Monday, June 30, 2014

Some Reflections on Stiglitz's "Inequality Is Not Inevitable"

Some Reflections on Stiglitz's "Inequality Is Not Inevitable"
Thomas Riggins

In the June 27, 2014 New York Times Joseph E. Stiglitz published the above name article. It is an interesting take on the growing inequality in the United States but I think it is entirely too voluntaristic in tone and hence unscientific. He wants to know how the US, since at least 2007 (the Great Recession) has become the capitalist country "with the greatest level of inequality."

Stiglitz has moderated a series of articles in the NYT called "The Great Divide" which he says have presented examples "that undermine the notion that there are truly any fundamental laws of capitalism." Stiglitz is a mainline capitalist economist and the line  that "capitalism has no fundamental laws" is a tactic to head off socialist, and especially Marxist, studies on the nature of capitalism which appeal to certain "laws" or tendencies of capitalist development that are responsible for the exploitation of human labor power as well as the creation of crises  of over production, the determination of surplus value, the need to expand markets, the creation of monopolies, and other nasty features which produce human inequalities, the drive for war and other contributions responsible for the degradation of humanity and the ruination of the planet.

Stigilitz asserts that 19th century capitalism's "dynamics" need not apply to the [faux] democracies of the 21st. But that was already pointed out by Lenin in his work on Imperialism which shows how 19th Century capitalism morphed into monopoly capitalism controlled by finance and bank interests along with giant international corporations. This is the capitalism that still rules the roost in the 21st Century.

Stiglitz says we have "ersatz" [not real] capitalism because in the Great Recession "we socialized losses, even as we privatized gains" (whoever that "we'' is). It is not "ersatz" capitalism when the masses of the working people are stuck with the "losses'' and banksters and their allies end up with the "gains." That's how capitalism works.

Well since we have done away with "laws" of capitalism it can't be capitalism that is to blame for inequality (or war, pestilence and famine). So who is to blame. It is us. It is "our policies and politics."

Why has America "chosen" so much inequality? Partly because the "solidarity" we all felt in WWII has faded away, and victory in the Cold War meant "we no longer had to show our system could deliver for most of our citizens."  Well the "we" can't be "most of our citizens"  since they wouldn't say "Well the Cold War is over so we don't need the system to deliver for us anymore,"  Could the "we" be the capitalists, the banksters and the mainstream politicians and economists that work for them?

Stiglitz then goes on to describe the results of present inequality and the suffering in inflicts on millions of people. He certainly would like to get rid of it  and give everyone a good and decent living standard. What he portrays, however, is a state completely controlled by the capitalist class-- where money and wealth commands both the political machinery and the justice (legal)  system. A system where the masses of people are ignorant of how the system works and are manipulated and their values and welfare is ignored.

This is exactly the type of society produced by socialist and Marxist models of capitalism, how it works, and what its outcome is for working people and why it must be replaced by socialism. But Stiglitz does not, and perhaps cannot, go down that road. His is a voluntaristic solution. We must change the way we think about politics and poverty. The solution (LBJ's ghost is near) is "not just a new war on poverty but a war to protect the middle class." Now "war" is a very serious undertaking. Who must we make war against to protect the middle class? Well, its not the working class, its not the unemployed, its not immigrants and minorities. Who is left? "Our" own top capitalists and the politicians, news media, and educational institutions that they control. Is this going to be a bloody revolution?

No! The "war" will be a limited police action, if that. All we have to do is make the top wealthy people pay fair taxes, reverse a "politics of greed"  and seek "our children's access to food and the right to justice for all." This can be done by spending more on "education, health and infrastructure." For those of you who think such sweet, saccharine sentiments are the usual pie in the sky solutions to the social question, for shame: "Just because you've heard it before doesn't mean we shouldn't try again." And again, and again, and again, and….

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