Sunday, February 21, 2010

Raj Patel: "There is no such thing as a 'free market'"

They're all owned by, paid for by somebody. It's just a matter of who's paying the bill, who's calling the tune: who can sell what to whom are not trivial matters. There are always rules. This specious claim that there IS such a thing has been a peeve of mine for DECADES.

(Meanwhile, it IS true that "freedom isn't free." So just shut the fuck up and pay your goddam taxes, like the rest of us...)

Via Alternet (and with a DOTOF™ to Bo in the comments on the Pond):

Raj Patel opens his new book, The Value of Nothing: How to Reshape Market Society and Redefine Democracy, with Oscar Wilde’s observation that “nowadays people know the price of everything and the value of nothing.” Patel shows how our faith in prices as a way of valuing the world is misplaced. Revealing the hidden ecological and social costs of a hamburger -- as much as $200 -- he asks how we came to have markets in the first place. Both the corporate capture of government and our current financial crisis, Patel argues, are a result of our bankrupt political system. Searching for solutions, Patel goes back to basics in both economics and politics.

Raj Patel has worked for the World Bank and WTO and been tear-gassed on four continents protesting against them. He is a visiting scholar at UC Berkeley’s Center for African Studies, a researcher at the School of Development Studies at the University of KwaZulu-Natal, a fellow at the Institute for Food and Development Policy (Food First) and the author of Stuffed and Starved. Though recently heralded as the Maitreya (or chosen one) by members of Share International, Patel protests he's just an ordinary bloke.
You don't have to be a demi-god to0 have sussed the truth behind the mythology of corpoRatism. Even I, who am utterly unenlightened in the ways of Maitreya, had figured that out.

It's a very long interview. This is one of the many instructive parts:

Although a price is the most superficial example of the economy at work, all the major economists, certainly Adam Smith and Karl Marx, knew very well that supply and demand, scarcity and availability, determined what something cost. As investigators, they were trying to figure out why something costs what it does. For Smith and for Marx, the question came down to labor.

Work and labor are somehow different from anything else that goes into a good, because labor transforms something from being a static inanimate part of nature into something that has much more value. This labor theory of value is why Adam Smith thought that the real value of anything was essentially the trouble that went into the making of it. Smith also had a much more sophisticated idea of how the economy was structured so that workers were systematically different from landowners who, in turn, were systematically different from merchants, who profited from the employment of laborers.

Karl Marx took that idea much further and systematized it much more thoughtfully into an explanation of why capitalism looks the way it does, and why modern capitalism is always going to externalize environmental costs while internalizing the profits.

Marx also made another point that I think is tremendously important, which is that modern capitalism doesn’t pay for household work. Modern capitalism doesn’t pay for the business of making new workers. Bringing up kids, educating them, and building new community won’t be paid for by capitalism because that’s a subsidy that capitalism needs in order to survive. Some U.N. researchers figured out that women’s unpaid work (in 1995) would cost $17 trillion if we were to pay market value -- pretty much half the total world output. Yet women own less than 10 percent of the world’s resources in developing countries and less than 10 percent of the land. And this is not an accident, it’s integral to the way the system works.
Socialize risk, privatize profit. Getting folks to buy into that insidious, pernicious bullshit has been the lives' work of the "media" since about 1900. It's been working phenomenally well...

1 comment:

knowledge is power said...

Raj Patel is being used as a mouthpiece for maitreya. Don't be fooled by any of these smooth talking liars.