Thursday, July 17, 2014

Millennials: Is There a Difference Between Business and Government

In the last posts we looked at my radical assertion that government is force and that governments therefore are always interested in war --  not necessarily a shooting war, but some conflict with an enemy that needs to be subdued.

But what about business?  What about banksters?  What about corporate greed?  Aren't CEOs and used car salesmen just as bad as government?

The short answer is: yes, of course.  The modern market economy is a behemoth, and we are all helplessly yoked to it.  It is easy to see that the 19th century critics of capitalism were on to something when they complained about its terrifying force.  If Marx had been right in his prophesy that capitalism would "immiserate" the working class and the middle class his remedy, to smash capitalism, would have been modest and prudent.

But an amazing thing happened in the 19th century, and Marx's critique came out at just about the last moment when the idea of Capitalism = Disaster was credible.  It turned out by the end of the 19th century that capitalism's profits were trickling down to the working class.  And by the end of the 19th century thinking German Marxists had to admit that the immiseration thesis, that the working class would be reduced to a bare existence on the edge of starvation, had been exploded.

Indeed, the working class was thriving, building its own authentic social institutions like the labor union and the friendly society.

In consequence the story of the last century has been about a great contradiction.  All the best people had committed to a doctrine based on the idea that the economic institutions of the industrial revolution were leading straight to disaster; but the facts on the ground showed that the opposite was happening.  As transsexual economist Deirdre McCloskey writes in her Bourgeois Era books, the last two hundred years has seen, in the developed countries, a rise in income from $1 to $3 per capita per day to something over $100 per capita per day, using constant dollars. And any country -- think China -- that switches to the capitalist model repeats the story  There has been nothing like this in human history, ever.  We are talking about per capita income that has increased by 20 times in 200 years!

So the fact of our existence is that we are yoked to a merciless monster, the global market economy, from whom there is no escape.  But that monster keeps making us richer and richer.

And who has been affected more than the rich?  At the turn of the 20th century the poor were thin and the rich were fat, as they had since time immemorial.  Now, a century later, the poor are fat and the rich are thin.  Think about the deprivation this means for what Tom Wolfe called "social X-rays."  These days rich women have to starve themselves to show that they are different from the fat and disgusting poor. (Don't tell this to your liberal friend: they hate being told that the poor are as fat as butterballs.)

Let us stipulate (that's a fancy legal term meaning that we'll agree not to disagree) that government is force and capitalism is not much better.  My guy Jurgen Habermas calls it "system."  Government is a system and so is the market economy.  The thing about system is that it is set up for domination.  People in government and people in business act "strategically."  He means that governments and businesses act to manipulate the world, to "use" it, rather than to interact in a social manner.

We said earlier that governments are always interested in war, because since government is force it stands to reason that the people in government are always looking for a job that needs force or compulsion, whether it's ridding the world of Commies or ridding the nation of sugary soft drinks.

But what about business?  Businessmen talk all the time about capturing market share and burying the competition. But businesses are different when it comes to their customers.  They want customers to like them.  They want them to trust them.  That is why, when a corporation is discovered lying or making defective products the whole world descends upon them.  General Motors is the butt of every joke because of defective ignition switches that they tried to cover up.  But government?  Well you tell me how the VA and the IRS have reacted to recent scandals.  Lots of people are talking about "fake scandals" in the Obama administration.  But nobody is making excuses for General Motors.

So what is the difference between the monster of government and the monster of capitalism?

In the next piece I'll try to persuade you that it's government that calls the shots, not the banksters and the CEOs.

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