Monday, April 29, 2013

The Wall Street Journal vs. capitalism (Added note)

Well, here's something you don't see every day: MarketWatch, affiliated with the Wall Street Journal, has published a strong piece condemning the evils of capitalism:
For the rest of the world, capitalism is not working: A billion live on less than two dollars a day. With global population exploding to 10 billion by 2050, that inequality gap will grow, fueling revolutions, wars, adding more billionaires and more folks surviving on two bucks a day.
This article is really a review of Michael Sandel's new book, What Money Can't Buy.
“Without being fully aware of the shift, Americans have drifted from having a market economy to becoming a market society ... where almost everything is up for sale ... a way of life where market values seep into almost every sphere of life and sometimes crowd out or corrode important values, non-market values.”
Yes, it’s everywhere: “Markets to allocate health, education, public safety, national security, criminal justice, environmental protection, recreation, procreation, and other social goods unheard-of 30 years ago. Today, we take them largely for granted.”

Examples ... for-profit schools, hospitals, prisons ... outsourcing war to private contractors ... police forces by private guards “almost twice the number of public police officers” ... drug “companies aggressive marketing of prescription drugs directly to consumers, a practice ... prohibited in most other countries.”

More: Ads in “public schools ... buses ... corridors ... cafeterias ... naming rights to parks and civic spaces ... blurred boundaries, within journalism, between news and advertising ... marketing of ‘designer’ eggs and sperm for assisted reproduction ... buying and selling ... the right to pollute ... campaign finance in the U.S. that comes close to permitting the buying and selling of elections.”
Sandel believes that, over the course of 30 years, we've unhappily drifted from a market economy to a market society.
And “the difference is this: A market economy is a tool ... for organizing productive activity. A market society is a way of life in which market values seep into every aspect of human endeavor. It’s a place where social relations are made over in the image of the market.” The difference is profound.
I can see Sandel's point.

I was of adult age when the great transformation of values began. In the 1970s, you could utter the words "The best things in life are free," and no-one would argue with you. People might use that phrase as the basis for a one-liner, but they wouldn't object to it in any serious fashion. Now, for a massive portion of our population, them's fighting words. That ancient cliche offends people on a profound level.

Although I've had some relatively flush times in the past, I never really knew how to make money. I can make myself well-known, at least to a degree (past which, life becomes uncomfortable), but the words "rich" and "famous" are not the siblings many take them to be. The things I like best -- a dog licking my face, a good book, the occasional shared laugh -- either cost nothing or have a very reasonable price tag.

On the other hand, maybe one should not be too hasty in dismissing this capitalism thing. WeSeed allows you to invest virtual money ($10,000) in real companies to gauge how well you'd do playing the stock market. I made $336 (imaginary) during my first week-and-a-half. Not bad for a tyro!

Added note: I just thought of an example which demonstrates how thoroughly values changed within the space of a decade. If you were under (say) 25 years of age in 1974, the worst thing you could say about a film was: "Oh, they made that just to make money." Ten years later, people within that same age group routinely spoke of movies as if they were just another consumer commodity. They approved of Hollywood commercialism.
I've never, ever ever appreciated capitalism especially concerning basic human rights such as health care, housing, food, and to some extent clothing. I've always thought that as the only sentient (barely) species on the planet we had/have a responsibility to pursue a more noble lifestyle.

We should be a society producing the greatest artists, poets, and scientists that ever lived. Yet, unfortunately, where I live people view ignorance, laziness and outright stupidity as a badge of honor.

Now I do appreciate hard work and think that everyone should pitch in but many people work upwards of 70-80 hours a week. Others don't get to work at all. We aren't really a community of people anymore. We don't work together for common goals and so many think that cities and towns should be run like a corporation. It is all to bizarre for me to appreciate.

Making a profit off of someones death? Insane. Making a profit by forcing someone else to do without? Sick. I could go on and on for hours.
We are all living in Milton Friedman's dream; we can thank Saint Reagan and the Iron Lady for that.

