America Has the Highly Combustible Economy It Deserves

By Marshall Auerback ~ Independent Media Institute ~ Truthdig

It’s part of the American experience to find yourself in an elevator, in an airplane terminal, or at home, looking at a screen with stock numbers whizzing by, and people yammering about how America is somewhere on the spectrum between wonderful or about to disintegrate because of a 5 percent swing in Boeing or Microsoft stock. How did we get to a national economic conversation that is dominated by chatter on the rise and fall of stocks, when it’s just a small part of economic life for most of the 300 million people who live in this country?

American-style shareholder capitalism, with its incessant focus on maximizing stock value, started gaining primacy over European/Japanese-style stakeholder capitalism in the 1980s. It was premised on a notion best epitomized by Milton Friedman that the only social responsibility of a corporation is to increase its profits, laying the groundwork for the idea that shareholders, being the owners and the main risk-bearing participants, ought therefore to receive the biggest rewards.

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