Excellent video covering a lot of ground. I approve of virtually all the narrator’s framing.
Excellent video covering a lot of ground. I approve of virtually all the narrator’s framing.
The central planners are scrambling to hedge their once braggadocious claims that their massive intervention into the free market economy would bring about renewed prosperity and fuller employment. Meanwhile President Obama is revisioning history as one where it has been generally acknowledged the private sector is the main engine of economic and job growth, but even more government intervention is needed to ease the disruption and move America forward.
The problem with this phony narrative is that the only “sector” of the economy that has grown of late is the government. And the strongest sector of the economy before the Obama presidency, healthcare, has been seized, causing even more uncertainty as to what the central planners will confiscate next.
What men like Obama lack in results they more than make up for in hubris. Confident that the allied media will rehash their ready-made memes without critical opposition, either in the media or by the so-called opposition party, the most brazen bromides and warped narratives can be dispensed, only to be lapped up by the hoof-clapping sheeple.
A dose of reality is needed to counter-balance the arrogance of today’s micro-managing economists, who simply cannot leave the economy alone. It is not only counter-intuitive but profane to allow people to adjust their behavior in response to economic stress, and thus for the market to rebalance. The economy’s influence upon not only the public, but upon the careers of the central planners themselves is sacrosanct.
An excerpt from the full text of F.A. Hayek’s Nobel laureate speech will demonstrate both a humble and learned approach to the subject of economics, a field that has been utterly debauched by Keynesianism in recent decades. It has gone from a social science where one studies the effects of economic phenomena, to one where central planners attempt to direct the phenomena and determine the outcomes. The result, unsurprisingly, is a perpetual state of disorder and uncertainty.
From Hayek’s “The Pretense of Knowledge”:
In fact, in the case discussed, the very measures which the dominant “macroeconomic” theory has recommended as a remedy for unemployment — namely, the increase of aggregate demand — have become a cause of a very extensive misallocation of resources which is likely to make later large-scale unemployment inevitable. The continuous injection of additional amounts of money at points of the economic system where it creates a temporary demand which must cease when the increase of the quantity of money stops or slows down, together with the expectation of a continuing rise of prices, draws labor and other resources into employments which can last only so long as the increase of the quantity of money continues at the same rate — or perhaps even only so long as it continues to accelerate at a given rate. What this policy has produced is not so much a level of employment that could not have been brought about in other ways, as a distribution of employment which cannot be indefinitely maintained and which after some time can be maintained only by a rate of inflation which would rapidly lead to a disorganization of all economic activity. The fact is that by a mistaken theoretical view we have been led into a precarious position in which we cannot prevent substantial unemployment from reappearing; not because, as this view is sometimes misrepresented, this unemployment is deliberately brought about as a means to combat inflation, but because it is now bound to occur as a deeply regrettable but inescapable consequence of the mistaken policies of the past as soon as inflation ceases to accelerate. […]
Yet the danger of which I want to warn is precisely the belief that in order to have a claim to be accepted as scientific it is necessary to achieve more. This way lies charlatanism and worse. To act on the belief that we possess the knowledge and the power which enable us to shape the processes of society entirely to our liking, knowledge which in fact we do not possess, is likely to make us do much harm. In the physical sciences there may be little objection to trying to do the impossible; one might even feel that one ought not to discourage the overconfident because their experiments may after all produce some new insights. But in the social field, the erroneous belief that the exercise of some power would have beneficial consequences is likely to lead to a new power to coerce other men being conferred on some authority. Even if such power is not in itself bad, its exercise is likely to impede the functioning of those spontaneous-ordering forces by which, without understanding them, man is in fact so largely assisted in the pursuit of his aims. We are only beginning to understand on how subtle a communication system the functioning of an advanced industrial society is based — a communications system which we call the market and which turns out to be a more efficient mechanism for digesting dispersed information than any that man has deliberately designed.
Not the easiest read, but well worth taking in on a conceptual and philosophical level.
The modern ideology of socialism in undiluted form is essentially the belief that the government can be abolished if its function of protecting private property is done away with. This would be accomplished through both the abolition of private property, and its representation, capital. Anti-capitalism thus becomes a supposed program of liberation. Socialism itself is the imagined post-capitalist world, where the economy meets everyone’s needs, people get along in harmony as “citizens of the world,” and they share with one another without question.
Obviously, not all that involves property and capital is capitalism; just as not everything that involves anti-capitalism is socialism. There are certain principles acknowledged by capitalists as indispensable to maintaining a functioning market system; namely, private property, sound currency, and enforced contracts.
By extension, in the capitalist system if private property is violated through wealth distribution, it destroys the positive reinforcement mechanism of wealth generation; it also severs the negative reinforcement mechanism of poverty for idleness. If sound currency is violated through depreciation, it destroys savings and long-term investment, leading to a live-for-the-day mentality, economic shortsightedness, and speculative folly. If contracts are not honored, then social trust is undermined, since a man’s word is his bond.
But as was claimed earlier, not all that presently falls under the heading of “capitalism” jibes with even the fundamentals. Private property is massively redistributed through the progressive income tax, to the point that the lower 50% pay no federal taxes, and the upper 20% pay over half of these taxes. One’s property can be seized by the state in the name of eminent domain, an egregious and direct affront to private property. And of course, there are the innumerable regulations that go along with the government telling the individual how to run his business, whom to employ or not to employ, and in some cases, requiring the individual to pay the state merely for the privilege of living his own life and supporting it through his labor.
While capitalism is thus smeared as any system where there is some private property and some currency, socialism can be denied to have ever existed in practice because the lofty standards socialists set have never been fulfilled. Of course, everything tending towards socialism, by virtue of its own theoretical construct, is anti-capitalism; which essentially means the destruction of the free market system by various means, including, but not limited to: statist domination, over-regulation, progressive taxation, certification hurdles, exorbitant compliance costs, and arbitrary intervention, such as subsidies, bailouts, and stimulus.
But socialism in pure practice is said to be the never-existing nirvana that is supposed to arise after the capitalist system is laid to waste; but in reality, it is the North Korean hell-state that is supposed to have “withered away.” So obviously there is a disparity between the claims of socialists and the reality of socialism as practiced.
Therefore we can see the constant obfuscation by leftists that such-and-such is not socialism and so-and-so is not a socialist. These are just word games. What conservatives are talking about are the erosion of capitalist principles and the tendency towards the totalitarian system of socialism. A socialist would not act any different than an anti-capitalist, simply because the teleology of the socialist leads to paradise, while an anti-capitalist qua anti-capitalist is merely a nihilistic anarchist. By extension, a fascist is one who destroys the market economy through the principle of unity in the state, and whose tactics almost irreducibly seem to be the same as the anti-capitalist or socialist in practice. Yet the purpose of the fascist’s destruction of market economy is to consolidate economic control; the socialist’s supposed aim is to yield such economic control to the workers. But pray tell me, socialists, when this has ever happened? Where is this beloved worker’s state, or a shred of its manifestation, even in embryonic state?
Thus when it comes to fascism, socialism, and anarchism we are reduced in our analysis to a guessing game over who intends what. But we might say that a fascist is a socialist who doesn’t believe in the stateless utopia; while the socialist persists in his belief in such a place, regardless of evidence to the contrary.
The beauty of Marxian dialectics in the Fabian socialist mode is that the result is a mixed economy where the leftist believes capitalism is the problem, and the moderate believes that the self-contradictory workings of the economy are either the fault of incompetent technocrats or of the messy, democratic process itself, which necessarily requires endless compromise (of those with principles to those without principles).
But one without the ability to see things in the historical view is like the child riding in a car going 80 miles per hour; he sees the blur of trees, the rails of the bridge, and the fields of grain, but he doesn’t know he has crossed over the bridge from one state to the next. But hopefully this brief tour of socialist history demonstrates that we are indeed on a map, and not just floating around in the solipsistic world of leftist imagination. It is the trend that matters, and the immoral tactics and failing policies that supposedly achieve the socialist utopian end cannot be excused, merely because those who carry out such actions believe they will result in paradise.
File option for complete Socialism is Failure series: PDF
The modern leftist’s essentially socialist worldview leads the true believer to exhibit two glaring flaws in his thinking: the inability to see historical patterns or to grasp the underlying principles in play unless garbed in the sophistry of political correctness. Thus to the ideology’s adherents, every new “experiment” in socialism could possibly work, progress is associated with the inevitable trend away from individual rights towards statism, and a peaceful and harmonious world is one without opposition to socialism.
Admittedly, not everyone influenced by socialist ideology is a true believer. There are many self-styled intellectuals who equate sober analysis with the inability to take a position on any matter or to take sides in a political struggle. Rationality, in the eyes of these finger-wagging moralizers, is the refusal to dogmatically adhere to any one ideology, and tolerance for a diversity of ideas is the hallmark of a civilized person in a free society.
Whether such a scold is more than the historical residue of a transitional stage from a mixed economy, meaning part capitalism and part socialism, always trending more toward the latter, towards an authoritarian centrally planned economy is a bit of a question.
So regardless of if we are talking about the socialist ideologue or the faux-sophisticated moderate who is willing to accept the supposed proscriptions of socialism to balance out the inherent extremes of cold, individualistic capitalism, it is crucial to show that socialism itself is not a balancer of anything; rather, socialism is an intrinsically unstable system that is more a check on civilizational progress than a path towards progress itself. Socialism is nothing more than a critique of capitalism; and indeed, it is theoretically and materially parasitical upon it.
