The Death Of Capitalism: Back To The Future?

Economist, blogger and former IMF head economist Simon Johnson makes a compelling case here (originally from the NY Times) that what we have  is a failure to regulate, moderate or in any way impose meaningful rules. Let me ask… do  any of the following key points, borrowed more-or-less directly from Johnson’s post, sound even vaguely familiar when talking about truly mammoth companies?

     ● In many cases big firms did well because they used unfair tactics to crush their competition

     ● Even well-run businesses became immensely powerful politically as they grew.

     ● There was a blatant attempt to use the political power of big banks to shape the financial playing field in ways that would help them

And by now I’m sure that the most common reaction might be something along the lines of “No kiddin’ Pollyanna. Welcome to 2010. There’s no getting anything past you, is there?”

Well, the neat little trick here is that Johnson’s talking about the last Gilded Age, about a century ago, rather than the current Gilded Age that’s just wrapping up… oh… right about now…

So I’m curious – what do you suppose the likelihood is that we might be able to find a reformer willing to take on this sort of concentrated power? A modern-day Teddy Roosevelt, as it were? Because make no mistake – if our experiment with a free market economy is going to continue, perhaps the biggest single requirement is a more-or-less open and fair market – and a champion to lead the charge for one.

The great shame, of course, is that we might have already had just such an individual warming up in the wings.

Except, of course, he appears to have fallen victim to his inability to keep it in his pants – possibly combined with a truly excellent frame job.

One thought on “The Death Of Capitalism: Back To The Future?”

  1. In re: Theodore Roosevelt (he hated “Teddy”) and his anti-trust actions: he talked a far better game than he was able to play. He became President by a stroke of fate – he had been nominated for V-P in order to neutralize his reformism – and while he was in office he never had the support of Congress. He had to operate around Congress a great deal of the time, using executive orders to accomplish most of his goals re: national parks and preserves, and using the executive branch to bring action against the trusts by means of existing though not completely satisfactory legislation (the Sherman Anti-Trust Act). Luckily for him, the Supreme Court upheld his right to bring the suit against Northern Securities. He always had to steer between the populism of the W. J. Bryan Democrats and the intransigent “malefactors of great wealth” who financed his party, and that meant compromise. It’s exhilarating to read his speeches and articles on the evils of monopoly, but it’s sobering to tot up his actual record. He was ahead of his time, and in the wrong party.

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