Martin Wolf defends Capitalism in the pages of The Financial Times, Political Observer comments

A reader must approach with caution Mr. Wolf’s review of Wolfgang Streeck’s book ‘How Capitalism Will End’. The opening paragraph is demonstrative of Mr. Wolf’s defensive posture. The first sentence has the ring of the King James Bible about it, quite extraordinary!

Cometh the hour, cometh the cliché. In the case of Wolfgang Streeck, an influential German sociologist who is emeritus director of the Max Planck Institute in Cologne, that cliché is “the end of capitalism”. Countless intellectuals, including Karl Marx, have forecast the imminent or at least inevitable end of capitalism. Capitalism has always survived. This time, argues Streeck, is different. Capitalism “will for the foreseeable future hang in limbo, dead or about to die from an overdose of itself but still very much around, as nobody will have the power to move its decaying body out of the way”.

The Streeck quote seems  to ring true in his observation of ‘about to die from an overdose of itself’. Mr. Wolf, for obvious strategic reasons, continues to call what he defends as Liberalism, yet what he defends with the solemness of a theologian, is the Neo-Liberalism of  Hayek/Mises/Friedman menage.That Neo-Liberalism is still foundering in the wake of its collapse in 2008. Indicative of that is that the growth sector,  in the American economy, is low paying service jobs. Yet Mr.Wolf soldiers on trying to quell one of the many intellectual manifestations of The Rebellion Against the Elites.

Compare Mr. Wolf’s continuing argument that ‘liberalism’ is wedded to democracy with the fact that the Chinese are far better Capitalists than its practitioners in the ‘West’ . Democracy seems utterly superfluous to a high functioning Capitalism. Given this fact, the reader just might look to the TPP and the TTIP as the natural successors of the failed Neo-Liberal Utopianism, as a form of Steeck’s  postulation of a Capitalism overdosing on itself: this being the seemingly ineluctable Corporatism of our collective future? A quote from Mr. Wolf’s August 30,2016 essay seems pertinent, as he speaks in the discarded vocabulary of civic republicanism, rather that the desiccated  cliches of Markets and Entrepreneurs:

A natural connection exists between liberal democracy — the combination of universal suffrage with entrenched civil and personal rights — and capitalism, the right to buy and sell goods, services, capital and one’s own labour freely. They share the belief that people should make their own choices as individuals and as citizens. Democracy and capitalism share the assumption that people are entitled to exercise agency. Humans must be viewed as agents, not just as objects of other people’s power.

Yet it is also easy to identify tensions between democracy and capitalism. Democracy is egalitarian. Capitalism is inegalitarian, at least in terms of outcomes. If the economy flounders, the majority might choose authoritarianism, as in the 1930s. If economic outcomes become too unequal, the rich might turn democracy into plutocracy.

For some informative background on the Crisis of Capitalism and possible remedies to the failure of it ‘disruptive spirit’ see:

And on The Corruption of Capitalism viewed through the Financial Times lens:

On the rising poverty rate in Britain, a direct result of Neo-Liberal political policy, see this BBC essay:

On the rise of once thought eradicated communicable diseases in Britain:

Political Observer

Additional information:

Headline: Third of UK population ‘fell below the poverty line’ (20 May 2015)

Sub-headline: Almost a third of the UK population fell below the official poverty line at some point between 2010 and 2013, figures show.

Around 19.3 million people – 33% – were in poverty at least once, compared with 25% of people across the EU, the Office for National Statistics found.

But only 7.8% were defined as being in “persistent income poverty” in 2013 – less than half the 15.9% EU average.

Pensioners and single parent families were found to struggle the most.

The ONS records someone as being in poverty if they live in a household with disposable income below 60% of the national average, before housing costs.

Persistent poverty is defined as being in poverty in the current year and at least two of the three preceding years.

Summing up the findings, the ONS said: “Studies reveal that although some people are stuck in poverty, the majority of ‘the poor’ consist of a constantly changing group of different individuals.”

The report added that although “poverty persists only for a relatively small minority, evidence suggests that those who have already been in poverty are more likely to experience poverty again in the future than those who have never been in poverty”.


Scarlet fever is not the only Victorian disease making a comeback. Thirty-four cases of gonorrhoea resistant to the antibiotic azithromycin were reported in England between November 2014 and April of this year. Fortunately, the bacterium remains sensitive to the other drug used in first line therapy, ceftriaxone. “However, if azithromycin becomes ineffective against gonorrhoea, there is no ‘second lock’ to prevent or delay the emergence of ceftriaxone resistance, and gonorrhoea may become untreatable,” Public Health England warned last month.

Then there are the diseases against which most of us received childhood vaccinations – measles, whooping cough and tuberculosis – that have had outbreaks in recent years. What is going on? Broadly speaking, there are two reasons why such diseases are making a comeback: because the pathogens that cause them are constantly evolving; and because inadequate numbers of people are being vaccinated.

Take the 2013 outbreak of measles in south-west Wales, which killed one man and hospitalised 88 people. “Measles is a very infectious virus, so you’re relying on maintaining very high levels of immunisation within the population to stop it circulating,” says Dr Matthew Snape, a paediatrician and vaccines expert at Oxford university hospitals NHS trust. In the wake of the MMR vaccine scare, uptake of the vaccine fell to only 67.5% in Swansea, compared with about 94% beforehand.

About stephenkmacksd

Rootless cosmopolitan,down at heels intellectual;would be writer. 'Polemic is a discourse of conflict, whose effect depends on a delicate balance between the requirements of truth and the enticements of anger, the duty to argue and the zest to inflame. Its rhetoric allows, even enforces, a certain figurative licence. Like epitaphs in Johnson’s adage, it is not under oath.'
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