And indeed, the desire to slow or halt technological progress may be the underlying emotional impetus for many to seek refuge in socialism, whether in its liberal, “progressive,” utopian, or environmentalist modes. The traumas of the modern world, the catastrophic wars and numerous natural and manmade disasters, made all too immediate by mass media technology have led to great fear, inspiring many intelligent and sensitive people to seek understanding in the halls of academia. Those who have become our elites now believe it is necessary to reject the dangerous messiness of the liberal democratic state, and to take all power into their hands to micro-manage a stable and safe political order.
Inevitably, the contrived order the elites have come up with involves wealth redistribution, a socialistic measure that supposedly salves humanity’s lynchpin grievance of material deprivation. Such policies have been pursued in concert with the continual reinforcement in the culture of collectivist messages, which attend to the inner craving to return to a more close-knit life among a sharing and caring community, a primitive instinct that leads too often to infantalization and the desire to be cared for by the state. The perception of social entropy feeds the conditioned person’s longing for security, material and existential, which can only be sated by the worship and empowerment of the state, the imagined omnipotent proxy for the deposed god.
With such a state of mind there is a tendency towards blanket denial that the past has any bearing on the present, and that the state itself, when magnified beyond the most limited of bounds, should be considered a threat. There is a constant tendency for both the true believer and the self-styled moderate to throw out the nightmarish socialist regimes of the twentieth century as outliers, and to point to the actually crumbling, deeply indebted, socially rifted, demographically declining, national security free-riding European social welfare states as models for the future. Otherwise, true believers simply deny that nominal socialist or communist regimes were what they said they were, thus taking all theorizing about the causes of socialism’s failures off the table. Both types of mentalities extrude the past from relevance, either in specific regard to socialist regimes, or by taking for granted capitalism’s contributions to progress in the modern era.
Contrary to the claims of true believers and moderates, the history of socialism is one of unmitigated failure. On some level, all people understand this. That is why leftists commonly try to disavow their socialist heritage in public, while overtly acknowledging it with such coined terms as “neomarxism” among their compatriots. Publicly, socialists have commandeered the term “liberal” to signal to others their left-leaning tendencies, and after that got flushed out, they switched to “progressive.” But such gradations of affinity for socialism will not deter us from the point: socialism in any form or in any potency, when adopted by any political community, is a recipe for failure.
The crux of what socialism is all about in the modern era is the forced unionization of all labor in a state-run economy. Essentially, socialism in practice turns the entire state into a giant factory managed by central planners, and citizens become the drones who are to do what they are told and take what the state gives them and to be grateful. Just as the difference between communism and fascism in practice is one of scale, the former being a worldwide and the latter a nationwide collectivist enterprise, the difference between communism and socialism is one of degree.
But the reason that socialism is not halted at a certain “acceptable” level in Western economies is because it is fundamentally corrosive; it is an unsustainable element of an economy, when recombined with liberal democracy, it eats away at individual rights protections and checks on state economic intervention.
Socialism preys upon a weakness in human nature, to avoid work and to profit without effort, and socialist parties can build power while undermining capitalism’s success. While communist countries have done this suddenly and violently, today’s socialistic countries are merely doing it slowly and invisibly, as represented by their massive levels of debt, until the economic system collapses and there is rioting in the streets. Thus becomes the perfect occasion for the state to seize complete power.
The greatest mind trick the socialists played on the people is to lead them to conflate the rise of capitalism with that of colonialism, imperialism, and catastrophic war. Vladimir Lenin, in his thesis “Imperialism: The Highest Stage of Capitalism,” explicitly makes this charge. But colonialism and imperialism have been around since the history of man, and have been driven as much by religious fervor as by lust for filthy lucre. Not only the ancient empires of Akkadia, Persia, Babylon, Egypt, and the Seleucids confirm this claim, but also the spread of Islamic rule in the 7th century, as well as the ascendancy of the Ottoman Empire.
In the long view, we see that capitalism allowed the West to be successful; it led to improved birth and childhood survival rates, better cultivation of land and agricultural output per acre; greater technological improvements, in transportation, communication, and weaponry; and a much-improved standard of living for the majority of mankind who lived and labored under the system.
This is most likely the tacit reason for many people’s support of socialism; it is seen as a constraint on the inherently aggressive West, which supposedly exploits foreign peoples if only by trading with them and engaging in economic activities in their countries. Socialism is thought to be a way of making things “fair,” either by distributing wealth from the necessarily exploitative rich to the necessarily victimized poor, or by hamstringing strong and assertive nations like America with moral and cultural relativism. But the point is belied, liberals do not believe in the moral authority of the United States, they are not interested in success or “progress,” per se, except in their own equivocating terms, and they see America as the world’s central problem. Power disparity is a sign that America must have cheated, and if it wants to be fair, it has to be equal and join the club of the mediocre and failing others.
Socialism, as can be gleamed from even a cursory view of history, is a failure at any level. That is why socialists don’t generally ask people if they want to take part in yet another failed experiment; they attempt to seize the machinery of the state, and one way or another, create a community by force. It is an ideology of failure, as the Soviets and Maoists came to realize, and both Russia and China have introduced a modicum of reforms into their state-planned economies to foster an element of success, if just so the regimes can skim off some more of the supposed excess. Far from leading to equality between the people, socialism creates even more heightened disparities between the ruling class and the ruled. It is the use of coercion for elites to garner profits, rather than wages. Whether the perquisites come in the form of capital or luxury, the social hierarchy never disappears.
We should not be surprised, therefore, that after a hundred years of Fabian or incremental socialism, beginning with the institutionalization of the Federal Reserve and the Progressive Income Tax, that America is becoming more pyramidized. When the “creative destruction” of the market is not allowed to take place, undeserving firms are sheltered, assisted, or bailed out by the state. The human cost in this scheme is the sacrifice of the individual’s welfare for that of the state and its allies. Socialism does not prevent such sacrifice from taking place, it merely disarms the people in terms of weaponry and property, and gathers them into a herd for mass sacrifice.
Such analogies are not out of place, particularly given the stark anti-civilizational ideology of radical environmentalism. The central idea of this ideology is that man is no better than animals, and in fact, is quite inferior; while man has a moral compass, he chooses not to use it, and instead commits grave affronts to nature. Man should be called upon to sacrifice on nature’s behalf, and by virtue of simply living and breathing, should be considered a threat to the planet itself. At the very least, he should be asked to give up the accoutrements of industrial civilization, all the while allowing the science that makes technological progress possible to be debauched by the state’s big lies, which are funded to the order of hundreds of billion dollars.
The socialistic philosophy of radical environmentalism has hopefully been laid bare; if one refuses to take ideology seriously and instead conflates all warnings with hysteria, one should question if he would be right at home in a Soviet Russia, or a Cuba, or a North Korea before socialism was upon him, and the time for resistance had already passed. It is crucial for those with some instinct of self-preservation to see the essence of ideologies in their barest exposition, without sophistry or attenuation; and hopefully, socialism in all of its forms can be seen clearly for the menace that it is.
The French revolutionary phrase Liberté, égalité, fraternité is as well known as the bloody Jacobin terror that followed it. It soon became understood in the revolutionary period that among the three components of the tripartite motto, liberté was the most dispensable. While liberté and égalité were considered commensurate at first, due to the influence of Rousseau to name one source, égalité was redefined under the Jacobin regime to mean something akin to “equality of results,” as one can see in the writings of Babeuf, for example. The author Bardot made this point explicitly when he pointed out that the French temperament inclined more to equality than to liberty.
The French revolution would sweep away the Ancien Regime; but it would also clear the way for the tyrant Napoleon. Such is the record of extreme and rapid democratization since the days of Aristotle.
Though the 1848 revolutions would burst into flames across Europe, they were for the most part stamped out. Stale regimes like the Habsburgs and the Romanovs would survive for the imminent threat, in some part due to concessions and tributary reforms. The largely socialist uprisings had failed, for the time being.
The first instance of what Marx considered to be a seizure of power by ‘the workers’ was the Paris Commune, the French city’s provisional government that lasted a whole ten days in 1871. In some ways, it would become seen as an extension of the failed 1848 revolutions that Marx had participated in. Basically, the dysfunctional Parisian government operated much like the way Occupy Wall Street would run New York if it happened to take over the city government today. Though the Paris Commune’s temporary seizure of power is heralded in socialist paeans, the rift between Marxists and anarchists emerged quickly. The Paris Commune fell into disorder and became an anecdote in socialist lore.
Overseas in late nineteenth century America, the development of large trusts, formed quickly due to transportation innovations and mass marketing, lead to disquiet among the working class. Though people relied on the cheap and useful products produced by the trusts, and their lives were being much improved overall in terms of standard of living, they resented the disparity of wealth between themselves and the wealthy magnates. Since the United States was largely unexplored and competition was limited, working conditions were tough. The rule of law protecting persons and property was relatively weak, as immigrants were fairly unorganized and uninformed about how to defend themselves in court. Unions picked up the slack for people who could not always fight the cronyism of local politicians and judges allied with bug businesses. But a voluntary union of workers is a much different proposition than socialism or public unions extorting taxpayers by abusing the state. Socialism in some part was made less attractive due to the ability for workers to voluntarily associate in unions. Yet the kernel of labor collectivism remained a low level threat to capitalism that stuck around for years to come.
