Magazine article Monthly Review

Notes from the Editors

Magazine article Monthly Review

Notes from the Editors

Article excerpt

If we had a left-progressive political party in this country, what kind of economic policy should it be advocating? Most economists of the kind we assume would belong to such a party seem to think its focus should be public investment in the country's infrastructure, with payment coming from some combination of borrowing and higher taxes on those who were the chief beneficiaries of the regressive tax reforms of the 80s. The purpose would be to put an end to the recession and hasten the arrival of the next cyclical upswing. Many of these economics of course are in favor of long-term reforms of various kinds, but they seem to be unanimous in believing that now is not the time to divert attention from the urgent task of getting the economy going again.

We think this is a short-sighted and self-defeating position. If and when the economy starts expanding again, interest in any kind of reform will abate, and conservative warnings against rocking the boat will become more persuasive. The time to raise questions about the need for fundamental change is when things are going badly and people are receptive. This is not to argue against immediate measures to relieve the suffering inflicted on a growing section of the population by the continuation, and quite likely the deepening, of the current recession. The problem is to come up with a program calculated to relieve current suffering and to initiate a process of radical reform. The purpose here is to indicate one way this could be done.

We start with two propositions which in this day and age are hardly more than truisms: (1) in order to prosper, capitalist economies as they have evolved in modern times have to grow; (2) unlimited economic growth in a limited environment is a contradiction in terms and ultimately a recipe for disaster. This means that capitalism has to be either drastically reformed (which we think is impossible) or be replaced by a different system. There are those who believe "ultimately" means so far in the future, like the cooling of the sun, as to be for all practical purposes irrelevant. But serious students of ecology tell us that "ultimately" means in the next century or so, which by historical standards is a very short time indeed. If we care about the future of the human species, as a left-progressive party surely would, we had better listen to the ecologists and begin right away to initiate a process of radical reform. …

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