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Fri, Jan. 9th, 2009 01:36 am
Capitalism: doesn't it make you (mentally) sick?

92CommentReplyFlag

georgesdelatour
georgesdelatour
Fri, Jan. 9th, 2009 01:14 pm (UTC)

There's an excellent review of Oliver James' "Affluenza" here:

http://www.spiked-online.com/index.php?/site/article/2891/


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imomus
imomus
imomus
Fri, Jan. 9th, 2009 03:24 pm (UTC)

I'm afraid I don't think that's an excellent review at all.

Daniel Ben-Ami is, as far as I'm concerned, the enemy. His big target -- as stated on his glibly-titled blog, Ferraris for All -- is "growth scepticism: the tendency to call the benefits of mass affluence into question".

Now, mass affluence is simply not possible -- we would need eight planet earths for everyone to have the lifestyle the rich currently have. Ben-Ami, though, is against environmentalism. A recent blog entry says: "Sadly it sounds like South Korea is taking up what a comment in the Wall Street Journal calls the Green New Deal “boondoggle"." Why he adopts the Wall Street Journal's term for the revitalization of four major rivers, eco-friendly transportation, small dams and forest maintenance, I don't know, but presumably there aren't enough Ferraris involved.

Ben-Ami says: "James is more conservative than a leftist. By comparing Sam [rich trader] to Chet [cab driver] he is implicitly drawing the conclusion that people should be happy with their lot... Rather than promoting prosperity so that everyone can have more he wants to encourage an outlook in which everyone is content with what they have already got."

Ben-Ami's stance is basically neo-liberal. High Gini gaps are fine, trickledown floats all boats, the poor do better when there are very, very rich people increasing general wealth and health, opportunity exists for ambitious individuals to do well, social mobility is not broken, the capitalist system is not broken. He calls James "deluded", but I'm afraid history is tilting towards the verdict that it is Ben-Ami's perspective that is deluded.


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imomus
imomus
imomus
Fri, Jan. 9th, 2009 03:30 pm (UTC)

Also: February 2007 (date of review). There is simply no way someone could write that review of the same book in February 2009. Ben-Ami -- like the Times review I link above -- was uttering, back then, the last hysterical shriek of neo-liberalism. The 2007 Times review, can you believe, actually tries to make a case of further bank deregulation! Even the Wall Street Journal and The Times wouldn't dare to write such guff now, two short years later. James has won.


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georgesdelatour
georgesdelatour
Fri, Jan. 9th, 2009 04:19 pm (UTC)

James is basing his argument on next to no evidence. And when evidence flatly contradicts his claim he invents bogus workarounds - as with the case of Shanghai.

BTW this chart also seems to contradict James's argument:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_countries_by_suicide_rate

I think you are confusing the argument for & against economic growth with the argument for neo-liberal markets or socialistic planning. As far as I can see, neo-liberal policies are doing a really effective job of reversing economic growth. People like Gordon Brown are using socialistic nationalization and other government measures to try and revive growth. So if you want less growth, presumably you should also want more Bernie Madoffs.


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imomus
imomus
imomus
Fri, Jan. 9th, 2009 05:11 pm (UTC)

James is basing his argument on next to no evidence.

Now, what is your evidence that he has next to no evidence? He went to six places in different corners of the world, interviewing about forty people in each of them. He also used many studies of mental health by the WHO and others. However, there is no way that a computer fed with all the data in the world could come up with a book like Affluenza: in the end you need a human being to do it, someone with a political, moral, ethical and aesthetic perspective, and the intuition to hear themes behind what people are saying. It's an interpretation, but I think recent events have made its central thesis almost unassailable.

Neo-liberal arguments posit an ideal world where economic growth benefits everyone, but I totally agree with you that the real world is not like that.


ReplyThread Parent
thomascott
thomascott
Thomas Scott
Fri, Jan. 9th, 2009 07:15 pm (UTC)
Spiked?

I'm curious as to what is your overview of Spiked Online, and the clutch of it's writers who emerged from Living Marxism to form it.
It does present interesting contrarian viewpoints, but I'm sometimes as dubious of the manifesto behind those viewpoints as of the orthodoxy they claim to counter.
I am certainly fond of Furedi, as are you, I believe.


ReplyThread Parent
imomus
imomus
imomus
Sat, Jan. 10th, 2009 12:34 am (UTC)
Re: Spiked?

I do like Furedi, yes. Just not that Ben-Ami guy.


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