Such were the forces that gave rise to the Progressive Era, a time when dissatisfaction with aspects of the capitalist economy led to increased receptivity to socialist ideals. But the primitive ideology of socialism was infused with a new scientific luster. According to some readings of the political economy of Marx, the socialist state could be scientifically administered; but according to other readings, the socialist state would lead to more spontaneity, creativity, and freedom. It was unclear how such a paradoxical worker’s paradise would come about. If there was to be a spontaneous worldwide worker’s revolution, would they then demand to be scientifically managed by elites? Would everyone live and work as he or she desired, but with a raised level of community conscientiousness? How then would people’s wants and needs be met? A thorough research of Marxist literature will turn one away empty-handed. Marx did not bother to spend much time describing the perfect worker’s paradise; he was much more involved making sure the capitalist system was destroyed.
The author of “all that exists deserves to perish” made several other theoretically fatal errors. While he predicted the formation of worker solidarity, which would prevent another widespread war like the Napoleonic Wars, nonetheless, World War I came and went. Though he predicted that socialist revolutions would be spontaneous, they were indeed all led “from above” by intellectual elites. And when he theorized they would occur first in the most capitalistic and advanced industrial economies, like England, in accordance with his teleological view of history, he was completely wrong; it was industrially backwards Russia that saw the first “successful” socialist revolution (if one can even call it that; I prefer the term putsch to signify its narrow base of support).
This is not to mention the theoretical flaws in his economic critique itself. Marx’s adaptation of Ricardo’s Labor Theory of Value failed to accurately quantify the prices of scarce goods and goods that were abundant but difficult to extract without technical equipment. In addition, firms need land and capital for production, not just labor. These must be taken into account when prices are determined. Marx’s Labor Theory of Value, a crucial foundation of his economic critique, has thus been nearly completely discredited and replaced with the marginal utility theory of value. In addition, Marx’s usage of the Iron Law of Wages, which claimed that as the capitalist economy advances, wages ineluctably decline towards subsistence was proven false; Marx failed to adequately account for the increase in standard of living resulting from mass production, and to acknowledge labor market competition’s effect on buoying prices, particularly important as an economy develops through specialization.
Marxism thus being proven in the early twentieth century to be the failed theory that it is, two innovations were developed to salvage Marx’s powerful worldview and to implement it politically. The first was Marxist-Leninism, and its peasant agrarian variant Maoism; the second was Cultural Marxism, which attempts to gloss over socialist and Marxist economic failings by switching to a cultural-aesthetic mode of capitalist critique, without ever acknowledging how socialism would specifically function better than capitalism in practice.
The horrific results of socialist revolutions is well-covered terrain and need not be expanded upon much here. Suffice to say, an estimate of 100 million dead, from war, manmade famine, and state “demicide” cannot be far awry; especially if we include the French Revolution, 1848 revolutions, Russian Civil War, and Chinese Civil War, along with Stalinist measures under the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics, the despicable acts of the National Socialist German Worker’s Party (NaZis), the massacres and petty atrocities that took place behind the Iron Curtain. the Chinese Great Leap Forward, not to mention the socialist terrorism of Latin and South America, the economic disaster caused by communists in African countries like Ethiopia, southeast Asian nightmares like Pol Pot’s Khmer Rouge – a checkered past indeed, and one socialists are quick to deny. Their usual defense is to exaggerate the relative horror of the NaZi Germany regime compared to other socialist and communist experiences (about 1/10 killed under communism, in any event), and to broadbrush the NaZis actions as “right-wing” without acknowledging the socialist and undeniably collectivist elements and the verifiable anti-capitalist bent of the party. One example of a lie about the NaZis is that they were anti-union; in fact, the party forced all citizens to be a part of the German Labour Front.
The sum of socialism in its purest forms is misery and mass murder; while the track record of capitalism in its true form is space provided for the individual to improve his own life, and the technological and economic progress that has resulted therefrom. While capitalism is a means to the individual’s end, socialism is a means for the collective’s end; and since the collective’s end is defined by the political and cultural elites, that often requires sacrifice of the many for the benefit of the few.
In that spirit, this the first in a series of blog posts that will set out to make a simple but counter-intuitive point: Socialism is a primitive ideology that is supported not because it is successful, but because it is a failure. It is seen by elites as a way of hamstringing the ascendant West, limiting the powerful message of liberty, and making things “fair” by taking from the successful to give to the unsuccessful. Socialism in any guise is an unmitigated disaster, not corrective of capitalism, but deleterious to any society that adopts it in any form. It spreads like a cancer, eating away at liberal democracy, and leading inevitably to tumult and state domination.
Socialism has a long heritage, and it is not limited to Marxism. In contradistinction to what many people believe about socialism, that it is an ideology that arose from the excesses and purported contradictions of the modern capitalism system (rather than human nature itself), it is essentially a primitive ideology. Socialists are guided by a tribal instinct to condemn material disproportion as inherently “unfair,” and since all human beings are to be considered inherently equal, the leap in logic is that all those who have more must have attained it by dishonest means.
Within an ancient, hunter-gatherer setting, this makes some intuitive sense; such an economy is unavoidably cooperative, and social stability is thought to depend on an implicit contract among the members of the community that those who achieve success should share their spoils with the tribe, in order to even out the irregularities of nature and circumstance. If one is able to succeed in procuring food, or fire, or shelter, then one may fail tomorrow; so throwing in lot together is a way of mitigating odds and improving what has been referred to as ‘group fitness’ (so the modern line of reasoning goes).
But the development of agriculture brought with it different societal pressures, leading to very different societal structures. Though the techniques of living off the land gave man the ability to become self-sufficient, cooperation and organization was still needed so that irrigation would dispense water evenly and predictably among the fields being cultivated. Mutual protection was needed to prevent raids from nomadic hunter-gatherers. Such pressures gave rise to stratified societies, with warrior classes, civil administrators, adjudicators, law enforcement (to prevent theft), and due to the limitations of climate and available resources, merchants for regional and long distance trade, leading to the development of capital, banks, and modern economy.
Also intermixed within these castes was the priestly class, a relic of the shamanic order present in many tribes. Agriculture is a practice beset with uncertainty; without rationality and scientific understanding, it would be easy to fall prey to superstitions regarding the appeasement of natural gods. Priests led rituals and dealt with superstition; he was a powerful influence among the minds of the people, and a natural ally for the chief enforcer and protector of the social order. This alliance of the sword and the cloth led to the temptation for the upper strata to justify ever greater extractions of wealth, and the development of armies to both entrench their privileged places in society, and to prepare for raids on the border lands to claim or reclaim booty. Highly developed societies eventually built large enough standing armies to seek conquest abroad, leading to colonialism and imperialism in the ancient world.
Thus it was not capitalism that led to the origination of imperialism, but rather the power-lust and rapaciousness of ancient rulers like Sargon I of Akkad and Darius I of Persia, when built upon an economic base of agriculture and trade as such, and certain innovations in technology, for example, the chariot, the stirrup, and bronze weaponry. This is an important point, because it is often alleged that capitalism is an inherently imperialistic economic system, when rather it is a means to an indeterminate moral end. Capitalism can be used for both moral and immoral purposes, much like science. But true capitalism must revolve around individual decision-making and freedom of labor, and this is where the system’s conflict with the state and with certain elements in society come in.
Aristotle was one of the first trenchant critics of socialism, and he directed at Plato his reflections on the inability of communism to lead to a harmonious society. As the Second Book of Politics states:
Next let us consider what should be our arrangements about property: should the citizens of the perfect state have their possessions in common or not? […]
If they do not share equally enjoyments and toils, those who labor much and get little will necessarily complain of those who labor little and receive or consume much. But indeed there is always a difficulty in men living together and having all human relations in common, but especially in their having common property. The partnerships of fellow-travelers are an example to the point; for they generally fall out over everyday matters and quarrel about any trifle which turns up. So with servants: we are most able to take offense at those with whom we most we most frequently come into contact in daily life.
These are only some of the disadvantages which attend the community of property; the present arrangement, if improved as it might be by good customs and laws, would be far better, and would have the advantages of both systems. Property should be in a certain sense common, but, as a general rule, private; for, when everyone has a distinct interest, men will not complain of one another, and they will make more progress, because every one will be attending to his own business.
Aristotle aptly foresaw the decline of productivity and lack of social harmony in communist states. His criticism fell on deaf ears throughout the Dark Ages and Middle Ages, as various sects and cults attempted to implement socialistic policies. Igor Shaferevich describes some of these sects and cults in The Socialist Phenomenon, including the Cathars, Free Spirits, Anabaptists, Taborites, and aptly-named Levellers. Among their maladaptive positions were an aversion or hostility to private property and disavowal of the material world.
