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Never mind an alternative to capitalism, let’s start with an alternative to Newsnight

January 20, 2012

Just a short post about last night’s Newsnight, billed as a discussion about alternatives to capitalism but which descended quickly into a triumphalist mini-rally to the glories of the free-market, largely it seemed on the basis that there is no discernible alternative to capitalism. Hardly a surprising outcome really. The guests were a journalist from The Times, a Labour MP and an entrepreneur – Danny Finkelstein, Tristram Hunt and Julie Meyer respectively. Jeremy Paxman was in the chair.

Since there was nobody putting the case for the alternative, Paxman, Finkelstein and Meyer rounded on the moderate opinions of Tristram Hunt, who seemed to have some reservations about unfettered capitalism, thought the welfare state a good thing and liked cooperatives. Poor young Tristram was given a right going over, while Finkelstein’s erroneous assertion that Eric Hobsbawm had been some sort of apologist for the Soviet Union for most of his long life went unchecked by Paxman (although Hunt tried to pull him up on it) and Meyer’s sweeping and ahistorical conviction that capitalism is somehow in our nature wasn’t remarked upon, when the appropriate response would have been to laugh in her face for her staggering, crass ignorance.

When I watch Newsnight I know why we find it so difficult to imagine an alternative to capitalism: the standard of public debate is absolutely abysmal.

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