Tag Archives | Capitalism

David Simon Speech: ‘There are now two Americas. My country is a horror show’

David Simon at Rising Tide 2011Best known as the creator of seminal TV series The Wire, David Simon gave an impromptu speech about the divide between rich and poor in America at the Festival of Dangerous Ideas in Sydney, and how capitalism has lost sight of its social compact. This is an edited extract via The Guardian:

America is a country that is now utterly divided when it comes to its society, its economy, its politics. There are definitely two Americas. I live in one, on one block in Baltimore that is part of the viable America, the America that is connected to its own economy, where there is a plausible future for the people born into it. About 20 blocks away is another America entirely. It’s astonishing how little we have to do with each other, and yet we are living in such proximity.

There’s no barbed wire around West Baltimore or around East Baltimore, around Pimlico, the areas in my city that have been utterly divorced from the American experience that I know.

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Conservatives Plan 2014 Assault on Education, Healthcare, Workers’ Comp and Environment

474px-human-brain_257Jon Queally writes at Common Dreams:

According to internal documents obtained by the British newspaper and published online Thursday, the Guardian reports that more than forty state-level conservative groups are planning a “US-wide assault” on “education, healthcare, income tax, workers’ compensation and the environment.”

If you want to know how the right-wing State Policy Network—in concert with a network of other national and state-level conservative policy groups—has been able to overrun state legislatures with “model legislation” that carries the interest of the nation’s wealthiest corporations and individuals while undermining workers and communities, the ream of grant proposals obtained by the newspaper tell the tale.

For the second time this week, the Guardian has published internal documents from an influential U.S. conservative organizing group that reveals rare insight into how they operate and the way smaller, local groups vie for portions of the large amount of money made available by people like the Kochs brothers and other funders of the conservative, Tea Party cabal.

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Collectivist Capitalism vs. Compassionate Capitalism

AdamSmithGary Clifford Gibson writes at Another Working Blog in the Submergent Plutonomy:

This is actually a fairly simple distinction. Capitalism that grows from an individual or family’s personal work building assets without exploiting other people is compassionate capitalism, while the impersonal stock investment, M.B.A. networking trans-national globalism business approach is collectivist. The collectivists are cold-blooded while the small time capitalist is compassionate and cares about his own work and building up of resources.

Adam Smith, the modern spiritual founder of capitalism, wrote largely in support of compassionate capitalism inclusive of trade. There weren’t the sort of large-scale networked corporations in existence in his day that built up huge global capital advantages and leveraging monetary sophistication. It is quite a stretch to transmogrify The Wealth of Nations into a support for absolute abstract modern business practices and monetary policy. One must be disingenuous to extend Smith’s Wealth of Nations so far as that.

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How Feminism Was Co-Opted By Capitalism

LandscapeVia the Guardian, Nancy Fraser on reclaiming the ideals of feminism that have been co-opted by the dominant economic system:

As a feminist, I’ve always assumed that by fighting to emancipate women I was building a better world – more egalitarian, just and free. But lately I’ve begun to worry that our critique of sexism is now supplying the justification for new forms of inequality and exploitation.

Feminist ideas that once formed part of a radical worldview are increasingly expressed in individualist terms. Where feminists once criticised a society that promoted careerism, they now advise women to “lean in”. A movement that once prioritised social solidarity now celebrates female entrepreneurs. A perspective that once valorised “care” and interdependence now encourages individual advancement and meritocracy.

What lies behind this shift is a sea-change in the character of capitalism. The state-managed capitalism of the postwar era has given way to a new form of capitalism – “disorganised”, globalising, neoliberal.

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The Danger Of Putting A Price On Everything

market societyVia Motherboard, Harvard philosophy professor Michael Sandel on our slide toward a market society:

In recent decades we’ve been in the grip of market faith, which says that markets are the primary instrument for achieving the public good. This assumption has gone largely unquestioned in the past 30 years. As a result from that we have drifted from being a market economy to being a market society.

A market economy is a valuable tool for organizing productive activity. A market society, on the other hand, is a place where everything is up for sale, in which money and market values begin to dominate every aspect of life. From family and personal relationships to health, education, civic life, and politics. We need to step back and ask some fundamental questions about what the role of money and markets should be.

Utilitarianism assumes that all good things in life can be translated into a single uniform currency or a measure of value, typically money.