One of the more damning texts against the wisdom of socialism comes from the diary of William Bradford, a settler of Plymouth Plantation, whose 1623 diary cannot be said to be the work of right-wing reactionaries attempting to confound the presumably glorious socialist movement through propaganda. Bradford arrives at much the same conclusion through experience as Aristotle arrived through his voluminous knowledge and rigorous philosophizing:
The experience that was had in this common course and condition, tried sundry years and that amongst godly and sober men, may well evince the vanity of that conceit of Plato’s and other ancients applauded by some of later times; and that the taking away of property and bringing in community into a commonwealth would make them happy and flourishing; as if they were wiser than God. For this community (so far as it was) was found to breed much confusion and discontent and retard much employment that would have been to their benefit and comfort…Let none object this is men’s corruption, and nothing to the course itself. I answer, seeing all men have this corruption in them, God in His wisdom saw another course fitter for them.
Thereupon we find that socialism has deep roots in human history, and indeed, a record of failure; the continual appearance and complete disappearance of communist societies shows that the model is far from one indicating ultimate success, as the pre-ordained conclusion of some Marxian historical dialectical process. Furthermore, we find the failure of socialism in early America with several experimental utopian communities.
The Rappites, for example, settled a communitarian society north of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania in 1804, and in short order were moved to relocated to Harmony, Indiana in 1814. In just a decade, the entire settlement in Harmony was sold to Scottish industrialist Robert Owen for $150,000, who founded his own non-religious utopian community there. The “Harmonites”resettled in Economy, Pennsylvania, where they would enjoy a brief period of unimpeded growth, due mainly to their attraction of outsiders, because their practice of celibacy meant a new generation was not being raised up to replace an older generation. Economy, ironically enough, would decline because of massive debts and insolvency, a sign of a community’s inability to live in the real world. As for the next world, the Harmonites prepared their souls without headmarkers upon their graves; that was an individualistic and unnecessary practice, they believed.
Robert Owen, above-named industrialist, refounded his purchased Harmony and renamed it New Harmony. Despite European tours on how the industrialist planned to manage his worker’s paradise, and his proclamation of a New Age, in seven months, the community was running red ink and had to be subsidized out of Owens’ own stash. In 1826, Owens issued a “Declaration of Mental Independence,” which condemned private property, marriage, and religion. This led to a schism between the members, and New Harmony broke apart, with several members resettling elsewhere, and much of what had been established up for sale.
Later in the 19th century, influential preacher John Noyes would leave New Haven, Vermont to form a community in Putney in 1841. After five years, the community decided to have all things in common, including wives. In 1847, the citizens of Putney expelled Noyes and his followers, who subsequently set up communities in Oneida, NY and branches in other states. The community eventually turned to eugenics with a system of parenting authorization Noyes termed as “stripiculture,” but the community’s plans to develop a perfect human race would come to naught. As their system of horticulture collapsed, they were compelled to turn to manufactures, and finally, their community became incorporated as a joint stock company!
As such, we see several communities going through the primitive arrangements of socialism before adopting the more advanced system of capitalism; a turning of Marxism on its head.
AWOL Civilization has been providing some real intellectual firepower to the right-wing (more accurately, anti left-wing) blogosphere, and we would all do well to grab a cup of coffee, sit down, and think along with him what it really means to be at war with the left. (Don’t get me wrong, the article is “concise” and to “hard-hitting,” as another reader put it.)
AWOL Civilization provides some excellent references and thoughts on how to strategize much more deeply than many of us have been. The following is an excerpt:
Think back to the election of Obama. Here we have the opposite case: a complete mastery of the strategic configuration of power. Obama did not launch the fundamental transformation of America; rather, America already was transformed, resulting in the desecration of the Oval Office that occurred in January, 2009. All the pieces were in place; the opposition had been neutralized before the first “shot” of the election had been fired. Sun-tzu may not have been pleased by the event, but he certainly would agree that the collectivists were following his advice to the letter.
Before the battle began, the outcome was decided. The script had been written; everyone played their part. Democrats confidently sallied forth, going for the jugular, employing every means at their disposal to win the battle. Republicans hesitated, vacillated, and equivocated.
As Sun-tzu explains,
Those that the ancients referred to as excelling at warfare conquered those who were easy to conquer. Thus the victories of those that excelled in warfare were … free from errors. One who is free from errors directs his measures toward [certain] victory, conquering those who are already defeated. [emphasis mine]
And further on,
The victorious army first realizes the conditions for victory, and then seeks to engage in battle. The vanquished army fights first, and then seeks victory.
Try spending a few hours watching the BBC or reading back issues of Newsweek. Block out your instinctive revulsion and put on your analysis hat. The people producing this material are very smart. Sit at the dust of their feet and learn how warfare is conducted. See how an entire civilization was brought to its knees without the use of a single gun.
How will we know that the art of war has been mastered by our own forces, by the anti-collectivist camp? I can think of at least one indication. We will know it when every day, every single day, we hear a Republican member of Congress, and a former cabinet official, and a presidential candidate, and a governor, declare without equivocation that the goal of the Obama regime, and of the Democratic Party, is to destroy America as we know it.
When that day comes, the compulsion to speak in this manner will be as strong (and natural) as the current impetus to surrender.
We must fight back against political correctness, and its guiding set of rules, Critical Theory. For one example on theorizing, see The Occupy Crowd’s Vague Goals and Marxist Critical Theory, and for how to counterattack it, see Shattering the Left: A Radical Critique of Critical Theory.
We conservatives have to stop running around like chickens with our heads cut off every time the left launches an attack on one of us. But without a theoretical understanding of the left’s strategy and motivation, we’re doomed to keep chasing shadows.
There is a reason our country keeps moving inexorably left, regardless of who gets elected. And it’s not just because Democrats put up 100% liberal candidates, and Republicans put up 50% liberal candidates, as Ben Shapiro pointed out. It’s because the culture, Americans’ ideology, keeps drifting left.
Unanchored by anything except a superficial reading of The Constitution, with their wishful ideas of what it actually means superimposed upon it, Americans continue in the conservative majority, while voting in a powerful non-conservative minority.
If we are going to survive as a country, Americans who do not really get what the left is all about will need to get with the program. Bill Whittle is an excellent point man who can bring you up to speed.
H/T The Right Scoop.
We’re in the twilight years of our nation’s spiritual transformation from liberty into tyranny, when people still live and enjoy the freedoms of the Constitutional system instituted by our Founders, meanwhile condemning that self-same system both in word and deed.
Let’s see how much people hate capitalism when there’s no malls to go to at the weekend, you have to stand in breadlines waiting for government food with “regime loyalty” vouchers in hand, you have no choice over where you work and it matters not how hard you work, and the only form of entertainment is that deemed state-friendly by the government-monopoly media.
Absence may make the heart grow fonder, as the old saying goes, but with the American public, absence makes the brain grow dumber. Most of our citizens have no clue of the kind of material deprivation, social insignificance, and political disenfranchisement that goes on in most countries. And they are mentally unable to associate other countries’ meager state of affairs with corrupt, overreaching, arbitrary, domineering government.
Even in impoverished states where government is inefficient and feckless, it is still brutal and heavy-handed on the issues that matter most to it. The Nigerian government may give you all the “liberty” you want, as the left defines it, but interfere with its oil production in even legal ways and see what happens.
But the left keeps repeating the same tired cliches about how limited government advocates wish we were Somalia. No, we wish the U.S. government would fulfill its promised role of obeying and uphold The Constitution. Expecting as much nowadays somehow makes one an “extremist.”
The obsession with wealth disparity is corroding our ability to appreciate the benefits of free market capitalism. The political left decries the billions at the disposal of the upper crust, and bemoans the impoverished around the world. They do not seem to recognize that the earth’s poor predominate in politically and thus economically unfree societies, while American citizens are almost universally rich by world standards. The explanation that Americans “stole” their wealth does not quite equate when one considers our country was once the productive engine of the world. Those days when we were the global supplier are but a faint memory under successive progressive regimes.
The effete intellectuals who esteem themselves peculiarly insightful because they are able to systematically conflate government coercion with free market economy, which is by definition the voluntary exchange of goods, services, and labor, are intellectually undoing the gains of Western Civilization, and particularly, The Enlightenment. With all their irrational, counter-intuitive, categorical imperative-driven theories, they are actually re-primitivizing human understanding. Perhaps this is what Hegel meant when he offered up his observation on the garnering of wisdom, which comes after fatal judgment is exercised. But that would seemingly contradict his teleological view of history as driven inexorably towards Freedom.
Contrary to the vision of Hegel we are not moving towards Freedom, but rather towards Unfreedom. The same statist appetites lie in the heart of men, only now empowered by the mechanisms of frightening military hardware combined with advanced lightning-speed intelligence. Never in the history of man was there a greater need for philosophical enlightenment to set our ethics aright. Never before was there a need for Minerva to take flight before the sun sets on our great republic.
The United States was formed from the colonial rabble who defied a British Empire and established their own government, justified by reason and founded to defend their inalienable God-given rights. A little more than two centuries later, the Union is but a justification for the sundry governments to exploit their citizenry, and for the central government to exploit the states.
What remains of the philosophy that guided our founders remains embedded in the breasts of the patriotic, and all pretense to sharing the views of the broader electorate has been abandoned by our nominal representatives within the bounds of that swamp that became Washington D.C.. Throughout rebellions, wars, and depressions, Americans tended to hold fast to the view that government is best when it governs least. The observation that centralized government is necessarily a danger always requiring a watchful master animated local and state public discussions.
