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Greider, continued from page 11 Europe is so far resisting the maxims of global finance that say, basically, cut back all of this cushion you have for people, break up your labor laws, so we can fire people more cheaply. If you look at Japan, Americans keep saying “Rationalize your system, make it ‘transparent’ like ours.” And the Japanese heeded that with some skepticism, to put it mildly. Then they fall in this deflationary process, which has been going on for 10 or 12 years. The American version is, “Oh, these stupid Do you still think it’s possible for this country to take on these big structural questions of capital, power, and ownership? Japanese. They just don’t understand. If they’d just do what we dowhich is throw people over the side and get on with itthey would have all their problems solved. The Japanese resist, I think, because they don’t want to be like U.S. society and there are deep historic and cultural reasons why they don’t. I’m not holding up Japan as an ideal, I’m just saying that it’s a much more complex story of what makes capitalism go than Americans have been told. There’s an issue that I recently wrote about in The Nation. The European parliament has just passed a new regulatory system for Genetically Modified seed that says, “Okay, you can market these Monsanto products or DuPont, but you’ve got to put it on the labels:’ Of course, they understand that if you do that in Europe, these products fail. Europeans have a deep cultural distrust for starters, but also they have had experience with mad cow disease. Industry had assured everybody that it’s okay to feed ground-up animal meat to animals. And it’s not; they didn’t know what they were talking about. They were lying, in fact. And big food multinationals are going to comply in Europe and then come home to the United States and tell our politicians, “You can’t do that. It would raise our costs; it would be less efficient. These GM seeds are harmless:’ America has been so propagandized in the last generation, not only by the narrow idea of efficiency in American business but also by the inevitability of global pressures. TO: There’s a danger that when you write a book called The Soul of Capitalism it will scare people. It sounds New Age-y; it reminds people of a president who’s always talking about faith-based initiatives and religion. WG: It scares some people. A lot of young people come up and thank me for putting these issues in terms of morality. They’re not talking about morality per se. Neither am I. They’re talking about our world values that come with being a human being. To them that speaks more clearly than more complex economic arguments. If that sounds New Age to old liberals, I would say that’s their problem. If you go back in history toward the early formation of the labor movement, toward the idealism of the New Dealers, to progressives before them, and to much of the 19th century, the starting point was always, “How do we allow people to improve their lives when the economic system prevents them?” It comes down to optimism. Do you still think it’s possible for this country to take on these big structural questions of capital, power, and ownershipand change? I do. I think a lot of people on the Left, whatever their rhetoric, may sound like basically those questions are all solved. They can’t be changed. And we’ve got 50 years of history to support them. I have no doubt of that. But I just don’t think that’s where the country is. TO: What’s the most positive, hopeful thing you’ve seen during your reporting of The Soul of Capitalism? WG: It’s cumulative. It didn’t start with this book, and it sounds cornball, but my experiencing of America tells me that this is a pretty remarkable country filled with smart people on the whole, who are basically trying to do good given their circumstances. That it’s full of energy and ideas. I’ve met people all over this country in the last few years who are way down the road on this further than I am, like some of the environmental activists, some of the labor people who have been struggling to make ownership a core value again, some of the business guys who are running employee-owned companies and doing it in imaginative ways. Even some of the capitalists. I’m not talking about Sandy Weil at Citibank or Robert Rubin. I’m talking about homespun business owners and managers who recognize that there’s something profoundly wrong with the way standard companies work and they have the power to change it, so they do. An example is Peter Camejo, the Green Party candidate for governor in California. He was on these debates and everybody says, “He’s a really smart, interesting guy.” He’s full of ideas, wonderful ideas that sound very plausible. Why doesn’t somebody in regular politics at a minimum say, “Why don’t we have Camejo to lunch and talk to him?” We don’t have to embrace the Green Party or do any of that. He’s got a blueprint for the mass-marketing of solar. The real barrier to making solar a standard feature in homes is financial; it’s not ecological values. People would love to have it. These are changes that are not really dramatic on the surface, but actually sow deep change. If you go back and study what happened in the New Deal, a lot of what happened were kind of crackpot ideas that suddenly became compelling because the country needed them. That’s the spirit I want to see in politics again. Support for this article was provided by the Observer’s Maury Maverick Jr. Fund for Cantankerous Journalism. 20 THE TEXAS OBSERVER 11/7/03