America’s political system has transformed from a democracy into an oligarchy, where power is wielded by wealthy elites.

"In state and local elections, third party candidates have sometimes won. In a modest-sized city, candidates can actually influence the vote by going door to door, passing out flyers and bumper stickers, giving local presentations, and getting on local radio and TV. But in a national election, those efforts are easily trumped by the mass media. And local governments too are beholden to big money.

“We have a two-party winner-take-all system, in which our choice is between two candidates, both of whom necessarily cater to big money. It takes big money just to put on the mass media campaigns required to win an election involving 240 million people of voting age.”

When choice is only an illusion using the canard that citizens are to blame for THAT choice is inane. This lie serves Power.


Perhaps for Pisces, Sagittarius, and Gemini persons (themselves experiencing marked inner duality), a writer can point this out:

“Over the years Americans have favored an end to fracking, single payer health care, greater public investment in infrastructure, an increase in minimum wage, and an end to the perennial wars and removal of all troops from Iraq and Afghanistan. Yet Congress and the President routinely ignore these wishes at the behest of monied interests.” And add to it, a series of discrepancies between citizens’ polled positions and what so-called representatives of the People’s wishes actually endorse…

and this:

" We the people share a big part of the blame."

If people ignore elections because evidence shows that they hardly change a thing (particularly for the better); and if those elected OPPOSE the will and wishes of the electorate, then either way it’s a no-win situation and I don’t think that makes the public the blameworthy entity.


“we’ve tried unconstrained capitalism three times now, and each time it has obliterated the middle class, and wrecked the economy.”

Oh, please… this WE is about as accurate a term as would be suggesting that slaves tried out slavery to determine if they liked it and found it functional.

If it’s an oligarchy, WE The People are not the decision-making entity.

There’s plenty of evidence that not paying small fees now lands one into debtors’ prison with fees compiled into perpetuity.

Rule by Capital forces any who are not part of the inherited wealth stream into work or servitude. Workers have FAR less bargaining power in a system that’s placed everyone into competition as do times of scarcity coupled with a pervasive politics (and atmosphere) of fear. Only trust coheres.


Spoken like a card-carrying member of the Tag Team. Let’s bring back the posters who’d do 30-50 comments in each thread along with the cast of sock puppet cheerleaders all reinforcing their hegemonic domination of threads in order to manage opinions and shape (i.e. control) what passes for debate.


Ironically, when the white knight of laissez-faire capitalism, Alan Greenspan, testified before Congress concerning the collapse of the housing bubble, he was asked why the invisible hand of the market did not prevent what happened on Wall Street.

His response: “There must be a flaw in the theory.”

A flaw? Is the pope Catholic?


What is amazing to me is, you’re all still squawking about ideology.

Never mind, behavior. Never mind, the obfuscation and twisting of our Legal Environment into Maritime Law.

Never mind, corrupting doctrines of Satanism, Luciferianism, Talmudic Zionism and Quranic Shi-ite-ism.

Never mind, the consciously-applied “divide and conquer” strategies of the corporate media.

Never mind, dumbing down of school textbooks and wholesale contamination of vaccines and pharmaceuticals.

Never mind, deceit having become a profitable business along with war and surveillance.

There is so much to talk about that makes this entire political structure obsolete and unworkable, staged and rigged, corrupted and filthy.

But all people tend to want to discuss is ideological purity versus ideological differences of opinion.

What an absolute HOOT!


Marx proposed that capitalism alienates people from their labor because people never receive the full value of their labor. That was 150 years ago. Do people really labor today? Do all those Wall Street geniuses who get rich because of insider information really labor? Do all the wealthy people who inherit their wealth labor?

Capitalism today results in the concentration of wealth in a few hands because it is predicated on acting out of rational self-interest. When people are motivated solely by self-interest, the logical result will be: “greed is good” (Gordon Gekko in the movie “Wall Street”) and “selfishness is a virtue” (Ayn Rand).

As Supreme Court Justice Louis Brandeis said of wealth concentration: “You can either have concentration of wealth in a few hands or you can have democracy, but you can’t have both.”

Marx’s economic theories (the labor theory of value) are problematic. It is his theory of justice that we should accept: “from each according to his ability; to each according to his need.” Marx, the atheist, got this notion of justice right out of the Bible. “All whose faith had drawn them together held everything in common: they would sell their property and possessions and make a general distribution as the need of each required.” (Acts 2: 44-45)

It has always amused me that capitalists claim to be Christians. Maybe this is why Gandhi said: “I like your Christ. It is Christians I don’t like.”


Your argument is the fallacy affirming the consequent.

If I am in Kansas, then I am in the US.
I am in the US.
Therefore, I am in Kansas. (The conclusion is false because I could be in any of the other 49 states.)

If there is no difference between the Democrats and Republicans (they are both corporate parties), then things will happen that I don’t like.
Things happen that I don’t like.
Therefore, both parties are corporate parties.

History proves you wrong. The Democrats are responsible for all the social welfare legislation passed since the time of FDR (e.g., Social Security, unemployment insurance, a minimum wage, Medicare, Medicaid, and the ACA). Republicans opposed every single one of these programs.

Barack Obama wants to raise taxes on the wealthy, while Republicans are supply-siders: cut taxes on the wealthy and something will trickle down to the rest of us.

I am on both Social Security and Medicare. If Republicans were constantly in power, I would be less well off.


Siouxrose, it is simply sophistry to argue that because the people who win elections don’t think the way I think, there is no democracy in this country.

“Martin Gilens and Benjamin Page concluded that rich, well-connected individuals on the political scene now steer the direction of the country,”

Gilens and Page need to read the fallacy of Russell’s teapot (one wonders if social scientists ever learned any logic). Bertrand Russell once said a teapot exists in orbit somewhere between the orbits of the Earth and Mars. He then pointed out that it is nonsense to believe him simply because you can’t prove the teapot doesn’t exist. Gilens and Page tell us that “rich, well-connected individuals on the political scene now steer the direction of the country” and expect people to believe them because they cannot prove the converse. You can’t logically prove a negative; e.g., you can’t prove there are no unicorns.