Thursday, September 17, 2009

Is Capitalism Wrong?


Last night's Richard Bacon Show on 5 Live covered a lot of ground. Probably the most interesting discussion came between 12 and 1 when we had a discussion under the theme: "Is Capitalism Wrong?" The two guests were Mark Littlewood from progressive Vision and a Marxist Professor called Alex Calinnicos.

It got quite heated between me and the good Professor at one stage after he made some disparaging remarks about a woman who called in who had started her own business. He was very happy to slag off the capitalist system but at no point was he able to come up with suggestions for anything different or better. I cannot abide academics who pontificate about the faults of something without being able to articulate an original thought of their own about how to solve it. I am sure he writes very learned books, but even his critique of capitalism seemed to be fundamentally flawed. The discussion can be heard from 1.39 until the end of the programme on the iPlayer.

Earlier we talked about Jimmy Carter's outrageous comments about critics of Obama's healthcare plans are driven by racism, Baroness Scotland's troubles and why the British are so bad at complaining.

47 comments:

Anonymous said...

While he is a Professor he is better known as a leading member of the SWP

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Alex_Callinicos

Appropriately his mother's name was: Hon. Ædgyth Bertha Milburg Mary Antonia Frances Lyon-Dalberg-Acton

Stronghold Barricades said...

Deepnds what you mean by Capitalism

If we followed the maxims, we wouldn't currently have HBOS, RBS, B&B, and Northern Rock as zombie banks draining money from the exchequer

We'd probably have a lot of very poor people from the Grey generation too

The problem at the moment though, is that the banks are forcing other businesses to follow those capitalist rules whilst they themselves are protected by the state through Brown and Darlings discriminatory action

Christopher Thompson said...

Calinicos is a member of the Socialist Workers' Party and one of its most prominent spokesmen. He holds a chair at, I believe, King's College in London University.

cynicalHighlander said...

Simply yes because in a finite world a linear structure runs out of enough natural resources to keep it going. http://www.storyofstuff.com/

Nigel said...

>>Jimmy Carter's outrageous comments about critics of Obama's healthcare plans are driven by racism...<<

It was extremely foolish, rather than outrageous, IMO.
As far as I can gather, he way saying that the more venomous opposition was driven by racism, which isn't quite the same thing - and if you look at some of the posters at the recent Washington rally (easy to find on Flickr), then he wasn't entirely without justification.

For some more context, take this recent comment by Rush Limbaugh:
"It’s Obama’s America, is it not? Obama’s America, white kids getting beat up on school buses now. You put your kids on a school bus, you expect safety but in Obama’s America the white kids now get beat up with the black kids cheering..."
Then read the response of his readers to a conservative criticizing Limbaugh for said comments:
http://theamericanscene.com/2009/09/16/why-i-have-contempt-for-rush-limbaugh

There are some very ugly undercurrents in US politics at the moment.

Nick D said...

No.

Jonathan Sheppard said...

Aha - Callinicos.... luckily I managed to avoid any of his seminars when I was an undergraduate at York. Not sure he would have like me views.

John K said...

Depends what you mean by "capitalism", Iain. Arguably, we have never had real capitalism (just as we have never tried real socialism or democracy), always a mixed economy with the state as guarantor. What we have is a bastard called "Market Capitalism", with huge rewatds but no real risk for most of those at the top.

The trouble with Market Capitalism is that it never gets tested to destruction - the state intervenes whenever it gets close to failing...

In a really capitalist society the whole of the banking system would have gone to the wall a year ago.

Siberian Tory said...

Be kind to him Iain it must be hard to see your entire career be proven wrong by, ironically, history.

"Simply yes because in a finite world a linear structure runs out of enough natural resources to keep it going."

What a lack of imagination!

There is no statement here that this person is a communist or socialist; but I'd still point out by that rationale every system will eventually run out of stuff.

Secondly, the earth is more or less, a closed system (at least as far as matter goes). Everything can always be recovered and reused. What's more it can be done ever more effciently. Call me crazy but we could also start synthesising matter from energy; it's not impossible. The limit is how much energy the sun delivers to earth....but then there's zero point energy. Gracious me thing are exciting when you believe in progress.

There is now even a couple of guys in the USA who can synthesis petrol from the CO2 in the air.

