Infinite growth with a finite capitalist system, or: the Progressive Policy Institute is silly

Published online 9 November 2015.


BLS Employment-Population Ratio illustrates the extent of the “recovery”

One of the stories highlighted in LieparDestin’s column today is this piece in the Guardian: “New Democrats sound alarm over Sanders’ and Clinton’s leftward march.”  It’s amazing these people are still at it, after having championed screwed-up policies for all these years.  Oh, that’s right, money, power, and all that.  I take that back: it isn’t amazing.

Anyway, here’s the founder of the Neoliberal Progressive Policy Institute’s founder on the group’s real concern:

“But inequality is not the biggest problem we face: it is symptomatic of the biggest problem we face, which is slow growth.”

Oh and Al From chimes in with his concern about the “leftward drift”:

Al From, a leading figure of the centre-left who chaired the Democratic Leadership Council during the first Clinton presidency, argues that a focus on inequality, though understandable after the banking crash, risks driving all candidates too far from policies that would promote growth.

“They rev up the base of the party, but if all you are doing is redistributing golden eggs and you’ve got a dead goose, you aren’t going to get very far,” he says. “That’s what I worry about more than anything else.”

The problem with this reasoning is, of course, that the neoliberal thinking that we see from Marshall and From drives economic thinking in elected governments throughout most of the world today, and even so they haven’t been able to bring back any era of robust growth.  (I suppose if we wanted “robust growth” at all costs, we could be more like China, but I think you see the point.)

And what’s this about a “dead goose”?  Capitalism is killing the planet, and itself, but let’s all clutch our pearls about the possibility that the public might get a bit of the wealth that currently flows in unprecedented proportions to already-wealthy capitalists.

(I suppose they could threaten a capital strike or something like that, but the solution in that case is to have the workers operate the factories for their own benefit, like they do in Argentina.)

Look, one of the reasons I had you all read Jason W. Moore is that Moore discusses the dynamic whereby capitalism runs out of steam.  The capitalist system tends toward ecological exhaustion in all eras.  What has saved it in past eras is that technical revolutions allowed for great reductions in the organic component of capital, and thus for the continued expansion of the system.  Today the system is running out of room to expand and the technical revolutions  (past the Internet of course) aren’t changing the organic component of capital all that much.  In such an era what we need least are “New Democrats.”

Let the leftward march continue!


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