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.]