Crises and Capitalism

by Cosmo Houck

A couple weeks ago there was an editorial from the BBC that argued that capitalism and its process of creative destruction had played a pivotal role in all the bad things that have been happening lately, and that maybe we should pay some more attention to Marx than we usually do. It’s something I welcome simply because that kind of stuff doesn’t get a lot of play in the media, certainly not in this country, and if you ever want to figure something out I think it’s probably not the best policy to dismiss things out of hand.

It also reminded me of this video, which I saw through the recommendation of a friend last spring, and which I think also does a nice job of summarizing some arguments that may be familiar in academia but get essentially no play in the broader public sphere.

It’s easy to forget now, but in the immediate aftermath of the financial crisis even some pretty mainstream people were thinking it would have serious consequences for the faith people had in capitalism as a viable economic model. I mean, Michael Lewis, who is hardly a radical leftist, made a big deal in The Big Short about a couple of characters thinking it would have to mean the end of the free market system as it existed, and if I recall correctly he repeated those sentiments on things like The Daily Show. He was hardly alone either.

Of course, we know what’s happened since then: essentially nothing. And more than that, in the years since the immediate crisis, there has been a resurgence on the Republican right wing, with some serious libertarian ideals getting tossed around.

This is upsetting if you believe David Harvey and the BBC author up there because it means things are just going to get worse until we decide we want to run things differently. More immediately than that, though, is the dispiriting fact that not only is it in vogue to tout Friedman on the right, the other side gets no play on the big stage and with politicians.