Wednesday, April 16, 2014

CA Bay Area: Ecosocialist event with Ian Angus

Ian Angus, founder and editor of Climate and Capitalism is speaking in Oakland next week.  He is a co-author of the excellent book, Too Many People.  Don't miss this event if you are concerned about the world in which we live. See the Climate and Capitalism link to the right and you can order his book here, or get one at the event.


Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Economics: Thomas Piketty and the search for ‘r’

Michael Roberts will be reviewing this book
by Michael Roberts

Just about every man and woman and his dog has reviewed French economist Thomas Piketty’s magnum opus, Capital in the 21st century.  Most reviews are laudatory (but not all) and most reviews are superficial (but not all).  “A watershed in economic thinking” Branko Milanovic; “could change the way we think about the past two centuries of history” The Economist; “a defining issue of our era” John Cassidy, New Yorker and so on.

I am not going to review Piketty’s book here as I have been asked by the Historical Materialism journal to do a review and I don’t want to steal the thunder from that.  But as that won’t be published for some time, I can’t resist posing a few questions for everybody to consider if they plan to read the 677 pages plus a myriad of statistics and charts offered by Piketty.

The book’s title immediately suggests a reference to Marx’s Capital, written in the 19th century. By implication, Piketty sets out to deliver an analysis of capitalism relevant to the 21st century as an improvement on Marx.
So here are the questions.

Piketty’s definition of capital is different from that of Marx.  Is Piketty’s better, more realistic and appropriate or is Marx’s?  Does it matter?

Piketty presents “two fundamental laws of capitalism”.  Piketty’s laws are different from Marx’s laws of motion of capitalism.  Are they realistic and more compelling in explaining capitalism in the 21st century?

Piketty’s main thesis is that inequality of wealth will grow as the share of income in an economy going to capital rises faster than national income increases.  This will happen if the net rate of return on capital (r) rises faster than the nominal rate of national income growth (g).  Is he right?
Order Michael Roberts'  book here
What is this r, how do we measure it and is it a realistic category?  I challenge the reader to search for Piketty’s r and the data behind it.

Piketty says r and g are independently determined and exogenous to his model of capitalism.  Is it realistic to assume that the rate of return on capital is not affected by the rate of growth in an economy, or vice versa?

Piketty says that, over centuries, r is pretty much steady at about 4-5%.  How does Piketty reach this conclusion?  Does he explain? Marx would not agree that the rate of profitability in capitalist economies has not moved much?  Is Marx wrong and Piketty right?

Piketty says, as r is steady, the only swing factor is g and he forecasts that the growth of national income will fall below r during the 21st century and thus inequality will rise further.  Is he right about g slowing down while r stays steady?

Piketty uses the neoclassical aggregate production function model to make forecasts about future growth in an economy?  Is this robust and realistic?

Rising inequality is the issue for 21st century capitalism for Piketty.  But what about booms and slumps and the recurrent breakdowns in capital accumulation?  What does Piketty have to say about those in relation to his ‘fundamental laws’?

Piketty suggests policy solutions to the rising inequality of wealth.  Are they appropriate and realistic?

My review will try to answer these questions.

Chicago. War Zone. 36 shot in 36 hours.

Sean O'Torain. Chicago. 

To listen to Obama who came out of Chicago, and to Emmanuel the present mayor of Chicago, all is for the best in the best of all possible worlds as far as the city is concerned. But things are far from that. Last weekend 36 people were shot in 36 hours in the city. Four of those died. One was a 17 year old girl. The previous weekend 27 people were shot. Parts of Chicago are war zones. What parts? Those parts where unemployment is at its highest.

But there is major crime in all areas of the city. It just tends to be different kinds of crime.  The suburbs are awash with cocaine and heroin. The users of these in many cases travel into the city to buy these drugs increasing the drug trade and violence there and then travel back out to consume their drugs. There are also many dealers in the suburbs.

Then there are the big criminals. These are the ones that run the stock market, the currency exchange, the banks. They live in the gated communities and gated houses in places such as the North Shore or in the high rise apartments and condos on Lake Shore Drive. And there are their associates in the Chicago political machine. This is the Democratic Party which gets the votes together and rigs the elections on behalf of the big money criminals.

