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The Toronto Star

October 24, 2009 Saturday

Blame corporatism, not capitalism


LENGTH: 76 words

Ever upward trend

for bankers' pay, Opinion Oct. 20
There are many, such as Linda McQuaig, and dare I say it, Michael Moore, who criticize excessive compensation
of bankers and corporate executives as problems of capitalism. This is faulty logic. Indeed, such problems are
corporatism not capitalism. The difference being the former has become an arm of the state, whereas the latter operates
somewhat independently from government.
David Maharaj, Mississauga

LOAD-DATE: October 24, 2009




Copyright 2009 Toronto Star Newspapers, Ltd.


The Toronto Star

October 2, 2009 Friday

Infected with 'corporatism'


LENGTH: 269 words

$2.7M for Sick Kids charity boss,

Oct. 1
$2.1 million in "incentive payments" to the president of the SickKids Foundation upon his resignation.
"Fundraising and administrative costs" sucking away 40 per cent of money raised by SickKids for suffering children.
Does your heart good.
Speaking as a retired hospital director of finance, allow me to point out a few other aspects of the hospital
"business" that the public does not see. Over the last 25 years, Canadian hospitals have been fatally infected by an
American disease. Call it "corporatism." Canadian hospital boards have gradually been taken over by overpaid
business leaders who have hired executive officers from industry to run their hospitals "efficiently." This has translated
into an incredible explosion of expenditures for senior and middle management salaries as well as for inefficient
computer systems, especially in the field of electronic medical records.
The rate of these expenditures has long since outpaced the global budget allotments from provincial governments
and so hospital boards have turned to the public to pay for these excessive salaries and computer costs through their
foundations (and parking lots). Dear public, give your dollars to help the sick children. Dear public, pay for the
$679,000 salary handed over in 2008 to the president of SickKids.
My recommendation: continue to support Canadian hospitals with your donations but make them with cheques
payable to the hospital itself, and include a brief note that this gift is only to be spent for the purchase of medical
equipment used in direct patient care.
Wayne Robbins, Toronto

LOAD-DATE: October 2, 2009




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October 13, 2008

U.S. Edition

Name That Economy!;

The new system might best be called regulatory capitalism. Or life-jacket
capitalism. Or Rube Goldberg capitalism.
BYLINE: By Jacob Weisberg; Weisberg is editor in chief of The Slate Group and author of "The Bush Tragedy." A
version of this column also appears on

