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Too bad Brooks is behind a subscription wall! (His article begins: "The American Way of Equality: Will Americans demand new policies to redistribute wealth, to provide greater economic security?") As a substitute, I recommend this commentary by James K. Galbraith (it is been cited a couple of times at EuroTrib): The Predator State
In the mixed-economy America I grew up in, there existed a post-capitalist, post-Marxian vision of middle-class identity. It consisted of shared assets and entitlements, of which the bedrock was public education, access to college, good housing, full employment at living wages, Medicare, and Social Security. These programs, publicly provided, financed, or guaranteed, had softened the rough edges of Great Depression capitalism, rewarding the sacrifices that won the Second World War. They also showcased America, demonstrating to those behind the Iron Curtain that regulated capitalism could yield prosperity far beyond the capacities of state planning. (This, and not the arms race, ultimately brought down the Soviet empire.) These middle-class institutions survive in America today, but they are frayed and tattered from constant attack. And the division between those included and those excluded is large and obvious to all.

Today, the signature of modern American capitalism is neither benign competition, nor class struggle, nor an inclusive middle-class utopia. Instead, predation has become the dominant feature--a system wherein the rich have come to feast on decaying systems built for the middle class. The predatory class is not the whole of the wealthy; it may be opposed by many others of similar wealth. But it is the defining feature, the leading force. And its agents are in full control of the government under which we live.

Our rulers deliver favors to their clients. These range from Native American casino operators, to Appalachian coal companies, to Saipan sweatshop operators, to the would-be oil field operators of Iraq. They include the misanthropes who led the campaign to abolish the estate tax; Charles Schwab, who suggested the dividend tax cut of 2003; the "Benedict Arnold" companies who move their taxable income offshore; and the financial institutions behind last year's bankruptcy bill. Everywhere you look, public decisions yield gains to specific private entities.

For in a predatory regime, nothing is done for public reasons. Indeed, the men in charge do not recognize that "public purposes" exist. They have friends, and enemies, and as for the rest--we're the prey. Hurricane Katrina illustrated this perfectly, as Halliburton scooped up contracts and Bush hamstrung Kathleen Blanco, the Democratic governor of Louisiana. The population of New Orleans was, at best, an afterthought; once dispersed, it was quickly forgotten.

   The whole article is worth reading. (I have not followed my own advice yet.)

A bomb, H bomb, Minuteman / The names get more attractive / The decisions are made by NATO / The press call it British opinion -- The Three Johns
by Alexander on Sun Jan 14th, 2007 at 09:06:08 PM EST
Just read it, Alexander, and I think Galbraith hits as close as it is possible to hit on what has happened in US since Reagan.

This subject deserves serious analysis(think the phenom turned up first in Britain with Thatcher), with more reason and citation than rhetorical self-satisfied European snark and flammibles that has thus far dominated the discussion.

And thanks OldFrog, for keeping the "American Exceptionalism" pole-ax in the armory.

Maybe we can have a serious discussion on the issue.

Will write more tomorrow.

"When the abyss stares at me, it wets its pants." Brian Hopkins

by EricC on Mon Jan 15th, 2007 at 12:25:38 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Actually, once I read all of Galbraith's essay (and not just the paragraphs I posted), I was a bit disappointed. That's because he didn't relate the predatory economics he speaks of to capitalism in general.

So I would suggest supplementing his essay with the following speculations.

Let's say there are three kinds of capitalism: unrestrained capitalism, regulated capitalism, and predatory capitalism. Clearly, it is possible to imagine economies falling under the unrestrained/unregulated capitalist model that don't exhibit the predatory qualities that Galbraith writes about. So how does one relate the two?

Well, as we know since Hegel (Marx simply followed him here), unregulated capitalism leads to an increasing differentiation between the rich and the poor, with the rich getting richer and the poor getting poorer. Sooner or later, this begins to undermine the political principle that each individual's voice must be considered equally, no matter how much income or wealth that person has. In other words, when the difference between the wealthy and the rest of the population, not to mention the poor, becomes sufficiently extreme, it is inevitable that the wealthy acquire a dispraportionate influence over the political system. And that gets you to predatory capitalism. In other words, unregulated capitalism inevitably leads to predatory capitalism (unless society comes to its senses and regulates the economy), but the two represent different periods of historical development.

A bomb, H bomb, Minuteman / The names get more attractive / The decisions are made by NATO / The press call it British opinion -- The Three Johns

by Alexander on Mon Jan 15th, 2007 at 04:39:16 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I wonder when Galbraith starting using this language.

Hubert Vedrine, former foreign minister of France, has been writing very similar if not same for quite some time now.

Love Galbraith, but on this, I think he's picking up Vedrine's ball and running with it.

Certainly no knock-ons in politics though, play on.

The Hun is always either at your throat or at your feet. Winston Churchill

by r------ on Mon Jan 15th, 2007 at 04:04:14 PM EST
[ Parent ]
in his Après l'empire (2002), speaks of l"Amerique predatrice". This is with regards to its "foreign policy". Do you think Todd got that from Vedrine, or the other way around? (I don't know anything about Vedrine.)

A bomb, H bomb, Minuteman / The names get more attractive / The decisions are made by NATO / The press call it British opinion -- The Three Johns
by Alexander on Tue Jan 16th, 2007 at 04:06:12 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Hasn't Lenin been first ?

"Imperialism, the Highest Stage of Capitalism"

"...Monopolies, oligarchy, the striving for domination and not for liberty, the exploitation of an increasing number of small or weak nations by a handful of the richest or most powerful nations -- all these have given birth to those distinctive characteristics of imperialism which compel us to define it as parasitic or decaying capitalism. More and more prominently there emerges, as one of the tendencies of imperialism, the creation of the "rentier state", the usurer state, in which the bourgeoisie to an ever-increasing degree lives on the proceeds of capital exports and by "clipping coupons". It would be a mistake to believe that this tendency to decay precludes the rapid growth of capitalism. It does not. In the epoch of imperialism, certain branches of industry, certain strata of the bourgeoisie and certain countries betray, to a greater or lesser degree, now one and now another of these tendencies. On the whole, capitalism is growing far more rapidly than before; but this growth is not only becoming more and more uneven in general, its unevenness also manifests itself, in particular, in the decay of the countries which are richest in capital..."

good old Vladimir Illitch...

by oldfrog on Tue Jan 16th, 2007 at 04:36:24 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Wonder what he would think today, having thought he called the top once?

He'd at least have to write a second edition.

"When the abyss stares at me, it wets its pants." Brian Hopkins

by EricC on Tue Jan 16th, 2007 at 04:55:11 PM EST
[ Parent ]

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