Saturday, January 20, 2007

Everything you always needed to know about political economy, but were too misled to ask

“The slave and peasant knew exactly who was screwing them. The modern worker, on the other hand, feels a painful pounding sensation, but has only a vague idea where it is coming from.”

From “The Iron Fist Behind the Invisible Hand: Corporate Capitalism As a State-Guaranteed System of Privilege”

I’ve finally been able to read Kevin Carson’s excellent exposition on the truth behind the political-economic muddyings of past and present. You certainly won’t get it from the “free”-market Right (who wouldn’t know what to do without government favors), and you certainly won’t get it from the big government Left (who aren’t much better about interests and power). It’s becoming less and less clear whether that is because they don’t want you to get it, or because, with the long decades of interest in obfuscating it, they no longer get it themselves. As I.F. Stone said, "All governments lie, but disaster lies in wait for countries whose officials smoke the same hashish they give out."

One caveat on my endorsement of this wonderfully insightful elucidation: The last paragraph makes a statement--about Noam Chomsky’s sometimes-expressed view that the state can be used in the short-term to correct imbalances in the system, until it can be dismantled--that may be true or may be insufficient. Benjamin Tucker speculated towards the end of his life that, while state-supported capitalism is the cause of the present condition (and he said it in the nineteenth century--it has become all the more ingrained since then), eliminating the state in and of itself may no longer enough to correct the now-entrenched imbalances that it has produced. (But that question leads into a different debate in anarchist revolutionary theory; the excellent case Kevin Carson makes in the body of his work is all the same... besides which he may be right--I haven't yet decided myself).

A few other thoughts of my own:

I recall listening to a discussion on the Thom Hartmann Show in which he had a discussion with Yaron Brook (President of the *shudder* Ayn Rand Institute) about the domination of the drug market by big pharmaceutical companies who aggressively seek and enforce patents and prevent the manufacturing of drastically cheaper generic drugs by smaller companies (some free market there). Thom's guest replied that those companies (or their executives) are "heroes" for providing drugs for people, that instead of criticizing them, they should be lauded for their actions.

The suggestion that "great capitalists" or large corporations are heroes for providing useful goods and services to the populace no matter the circumstance of their doing it is ridiculous. By that same line of reasoning, southern plantation owners were heroes for providing cotton to the nation, while they did it through slave labor. Which is essentially what wage labor is--slave labor. It is wage slavery because a few rich parties control the means of production, the capital, which is not a natural condition but the result of historically specific acts by aristocracy to transfer their wealth and power from manorialism to capitalism by taking advantage of tenant farmers and the peasantry. That aristocracy has continued from then until now, in the form of that small percentage of the population that holds a disproportionately large percent of both the personal wealth and functional capital. True, there is a small degree of mobility from the lower classes to the top, but all that does is make room for a few new aristocrats. By very definition in an aristocracy or oligarchy, there is little room at the top. And like the lords of old, they still profit from the labor of the vast majority while insisting it is all they who are responsible for prosperity in society. If the truth behind this myth, the perpetuation of which has framed the debate for over a century and a half, was sufficiently realized, their power would fall to the dust.


Post a Comment

<< Home