NewburyportNews.com, Newburyport, MA

Opinion

August 7, 2013

Austerity and capitalism in crisis

austerity |ôˈsteritē|

difficult economic conditions created by government measures to reduce a budget

deficit, esp. by reducing public expenditure: a period of austerity | [ as modifier ] : austerity measures.

The purpose of austerity is not to fix the systemic structural problems of the economy (or broken political process), nor to hold those who created the financial crisis accountable, nor to improve the lives of working people; rather it is to transfer the financial risk, debt burden and economic pain to the public sector (aka us). It is the final chapter in capitalism’s self-destructive crusade to crush the economic/social paradigm of the last 70 years and eliminate the social programs and safety nets that helped create, then establish the middle class as we knew it.

Capitalism as practiced today bears no resemblance to Adam Smith’s seminal work, “The Wealth of Nation.” Despite what the acolytes of the current system believe, there is no such thing as the “invisible hand” of the marketplace. It has been corrupted into a joint venture between the state and corporations, where growth and profit, the legal mandates of the corporation, trump the needs of society and the environment. The benefits are privatized (profits to a minority) and the costs (aka “externalities” — damage to the environment and social infrastructure) are passed on and paid unwittingly by the public. It was not always like this, but we have allowed it to happen through complacency and ignorance. Let’s be clear: We are not talking about local businesses (although they sometimes seek advantage over the common good); they are more likely to combine just rewards for entrepreneurial risk with economic equality and civic-minded action and activism. We are talking about the corporate globalization of the world’s economies and the destruction of social order, local and indigenous cultures, collective welfare and ultimately the natural world that we inhabit and rely on for survival.

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