In this issue, we reprint Albert Einstein’s article “Why Socialism?,” from vol. 1, no. 1 of MR (May 1949). Normally this would require no comment on our part, as it has become something of an MR tradition to run this essay in our May issue. This year, however, there are two special circumstances that require some discussion. The first is Time magazine’s treatment of Einstein’s political views in its December 31, 1999, issue on “Albert Einstein: Person of the Century.” The second is the recent release, on the FBI’s web page, of Einstein’s FBI file to the general public
Volume 52, Issue 01 (May)
It is an old axiom, common to both Marxian and Keynesian economics, that uneven, class-based distribution of income is a determining factor of consumption and investment. How much is spent for consumption goods depends on the income of the working class. Workers necessarily spend almost all of their income on consumption, with relatively little left over for savings or investment. Capitalists, on the other hand, spend only a small percent- age of their income for personal consumption. The overwhelming proportion of the income of capitalists and their corporations is devoted to investment
The mainstream U.S. news media have been shifting rightward for at least two decades, as their corporate owners enforce tighter ideological conformity. Oliver North and Pat Buchanan, for example, are now regular commentators on television talk shows. And all of the media now refer to people as “consumers,” cogs in a capitalist machine. But still, news is less than half as profitable as entertainment, and media firms are intensifying pressures on their “news properties” for higher profits, which means the pursuit of upscale demographics.
In December 1999, Archbishop Desmond Tutu, Nobel Peace Prize winner from South Africa, gave the keynote address for an important conference in Miami Beach: the International Summit of Managed Care. The price for attending this conference, excluding travel, room, and meals, was $1395. The conference was sponsored by the American Association of Health Plans and the Academy for International Health Studies, and was targeted at “chief executive officers, presidents, board chairs, chief financial officers, directors of marketing, and business development officers.” In addition to Tutu, ostensibly progressive participants at the meeting included former Congressman Ron Dellums, whose legislative efforts for a U.S. national health service have inspired health activists since the mid-1970s. Dellums took part in his new role as president of Healthcare International Management
In the early summer of 1999, libertarian John Stossel from ABC Television interviewed me at length on my views of unemployment and inequality in Europe and the United States. In the end, only a tiny video bite aired. In it, I stated that I did think Europeans might learn something from recent U.S. experience. Stossel portrayed this as a conversion to his own free-market views. It was a gross misinterpretation of the views I actually hold, as was quickly pointed out by the advocacy group FAIR, and eventually also in a story on Stossel by Brill’s Content early this year
At one time, a defeated left in the United States, facing the onslaught of neoliberalism in the 1980s, pointed defensively to social democracy in Europe. This reduced socialist vision was founded on a static analysis that ignored emerging capitalist contradictions, already tearing apart even the Swedish model. Exemplifying the impoverishment of this kind of thinking, James Galbraith now designates the United States as a social democratic model for Europe—even after the social safety net has been further torn by Clinton’s Democrats. This is a so-called social democracy without a social democratic party (let alone government), with the lowest levels of unionization in the advanced capitalist world, no universal public healthcare program, the largest prison population anywhere, and a lower life expectancy for blacks than in many “underdeveloped” countries
Lost Woods brings Rachel Carson back into the public realm. This collection of her writings, selected by her biographer, Linda Lear, reminds us yet again of the extraordinary range of her talents and the equally extraordinary use to which she put them. The book offers, in one modest volume, a taste of all the pleasures to be found in Carson’s longer works. Through a careful choice of speeches, articles, field notes, and letters, presented in chronological order, Lear allows us to witness, in Carson’s own words, her transformation from a natural scientist to a political advocate for the environment