Though early stirrings of abusive national authority can be found in the cases of the draconian Alien and Sedition Acts and the chartering of the First Bank of the United States and the Second Bank of the United States, the sentiment of liberty was so strong in the American mind that oppressive measures and institutions could not persist long.
But one cannot overlook the long-term view of such an undeniable statist as Alexander Hamilton, who made glowing reference to “empire” in The Federalist Papers, and whose proposal for a central bank was rebuked at the Constitutional Convention, given that the colonial experience of such institutions was remarkably bad.
A haunting scene from the series John Adams illustrates well Alexander Hamilton’s plans to draw the republic ever closer together under the dominant authority of the federal government.
Hamilton’s vision has come true in many respects. We have incurred a colossal national debt through a central bank of sorts, and states are indeed closely bound to the national government. Federal grants to the states and state obligations due to federal mandates have reached monumental and indeed, unsustainable proportions. Due to such malignant institutions as the Federal Reserve Bank, a Hamiltonian throwback, the United States has debauched its currency and is monetizing the debts of the federal government, and thereby, through federal grants and spending, the debt of the states.
Regardless of what one might speculate about the reasons the federal government is dominating the political life of the country, the truth remains that Washington has acquired almost imperial control over the states of the country, effecting through red ink what it did not need to effect through red blood. When we have a monetary system itself based on public and private debt, instead of money as a “store of value,” as Mises defined it, then perhaps such a state of affairs is inevitable. Fiat currency, or money unbacked by wealth, after all, is money the government can produce and direct at will, knowing the citizens’ labor will follow it. When the control of money is taken out of the people’s hands, then the control of the economy will necessarily follow.
The real problem is that many Americans have retreated from that healthy skepticism of centralized authority so vital to retaining a free country. “If men were angels, no government would be necessary,” is a true dictum. We men also must acknowledge that the government itself is not comprised of angels, and assume politicians do not have our best interest at heart until they prove otherwise. Even if one group of politicians holding power in our stead is well-meaning, those who follow them in office may not be. Accumulation of power is a continual call for abuse by unprincipled politicians and an open invitation to corruption. If our politicians are incapable of restraining themselves while in government, we citizens must be more vigorous and vigilant checking the government for them.
This leads me to revisit the warnings of the Anti-Federalists, whose admonitions of the danger of a centralized government are clear, even if their political theory was occasionally less sound than most of our Founders.’ The words of George Mason are particularly stunning. From his “Objections to the Constitution“:
“Under their own construction of the general clause at the end of the enumerated powers, the Congress may grant monopolies in trade and commerce, constitute new crimes, inflict unusual and severe punishments, and extend their power as far as they shall think proper; so that the state legislatures have no security for the powers now presumed to remain to them, or the people for their rights. There is no declaration of any kind for preserving the liberty of the press, the trial by jury in civil cases, nor against the danger of standing armies in time of peace.
The state legislatures are restrained from laying export duties on their own produce; the general legislature is restrained from prohibiting the further importation of slaves for twenty-odd years, though such importations render the United States weaker, more vulnerable, and less capable of defence. Both the general legislature and the state legislatures are expressly prohibited making ex post facto laws, though there never was, nor can be, a legislature but must and will make such laws, when necessity and the public safety require them, which will hereafter be a breach of all the constitutions in the Union, and afford precedents for other innovations.
This government will commence in a moderate aristocracy: it is at present impossible to foresee whether it will, in its operation, produce a monarchy or a corrupt oppressive aristocracy; it will most probably vibrate some years between the two, and then terminate in the one or the other.”
Let Mason’s words sound the alarm: Our nation is being usurped by a centralized authority, and the only solution is for the people and the several states to rise up and push back.
As posted on Political Crush.
Ayn Rand was more than a giant of philosophy, she was also a pre-eminent expert on radical movements. As such, her description and explanation of the leftist Berkeley student rebellion presages the Occupy Wall Street protests now flaring up around the country. In an essay called “The Cashing-In: The Student Rebellion,” which has been reprinted in a phenomenal collection of essays entitled The Return of the Primitive: The Anti-Industrial Revolution, she perfectly captures the essence of today’s radical protests through their foreshadowing in the turbulent 1960s.
Like those who participated in the Berkeley student rebellion of 1964, also known as the Free Speech Movement (FSM), today’s college-educated Occupy Wall Street activists are more aptly described as nihilists and anarchists than Marxist ideologues. They are socialists in a sense, but they are ‘beyond ideology.’ Ayn Rand described the rebels of her era as “Castroites,” and pointed out that they are more driven by existentialist angst than by ideological fanaticism.
This certainly holds true for the majority participating in the current demonstrations. The numerous contradictions in the Occupy protesters’ thinking, such as simultaneously supporting anarchy and government-administered welfare programs, expressing anti-corporate messages on their Iphones and laptops, speaking “truth to power” by voting for statist Democrats, claiming “we are the 99%” – thus publicly disenfranchising those not in the top 1% of income earners who disagree with their message, and hurling epithets at Wall Street, the backer of their beloved candidate Barack Obama, who in turn shoveled trillions in stolen cash into the bankers’ stashes, all shows the mind-muddled mess the political elites are molding into an irrational, angry, and potentially violent street mob.
Rand’s essays are essential reading for those attempting to interpret the flurry of modern events and make sense of them. Her visionary warning to Americans rings as true today as it did in her time.
From Ayn Rand’s The Return of the Primitive [Since you will not find the text online, I transcribed these words from an audio recording. This constitutes fair use of the material, as it is being utilized for educational, non-profit purposes. However, there may be a slight deviation in syntax, punctuation, and composition from the original printing. For the most accurate rendering, I encourage the reader to purchase the work, or the audiobook.]:
“The [Berkeley] student rebellion is an eloquent demonstration of the fact when men abandon reason, they open the door to physical force as the only alternative and the inevitable consequence. The rebellion is also one of the clearest refutations of the argument of those intellectuals who claimed that skepticism and chronic doubt would lead to social harmony.
‘When men reduce their virtues to the approximate, then evil acquires the force of an absolute. When loyalty to an unyielding purpose is dropped by the virtuous, it is picked up by scoundrels. And you get the indecent spectacle of a cringing, bargaining, traitorous good, and a self-righteously uncompromising evil.’ [Atlas Shrugged]
Who stands to profit by that rebellion? The answer lies in the nature and goals of its leadership. If the rank and file of the college rebels are victims, at least in part, this cannot be said of their leaders.
Who are their leaders? Any and all of the statist-collectivist groups that hover like vultures over the remnants of capitalism, hoping to pounce on the carcass and to accelerate the end whenever possible.
Their minimal goal is just to make trouble, to undercut, to confuse, to demoralize, to destroy. Their ultimate goal is to take over.
To such leadership, the college rebels are merely cannon fodder. Intended to stick their headless necks out, to fight on campuses, to go to jail, to lose their careers, and their future, and eventually, if the leadership succeeds, to fight in the streets, and lose their non-absolute lives, paving the way for the absolute dictatorship of whoever is the bloodiest among the thugs scrambling for power. Young fools who refuse to look beyond the immediate now have no way of knowing whose long-range goals they are serving.
The communists are involved, among others. But like the others, they are merely the manipulators, not the cause of the student rebellion. This is an example of the fact that whenever they win, they win by default. Like germs feeding on the sores of a disintegrating body, they did not create the conditions that are destroying American universities; they did not create the hordes of embittered aimless neurotic teenagers; but they do know how to attack, through the sores, which their opponents insist on evading.
They are professional ideologists, and it is not difficult for them to move into an intellectual vacuum and hang the cringing advocates of anti-ideology by their own contradictions. For its motley leftist leadership, the student rebellion is a trial balloon, a kind of cultural temperature-taking, it is a test of how much they can get away with, and what sort of opposition they will encounter. For the rest of us it is a miniature preview, in the microcosm of the academic world, of what is to happen to the country at large if the present cultural trend remains unchallenged.
The country at large is a mirror of its universities. The practical result of modern philosophy is today’s mixed economy, with its moral nihilism, its range of the moment pragmatism, its anti-ideological ideology, and its truly shameful recourse to the notion of government by consensus. Rule by pressure groups is merely the prelude, the social conditioning for mob rule. Once a country has accepted the obliteration of moral principles, of individual rights, of objectivity, of justice, of reason, and has submitted to the rule of legalized brute force, the elimination of the concept legalized does not take long to follow. Who is to resist it? And in the name of what?
When numbers are substituted for morality, and no individual can claim a right, but any gang can assert any desire whatever, when compromise is the only policy expected of those in power, and the preservation of the moment’s stability of peace at any price is their only goal, the winner necessarily is whoever presents the most unjust and irrational demands. The system serves as an open invitation to do so; if there were no communists or other thugs in the world, such a system would create them.”
A century into the progressive domination of politics, and the slow creep of statism has led to a massive government promising its citizens everything from subsidized childcare and medical care to free education and retirement pensions. Of course, these benefits of simply being born in this country are being financed by productive citizens, while liberals accrue all the credit by merely waving their hands from the lofty seats of government.
Many conservatives grumble about this state of affairs but accept as a way of life the perquisites, which allow progressives to act like all good comes from the state’s magical money tree.
But contrary to common belief, there is so such a thing as an opportunity cost. We cannot continue to have freedom and fiat, economic dependency and social license, mediocrity and prosperity. Americans appear to believe that society can be rearranged like modular furniture, and liberty and tyranny can coexist side by side. But these are antitheses – eventually one will win out.
