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The Decline of Capitalism: Can the Self-Regulated Profits System Survive?

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  • Posted June 18, 2009

    more from this reviewer

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    Fine attack on capitalism's failure

    American economist Harry Shutt has written a fine study of capitalism's absolute decline.

    Governments have licensed finance companies to create credit while pledging to underwrite their losses. Unsurprisingly then, a 'spirit of grasping criminality' pervades the ruling class.

    The state has increasingly subsidised private enterprise, through funding the military industries, privatisations, and bail-outs of banks and other finance companies. Governments encouraged companies to cut back the safer pay-as-you-go state pension schemes in favour of funded schemes (invested, or rather gambled away, in the stock market), which we subsidise through tax breaks (£14 billion a year) and bail-outs of failed schemes.

    The wave of mergers, worth $3 trillion in 2000, added little or no value to the real economy. It stripped assets and destroyed jobs, to the benefit of corporate executives (often primed by bribes, bonuses and share options) and those who plundered fees and commissions from all these dodgy deals. As management guru Peter Drucker commented mordantly, "Dealmaking beats working."

    Under capitalism, even rising productivity does not increase demand, because a smaller number of workers means a lower total income. Governments practise 'supply side economics' - all you have to do is remove controls on capital, money and credit, and cut taxes on business - and the economy will flourish. Worked well, hasn't it?

    Shutt points out that policies are "creating the condition for an unavoidable financial crisis - which is thus bound to be on a scale far greater than any previous one."

    What kind of economy do we want? All too often, people say there's no alternative. But there is and it's blindingly obvious - an economy not dependent on credit bubbles, an economy based on producing the goods we want, an economy with jobs for all who can work, an economy with decent, well-funded services, an economy where resources are invested not wasted, an economy where labour controls capital and industry controls finance, not vice versa, and an economy based on equity and cooperation not inequality and competition.

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