In this unique collection of over 50 essays, “The Sickness is the System: When Capitalism Fails to Save Us from Pandemics or Itself,” Richard D. Wolff argues clearly that “returning to normal” no longer responds adequately to the accumulated problems of US capitalism. What is necessary, instead, is transition toward a new economic system that works for all of us.
“The Sickness is the System” is published by Democracy at Work. Professor Wolff generously donated his time and work so that all sales revenue could go to support d@w. This book is now available as a paperback.
The corporate news media is a vast wasteland, a mental fidget-spinner of trite nonsense. It’s purpose, as far as I can tell, is to keep the lid on, to convince the population that the “institutions are holding,” and to stupify the public into believing that nothing is really wrong.
There is the endlessly repeated both-sidesism enmeshed in the discussion of every topic. Tonight, for example, in covering the allegations that DeSantis, Governor of Florida, participated in making it possible for rich campaign donors to skip the line on vaccines, Ari Melber felt it was necessary to show photographs of Cuomo and note for the audience that the show also covered Democrats who were accused of wrongdoing.
And, there are the jokes, the uplifting People Magazine stories, the fashioning of narrative to make heroes out of every person who just behaves with normal human decency.
Essentially, the corporate news media is a waste of time.
But, there are other places to go for news. There are more podcasts than one person can listen to in a lifetime, and there are a few TV channels. Freespeech TV is one of them.
Richard Wolff hosts a program called Economic Update. There are no guests, no video clips, no commercials. The program is adult news, discussion.
These are notes on the episode from 3/3/21
History Lessons on Capitalism’s Failures
• Even if you argue that the present economic system works in normal times, it certainly has not worked in a crisis like the pandemic.
• Freemarket capitalism produced no warehouses of supplies (masks, ventilators) waiting to be distributed . There were no facilities in population centers stocked with testing equipment. There was no plan for dealing with the dislocations that a pandemic would cause. There’s no money, no profit in it.
• Private enterprise isn’t going to provide a plan or products, or logistics for dealing with a pandemic before it happens. Only government can do that.
• The signs the system isn’t up to the job of dealing with a crisis are everywhere. Take, for example rising food prices. The evidence is that globally food prices are increasing. Private enterprise is not going to function to ensure the distribution of food in a pandemic. Secondly, under the current system of capitalism, the eviction crisis will only exacerbate the pandemic problem. In a pandemic people need to stay at home, but with evictions uncontrolled by the government, that’s exactly what we will not get. Thirdly, only 5% of private schools are having internet learning due to the pandemic. Private schools can afford to take measures to ensure safety. They can have smaller classes, move people to other buildings. 65% of public schools, however, are not meeting students. They are forced into distance learning. The students on the bottom of the economic scale are taking the hit of the pandemic.
• As Richard Wolff notes, the problems are so evident that the question is really: “Why are there people not understanding this still?”
• Wolff goes on to discuss the settlement of a criminal case against Boeing in which the company that makes most of the planes we travel in, was allowed to pay its way out of criminal prosecution for $2.5 billion dollars. Boeing, the settlement said, lied and put “profit before candor.” But, in a capitalist society, profit is put before everything. The people who run Boeing make careers from profit, not from candor.