Some of the steps that would improve things would be:

A $15.00 an hour minimum wage for all and equal pay for equal work.
Jobs for all with good wages and benefits and union rights.  
Free education to all levels and free health care.
Affordable housing for all.
Free health care with full reproductive rights for all.


These steps would give us a decent life. The poor and the alienated who are into street crime and the users of the drugs would have a worthwhile life which would have satisfaction and so the demand for drugs would plunge. And of course the super rich who are represented by Emmanuel and Obama could be put to work at productive labor and help the city.

Sean.

Monday, April 14, 2014

Marx and the tendency of the rate of profit to fall

A critical day

by Michael Roberts

I’ve just got back from presenting a paper jointly with G Carchedi at a seminar on “Imperialism and war” organised by the Critique journal.  Critique is a long-standing theoretical journal of Marxism (http://www.critiquejournal.net/) and it recently published a joint paper by Carchedi and I called “Marx’s law: answering old and new misconceptions” (http://www.tandfonline.com/doi/full/10.1080/03017605.2013.876811#.U0k3frQXJGU). 

Much of the arguments in that paper concerned answering the critique of Marx’s law of the tendency of the rate of profit to fall recently renewed by Michael Heinrich, a prominent Marxist scholar, in the US journal, Monthly Review.  You can get the gist of that debate here (http://gesd.free.fr/mrhtprof.pdf).

The Critique editorial board kindly invited us to speak on how Marx’s law related to the cause of capitalist crisis at their seminar in London, among other speakers.  The first speaker was Bob Brenner, Distinguished Professor of of History at the University of California Los Angeles (UCLA) and director of the Center for Social Theory and Comparative History at UCLA, editor of the socialist journal Against the Current, and editorial committee member of New Left Review.  Brenner authored the highly influential book, The Economics of Global Turbulence in 2006, one of the first to argue that the source of crises in capitalism could be found in falling profitability and moreover providing empirical evidence of this.  Also, see his article of 2009, What is good for Goldman Sachs is good for America (http://escholarship.org/uc/item/0sg0782h).

Brenner delivered a paper similar to the article above that provided compelling empirical evidence that the root cause of the Great Recession lay in the secular decline of the US rate of profit and the attempt to overcome that with a series of ‘asset price’ credit-fuelled bubbles in stock markets (1990s) and residential property (2000s).

Carchedi and I presented two separate papers in our session.  Carchedi’s was called “The law of the tendential fall in the rate of profit as a theory of crises: twelve reasons to stick to it”.  In it, Carchedi carefully examines the 12 major arguments against Marx’s law of profitability and provides clear refutations of each, using both theoretical points and empirical evidence.  In summary, Carchedi concludes: “it is better to stick to the original Law. It works and it works well.”

My paper was called: “Marx’s law of the tendency of the rate of profit to fall and the theory of crises: does it fit the facts?”.  In it, I set out to show that there is plenty of empirical evidence to support Marx’s view that the rate of profit in a capitalist economy will tend to fall as the accumulation of capital takes place because the organic composition of capital will rise, as a rule.  The rate of profit will only rise if counteracting factors, like a faster rising rate of surplus value, come into play, to delay or curb the law for a while.  Moreover, the movement in the rate and mass of profit is a good leading indicator of whether a crisis or slump in production is about to happen.  I used empirical evidence from the US and UK economies to show this, as well as evidence provided by other scholars.

Although Critique has published our paper on the law and invited us to speak on it in the healthy spirit of debate, the editor of Critique, Hillel Ticktin, disagreed with both Bob Brenner and Carchedi and I on the relevance of Marx’s law of profitability to crises.  Ticktin’s arguments boiled down to the view of Michael Heinrich and the Monthly Review: namely Marx’s law was not a law in the proper sense, indeed there was no such thing as a ‘law of a tendency’, it was either one or the other, but not both.  

