Waving Free-Market Flag Brings Out Worst In Capitalism

Following in the footsteps of the Employment Policies Institute, Tom Keane disregards my support for raising the minimum wage because I am a Marxist economist, associating me with the worst abuses of Soviet-style communism (“Red flags, not red-baiting, on wage petition,” Op-ed, March 16). This is uninformed and unfair.

I call myself a Marxist-feminist-anti-racist-ecological economist to make my standpoint clear. I advocate grass-roots, peaceful change toward a market-based economy where everyone’s needs are filled in a fair, sustainable, and democratic fashion. I advocate guaranteeing the basic human right to a job at a living wage. In my research and teaching, I practice thinking outside of the box of capitalism — in particular, supporting the emerging solidarity economy: economic practices and institutions based on cooperation and sharing, social responsibility, sustainability, and economic democracy, rather than on narrow materialistic self-interest, the profit motive, and the rule of the wealthy.

Keane raises the “red flag” that increasing the minimum wage may be the “first step in eliminating free markets.” This free-market fundamentalism has dominated economic discourse and policy-making for more than 30 years. Conservatives argue that markets must be free of government intervention on the side of workers, the poor, and the environment, but government subsidies to oil companies and spending for unnecessary, but profitable, wars are fine, as are manipulation of markets and the democratic process by big corporations and the wealthy.

This policy platform has exacerbated capitalism’s chronic problems — inequality, environmental degradation, financial crises, persistent unemployment and poverty, and corruption — while increasing the wealth and power of the 1 percent.