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Timeless Capitalism

A few months ago I read an autobiography titled “My Song” by the entertainer Harry Belefonte. As a teenager I was a huge fan of his music. In later years I read about his work as an activist with the civil rights movement and that is the reason I purchased the ebook. The book is insightful for many reasons. I was impressed with how the big names of show business both black and white put themselves forward (often at risk to their careers) to help the cause of social justice.

The writer was also unafraid to reveal his own inadequacies which is often a failure with many autobiographies. Lastly I found Belefonte’s capacity to maintain his career whilst working for the movement quite extraordinary.

That aside the reason for this short rant is that on page 234 I found this exchange between Belefonte and Martin Luther King Jnr.

“The trouble “Martin went on” is that we live in a failed system. Capitalism does not allow for an even flow of economic resources. With this system a small privileged few are rich beyond conscience and almost all others are doomed to be poor at some level”.

I place the year at about 1960 and leave you to draw your own conclusions.


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  1. Paddy Forsayeth

    Spot on! The time has come for a robust debate about the inequitable distribution of wealth. The rich whine when threatened to pay more (proportionately) income tax. Imagine the screams when society attempts to get their huge greedy snouts out of the trough of the common wealth that we are all entitled to share in.Why do we believe the bullshit that someone like Turnbull worked hard for his money or that he EARNED it?
    We are yet to have the debate about why the rich are allowed to get away with what they do. We need to examine how it is that the population have been imbued with the belief that:
    the rich work a million times harder/smarter than the rest
    that the rich DESERVE what they can get out of a FREE MARKET
    that people like myself are jealous HAH!
    that the rich are the ones who give us our jobs and provides our standard of living..
    I hope that this article will be the begining of a long and serious debate leading to a fairer distribution of wealth than at present.

  2. kerri

    Dr King was indeed an insightful man.

  3. RosemaryJ36

    Those who have will hang on to it and help it grow. Those with nothing, including opportunity, end up or stay in the gutter. Capitalism does not produce enough Good Samaritans.

  4. Andrew

    Unfortunately no other system works any better, Socialism & communism showed the same problems, but, with power being the corrupter. Greed is the emotional problem for anything that gives a better ‘position’ in life.

  5. win jeavons

    I have enough, but I am angry that so many good people either can’t get a living wage, or even a job, while there are those who having too much, waste the world’s resources and dismiss criticism as “envy” . I hope they live long enough to learn remorse and genuine empathy

  6. keerti

    Andrew, if you believe that you might have alook at what is happening in Denmark, Venezuela where the major thrust in economic ploicy is towards a much more even distribution of wealth and easy access to public amenities such as university.

  7. Paddy Forsayeth

    Ditto Keerti re the comment from Andrew. Socialism and Communism are frequently conflated so the one is equated with the other. They are quite different. For Andrew : ‘no other system works better…’. In the modern age society has tried Capitalism, Communism,Socialism and various autocratic and religious and secular dictatorships. Communism was Fascism in disguise, Socialism has had a few extant successes and Capitalism has been generally for the good. However Capitalism is like a ship where the centre of gravity of the ship is climbing even higher. The ship will eventually capsize. People are begining to resent the greed of the small minority of the rich.

  8. Anomander

    Those who have riches are blinded by their wealth. “Why should my hard work pay for someone else?”, they proclaim, never once thinking of the services and resources made available to them, thanks to the altruism of previous generations and by the collective contribution from everyone else in our society.

  9. Denis Bright in Brisbane

    Thanks for your article, John. Short articles can have a strong impact on readers and become very thought-provoking!

    With the break-down of the Bretton Woods Agreement, President Nixon and his successors revived a very aggressive form of capitalism on a global rather than a one nation frame as in the 1920s.

    Progressive oppositions within parliamentary oppositions have accommodated this approach and just offered piecemeal reforms. These flounder because of a lack of fiscal direction.

    Ultimately, social democrats will want to get back to a more social market approach which was being developed in the Federation Era in Australia especially under the Fisher Governments. I am not advocating a revival of the jingoism and racism of that era!

    More radical theorists will of course ridicule this approach for not going far enough but its a start.

    The two approaches of radical resistance and true reformism are appropriate change strategies in a contemporary environment of hegemony within globalized capitalism.

    Increasingly, corporations, the military and mass culture are all interacting to keep the system going. It’s a bit like Mussolini’s Italy on a global scale.

    So let’s encourage the New Gramscians.

    Reformism fails when it is really more market capitalism with a few rhetorical slogans as in the Clinton Era.

  10. eli nes

    great piece, john. The key to the success of the system is the acceptance that Australia must have ‘poor at some level’. Consequently in our rich country we revel in seeing people worse off than us. We slag people who seem to get handouts that we don’t get and begrudge aid to anyone who doesn’t look ill or disabled or Aboriginal with only the extremes in mind.
    We laud the rich, envy their lifestyle and zealously ape their philosophy, usually without understanding, we believe what we are told without questioning the veracity and we have lost the will to care about consequences.
    ps Harry and Dorothy Dandridge in Carmen Jones awoke my interest in racism.
    At uni, every friday after badminton 5 of us would pile into the only car and drive to elizabeth getting there about 11 and play belafonte at carnegie hall and his return with miriam mekeba, odetta and the kingston trio till 3 or 4.

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