Wednesday, July 17, 2013

So is it capitalism?

As we can see from some of the recent posts above, if by capitalism we mean private ownership of the means of production then the emerging paradigm is not technically capitalism. In that definition capital is not money but the money that is owned by the capitalist class, used for investment into business or market activities and by which then maintain ownership and control. The developments pointed to by Rifkin and Dawlabani are moving away from private ownership to distributed ownership and control, which is socialism by any other name.

Take for example the following provided by the Democratic Socialists of America in their position paper:

"We are committed to ensuring that any market is the servant of the public good and not its master. Liberty, equality, and solidarity will require not only democratic control over economic life, but also a progressively financed, decentralized, and quality public sector. Free markets or private charity cannot provide adequate public goods and services."

As one can see, this is not the centralized planning of Russia or Cuba but a true democratic process. In their vision for a socialist economy (same link) they are not anti-business or anti-market, just who owns and controls it:

"Many argue that the market best coordinates supply with demand for goods, services,and labor. Regulated markets can guarantee efficiency, consumer choice and labor mobility. However, democratic socialists recognize that market mechanisms do generate inequalities of wealth and income. But, the social ownership characteristic of a socialist society will greatly limit inequality. In fact, widespread worker and public ownership will greatly lessen the corrosive effect of capitalist markets on people's lives. Social need will outrank narrow profitability as the measure of success for our economic life."

As we can see, it meets the criteria for the next wave and it is not capitalism per se. And yet both Rifkin and Dawlabani must retain that word in their programs, themselves likely fearful of the propaganda that surrounds it and how it might taint their progressive agendas. Dawlabani himself associates the word with the Russian and Cuban state-controlled varieties and I've as yet seen him recognize it in the likes of Iceland, Sweden, Denmark etc. I say "as yet" because he may address it, I just haven't found it to date.

More from the DSA links above:

"Economic democracy means, in the most general terms, the direct ownership and/or control of much of the economic resources of society by the great majority of wage and income earners. Such a transformation of worklife directly embodies and presages the practices and principles of a socialist society. Alternative economic institutions, such as cooperatives and consumer, community, and worker-owned facilities are central to economic democracy.

"Equally important is the assertion of democratic control over private resources such as insurance and credit, making them available for socially responsible investment as well as over land, raw materials, and manufacturing infrastructure. Such democratic control must also encompass existing financial institutions, whose funds can be used to invest in places abandoned or bypassed by transnational capital, such as urban and rural areas, and in sectors of the population that have been historically denied control and ownership of significant economic resources."

I know the latter will raise alarms to those whose only experience is with Russia, saying that sort of state socialism failed. But that was not democratic socialism, where democratic control of such major industry is a key difference. We already have it with credit unions and mutual insurance companies, at least in terms of member ownership. They are as yet though democratically run, still retaining the usual hierarchical management structure. It's coming though.

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