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Capitalism: A hate story

by The Concordian October 4, 2011

Singh (right) and Polanyi criticized the finance sector’s importance in politics. Photo by Ginga Takeshima.

The needs of the everyday person are being ignored in the world of big business.
That was the consensus between speakers Kari Polanyi Levitt and Jaggi Singh at the Lounge Speaker Series which kicked off last Friday afternoon on the seventh floor of the Hall Building.
Despite having what they described as “conflicting, but complementary” opinions on the subject of capitalism, both Levitt, McGill emerita professor of economics, and Singh, a member of Convergence des luttes anticapitalistes, agreed that the economic system in question has some inherently unpleasant qualities.
“It’s a system that I describe as ‘looks like Disney, tastes like Coke, but smells like shit,’’ said Singh, adding to Polanyi’s description of capitalism as a system which rewards greed and undervalues people, something which is at odds with the values of the average person’s core beliefs of putting human beings (i.e. friends and family) first.
Both speakers claimed the finance sector controls politicians and that markets rule the government. In response to the 2008 financial crisis in which governments gave billions of dollars to bail out banks, Singh asked the audience to consider what a “people’s bailout” to help us “thrive and basically survive” would look like.
“It was unquestioned by economists that you would bailout Goldman and Sachs,” said Singh. “These were billionaires and millionaires that if they weren’t bailed out would still be pretty rich and survive […] a people’s bailout would’ve been something like demanding that we could cancel all credit card debt of anybody who makes $100,000 or less [a year]?”
“The cause of the problem is in the enormously growing power of finance,” said Polanyi, explaining that huge profits and salaries are being made in industries like banking, insurance and real estate, which provide relatively few services in return.
Moderated by GSA VP external Holly Nazar, the discussion panel, titled “Predatory Capitalism and the End of Sovereignty,” was the first part of the Concordia Student Union speaker series in collaboration with QPIRG.
“We’re putting on about eight different events this semester that have to do with Canadian politics,” said Anthony Garoufalis, a student who is part of the CSU’s Lounge Speaker Series committee. A student volunteer at QPIRG, Garoufalis explained that the series will explore Canadian politics while giving historical perspective on some of the issues we face today.
“I think what they’re doing is really valuable,” said CSU VP external Chad Walcott, who sees the series’ theme of discussing social political issues as a way of getting students motivated for the Nov. 10 tuition fee protests.
In their closing remarks, both Singh and Polanyi advocated activism as the only way to combat capitalism in the Western world, which Polanyi claims is leading us towards an economic depression the size of which has not been seen since the 1920s.
“You guys are not going to live in the same comfort as the generation of your parents,” warned Polanyi, calling for more activism from students. “We need people who are going to devote their life […] to confront the evil aspects of the system.”
“We are all economists of one sort or another and can all have an understanding of the world around us,” Singh encouraged.
The Lounge Speaker Series takes place on the seventh floor of the Hall building every Friday from 1 to 3 p.m. This week’s talk is titled “Activism and Research in Turbulent Times” and will feature Concordia professor Dr. Anna Kruzynski and CSU president Lex Gill, as well as a representative from Community-University Research Exchange, a Montreal database that brings together student research and local, non-profit groups and activist organizations.

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