David Simon Says It All

David Simon, creator of The Wire, wrote the best piece I’ve read in a long time about inequality in the West, and our impoverished political dialogue about it.

Please read this in full because  Simon engages with complexity, and that doesn’t work in just one paragraph.  Nevertheless, I will summarize it for you:  “Capitalism is about to seize defeat from the jaws of victory” by disregarding some of the diagnosis, and some of the methods, of Socialism.

With Bankers Anonymous, my goal is to write non-ideologically. I comment on topics as an ex-finance guy with experience and extraordinary respect for the advantages of markets.  I liked selling bonds, I liked investing rich people’s money, I like earning money, and markets work WAY better than anything else we’ve come up with for raising standards of living, generating material comfort, innovating in health care, and creating leisure time.  You name it, markets work better for creating a better life for billions of people.

At the same time kids – right here America, within a few minutes walk from my house – kids do not have enough to eat.  Markets alone aren’t exactly working for everyone.  So please don’t give me your Ayn Rand “Capitalism Uber Alles” libertarian bullshit about free markets are always best, or that a health care reform aimed at insuring children and unemployed people is an inevitable move to Marxist totalitarianism.

Simon’s piece is worth reading in full.  You don’t have to be a Marxist in practice – and Simon is not one, and I am not one – to recognize the ways that raw capitalism is unhelpful in some areas, and totally broken in others.

We need a mixed system and anyone who believes in a ‘purer’ system of capitalism, or socialism for that matter, is missing the point.

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One Reply to “David Simon Says It All”

  1. Michael,
    David Simon is right on the money. He said: “I would date it in my country to about 1980 exactly, and it has triumphed.”

    Well I imagine that he and I are of the same generation and long ago I decided that the turning point was in two stages. The first stage was in 1960’s when the British government under Harold Macmillan and later Alec Douglas-Home gave the edge to the financial services sector over the manufacturing sector. The second stage was in 1981 with the advent of the IBM Personal Computer and some innocent little spread sheets called Visicalc, Spinnaker, and Lotus. Suddenly accounting went real-time and the accounting departments moved way up the ladder in the business hierarchy and the bottom line became king, to the detriment of people, culture, tradition, respect, and everything else. A big recession followed and the world was turned upside down.

    I also really get tired when people back-bite Karl Marx. He was not a “Marxist” in an evil sense and neither am I. He was a genius who did the best that he could to figure out for his time and place what happened when the economy went from an agronomic feudal system to a capitalist system and he defined wealth as accumulated socially necessary labor time. That is when we went from money to being an exchange between speculative commodities to commodities being the exchange medium and money being the speculative commodity (CMC to MCM). What that means for most of us is that our wages are about half of what our labor is worth and that is not an “ism”. It is the plain truth. The fact is that capitalism has its place and isn’t going away soon but “unbridled” capitalism is a tool of the Devil and will bring us to a ruinous end if it isn’t tamed. Thanks for sharing this article.

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I founded Bankers Anonymous because, as a recovering banker, I believe that the gap between the financial world as I know it and the public discourse about finance is more than just a problem for a family trying to balance their checkbook, or politicians trying to score points over next year’s budget – it is a weakness of our civil society. For reals. It’s also really fun for me.

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