What's driving them to do it?

Capitalism.

Siberian Tory said...

@Stonghold the barricades

Your right, most capitalists are really just pragmatists.

strapworld said...

Is the professor in employment?

If so he has bought into the capitalist system! Think about it!

Anonymous said...

Is it wrong for people to make, sell and buy goods freely? Is it wrong for people to engage in commerce? Is it wrong for there to be spheres of economic activity that are carried out without the organisation and direction of the state?

If you answer "Yes" to any of these, you're probably a member of the Labour Party.

Guthrum said...

We are good at complaining- its just that Authority is better at ignoring !

Baroness Scotland has no troubles if she followed the Law and kept copies of the Documentation.

If she did not obey the letter of the Law, which she framed, as the Senior Law Officer she is busted. If she is 'let off' we do not have to obey any Laws drafted by this woman.

BetterDaidThanRed said...

The Red Professor sounds like Red Ken. Could this be his new job?

Anonymous said...

@cynicalhighlander

We don't live in a finite world. It's not a zero sum game

Anonymous said...

Iain, you do come across as a philistine in this interview - to say that university academics don't create wealth is ignorant beyond words - do actually have any idea how much wealth teaching, R & D by unversities provides to the economy - through output of people, data, inventions etc?

Also, to say that an academic is paid for by the state is a rather large misunderstanding of how academics are funded, let alone your proposition that only those that risk can create wealth. Do you understand anything about economics?

I'd like to think you made an off the cuff remark that you didn't mean that was jumped on by the others, but I'm starting to worry about the party I was planning to vote for (as a floating voter) if this is the level views that are being put in the public domain.

Martin said...

Richard Bacon is a pathetic little leftist. His continual fawning about Obama is vomit inducing and since when are BBC presenters supposed to allow their personal views (in his case pro Obama and pro Labour) to appear on the network? If the BBC wants to become talk radio for the left they can effing well do it with their own money not tax payers.

The BBC needs to be smashed to a pulp.

Hopefully Iain you see more and more anti Tory bias on the BBC? Please assure me that there are Tories waiting to take revenge on the BBC when they get power next year?

Stuart Saint said...

No

Patrick said...

sorry i fell asleep listening to you around 11 pm !!! Thank goodness for iPlayer.

Demetrius said...

On Friday 4th September I commented on "Any Old Ism's" to the effect that "capitalism" and "marxism" are notions of the distant past. As such any debate about them is roughly the equivalent of calculating the number of bankers on the head of a politician.

Roy said...

In theory, socialism *ought* to be better, but in practice fails to be so, largely because human beings are neither perfect nor always rational. Capitalism is, as Churchill said of democracy, the worst system of them all, except for all the others.

Anonymous said...

Richard Bacon should have introduced him as "member of SWP" from the outset. That would have explained his outrageous views.

happyuk07 said...

My experience of academics is the same: precious, prima donnas; carping critics that on the whole can offer no better solutions of them own. They're good at writing books though.

Few of them would have a clue about how to sell something, hire someone, fire someone, discipline someone, produce work to strict deadlines and specifications, deal with angry clients, manage money, ...

As a Texan would say, big hat, no cattle.

Anonymous said...

I remember his trot preaching at York University in the early 80s. Surprised he hasn't grown up. Must be like being an aging rock star and perpetually having to try and think like a 21 year old.

PS Why is Bacon working as a Radio broadcaster - he is clearly not good at it...

David Lindsay said...

Do you believe in national self-government, the only basis for international co-operation, and including the United Kingdom as greater than the sum of its parts? In local variation, in historical consciousness, and in family life founded on the marital union of one man and one woman? In the whole Biblical and Classical patrimony of the West? In agriculture, in manufacturing, and in small business? In close-knit communities, in law and order, in civil liberties, in academic standards, and in all forms of art?

Do you believe in mass political participation within a constitutional framework? In the absolute sanctity of each individual human life from the point of fertilisation to the point of natural death? In the constitutional and other ties among the Realms and Territories having the British monarch as Head of State? In the status of the English language, and in the rights of its speakers both throughout the United Kingdom and elsewhere? Or in the rights of British-descended communities throughout the world?

