Tag Archives | Capitalism

On The Price Of Increasing Your Capital

Consider getting drunk and going to the movies this weekend. From 1844′s Human Requirements and Division of Labour Under the Rule of Private Property, Karl Marx says:

The less you eat, drink and read books; the less you go to the theatre, the dance hall, the public house; the less you think, love, theorize, sing, paint, fence, etc., the more you save – the greater becomes your treasure which neither moths nor dust will devour – your capital. The less you are, the more you have; the less you express your own life, the greater is your alienated life – the greater is the store of your estranged being.

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How Capitalism Creates the Welfare State

Andrew Sullivan writes:

The two concepts are usually seen in complete opposition in our political discourse. The more capitalism and wealth, the familiar argument goes, the better able we are to do without a safety net for the poor, elderly, sick and young. And that’s true so far as it goes. What it doesn’t get at is that the forces that free market capitalism unleashes are precisely the forces that undermine traditional forms of community and family that once served as a traditional safety net, free from government control. In the West, it happened slowly – with the welfare state emerging in 19th century Germany and spreading elsewhere, as individuals uprooted themselves from their home towns and forged new careers, lives and families in the big cities, with all the broken homes, deserted villages, and bewildered families they left behind. But in South Korea, the shift has been so sudden and so incomplete that you see just how powerfully anti-family capitalism can be:

[The] nation’s runaway economic success … has worn away at the Confucian social contract that formed the bedrock of Korean culture for centuries.

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Putting Socialism Back on the Agenda

Andrew Levine writes at Counterpunch:

Not long ago, in what now seems a different universe, it was still possible to talk about “hope” and “change” without irony.  And only a couple of decades before that, those words meant more than just holding reaction at bay.

Back when there was a flourishing left, “hope” and “change” were about moving the world forward – making the actual approach a rationally defensible ideal.  For more than an entire century, Marxists were preeminent among the forces of forward-looking hope and change.

They disagreed about many things, sometimes bitterly.  But all Marxists believed that socialism was capitalism’s future.  Along with others, they agreed that private ownership of society’s principal means of production would somehow someday give way to social or collective ownership.

Along with Marxism itself, this conviction has fallen on hard times.  The reasons why range from the empirical to the ridiculous to the tragic.

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Is Sowing Artificial Scarcity The Future Of Business?

Via the The New Inquiry, Peter Frase on where we’re headed:

Where we see scarcity, much of it appears to be imposed by choice. In particular, the increasing weight of intellectual property law heralds a world where the prime objective of business is to make things scarce enough that people will still need to buy them.

Unexpected scarcity long characterized agricultural societies—drought, pestilence, fire, and other natural calamities could bring about famine at any moment. But today’s farmers, who have learned to overcome many of these challenges, now face the prospect of a legal, rather than natural disaster. In a case that will soon appear before the Supreme Court, a 74-year-old farmer named Vernon Bowman was ordered to pay $84,000 in damages for infringing on the patents of agribusiness giant Monsanto. His crime was to plant a seed—a patented “Roundup Ready” seed, whose license agreement prohibits using it to produce new ones.

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Even Strippers Have Infomercials

Are you a stripper? Opera singer turned exotic dancer (Jesus, I think that’s the most depressing sentence I’ve ever written) Jennifer McCumber is ready to tell you how to lapdance your way to financial freedom. Just watch this low-quality, high-pressure infommercial to learn more.

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How Consumer Brainwashed Are You? The Game

Via Salon, Andrew Leonard on a smash-success smartphone game which tests and hones one’s recognition of corporate symbols:

I was a little taken aback last Sunday when I saw my 15-year-old son playing Logos Quiz, a game that is based on the ability to identify corporate logos, [and which] rocketed to the top of the most popular free download apps lists this spring. Imagine a brand being able to compare recognition rates of their logo by age, by zip code or by “likes.” Imagine a brand being able to insert alternate versions of their logo to test. We’re all test subjects for the future of advertising, all the time. Logos Quiz just makes it explicit.

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Want Less Inequality? Tax It

Wikimedia Commons (CC)

British economist Arthur C. Pigou, friend and contemporary of beloved John Maynard Keynes, eventually not only came around to the Keynesian logic, but also expanded on the common-sense philosophy to promote social balance and checks with the gentle, invisible hand of the Public. By incentivizing what benefits the downtrodden (perhaps with subsidies) and disincentivizing poor practices (by taxing rampant, unregulated profits), a more reasonable parity between the classes could be reached, stimulating economic growth and benefiting everyone.

This doesn’t have to be a ‘redistributive’ scheme that pits neoconservatives against progressives. Indeed, such a rational, gradated, and bracketed system makes sense to anyone who believes in the American traditions of pragmatism, equality, openness, innovation and opportunity.

Via the American Prospect by Liam C. Malloy and John Case

But the conventional strategy for fighting inequality—far higher taxes on the rich—usually rests on a foundation of fairness, and the question of what’s fair and what’s unfair turns out to cut different ways, depending on your point of view.

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A Call For Denaturalizing The Corporation

Via Policy Shop, Anthony Kammer says that if we want to take back control from corporations, we need to begin by altering how we think of them:

Given how much time we spend working for and interacting with corporations every day, it’s unsurprising that we tend to see them as a natural part of our social fabric. But corporations, of course, are not naturally occurring entities. They are the product of state laws, and they have been reshaped regularly throughout American history by courts and legislatures in order to respond to changing societal needs.

As recently as 1990, a majority of the Supreme Court explicitly acknowledged that corporations received serious economic advantages from the State and could therefore be regulated to prevent those state-conferred advantages from disrupting the political process:

State law grants corporations special advantages — such as limited liability, perpetual life, and favorable treatment of the accumulation and distribution of assets.

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