Anyway, the law of the tendency really included the counter-tendencies and thus made the law ‘indeterminate’ and thus impossible to use in a coherent way.  Moreover, it cannot be empirically verified, at least in statistical terms, because the data from official sources are inadequate and/or not collected to provide clear information on Marxist categories.  So what Brenner, Carchedi and I were doing was a waste of time.  Crises under capitalism clearly reoccur with regularity, but this is more to do with the momentum of the class struggle than with any movement in the rate of profit, which after all did not appear much on any analysis of crises by the great Marxist leaders after Marx.

Readers of this blog will know that all these criticisms of Marx’s law and its relevance to crises under capitalism are not new.  And they have been taken up in a myriad of posts here and in papers by others elsewhere.  Suffice it to say, that we ‘fundamentalists’ and ‘mono-causalists’ that support Marx’s law of profitability as the best explanation of crises under capitalism and specifically, the Great Recession, will continue to plough on in the belief that what we are doing does help to explain the contradiction in capitalist economies better than alternatives.

Critique plans to publish all the papers on its website, but you can find Carchedi’s paper here Carchedi London 11-12 april 2014 and mine Presentation to Critique conference 11 April 2014 here.

Sunday, April 13, 2014

Cliven Bundy: Where are the Militias when bankers drive folks from their homes?



by Richard Mellor
Afscme Local 444, retired

I do not claim to understand everything that is going on regarding the Nevada Rancher, Cliven Bundy, a Mormon father with 14 children who has been in a long and potentially violent dispute with the US government in the form of the Bureau of Land Management. However, I do draw certain conclusions from a general understanding of the players in this and the limited research I have done on my own.

The issue we are led to believe is the grazing of the rancher’s cattle on public lands managed by the BLM a practice that many ranchers have been doing for years. But I know for sure there is more to it than this. From what I understand, about 80% or so of the land in Nevada is public land. According to reports I’ve read, this occurred when the area was made a state during the Civil War.  The fees Ranchers pay go toward the maintenance of the land.

Bundy’s family has been on that land for some time, since the 1880’s as native people were driven from them or in to Bantustans to make room for capitalist expansion including railroads and ranching.  From accounts I have read, Mr. Bundy stopped paying grazing fees and has refused to apply for permits and was in a protracted court battle with the federal government over the issue. Mr. Bundy lost that battle and was twice ordered by the courts to pay the grazing fees. The public lands his cattle roam is about 10% larger than Las Vegas and he is said to have 900 head of cattle.

What has also been thrown in to the mix is the lawsuit filed by an environmentalist group against the BLM.  The area is home to an endangered species of tortoise and the group claims that Bundy’s cattle are destroying its habitat and the BLM is not protecting it. I see this simply as an attempt to add more pressure and weight behind the BLM’s case through the legal channels.

As we have all seen this week, things really heated up as the BLM started rounding up Bundy’s cattle and putting them in pens. The cattle would be sold at auction if MR. Bundy refused to pay the state the money owed.

The government operation included a massive force including armed officers, planes, helicopters and attack dogs.  Conservative bloggers, right wing militias and states rights activists turned up to support Mr. Bundy, many of them armed. Defending civil liberties individual rights, and fighting “corrupt” government and communism has been the rallying cry.  Many of the supporters have been armed including with assault rifles.  The conservative talk show hosts, Tea Baggers and right wing politicians have all come to Bundy’s defense. Things were so tense yesterday when an officer tasered Bundy’s son that it appeared there would be a real violent confrontation in Nevada.

Beefing up of law enforcement.
This show of force by the government comes as no surprise as the state security forces have been beefed up during and in the aftermath of the Occupy Movement.  The state responded with extreme violence against workers and students forcing the class nature of society more in to the open by fighting back against austerity and the increased assault of the 1% on our livelihoods. The state showed what the real nature of the police is, an armed force directed to protect capital and the 1%.  We will also be seeing more use of drones against workers and youth in the future.  Our unions were built in the face of the most extreme violence from the US capitalist class and their government.

However, the Nevada standoff was so tense yesterday that the government backed down and released the cattle back on to public land in the interests of safety.

