Inaccuracy right there in the summary


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Initial post: 22 Feb 2010 09:35:00 GMT
"Today that growth has gone suddenly and sharply into decline". Erm, no it hasn't. World GDP is still growing, and has continued to grow throughout the "crisis of capitalism". Only rich countries have seen their GDP numbers decline for a few quarters.

I shall not be bothering with this book. A lucid explanation of complex issues is not the same as an over-simplistic polemic.

Posted on 22 Feb 2010 10:02:28 GMT
Some figures for World GDP growth:

2007: 5%
2008: 4.1%
2009: 3.9%

If stated in terms of purchasing-power parity (rather than market exchange rates), the figures are higher.

For the rich world, the crisis has been a major downturn. For poor countries, it's been a minor slowdown. Why is no-one talking about this? Capitalism is not "in crisis", it is continuing to improve the living standards of billions of the poorest people at unprecedented speed. In the already-rich world, we're having a few quarters of negative growth and having to pay off our credit cards. Boo-hoo.

In reply to an earlier post on 30 Dec 2010 23:09:01 GMT
AMC says:
Or, if you work in a children's home like I do (or in any other industry reliant on government spending, directly or indirectly), possibly at risk of losing your job, income and home because local authorities are cutting costs everywhere and are likely to be sending much less business to my company in the near future - from your trite analysis I'm guessing you're one of those too-rich-to-be-affected-by-the-downturn Tories; a typical "I'm all right, Jack" attitude being displayed with no regard for those in a worse off position than yourself.
Capitalism is not in crisis simply because those in power have a vested interest in the status quo. I agree that we do not have a wealth-creation crisis; we have a wealth distribution crisis. The effect for those near the bottom of society is the same either way. Perhaps capitalism SHOULD be in crisis, simply to enforce a fairer deal for all.

Posted on 30 Dec 2010 23:28:40 GMT
No, you're wrong. Of course some people in richer countries are suffering. But those at "the bottom of society", if we take a global view - in other words, the poorest people in the poorest countries - are doing, on average, rather well. I repeat: it is a crisis suffered by rich countries.

Posted on 30 Jun 2011 15:12:46 BDT
J. D. Machin says:
Whaat? 'The poorest people in the poorest countries are doing, on average, rather well'? David Pritchard, what kind of damage do you have to inflict on English to make lack of water, lack of healthcare, lack of schooling and infant mortality rates not seem in the West for centuries mean 'rather well'?

You say capitalism is 'continuing to improve the living standards of billions of the poorest people at unprecedented speed'. Yes, overwhelmingly in China, where it can exploit cheap labour. Taking someone out of a paddy field, educating them up to the standard where they can operate a production line and work from 6.45am to 9pm making goods for rich Westerners, in conditions no Western worker would tolerate for a moment, counts, I suppose, as taking them out of poverty.

Not that I think Western countries shouldn't be involved in China, just that the only thing more appalling than your idea of 'doing rather well' is the Chinese 'Communist' government's shameful collaboration with its people's exploiters - or, if you prefer, 'developers' - in generating billions of dollars' worth of profits. And what does the Chinese state do with it's share of the loot - invest in its public services? Improve safety in its mines and factories? No, it buys US Treasury bonds. Though it's selling those now - doubtless because of the grim prospects for US industry, brought about by the financial chicanery Lanchester documents.

Capitalism has been the only game in town since 1989 - that doesn't promote it above morality. I'm not an anti-capitalist, I'm against the laissez-faire extremes of capitalism, and I don't see the system you admire as the final word in political systems. It is, above all else, an engine of inequality, seeking out inequalities it can exploit and, where it finds none, creating them.

Posted on 2 Jul 2011 12:06:01 BDT
You haven't been paying attention to the news. Wages are rising rapidly in China. China is already a middle-income country. So is Brazil. Before long, India may be, too. Japan started off dirt poor too, and made cheap goods for low wages. So did Britain. It's the first long on the ladder, it's how it works. Get real. Everyone starts off poor.

In reply to an earlier post on 5 Jul 2011 11:08:18 BDT
J. D. Machin says:
'It's how it works'. What is 'it'? Industrialisation? Globalisation? That marvellous system that improves every country it touches, like a magic wand, bringing higher wages to everyone equally, never creating new entrants to the ranks of the super-rich, never creating a relatively moneyed middle class at the expense of the poor, never increasing inequality, never bringing the hallmarks of Western consumerism - heart disease, diabetes, depression - to societies previously unaffected by them, never making friends and allies of some the world's worst regimes because they own vital natural resources?

You get real: the only reason you can talk so blithely about industrialisation making the world richer and happier is because capitalism has been made acceptable in the West by organised labour, which has managed to gain enough political power to set limits on its activities. In doing so, capital's urge to make more, faster money has been increased; it takes the path of least resistance and that has been towards countries with low wages and weak or absent unions. It doesn't do this from the goodness of its heart; it does it to improve the bottom line.

So read the book; see how the system works. Capitalism has tremendous wealth-creating energy - energy I entirely accept we need - but it has no inbuilt motive to distribute its rewards fairly, to make everyone's lives better: quite the opposite. Hence the need for checks and balances, for a bridle on what, left to its own devices - as Lanchester points out - would otherwise be unbridled greed.

Posted on 5 Jul 2011 23:47:16 BDT
As Adam Smith explained, private greed and public good need not be exclusive. As he pointed out, you don't depend on your baker's altruism for your daily bread, but rather on his desire to make a living. This point is fundamental, and yet generation after generation fails to understand it.

Your analysis of development is entirely skewed. The "greed" of capitalists does indeed drive them to seek out low-wage countries, but in the process those countries can become rich. China is a clear example. And do developed countries thereby become poor? Hardly. Is Britain poor? Is Germany? Is France? Is the United States? No one ever claimed that capitalism brings wealth to everyone equally. It can't, and there's no reason why it should. That is a job for governments. It does what it does - it has the power to convert poor countries into rich ones. What people do with that wealth, and how they distribute it, is their business.

Your critique bears the hallmarks of nostalgia for pre-industrial societies (try living in one first) and a romantic notion of the unions' role, which is hardly born out by reality.
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Initial post:  22 Feb 2010
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Whoops!: Why everyone owes everyone and no one can pay
Whoops!: Why everyone owes everyone and no one can pay by John Lanchester (Paperback - 7 Oct. 2010)
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