Offering frequent news and analysis from the majestic Evergreen State and beyond, The Cascadia Advocate is the Northwest Progressive Institute's unconventional perspective on world, national, and local politics.

Sunday, March 05, 2006

Capitalism, the Movie

And they call us starry eyed idealists.
"Laughable and Simplistic" - Cleveland Star
Fantasy and the business world - Des Moines Plain Dealer
Outrageously inaccurate - Kansas City Register
Fortunately most moviegoers are less credulous than Clive Crook in the latest Atlantic. Clive tells a story much more inane than the sappiest Pollyanna about the virtues of capitalism. He ends with the moral, "It will all be okay if we only believe." It is the tired and trite tale of how government interference screws up the free and efficient operation of business. That which brought us our immense prosperity and abundance falters only because of unnecessary meddling.

Clive is frustrated because he cannot find anyone – not economists, not corporate leaders, not even their conservative mouthpieces in Congress – to support him.

Economists are reluctant to get on board because they know the same hands off free market capitalism that infatuates Clive actually brought us the Great Depression and the similar economic "panics" of the years prior to World War II. Only after the rise of Big Government and the moderation of business's domination of markets did fairly steady increases in prosperity begin.

"Competitive markets are great, but you can't make any money in them," say the corporate leaders. "Instead let us dominate markets and something will somehow trickle down to you. What's good for GM is good for the US, don't you know."

Only a few beady-eyed folks in tinfoil hats actually press our elected representatives for more free markets. Instead Congress and state legislatures are begged by business for more tax breaks and market protections, and entreated by consumers and labor for relief from corporate predation.

Is it the marketplace which created prosperity, cloning itself into ever higher forms? Or was prosperity seeded, watered and pollinated by public education, publically financed railroads and transportation systems, more or less uniform laws, systematic regulation of those precious markets, and of course, research universities and government-led space and defense projects?

The successful economies today are not those where the invisible hand swings most freely, but those of Scandinavia, where there are two hands clapping, where public research and develpment augments private. Where social security is social and secure.

The root of Clive's distress is his continuing confusion between the corporate capitalism that exists in the world today and the free market capitalism that exists in the minds of people who need to get out more. The difference between the two is night and day, not degrees of inflection.

The incredible market failure in Oil is a current example. Immense environmental and geopolitical costs are invisible to the market price of fuel, which thus results in a massive subsidy of our own destruction. Hands off these corporations in the name of free markets is like saying, Hands off serial killers in the name of animal rights.

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