I really like this comic from the Ted Rail website.|
Before the Great Depression of 1929 social inequality had reached the level where the 'top percent capitalists' held 29 percent of social wealth. Before the Age of Austerity began in 2008 that level was sitting at somewhere around 42 percent and since then it has now risen to about 50 percent of all global social wealth, given the consistent year upon year movement of wealth to the top. I believe that such levels of inequality are unprecedented in the history of that capitalist system, and it is also quite apparent that given the growth in this inequality by somewhere between 2.5 and 4 trillion dollars per year that the capitalist system has become seriously dysfunctional and is now on an unsustainable path which has inevitably undermined markets and must sooner or later lead to some kind of crash of that system if something is not done about it. Nevertheless it would seem that politicians remained wedded to the 'neo-liberal globalization' agenda, an economic policy package which at the end of it all has contributed to producing such a crisis in the first place. For the neo-liberal agenda states that all controls upon capitalists must be released, regulations stripped away, and taxes cut for capitalists in order to rev up the engines of the free market capitalism and foster economic growth. It goes without saying that any sort of role for the government in providing 'social security' (in various forms) and other forms of wealth redistribution are completely unacceptable, for according to this undemocratic ideology, the capitalist alone will make all the decisions about the allocation of societies productive wealth (and so we could sum up the ideology of this neo-liberal 'age of austerity' with that old biblical saying from the book of the revelations, 'a day's wages for a loaf of bread, but do not touch the olive and the vine', for that austerity is targeted at workers in that system, while at the same time wealth redistribution remains taboo).
In spite of that prohibition against touching the olive and the vine, it should be very obvious to all reasonable people that the capitalist system has become seriously dysfunctional and is on an unsustainable path. I am willing to engage in dialog concerning the root causes of the emerging paralyzing dysfunction in that capitalist. I believe that the right wing neo-liberalism was a contributing cause, but that there are deeper problems already emerging in capitalism which are related to the sudden and rapid change in technology which in the future can only render the idea of 'markets' as defined by 'capitalism' obsolete and even absurd. Here I am referring to the rise of the robots and the computer, which has already begun. We have now reached the stage where robots are 'reproducing', with robots making more robots, and consequently the cost of such automation, to the exclusion of human labor, is dropping dramatically. I once watched a documentary on China's rapid industrial development, and it was apparent that cheap Chinese peasants were, for a period of time, a cost effective bridge between the age of humans and the age of robots, and this remained true for as long as Chinese peasants could under cut the costs of robots. In one factory it was very low tech. All they had were tables lines up in long rows, with parts buckets filled with parts. The 'assembly line' consisted of one Chinese peasant worker attaching a part and then pushing the item down the table to the next person. Meanwhile some guy was riding around the facility on a bicycle making sure the buckets of parts were refilled. Very low tech stuff, but it worked, for a time, because those Chinese peasants were cheaper than Americans, as one example, and they were also cheaper than robots. This was a once in a lifetime opportunity for China, and they seized the moment, but now with the rise of the robots even Chinese peasants are finding themselves out of a job.
So I see a contributing factor to this dysfunction in the capitalist system, where wealth accumulates at the top instead of being invested and recycled through the economy, as was the custom of the capitalists of the past, as being only partially a consequence of neo-liberal deregulation of the capitalist, and the main contributing factor is technological change, for robots do not supply a market for the goods that robots produce, thus undermining the capitalist system. In the same way that rise of the steam engine and the industrial revolution produced the technological impetus for a rise of the capitalists and the collapse of the old feudal landlords and the craft guilds, so now another technological revolution is rendering the capitalists obsolete, and one of the great signs of this historical irrelevance is the paralysis and dysfunction of that now historically redundant system. I am open to dialog, and if anyone can make such a powerful convincing argument that it would sway me and cause me to change my position on some such matter, then so be it. Let's just say that it hasn't happened yet.
