By George Gregoriou
No, this is not about the religious fanatics in Afghanistan, the Al Qaeda, or the Jihad in the Islamic world. Its about the market fundamentalists in Washington, London, Berlin, Rome, Paris, Athens, and throughout the world. The evidence is there, since Adam Smith (1776). A market economy is good for the winners, bad for the losers. One third society is well-off, and two-thirds marginalized. Many exist from paycheck to paycheck, others in and out of work, and some down-and-out. Such are the laws of competition, accumulation, and the pursuit of profit after profit. Its guerrilla war on the people by the few. Market fundamentalism is the first way.
The second way, existing socialism (communism), was tried in the Soviet bloc. It failed because Russia could not be dragged into the 19th century, much less to the early 20th century when the experiment began in 1917. The experiment was neither socialistic nor democratic. It was too inefficient, backward, and dictatorial. It is now history. China is communist in name only, moving fast towards capitalism. China is now overtaking Asia and may overtake the US in 10 to 15 years. This growth is not due to socialist or communist planning, but by making use of the latest technological advancements, a huge (cheap) labor force in a 1.3 billion population, and cutting costs by dismantling the socialist safety net for peasants and workers. The result: about 1/4 of the population of China is below the poverty level.
Between capitalism and communism lies social democracy and the various experiments with laborism and populism: the third way. The successes with social democracy were limited, mostly heavy taxation to finance social programs: welfare, social security, health benefits, and workers rights. Social democracy has now reached a dead end. Socialist Blairism in Britain is not different from free market Thatcherism. Nor do the policies of social democrat Schroeder and his Green allies from Kohl’s, or PASOK’s socialism from free market New Democracy. Social democracies in Germany (the oldest), Germany, Italy, and Greece are taking two steps backward, to take one step forward? Social democracy or capitalism with a human face is being disorganized. Global competition, high unemployment, xenophobia, and the war on terrorism are transforming capitalism into barbarism.
Are we left with the first path, market capitalism, for the 21st Century? The riots in Bolivia brought the government down last week. Anti-globalization protests follow every high level international economic conference. It is evident that millions of people had enough with globalization. Third world economies are in debt, mostly to international banking institutions (IMF and World Bank) controlled by the U.S.
The Bushies are massaging every statistic, the economy is turning around we are told. Bob Herbert of the NYTimes (10/20/03) gives raw statistics, for the young in Chicago (USA): 22% of all Chicago residents 16 to 24 years old are out of school and out of work; 26% of Chicagoans 20 to 24 years old are out of school and work; 45% of black men in Chicago 20 to 24 are out of school and work. There are nearly 100,000 people aged 16 to 24 out of school and work in Chicago, and about 5.5 million across the U.S. That’s how life begins for millions of young people in the USA? If the president of the USA visited a city in China with these statistics, he would say, “You see, communism does not work”. What would he say about the workings of our free market economy in Chicago?
Most governments seem to be in trouble. So are we. existing socialism is history. Social democracy is at a dead end, abandoned in favor of privatization and free market policies. And market fundamentalism brings havoc in peoples’ lives. When all fails, political leaders become a “born gain” market fundamentalists, social democrats, even
ideological cross-dressers. Our troubles multiply. Is there a fourth way for the 21st Century?
Professor, Dept of Political Science
The Wm Paterson Univ. of NJ