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Archive for August 7th, 2009

Rick Wolff in MRZine on the vapidity of government intervention in capitalist crises:

Government economic policies targeted at crises are mostly secondary, weak sideshows.  The main event is the intrinsic relationship between capitalism and its crises.  Public attention is directed to the sideshows; we are distracted from the main event…

The capitalist system’s method of self-healing is crisis. When one of its recurring bubbles bursts, wealth is destroyed, people are fired, and production facilities are closed in a downward spiral of contraction.  Eventually, the increasingly desperate unemployed, underemployed, and the still employed who fear job loss accept lower wages and fewer benefits…

Government policies over the last two centuries of capitalism’s ascendancy have neither ended nor replaced crises as the system’s method for correcting capitalist excesses.  Nor have government policies prevented such excesses from recurring…

Government activities during crises typically serve three major purposes.  Social welfare policies ease or at least make a show of easing mass suffering while the crisis proceeds to correct the previous excesses.  Second, financial policies stimulate and regulate private enterprises and also bail out those firms whose imminent failure could jeopardize the system; such policies may lessen the extremes of the crisis as it proceeds to correct the previous excesses. Third, government statements blame the excesses, the crisis, and the suffering on “causes” other than the internal, routine workings of the capitalist system.  Conservative officials stress that (1) mass suffering is the price “we must pay” to correct past excesses that they blame on workers or government or both and (2) “we should rely” on private business (freed of government- or worker-imposed constraints) to overcome those excesses.  Liberal officials press to alleviate mass suffering associated with the crisis while insisting that (1) past excesses were caused by “greedy bad apples” and “unregulated” markets and (2) government interventions will overcome the current crisis and prevent future crises.  Criticism of capitalism as a system is impossible — literally unthinkable — for either side…

That problem is the capitalist system with its profound, built-in tensions…

One obvious response to crises would be to question the capitalist system that produces and reproduces them.  That leads logically to evaluating alternative economic systems.  Might reorganizing enterprises so workers became their own collective employers help to overcome the instability imposed by capitalism?…

Far from answering these key questions, most crisis discussions ignore them…

Yet capitalism’s own crisis undermines its taboos.  The numbers and social influence of capitalism’s critics are again growing.  The system’s injustices, material wastes, and immense human costs provoke the questioning and the criticism that can identify changes needed finally to break the cycle of excess and crisis.  The dialectic of contradiction, that old mole, besets capitalism anew.

Didn’t think I would ever say this, but I’m a little more pessimistic than Rick Wolff, when it comes to the growing influence of capitalism’s critics.

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