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Magazine Offers Socialist View Of Capitalism

November 21, 1988

SOMERVILLE, Mass. (AP) _ Editors of tiny Dollars & Sense magazine take no small pride in the fact their October 1987 cover story predicting financial upheaval was followed within days by the stock market crash.

″We were kind of proud of that,″ said Arthur MacEwan, who helped found the 8,000-circulation magazine in 1974. ″Here we had a cover that came out and said ‘Crash’ in the first week of October and that’s when it happened.″

Dollars & Sense is published by a collective of journalists and economists who offer an unabashedly socialist perspective on capitalism and its social implications.

But far from being hell-bent for a systemic collapse, the editors hope the nationally circulated magazine is used by trade unions, students and others to gain insight into financial complexities.

″We advocate more democratic openness in the economy,″ said staff editor Vince Valvano. ″We generally feel that people should have more input, whether it’s about the specifics of their job or how decisions are made in a corporation they work for.″

He said Dollars & Sense is unique in helping to make understandable for regular working people the economic issues that he claims are covered in business magazines and newspaper sections ″as if they’re intended for managers, business owners, investors.″

MacEwan, a former economics professor at Harvard College who now teaches at the University of Massachusetts in Boston, said: ″We attempt to focus a lot on the way people themselves affect economic events. We don’t simply look at people as being affected by this abstraction of the economy.″

The collective says the ″Crash″ cover story was less an uncanny prediction than a warning of economic trends creating greater divisions between the rich and the poor.

″If you read it you recognized that we were not claiming to be predictors of the short-run movement of the economy,″ MacEwan said. ″There was obviously a lot of luck in the particular timing of that issue.″

The collective, which is based in a former church that also houses a collection of other leftist groups in this working class city’s Union Square, also publishes ″Real World Macro,″ an economics reader for classroom use.

Among Dollars & Sense’s boosters are economist John Kenneth Galbraith, journalist Alexander Cockburn and Democratic U.S. Rep. Ron Dellums of California.

″It isn’t caught up in the established cliches of economic and financial reporting,″ Galbraith said in a recent telephone interview. ″There’s no field in which this is more important.″

″The overall philosophy is that there are serious problems with capitalism,″ said staff editor Tim Wise. ″The coming crash wasn’t so much a prediction as an examination of the underlying instability in the economy.″

Although the economic fallout from the crash was less than some expected, MacEwan says the national deficit, trade deficit and foreign debt are looming problems.

″We were not the only ones saying this, although the media in general and the common feeling is a very Pollyanna-ish one that somehow as long as the stock market crash hasn’t reoccured in a few months everything is fine again,″ he said.

The monthly magazine’s philosophy may be best conveyed by a direct-mail campaign envelope featuring two tuxedo-clad party-goers holding goblets of champagne. It reads: ″They threw a party. You weren’t invited. Now they want you to pay the bill.″

″We generally attract those who are frustrated they don’t see more analysis and information on economic affairs in progressive publications, and mainstream publications present only a mainstream business-oriented view,″ Wise said.

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