2. It was suggested that I am a reactionary sell out. This is a distinct possibility. I have argued that one of the reasons "the system" is tolerant of professors who teach things like Lenin, Hobson, and other critical views, is that in fact the "output" of the system is indifferent, at its deepest level, to such exposure. First, 30 hours or so a student spend in a university class has to ble stacked up against the thousands of hours of deafening exposure to consumption propaganda. Acts of consumption "support" the system far more than a Marxist diatribe weakens it, and it doesn't matter how much I go on about the economic conditions of the 3rd world, if students are looking forward to buying a car and fancier clothes, they are "in" the system in the most fundamental way it requires. Second, "the system," in order to function, requires people who can take texts, analyze them, and turn them into useful recommendations. This is true of lawyers but also managers of insurance companies and software firms. Problems are defined, researched, and recommendations (conclusions) are made. The process of writing college papers, notwithstanding "irrelevance" is very good for this. Moreover, the "best" students are the most desireable hires, and part of what the professoriate does in grading is signal who the best performers are. This saves employers the hassles of making their own triage. So I have concluded that in most ways the process of university education--even when professors assign "subversive" materials--helps the "system" to function in the ways that it needs to. This would explain why the whole system of capitalist reproduction has expanded dramatically in the last couple of decades notwithstanding the "cool profs" who posture as if they're "bringing the system down" by teaching about the flaws of the system. For it is precisely the fact that "the system" requires people with system-analytical capabilities that this kind of training is useful. "The system" is so solid that even "revolutionary awareness" is irrelevant to its functioning. If you live at the peak of revolutioanry awareness the system marginalizes you into less prestigious jobs and social positions where your impact is marginalized. If you bite your tongue and do "good work" you have the option of making reformist suggestions here and there (let's do an Earth day, let's maybe NOT privatize social security). The ultimate testament to "the system's" power is its tolerance of left-wing academics (who for the most part are in the less-important universities where they train the less-importrant students with the less-likely-to-achive-power profile). So, yes, relative to a position of "total revolutionary opposition" academics "in the system" are sell outs. I would argue that even really neat lefties like Johan Galtung or Noam Chomsky fulfill, to some extent "system reproduction" functions.
3. Capital accumulation. Someone in the Bremmer debate mentioned the accumulation of debts. Let us not forget that at a mild 3% inflation rate the real value of a debt will erode by 50% over about 21 years or so. So "industrial capital" has many strategies for coping with debt accumulation: e.g., paying the debt off, letting inflation word down its real value, and bankruptcy.
4. Max asked "what else" could be done besides Tobin taxes. May I point out that the GT recommends more equal distribution of purchasing power (propensity to consume). Worldwide minimum wage, worldwide GINI coefficient policies, might be a good place to start. Note that bourgeois environmental reformism is redistributive to the extent A) that it fosters investment that might not otherwise occur and B) provides benefits for all classes, sometimes more for the poor than for the rich (simply because the poor are more numerous). But if you have a broken leg and can't see a doctor I'm not sure what good it does to be breathing ozone-free air. I suppose it helps "at the margin." But it's the case that in US electoral politics you have to get to the middle class, which deals more favorably with the environment than with the poor.
Oh yes, and Max--you can socialize means of production gradually without going to full central planning. You know, an oil company here, a utility there. Put the profits into something useful. Why should OPEC driven rents realized by domestic companies (of whatever nation) "at the margin" go into more oil exploration? Why not put 'em into something useful like friendly fuels. (Note: separate topic: why state-owned companies are a problem for the state).
But as I used to tell people when I was writing about the oil industry: you can't nationalize the oil industry without first nationalizing the goverment.
thoughts from that slave to reaction,
-- Gregory P. Nowell Associate Professor Department of Political Science, Milne 100 State University of New York 135 Western Ave. Albany, New York 12222