SECTION: NATION; THE BIG IDEA; Pg. 34 Vol. 152 No. 15 ISSN: 0028-9604

LENGTH: 892 words

At the beginning of the century, when the United States briefly contemplated the prospect of paying off its national
debt, Alan Greenspan raised an unexpected concern. A government surplus would end up being invested in private
assets, which would violate free-market principle and could deliver socialism through the back door.
Greenspan smothered that dangerous surplus in its crib by endorsing the Bush tax cuts, but his benign view of
derivatives and his nonchalance about the unregulated "shadow banking system" helped bring about the outcome he
feared anyhow. Authorizing the Treasury Department to take stakes in financial firms is merely the Paulson plan's most
dramatic departure from textbook capitalism. The legislation--which the Senate had enough sense of irony to attach to a
mental-health bill--implicitly recognizes that major financial institutions have become too interwoven with the global
economy to be allowed to fail.
What should we call the economic model emerging from this crisis of capitalism? Despite the collectivization of
losses and risk, it doesn't qualify as even reluctant socialism. Government ownership of private assets is being
presented as a last-ditch expedient, not a policy goal. Yet it's inaccurate to describe our economy either pre- or post-
Paulson as simply laissez faire. A system in which government must frequently intervene to protect the world from the
results of private financial misjudgment is modified capitalism--part invisible hand, part helping hand. This leaves us
with a pressing problem of both conceptualization and nomenclature.
Where right-wing critics denounce the Paulson plan as socialism, those on the left see it as a form of corporatism.
This was the economic philosophy of Fascist Italy, which Mussolini defined as a merger of state and corporate power.
Under such a system, the largest industries function as adjuncts to the regime. There are many contemporary variations
on this theme, such as the Asian and Latin American styles of crony capitalism, oil-state plutocracy and kleptocracy
on several continents. Vladimir Putin's authoritarian capitalismis yet another version. But despite the closer ties that
can be expected between government and a consolidated financial sector, corporatism doesn't accurately describe a
system in which favoritism toward specific companies is roundly decried and concern about moral hazard nearly sank
the economy.
Perhaps, then, we're at another of the midpoints between public and private ownership usually described as a mixed
economy. The New Deal welfare state that arose in response to the Great Depression is one example of this
compromise. The most durable version is the Western European model of social democracy, with its larger, more
interventionist state, wider social safety nets, more-extensive regulation and higher taxes. Socialized health care would
represent a step in this direction, but bailing out bondholders to protect the financial system doesn't. Our new order also
can't be described as trending toward dirigisme, the economic approach of Charles de Gaulle, where government directs
the allocation of resources toward chosen technologies--in the French case, nuclear power, high-speed rail, Le Minitel.
Nor are we moving toward the Chinese system, a modern form of mercantilism, in which government owned
enterprises serve the power of a philosophically bankrupt state.
The system that's emerging from this crisis has less to do with the eternal liberal project of finding a humane Third
Way between socialism and capitalism than it does with containing the fallout from private risk-taking. It might be
described as regulatory capitalism, since stringent capital requirements, thoroughly enforced, are probably the most
obvious preventive measure for the future. But regulation, which is inherently backward-looking, seems an insufficient
answer to the current crisis. What got us into trouble wasn't merely a failure of oversight. It was something we
previously thought of as a strength of the Anglo-American system--namely, aggressive financial innovation. To prevent
crisis, we need something more akin to a financial pre-emption doctrine to address systemic risks before they
A better name for our new system might be life-jacket capitalism.The role of the watchdogs isn't just to enforce
seat-belt and helmet laws for the financial sector. Market misjudgments have produced systemic risk with growing
intensity and alarming frequency. In an age of globalization, threats to the financial system can arise unexpectedly from
almost any place. What's scary about such an arrangement is how much power it vests in our economic guardians, and
how vigilant those guardians need to be. One dud call like letting Lehman go and the whole world can blow up.
Or perhaps we should say that we've entered the Marxist stage of Rube Goldberg capitalism.Bill Gates coined the
term "creative capitalism" earlier this year to describe a market approach to alleviating poverty. In a broader context, his
phrase gets at the reality that private enterprise on its own won't address global ills. Put a different way, when capitalism
stops working, it's time to start looking for a good adjective.
Weisberg is editor in chief of The Slate Group and author of "The Bush Tragedy." A version of this column also
appears on

