Medea Benjamin on Capitalism

IssueFebruary 2012
Feature by Gabriel Carlyle , Medea Benjamin

PN: What do you mean by capitalism, if you use the term, and what are the changes to our economic system that we should be demanding both now and in the medium term?

MB: In the context of the US it’s really not useful, and I would say detrimental, to speak in terms of capitalism, because it turns the majority of people off right away. We have such a reactionary population and such a lack of a broad spectrum of dialogue that even talking about socialism in the context of the United States marginalises you to such an extent that your voice is barely heard.

So I prefer, at this point of our evolution in the US, to talk about basic needs, to talk about our responsibility to the planet, to the next generations, to have businesses that are held responsible  for their actions.

Right now the major push is about how money has so corrupted our political system. And you can talk to people on the left and the right about that. You can talk to independents, you can talk to libertarians. It actually gets at the fundamentals of capitalism because capitalism has generated a system in which corporations have a voice that drowns out the voice of the majority of the people. But talking about it in terms of the corruption of our system, the inability of everyday people to get their voices heard, I think is a more helpful way of framing the issues

Where do I consider myself? I used to think I was a socialist, and travelled the world looking for utopia. I lived in countries that called themselves socialist but I found that they stifled the entrepreneurial spirit of people.

I do believe that there is something to be said for having the strong commons [collectively-controlled spaces or goods], where people have places that are public places.

There should be things that are basic rights that include health care, that include the right to clean water,  the right to a clean environment. But I also think that people should have the right to be individually enterprising.

I have yet to see the society that I would like to live in but I see pieces of it, bits and pieces of it here and there. Rather than labelling it I would rather help create it and not give it a label.


Topics: Economics