By Jack Jodell, October 18, 2011
The widespread and ongoing OCCUPY TOGETHER movements all over the world show a massive, almost universal, displeasure with capitalism as an economic model, particularly the “free market” variety so beloved and espoused by today’s (and YESTERDAY’S) ultra-conservative Republicans, Libertarians, and Tea Party extremists. From Wall Street to Milan, from London to Asia to the Middle East – there is justified anger and frustration with this so-called “best of all economic systems” due to its abject failure to provide jobs and opportunity to the vast majority of peoples, as it provides wealth and a comfortable, secure lifestyle to only a shrinking few.
Karl Marx, the German philosopher who founded the doctrine of communism, had it essentially right when he first analyzed capitalism back in the 1840s. He was an excellent diagnostician. His followers, however, among them Lenin, Stalin, and Mao, were poor pharmacists in that the remedy they prescribed was harsh, deadly, overly centralized, and too restrictive to provide much practical popular good. The state (government) demanded all profit for itself and didn’t allow the individual citizen enough economic freedom to satisfy themselves. This harshness and restrictiveness ended badly for the first group of regimes that adopted them, namely the Soviet Union and her various satellites. Of course, Marx died before capitalism itself had morphed into its more modern form of welfare capitalism, which had begun under Otto von Bismarck in the 1880s and eventually matured with the implementation of Franklin Roosevelt’s New Deal in the 1930s. These provided for social safety nets for the population and were characterized by state regulation of capitalism, but not even that was enough to stem the system’s inherent self-centered greed.
Prior to Karl Marx were the beliefs of social philosopher Adam Smith, the darling of cirrent conservatives, who advocated unrestricted, free market “laissez faire” capitalism. He believed wrongly that the state had no right to interfere in any way with the workings of the marketplace and that an “invisible hand” would guide capitalists to always do whatever was in the best interests of the market itself to ensure that self-correction would enable all to prosper. The majority of people currently demonstrating on the streets know that such a hand does not exist, and that laissez faire capitalism has always proved disastrous for the majority and only desirable for the tiny few who are wealthy. In fact, in its current form of “crony capitalism” it has been proven to be a malignant force that has co-opted and perverted entire governments to make the very rich even richer and more secure and comfortable while dooming the rest of the population to increasing malaise and even squalor. Time and again, Smith has been shown to be a misguided idealist whose beliefs have repeatedly led to the rich getter richer and the poor getting poorer.
Enter John Maynard Keynes, the brilliant British economist whose ideas revolutionized social and economic thinking, and led to a very long and solid mid-to-late 20th century period of growth and prosperity for most of the capitalist world. He argued that the best way to combat long periods of high unemployment was to stimulate aggregate demand, NOT to institute austerity measures which would reduce that demand. He correctly forecast government regulation and intervention as being vital to the success and continuance of the capitalist system. He believed that when the amount of money being saved exceeds the amount being invested, JUST AS WE HAVE BEEN SEEING LATELY AMONG HUGE CORPORATIONS AND WALL STREET BANKERS, long-term unemployment will RISE. He recommended INCREASED GOVERNMENT SPENDING IN THE FORM OF PUBLIC WORKS PROGRAMS as a method to stimulate demand and lower unemployment rates. He also advocated a progressive tax system. He wrote in the middle of the Great Depression, “Let us be up and doing, using our idle resources to increase our wealth…with men and plans unemployed, it is ridiculous to say that we cannot afford these new developments.” Keynes thus came out in favor of LIMITED deficit spending: spending to the point where jobs could be created and maintained. His ideas, which were adopted by all western economics from the 1950s through the early 170s, spawned a tremendous and unprecedented prosperity. Workers AND business owners each saw their earnings grow. It was only the 1973 oil crisis, as well as the lifting of certain governmental regulatory controls which allowed “decadent and selfish” market speculators to once again enter the economic picture, which caused rampant inflation and increased unemployment to appear simultaneously. Consequently, a number of economists began to deviate from the accepted Keynesian model in the face of this “stagflation.”
As a result ofse late-1970s economic crises, conservative, classical economists like Milton Friedman came back into vogue. Along with him began the rise of conservative politicians like Ronald Reagan and George W. Bush, arguably the most mediocre and destructive Presidents of all time. These people rejected the Keynesian notion of government intervention outright, and declared government to be the problem rather than the solution. They pushed the country’s political and economic agenda increasingly further to the right of where it had been during the previous 25 years. “Trickle-down” and “free market” economics became the order of the day. Taxes were reduced on the very wealthy and corporations under the errant assumption that doing so would enable those with money to invest freely and without fear, the presumption being that huge numbers of new jobs would then be created and the whole nation would prosper. It didn’t quite work out that way, though. Antitrust suits became almost nonexistent as regulatory agencies were hurriedly stuffed with business-friendly rather than public-watchdog staffs. Short-sighted, greedy, ideological fools like trust-funder Grover Norquist came into prominence; a total outsider who would intimidate legislators to sign a pledge forbidding them to raise taxes no matter what. Government spending on the elderly and the needy was pushed downward in the belief that privitization was best and that entitlement programs were somehow hurting the private sector. Worst of all, there were tremendous cutbacks in mortgage banking and investment regulation, so reckless speculators began once again having a field day on Wall Street. Hedge fund managers made millions off the sale of junk bonds; labor unions were shackled and lost influence, membership, and even bargaining-power rights; American jobs were exported by the millions to cheaper, foreign slave-labor markets; American workers’ wages flattened out and began to recede; and the rich became (and are still becoming) vastly richer, while those in the 99% of the population below them grow increasingly poorer. Economic social darwinism has been instituted and is now strangling the land. Crony capitalism has replaced good government and is destroying the country in the process. Even the Supreme Court has adopted a disastrous, activist corporatist posture. THAT, ladies and gentlemen, is the natural end result of 30+ years of conservative Republican “trickle-down” economics, and THAT is why people are taking to the streets all across the globe! Capitalism has once more not delivered on its promise of abundance for all, and this latest “Great Recession” with its accompanying sustained high unemployment and austerity measures, represents the glaring failure of Republican “free market” economics. The obvious only solution is to return to some form of Keynesian sanity, to tax the rich much more heavily, and to begin a massive, government-funded series of programs to rebuild the nation’s infrastructure. OR, we can scrap the capitalist system altogether, but, practically speaking, this would only lead to a long period of bloodshed and civil strife. CLEARLY, THE UPPER 1% MUST YIELD GROUND AND WEALTH TO ACCOMODATE THE NEEDS OF THOSE BELOW THEM! WILL THEY LISTEN TO THE DEMANDS OF THE 99%?
In addition, conservative Democrats and Republicans alike MUST NOT ne returned to office in 2012!!!