This week's episode focuses on Trump’s tweets about Amazon over taxes, provides updates on why Americans are dying younger, reviews how Monsanto continues to profit at farmers' expense, and analyses the economics of homeless school children.
SPECIAL GUEST: Activist Rob Robinson on the US water crisis. To see the second half of this week's episode, sign up as a patron on Patreon.
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An ongoing debate (containing both ideological and pragmatic elements) surrounds the extent to which government ought to have the responsibility and authority to intervene in the affairs of individuals. The debate goes back to John Locke’s efforts to distinguish between actions that meet the test of liberty versus those that enter the realm of licence. We have never been able to come to agreement on the distinctions.
The philosopher Mortimer J. Adler made a sincere attempt to address the intellectual dilemma. He wrote that we demand freedom when what we deserve is liberty, which is defined as “freedom constrained by justice.” Yet, even Adler could not in several hundred pages solve the problem of what constitutes justice. He did provide a very practical way to view the problem. He argued that the laws of a society can be said to be just IF all citizens have the opportunity to acquire the goods of a decent human existence. These “goods” included not only access to adequate food, closing and shelter, but also to education, medical care, leisure and engagement in civic affairs.
What Richard Wolff is providing is the basis for a renewed discussion of our values. He brings to this discussion what he has learned by the study of the writings of Karl Marx (and, I assume, other writers who are strong critics of how our societies are and have been organized).
The critique of “capitalism” I have found to be more powerful than that provided by Marx comes to us from another line of reasoning, that first advanced in the mid-1700s by members of the French school of political economy known as Physiocrats. One leader of this movement — Anne Robert Jacques Turgot — briefly served as Minister of Finance, discharged by the king when pressured by the landed aristocracy. Turgot had the audacity to suggest that the rent of land be collected to pay for public goods and services. If one reads Adam Smith carefully, the influence of Physiocratic thought is clear, although Smith was never in a position to challenge the landed interests who controlled the economic and political structure of Britain. It took a century and the arrival in Britain of the American Henry George for a national campaign to end landed privilege in Britain to gain political support — from the Liberals under Lloyd George. Churchill, campaigning in 1909 for his first seat in the House of Commons declared that while the monopoly of land was not the only monopoly, it was “the mother of all monopolies.”
Land monopoly is still the mother of all monopolies. It is the fundamental cause of economic booms-and-busts. It is the fundamental cause of homelessness and widespread poverty.
Ironically, Henry George and Karl Marx agreed on the essential importance of the public collection of the rent of land. If we can somehow make this the central focus of societal reforms, the dominoes of change will begin to fall in the right direction.
Edward J. Dodson, Director
School of Cooperative Individualism