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New Left Review I/214, November-December 1995

Robert Pollin

Financial Structures and Egalitarian Economic Policy

I. Introduction

In various incarnations, egalitarianism has been a fundamental concern of economic policy for most of the twentieth century. [1] I wish to thank the following people for their stimulating comments on this work: Philip Arestis, Dean Baker, Fred Block, Bob Brenner, Jerry Epstein, Andrew Glyn, Ilene Grabel, John Grahl, Marty Hart-Landsberg, Michael Howard, Makoto Itoh, John King, seminar participants at the Universities of Vermont, Cambridge, and California-Riverside, and participants at the September 1994 conference on ‘Demand Rehabilitation: Finance, Trade and Technology’, sponsored by Pantheon Sorbonne Paris 1 and soas, University of London. I am also grateful for my graduate students at uc-Riverside for moving with me into this topic. A shorter version is being published by International Papers in Political Economy. The egalitarian impulse—and its corollary, opposition to the stark inequalities of free market capitalism—was embodied in both Soviet-style socialism and social-democratic Keynesianism as they developed, primarily in the first quarter-century after the end of World War II. Both models achieved major successes in a range of countries, especially through the 1960s. Countries with Soviet-type economies attained high growth rates and the majority of people living in them enjoyed rising living standards, including income, job, health and housing security. The social-democratic/Keynesian approach also succeeded in reducing inequality, increasing security, as well as contributing to the dampening of the capitalist business cycle. [2] Some standard evidence on these indicators is summarized in Robert Pollin and Alexander Cockburn, ‘Capitalism and its Spectres: The World, the Free Market and the Left’, The Nation, 21 February 1991, pp. 224–36.

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