We’ve lived so long under the spell of hierarchy—from god-kings to feudal lords to party bosses—that only recently have we awakened to see not only that “regular” citizens have the capacity for self-governance, but that without their engagement our huge global crises cannot be addressed. The changes needed for human society simply to survive, let alone thrive, are so profound that the only way we will move toward them is if we ourselves, regular citizens, feel meaningful ownership of solutions through direct engagement. Our problems are too big, interrelated, and pervasive to yield to directives from on high.
—Frances Moore LappĂ©, excerpt from Time for Progressives to Grow Up

Monday, December 24, 2012

Econ4 as Utopian Capitalism

by Ron Horn for this blog. (Modified at 8:00 am, PST, 12-25-2012)

Occasionally you encounter capitalist reformers on the World Wide Web who appear to offer an enticing alternative to the predatory capitalism we are seeing once again today. In the US they are known mostly as liberals (in the political sense); in most of the rest of the world they are known as social democrats. Essentially they argue for a kinder and gentler capitalism. 

In Econ4's view all problems associated with capitalism are reduced to merely the assignation of values to things, that certain things like health, unpaid family labor, and the environment need to be assigned values to make it work for the benefit of all. At best, they are short sighted ivory tower idealists; at worst, they serve to distract and divert attention away from any real system change.

The Russian revolutionaries in 1917 understood that they could not bring about system changes within only one country, and thus, pinned their hopes on similar revolutions in Europe, most of all, in Germany. There was a serious attempt at overthrowing the capitalist class, but the German revolutionaries were sidetracked by social democrats who argued that gradual reforms to capitalism could achieve social justice by working through capitalist political institutions, specifically, parliament. With the multiple crises we are experiencing today, we can no longer afford to be diverted! We risk a nightmarish dystopia at best, and ultimately the probable extinction of the human race if we continue to chase after dreams of a better life under a capitalist system whose fundamental dynamic is the enrichment of a few. After more than 300 years of this system, and attempts to reform it, it continues to concentrate more wealth and power in fewer hands. It is perfectly designed to destroy societies and the environment, and that is what is becoming so clear today.

The following 3:09m video, and other videos the people at Econ4 have produced, do make a convincing plea for change, and as such they should be applauded. No doubt, they, as economists, have come under considerable criticism for the economic crises we currently experience. They want to think good of themselves and regarded favorably by others, which is understandable; however they seem incapable of overcoming the many years of indoctrination they have experienced in academia in order to question the system of capitalism itself. To them, there is no alternative.