The Death of Capitalism +?

The Corona crisis demands different and more in-depth analyses and syntheses.
Some causes of our poor management are society shortcomings – economic, democratic, educational and informational. These are failures of analytical thinking. Inextricably interconnected, they need addressing as a network.
Power correlates highly with wealth. The concentration of wealth concentrates power. Concentrated power weakens democracy. If we do not manage the continuing concentration of wealth, we connive at the demise of democracy. If we do not expose and oppose Neo-liberalism’s concentration of power, which gathers to itself yet more wealth and power, we are democrats in theory only.
Neo-Liberalism turns nations into financial capitalist entities instead of industrial capitalist ones. This is presented as “economics” but is also profoundly political power playing. “Off-shoring”, which moves manufacturing skills and corporate tax-paying abroad, affects the social equilibrium. It reduces the pay and infrastructures for the many. We become less productive, less skilled and more dependent consumer society and so less confident and powerful and more easily controlled and exploited.

Even with its shortcomings, industrial capitalism brought the benefits of significant sections of society having powerful skills, giving economic, social and political confidence and the power to use it. This enhances democracy and restrains the power of the finance industry’s use of weaponised debt. Industrial capitalism saw developments of democracy, public health, trades unions/professional equivalents etc. which are all essential for a sustainable democratic society.
“Three-phase democracy”, economic clarity and equity, higher quality primary and secondary education plus encouraged access to life-long forms of tertiary education, enabling all to progress economically and confidently through life-long skill acquisition, give economic and democratic health.
We need educational systems which result in life-long learning and skill hunger.
“Three-phase democracy” has certain input, processes and output. All are enabled to vote, media partiality and lobbying are minimised, and one needs a food bank. More transparent democratic management of big-money donations and post-political career facilitation and less binary, oppositional politics would help.
Our national government is increasing “Free Market” modelled. “The Free Market” is a lie. Like all human activities, markets must have rules. The current rules are rigged for the rich.
We need neither nil/minimal nor maximal regulation, but optimal.
Lack of “press freedom” rigs the informational markets. The corporate media is undemocratic and oligarchic, so choice and divergence are reduced. “Our” government colludes, with self-protecting restriction of public access to democracy necessary information.
Education and the media avoid key terms and concepts. We believe ourselves to be free because a deliberately deficient popular vocabulary obstructs realistic analysis.
Stylised analysis of society presents it as the government, the very rich and the rest.
Government for the rest grows democracy. Government for the very rich kills it.
The justification of capitalism is the stimulus of competition and the discipline of destructive failure. These were destroyed in and after 2008.
Did the unconditional 2008 bankers’ rescue kill capitalism and democracy?
Cities like Leicester sacrificed for the City of London?

* Steve Trevathan is chairperson of Lyme Regis and Marshwood Vale Liberal Democrats.

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21 Comments

  • Peter Martin 29th Jul '20 - 4:37pm

    “Neo-Liberalism turns nations into financial capitalist entities instead of industrial capitalist ones.”

    This isn’t really true. Germany is as neoliberal, ordoliberal would be their term for it, as they come and they’ve looked after their industrial base. They do it by adopting mercantilistic policies, though, which might work for some countries but won’t work for everyone. They are essentially beggar-thy-neighbour – especially if you’re silly enough to want to share a currency with them.

    Mercantilism leads to trade wars which leads to real wars.

    The problem for 21st century mercantilists is there’s no gold involved any longer. Germany is just storing up IOUs from the debtor countries which will never be repaid.

    https://www.handelsblatt.com/today/finance/promoting-trade-germany-first-the-return-of-mercantilism/23570190.html

  • Looked at the title of the author. Surprised it wasn’t Mr J Corbyn.

  • I started off with an open mind and degree of interest. What I found myself reading was not some interesting analyses of recent events.

    Instead, it was some sort of turgid political speech.

    I soon stopped reading.

  • Peter Martin 30th Jul '20 - 4:13am

    “A rising tide raises all boats”

    Or maybe just the luxury yachts?

    Of course, there is no such thing as “a free market”. Capitalism doesn’t exist independently of government. The government creates the currency, is the biggest player in the economy and sets the rules for all transactions in the economy. If Govt says we have to pay 20% in VAT then we pay 20% in VAT on every taxable transaction. If Govt says that workers should be paid a minimum wage, then they should be paid that wage. If Government says that children should be in school rather than working in factories……

    So we have to distinguish between the role capitalism has to play in producing the goods and services we need and the role of Government which sets the rules in a more, or less, democratic fashion. So democracy has nothing to do with capitalism per se but it does have to do with Government. That’s why we want the market to be regulated, and not free, and regulated in a way that benefits us all.

  • The title “The Death of Capitalism” is really a bit of click bait, for what follows is a scatter gun overview of many of the problems our society faces. Steve’s view’s on education and the media would, I imagine, be broadly supported by most here but I found the references to wealth, power and the economy a little abstract and obscure. Power is obviously correlated with wealth but twas ever thus and the antidote was supposed to be democratic politics that created other ways of influencing policy.
    I’m still not sure I understand what “neo-liberalism” means in this context. Much of it seems to be a description of how global capitalism work. For example, companies do go “off shore” to reduce costs and increase profit and this does have a negative effect on domestic workers. So what is the solution ? Protectionism ?
    Observations like “the rules are rigged for the rich” need expanding with some examples. Which rules is particular ? Rules that say you can keep your cash ? And then we are told that we have Free Markets, which implies a lack of rules anyway. (Of course as @Peter Martin points out, we don’t have free markets. Governments in all nations have their paws all over them.
    If capitalism fails, what replaces it ? A state run economy ? By all means lets argue for greater worker control, broader shareholding and more co-operatives, but that’s still capitalism by my definition.

