Is America Necessary? Conservative, Liberal, & Socialist Perspectives of United States Political Institutions

By Henry Etzkowitz; Peter Schwab | Go to book overview

pertinent today. How it is answered remains to be seen.


Socialist

Paul Sweezy and Harry Magdoff . The economic crisis in historical perspective.

In last month's Review of the Month we argued that U.S. capitalism has once again, as in the 1930s, entered a period of persistent and prolonged stagnation. At the same time we expressed agreement with those who, while recognizing that many big banks and corporations are in very shaky condition, doubt that this time it will come to a 1933-type panic. The expectation of prompt government intervention--through some combination of debt moratoriums and emergency bail-outs--seems well founded. As Business Week wrote in its issue of January 27th under the heading, "When Companies Get Too Big To Fail''": "The huge U.S. corporations have become such important centers of jobs and incomes that it the government] dare not let one of them shut down or go out of business. It is compelled, therefore, to shape national policy in terms of protecting the great corporations instead of letting the economy make deflationary adjustments."

If we accept this premise, the question which we ought to try to answer is not whether the government will intervene to prevent a panic but what will happen after it is forced to intervene. What policies are being discussed in ruling-class circles? How realistic are they? What are their implications for other sectors of society, and particularly the working class? It is to questions such as these that we now turn our attention.

There is a strong tendency among capitalists and their spokesmen to see all of their troubles as stemming from an insufficiency

of surplus value. Profit (one of the components of surplus value) provides the incentive to invest, and the totality of surplus value constitutes the pool from which the capital for additional investment is drawn. Since capitalist prosperity is dependent on a high rate on investment, it seems to follow that what is needed to get the system out of a slump is above all an increase in the amount of surplus value flowing into the pockets of capitalists and other recipients of income derived from surplus value. This will provide, so the argument runs, both the incentive and the wherewithal to increase the rate of investment. The policy implications of this diagnosis are of course obvious: squeeze workers and consumers generally in favor of the corporations and the wealthy. A fairly typical example of this kind of reasoning is contained in Business Week's special supplement on "The Debt Economy" in its issue of last October 12th:

It is inevitable that the U.S. economy will grow more slowly than it has (an implicit recognition of the new period of stagnation] . . . . Some people will obviously have to do with less . . . . Indeed, cities and states, the home mortgage market, small business, and the consumer, will all get less than they want because the basic health of the U.S. is based on the basic health of its corporations and banks: the biggest borrowers and the biggest lenders . . . .

Put simplistically, as long as corporations stay healthy, they can pay taxes and provide people with jobs . . . . But when corporations fall sick, people lose jobs and stop buying. Nobody pays taxes, governments and local authorities are not financed, and everyone--corporations, consumers, federal and local administrations alike-- goes broke or gets embedded more deeply in the debt spiral . . . .

Yet it will be a hard pill for many Americans to swallow--the idea of doing with less so that big business can have more. It will be particularly hard to swallow because it is quite obvious that if big business and big banks are the most visible victims of what ails the Debt Economy, they are also in large measure the cause of it. . . .

Nothing that this nation, or any other nation, has done in modern history compares in difficulty with the selling job that must now be done to make people accept the new reality. And there are grave doubts whether the job can be done at

-550-

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Is America Necessary? Conservative, Liberal, & Socialist Perspectives of United States Political Institutions
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page i
  • Preface ix
  • Contents xi
  • Introduction 1
  • Part One 15
  • 1 - Where Do I Stand? 17
  • Conservative 21
  • Conclusion 28
  • Socialist 44
  • Notes 46
  • Part Two 57
  • 2 - The Presidency 61
  • Conservative 67
  • Socialist 79
  • Notes 85
  • 3 - The Pentagon 101
  • Conservative 107
  • Socialist 117
  • 4 - The Secret Police 133
  • Conservative 139
  • Socialist 152
  • Notes 160
  • Part Three 167
  • 5 - Elite Clubs and Associations 169
  • Conservative 173
  • Notes 184
  • Notes 192
  • 6 - Multinational Corporations 209
  • Conservative 213
  • Socialist 221
  • Notes 244
  • 7 - Organized Crime 257
  • Conservative 259
  • Socialist 264
  • Part Four 283
  • 8 - Congress 285
  • Conservative 289
  • Socialist 296
  • Notes 303
  • 9 - The Courts 315
  • Conservative 319
  • Socialist 330
  • Notes 337
  • 10 - Regulatory Agencies 347
  • Conservative 349
  • Socialist 361
  • Notes 369
  • Political Parties 385
  • Conservative 387
  • Liberal 396
  • Conclusion 410
  • 12 - Academia 413
  • Conservative 416
  • References 427
  • Notes 434
  • Part Five 449
  • 13 - The Media 451
  • Conservative 453
  • Liberal 467
  • Notes 474
  • 14 - Banks 483
  • Conservative The Great Banking Retreat. 485
  • Socialist 489
  • Notes 497
  • 15 - Unions 511
  • Conservative 513
  • Notes 519
  • A Critical Issue 537
  • 16 - The Economic Crisis 539
  • Conservative 542
  • Socialist 544
  • Notes 550
  • Part Seven 557
  • 17 - Political Programs 567
  • Louis Banks. the Mission Of Our Business Society. 568
  • Ralph Nader and Donald Ross. Toward an Initiatory Democracy. 576
  • Stanley Aronowitz. On Organization: A Good Party Is Hard to Find. 581
  • Mass Parties and Reformism 587
  • Notes 596
  • Fred R. Harris. Up With Those Who'Re Down. 602
  • Part Eight 613
  • Appendix 621
  • Note 644
  • Index 649
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