If the answer to any of those questions is yes, then, as the great anti-Communist Whittaker Chambers would have told you, you cannot be in favour of capitalism, which corrodes each and all of them to nought.

Nor can you be in favour of the neoconservative war agenda.

But then, who is in favour of either of those these days?

Scary Biscuits said...

Capitalism, like "right wing", is defined by lefties as all that is evil. It is, therefore, wrong to them by definition.

Most lefties see the market failures under Brown as proof that capitalism has failed. However, lefties seem to think that right wingers think that capitalism means the absence or rules, a beggar-thy-neighbour free-for-all. This is the opposite of the truth. Capitalism is actually the existence of rules, not their absence. You cannot have a game of Monopoly without rules: you cannot have markets without laws. It is the failure of elected representatives to apply these laws which is the reason why markets have failed. Communist and backward societies by comparison have an absence of laws, particularly predictable ones. As I write this the Pheonix Four and Sir Fred the Shred are probably sitting on a beach enjoying the fruits of their law breaking, which has enabled them to steal from the rest of us. Our elected politicians will have a heavy price to pay unless they get their act together.

No, CynicalHighlander, a market is not a "linear structure" as you call it. In a market it is impossible ever to run out of anything because the price simply becomes infinitely expensive. You can only run out of something when you have a blind bureaucracy which doesn't change the price in response to supply and demand.

Markets err but to really mess things up you require a regulator... or a Bread Czar.

No Society said...

Iain your posts and indeed your radio/tele appearances are improving. Can i suggest your next post is about the referendum on the Lisbon Treaty that seems to have escaped all channels of any party especially that of the next likely Government in waiting.We can talk about ideologies and recession but the real issue for this country is sovereignty

pablopatito said...

"I cannot abide academics who pontificate about the faults of something without being able to articulate an original thought of their own about how to solve it"

Whereas it's ok for bloggers to do it?

Mark said...

From your claim that Carter's comment was 'outrageous' it's apparent you disagree with him. While there are many concerning things about Obama's healthcare plans, the vitriolic and overtly racist response seen from some Americans (all white, natch) is disturbing. The fact that this is supported by mainstream outlets such as Fox is doubly troubling.

Check out this short NBC news report on the issue; I'd be very interested to see how it affects your views.

http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/3036677/#32886020

Anonymous said...

He is has the famous Lord Acton as an ancestor, Irish Liberal MP, and Catholic thinker famous for saying ‘power tends to corrupt, and total power corrupts totally.'

Anonymous said...

"He was very happy to slag off the capitalist system but at no point was he able to come up with suggestions for anything different or better."

That may be true (and a good point). Doesn't necessarily invalidate any actual point he may have made. Why so coy about how you responded to him? Did he win?

Martin said...

Since when do public sector workers contribute to the state funding anyway? The tax that public sector workers pay is a joke. It's robibng Peter to pay Paul. The Government could simply pay them all less and take no tax off them.

The Government has no money, it get money by taxing (heavily) the wealth generation part of the economy that is the private sector.

The fact that thick leftists can't work that out says it all.

If there were no private sector where would Government get money from? Borrow it? and what would they pay it back with.

It's like giving your kids £20 a week in pocket money then taking a tenner off them in 'tax' to pay for food. Why not just give them a tenner in the first place?

BenS said...

'Whereas it's ok for bloggers to do it?'

Pretty much. Academics can easily mislead people with bad arguments because of the letters after their name, whereas it's a lot easier to dismiss a blogger.

I've found with a lot of lefty academics (lefties in general, really) that they find it very difficult to offer reasonable arguments, i.e. ones based on logic and evidence. If you challenge these arguments, they seem to get very emotional and... a bit daft. It's hilarious really.

niconoclast said...

What we should be concerned about is that militantly ignorant Marxist professors like Callincos -tenured radicals are poisoning university youth with their twisted Socialist agendas.As Capitalism is funding this parasite he is busily biting the hand that feeds him and you did a fairly good job of pointing this out.

Robbo said...

Are we capitalist ?
Simples. Following von Mises, a society is capitalist if there is a market in producer goods (shops, factories, railways, anything that is not consumed, but used to produce consumer goods one way or another). We are therefore very roughly 60% capitalist, becaus roughly 40% of everything is in the hands of the state and not tradeable (hospitals, schools, railway lines, etc etc).

