Richard Wolff Discusses the Failure of Capitalism with Bill Moyers

The fact of this talk is telling in and of itself: that a mainstream commentator would devote an entire segment to the idea that capitalism isn’t working. While that idea may seem obvious to many NC readers, it was supposed to remain relegated to the sphere of deviance (see Daniel Hallin’s spheres of discourse for more detail).

Having said that, some of Wolff’s remarks are very insightful, and others are puzzling. He talks about how much the minimum wage has fallen in real terms, his only mention of unions is in the Roosevelt era. And this is from a pro union guy! Yet the systematic attack on unions was critical to lowering wage levels. So unions are in the sphere of deviance (not clear whether due to Wolff being cautious of mentioning them overmuch or that part of the discussion being left on the cutting room floor).

Similarly, Wolff pooh poohs financial regulation, peculiarly dismissing the fact that it worked well for two generations. And what broke it was not bank lobbying but the high and volatile interest rates of the 1970s, which resulted from imperial overreach (Johnson refusing to raise taxes when the economy was already at full employment; he deficit financed the combo plate of the space race, the war in Vietnam, and the war on poverty. And Vietnam was the reason for not raising taxes; the war was already unpopular, and a tax increase would have made it more so). At one point, Moyers brings up oligopolies as another driver of increased concentration of wealth, and Wolff misses the opportunity to take up the idea (the failure to enforce anti-trust regulations is a not-sufficienlty well recognized contributor to rising income inequality).

Despite those caveats, there is a lot to like here, so do enjoy this segment.

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