It is taken for granted in Western liberal democracies that equality is a positive thing and should be pursued. But it is a paradox of modern history that the political program to achieve more equality has often lead to tyranny and poverty.
How can the aim to bring about such a desirable thing as equality result in such unequal and undesirable ends?
The classical liberal understanding of equality, pertaining to the universal applicability of the law to individuals, was a revolutionary Enlightenment ideal that proved conducive to promoting freedom.
But more recently, equality has expanded to mean a comprehensive political program where everyone has equal means, and thus, equal political power. This more modern conception of equality is consistent with the redefinition of democracy away from electoral accountability of the government to the people to the theoretical state where the collective has political power through the government, and in turn, essentially becomes the government.
Equality has thus come to describe the proportionate interrelationship between individuals in the economic, societal, and political spheres. These spheres are theorized to be interlinked and inseparable; inequality in any sphere is understood to be inconsistent with democracy. Herbert Marcuse, for example, believed power relationships were inescapable and extended to all aspects of human life.
What the modern left craves is the absence of class boundaries and fuller equality for all human beings. The belief in this presumably ideal state of affairs can lead to disastrous consequences if any agenda to bring about its culmination entails empowering the state.
One of the most egregious errors left-leaning thinkers tend to make is that they misunderstand the causes of inequality. They assume that inequality is a result of the economic system, and that humans otherwise would be equal if not for that system. But inequality is an aspect of nature: people are more or less talented as an aspect of their unique genetic makeup; they are born in different environments and not one homogenous “environment”; and are necessarily raised differently by individuals. No two human beings are equal in reality, not even twins.
Because of this reality, the left desires, as a matter of its political agenda, to make “the environment” uniform and thus more equal in a very abstract and particular sense; in other words, we are all global citizens who are essentially equal and should unify to overcome shared problems such as manmade climate change, poverty, etc.
The left’s political agenda necessarily means limiting choice and therefore restricting freedom; this despite the veneer of diversity along such trivial lines as skin pigmentation, and aspects of its agenda like cultural relativism and thus equivalence. It may not be the left’s intention to make our political community less free; on the contrary, they believe their program will lead to human beings being more united in common interest due to shared experience and ideology, and thus more free in the long run.
By extension, progressives want more uniformity in education, and additionally, to restrict certain unsavory ideas through political correctness. They think this will result in more equality, and thus more freedom, since we will disagree less with one another, and be less likely to fight.
To sum up, the left wants freedom from dissent, freedom from conflict, and freedom from burdens in life. This is not the way leftists would describe their goals, it should be noted.
Today’s left generally cannot see or understand that it is promoting unfreedom in the interest of equality, because the theoretical aim of leftism is that it will lead to ultimate freedom. Only there will be no such freedom. There can be no “withering away of the state,” as Engels put it, and the following is why.
If equality is not a natural state, but rather an abstract condition that must be enforced by the state, then we must assume that without the state there would be some kind of inequality; or at the very least, the potential for inequality. Therefore, the state as a coercive body must never “wither away” and must be inherently unequal to those whom it is coercing to be equal or may need to coerce to be equal.
Ironically, when the left advocates for more equality through the state, the effect of its success is that it actually creates greater inequality. When the left empowers the state to make things more equal among less powerful agents, through the mechanism of wealth redistribution, for example, the state is yielded more arbitrary power to make things “fair” and “just,” is granted more of its own resources, and itself grows more powerful and unequal.
Perfect equality between all men in a state of nature is impossible; and thus, political equality through the state is impossible. When equality is strongly pursued through the state in the interest of furthering freedom, the only end-run results can be anarchy (in no way consistent with equality, as weaker men are more vulnerable to becoming prey of the stronger) and tyranny or unfreedom.
Perversely, the radical pursuit of equality leads to the successful being penalized for their successes, the unsuccessful being rewarded for their failures, the criminal and corrupt reaping benefits for their crimes, and the moral and noble being victimized for their virtues. The inevitable result is demoralization and poverty.
The socialist left may have all the best intentions in the world by their own esteem. But their misunderstanding of nature, the state, and freedom are a plague on humankind that must be remedied.
As posted on Political Crush.
Paleomarxist thought had several fatal flaws. That’s why leftists finally gave it up and switched to a slow cultural assault on liberty conducted under a media fog of war. This clues one in that their agenda is not so much about principle, but about power.
But the residue of musty marxist thinking can still be whiffed whenever leftists start preaching about labor issues. The two recurring memes, since disassociated from their nomenclature, the Labor Theory of Value and the Iron Law of Wages, are now so thoroughly debunked that socialists are engaging in a kind of economic seance when channeling these dead ideas.
The Labor Theory of Value postulated that under capitalism the rich get richer at the poorer’s expense. But in a free market economy with sound money the rich get richer, and the poorer get richer. And The Iron Law of Wages, now looking more like the Pig Iron Law of Wages, insisted that workers’ wages under capitalism tend towards subsistence. Both are wrong for technical economic reasons that can be found elsewhere, so I will give a more prosaic rebuttal to these theories.
The rich get richer by providing products that people want to buy, and the poorer get richer by getting paid to produce them. If the poor are getting paid to produce wealth to be redistributed through market demand, isn’t this superior to the poor being given “wealth” through redistribution of what has already been created or promised to them in terms of wealth yet to be created?
This point accounts for the dynamism of capitalism: people are paid to produce, not to receive what they are supposedly due. People who work live well, and this is the bottom line. When someone working at the lowest of low skill jobs, McDonald’s for example, can make enough money to feed himself on the dollar menu sixty times over in an eight hour shift, there’s not really anything wrong with the system. And the fact that the manager drives an SUV is a motivator to work harder, not a matter to be dejected about or to cry to government to remedy.
And if it only takes a few days for a low skill worker to earn enough to buy a nice television set, can the economy be as much a travesty as the socialists claim? After all, how could this supposedly exploited worker possibly acquire the resources and put together the components needed for a television set? So it appears that the laborer is actually gaining by working in a capitalist economic system; it takes less time for him to acquire goods in terms of work input than would otherwise be required, because of market efficiencies and scales of production.
So wealth disparity does not matter as long as there is a free economy, but rather overall wealth gains. When 95% of those who want to work can find jobs in a free market economy, one cannot really fault the economic mechanism. After all, social scientists rarely get a 95% confidence interval on anything but the most rudimentary theories.
Certainly those capitalist countries from Marx’s day to now that have most embraced the free market have had a standard of living increase across the board. The socialist exceptions are small, resource rich, export-driven economies dependent on foreign, consumer-driven, more capitalistic markets, and additionally have lower corporate taxes than the U.S. (Sweden – corporate tax of 28%, U.S. is second highest in the world at almost 40%; e.g.). Not to mention America pays most of Europe’s security bill – that frees up between 5% to 10% of GDP.
So to sum up, laborers in a capitalist system greatly benefit relative to non-participation; and thus they are not being exploited merely by the fact of working. Profit is not an example of exploitation, but a sign that the instruments that labor is being applied to greatly amplify the value of that labor. Those people who come up with and own those instruments of labor value amplification drive the economy, not the mere fact of human exertion. The converse argument that people are born into this world owned or owed by society can be dismissed out of hand as a mischievous, if not a malevolent assumption tantamount to advocating slavery.
There is also a misconception that capitalism is “out of control” or “harms the environment.” Socialist and communist countries tend to degrade their country’s habitats much more egregiously than capitalist ones, because there is a major difference in approach. Socialist countries misconceive economy as a “pie to be redistributed,” and capitalist ones see it as labor transforming resources and materials to add utility, or facilitating “production.”
Scarcity of resources is inherently a part of the capitalist system through pricing (as opposed to command economies), and most resources are not “consumed” but redistributed or transformed (oil being a notable exception: the restriction of oil production is largely unnecessary, since solar, wind and geothermal will replace oil as prices go up). You remove pricing and you remove a barrier to state action and exploitation. The U.S. has gotten around this barrier by producing imaginary currency, which is not “money” or what Mises defined as a “store of value.”
The point is, that to support their welfare systems, countries need to stimulate real production, not just print out paper currency to be redistributed. Of course, those who see this as a great way to “break” the capitalist system, from which a miraculous and necessarily state-dominated socialist paradise will rise as if a phoenix from the ashes, will be greatly disillusioned.
The appropriate response to poverty is not to penalize producers or employers for providing products that people want to buy, but by allowing success to flourish and opportunities to open up for people. For those who cannot work, special consideration is warranted. We can address this issue firstly by cultivating a charitable inclination, which Americans, on the whole, tend to have. As Dennis Miller says, “we’ll gladly help the helpless, just not the clueless.”
As far as the gap between the “haves” and the “have-nots” this can more accurately be described as a disparity between the “dos” and the “do-nots.” You cannot reward idleness and expect the economy to grow the wealth needed to sustain everyone’s lives, let alone luxuries. The person with the most vested interest in his own affairs is the individual in question himself; it should be up to him to care for himself, and to what extent he chooses. If a person does not go through the trouble of taking care of himself, why should society?
