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Pandemic Capitalism

Originally published at http://www.commondreams.org/views/2020/07/07/pandemic-capitalism

Living in the land of plenty puts many out of touch with reality–especially the people who are in positions of power. Doing without can be very illuminating. Fasting. Survival weekends in the forest. Unplugging from whatever it seems like one cannot live without. I find that such interruptions of my daily rhythm help me keep perspective on how things work and what really matters. I do not abhor all forms of capitalism, but do find that hyper-financialized capitalism vexes us beyond measure. We need to re-regulate and slow down market structures. Nano-second trading is bullshit at its core. It needs to be taxed out of existence.

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MUCH WANTS MORE
Democracy and Capitalism are incompatible - The US Senate is living proof.

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A society’s economic system should serve its people, not the other way 'round.

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Naomi Klein already wrote this story.

The pandemic is just the most recent example of shock doctrine capitalism…never waste a crisis…milk it for all the money it is worth.

Restoring FDR’s New Deal regulations and programs that were dismantled during the past four decades is the first remedial action needed, followed by enhancing those regulations and programs to adapt to 21st century conditions.

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Socialistic equality for all may be our salvation in a time where 99% have no voice in our destiny.

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Except every 2 to 4 years when 95% prolong the corruption with their votes for the corrupt system of government.

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While many would agree with the points you bring up, I would say restoring FDR’s regulations would do the same thing today as back in the 1930’s, save capitalism from itself, and kick the “replacement can” down the road once again.
I’m for replacing it once and for all, so everyone benefits from the economic system.

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Agreed. FDRS reforms did in fact “save capitalism” but all of those wars the USA has engaged in since Capitalism saved have been a direct result of Capitalism being saved.

Wars are all about gaining access to more markets, seizing the resources of other nations and expanding Corporations the world over so as to maximize profits. At the end of the day I really do not think the can kicked down the road at all. What happened is that peoples of what was deemed “The Third world” were immediately plundered and now the system starts to devour itself.

Those reforms were akin to putting up curtains on a window so one did not have to look out into the street and see ones neighbours sleeping in the gutter.

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Given the caution, conservatism and self-protective priorities of most people, the system will change only when it really hits the wall. What progressive activism can accomplish, if we are lucky, is to provide society with a menu of policies and a vocabulary of diagnosis and prescription that society can then adopt. But don’t hold your breath waiting for deep reforms before the crash. You will only be frustrated and disappointed.

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As Mr. Justice Brandeis put it a century ago, we can have democracy in this country, or we can have great wealth concentrated in the hands of a few, but we can’t have both.

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Good account of what we don’t want. What we do want is a Universal Basic Income. Yesterday!

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Meanwhile congress is taking a 2 week vacation. When do they ever work I wonder???

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I’m old enough to remember fondly when the U.S. had a mixed economy where the big corporations had some presence but they did not dominate the entire economy. Newspapers, radio stations and television stations were locally owned and operated; often affiliated with a network or news bureau, but not dominated by them. National hotel chains did exist but they were not the rule; most hotels were independent, locally owned operations.

Big corporations were around of course, but mostly filled places where economies of scale truly mattered such as steel or aluminum manufacture, railroads, automobile manufacturing and the like where there was some need for a nationwide presence. It was a mixed economy that did seem to work reasonably well and actually it was much more like the kind of economy that Adam Smith had in mind as a model of capitalism than is the monopoly capitalism that is so familiar today.

Should we now try to restore that kind of mixed economy that seemed to work so much better or do we need to find a better alternative? That one of the big questions for the present. Do we try to restore the post-WWII economy by breaking up the monopolies and resume anti-trust enforcement while re-building government to play more of an active role in running utilities and perhaps healthcare, banking and insurance? Or do we try some other approach?

“Should we now try to restore that mixed economy that seemed to work much better or do we need to find a better alternative?”

Good question, my fear of “going back” is it leaves the door open for the fascist corporatists to repeat what they have accomplished since WWII, again. For that reason I’m inclined to think we need an entirely new system, with checks in place to ensure they never gain a foothold in power again.

They sure as hell work hard to pass tax cuts for their wealthy and corporate benefactors. The rest of us do not matter to them.

All the world is a commons. For decades, Elinor Ostrom studied control of common resources under various circumstances. She found that it could function and endure even for centuries, provided the following conditions applied:

  • There were clear group boundaries.
  • Rules satisfy local needs
  • Stakeholders could participate in making or altering rules
  • Outside authority respects local rules
  • Community members police the community
  • There are graduated sanctions for rule violators.
  • There are accessible, low-cost means for dispute resolution.
  • Responsibility for governing the common resource lies in nested tiers from the lowest level up to the entire interconnected system.

Often it has been only one or a few resources within a given community that were so managed, and success within those parameters could continue under various sorts of government and through various problems that such governments caused. Of course, all of this depended on non-local entities just not coming in and shutting things down.

How that gets arranged remains an open question, it seems. Apparently the smaller community needs to serve some useful function to the larger. And smaller communities may need to federate in some way to raise a higher threshold of resistance to violation.

It seems to me that making such a system manage most distribution makes stricter demands of forms of government. It seems to require a cooperative and socialized local system, and some sort of federation against larger power.

A way that such a thing might develop in the current improbable setting of post-industrial societies might be cooperative land trusts engaged in cooperative sharing of resources towards basic needs–residence, education, food, water, and medical care.

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Good point, but I think we may have to kill the beast in steps. It is not going away without a fight, and a sudden collapse, which is certainly possible, would be truly catastrophic.

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If there is to be any future, cooperatives as an institution of institutions will have to play a major role. The wave is growing, mostly below the radar, and that is just the way we need it to be.

As usual, your comment is close to the mark. I know nothing of your background, but after 25 years of study I can’t accept the notion of different forms of Capitalism, but see it as a monolithic process. Some economies are farther along than others, with hyper-financialization a characteristic of the later stages (much less nanosecond trading), but I think this is one that Marx got mostly right. One of the bedrock tenets of Capitalism (bastard Latin for “money worship” due to the dual meaning of “capital” that emerged in the mid-19th century and that virtually no one acknowledges) going all the way back to Adam Smith is “NO ‘government interference’ (i.e., regulation) in markets.”

This country went through a regulation phase beginning around 1900. After what our parents always called “The War” it went through a spell in which regulation increased in some areas even as it was being dismantled in others. The EPA was established in 1970 under Nixon, but the deregulation of trucking and airlines occurred under Carter, not Reagan, and some anti-trust and labor laws were being watered down or ignored in the 1950s. The infamous “Powell Memo” (1971), requested by the US Chamber of Commerce, is a 30-page blueprint for US business to take back the economy and the country from perceived attacks from all of the elements and ideals that today we call “progressive.”

After the fall of the Soviet Union (December, 1991) and the rise of the alphabet “trade agreements,” virtually no major regulations to protect the public from the rapaciousness of corporations have been enacted, and many that existed in 1991 have been dismembered.

You have most of the wetico well nailed down, along with antidotes to it, and markets have always existed. Capitalism emerged along with banking and especially the Industrial Revolution, and few if any of its evils are necessary to make constructive use of the genuine innovations of technology, as opposed to the pseudo-innovations of the marketing industry.

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