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Grace Blakeley’s Stolen Is a Tired Invective against Market Capitalism

September 2, 2019 in Economics

By Diego Zuluaga

Diego Zuluaga

It is safe to assume that most books bearing the term
“financialisation” in the title are not mainly about finance. Grace
Blakeley’s Stolen:
How to Save the World from Financialisation
 is no
exception.

Blakeley’s book, her first, is a sweeping polemic against the
market economy. A researcher at the UK’s Institute for Public
Policy Research (IPPR), she has recently emerged as a forceful
advocate for the “democratic socialism” associated with  both
Jeremy Corbyn and Bernie Sanders in the US. Unlike these
white-haired icons of the post-Soviet Left, however, Blakeley is a
millennial, which furnishes her advocacy with a sense of
the zeitgeist that they lack.

But Stolen is not a good book. Its invective against
capitalism cherry-picks the evidence and disregards
the dramatic economic growth of
non-Western countries, home to 80% of the world’s population, since
1980. Furthermore, the book’s case for a state takeover of most
capital allocation in the economy takes no account of
the gross
mismanagement
environmental degradation,
and human suffering associated
with twentieth-century experiments with socialism, to which
contemporary Venezuela is a particularly tragic sequel.

A star of the millennial
left has some thoughts on capitalism — prepare to be
unconvinced.

Like other critics of the free market, Blakeley opposes
“neoliberalism.” Unlike many of those critics, she offers a
definition of sorts: neoliberalism is the process of globalisation
that has accelerated since the collapse in 1971 of the Bretton
Woods system of global monetary and financial regulations.
Blakeley’s target is economic freedom in general, and capital
mobility in particular. Why? Because “capital mobility … gives
those who own it veto power”.

Capital mobility means savers can shield some of their assets
from policies they believe would harm them. Blakeley resents this
material counterpart of people’s ability to vote with their feet,
which the French — for example — exercised when
newly-elected President Mitterrand launched a major
expansion
 of the government’s role in the economy in the
early 1980s. Blakeley blames “bond vigilantes” for the ensuing mass
exodus out of French assets and Mitterrand’s eventual U-turn. But
the sorry experience of similar programs of nationalisation and
controls elsewhere, including across the English Channel, offers
grounds for doubt that Mitterrand’s original plan could have
succeeded. Investors certainly thought so.

Stolen is not the place to look for novel arguments
against the free market. Instead, the reader will encounter
familiar allegations such as the market’s promotion of income and
wealth inequality, the short-term orientation of corporate
shareholders, and their supposed inability to allocate funds for
productive investment. Those unpersuaded by evidence to
the contrary will find their
views confirmed. For the rest, Stolen will likely not
prompt a Damascene conversion.

The book abounds in assertions …read more

Source: OP-EDS