Why is "capitalism" a trendy term again?

Jon Johanning jjohanning at igc.org
Sun Aug 11 11:00:07 MDT 2002

Hi, I have just joined the list, and expect to participate more as I get
some sense of what discussions are currently going on. In the meantime I
just wanted to share an observation I think I have made to see if others

The mainstream media in the U.S. for as long as I can remember (which is
pretty long) have never used "capitalism" as a term for the country's
(and now mostly the world's) economic system, preferring euphemisms such
as "the free market." But since the current rash of "scandals" started
with Enron, etc. (I put "scandals" in quotes because to me the whole
system is a scandal), I see the C-word popping up all over the place.

Has anyone else noticed this, and why do you think it is happening?

On a possibly related tangent, today's New York Times has at least three
stories on its front page which, while not quite Marxist, are certainly
rather alarmist, compared with the usual "free-market" media line. The
lead story is headlined "Stagnant Wages Pose Added Risks to Weak
Economy -- Consumers Feel a Pinch -- Bigger Deductions for Medical
Coverage and Less Overtime Put Dent in Paychecks"; next to it, a story
is headlined "Decade After Health Care Crisis, Soaring Costs Bring New
Strains -- More Workers Expected to Be Forced to Join Uninsured Ranks";
and on the left side of the page is a story headlined "Brazilians Find a
Political Cost for I.M.F. Help," the first paragraph of which reads:
"Brazil and other Latin American governments have followed Washington
down the free-market path, only to find they are now losing control over
their economies."

None of this is news to members of this list, of course, but I interpret
all of this as evidence that the thinking segment of the U.S. ruling
class (for which the NY Times is a principal voice) is beginning to be
seriously spooked by the present situation, to the point of crying out
for help, albeit in a subtle, muted way. I especially liked the close of
the story on the new health care crisis:

" 'We're not going to go back and repeat what we did in the 1990's,'
said Gail Wilensky, who ran Medicare and Medicaid for the first
President Bush. 'We're not going to go back to a la carte fee for
service of the 1980's.

" 'We will do something else,' Ms. Wilensky said, 'and the really
interesting question is, 'What will that something else look like?' "

A "single-payer system," anyone?

Jon Johanning // jjohanning at igc.org
"Those are my principles. If you don't like them I have others." --

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