Over Easy: Freedom and Capitalism Don’t Mix
Did you know that 42% of Americans believe that capitalism hasn’t worked out so well for us? According to a Brookings Institution’s July survey, more than a quarter of Americans say capitalism is working “not too well” while 16% say capitalism is working “not at all well.”
“There is no democracy in Capitalism.”
These numbers are shocking, frankly. You may recall a time way back before 2007 when such things were simply not said in polite company. Economic calamity and dirty hippies pitching tents on sidewalks across the country may have destigmatized anti-capitalist ideas just enough that some academic in an ivory tower decided to ask a question in a survey. Surprisingly, that survey got published by an institution of some repute. Regular people answered, and it turns out that more than 4 out of 10 of us don’t care much for our sacred system of unfettered free markets.
Richard Wolff’s new article at Truthoutsuggests that the problem may not lie in what the left considers the usual suspects of the failures of capitalism, namely free markets and private ownership. Wolff writes:
Capitalist enterprises exclude most workers from key decisions: what, how and where to produce and how to use net revenues (in Marx’s terms, the enterprise’s “surplus value”). Capitalist enterprise decision-makers include only enterprise owners (e.g., major shareholders) and the boards of directors they select.
The problem, then, is that there is no democracy in Capitalism. Ownership of an enterprise is not particularly important as long as the decisionmaking about finances are determined democratically by the workers who spend most of their waking hours toiling for the enterprise. Those workers are unlikely to outsource labor, pay a huge salary to the CEO at the expense of everyone else, or close up shop and move the operation overseas.
More to the point, how can democracy really exist in a country like ours where most of us do not participate in the decision making where we spend so much of our lives? If workers can’t democratically control their economic lives, are they really free?