Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Supercapitalism by Robert B. Reich

I've often said that the free market can always be counted on to do what's profitable but what's profitable isn't always what's right.

Dr. Reich's examination of how Democratic Capitalism has been pushed aside by Supercapitalism illustrates my point better than I ever could. Of course he has dedicated his life to the subjects of economics, politics and society. The subtitle of the book is "The Transformation of Business, Democracy, and Everyday Life."

Reich discusses the circumstances surrounding the rise and fall of organizaed labor in the United States, the role that Oligopolies played in the American and world economy during the period he calls "The Not Quite Golden Age" (1950s-1970s) and the dichotomy that exists in the minds of Americans as consumers/investors and citizens who shop at Wal-Mart to get the best deals on products manufactured overseas by American-based companies who then go home and lament the downtrodden status of the American worker and the suffering of main streets and mom and pop businesses across the country.

Another fascinating point made is the anthropomorphism of corporations that has resulted in a false belief held by the public that companies are just like people and subsequent legislation that treats them as such. Corporations can be sued, taxed and accused of having agendas when, in reality, they are just "legal fictions," bundles of contracts and collectives of shareholders and employees. How often have we referred to corporations as having evil intent, "Wal-Mart hates unions," "Microsoft is a monopolist." Companies don't have intent. They can't hate or love. But by treating them as people, the executives that operate those corporations start to assume that said corporations are entitled to rights and representation in government and Supercapitalism has enabled them to buy that representation through lobbying and corporate donations to political campaigns. Divorcing ourselves from this fallacy of corporate sentience is the first step in dismantling that influence that business has over our government. Only by doing that can government get back to representing the interests of the people instead of implementing legislation designed to work for the economic advantage of big business. Summed up simply, our leaders in government seem to have forgotten that rights are guaranteed to people not corporations. Reich also makes an excellent case for eliminating the corporate income tax and replacing it with taxes withheld from shareholder dividends. Let the stockholders pay taxes on the income corporations earn on their behalf, the way the law works now, corporations simply pass their taxes onto the consumer.

This is just one of many excellent examples that Reich gives in his book about how democracy can come out from under the weight of corporate influence so that all Americans can eventually benefit from the positive aspects of Supercapitalism that we now enjoy, great deals as consumers and higher returns as investors while not compromising the greater good that can only be made possible through democracy that is unencumbered by corporate influence.

Fresh Air from WHYY - Robert Reich Looks Askance at 'Supercapitalism' - 9/11/2007 - "Fresh Air"

NPR.org's Book Tour - Robert Reich Issues a Warning in 'Supercapitalism' - 10/02/07

Official page at Random House

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