Monochrome and Economic Rantitude

Via monochrome, a leftist digital art group based in Vienna:

Kiki and Bubu and the Good Plan (YouTube, no embed available, sorry)

They make fun of web 2.0 free-market-acolyte VCs… squee.

As ZCom people know well, of course, there are other models of economic planning besides Eastern-bloc bureaucratic central planning. There is Parecon, with its model of democratic, bottom-up planning. There is also Pat Devine’s different model of democratic planning.

And, of course, it’s extremely misleading to imply that the U.S. is currently a free-market economy. It’s a mixed economy, something fright-liberscarians (thanks D) have been bemoaning since FDR. As Robin Hahnel argues, to the extent that capitalism works at all, it is due to social democratic victories (social safety nets, labor union power, regulations on finance, etc ) won by popular movements (or, won by popular movements in one place and instituted top-down in others, to stave off rebellion). And historian Ha-Joon Chang has popularized evidence that, despite propaganda to the contrary, the countries (U.S., U.K.) that preach the free-market development path to other countries did not develop using that path themselves. They used protectionist measures and industrial planning to develop, and only when they became strong enough to benefit from free markets, did they start preaching the virtue of free markets to those trying to follow their previous measures.

Thatcher, Reagan, Bush I, Clinton, Blair, and Bush II have been working for 30 years to undo the social democratic gains of the past century. This was a huge contribution to the present crisis– throughout the 80s and 90s, elites in the U.S. were busy decimating unions, gutting the social safety net, and privatizing everything in sight. The only way that elites left for working people in the U.S. to maintain their standard of living was through debt-fueled consumption–credit cards and borrowing against bubble-inflated housing value– and stock market gambling. (It’s not a coincidence that both of these forms of consumption ties working people much more tightly to the economic fortunes of elites, as opposed to collective social democratic movements for economic benefits, which help to increase class consciousness among working people.) The huge pool of money created by computerization, by killing unions and thus lowering wages, etc, had to go somewhere. One of the solutions that elites found was for these profits to go into all those exotic financial instruments we’ve been hearing about. This strategy is now backfiring on the elites, and taking most of the world economy down as well. I got most of this analysis from Marxist economist Rick Wolff, this article from Dollars and Sense on financialization, and from the wholly mainstream analysis on This American Life’s Giant Pool of Money episode last fall.

Unfortunately, the ideology of extreme free-market capitalism is still pretty much the only game in town– especially among the upper-middle-class IT zombies that I am surrounded by. As evidence, take the hideous fact that Ayn Rand’s vomitous novel Atlas Shrugged reached number 2 on the best-seller list last month. This is partially the Left’s failure, of course, for retreating into academic enclaves and anti-intellectual New-Agey cults, rather than embracing popular education. Another problem is extreme teh-suckitude on the movement-building front. Not that I have anything to personally proud of here; I’ve been holed up in my little island of consumption here for the past 8 years, getting fat, buying books, and watching DVDs. But, I think, despite all the problems of the Left, the main problem is what I think Marxists call the ideological hegemony of capitalism. Even "progressives" think that the only way for economic (re)development of depressed regions of country is to slash taxes, cut regulations, and bust unions, rather than follow wage-led growth strategies.

Leave a comment