LOAD-DATE: October 6, 2008



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The Irish Times

October 19, 2009 Monday

Corporations and the concentration of power


SECTION: FINANCE; Business Today; Pg. 18

LENGTH: 822 words

BOOK REVIEW:Life Inc: How the World Became a Corporation and How to Take it Backby Douglas Rushkoff
Published by The Bodley Head, priced £12.99
BEING MUGGED at gunpoint is never going to be a pleasant experience, but for Douglas Rushkoff, his trauma
was made all the weirder by the reaction of his neighbours.
E-mailing his local parents group to tell them a mugger was targeting that part of Brooklyn, New York, Rushkoff
thought he was doing the responsible thing hey, he might even get some sympathy. Instead, the responses were angry.
How dare he mention the street where the crime had happened? Didn t he know what that was going to do to their
property prices?
Rushkoff was stunned. Had people been so sucked into the race for wealth that they cared more about the market
value of their neighbourhood than what was actually happening within it? This was more than just an expression of a
property mania, this was indicative of some deeper disconnect in society. And so Rushkoff, an American media and
business commentator who once coined the term viral marketing (but he s not entirely proud of it), was spurred to
complete his what went wrong treatise.
Whether you re part of the No Logogeneration or you ve heard your local priest sermonising about the amorality of
consumerism, you ll be familiar with the starting point for Rushkoff s thesis: that the world has become corporatised,
human needs commodified and human emotions commercialised to the detriment of all. Whereas once people were
connected to their local communities and each other by mutual dependency and respect, now they only care about
brand me hell, we might as well just tattoo a barcode on our foreheads and be done with it. This is Life Incorporated.
But Rushkoff s soundly reasoned, fact-packed volume is more than just superficial observation; Life Inc.kicks off
with a powerful historical dissection of how we got here. There is no rose-tinted view of pre-Reaganite times or
nostalgia for the era before public relations agencies. Rushkoff places the origins of corporatism s corroding influence
on wellbeing way further back in the timeline than you might imagine. Hands up who thought the Renaissance was all
Rushkoff frames the Renaissance as a time when wealth accumulated in the hands of the aristocracy just as social
conditions in Europe were deteriorating fast. The late Middle Ages, the period 1100-1300, was the real time of
prosperity. As trade developed, a new merchant class emerged and towns thrived. But the sovereign rulers of Europe,
faced with a democratisation of wealth, weren t happy with that, and so they snuffed it out by establishing monopolistic
corporations. The structure of corporations was not designed to promote commerce, but to prevent it by royal charter.
Meanwhile, the existence of local, multiple forms of currency, which had allowed smaller groups and regions to
create and keep value for themselves based on their labour, were obliterated by centralised currencies designed to
extend the power of central banks. Those on the periphery owe, while those in the centre grow, writes Rushkoff.
Fast forward to the 21st century and the corporation and its sole structural purpose to drive shareholder value is
so entrenched that people who attempt to do things differently get walloped by legislation biased in favour of the
wealthy. Even the poster children for corporatism, like the US car companies, are destroyed by the instability of bank-
based economies.
Life a compelling history lesson, and an important study of this stuff we call money. For my money, though,
many readers will enjoy this book most when Rushkoff lets rip at some modern craziness. He s none too happy about
the corporatisation of friendship, charitable causes and even political beliefs via Facebook et al; while the popularity of
self-help psychobabble phenomenon The Secret and pseudo-philosopher Malcolm Gladwell (much loved by
compliance professionals ) unsettles him greatly.
More enjoyable still are his first-hand encounters with the people who try to do things differently. Cindy, a Chicago
department store worker, helps a colleague do his job, but is reprimanded for breaking the store s survival of the fittest
staff policy, whereby slower sellers are summarily dismissed.
John, owner of the Comfort café (Rushkoff s local), finds he can t finance the building of his second outlet (because
the banks are broken) and so he turns to his loyal customers for help. Using an alternative currency dubbed Comfort
dollars , John and his customers stop the spoils of their incomes from leaking away.
As corporatism is about controlling the masses, it actually has the same intellectual underpinnings as fascism,
Rushkoff concludes. But he does not advocate extreme action. Instead, he implores readers to support the economic
activity of their communities.
Everybody needs good neighbours, as the song goes.

LOAD-DATE: October 19, 2009



Copyright 2009 The Irish Times

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The Toronto Star

October 6, 2009 Tuesday

'Business' myths must be challenged


LENGTH: 224 words

Infected with 'corporatism,'

Letter Oct. 2
Thanks to letter writer Wayne Robbins for identifying this plague that has infected almost every aspect of society.
Since the '80s the constant drum beat from those on the right of the political spectrum has been that government should
operate more like a "business," and too many ordinary citizens have bought in. The utter nonsense of such an idea
should be obvious to all but the most rabid ideologues.
Government and governing is far more complex than any business and no business has to balance so many
competing interests and constituents. Do we really want our governments run like Enron, Lehman Bros., AIG, GM,
Nortel, BreX, etc.? Time and time again we've seen highly successful, leading-edge companies collapse like a house of
cards, leaving nothing in their wake but tens of thousands of devastated employees and a handful of obscenely rich
executives and insiders. This is the model we want our governments to follow?
The myth that business does everything more efficiently and cost effectively should be put to rest. Generations of
taxpayers will now have to pay for such "efficiencies" since trillions of dollars were spent bailing them out.
The problem with government is not that it is not "run like a business." The problem is that government is infected
with businessmen.
G.D. Miller, Trenton

LOAD-DATE: October 6, 2009




Copyright 2009 Toronto Star Newspapers, Ltd.



