Republicans and their billionaire donors are trying mightily to make America this kind of state today. In this model, capitalism becomes more than free enterprise; it is the iron wall separating the ultra wealthy from the rest of us. It is the means by which stark income inequality can become permanent.
Two books I recommend reinforce this notion. Thomas Piketty’s “Capitalism In The Twenty-First Century” uses economic numbers to make an scientific case for the destructiveness of the current version of American capitalism. The means and opportunities by which the common person can access middle class status are being cut off, intentionally and rigorously, by the 1% who control 55-60% of all the wealth of the country. And this “socioeconomic gulf” is widening.
Likewise, Naomi Klein’s book Disaster Capitalism warns of the evils of capitalism in the 21st century. She argues that deregulation has been extremely profitable for those at the top but something of a disaster for those at the bottom.
No surprise there, but Klein does imply that there is more than simple economics at work. Governments in league with corporations around the globe have employed something called the “shock system.” This system uses crises or calamities to pass laws that implement destructive capitalist policies. She cites examples from Asia, Latin America, and Russia, but the same could be said for our own 9/11 catastrophe that led to the unwarranted invasion of Iraq. The greed and corruption that followed was unprecedented. War profiteers and contractors got rich, and the commoner was left to ponder how his pockets got picked. Same with the Wall Street meltdown and bailout in 2008. It nearly destroyed our economy, but in the end the taxpayer funded billionaires who put another one over on us.
Klein is quoted in the latest edition of OpEd News as saying, “If we want to understand how this system has swept the globe from Latin America to Russia to this country, we need to understand the incredible ‘utility of crisis’ to this project, because the great leaps forward for this project have taken place in the midst of and during the immediate aftermath of some kind of a shock. The extreme cases that I discuss in the book are wars, terrorist attacks, natural disasters…the most common shocks that have created the context for pushing through these very unpopular policies in a way that economists often call economic shock therapy. The first shock is the economic crisis; the second shock is the economic shock therapy.”