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If you were President . . .

Leo Panitch: Democratizing economy is the fundamental change needed to deal with recession

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PAUL JAY, SENIOR EDITOR: If somehow you became the president or someone with some power in the United States—and I don’t think that’s happening any time soon—what would be the one or two things that you would think would deal with some of the fundamentals?

LEO PANITCH, PROF. OF POL. SCIENCE, YORK UNIVERSITY: I was asked that question in Yugoslavia in 1988. Since my name is Panitch, they assumed that I was a Yugoslav, which my grandfather wasn’t. And I was asked what I would do if I was president of Yugoslavia, and my immediate reaction was to say resign. I think I would want to say the same of the United States, because there aren’t the political forces to support the kind of radical measures that really would be needed to really resolve the problem [crosstalk]–

JAY: [crosstalk] So, what are they?–

PANITCH: [crosstalk] Well, those radical measures do involve, in the end, democratizing the economy, taking the decisions about what is produced and what is invested away from these highly undemocratic banks and corporations and making them subject to the democratic process at the community level, at the city level, at the state level, at the federal level. That in some cases can mean taking the banks into public ownership. At a very minimum it can mean subjecting them to far more accountability and regulation, the democratic and accountable kind, than they have been. It certainly would mean redistributing income and power and wealth in the United States massively.

JAY: How important is the change of labor laws in terms of how—.

PANITCH: Yes, I think that would be important, very important, but it would also entail a change in the nature of trade unions. The labor movement would have to change itself to be more than the kind of labor movement that tries to secure simply more income to buy all the commodities that the American system’s producing. It would have to itself be oriented to being a much more democratizing agent than it has been right through the whole post-war period. So that’s why I think, you know, just putting someone into office with radical ideas doesn’t work unless you’re able to build a kind of movement behind it that can have people stand up for the fight that would be required to get these policies through.

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