Paperback version of The Confiscation of American Prosperity

I am writing a first draft of my introduction to the paperback edition of my book. Any feedback would be very much appreciated.

The Confiscation of American Prosperity: From Right-Wing Extremism and Economic Ideology to the Next Great Depression first appeared in October 2007, just as the stock market was peaking. Judging by the public pronouncements by economists and the business press, the economy appeared modestly healthy before the breakdown of the subprime mortgage market. In fact, the weakness of subprime mortgage market was a symptom of deeper problems that had been eating away at the economic core.

In addition to a diagnosis of these deeper problems, such as growing inequality and an emphasis on financial activities, rather than more productive economic endeavors, the book offered a historical analysis of the willful gutting of the economy that occurred over the last four decades. The Confiscation of American Prosperity presents this history in the form of a crime story, beginning with an accounting of the economic plunder engineered by a small part of society, with the complicity of both political actors and many, if not most, economists. The second part of the book describes the way that this group was able to carry out the theft of enormous wealth. In the tradition of crime stories, the third part of the book examines the expected retribution. The final section addresses the incompetence of the economists, who should have acted as policeman while the plot was unfolding.

The recent protests of the Occupy Movements indicate a deeper understanding of the crime than either the business press or the economic analysis following the meltdown of the financial system. The protesters correctly realize that many of the most serious perpetrators have escaped from the crisis without retribution. Their outrage might contribute to some modest retribution, but the expected retribution discussed in the book will come from more serious economic disruptions that are all but certain, without addressing some of the economic imbalances created by the crime. Of course, the economy can begin showing signs of health once again, but sooner or later the imbalances will take a serious toll on the economy.

Historically, economic crises do tend redress some imbalances, but political mobilization is also an important element in returning to a more healthy balance. One can only hope that such mobilization will be effective enough to prevent another Great Depression.

2 comments so far

  1. Arn K on

    Dear Michael,

    To date (11/19/11), the only financial executives to be criminally prosecuted for financial shenanigans that required a TARP bailout are former executives of United Commercial Bank, a Chinese American-owned bank that was headquartered in San Francisco – a small, unsophisticated bank that lacked political connections to enable it to keep its Ponzi scheme under wraps. If only they had made large loans to a few influential politicians. How naive of them. The government handed the bank’s assets over to East West Bank, a Chinese American-owned bank based in Los Angeles, and handed the liabilities to us, the taxpayers.

    The crime story you described is certainly a crime against us, the 99%. Unfortunately it is not a crime under our legal system that protects the plutocracy of the 1%. It doesn’t matter what the statutes say because the statutes are interpreted by an Alice in Wonderland protect-the-capitalist system court regime that interprets the statutes according to what the court says it means.

    So how does the 99% make the law mean what 99% of us would want it to mean? The 99% need to understand that the relations of production described in your books and the legal system that arises from it, that helps it develop and evolve and that protects the status quo of the relations of production need to change to serve the 99%.

    So I don’t understand what you mean by “returning to a more healthy balance.”

    Does a “healthy balance” mean less inequality and less blatant and obscene theft of surplus value by the 1%? (An imperialist war with patriotic demagogy and hypocritical “shared” sacrifice has been the usual capitalist method of implementing this type of “re-balancing.”) Just because there is temporarily less egregious inequality (a temporary remission of a terminal ailment), doesn’t make a society healthy. In my mind, the matter at hand is not to return to a “more healthy balance” but to empower the 99%, through your eloquent economic analysis of the relations of production, to mobilize and change the balance of power.

    Your socialist lawyer friend, Red Arnie

  2. AlanDownunder on

    Beg to differ Arnie. There were crimes aplenty, but the prosecutors are as much the product of careerism and regulatory capture as the regulators.

    Not the Nevada A-G though.


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