But I have to ask what freedoms the Militias, Tea Baggers and state’s rights types are seeking here.  I do not believe this is about a tortoise or cattle or simply individual freedoms, depending on what individuals we are talking about of course.  Have we seen these people in front of homes defending the occupants from being thrown on to the street by sheriffs representing the bankers?  What about the savaging of wages and working conditions in auto and the public sector?  What about the closing of national parks, the privatization of the post office etc.?  Has Mr. Bundy been seen on the many picket lines not far from where he lives in Las Vegas as workers fight back against the gambling, entertainment and hotel industry bosses? I think it’s unlikely.

I came upon an interesting piece of information at the Daily Kos today that was somewhat revealing.  The author states:

“Two affiliates of the Koch-funded Americans for Prosperity are helping conservative media promote the cause of a Nevada rancher who has made violent threats against the federal government……Two of its local affiliates, Americans for Prosperity Nevada and Americans for Prosperity Colorado, have become active boosters of Bundy's actions.”

The author adds:
To appreciate how churning the media wurlitzer on this suddenly "newsworthy" controversy benefits the Kochs, one only has to go back to 2012 when the Utah legislature passed something called the Transfer of Public Lands Act, legislation vetted and inspired by none other than the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), whose chief funders include--you guessed it--David and Charles Koch.

Just like we oppose the privatization of our public parks, education, transportation, the USPS and other vital services, (health care, transportation among others should be public) my feeling is that we should see this attempt by states’ rights elements, militia or others to transfer federal lands to state control as making it easier for mining and the energy industry and agribusiness to plunder our natural resources.  One right wing video I watched appealed for support on the basis that it’s difficult to be a small rancher or farmer on land owned by the federal government.  It’s difficult being a small rancher because the 1% and big business destroys the little guy.  In the cases of genuinely small operations, the taxpayer should definitely help them out. We must always separate the genuinely small/ community business from the big capitalists.

There are differences between sections of the capitalist class and often, sections of what we call the 1% or big capital portray themselves as saviors of the “little man” the small business owner. This appeals to some workers as well because, as Marx explained, workers at times move back and forth from the class of small capitalists and back to wage workers depending on the economic conditions at the time. Bundy is not a big landowner, a relatively small player in the world of business, and the super rich like the Koch brothers use these people for their own ends.

As a socialist, I too recognize that the state, or government as we more often refer to it, is not my government, it is not a “workers’” state but a capitalist state; a government that represents the interests of the capitalist class as a whole.  It is a democracy for the 1% like the old Greek slave state was a democracy for the slave owner only. This does not mean that there are not sectors of the capitalist class that are at odds with each other over how society should be governed in order for them to plunder its wealth. So I have no illusions that public employment or public services in a capitalist society are genuine worker controlled and owned operations, they are not.  But when so many of the right wing who tap in to the anger people feel against government and go on about individual rights and rally for freedom we have to ask what sort of freedom and for whom. My guess is that the beautiful natural resources and land that makes up these states will be better protected under federal control.  The 1% only see money when they look at land just like they do with everything else.

As one blogger writes about the land that it is:
“[O]wned by every American – all 300-plus million of us. It is a peculiar property right we each have to this commons, as we acquire it simply by dint of citizenship, and what we own is spectacular. The marvel of the federal public-lands system is that it exists at all. During the 19th century and into the early 20th, much of the land was leased and sold off in a frenzy of corrupt dealings. Railroads, corporations, land speculators, mining interests, and livestock barons gorged on the public domain, helped along by the spectacularly pliable General Land Office, which from 1812 until its closure in 1946 privatized more than one billion acres, roughly half the landmass of the nation. The corruption was such that by 1885, The New York Times’ editorial page had denounced the “land pirates” whose “fraud and force” had excluded the citizen settler—the farmer, the homesteader, the cowboy—from “enormous areas of public domain” and “robb[ed] him of the heritage to which he was entitled.”

And as that writer also points, look at how they treat women on welfare who might fiddle a little bit to get a little extra of this or that?  What would happen (if she was black) and she went and got a bunch of gang bangers to come down the welfare office and threaten violence?  We know what would happen.  I live close to a very depressed area to our north and poor people often come over the border and commit (mostly petty) crime, especially since the Great Recession. Some 19-year old black kid shot, (by mistake apparently) a bystander at a local transit station where I live. He got 79 years.  You should hear all the comments from some of the right-wingers about justice being served and all that. Of course, unemployment, racism, police harassment and lack of opportunity has nothing to do with it. That kid is gone for life.