Looking back, it really has taken an astonishing amount of propaganda to destroy the idea of the CommonWealth, something that was taken for granted not that long ago.

For that matter, how often do you hear the childhood taunt, "it's a free country, ain't it?" any more? Just saying it in some places (like an airport) could get you arrested on a trumped-up charge.

Pinochet's Chile (Friedman's ideal society), and the kinder, gentler version in Singapore have become the prototype for the world. Market Society backed up by the "There Is No Alternative" propaganda machine, and that isn't enough to keep the population silent, paramilitary police power which is called "security".
The Left always seem condemned to explain to the Right how they are stealing, why it is unjust, and what they need to do about it while the Right just keep on stealing. Wasn't it Lenin who said that "Power must be taken."

To use another analogy, the Left, and the public, are like passengers in a car speeding towards a tree, desperately trying to convince the driver to take evasive action, oblivious to the reality that only by wrenching the wheel from them can they avert disaster. Presenting the facts, selling the arguments, and making gestures of cooperation -- none of it works.

I also get the same unreasoning feeling from Right wing market spruikers as I do from a narcissist. You can't get a reasoned response from these people because they live in their own self-justifying bubble. By the time you have finished convincing them of the damage they are doing they have wrecked your life, your career, your home, health, finances and marriage along with that of every person in a 12 block radius.

I don't know why it is that otherwise perfectly intelligent people can figure out how to corner the world's financial resources yet fail to even register on the manner in which they are damaging society. What world exactly do they expect their children to grow up in? One where they will never be touched by life's challenges or tragedies? One where they and their descendants will live in designer kitchens forever? After WW2 it was quite common for learned university professors who could quote Kant and speak six languages to be driving buses or clearing rubble from downtown Berlin. Why do rich people think the will be insulated from wars and social unrest brought on by their greed? Which pristine wildernesses do they expect their children to trek in with their Gucci boots when they have poisoned the rivers?

What we hold in common is greater than what divides us. That is the underlying truth. How you change that into a viable political program I have no idea.

Words such as "human" and "society", "individual" and "community", do not deserve to be applied to categories which pass for these under capitalism.

I have noticed the increasing restriction of the space for holding that society and the behaviour of individuals should support and enrich each other, rather than being alienated, separated, and divided from each other. The very notion is being marginalised. Effort is underway to ensure that it is associated almost exclusively with religion.

Religion has a big future ahead of it in the next 10 years, as the economy collapses.

Joe - with this dummy stock trading you're trying out, can you invest in communion candles? Azan clocks?
ColoradoGuy - agreed about Chile and Singapore. Both are very interesting cases, which have provided inspiration in ruling class circles around the world.

Chile tracks back before Friedman to the victors in the Spanish civil war.

If I had to list countries which are most likely to be the first place to institute compulsory microchipping of the entire population, Singapore has got to be near the top of the list.
b: I've invested my fake bucks in a couple of tech companies and Sotheby's. I also invested in Citi. Surprisingly, that stock has lagged.

Nuance (the voice recognition tech company) has been doing very well. If I had any real money, it would go there.
I've been reminded lately about how many activities were free of charge when I was a kid. Youth soccer, state and federal parks, community swimming pools (not free, but a VERY modest cost for a pass for the summer), highways, bridges, etc. I was never against capitalism until recently. When it is allowed to take over a society, the results are disastrous, as we are seeing all to clearly now. We used to have a "Mixed" economy, using the best aspects of socialism and capitalism. Now, we have only capitalism and as you say, literally everything is for sale and has a price tag. It seems our constitutional freedoms are going right along with it. Freedom isn't free, of course, but it shouldn't require a multi-million dollar bank account either.
Well, Gus -- all I can say is that my Nuance pseudo-stocks suddenly tanked, erasing most of my pseudo-profits.

I am SO off capitalism right now.

Unless the stocks tick back up, of course.
Post a Comment

<< Home

This page is 

powered by Blogger. 

Isn't yours?