We have perhaps today the most arrogant, ignorant, half-baked, pompous, parroting mental midgets of an intelligentsia in the history of the country, if not the world. The supposed political class’ cliche-wielding, bromide-chanting, dogma-uttering repetition leads it to take utterly predictable positions on every subject imaginable. The unimpeachable aura of the left’s army of dismissive homogeneous know-it-alls is punctured by the risible premise that they are all fucking geniuses, all coming to the same failed conclusions, and the founders of this nation and the great men of antiquity were simply rubes who could perceive nothing of the real state of humanity.
These so-called intellectuals, as they fancy themselves, come to the conclusion of the obsolescence of the thinkers of the past by a superficial examination of the de facto contexts in which they lived. They see slavery, warfare, and the oppression of minorities, and anyone who lived in such an era (except for their ordained prophets, of course) as automatically contaminated by the residue of an antedated world. Modern liberals are unable to isolate the causes and effects of various philosophical positions taken by great thinkers; of what tends toward the good and what toward the evil, and they avoid such morally challenging questions by denying that morality exists at all, or else can be invented in the face of expediency. Not even sophists had these kind of balls. They were rhetoricians, not solipsists.
Modern liberals’ arrogance is partially due to their intellectual pedigree, which is a reflection of a degrading materialist relic of nineteenth century “philosophy,” and closer to our time, of a totalitarian German historicism combined with the explicitly conspiratorial neomarxist counter-revolutionary program of Gramscianism. The fact that ninety-percent of Americans have no idea what I’m talking about is an illustration of most educators’ lack of understanding of or refusal to even acknowledge the sources of their own twisted aspirations.
The modern left dismisses the Enlightenment as an impossible and destructive project, yet they refuse to see that the great bulk of progress since that time to now has come from science, including cures for diseases, and the creature comforts of civilization that effete liberals all adopt though despise. This is not to mention the capitalistic west’s shorter working hours, higher standard of living, and greater security despite the grave inefficiencies caused by universalistic social insurance, minimum wages, and labor unions, which tend to cause more social and economic harm and disruption than good. The modern liberal mind is emotionally unable to fathom this simple and easily verifiable argument, despite their glittering mantles of “the smartest people on the planet.”
They are no more able to assess the good, with their euphemistically labeled “criticality,” than they are able to think their way out of a wet paper sack. So most stick to the secular equivalent of the theological problem “how many angels dance on the head of a pin?”
“Progressives” have willfully and ignorantly rejected the entire premise of the American system of government with a blase dismissal of federalism and individual rights, and the ingenious Constitutional safeguards designed to prevent tyranny of every kind. Their arrogant aggregation of centralized power in the capital and their intention to homogenize the culture, through the universities, the media, and the entertainment industry, with perverse, paranoiac, and inhumane denigrations of American culture justified by the specious narrative that it is all a part of bourgeois capitalist hegemony lead ineluctably to soul-crushing totalitarianism. They’ve learned nothing from a century of fascist and communist horrors, and instead turn their animus towards a country that fought and did much to end these two human menaces. Hating prosperity for being prosperity, virtue for being virtue, and right for being right, they side with impoverishment, immorality, and evil just to make things equal and cut the world bully down to size for defeating the murderous, oppressive bastards.
Even Descartes could not dream up a malevolent demon wicked enough to disseminate such lies under the false impression it was performing good. If it turned out these university “men” were the puppets of a foreign adversary intent on destroying the animating spirit of the Republic, one would have to feign surprise.
By crowning themselves as “philosopher-kings,” modern liberals have sought to demolish the opportunity for citizens to pursue philosophy themselves, as modestly as they are able to sometimes, and have thus turned our halls of education and corridors of information into vehicles of self-righteous, self-assured activism tantamount to functioning as the propaganda arm of a political party. All of this has nothing to do with the pursuit of truth that is the hallmark of civic education in the Western spirit. Their vain proselytizing is more akin to the tenth century closing of the doors of interpretation (ijtihad) in Islam than the enlightenment of a noble, self-sufficient citizenry.
American politicians today seem to think themselves invincible sovereigns who can toy with the fates of three hundred million people and there is nothing the latter can do about it. They blow the taxpayers’ money with no regard for the country’s future, endlessly meddle with the economy, and brazenly flaunt The Constitution that grants them any power to begin with. The same hubris that causes politicians to ignore the laws of economics leads them to ignore political history. This is not just to the nation’s peril, but to their own.
While reading an academic article constructively criticizing Karl Popper’s “The Open Society and Its Enemies,” I encountered an extended section on John Locke and his contributions to solving problems of sovereignty, political order, and legitimacy. The implications of the passage are worth noting because Locke’s principles are foundational in their influence on The American Constitution. (Along with Montesquieu’s principles of divided powers.)
Before penning The Communist Manifesto, Karl Marx wrote, “All that exists deserves to perish.” Never one to mince words, Marx made clear that his aim was to foment a world revolution that would bring capitalism to its knees. To be replaced with what, he did not specify.
Why so many seemingly intelligent leftists would invest such energy into collapsing the economy with the sheer faith that something better will rise phoenix-like out of the ashes is an enigma. A moment’s reflection leads one to conclude that the military might of the nation-state could easily crush any “worker’s revolution” – not that “the workers” would ever run an economy under any socialist regime – and the end result of destroying capitalism would be the formation of some kind of global hyper-statism.
So the reason why a multitude of states around the world, including our own, would make Marx its chief economic adviser, and engage in an orgy of economic self-immolation requires some explication.
In his masterwork Das Kapital, Marx would adapt and distort Ricardian economics to form one of the most persuasive polemics on political economy in human history. And a polemic is exactly what it is, despite its scientific veneer. The magnum opus assumes many controversial points, such as the primacy of the proletariat as a revolutionary force, now considered intellectually obsolete. Since Lenin, naked paternalism rules the day among the socialist vanguard. Intellectual arrogance is incompatible with explicit materialist philosophy.
While today’s Democratic Party denies being driven by Marxist ideology, it is undeniable that the rhetoric of Marxism has permeated the left and is driving the Democrats’ agenda and actions. The lingering vestiges of overt Marxism in the guise of class warfare and wealth redistribution have been supplemented and veiled by a “neomarxism” or a re-imagining of Marxism for the peculiar conditions of the American experience.
The new marxism makes up for the proven shortcomings of the old economic Marxism by painting the socialist agenda in an abstruse ethical palette of banal truisms like “it’s nice to share” and “we’re all in it together!” that flood the culture from kindergarten through upper academia.
The harnessing of these truisms in the form of “critical theory” – dozens of leftist pet causes, from radical environmentalism to racial “justice” – both leads to dangerous factional strife, as well as the general diffusion of threat perception among the majority, who do not always recognize that these groups are all bound together in the common cause of Marxist revolution. Those who are blind to the fact that we are swimming in an ocean of cultural marxism are the proverbial fish that do not know they are wet.
What remains is an exposition of the state of our political economy, laid bare so that even those eyes most clouded by cultural marxism can appreciate that we are pursuing self-destruction by socialism. Indeed, nearly every single economic and fiscal policy of the United States is bent towards intentional impoverishment; a truly dangerous weakening of our ability to defend ourselves from enemies without, and from economic collapse and civil discord within.
While classical Ricardian economics holds that economic progress comes from the simultaneous increase in the productive use of land, labor, and capital, holding scientific progress constant, we find that the Democratic Party is opposed to the employment of all factors of production, including the increase in scientific progress. It shall be easier from this point on to provide a brief overview, so that the reader can expand the argument. Assuredly, there are far more examples available than can be covered in a brief article.
According to USDA statistics, the United States has a total land area of about 2.3 billion acres. While many national parks are beloved by Americans, the scale of acreage being consumed by parks and recreation, which falls under the category “special uses,” now rivals that of “cropland,” standing at 297 million (13.1%) and 442 million acres (19.5%), respectively. Another category of agricultural use, “grassland pasture and range land,” at 587 million acres (25.9%), is difficult to adjudge in terms of how productive this land is being employed. It is an interesting note that when Woodrow Wilson established the National Park Service, he was supported by the radicalized Sierra Club, and opposed by the Forest Service on the grounds it might endanger the timber industry. Even more appreciable today is the inexplicable restriction of oil drilling, and particularly at the desolate ANWR site in Alaska, which is claimed to be an invaluable wildlife reserve.
The wasteful practice of ethanol subsidies, a product manufactured only to sate the demand of radical environmentalists to placate the weather gods, further illuminates how America is wasting its land. America has been the leading producer of ethanol since 2005, and according to cited public information, employs some 25 million acres growing corn for ethanol production. As we can see from USDA statistics above, that is nearly 10% of all cropland. A roughly ten percent increase in U.S. food prices dependent on corn production may not seem like much to the majority of Americans, but it has surely been a contributing factor to world food price inflation, which had such a dramatic effect in fomenting revolutions overseas.
The last example in this far-from-exhaustive list is American home-ownership. Without rehashing the entire run-up to the 2008 housing crisis, well-covered elsewhere, the end result of massive government intervention in the housing market using governmental arms Freddie Mae and Freddie Mac, now downgraded investments bleeding red ink on the order of trillions, is a depressed housing sector that is the lynchpin to the American dream. Houses by far tend to be the single most valuable asset owned by American families, and are leveraged to debt-finance other assets. In other words, for millions of families, real estate is the asset that leads to accumulation of numerous other assets. As the real estate market goes, so goes the American dream.
