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How Liberals Should Talk About Capitalism


kfbvoice
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The political Right claims that regulations hinder business and industry undermining productivity, profitability, and competitiveness. This hurts growth and makes us less prosperous and free. Get government out of the way and private enterprise and markets will work fine for everyone. But is there a down side ? Businesses and markets are created by imperfect human beings who often harm or abuse others in the quest for higher profits. As companies get larger and consolidation reducers the number of producers in the market the implications of harm grow. Moreover companies, money, markets, and trade are globalized. Strong rules to protect workers, consumers, the environment, the climate, and the market itself matter more than ever. Yet big money corporate interests use lobbyists to weaken or eliminate regulations. Sometimes rules are not effectively enforced. In either case the common good is undermined. Liberals need to challenge this kind of capitalism and the faulty assumptions on which it is based. We must rethink ideas like economic freedom and private property while reminding people what happens when rules aren't enforced.
 
Capitalism rests on two important assumptions. Economic freedom is the right to produce, trade, and consume goods and services acquired without use of force, fraud, or theft. Meanwhile private property is land or belongings owned by a person and kept for their exclusive use. The right to use a store, vehicles, real estate, and factories to profit puts business owners above others in terms of economic freedom and private property. What about other individuals ? Workers and consumers should be free too. If you're maimed or killed due to unsafe working conditions you're not free. In the same way not being paid a living wage deprives you of choices and hinders the pursuit of personal goals. Freedom to profit from private property is contingent on not harming others including consumers and the natural environment we all inhabit. When an industrial accident or eco disaster occurs because rules are not followed entire neighborhoods and communities suffer. Think about the private property of each homeowner and small business too. Workers, consumers, and homeowners must be free like business owners so rules for product safety, wages, hours, clean air, and water are needed. Ideas like economic freedom and private property must be broader and tied to rules in the interests of all free people.
 
Fewer people than ever trust government to do the right thing but they don't feel as threatened by big business or large corporations. Everybody is against IRS Agents, people at the DMV ( Department of Motor Vehicles) and government bureaucrats in general. But we sympathize with business people supposedly oppressed by a vast array of rules and regulations numbering in the thousands. The political Right, mass media, and popular culture constantly hold up the small business owner as victim. We are told " Joe The Plumber " doesn't have highly paid lawyers and lobbyists to get regulations that benefit him or just evade them. So we are led to believe rules are bad and government is the problem. However what happens when there are no rules or they aren't effectively enforced ? 
 
In April 2010 the Deepwater Horizon oil drilling platform exploded in the Gulf of Mexico due to a natural gas leak killing 11 workers and injuring 17 others. The resulting spill released 4.9 million barrels (210,000,000 gallons) of oil into gulf waters that damaged marine life and others species and caused billions of dollars of damage to the vital fishing, tourism, and hospitality industries effecting Louisiana and Florida. It also led to health problems among clean up workers and residents living on or near the coast. A government investigation laid most of the blame on British Petroleum who leased the platform from Transocean. BP was found negligent for failing to detect operational problems leading to the explosion. It was also blamed along with Transocean and Halliburton to lesser degrees for cutting corners in construction to save money. The concrete core where the explosion occurred was weak. What is also significant was the failure of Federal regulators at the Minerals Management Service to require effective fail safe and shut off mechanisms on the Deepwater Horizon. Furthermore they didn't require BP or other companies in the Gulf to have proper permits to drill. It's bad enough when companies fail, but in this case government didn't enforce the rules.
 
A broader conception of economic freedom and private property takes other economic players like workers, conumsers, homeowners, and communities into consideration. It helps us understand why regulated markets and enterprises are necessary to prevent harm and ensure the equal right to freedom of every individual. If the Right is going to decry rules as oppressive then liberals must point out the harm caused by untamed capitalism and the right freedom for other individuals not just those who own and operate the means of production. Freedom to profit from private property is contingent on not harming workers or consumers. Morever freedom is not simply the abscence of constraint. It is also the ability to choose and follow your own goals. If you're not paid a living wage this freedom is impossible. This is how liberals must talk about capitalism.
 
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Talking about alternatives to capitalism requires liberals to forsake their own tradition. I think their are good insights offered by social democrats and socialists but they are different traditions. Liberals in the New Deal and the decades following the World War II demonstrated you could have a broadly prosperous economy that is more equal than ours today.  This was done while private enterprise, markets, and competition remained essential. 

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25 minutes ago, kfbvoice said:

 

Talking about alternatives to capitalism requires liberals to forsake their own tradition. I think their are good insights offered by social democrats and socialists but they are different traditions. Liberals in the New Deal and the decades following the World War II demonstrated you could have a broadly prosperous economy that is more equal than ours today.  This was done while private enterprise, markets, and competition remained essential. 

 

If you believe that climate change is real and due to human activity, capitalism isn't sustainable

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As I said recently, we need more words for these issues - a word meaning 'the good parts of capitalism' we don't have.

 

We should definitely keep 'the good parts of capitalism'. They are very productive, and politically very strong.

 

We also need to create words to attack the bad parts of capitalism - things like 'Wall Street' are too vague (ask occupy how much effect they had).

 

FDR said a lot of the right things, but the citizens today have a hard time even hearing these issues discussed - Republican just call all Democrats 'socialists' and many vote for them.


Democrats need to educate the citizens so screaming 'crooked Hillary' doesn't win an election.

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17 hours ago, Zaro said:

 

If you believe that climate change is real and due to human activity, capitalism isn't sustainable

 

Sustainability is problem for any economic system dealing with climate change so capitalism isn't unique. However private enterprise and markets can encourage individual creativity and innovative technology to help combat climate change. Just think about wind farms with turbines, solar panels, and related heating products. Capitalism has certainly contributed to climate change, but it might offer solutions if we reform rather than replace it.

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Many of the regulations are created by corporate lawyers regarding patents, mining rights, and yes, even military arms. The right says they want to do away with regulations, yet the fact is we do not have a competitive market for pharmaceuticals due to patents/ government subsidy. We do not have competitive trade 

due to a crumbling infrastructure and a strong dollar kept that way by keeping inflation precariously low. 

 

Yes, you mention green energy. Unfairly big oil, coal, and natural gas enjoys much more governmental backing than green sustainable energy does and no one effectively monitors the environmental damage costs that include cancer, lung ailments, and polluted water, and yes warming of the planet. 

 

Attach the problems in big cities regarding violence and lack of job growth. What goes on in Chicago with gun violence should be a National shame!!!

 

Instead of tax cuts for the top 10 % why not grow the middle class in order to create a more sustainable economic picture. One that can truly be more market based and competitive for all!

That is basic Econ 101. 

 

Peace!

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