Richard Wolff with David Barsamian
5.0 out of 5 stars SIX STAR Primer on the Necessary Socio-Economic Revolution, February 28, 2015
SIX STAR (my top 10% across 2000+ non-fiction book). This is an extraordinary book full of straight talk and common sense that sets the stage for a socio-economic revolution, first in the USA and then elsewhere. It does not address the many isolated incidents of collaborative capitalism and the commons that are in motion around the world — for that look up Michel Bauwens and the work of others on the economic commons — and it neglects the coincident need for a political revolution which is what my latest book on Open Power is about — but on balance this is easily a six-star offering.
The author's focus is on asserting democratic process and privilege within the workplace — restoring the unions, giving workers and their communities rather than the 1% the decision-making power over what is made where at what cost to what end. The author does not present the concept of true cost economics as pioneered by Herman Daly in many books including Ecological Economics, Second Edition: Principles and Applications and For The Common Good: Redirecting the Economy toward Community, the Environment, and a Sustainable Future but the learned reader will see that true costs — the destruction of families, neighborhoods, and societies — is a very clear focus with the book.
It is a tremendous complement to two books I have recently reviewed, Elinor Ostrom's Governing the Commons: The Evolution of Institutions for Collective Action (Political Economy of Institutions and Decisions) and Peter Linebaugh's Stop, Thief!: The Commons, Enclosures, and Resistance (Spectre). Just a couple of other books that are at this level of value: Matt Taibbi's Griftopia: A Story of Bankers, Politicians, and the Most Audacious Power Grab in American History, John Perkins'Confessions of an Economic Hit Man, and Michael Hogan's SAVAGE CAPITALISM AND THE MYTH OF DEMOCRACY: Latin America in the Third Millennium.
A word about Ostrom: she received the Nobel in Economics for her book, which made the point that the only governance that is both fully-informed and situationally aware all the time, and able to both set sensible sustainable rules and enforce them in a humane pertinent, manner, is LOCAL. Governance that does not embrace extreme democracy is not governance, it is dictat, corrupt, flawed, and harmful.
I must mention the co-creator, David Barsamian, whose questions are brilliant and elicit answers that are world-class.
The core point of the book is that we have allowed flawed capitalism to define and then dominate flawed democracy. The author focuses on putting open democracy into the workplace, this is a view I embrace and I see it starting to happen across cooperatives and collaborative commons here and there, but I do not see it being pervasive or successful in the short run. A more radical and potentially quicker faster solution is to harness he anger and righteous energy of the 100 million working and unemployed poor in the USA (one third of the total population), create the Working Poor Party — an indictment as the name suggests, no one should be poor who is willing and able to work — and go for the Electoral Reform Act [for an online tutorial including links to over 200 books relevant to Democracy Lost here at Amazon, use TinyURL /Steele-Reform] and strive to dump the two-party tyranny (see Theresa Amato's superb book, Grand Illusion: The Myth of Voter Choice in a Two-Party Tyranny while electing and INDEPENDENT executive and a sufficiency of Independent and small party (Constitution, Green, Libertarian, Reform) Members to Congress. This will restore integrity and make democracy affordable, interoperable, and scalable again.
I differ with the author's emphasis on changing corporate governance because Franklin Roosevelt (whom the author discusses in most pertinent terms) understood what most do not: corporations operate under a public charter and they can be both regulated and shamed into being ethical and respecting true costs, PROVIDING THAT the government itself is ethical and driven by ethical evidence-based decision-support (intelligence) which is not the case with the US Government today — all thre branches are corrupt to the bone and do not represent the public interst.
Where the book stands out for me and easily jumps into my SIX-STAR (top 10%) tier is in the author's combination of facts and balanced sensible case-making. This book is a primer on economics for the larger adult population that has been fed a diet of crap by the schools, the media, think tanks, and the government. This book is truth straight up in easy to understand terms.
While I believe the author understates unemployment when he settles on 15-17% (I accept the 22.4% documented at shadowstats.com), there isn't a chapter in this book that does not teach me something. In fact, I went to sleep watching Donald Trump make an ass of himself at CPAC (following Rand Paul who was impressive but both were talking platitudes without facts). I happen to be the guy that designed the 450 ship Navy (for which I was nearly fired in 1992), and I am the guy that knows how to BOTH cut 30% waste from defense AND create a 450 ship Navy, a long-haul Air Force, and an air-mobile Army while also closing down all our overseas bases, ending all military assistance to dictators, and actually creating a foreign policy of transparency, truth, and trust (the sub-title of my next to last book on open source everything). These people are LIARS. The spoon-feed lies to an ignorant mass of wanna-bees who lack the education and integrity to questions these lies and platitudes. Sadly, they are joined by equally ignorant Democratic masses and equally unethical Democratic “leaders.” So for me the bottom line is that this book is HALF the answer — get a grip on economic reality — but the vision and good of this book cannot be realizes without the other HALF of the answer: electoral reform restoring integrity to our electoral process and our government.
I also differ from the author on taxation. He offers a partial solution that is worthy of discussion but not nearly as good or as easy to implement as Professor Edgar Feige's Automated Payment Transaction (APT) Tax on every transaction including currency and stock transactions. In all other economic details, I salute the author as a master.
I want to end by praising the author on the level of detail and the methodical outline to which he worked. This is not a textbook but it might as well be. This is one of the finest educational call to arms essays I have ever read, and I credit the interviewer with his questions as much as the author.
I have multiple lists of books I have reviewed at Amazon that bear on the problem this author addresses, rather than list them all I will just point to Phi Beta Iota the Public Intelligence Blog, click on the Reviews page, and browse away. Every review leads to its Amazon home page. The two master lists of lists are easily found by searching online for their titles:
Worth a Look: Book Review Lists (Positive Future-Oriented)
Worth a Look: Book Review Lists (Negative Status-Quo)
Best wishes to all:
Robert David STEELE Vivas
OPEN POWER: Electoral Reform Act of 2015 – Open Source Activist Tool-Kit