All this week, the Daily Telegraph has been publishing instalments from Oliver James' book 'Affluenza'.
It's terrific stuff of which Erich Fromm, the first psychologist to warn of the social costs of modern capitalism, would be proud. Here's James on the damaging side-effects of a rapacious 'market' economy:
The rise of the "affluenza" virus and the resulting increase in emotional distress since the 1970s is caused by a form of political economy that I call "selfish capitalism".
By this I mean four basic things. The first is that the success of businesses is judged almost exclusively by their current share price. The second is a strong drive to privatise public utilities, such as water, gas and electricity. The third is that there should be as little regulation of business as possible, with taxation for the rich and very rich so limited that it becomes almost a matter of choice whether they decide to contribute. The fourth is the conviction that consumption and market forces can meet human needs of almost every kind.
My research, conducted during a tour of seven nations, reveals two fundamental facts about selfish capitalism and emotional distress. First, in a developed nation, rates of distress increase in direct proportion to the degree of income inequality. Second, rates are at least twice as high in English-speaking nations – where selfish capitalism is more widely practised – as in mainland Western Europe.
James puts forward some very sensible proposals on how we can reverse 'selfish capitalism'. Of course, they will be attacked by free market fundamentalists like the ASI/ Samizdata crowd, but if we are serious about reparing our increasingly 'distressed' society, such measures will have to be taken.