  • Capitalism is, or should be, merely a stepping stone to something better. It is not the end of history, as a particularly intelligent idiot once wrote.

  • David Pocock 30th Jul '20 - 6:08pm

    Kinda don’t feel qualified to join in too much with the discussion as I really am not an expert on this subject but one thing that strikes me as missing from all I read is the solution. What is it people propose to replace the current system with.

  • The difficulty is capitalism isn’t ‘A Thing’. Lots of different ways of managing the economy are called ‘capitalism’ because, probably, it has some residual cachet in that it’s seen as – and is certainly promoted as – the opposite to boo-hiss ‘communism’.

    But… the US version of so-called capitalism has gone entirely to the dark side and become monstrously predatory, for instance driving a coach and horses through long settled property law for the benefit of Wall Street in the aftermath of the 2008 debt crisis. In fact, so much of the economy, including very obviously health care, are now highly predatory that I would describe it as a kleptocracy (rule of thieves). I think the US is on track to either revolution or full banana republic status within the near future unless there is a sharp change of direction.

    The version we have in the UK isn’t quite as bad yet but should be rightly be called ‘crony capitalism’ or ‘finance capitalism’ (it’s both) and is highly inimical to the health and prosperity of ordinary people although some of its worst effects are tempered by the remnants of the welfare state.

    Curiously, it is very ‘top down’ in the sense that targets are extensively used to drive the public sector and more besides. That makes it surprisingly like Soviet communism that also relied heavily on targets which didn’t work any better for them than they do for the UK today.

    The cure for the UK’s cancerous versions of capitalism is, of course, an effective opposition meaning in practice one that understands the issues, is well organised, strategic in its thinking, and sees the opportunities. Tragically, we don’t have that, not even close.

    However, I am convinced there is a huge hunger for a decent opposition and the first party to get properly organised and start articulating a vaguely sensible vision will win big. But (big hint to leadership candidates), there is no path to that outcome via identity politics of any sort. For Lib Dems it means getting real about the dysfunctional way the party is run and fixing it and then getting to some understanding of how the economy works.

  • David Pocock 30th Jul '20 - 8:22pm

    @Joseph That was an interesting read and summery of Marxist possition but what I do not understand is why you posted it exactly? Are you supporting that or is it just for discussion? What is the point of your post, not dissing just dont understand if it is your position or not.

    Either way, I think it is demonstrably false, based just on european history, china had slaves for its entire existance and arguably had the first money. It had slaves before money. And a very early caste system running alongside slaves… And is a communist capitalist nation with worse social programs than the capitalist socialist Europeans.

    Like calling anything capitalist or communist seems rather black and white to me anyway, Are free schools socialist? Or to be a capitalist country does it have to be some form of ancap fallout world? Does 1 socialist program make your country not capitalist or does have any form of free market make a communist one capitalist?

    Anyway marx was wrong about industrial development and his Malthusian thinking on population too. And was wrong about how communist states would operate. I think he had some good thoughts on alienation however.

  • Peter Martin 30th Jul '20 - 9:19pm

    @ Chris Cory,

    ‘…..companies do go “off shore” to reduce costs and increase profit and this does have a negative effect on domestic workers. So what is the solution ? Protectionism ?’

    Some would say that. But it doesn’t sit well with the Liberal tradition of free-trade. So what else is there?

    OK so the capitalists move jobs abroad. Call centre workers are now in India. Our shirts are made in Bangladesh. Our shoes are made in Vietnam. etc etc That’s always going to happen.

    This is highly deflationary to the UK and other advanced economies. We’ve created a pool of unused labour, which can be employed to do something else without creating extra inflation. If its done properly we still get our shirts and shoes made but we get the something else too. We need to have a commitment to full employment, and the Govt can then use its fiscal and monetary capacity to expand the economy to take up the slack.

    This is, however, easier said that done! Many industrial workers haven’t taken well to the change to the new economy. But, it has still happened to a large extent. However, it’s happened too quickly and without thought to the social consequences. Also there has been far too much reliance on monetary expansion of the economy. This is just another way of saying that the UK govt has actively encouraged the creation of high levels of private sector debt to sufficiently increase aggregate demand. It’s created the bubble economy.

    The real danger is when bubbles burst. You’d think the neoliberals would have learned from the 2008 experience! But I’d say they haven’t. If we have a repeat experience some neolibs will blame it on Brexit, others and will blame it on the Covid epidemic.

  • I’ve had to skim rather lightly over all the foregoing, and suspect that what I was looking for hardly appears, overwhelmed by an avalanche of historical learning and a point to point tennis match of interesting facts and isms. But listening for a central and critical social, political, and economic term we all aspire towards, why is there so little mention of Democracy?

    What I seem to read is a blindness, or a refusal to confront, the core deficiency in today’s United Kingdom: Democracy. Our version of it, at the national level, is a grotesque travesty. FPTP? You can’t make me laugh.

    Everybody knows it. Once Parliament’s composition reflects the wishes of the Kingdom as a whole (whatever bits of it remain), then perhaps we shall make progress on such basic problems as the iniquitous and unwarrantable disparity between the very well off, and the lower half of the others. Our first task as Liberals is to educate ourselves and then everyone on the need for representative democracy, All else, at present, is hot stale air and the din of bogus debate.

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