Far be it for me to seek to deprive immigrants a chance at economic freedom in America. But the flood of illegal immigration to the United States has been accompanied by numerous additions to the welfare roles, making so-called entitlement programs as enticing an attraction as blue-collar jobs. Though illegal immigrants are not technically eligible for many federal programs, they are eligible for public education and other benefits. According to the Center for Immigration Studies, “On average, the costs that illegal households impose on federal coffers are less than half that of other households, but their tax payments are only one-fourth that of other households.” Therefore, the relatively cheaper illegal labor comes at the cost of taking more taxes out of the system than are put in. One need not support either illegal immigration, or the welfare state, to appreciate that more money should stay in people’s pockets, instead of being used to subsidize illegal immigration. In addition to supporting themselves, a standard many Americans would likewise fail, immigrants should be made to at least acknowledge the laws and customs of the nation they are immigrating to, which requires learning the language and basic civics.If you import millions from the Third World without acculturating them, you are essentially importing the Third World along with them.
Though unionization in the United States has been traditionally considered weak compared with other industrialized nations, the reason is that there has been less demand for unions. Corporations often offer the same or better benefit packages than unions offer, and without the strong-arming. In addition, Americans get similar “union” benefits simply by virtue of being born a citizen in the form of federal entitlements; one might say that the entire country has been force unionized. These points aside, there is still enough unionization to do significantly impede growth in the economy. According to The Heritage Foundation, unionization tends to have negative effects on the economy, including higher levels of unemployment.
Self-evidently, the key to the “capitalist” economic system is capital. While capital extends beyond the concept of money to include other financial assets, all property is denominated in currency. There is perhaps no more readily visible indicator to assess the degradation of our economic system in the progressive era than the devaluation of the dollar. Although it would be simplistic to equate increases in the money supply since the establishment of the Federal Reserve to dollar devaluation, since there has been corresponding increases in value-added to the economy through technological innovation, the purchasing power of the dollar has declined 95% since 1913. This has led to immense financial pressure on households and the unleashing of negative socio-economic forces beyond the scope of this article to compass. Suffice it to say, Lord Keynes recognized the revolutionary impact of “debauching the currency,” citing Lenin:
Lenin is said to have declared that the best way to destroy the Capitalist System was to debauch the currency. By a continuing process of inflation, governments can confiscate, secretly and unobserved, an important part of the wealth of their citizens. By this method they not only confiscate, but they confiscate arbitrarily; and, while the process impoverishes many, it actually enriches some. The sight of this arbitrary rearrangement of riches strikes not only at security, but at confidence in the equity of the existing distribution of wealth. Those to whom the system brings windfalls, beyond their deserts and even beyond their expectations or desires, become “profiteers,”, who are the object of the hatred of the bourgeoisie, whom the inflationism has impoverished, not less than of the proletariat. As the inflation proceeds and the real value of the currency fluctuates wildly from month to month, all permanent relations between debtors and creditors, which form the ultimate foundation of capitalism, become so utterly disordered as to be almost meaningless; and the process of wealth-getting degenerates into a gamble and a lottery.
Lenin was certainly right. There is no subtler, no surer means of overturning the existing basis of society than to debauch the currency. The process engages all the hidden forces of economic law on the side of destruction, and does it in a manner which not one man in a million is able to diagnose.
And debauching the currency is precisely what our central bank is doing; so much so that the U.S. dollar just recently fell against the Swiss franc more than it had in the prior forty years. The dollar’s continuing deterioration, an increase in capital without a corresponding increase in production, is causing negative ripple effects throughout the entire global monetary regime.
The underestimation of the wealth-generating effect of new technology plagues classical political economy. And indeed, from a traditional analytical standpoint, the United States’ economic demise may have happened decades ago if it were not for the sudden, spontaneous rise of information technology.
The 1990s were driven by advances in computers and telecommunications. Despite the dot.com bubble bursting at the end of the decade, the American economy, and the world economy by extension, continues to reap benefits from scientific breakthroughs. A visible marker of our economy’s transfer from an industrial to an information economy was reached with Apple’s temporary surpassing of Exxon Mobil as America’s most valuable publicly traded company.
The Internet, or to borrow the old phrase “cyberspace,” has opened up new frontiers that were neither foreseen by paleomarxists nor by their intellectual progeny. Conservatives must seize the opportunity provided by nascent technology to counter hostile statist and left-wing narratives in order to win the hearts and minds of the public at large if they seek to have a greater say in the nation’s future.
Adam Smith is said to have written to his friend after Britain’s lost Battle at Saratoga that, “Be assured my young friend, there is a great deal of ruin in a nation.” But when all the force of state is bent against its own destruction, doing all that is fundamentally opposed to the creation of wealth and its own national success, how long can the ruin be sustained?
The conflagrations that have erupted around the globe due to economic duress are bound to reach American shores, and conservatives and “tea party” activists are already being scapegoated for various social and economic ills. They must have simple, well-reasoned arguments ready at hand in order to avoid being cast as the villains.
If we do not return to our national formula for success while it is still recognizable for the majority of Americans, our economy will be altered into a poor doppelganger of all the failed socialist experiments riddled throughout modern history. We will go from the world’s engine of wealth generation to a sharer in global poverty. We will become an equal in a world of scoundrels, if not their supplicant.
The crusader for social justice perceives it as his specially appointed role in life to remedy the injustices of life, springing from an existential angst at the “unfairness of it all.” The leftist doesn’t seem to recognize that though we are all born into the world in different circumstances of wealth and health, we are also born helpless; the person we ultimately turn out to be depends on our own volition, and our own doing.
As such, the conservative wants all men to become as great as they can possibly become, namely, through individual drive and voluntary association. This attitude belies that most men are capable of becoming great, as measured against their own diverse capabilities.
But the leftist, through seemingly good intentions to “help” others using the state, commits a treble injury. First, he injures those productive members of society made less capable of their productivity through confiscation. Indeed, those goods and services they produce are made more expensive in the process, hurting all, including the poor. Second, the poor are prevented from striving to better themselves, and are made more comfortable in their poverty. Third, he exalts himself above the poor, assuming his virtue of helping “the little guy” makes himself superior, entrenching his place in society while keeping the poor comfortably below him. Leftism is thus a crypto-aristocratic ethic.
This argument seem to contradict the left’s presumed ideological economic basis, viz., socialism. But it is hardly an accident of history that control of the economy by “the workers” actually never materializes in practice. The elite planners who endorse and effect socialism never relinquish control to those who supposedly know less than them how to “run the economy.” That the economy is infinitely complex, as it is made up of an infinite number of personal valuations and interpersonal transactions, is beyond their narcissistic imaginations, since it deflates their arrogant self-evaluations.
Thus, a socialist can never tell you how in practice a socialist economy would be controlled by workers on a voluntaristic basis. This is because it would not be run by the workers at all. The void in explication is filled up by dreams, well-wishes, good feelings, and hope – all based on the transcendental and ethereal ethic of “equality.” This ethic of “equality,” of means, or alternatively, results, is extremely destructive when put into practice. While the leftist thinks he is combating “hierarchy” in society through wealth redistribution, he is actually penalizing creativity and productivity.
The leftist through his actions thus ignores human nature, which is fine with him, for he hates human nature as it is. In his view, humanity has been a failure since the dawn of history, and thus must be radically transformed to keep the world from destroying itself; through war, environmental destruction, disease, and so forth.
But necessarily the left’s big dreams of saving the world from itself involves entrusting it in the hands of some elite planners. And this is where one source of his self-deception lies. While the leftist thinks that he is making humanity “peace-loving” and harmonious by eroding the concept of right and wrong- thus removing objects of contention – he is actually making people docile and passive, and ripe for exploitation by a corrupt, power-seeking oligarchy.
This inability to contemplate and apprehend the danger of entrusting relative power in the hands of an elite, due largely to his preoccupation with supposed “good intentions,” is why the leftist outside of the inner power elites is considered by conservatives to be extremely naive and gullible. With no respect for history, and with no clear conceptual basis by which to evaluate ideas, the leftist’s mind is thus colonized by power-hungry manipulators and turned against humanity itself. For in the leftist’s mind, destruction must precede creation, immorality must lead to superior morality, and the problem with civilization is civilization itself. The leftist is thus a great leveller; that is to say, a great destroyer.
But yet the leftist’s imagination is filled with hopes and dreams of an infinitely brighter future, and that light shines over all shadows of reality in his way. But if all it took were hopes and dreams to improve the world, wouldn’t it be a utopia by now? If all it took were hopes and dreams to run an economy, wouldn’t the most impoverished peoples on the planet would be the most prosperous? For who hopes and dreams more than the poor, nourishing their minds on flights of fancy, instead of their bellies with food they have been afforded the opportunity to work for?
The conservative therefore is inherently different in thought process than the leftist, as the former focuses on promoting what works, and shunning what is destructive. The latter, in turn, perceives this attitude as excusing the unacceptable status quo.
The leftist errs in ascribing callousness to the conservative, for the former does not understand that the latter has actually personalized and internalized his cares, instead of outsourcing them to government. The conservative takes personal responsibility for helping others, as he believes the person or situation merits. This is because the conservative is cognizant of the risks of accumulating power in one political body; which, through its necessarily coercive acts, has only the power to destroy in an economy and in society.