13 May 2015

Stiglitz: Why Western Capitalism Has Been Failing Since 1980

As I had written some time ago in the The Fall of the American Republic: The Quiet Coup:
"I am not so optimistic that this reform is possible, because there has in fact been a soft coup d'etat in the US, which now exists in a state of crony corporatism that wields enormous influence over the media and within the government.

To be clear about this, the oligarchs are flush with victory, and feel that they are firmly in control, able to subvert and direct any popular movement to the support of their own ends and unslakable will to power.

This is the contempt in which they hold the majority of American people and the political process: the common people are easily led fools, and everyone else who is smart enough to know better has their price. And they would beggar every middle class voter in the US before they will voluntarily give up one dime of their ill gotten gains.

But my model says that the oligarchs will continue to press their advantages, being flushed with victory, until they provoke a strong reaction that frightens everyone, like a wake up call, and the tide then turns to genuine reform."
The article which I wrote was based on the insightful and largely ignored work by renowned economist Simon Johnson called The Quiet Coup.
This lecture by Stiglitz below is a little 'wonky' and uses some terminology which may be unfamiliar.

Nevertheless if you listen to it and just try to capture the main points of his discussion it will be worthwhile.
His basic premise is to ask why capitalism has shown a tendency to stagnation since 1980 in the United States and other parts of the West.
I am, as you know, an adherent to the belief that there has been a soft coup d'état in the US.  One can always quibble about the exact dates, but that is of less importance.   I have said it was shortly after Greenspan's 'irrational exuberance' speech, although the stage was certainly set for this during the 1980's with the rise of the efficient markets hypothesis, the assumption of rational wealth optimizers in the markets, and of course, the laughable supply side economics which are the old trickle down canard in drag.
The point, rather, is to understand what has happened, to continue to shine a light on it, and to hope that Simon Johnson is correct, that the overreach of the 'winners' will eventually provoke a reaction. 
Quite frankly I had thought it would have come by now.  One can rarely go wrong betting on the power of apathy and momentum, and the persistent greed of the sociopaths and their enablers.
After all, in the aftermath of a tragic derailment of the flagship train line in the US from Washington to Boston that could have been prevented by continuing investments in fundamental railroad infrastructure, the House of Republicans have voted to further slash Amtrak funding by $260 million. 

They are instructed to hate anything that benefits the public without putting an abundant stream of income into the pockets of their corporate money masters.  This explains their virulent animosity to Social Security, public transportation, public healthcare, public education, public infrastructure, consumer protections, environmental laws, safety regulations, product safety measures, and any sort of financial regulation that inhibits the greed and power of the Banks.

And we should be ashamed for continually standing quiet in the face of such pathological incivility.
But I can almost guarantee that if this crash had been the result of some sort of despicable act of terrorism for example, the public coffers would already be wide open, flowing with a Niagara of funds for homeland security and the militarization of domestic law enforcement.   Millions for the corporatized state, but little or nothing for the people.
I am increasingly concerned that, as has happened so many times in the past, the status quo will greet this eventual reaction for reform, justice, and equality with repression and even draconian measures to maintain what they perceive as their rightful place and power. 
Like apathy and momentum, it is also difficult to underestimate the self-delusion and overreach of sociopaths who would be as gods, even if they are gods of the damned.

History is replete with examples.