June 2, 2009 Tuesday


Don't call it 'socialism'!;

Tell liberals that the U.S. is headed toward -- well, you know -- and they
laugh it off as political paranoia. So how to explain the sometimes subtle,
yet often bold, advocacy of a socialist system?
BYLINE: Jonah Goldberg


LENGTH: 921 words

The government effectively owns General Motors and controls Chrysler, and the president is deciding what kind of
cars they can make. Uncle Sam owns majority stakes in American International Group, Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac and
controls large chunks of the banking industry. Also, President Obama wants government to take over the business of
student loans. And he's pushing for nationalized health care. Meanwhile, his Environmental Protection Agency has
ruled that it reserves the right to regulate any economic activity that has a "carbon footprint." Just last week, House
Speaker Nancy Pelosi said climate change requires that "every aspect of our lives must be subjected to an inventory."
Rep. Barney Frank, chair of the Financial Services Committee, has his eye on regulating executive pay.
Of course, nationalization of industry is only one kind of socialism; another approach is to simply redistribute the
nation's income as economic planners see fit. But wait, Obama believes in that, too. That's why he said during the
campaign that he wants to "spread the wealth" -- and that's why he did exactly that when he got elected. (He spread the
debt, too.)
And yet, for conservatives to suggest in any way, shape or form that there's something "socialistic" about any of
this is the cause of knee-slapping hilarity for liberal pundits and bloggers everywhere.
For instance, last month the Republican National Committee considered a resolution calling on the Democratic
Party to rename itself the "Democrat Socialist Party." The resolution was killed by RNC Chairman Michael Steele in
favor of the supposedly milder condemnation of the Democrats' "march toward socialism."
The hope for socialism
The whole spectacle was just too funny for liberal observers. Robert Schlesinger, U.S. News & World Report's
opinion editor, was a typical giggler. He chortled, "What's really both funny and scary about all of this is how seriously
the fringe-nuts in the GOP take it."
Putting aside the funny and scary notion that it's "funny and scary" for political professionals to take weighty
political issues seriously, there are some fundamental problems with all of this disdain. For starters, why do liberals
routinely suggest, even hope, that Obama and the Democrats are leading us into an age of socialism, or social
democracy or democratic socialism? (One source of confusion is that these terms are routinely used interchangeably.)
For instance, in (another) fawning interview with President Obama, Newsweek editor Jon Meacham mocks
Obama's critics for considering Obama to be a "crypto-socialist." This, of course, would be the same Jon Meacham who
last February co-authored a cover story with Newsweek's editor at large (and grandson of the six-time presidential
candidate for the American Socialist Party) Evan Thomas titled -- wait for it -- "We Are All Socialists Now," in which
they argued that the growth of government was making us like a "European," i.e. socialist, country.
Washington Post columnists Jim Hoagland (a centrist), E.J. Dionne (a liberal) and Harold Meyerson (very, very
liberal) have all suggested that Obama intentionally or otherwise is putting us on the path to "social democracy." Left-
wing blogger and Democratic activist Matthew Yglesias last fall hoped that the financial crisis offered a "real
opportunity" for "massive socialism." Polling done by Rasmussen -- and touted by Meyerson -- shows that while
Republicans favor "capitalism" over "socialism" by 11 to 1, Democrats favor capitalism by a mere 39% to 30%. So,
again: Is it really crazy to think that there is a constituency for some flavor of socialism in the Democratic Party?
When the question is aimed at them like an accusation, liberals roll their eyes at such "paranoia." They say Obama
is merely reviving "New Deal economics" to "save" or "reform" capitalism. But liberals themselves have long seen this
approach as the best way to incrementally bring about a European-style, social democratic welfare state. As Arthur
Schlesinger Jr. (Robert's father) wrote in 1947, "There seems no inherent obstacle to the gradual advance of socialism in
the United States through a series of New Deals."
Where to draw the line
Part of the problem here is definitional. No mainstream liberal actually wants government to completely seize the
means of production, and no mainstream conservative believes that there's no room for any government regulation or
social insurance. Both sides believe in a "mixed economy" but disagree profoundly about where to draw the line. One
definition of social democracy is the peaceful, democratic transition to socialism. A second is simply a large European
welfare state where the state owns some, and guides the rest, of the economy. Many liberals yearn for the latter and say
so often -- but fume when conservatives take them at their word.
Personally, I think socialism is the wrong word for all of this. "Corporatism" -- the economic doctrine of fascism
-- fits better. Under corporatism, all the big players in the economy -- big business, unions, interest groups -- sit around
the table with government at the head, hashing out what they think is best for everyone to the detriment of consumers,
markets and entrepreneurs. But, take it from me, liberals are far more open to the argument that they're "crypto-
Jonah Goldberg, a member of USA TODAY's board of contributors, is author of Liberal Fascism: The Secret
History of the American Left, From Mussolini to the Politics of Change, out in paperback today.

LOAD-DATE: June 2, 2009



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