I was in the audience at The Commonwealth Club this evening to hear Raj Patel talk about his new book, The Value of Nothing. As far as I can tell, the book is a critique of free market capitalism. Mr. Patel is interested in how externalities like pollution, human rights & health costs distort the difference between price & value. His solution is more regulation of markets.
The excitable Mr. Patel seemed to be speaking off the top of his head, & he wandered from topic to topic, often stuttering & blustering in his posh British accent. He can be bluntly plain-spoken as well as funny. Citing the struggles of tomato pickers in Florida, he informed us that "slavery is alive & well." He acted out a Monty Python sketch about commie-hating Americans, then added, "I'm not a communist; I'm just open-minded." Perhaps because he knew the event was being recorded for radio, he was considerably less foul-mouthed than when I heard him on a previous occasion.
I find Mr. Patel to be a charismatic & even inspiring character. His admiration when speaking about the shack dwellers of Durban was genuine. Tomorrow he becomes an American citizen, a political compliment to us in its own way. Broadcaster Sandip Roy, the program's moderator, may have had it right after all when he said, "You may disagree with what he says, but you'll like him saying it in a British accent."
The Commonwealth Club members are very well-behaved & make an effort to submit intelligent questions for the Q & A. On January 27th, John Yoo, the Bush administration lawyer, appears at The Club. The program announcement advises that "Attendees are subject to search."