August 22, 2011
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Jon Stewart pokes fun at the ridiculous posturing by mainstream economists and politicians about “class warfare” and the U.S. federal budget. While pundits pooh-pooh talk about raising taxes on the rich, the boss press accuses billionaire exploiter Warren Buffet of being “a socialist” and call for increasing taxes on the poor instead. Stewart notes that even if you took half of everything the officially U.S. poor own, it wouldn’t raise any more than the small tax increases on the top 1 percent or so (back to 1990s levels) that the Democrats have tentatively suggested.
So we have Democrats and Republicans falling over themselves to slash social spending, lock up our fellow workers who cross borders without permission (while giving tax holidays to those who hide “their” money overseas), and basically see how little those of us who work for a living — and by doing so generate all the wealth upon which this economy relies — can get by on. “That’s the problem with poor people,” Stewart notes. “They still have some of their skin.”
Warren Buffet and some of his colleagues might be sincerely appalled at the gross injustice imposed by the present tax code and the slash and burn approach to meeting basic social needs now being imposed across the planet. Or they might fear the social consequences, and figure paying out a small fraction of their ill-gotten wealth is a small price to pay for maintaining social stability. But when even the wealthiest are afraid of the reckless misanthropy of the polytricksters they have bought and paid for, it says something about the extent to which U.S. politics have degenerated.
We can’t afford these parasites. It’s time to be done with them.
August 22, 2011
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Bekken, Hahnel, Buendia and Fotopoulos (left to right) at the plenary
The National Confederation of Labor (CNT-AIT) launched a month-long conference on “Alternatives to Capitalism” on April 9th and 10th, 2010, in Barcelona, Spain, as part of centennial celebrations that will last through 2010.
In the opening session, economist Miren Etxezarreta warned that real economic recovery is doubtful, pointing to the decades-long assault on workers’ living standards. “The recovery, even if it occurs, will lead to societies even more capitalist, more exploitative, and more oppressive. … More important than struggling against the crisis is to struggle against capitalism, with or without crisis.” Economist Toni Castells followed, concluding that this economic system is dying: its end will make way for another society, “and what its form will be is up to us.”
More than 200 people attended the session where this essay (The Economics of Freedom, published in ASR #54) was presented. Takis Fotopoulos, political philosopher and former professor of economics at the University of North London, offered a presentation on “inclusive democracy as a political project for a new libertarian synthesis.” In this vision, the means of production would be owned by the entire society, but administered by municipal assemblies.
Economist Robin Hahnel, co-creator of the economic model called “Participatory Economics,” was the final presenter, arguing for participatory planning of the economy by councils of workers and consumers. “Authoritarian planning denies workers the ability to decide, whereas participatory management of the economy allows those who are affected to speak out directly,” Hahnel said.
Other talks addressed the history of libertarian communism in economic thinking, the dimensions of the current economic crisis and possible responses to it, and economist Endika Alabort’s analysis of workers’ self-management, which needs to be “understood not as a tool for survival within the capitalist system, but as a tool for overcoming it.” There were lively discussions following all the presentations, which the ICEA intends to post online.
The conference was organized by the Institute for Economic Sciences and Self-Management (ICEA), which has as its historical reference the “Institut de Sciences Econòmiques de Catalunya,” established in 1931 in Barcelona. The ICEA’s Luis Buendía stressed the need for “a majority of workers to understand the operation of an economic system so that we can manage a libertarian economy, an economy and a society controlled by and serving the working people.” (excerpted from a report in CNT)