It’s becoming apparent to more and more people that both of the primary economic systems in the world today have fatal flaws that punish the innocent and fail to provide for the common good. But if you don’t like either corporate democracy or state socialism, what do you want?
Allow me to introduce Gar Alperovitz, of the University of Maryland, whose most recent book What Then Must We Do? gives us the broadest look at the situation that I have found so far. I’ll try to capsulize some of what he says across several posts in coming weeks.
The big problem is that the very system itself is at fault.
I have a stack of books on the topic of what to do next. In every case, the author has a suggestion. In each case, the suggestion centers around a single idea. Alperovitz does not presume there is a single solution. In fact, he does not presume to know what must be done. What he does is to summarize the situation, including many facts and figures not commonly known, and a number of changes that have been made already, also not widely known. What he suggests is that we start applying ourselves to the problem, while at the same time finding short-term solutions to the problems that plague us at present.
The big problem is that the very system itself is at fault. The corporate economy concentrates ever more money in ever fewer hands, and the lot of everyone else erodes, little by little. This is inevitable, part of the DNA of the system. You’ve all seen the charts. If not, look at this one and you will have no doubt. In fact, you should look at it anyway, even if you’ve seen it before.
We cannot adjust and jigger the current system to make it right. The problems are deeper than that. Of course we must do everything we can to improve our situation while the new system defines itself. In time, if we are lucky, we will devise an entirely new economic system that does a much better job of providing for all people, not just the rich. But it’s not a given, and there is no timetable.
The problems are too deep to
jigger and adjust the current system.
What is it that the economy should give to every person, even the poorest? No one would say we’ll all be rich. That’s a bit like saying everyone will be above average. But the poorest should benefit from the important advances of the time, and must not lack for anything essential for modern life. So, for example, we have vaccines for many diseases that were once killers. They must be readily available to all, and good medical care must be available equally to all. Estimates are that 120 Americans die every day because they cannot get treatment. No one should die for lack of medical care. Medical care needn’t be luxurious to be satisfactory; it just needs to be. At present it exists only for those who can pay. But plasma TV, cars, electronic gadgets, and other toys are not part of the mix.
I have championed worker-owned companies in this blog, but there are many other democratic arrangements Alperovitz tells us about that I will mention in coming posts. To begin with, 40% of all Americans are members of some form of cooperative, including electrical, insurance, retail, health care, credit unions, land trusts, and many more. Credit unions are the largest, with about $1T in assets. If you want to get your money out of the clutches of out-of-control bankers, a credit union is a good place to start.
The free-marketers are blowing hot air
about the role of government.
The free-marketers are blowing hot air about the role of government. Their faith says that less government is always better. But of course they all accept and use the many things that only government can provide, such things as highways and communications.
They also neglect to mention the huge role that extortion plays in their operations. It’s now routine for corporations to demand special treatment in return for locating in a specific city or state. Tax breaks. Free land. They call that being “good for business”. One cannot logically claim to be a free-marketer while at the same time demanding special privileges. And they do demand special privileges, so it’s quite clear they are blowing hot air when the go on about the so-called free market.
This routine favoritism costs us up to $200,000 per job produced. It costs us in government revenue loss; it does not benefit the tax account. Moreover, it’s an addiction that doesn’t end, leading to further demands that, if not extorted, can end with absconding to someplace still more compliant. Not unlike the global market situation. This has a disastrous effect on the local economy, because all sorts of support businesses and the local government come to depend on the larger corporation, and are then abandoned. To my way of thinking, the billionaire owners of sports teams are the worst, because they demand that a new multi-million dollar stadium be built at our expense, but for the exclusive use of their team and no one else. Do they then favor the fans with reasonable ticket prices? Not on your life. It has nothing to do with the sport.
Next: The everyday socialism we already benefit from, and some better ways of paying for things.