Lord Snooty said...

'Is capitalism wrong?'

Yes.

Michel Foucault said...

The necessity of reform mustn’t be allowed to become a form of blackmail serving to limit, reduce or halt the exercise of criticism. Under no circumstances should one pay attention to those who tell one: ‘Don’t criticize, since you’re not capable of carrying out a reform.’ That’s ministerial cabinet talk. Critique doesn’t have to be the premise of a deduction which concludes: this then is what needs to be done. It should be an instrument for those who fight, those who resist and refuse what is. Its use should be in processes of conflict and confrontation, essays in refusal. It doesn’t have to lay down the law for the law. It isn’t a stage in a programming. It is a challenge directed to what is.

cynicalHighlander said...

Scary Biscuits

No, CynicalHighlander, a market is not a "linear structure" as you call it. In a market it is impossible ever to run out of anything because the price simply becomes infinitely expensive. You can only run out of something when you have a blind bureaucracy which doesn't change the price in response to supply and demand.

How many planets do you have access too? Lack of energy and natural resources not money will be capitalism's ultimate downfall by then it will be far to late to construct a sustainable system.

Fausty said...

Callincos talks over people whose views he doesn't want to hear. Very irritating.

Amazing that lefties who have never had their own businesses consider themselves to be gurus on the subject of capitalism.

Most of them on that show don't even know what it is!

neilreddin said...

"Is Capitalism Wrong?"

They might as well have asked "Is Weather Wrong?" It's a natural system that's there and always will be. Tinker with it and you'll either fail because it's so much bigger then you, or you'll cause a raft of unintended consequences.

Anonymous said...

If the answer to any of those questions is yes, then, as the great anti-Communist Whittaker Chambers would have told you, you cannot be in favour of capitalism, which corrodes each and all of them to nought.

Absolute nonsense. You've made a list of the basic building blocks of western society and then declared that capitalism is anathema to them. You've provided no evidence to support your outlandish claims. At best, you're ignorant, on a truly epic scale, of history, politics and philosophy. At worst, you're some kind of soft-fascist paternalist who dreams of a return to the kind of world that Franco envisioned.

Capitalism is a silly made-up word to describe my fundamental right to make and sell whatever I want. I don't need pig-ignorant little phalangists with their Hitlerite dreams of Blut und Boden to save me from myself.

Nor can you be in favour of the neoconservative war agenda.

Then it's just as well I opposed the Iraq war, along with Ken Clarke, back when too many on the right were endorsing it.

Chris A said...

Richard Bacone? only one comment

Phwoaar

Sabretache said...

Iain
....Earlier we talked about Jimmy Carter's outrageous comments about critics of Obama's healthcare plans are driven by racism"

Outrageous? - Really?

Do yourself a favour. Read Dimitri Orlov's latest blog post entitled 'Caution-White People'. He's a Russian ex-patriot US citizen with as humorously laser accurate take on the US in general - and this little rucus in particular - as you likely to find anywhere.

Hurf Durf said...

The only people who think that the much-deserved criticism and opposition to Obama is racist are all the Labourgs (who are wrong on everything) and the 12% of US moonbats who agree. The fact they're playing the race card this early leads me to believe they are truly stuffed.

Oh, and Mark - congratulations on using MSNBC as your source. Top thinking.

Anonymous said...

I'm also shocked you think Carter's comments are outrageous.

He hasn't said every piece of opposition to Obama is racist, he's just pointed out that it's in the mix.

You just need to look at the Muslim Obama stuff to know Carter's correct. Why reserve your outrage for Carter? It makes you look ridiculous.

We're trying to drag the tories into the twenty first century. Part of that means acknowledging racism when we actually see it. Not trivially but equally not trying to pretend it away when it's staring us in the face.

Jonah said...

Ian I think you did extraordinarily badly in that interview. Between Bacon and the communist academic working together and you failing to challenge their basic flawed premise that capitalism somehow failed, it might have sounded to the casual listener as if they actually won.

Accepting that "capitalism" has failed or needs greater regulation is basically an admission of defeat.

Jabba the Cat said...

Those that can do, those that can't teach, or anchor C4 news like Jon Snow.