TOP U.S. ECONOMIST LARRY SUMMERS is being roasted on social media at the moment after he expressed surprise that the capitalist society in which he lived had serious, mounting problems.
People aren’t working, couples aren’t getting married, many folk are depressed or suicidal, and politics is being polarized. The former U.S. government moneyman revealed that he had just read a data-filled book which showed him the worrying scale of these extraordinary problems in U.S. society.
“There is some social phenomenon which I suspect explains non-work, non-marriage, deaths of despair, general alienation and, I suspect, the rise of reactionary populism,” the puzzled economist wrote. “It should be a major task of social science to understand it.”
His assertion immediately triggered a host of replies pointing out the obvious. Of course there will be trouble if you replace the long-evolved norms of human society with excessive amounts of anything – and especially freewheeling, deregulated capitalism.
“This is the world you helped create,” said Jeet Heer, a writer at The Nation.
MANY ARE AMUSED
“It’s like watching a baby discover its own fingers,” said Maura Quint, a tax reform campaigner who sometimes writes for The Onion.
“Can’t get over it,” laughed Arnaud Bertrand, a popular commentator based in China. “Summers’ tweet has got to be one of the greatest moments on Twitter ever. When we see that one of the main architects of the system in which we all live didn’t even factor the very predictable—and long predicted—toll it would have on the human spirit. Amazing.”
Summers said he was seriously concerned because the problems were measurably worse in the U.S. than elsewhere. The nation is suffering a huge labor shortage, yet one in seven men of prime working age, 25 to 54, are not working. “Most of those not working say they don’t want to work; there are two vacancies for every unemployed person; all countries have structural change but the US stands out,” Summers said.
But it’s your fault, responded numerous people in tweets which got thousands of likes and retweets. “Few people are more responsible for the financial deregulation that led to great recession — millions of families losing their homes, their livelihoods, and their way of life, than Larry Summers,” said Jamal Raad, founder of Evergreen Action.
TOP MARX FOR HISTORIANS
But one of the biggest reactions came from people who had read political history and knew that Karl Marx had warned that excessive capitalism would lead to ordinary individuals suffering from despair and general alienation—exactly what Summers was puzzling over.
Workers need to see the results of their labor, Marx said. Otherwise they would lose the will to participate in society.
Factory worker Mike Klonsky responded to Summers: “What is it that you don’t understand about alienation? Maybe I can explain it to you. I worked on Chrysler’s assembly line. I hung doors on Dodges but never saw the final product of my labor. Nor could I afford to buy one.”
Klonsky added: “Now robots do my old job. Alienation problem solved.”
Image at the top shows Summers at Davos, 2013, and is from Wikimedia Commons