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Bubbles, booms and busts

October 24, 2008
Mumia Abu-Jamal
by Mumia Abu-Jamal

The “shock and awe” (if you’ll forgive the borrowing) in global financial markets is but the bursting of the latest bubble in world capitalism.

For a brief span, imperial economists suggested that the age of boom and bust was a relic of the dusty past, saved by a kind of brilliant economic technocratic thinking that worked the markets like a well-oiled machine.

Inflation too high? Lower it by tightening the money supply. Neat. Predictable. Manipulable.

Except theory never fully captures the vagaries of life. Because theory ignores human compulsions like greed, avarice or mindless stupidity.

It also ignores social and political realities, for example, that capital is divorced from national government structures and, as such, is not answerable to them. They are thus able to easily avoid taxation, regulation or extra-corporate oversight.

This sign became a symbol of people’s fury at the $700 billion bailout when it was raised Sept. 25 outside the New York Stock Exchange at a protest against Wall Street, capitalism and George W. Bush. – Photo: Nicholas Roberts, AFP
In the 19th Century, the robber barons simply walked into government buildings and capitals with satchels swollen with money. They literally bought off politicians to do their bidding.

They do the same thing today, but they do it with a little more finesse. Today, they don’t bring suitcases on the Senate floor; they donate to PACs (political action committees) or invite their intended on golfing treks, where real business is done on the green. Then they take their pots of gold offshore, say, to the Caymans and fuel the latest speculative capital bubble.

The bubble swells and eventually busts, and that’s where the bought-and-paid-for politicians come in handy. They transfer public money into private hands, all the while screaming “deregulation!” or “free market!” So the big dogs get paid on both sides of the bubble – while it grows and after it bursts!

How can you lose? Well, not you.

If you believed in the hype and bought into the bubble, you lose. And as taxpayers, you lose. If you’ve been foreclosed on, you’ve already lost. If you want a good paying job, you’ve lost.

If you want a decent education for your kids or grand kids, you’ve lost. For capital is hungry, and the beast must be fed.

Let me tell you what capitalists really think of the notion of “free markets.” In 1995, Dwayne Andreas, then chairman of the agribusiness giant Archer Daniels Midland, told an interviewer: “There isn’t one thing in the world that is sold in a free market. Not one! The only place you see a free market is in the speeches of politicians. People who are not from the Midwest do not understand that this is a socialist society.”*

“Free market” is a talking point. The only thing free is the pain.

*Source: Raj Patel, “Stuffed and Starved: The Hidden Battle for the World Food System” (Brooklyn: Melville House, 2008), page 90.

© Copyright 2008 Mumia Abu-Jamal. Read Mumia’s latest book, “We Want Freedom: A Life in the Black Panther Party,” winner of the 2005 People’s Choice Award, available from South End Press, or (800) 533-8478. Keep updated by reading Action Alerts at and To download mp3s of Mumia’s commentaries, visit or For recent interviews with Mumia, visit Encourage the media to publish and broadcast Mumia’s commentaries and interviews to inspire progressive movement and help call attention to his case. Send our brotha some love and light at: Mumia Abu-Jamal, AM 8335, SCI-Greene, 175 Progress Dr., Waynesburg PA 15370.

Mumia legal update: Philly DA still wants the death penalty!

Mumia Abu-Jamal’s lead attorney Robert R. Bryan has issued a new legal update concerning Mumia’s appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court. Bryan writes:

“There are new developments in the case of my client, Mumia Abu-Jamal, who is on Pennsylvania’s death row, that are the most significant and deadly since his 1981 arrest. The prosecution has advised the Supreme Court that it is seeking reversal of the federal decision which ordered a new jury trial on the question of the death penalty. Earlier I made an appearance in the court on our ongoing effort to win an entirely new jury trial on the issue of innocence, so that Mumia can be freed.

“We are now at the crossroads of the case. This is a life and death struggle in the fight for Mumia’s freedom. His life hangs in the balance.”

In a Workers World story, Philadelphia writer Betsey Piette reports: “A number of events are planned to raise awareness of the critical juncture facing Abu-Jamal’s case.

“This coming Dec. 9 will mark the 27th year of Abu-Jamal’s frame-up and unjust imprisonment on Pennsylvania’s death row. Saturday, Dec. 6, has been designated an International Day of Solidarity by International Concerned Family and Friends of Mumia Abu-Jamal, the N.Y. Free Mumia Coalition, International Action Center and other Mumia activists.

“Pam Africa of International Concerned Family and Friends told Workers World: ‘This is just one more example that Mumia cannot get a fair trial here. They say Mumia’s life is in the hands of the government, but we say his life is in the hands of the people.

“‘We cannot have another Shaka Sankofa, Zion Israel, Tookie Williams – where the evidence shows innocence yet they are murdered by the state.’

“A major protest will take place in Philadelphia. Events are also planned for Atlanta, Baltimore, Boston, Cleveland, Detroit, Charlotte and Raleigh, N.C., San Diego, Los Angeles, San Francisco and Houston, as well as cities in other countries.”

To learn more about Mumia and keep up with the fast-moving events surrounding his case, go frequently to and

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