Everyone’s talking about something called “capitalism”

One silver living to come out of the economic crisis is that the so called capitalist system (which in reality is an extreme form of unfettered free market capitalism) that most of the West lives under is being questioned again for the first time in more than half a century. Previous to the crisis, merely questioning whether capitalism really works was enough for people to suspect you were a raging socialist or more likely, a communist. Nowadays, even the Financial Times is featuring the word “capitalism” in it’s headlines – anyone would think the editors are trying to turn it into the Communist Manifesto! On the other side of the pond, even The Washington Post is asking, “Is Capitalism Dead?“.

In the last great depression in the 1930’s, it was normal to see capitalism talked about and debated in the media and political arena. After the war, when corporations and government simply decided capitalism was the only way, and we all got punch drunk on consumerism and ceased to care about how our countries were run, any debate about whether capitalism was a decent, functional and humane economic system went out the window. Then people like Thatcher and Reagan came along and put the nail in the coffin by decreeing that there simply is no other way – so just forget about it and go and watch TV.

The current economic crisis is a great opportunity for all those that have had their doubts about capitalism and it’s effectiveness to come together and discuss a new way forward. In my mind, we’ve never truly seen either a pure capitalist or communist system largely because corporate or state powers have consistently perverted both systems for their own means. It’s clear to me that something in between the two systems, along the lines (but not the same as) that practiced by the Nordic countries, would be the ideal.

Check out legendary Marxist historian Eric Hobsbawm give his take on the current crisis on the BBC’s terribly civilised Today radio programme. His trilogy of books covering contemporary history since 1789 starting with The Age of Revolution are also a must read.

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5 thoughts on “Everyone’s talking about something called “capitalism”

  1. awesome introspection man. It is indeed an opportunity to make a clever move for all. However I am pessimist. Governemnts are injecting billions into the system so that everything remains the same. This is becasue they refuse to give up such a profitable business. Remember that most of our natural resources come from third world countries and that spculation is ussually made upon these resources. Developing nations should take this opportunity and close ranks breaking every unfair contract ever made with G7, G8, or Ali G. Intelectuals and economists should do their efforts to make this happen. Make something good out your life, help developing nations get their shit together and fight the big power. It is a unique opportunity.

  2. It’s true that governments are desperately trying to save the system as we’ve seen in the UK and USA. There’s nothing wrong with state intervention in the economy (indeed it’s essential sometimes) but these bailouts are a type of socialism for the rich. It’s as Ralph Nader says. “Why will capitalism always survive? Because socialism will always save it.”

  3. I like that phrase! I guess to be a little contraire…to let the system fail in a shock would be castastrophic for alot of people as was seen when communisism collapsed in a shock in Russia. Well, I guess it would be…I am no economist. Be nice if the system could be let down gently…but that would require us all to change the way we live and reduce our demand to consume whatever we want when we want it. People are not even prepared to recycle or change their lightbulbs for the environment.

  4. Actually I think the phrase came from Nader’s dad as they sat around the kitchen table when he was a kid talking politics. I used to eat my dinner in my bedroom watching Neighbours.

    It’s true that if the economy collapsed like in the 1930’s, it would be a catastrophe for everyone including the rich and poor. The solution is to not allow financial institutions to invest and borrow so recklessly in the first place – then they wouldn’t need bailing out. In a way, it’s a mess also of the governments making because they haven’t regulated enough so they’re just as guilty as the corporations.

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