Tuesday, December 1, 2020
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Nick Booth: Channel 4’s Paul Mason deplores capitalism. Until it comes to flogging his boring new book 

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Paul Mason,  economics editor of Channel 4 News, has written a book about the end of capitalism as we know it. Post Capitalism is the title, but what caught my eye was the sub-title: A Guide to Our Future.

Since he’s opposed to capitalism and market forces in all their evil forms, I assumed this sub-title wasn’t a misleading oversell. Which was what convinced me that the saintly Mr Mason really doescare about my future.

So, it was with some enthusiasm that I sat down to read the copy, but my eye kept crashing off the page. There are some dangerously slippery phrases in there. I won’t repeat any of them here, or you’ll fall into a coma too. Don’t try to read this book if you are employed to operate heavy machinery, if you care for other people or drive long distances – so no working class people should buy this. Not that he’s got them in mind.

The publicity information is a lot easier to read. And quite revealing. Oddly, when it’s in his own interests, Mr Post Capitalism seems to favour some very old fashioned capitalist behaviour in his methods of researching, producing and marketing the book.

You should see the promotion schedule. There’s a 1000-word piece planned for the New Statesman. By Penny Red. Expect turbulence on the money markets on the day that piece comes out, because I’m sure the Wolves of Wall Street and the Libors of Leadenhall will be hanging on every word.

I’m pretty sure Medhi Hasan will be giving Mr Mason’s ideas a stern test when he interviews him on his Al Jazeera programme too. There are speaking events up and down the country planned. The entire media, from broadcasters to bloggers, has been primed. So the distribution of the intellectual capital looks to be highly liberalised.

But what of the physical movement of the product? Will there be price elasticity? Yes, big nasty capitalists will get better discounts on the book than the poor independent book stores. That’s exactly how Amazon has helped to put so many independents out of business. You’d think Mason might want to centralise the price decisions so smaller shops can compete, wouldn’t you? After all, the actual profit on a book like this isn’t that big for an author – it’s all the spin offs that come along with it that are worth it. Such as the fees for public appearances and guesting on TV shows. Merchandising, if you want to give it its filthy capitalist name.

Distribution wise, there are all kinds of small businesses (private enterprises!) involved, including agents, sales reps, distributors, booksellers – not forgetting his own personal agent. You know the type – merchants who speculate and take risk, in order to earn a bit of profit from themselves. And a bit for Mr Mason.

On Mr Mason’s behalf, all these free market swine are making independent buying decisions, based on their estimates of risk and reward. (The bookshop Lutyens and Rubinstein  in Notting Hill, for example, has a more well heeled, bien pensant customer base than Crow on the Hill in Crystal Palace. The more left wing book shops will make much bolder purchasing decisions, whereas the shop in SE19 won’t fancy gambling on so many signed copies of Mr Mason’s book. Signed copies can’t be returned, so the bookshop makes a loss. Not that that will stop Mason signing copies – independent book stores being filthy capitalists who deserve no pity)

I’m not sure what sort of neo-endogenous growth paradise Mr Mason has in mind for the rest of us, but capitalism seems to be working pretty hard for him. If we are to judge Mr Mason by his actions – don’t tell people, show them, as they say in TV land – he seems to be a massive fan of modern capitalism and a free market evangelist.

So, please do rush out and buy his book. I’ve got family in the book trade. So even buying this load of nonsense will help.

 

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Nick Booth
Nicholas Booth is the editor of OhThisBloodyComputer and a freelance technology writer

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