Monday, January 2, 2012

Book Review: When Capitalism Hits the Fan

Richard D. Wolff is an economist. Only he's not your father's economist. Dr. Wolff doesn't buy into neo-classical economic orthodoxy. He's proud to proclaim himself a Marxist and he shines the light on the inherent contradictions embedded in capitalism. His new book Capitalism Hits the Fan is a critical analysis of the American economy as it headed into the last recession.

I was listening to excerpts from one of Mitt Romney's stump speeches on NPR the other day and he spoke of how we needed to "modernize" the economy. He wants us to repeal laws and regulations promoting worker safety. He wants to make the labor force "more flexible." He wants to make it easier for companies to pick up and move and leave thousands of folks without work.

How is that modernizing our economy? Mr. Romney, and the offstage chorus of neo-classical economists, want to return to an era when the government stayed out of the labor market. He wants to return to an era in which folks were thankful just to have work and were willing to put up with anything in order to keep that paycheck coming.

As to the bromide that the market knows best - how did that work with the property bubble? What about the high tech bubble? What about the meltdown caused by the sale of derivatives? If the markets were the most efficient method of allocating resources we wouldn't have long-term structural unemployment or millions of Americans without basic health care coverage.

Richard Wolff's is a voice that should be heard. His writing and analysis is a welcome relief from those who espouse rolling back the status quo. Maybe the answer isn't just tinkering with what we've got. Maybe the solution is a complete restructuring.

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