Why should this owner of 1000 head of cattle be allowed to graze them of public land for free? One blogger explains:
 “He is NOT ENTITLED to access to this land. It doesn't belong to him.  In fact that land Belongs to ME and to every other citizen of the United States.  That's MY Land that his cows have been grazing on for 20 years and he OWES ME and the rest of the American People for it.”

I don’t know the financial straits Bundy is in, and, as I say above, the working class can and should invite the community business owner in to the struggle against the 1% as we are all exploited by them.  But when the blogger referenced above questions Bundy’s right to access that land. I tend to agree with him.

Saturday, April 12, 2014

The dysfunctional for profit US health care system

by Lisa Hane, RN, MSN, PHN

It is hardly news to anyone in the US that our health care delivery system is in crisis.  It is the most dysfunctional health care system in the advanced capitalist world.

This week, front page articles in both the Wall Street Journal and The New York Times showed yet again what happens when profits get mixed up with health care. Data released by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) showed that, “The top 1% of 825,000 individual medical providers accounted for 14% of the $77 billion in billing to the government.”

Further, “Medicare paid 344 doctors and other health care providers over $3 million each in 2012. Collectively the 1,000 highest paid Medicare doctors received collectively $3.05 billion in payments”. 

The current system has incentivized health care providers to over-treat patients, pad their bills, and wrongly prescribe medications in order to obtain these salaries. Pharmaceutical companies that manufacture many of the drugs used by these physicians receive hundreds of millions of Medicare dollars each year. A drug called Luncetis, used for the treatment of eye diseases costs $2,000 a shot. Payments to Genetech, the company that makes Lucentis,  accounted for about $1 billion dollars in government spending in 2012 according to the New York Times article.

While most individual doctors are practicing responsibly and not becoming super rich from their work, clearly there are some who are gaming the system and striving to emulate the investment bankers and the other 1% who are only interested in advancing their personal wealth at the expense of the rest of society. This must not continue.

Our health care system needs fundamental change. Sure, the implementation of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act also known as “Obama Care” has provided health insurance for many more people than had it previously, but in no way does it deal with the real problem.  Health insurance is not the answer.  Full access to quality health care is. People need the security of knowing that if they get sick or need some medical treatment, it is available to them. Health care should be a right, like public education. The Medicare report clearly shows that health care delivery based on profits for insurance companies, hospital corporations, drug companies and some greedy physicians cannot act in the best interest of people’s health.

We need a national health system available to all regardless of their health status, employment situation, age, or ability to pay, now!

Friday, April 11, 2014

World Economy: $5 trillion – gone forever!

by Michael Roberts

The British media and the government have made much of the news that the UK economy is likely to grow faster than any other of the top seven capitalist economies this year.  According to the latest forecast of global growth released by the IMF, the UK will grow 2.9% this year, compared to 2.8% in the US and 1.7% in Germany.  And the advanced economies as a whole will expand output by 2.2% compared to just 1.3% in 2013.