With these thoughts in mind I conclude that given the demands of the moment even so much as one more status quo political administration could prove to the be the final nail in the coffin for everyone, for as that capitalism has seized up and become dysfunctional, that whole bourgeois political system developed over the course of the history of capitalism has also seized up and become dysfunctional. Apparently there are also a lot of people out there who have not spent enough time in serious thought, and for this reason we would hear a comfortable middle class segment of the population, who feel that things are going pretty darn good, celebrating something like 'identity politics', and the marvelous historic achievement of putting a woman in the White House. They also don't want Bernie because they don't think there is much of a problem here, and don't want any changes to that neo-liberal agenda, or if there was a change it should only be some very small, pragmatic change, an inch or a centimeter at a time, for it would seem that such people think that this is what the times call for. This lack of insight into the perilous top heavy lop sided capitalist system I would blame on the narrowness of allowable discourse in a capitalist society which allows people to sleep walk over some approaching cliff, while apparently not be to worried about much of anything except what bathroom people can use or whether two lesbians can order a cake, or whether a woman can become president. On the other hand there are these other people who also do not seem to understand where they are and are found supporting the idea of trade wars because apparently they seem to think that they can hold off robots at home with just as much luck as they held off Chinese peasants abroad back in the day when those Chinese peasants were still able to sell themselves as being cheaper than a robot. So then it would seem to me that Americans are being left with the equally unpalatable choice of the status quo, a truly Utopian and unworkable idea if there ever was one, as such people would no doubt finally realize when to their shocked suprise they found themselves plunging over a cliff like some herd of lemmings out for a daily jog, and on the other hand there will be the equally ill considered idea of trade wars and retreating behind walls, which does not even demonstrate any understanding of the nature of the problem emerging here and for that reason such ignorance would then explain why such people could be convinced to do something so reckless and so off the point. About the only thing you could say about an ill founded strategy like that one is that it would be far more likely to accelerate a crisis and certainly does nothing to address the fundamental underlying problems they face.
One of the advantages of the Bernie Sanders campaign or that Occupy Wall Street movement is that is had somewhat broadened to allowable debate in a capitalist country like America (although still not broad enough for someone like me, and for that reason I would like to continue to push the boundaries, as I have done above, so as to get people thinking more realistically than appears to be the case at the present time... for as it has been said any functioning democracy requires and informed electorate).
<>BR> It is also interesting to note that even among the traditional capitalist class, there is growing unease about neo-liberalism, which means that now there are some issues on which even 'the left' and 'the right' can agree upon, even if they disagree upon the diagnosis of the root cause of the disease. There is now some agreement emerging that 'wealth redistribution' is going to be required (anathema under the ideology of neo-liberlaism) for it is becoming undeniably obvious to anyone that the current system is seriously dysfunctional, imbalanced, unsustainable, and that this could lead to a future crisis if the status quo is not overturned and something is not done about it.
One interesting example of this evolution of thinking comes from the most unlikely of sources, the IMF, always one of the biggest cheer leaders for neo-liberalism in the past. Neoliberalism: Oversold?. In the conclusion of their paper they state that 'Policymakers, and institutions like the IMF that advise them, must be guided not by faith, but by evidence of what has worked."
A few quotes from the paper:
There are aspects of the neoliberal agenda that have not delivered as expected. Our assessment of the agenda is confined to the effects of two policies: removing restrictions on the movement of capital across a country's borders (so-called capital account liberalization); and fiscal consolidation, sometimes called "austerity," which is shorthand for policies to reduce fiscal deficits and debt levels. An assessment of these specific policies (rather than the broad neoliberal agenda) reaches three disquieting conclusions:
The benefits in terms of increased growth seem fairly difficult to establish when looking at a broad group of countries.
The costs in terms of increased inequality are prominent. Such costs epitomize the trade-off between the growth and equity effects of some aspects of the neoliberal agenda.
Increased inequality in turn hurts the level and sustainability of growth. Even if growth is the sole or main purpose of the neoliberal agenda, advocates of that agenda still need to pay attention to the distributional effects.
Both openness and austerity are associated with increasing income inequality, this distributional effect sets up an adverse feedback loop. The increase in inequality engendered by financial openness and austerity might itself undercut growth, the very thing that the neoliberal agenda is intent on boosting. There is now strong evidence that inequality can significantly lower both the level and the durability of growth (Ostry, Berg, and Tsangarides, 2014).The evidence of the economic damage from inequality suggests that policymakers should be more open to redistribution than they are. policies could be designed to mitigate some of the impacts in advancefor instance, through increased spending on education and training, which expands equality of opportunity (so-called predistribution policies). The untoward distributional consequences will have to be remedied after they occur by using taxes and government spending to redistribute income. Fortunately, the fear that such policies will themselves necessarily hurt growth is unfounded (Ostry, 2014)
contribute to this article
contribute to this article
add comment to discussion