[Marxism] Winners and losers

Louis Proyect lnp3 at panix.com
Fri Nov 28 09:17:35 MST 2003

In today's NY Times, Paul Krugman defends the capitalist model of development:

"But in the mid-1970's, development economics was just too depressing to 
pursue. Indeed, it might as well have been called non-development 
economics. No third world nation had made the transition to 
advanced-country status since 19th-century Japan. Circa 1975 it seemed that 
the club of nations with decent living standards was no longer accepting 
new members.

"Now we know that the club isn't that exclusive, after all. South Korea and 
several smaller Asian economies have made a full transition to modernity. 
China is still a poor country, but it has made astonishing progress. And 
there are signs of an economic takeoff in at least parts of India. I'm not 
talking about arid economic statistics; what we've seen over the past 
generation is an enormous, unexpected improvement in the human condition."


After admitting that it sometimes results in failures like Argentina, the 
main message is to stay the course and reject the demands of protestors at 
Cancun and Miami. It is odd that he is so eager to attack Bush policies in 
Iraq on the grounds of being counter-productive but refuses to apply the 
same yardstick to bourgeois economics.

The discourse of people like Soros, Krugman and Steiglitz has grown 
increasingly strident in recent years as the capitalist system has failed 
to deliver the goods. What they cannot accept is the proposition of an 
alternative to capitalism. For example, a Lexis-Nexis search on "Krugman" 
and "Cuba" returned zero substantive results going back nearly 20 years. To 
the credit of ex World Bank official James Wolfensohn, he admitted that 
Cuba had achieved G7 type HDI stats despite the collapse of the USSR and 
unremitting hostility from the USA.

One of the drawbacks of the anti-globalization movement is its failure to 
posit an alternative to capitalism despite nebulous calls that "another 
world is possible". To a degree, this is the result of being dependent on 
fuzzy thinking from anarchist and autonomist intellectuals who provide 
input to this movement.

In addition to stepping around the socialism question, Krugman and other 
liberal economists fail to theorize exactly why Argentina became a 
basket-case. If a Lexis-Nexis search on "Krugman" and "Cuba" turned up 
nothing, the results were more ample when "Argentina" was substituted for 

However, when you look at what Krugman wrote, it amounts to hand-wringing 
more than analysis. In a Jan. 1, 2002 column, he says, "I could explain at 
length the causes of Argentina's slump: it had more to do with monetary 
policy than with free markets." This is bizarre. Argentina's problems go 
back to the 1950s when Anglo-American imperialism and native reaction 
conspired to defeat the nationalist experiment of Juan Peron. In the 
aftermath, living standards have plummeted as foreign banks and 
multinational corporations have transformed the Argentine economy into a 
typical neocolony.

If you think about the "free trade" schema of people like Krugman, you end 
up with nothing more or less than the "lottery" concept that underpins 
bourgeois society. Just as there are winners and losers in the marketplace 
of worker and boss, there are winner nations and losers. South Korea is a 
winner in Krugman's eyes and there are losers like Argentina. Since there 
are more losers in the world than winners by a large majority, there will 
come a point when humanity figures out that the dice are loaded. That time 
is coming soon.

Louis Proyect, Marxism mailing list: http://www.marxmail.org

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