However, what was not mentioned so loudly by the media was that the IMF has trimmed its growth forecast for the world as a whole from a previous forecast of 3.9% to 3.6%, compared to 3% in 2013.  This reduction was because the so-called emerging capitalist economies are experiencing slower growth than before the crisis.  The IMF expects these economies to grow 4.9% this year, only up slightly from last year.  Also, the IMF reckons that in 2015, the advanced economies will still grow only 2.3%, hardly faster at all than this year, while the UK’s growth will slow to 2.5%.
RES040814A-B
Moreover, many major economies have still not returned to the real output levels achieved before the crisis.  The UK was still 0.5% below its previous peak at the end of 2013.  Italy was still a huge 7.5% below, Spain 7% below and France flat. The distressed Eurozone states of Ireland and Portugal are 5-7% below and Greece some 23% down!  And this is now six years since the Great Recession broke.
But here is the even more startling fact:  if you measure the loss of real output since 2008 relative to where it should have reached in 2013 if there had been no Great Recession, then Greece and Ireland have lost nearly 40% of the potential rise in real output from 2008 to 2013 that they should have had.   The UK has lost near 20%, the US 12% and even Germany has lost a potential 5%.
Relative loss
When you add up all this lost potential output in dollar terms, it comes to over $5 trillion for the US, the Eurozone, Japan and the UK.  This is the value of output that has been lost forever and that’s real money.  What’s more, extra potential output will be lost until these economies grow at the same pace as before the crisis – and they will not be doing so in 2014 anywhere.
Dollar loss
Here’s how it looks for the ‘fast-growing’ UK as a chart – it’ s much the same for the other economies.
UK trend
Such is the waste of jobs, incomes, services and resources that the Great Recession and recurring capitalist slumps deliver.
A look at the high frequency data on the state of economic activity in March 2014 shows that the slow recovery in the US continues, based on the combined survey of manufacturing and service companies.
ISM Mar 14
The more unreliable weekly ECRI survey shows something similar.
ECRI Mar 14
In March, all major economic regions expanded but most at a slower pace than in February.
PMI Mar 14
The world economy continues to crawl.

Thursday, April 10, 2014

The Free Market. It really is on top


UK profitability flat and still below peaks

by Michael Roberts

The latest data on UK corporate profitability have been released – to complete figures up to the end of 2013.  The UK’s national stats office is one of the few that provides some very useful data on profitability – and often compares it with other countries too.  According to the data, private non-financial corporations’ profitability, as measured by their net rate of return, was estimated at 11.7% in Q4 2013.  That’s up from the trough in 2009, but still lower than the rates experienced in 2008.  In reality, the rate of profit has been pretty much flat since 2010.
Net ROP quarterly
The net (that’s after depreciation) rate of return in the UK manufacturing sector reached 12.1% at the end of 2013, the highest level since mid-2008.  In contrast, service sector profitability rate was at 13.9%, down from 2012 and still below peaks in 2008.  UK corporate profitability is still some 21% below where it was in 1997, when it reached 14.5%.  And it is still 20% below its next peak year in 2008, and up only a measly 5.5% from the trough of 2009 reached at the end of Great Recession.
UK rate of return on capital

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Duke Energy, Anadarko, GM. Only workers' control can stop them.

Oops! How can we make this go away?
By Richard Mellor
Afscme Local 444, retired

A week or so ago, I commented on the looming crisis facing automaker GM in the light of the corporation’s cover up of faulty equipment that has so far led to13 deaths. Now the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has fined GM $28,000 and is threatening stiffer penalties in response to the company’s failure to answer the regulators questions as to why it took ten years to begin recalling 2.6 million vehicles with defective ignition switches.

The defective switches have been blamed for cutting off power shutting down power steering, power brakes and preventing air bags from deploying. The NHTSA itself is coming under pressure from members of the US Congress who themselves face pressure form their constituents; sometimes they have to act like they represent the wage earning public. On top of the $28,000, GM is being fined $7000 a day by the NHTSA until all the agency’s questions are answered.

The new head of GM, Mary Barra, the first women to head what was once the world’s largest corporation, has responded to the crisis publicly telling legislators that “The new GM…..will be transparent, and put safety first.” WSJ 4-9-14. The politicians are hastily attempting to show their concern. “If GM is truly committed to the transparency they’ve promised….”, Sen. Claire McCaskill (D Mo) said yesterday, “….they need to cooperate fully with safety officials and their failure to turn over the necessary documents is a troubling start to the next phase of this process.” According to the WSJ, GM had until April 3rd to answer 107 questions put to the company by the NHTSA but has only answered one third of them.

While we should not oppose regulation, we have stated many times before on this blog that capitalists, or its representatives, which means judges, politicians, or government bureaucrats will not regulate these sort of market driven disasters away. It is not simply a matter of an individual company being allowed free rein to do what it wants; it’s about the system in its entirety.

