Category Archives: Commentary

The future of capitalist democracy

There are two very interesting posts out in the past few days on the connections between politics and the interests of business I touched upon in a previous post.

The first is by Philip Pilkington over at Naked Capitalism: it’s brilliant throughout (and it’s added to my already overburdened toread list), but the main piece is towards the end, when he analyses why raising public spending is such a taboo for the liberal capitalists:

…the business class – like any class – are concerned not with profits but with power; the former are merely a means to the latter. They sense that their power comes from their ability to invest as investment drives a capitalist economy. The less they invest and the more the state invests, the less social power they will have… they would much prefer to sit around idly doing nothing than give up some of their power.


Democratic capitalism, quite simply, is a self-destructive system. In the present crisis the business class has rejuvenated their profits through financial chicanery… (although) this is probably through the inflating of a commodities bubble and will likely not last long… we know from history that the business class will probably prefer to accept chronically low profits than they will the government moving in on their turf.

Thus it is likely that the West is heading for a long period of stagnation and decline. Is this due to capitalism? In a sense yes, but to put it in these terms is far too abstract. This has as much, if not more, to do with our political structures and the amount of power that the business class exercises in modern democracies.

The second is an interview to Lawrence Lessing in Rolling Stone, and it compounds the intrinsic problem presented above with the current state of politics and a specific meaning of corruption in the United States (and, I should add, to a perhaps lesser degree everywhere else in the world).

…the problem with our government is that we have a Congress that’s dependent upon funders. And that dependency leads congress to do things they otherwise wouldn’t be doing—spending time worried about bank swipe fees rather than unemployment or budget deficits. It also leads Americans to believe that congress is just bought, as the vast majority of Americans believe, which makes them cynical and less engaged, and therefore leaves the fox guarding the hen house. That’s not a corruption violating any federal law, that’s a corruption that I call “dependency corruption.”

(Ok, he had me at “dependency”.)

Both recommended throughout.


SOPA: the wider issue of political money

If you haven’t had enough of all the discussion on the SOPA/PIPA conundrum, this is an excellent take by John Battelle on how it plays into (all that is wrong with) the American political system.

I think this passage is key:

…the fight isn’t over. In fact, it’s only starting. And the folks who basically wrote SOPA/PIPA are pissed, and they plan on using the same tactics they always have when they don’t get what they want: They’re throwing around their money. Or, put another way, they’re withdrawing it. Go read this article to see what I mean:

EXCLUSIVE: Hollywood Moguls Stopping Obama Donations Because Of President’s Piracy Stand: “Not Give A Dime Anymore”

Does this matter? Damn straight it does. In politics, money not only talks, it seduces, it cajoles, it forces, and it commands. And this is one of the boldest declarations of what’s wrong with our political system I’ve seen in quite some time.

(Thanks to Nat Torkington at the O’Reilly Radar for the pointer)

The Wikipedia Blackout game

I think this is a great opportunity to work out exactly how useful Wikipedia is in your (work/personal) life. So, over the course of today, let’s make this into a game:

  • 1 point every time you catch yourself instinctively thinking about looking something up on wiki and then stop because you remember there’s a blackout
  • 2 points every time you unthinkingly end up in the black-out landing page and struggle for a second to remember what’s going on
  • 5 points every time you’re stumped, because you actually need to research something but you have no idea where to go apart from wiki
  • 10 pointsevery time you get angry at Wikipedia for going on strike and leaving you high and dry
    • Add 1 point for every audible but wordless expression of irritation or discomfort (sighing, puffing, growling, head-banging, face-slapping, etc.)
    • Add 2 points for every vocal expression of irritation or discomfort
    • Add 1 point for every person who can potentially hear said expressions
  • 10 points for every discussion with coworkers/friends/random people on the street/tube/bus/train (5 points for online discussions)
  • 25 points if you made this far, but were never bothered to check what exactly SOPA is and how it will affect the internet before.
  • If you are actually damaged in economic/financial terms by this blackout, and you can quantify it pounds, add 1 point for every 10 £ (or equivalent in other currencies).

Tally up the result at the end of today, and you’ll get a (very rough) measure of how much Wikipedia is a (mostly invisible, I’d bet) part of your life.

My suggestion is that, if you haven’t already done so in the past few months, tomorrow you also donate to the Wikimedia foundation a sum in your currency that is equivalent to the sum of points above.

…crap. I’m already at 45 and it’s barely midday…