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Culture Watch

In this issue:

Books Democratic Capitalism is a fascinating, important, erudite book that leads the reader through the history and development of capitalism making a clear case for what needs to be done in the future. Jane Fonda's autobiography, My Life So Far, is a well-documented, detailed and honest account of a woman in search of herself. And Consider This: Kate Walbert's Our Kind are stories that are funny, poignant, insightful, wistful, and even at times fierce, angry, and bitter. Marking the 30th anniversary of the fall of Saigon, Under Fire: Images from Vietnam is an online exhibit by famed photographer Catherine Leroy


Democratic Capitalism

The Way to a World of Peace and Plenty
by Ray Carey, © 2004
Published by Authorhouse
Paperback: 497 pp

This fascinating, important, erudite book is not an easy, weekend read, nor a book you’d like to take on vacation for a beach read. It requires patience and hard thinking. Fortunately, it is written in a clear, accessible style that leads the reader, step by careful step, through the history and development of capitalism, and explains the current state of the world’s economics in terms even a layman can comprehend. It also makes a clear case for what needs to be done in the future.

That’s a tall order for one book, but the author acquits himself handsomely. Carey served as CEO for Adaptive Digital Technologies for many years, and has, since his retirement, spent untold hours of thought and research before writing this book. It is a masterpiece of meticulous documentation (there is a 20-page bibliography) and explanation. The proposals set out in the final chapter are short, clear, and well-supported by the preceding evidence.

Carey begins by reviewing the 18th century writings of John Stuart Mill and the 19th century theories of Karl Marx. Both men expounded new theories about the equitable distribution of wealth, Mill believing that a free market system could eliminate scarcity, and Marx maintaining that only a revolutionary approach could rebuild the world’s economic systems. Carey comes down squarely on Mill’s side, although he points out that toward the end of the 20th century, the United States has strayed widely from Mill’s principles, veering off into what Carey terms “Ultra Capitalism.” This he defines as “... short-term and greedy ... [a] record concentration of wealth that ... limited the spread of economic freedom and provoked global social tensions and violence.”

This is a hard charge, but Mr. Carey makes a most convincing case for his theory. The next time you find yourself asking why so much of the world hates us, pick up this book. The answers it offers are painful to read, but pretty much incontestable.

What, then, is democratic capitalism? It is a system that combines the best aspects of the political construct of democracy with the economic construct of capitalism. Carey’s premise is that in the past, we have gone about things in the wrong order, seeking to establish the political structures of nations first (as in post-Soviet Russia), and then to encourage their economic development. Done the other way around, i.e. seeing first to the economic stability, democracy is bound to follow. He believes that people everywhere long first for the basic material comforts (food, a place to live, a job). Once those things are achieved, they long also for freedom, as defined by democracy.

Democratic capitalism’s “...common features include a fundamental morality broadly understood, customer loyalty, high levels of productivity, job security, meritocracy, minimum structure, action orientation, and a compensation system that is both fair and perceived to be fair.” Moreover, under democratic capitalism, workers will have minimal interference from management, and encouragement in their desire to be innovative. Democratic capitalism will also harness the power of worker involvement, sharing profits that will create worker/owners through plans like payroll-deduction stock purchase and 401K plans.

In his explanation of how he himself came to be a passionate believer in democratic capitalism, Carey summarizes his own career, during which he learned effective methods of motivating the people who worked for and with him. As he moved up the career ladder, he began to formulate the principles that brought great success both personally and for the companies he ran.

Carey cites thinkers all the way back to Aristotle. The list of his readings is astounding: Galileo, Descartes, Isaac Newton, Condorcet, Edmund Burke, Thomas Jefferson, James Madison, Robert Owen, Kant, Hegel, and so on and on. To say that he has been both catholic and meticulous in searching out his sources is an understatement.

Democratic Capitalism is an important book. When you’ve read the book, you might want to consider sharing your copy with your Congressman or Senator, who would probably thank you for it.


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