Tuesday, May 08, 2012

"What is this 'capitalism' you're protesting against?"...it's capitalism

Recent op-ed in the Seattle Times by Jon Talton arguing that what we have is not 'true' capitalism:

"The American capitalism that built the greatest middle class in the history of the world, as well as the greatest wealth, depended on competition, fair play, widely enjoyed benefits, a ladder up for those who worked hard and played by the rules, a mixed economy including government investment in infrastructure, research and education, and regulation to ensure healthy market forces."

Hmm, I think calling something a 'mixed economy' implies that it's not a pure product. 

"What we've witnessed is cronyism, shredding the rule of law, tax dodging, political control by the moneyed elites and looting the wealth it took us a hundred years to build. The results have been anti-competitive consolidation and control of supply chains -- one big casualty has been local business, which is essential to civic health. "

Actually, that's the essence of capitalism, that's what it tends towards. To see some proof , just look  into the era of great capitalist expansion in the late 19th century reigned over by the Robber Barons. Capitalism tends to... accumulate capital, which means that small local businesses expand into large businesses and either buy out or put out of business local stores and factories, setting the stage for the cronyism and the shredding of the rule of law that Talton talks about. 

It's unclear where Talton gets the idea that this type of American capitalism is the ideal promoted by Adam Smith. In point of fact, the positive features that he describes were only put into place because of sustained movements against capitalism, against the trend that business was heading. They were there because of  anti-capitalist agitation. 

So, maybe if you have an idealized notion taken from mid 20th century America,  where we had a 'mixed economy' produced by unions and social movements, you might think that what we now have is not capitalism, but if you look at the entire history of the phenomenon, it surely is capitalism that we're seeing.

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