Assorted Articles IX

I’m making my way through a collection of political articles I tucked away and found gems I want to share.

Somehow some folks who self-identify as leftists are still willing to tolerate capitalism. In “The left must stand against capitalism. Now.“, Andray Domise lays out the stark, scary reality that people engaged in movements that should be pointing to capitalism as an enemy are scared to engage with Marx and the legacy of anti-capitalist thinking (communism, anarchism and socialism), the critiques and solutions for capitalism that are viable.

If a group of activists can be “scared off” by a nearly 200-year-old critique of capitalism, while the externalities of capitalism itself pollute oceans with plastic, fill the air with smog and accelerate climate change via carbon emissions, something is terribly wrong.

There’s no way around a simple reality for people who consider themselves to be on the left side of the political spectrum, the people who strive for widespread and radical, if not revolutionary, change—we’re getting our tails kicked. There’s no putting an end to that if people who hold left-leaning ideals cannot quit kidding themselves by believing that capitalism exists as a benevolent or even neutral social arrangement. If the left intends to win these fights, it must also stand in principled opposition to capitalism. 2020 is the year to do it.

[…]

But the truth of the matter is this: 58 per cent of Canadians have a favourable view of socialism, and 77 per cent of us believe the world is facing a climate emergency. Most Canadians find income inequality to be fundamentally un-Canadian, and there are, numerically, more of us than there are bankers, landlords, brokers and executives put together. The only way for the left to win this fight is for its political vision to expand beyond capitalism, and to capture the widespread desire to move on from its exploitative limits.

We’ve lived in that world for long enough. Time for it to end.

The left must stand against capitalism. Now.

Wealth inequality is an insidious problem, and the stripping away of wealth from the poor to feed the expansion of the wealth of the unfathomably wealthy is dire. However, middle class and upper middle class wealth is also now being depleted more rapidly in the United States (and surely elsewhere). “How the Fed Boosts the 1%: Even the Upper Middle Class Loses Share of Household Wealth to the 1%. Bottom Half Gets Screwed” looks at just how scary the numbers are.

Everyone knows that if you’re in the bottom 50% of households in terms of wealth in this country, you’re essentially screwed. At the bottom 50%, you’re chasing after the American dream, and while a few are able to get out of the bottom 50%, for most, the American dream remains just a dream.

But the share that the bottom 50% of households have of the overall wealth, of that record $107 trillion, is minuscule. It’s just 1.9%.

That share is down by half from the already miserably low levels of 1999, according to the Fed’s data. So those folks in the bottom half of households are screwed and we knew that.

But today, we’ll take a closer look at the top 50% to 99% of households by wealth because even their share of the wealth is now declining, while the share of the 1% is surging.

This is the upper middle class and the top of the middle class, and they’re losing out to the 1%. And it’s a big deal in terms of dollars because those households have a lot of wealth, but their share is shrinking as the share of the 1% is gaining.

How the Fed Boosts the 1%: Even the Upper Middle Class Loses Share of Household Wealth to the 1%. Bottom Half Gets Screwed

Back in November, in “Why are we still treating economics as if it were an empirical science that makes reliable predictions?” Cory Doctorow provided framing for the David Graeber review “Against Economics” and points to a need to adjust how the people in charge of economies understand them. Economics as a discipline is largely unfit for the world we live in now and the worlds we would rather build, so even tentative steps toward a more reality-based view are heartening.

David “Debt” Graeber (previously) has written a fascinating and important review of Money and Government for the New York Review of Books, describing how, for decades, mainstream economists have claimed hold over the empirical truth of where money comes from and how it works, despite the catastrophic failure of their theories to perform as predicted in the real world, and how “Britain’s notoriously independent civil service” created a parallel theory of money — one that does work — and use that to operate quietly in parallel to the mainstream monetarist orthodoxy.

Why are we still treating economics as if it were an empirical science that makes reliable predictions?

There is a growing feeling, among those who have the responsibility of managing large economies, that the discipline of economics is no longer fit for purpose. It is beginning to look like a science designed to solve problems that no longer exist.

[…]

We now live in a different economic universe than we did before the crash. Falling unemployment no longer drives up wages. Printing money does not cause inflation. Yet the language of public debate, and the wisdom conveyed in economic textbooks, remain almost entirely unchanged.

Against Economics

Photo by Tim Mossholder on Unsplash

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