FEB 21 2010

Capitalism against Capitalism

Capitalism, Economic, Federal government of the United States, Germany, Market economy, Social market economy, United States

Michel Albert, author of Capitalisme contre Capitalisme, compares the neo-American model of a capitalistic market economy with the Rhenish capitalism of Germany’s social market economy. The neo-American model is based on the ideas of Hayek and Friedman, and the latter, according to Albert, is founded on principles of publicly organized social security. Albert asserts that this model is more equitable, efficient, and less violent.

To the general public (and certainly most Americans), however, the neo-American model appears more attractive and dynamic.  Part of this attractiveness, he asserts, is an illusion because, as Albert (in 1991) argues:

The largest banks know, however, that they are literally ‘too big to fail’ and can count on a helping hand from government if the worst comes to the worst. America’s political leaders would step in to prevent the crash of a major financial institution on the grounds that it could set off a lethal chain reaction culminating in widespread disaster. … Thus, in yet another intriguing but ominous irony of history, 10 years of ultra-liberalism have resulted in a US financial system whose future may only be assured with the help of federal government handouts. [Michel Albert. Capitalism Against Capitalism. London: Whurr, 1993.  p. 61]

Alberts ideas for a “better” capitalism include finance controlled more by banks than stock exchanges, closer relationships between banks and companies, more balance between shareholders and managers, more partnerships between employers and unions, more loyal employees, more educated employees, a dual education system (more apprenticeships coupled with classroom learning), more regulation, and greater societal emphasis on equality and solidarity.  Perhaps Washington should, at least, consider some of these alternatives.

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