FROM STUART COOKE
The news media talks to the news media and not to laymen and what the film director Roberto Rosselleini called the spread of "semi-culture." Semi-culture is the fact that people talk about things they don't know. They use words like "inflation", "balance of payments", "unemployment", "communism", and "capitalism' but they don't know anything about them. (Me, too, haha)
Branko Milanovic defines capitalism as "privately owned capital, hired labor, and decentralized coordination". But before exploring this further, it's important to know or ask first, "What is Capitalism for?" It's a way to organize material things and services so that human beings can provide for their earthly needs. What's called a "mode of production."
To make it more concrete, the capitalist model requires: land, money, gold, other assets which are owned by individual entities—people or companies (private capital) combined with employees (paid labor) and a social/political environment where people are free to set up any business they like (decentralized organization).
The alternative models we've had up to now are the communist model and the feudal model. Both of those models failed because it did not produce enough of the the things and services people needed. (Will explain how other models might become possible 200 years from now, but for the time being capitalism is it.)
While economics has been around forever, it was Adam Smith, a Brit, who developed the general framework of what we think of as economics today in his 1776 book "The Wealth of Nations." He defined the inputs of economics as land, labor, land, and capital. Henceforward until the early 20th century, economics belonged to the field of what was called "Political Economy", meaning the work of economists and other thinkers focused on both money and politics, how the two could work together to provide maximum benefits for people. Afterwards the "political" part gradually disappeared and with it the field became focused on money only. (more on this later)
What's important i think to understand now is that capitalism or the free-market economy has run wild and free since it came into its modern form in the 18th century. It's raped the planet, produced global warming, killed millions of people, and produced world chaos and gross inequality. The reason is that there's not been a countervailing human, non-materialist, moral, value-based force to guide it. it's like a child in a toy store or in front of a table of desserts. It has no idea what it's doing. It grabs and eats as much as it can, not knowing it's making itself sick.
The only exceptions i know to this are in the northern countries of Denmark, Sweden, Holland, and the Netherlands where those governments have stepped in to prevent the excesses of the rest of the world though government regulation.
Me and Dad canoeing - in the early 80s I'm guessing. East coast somewhere near Washington DC.
My father Stuart Cooke lives in Jakarta, Indonesia where he works on urban planning projects, writes, tells stories and emails me answers to questions and thoughts on global politics, art and the human experience.
Some things are differences of opinion and beliefs.
Like how best to allocate our taxes. Or whether auto-tune mumble rap is better than Dr Dre, Public Enemy, Cypress, Busta, Cube or a Tribe Called Quest.
Then there are things that really aren’t just differences of opinion.
Like when George W Bush took us to war against Iraq based on lies. That is not close to the same as "wearing fur".
When people like Ellen or anyone else (no matter how much we might love them) takes pictures hugging Bush or takes the tone deafening stance that Bush just has different "beliefs", that is an assault on all of our humanity. We have never had a bi-partisan investigation and prosecution of the crime of the Iraq War. Nor have we done so for the genocide of Native Americans. Nor have we made reparations for slavery.
So it is no surprise we have not done a moral inventory for the war crime of the Iraq invasion. The hundreds of thousands killed. The torture. The killed and maimed Americans. The displaced families. The festering fertile ground for the creation of ISIS.
Only kicking and screaming do we on occasion amend our laws to accommodate basic human dignities in the face of decades of atrocity.
But the people and institutions that were really responsible — nor their victims and the children ever see justice.
When rich public figures like "Ellen" defend a friendship with a war criminal that is not about a difference of opinion or “being nice”. That is supporting the sick disease of denial, mass murder and racism that’s plagued America since its inception. It is sociopathic elitism at its grossest. And it's shameful.
EMAIL FROM STUART COOKE:
Branco Milanovic [brilliant American economist and development and inequality specialist] analysis of capitalism, how it has become the single system, which rules the world:
Capitalist system cannot be changed. The dominion of hyper-commercial capitalism was established thanks to our desire to permanently keep on improving our material conditions, to keep on getting richer, a desire which capitalism satisfies the best.
This has led to the creation of a system of values that puts monetary success as its top. In many ways it is a desirable evolution because “believing” in money alone does away with other traditional and discriminatory hierarchical markers.
In order for capitalism to exist it needs to grow and to expand to ever new areas and new products.
But capitalism exists not outside of us, as a external system.
It is individuals, that is, us, who, in our daily lives, create capitalism and provide it with new fields of action—so much that we had transformed our homes into capital, and our free time into a resource.
This extraordinary commodification of almost all, including what used to be very private, activities was made possible by our internalization of the system of values where money acquisition is placed on the pinnacle. If this were not the case, we would not have commodified practically all that can be (as of now) commodified.
Capitalism, in order to expand, needs greed. Greed has been entirely accepted by us.
The economic system and the system of values are interdependent and mutually reinforcing.
Our system of values enables hyper-commercialized capitalism to function and expand. It then follows that no change in the economic system can be imagined without a change in the system of values that underpins it, which the system promotes, and with which we are, in our everyday activities, fully comfortable. But to produce such a change in values seems, at present, to be an impossible task. It has been tried before and ended in the most ignominious failure. We are thus locked in capitalism. And in our activities, day in, day out, we support and reinforce it.
He says in his new book, Capitalism Alone, that while capitalism (liberal meritocratic capitalism in the West, and the authoritarian political capitalism of China) has raised global income, it has increased inequality within every country. This can be fixed through three policies:
First: de-concentrating capital ownership through tax advantages for the middle class and a corresponding increase in taxes for the rich, as well as reinstating high taxes on inheritance. Reducing the concentration of wealth would also reduce the concentration of income and give the middle class a much bigger stake in the financial ownership of capital.
The second element is enhancing public education and equality of opportunity by increasing funding for and improving the quality of public schools.
Despite individual cases of people who are poor being able to go to top schools, the number of such cases is small and of no statistical importance.
Moreover, the high cost guarantees that top schools essentially cater to the rich. In other words, the extremely high cost of private education is used as a tool by the rich to reduce competition faced by their children.
The third part is changing the financing of political campaigns to reduce the ability of the rich to control the political process.
These three elements can be broken down into a number of policy options—some of them very radical—which in my opinion would be able to stop the slide toward plutocracy [a society that is ruled or controlled by people of great wealth].
These are essentially the most salient excerpts from an interview with Branko you can read here:
[side note: Bernie Sanders has just released a plan (Oct 7) to end all corporate giving in federal elections.]