Almost every day there are accounts of businesses flaunting safety or environmental laws and regulations that cause untold damage to the environment and cost human lives. We had the leaking of chemicals in to a community’s drinking water in West Virginia. The BP spill also comes to mind where regulators allowed the energy industry to write its own rules with regard to deep water drilling. There have been numerous refinery explosions, mine disasters food contamination cases oil spills and recently, regulators in North Carolina cited Duke Energy for “deliberately” dumping 61 million gallons of toxic coal ash in to the Cape Fear River (see video below) . We had the Kosher meat factory and other factory horror stories. These crises are more frequent due to the weakening of Unions as well.


The largest environmental cash settlement in history was announced last week as the US Justice Department nailed Anadarko Petroleum with a $5.15 billion settlement to clean up “dozens” of sites across the country. The sites were poisoned over the past 85 years by one of its subsidiaries, Kerr-McGee. The company will also compensate some 7000 people poisoned by this pollution.

According to the Washington,  Post Deputy Attorney General James Cole said that “Kerr-McGee’s businesses all over this country left significant, lasting environmental damage in their wake. It tried to shed its responsibility for this environmental damage and stick the United States taxpayers with the huge cleanup bill.”

But what we should note about this settlement, and all of them, is that not only do they not stop these catastrophes’, companies involved can actually profit from them. Kerr-McGee’s stock price rose 14.5% after the news of the $5 billion settlement. In fact, the Washington Post also pointed out, the company expects to “receive a net $550 million tax benefit from the deal.” The other issue is that no one ever, or extremely rarely, goes to jail.

Fool me once are the opening words of a very famous adage. And we must surely apply it to this idea that we can regulate capitalism to the point that it will not destroy human life and the very environment on which we depend. While it may be said with some reservations that we don’t really live in a democracy as we only have a choice of which candidate of one of the two Wall Street parties we vote for every four years, it can be said with certainty that when it comes to a say in how social production takes place, what we produce, when and how and in what way we distribute these necessities of life-----we have no say at all, not the slightest.

Capitalism is a system of production. In a capitalist economic system the means of production is in private hands. Production is set in to motion on the basis of profit either for an individual or more often than not a group of individuals; it is a “for profit” system.

The workers at GM, the workers at Duke or the workers at BP including those that lost their lives in the Gulf catastrophe, have no say in how production takes place, none of us do. Business is a secretive world and it is the right of business to be secretive. The business of business is not “our” business.

“The Nation should, without interfering with the power of the States in the matter itself, also assume power of supervision and regulation over all corporations doing an interstate business.,” said Theodore Roosevelt who was famous for his claim to reign in the trusts as they called them.

So this idea that we can regulate them to be nice has been around a long time. Not only have combinations or corporations not been reined in, they have become more reckless and powerful. The fines matter not and will be paid with no problem. The pollution will continue, the deaths will mount because profit is paramount; it is the reason for the capitalist’s existence. “The restless never-ending process of profit-making alone is what he aims at.” Wrote Marx. Profit making, “becomes his subjective aim, and it is only in so far as the appropriation of ever more and more wealth in the abstract becomes the sole motive of his operations, that he functions as a capitalist, that is, as capital personified and endowed with consciousness and a will.”

I received an appeal from a watchdog group this week that we “Stand up and demand an end to their war on the environment.” Another told me to “Demand justice for the people of North Carolina.” But demand it of whom?

We can demand fairness and environmental justice all we like, capitalism and its representatives will not provide it; it cannot stop a war on the environment because capitalism is itself a permanent state of war. The faceless nameless people that own Duke Energy, Anadarko Petroleum and the major corprations will not regulate themselves out of history, they can’t. We can slow their activity at times, force them to become more covert or force them to poison the environment of Ecuador and destroy communities in the third world, but we will never make capitalism an environmentally friendly system of production.

We must stop fooling ourselves and confront the false understanding within our own minds that the Duke Energy's and GM’s of this world can only be owned by capitalists and that workers can never collectively own the means of producing life’s necessities and decide what those necessities should be.

Only through collective worker/community ownership and planning as opposed to the anarchy of the market can transparency actually take place as there will be no force to keep secrets from, we would be hiding the truth from ourselves.

Most important of all is that the environment can be protected from the ravages of the market and humans can enter the realm of real freedom-------our control over productive life.