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Robb Smith on Economics, World Crisis and More

robb09headshotKeith Martin-Smith’s Only Everything podcast recently had on entrepreneur Robb Smith. This thirty-eight minute interview covers a lot of ground, discussing the collapsing economy, the historical background of the situation and what the future is likely to be. A pretty wide-ranging conversation, moves along quickly, and there’s some good nuggets for consideration. Worth listening to.

From Only Everything:

Robb is a social entrepreneur who works on “transformational era” systems at the intersection of human development, education, spiritual understanding and civilizational sustainability. He holds a uniquely grand view of what’s happening in the world today and what makes Millennials unique.

We get into nothing short of the future of the world economy, human happiness, and where we’re heading in the next 5-6 decades.

We discuss:

  • How World War II transformed the American economy and fueled the emerging consciousness counterculture of the 60′s and the success of Gen X in the 90′s
  • How this economic foundation is in the process of collapsing
  • What happens when a culture like ours, focused on finding lives of “meaning”, has the economic rug pulled out from under it (hint: crisis)
  • How companies like Air B&B represent the downside and problem with technology interacting with brick-and-mortar industries, such as hospitality
  • Why it’s  better today  to be a Chinese teenager today than an American one (and not what you think)
  • Why the next great economic wave and business movement will and must move away from a winner-takes-all mentality to a “win-win” mentality, as represented by B-corps and conscious capitalism.
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The United States’ Capitals Of Inequality

inequalityPueblo Lands on the areas of the U.S. pushing economic disparities to new extremes:

Welcome to the San Francisco Bay Area. The epicenter of the tech industry. The global vortex of venture capital. One of the most brutally unequal places in America, indeed the world.

In the distribution of income and wealth, California more resembles the neocolonial territories of rapacious resource extraction than it does Western Europe. The only states that compare to California’s harsh inequalities are deep southern states structured by centuries of racist fortune building by pseudo-aristocratic ruling classes, and the East Coast capitals of the financial sector.

It’s a strange club, the super-inequitable states of the U.S. This list pairs the bluest coastal enclaves of liberal power with the reddest Southern conservative states. In terms of wages and wealth these places have a lot in common.

The economies of Louisiana, Mississippi, and Alabama remain bound by racial inequalities founded in slavery and plantation agriculture; the wealthy elite of all three states remain a handful of white families who control the largest holdings of fertile land, and own the extractive mineral and timber industries, and the regional banks.

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Our New Economy Of Guard Labor

revolution

Via the Baffler, David Graeber on the possibilities of revolution and the increase in “guard labor”:

Under no conditions can alternatives, or anyone proposing alternatives, be seen to experience success. This helps explain the almost unimaginable investment in “security systems” of one sort or another: military…intelligence agencies, militarized police…a massive media industry. Mostly these systems do not so much attack dissidents directly as contribute to a pervasive climate of fear, jingoistic conformity, life insecurity, and simple despair that makes any thought of changing the world seem an idle fantasy.

Yet these security systems are also extremely expensive. Some economists estimate that a quarter of the American population is now engaged in “guard labor” of one sort or another—defending property, supervising work, or otherwise keeping their fellow Americans in line. Economically, most of this disciplinary apparatus is pure deadweight.

In fact, most of the economic innovations of the last thirty years make more sense politically than economically.

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The Myth of the Lazy Youth

As we have seen time and time again, one of the challenges of modern myths is their relative invisibility. It is the outsiders of any age, those who are alien to their own times, that make the best artist shamans, and the same goes for mythic explorers. If you are too close to a culture, you will very frequently mistake the truisms of culture, the myths, as a fact. This is true with “human nature” (as we have seen), and it is also true with our myths of labor and work.

Let’s consider the example presented when one generation judges another,

“Twenge and Kasser analyzed data from the Monitoring the Future survey, which has tracked the views of a representative sample of 17- and 18-year-old Americans since 1976. They compared the answers to key questions given by high school seniors in 2005-2007 to those provided by previous generations.

To measure materialism, the youngsters were asked to rate on a one-to-four (“not important” to “extremely important”) scale how vital they felt it was to own certain expensive items: “a new car every two to three years,” “a house of my own (instead of an apartment or condominium),” “a vacation house,” and “a motor-powered recreational vehicle.” They were also asked straightforwardly how important they felt it was to “have a lot of money.”

To measure their attitudes toward work, the seniors rated on a one-to-five scale the extent to which they agreed with a series of statements, including “I expect my work to be a very central part of my life,” and “I want to do my best in my job, even if this sometimes means working overtime.”

The researchers found a couple of disturbing trends.

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