Opinion

The Great Debate

The war on Halloween is a war on capitalism

America’s second-favorite holiday is upon us, and once again the forces of intolerance are demanding that hardworking people give up their most hallowed traditions.

In the cities, urban elitists at the finer preschool programs issue bans on fun costumes because of anti-corporate and gender-neutral policies. Around the rest of the country, religious zealots turn Halloween parties into bloodless “fall festivals” where even our ancient rituals of harvest are prohibited.

A school district in Pennsylvania killed the traditional October celebrations because of “controversy surrounding the religious connotations of Halloween.” A suburban Seattle elementary school stomped the hearts of its littlest goblins by canceling the usual Oct 31 costume day because unnamed religious groups were “offended by Halloween.” From coast to coast, our nation’s biggest celebration is under attack by those who would strip it of ghosts and goblins.

In Skokie, Illinois, the schoolchildren of District 69 lost their Halloween festivities, supposedly because of “economic disparity” ‑ a real enough horror in America. The superintendent’s letter announcing the death of Halloween then makes clear the real cause: “We also have students who are unable to participate for religious or cultural reasons.”

And in Lower Manhattan, a remnant faction of Occupy Wall Street has blockaded Trinity Church, causing the beloved neighborhood institution to cancel its popular Halloween party for local kids.

The myth of America’s decline

This is an excerpt from “The Reckoning: Debt, Democracy and the Future of American Power,” published this week by Palgrave Macmillan.

For all the doom and gloom about “American decline,” the United States looks nothing like the twilight empires to which it’s often compared. For one thing, in this age of globalization, a far greater swath of the planet – including some surprising nations like China and Saudi Arabia – wish America well, albeit for their own, selfish reasons. Why would either country, in spite of what it may think of American culture or foreign policy, want to upset a status quo upheld, at great expense, by American power that enriches them more each and every year? From the US perspective, this should be an advantage. It creates stakeholders all over the planet that genuinely hope Washington can solve its current fiscal problems. With the exception of the British Empire, which had a relatively benign replacement lined up when it ran out of steam, history offers no other example of a waning empire whose most obvious potential rivals – China, India, the EU, to name but a few – all have good reasons to want to help arrange a long, slow approach to a soft landing.

“I have no objection to the principle of an American Empire,” writes Niall Ferguson, the Oxford historian. “Indeed, a part of my argument is that many parts of the world would benefit from a period of American rule.” Ferguson and others like him recognize the importance of the role the United States has played, a role that “not only underwrites the free exchange of commodities, labor and capital but also creates and upholds the conditions without which markets cannot function – peace and order, the rule of law, non-corrupt administration, stable fiscal and monetary policies – as well as public goods.” Ironically, many would-be topplers of American hegemony no doubt feel the same way.

Capitalism is evolving, but into what?

This is an excerpt from Standing on the Sun: How the Explosion of Capitalism Abroad Will Change Business Everywhere, published this month by Harvard Business Review Press.

Like any “ism,” capitalism is a social construct; capitalism is only a term for what capitalists tend to believe and do. Beyond a few fundamentals—that it puts faith in markets as the best way to allocate resources, that it depends on private ownership of property, that it features mechanisms for accumulating capital to fund endeavors larger than individuals can undertake alone—very little about it is set in stone. This is why we often hear phrases suggesting different styles of capitalism: “capitalism with Chinese characteristics,” for example, or “Northern European social capitalism.” No surprise, then, that capitalism is subject to change.

And what’s behind that change? Again, at the theoretical level, it’s easy to surmise. Like any adaptive system, capitalism is nested in an environment, so any substantial change in that environment alters what it takes to thrive. It’s the same basic phenomenon as in nature: when the insect population of the Galapagos moves on to new flowers with a different shape, the beaks of the finches evolve in turn.

Are capitalists happier?

By Ronald Rotunda, Vernon Smith and Bart Wilson
The opinions expressed are their own.

As many of the world economies seem to be collapsing simultaneously, it is a good time to step back, take a deep breath and look at the bigger picture. Which kind of economy ultimately works better in the long run — capitalism or socialism?

We have long known that workers are richer in capitalist countries than in socialist ones. But are they happier? Capitalism sounds much harsher, like Thomas Hobbes’ depiction of the state of nature — the war of all against all. Socialists see capitalism as a system where people unfeelingly compete by trying to drive out their opponents. Capitalists counter that free markets are really about voluntary exchange and trading for mutual benefit.

from MacroScope:

Step aside capitalism, how about leverageism

Our recent post on the End of Capitalism triggered much interest and comment.  There were plenty of diverse views, as one would expect. But one thread that came out was that what we are now seeing is not true capitalism (nor, of course, is it old-style communism). Ok, but what is it?

Anthony Conforti suggested in a comment that we need a name for what is happening,:

The first step in defining a new economic paradigm is coming up with the proper terms…new words to define a new economic environment. As words, “capitalism”, “communism”, “socialism” may now be inadequate to describe the emerging economic reality. We need new nomenclature. Any thoughts?

from The Great Debate UK:

Slavoj Zizek on resurrecting the Left

Soon after the global financial crisis erupted in 2008, treatise "Das Kapital" saw a resurgence in popularity throughout eastern Germany.

The 1867 critical analysis of capitalism by Karl Marx became a bestseller for academic publisher Karl-Dietz-Verlag, as a rejection of capitalism set in following intense financial turmoil.

More than a year later, questions over the validity of the capitalist economic system remain in focus amid ongoing concerns about the cost to society of bank bailouts, high unemployment and stimulus measures.

from MacroScope:

The end of capitalism

Hard to imagine with financial markets still buoyant and newspapers full of tales of bonus greed, but there is still the possibility that captialism will end.  At least there is according to prestigious investment consultants Watson Wyatt in their latest study called "Extreme Risks".

The firm listed the demise of the system of private ownership as one of 15 threats to investors and the global economy that probably won't happen but which it reckons are worth worrying about anyway. The idea behind the report is that such things as climate change, the break up of the euro zone and war are always worth being included in an investment risk management process.

As for the future of capitalism:

In our view, the most likely scenario is moving along from one end of a spectrum where market is king (minimum regulation) towards the other end, where we could see more onerous regulations and government intervention in, and control of, the economy. The extreme risk, however, is the demise of the capitalist system and the end of the market as the primary means of resource allocation.

from The Great Debate UK:

Economist John Kay mulls Berlin Wall anniversary

When the Berlin Wall fell 20 years ago, the momentous event marked the triumph of the market economy over planned economic structures, says British economist John Kay.

He explains his views on why the capitalist system reigns supreme.

Capitalism is not dead

diana-furchtgott-roth1Diana Furchtgott-Roth, former chief economist at the U.S. Department of Labor, is a senior fellow at the Hudson Institute. The opinions expressed here are her own.

The past month’s turmoil in U.S. and global financial markets has spawned several articles tolling a death knell for capitalism. Some said that the crisis is proof that capitalism never worked, others opined that the solutions to the problems will end capitalism.

To paraphrase Mark Twain, reports of capitalism’s death are greatly exaggerated. Although Washington is using non-market solutions in an attempt to unfreeze the credit markets, they have not succeeded, and are unlikely to be permanent. The next administration, Republican or Democratic, might take over more of the economy. But if one country in our global economy proceeds down an unsuccessful socialist road, others will demonstrate the effectiveness of capitalist measures—just as America led the way with tax cuts in the 1980s.

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