When people talk about capitalism it’s a bit of a joke. There’s no such thing. No country, no business class, has ever been willing to subject itself to the free market, free market discipline. Free markets are for others. Like, the Third World is the Third World because they had free markets rammed down their throat. Meanwhile, the enlightened states, England, the United States, others, resorted to massive state intervention to protect private power, and still do.
Virtually the entire dynamic economy in the United States is based crucially on state initiative and intervention: computers, the internet, telecommunication, automation, pharmaceutical, you just name it. Run through it, and you find massive ripoffs of the public, meaning, a system in which under one guise or another the public pays the costs and takes the risks, and profit is privatized. That’s very remote from a free market. Free market is like what India had to suffer for a couple hundred years, and most of the rest of the Third World.
Since the drug war started, there’s been a very sharp increase in incarceration rates; the U.S.’s incarceration rate is way beyond maybe five, ten times as high as comparable countries, and its target is primarily black males, Hispanic males, some women, some whites—very disproportionately to the population. After all, think of the history of this country. After the Emancipation Proclamation, there were about 10 years in which blacks were formally sort of free, and then slavery was reintroduced by incarceration. By the 1870s the states had passed laws, and federal government approved them, in which essentially black life was criminalized. If a black man was found standing on a street corner, he could be arrested for vagrancy. If somebody claimed he looked the wrong way at a white woman, he’d be incarcerated for attempted rape. Pretty soon, you had the black male population mostly in jail, and they were a slave labor force. A lot of the American industrial revolution was based on slave labor from leased prisoners in U.S. steel, the mines.
This went on until the Second World War, when there was a need for labor. There was a post-war boom, and during that period black men could begin to integrate into the work force and get a job in an auto plant—a fairly decent job with wages—buy a house, send their kids to school, and so on. Well, by the ‘70s it was over. The economy was being financialized, production was being exported, there was a rust belt developing where the manufacturing jobs were essentially no longer available. So what do you do with the black population? Well, the answer was throw them back in jail under the pretext of the drug war. That’s the consequence, and it’s pretty well understood.