Thursday, April 21, 2016

Nationalism, Socialism, Regulation, and One Candidate for Each

I just got my Bourgeois Era, Vol 3, Deirdre Nansen McCloskey's Bourgeois Equality: How Ideas, not Capital or Institutions, Enriched the World. And what do I read on the second page of the "Exordium?"
For reasons I do not entirely understand, the clerisy after 1848 turned towards nationalism and socialism... and proliferating regulation for imagined but not factually documented imperfections in the market[.]
What do you think I thought about that?

I thought that today in America we have one presidential candidate for nationalism, Donald Trump. We have one presidential candidate for socialism, Bernie Sanders. And we have one presidential candidate for regulation, Hillary Clinton.

So we have one candidate for each of the reactionary movements that arose in the 19th century to battle against "capitalism."

And who is the one candidate that stands for the bourgeoisie and freedom and God, against all that horrible reaction? Why, the much maligned Ted Cruz, that everyone hates. (Actually, it turns out that Ted made a lifelong friend in college. A black guy from Jamaica, David Panton)

But let's get back to nationalism, socialism, and regulation.

The reason that people hate capitalism so much is that it gives them no place to hide. If your skill starts to decline in value, partly because people in another country can do what you do for less, capitalism tells you to get back out there, train for something else. If you find yourself in adulthood with a wasted government education and you can't even get a job dismembering chickens alongside illegal Mexicans, then capitalism says find a job, any job, at any wage, and learn by doing. If prices shoot up because of a war or a government stupidity and you want the government to control those evil CEOs, capitalism says, get a clue: No government can outsmart the market.

So when Donald Trump says that he will make America great by whacking on foreigners, it seems to offer a way out of competing mano a mano with the rest of the world.

So when Bernie Sanders proposes to hammer the banks and give hard-pressed millennials free college and health care, it seems to offer a way to fight back against the demoralizing reality that the market demands you shape up to it.

So when Hillary Clinton... well, I'm not sure what Hillary Clinton stands for, except that she is a ruling class elitist that proposes that people like her make all the decisions for us. Only we know that the elite educated bureaucrat in Washington DC cannot know what millions of producers and consumers know from the signals of the price system. Settled science.

But why are all these people rebelling against the will of the market? It is because, I think, the natural and instinctive thing to do when the world turns against you is to lash out. See, the point is that if you are a hunter-gatherer and you are all out of food because of weather and animal migration, the sensible thing to do is to raid the neighboring village and steal their food. If you are a farmer and your harvest got destroyed in a hailstorm, then the practical thing to do is go to your lord of the manor, place your hands in his, and enter into slavery and three meals a day. If you are a corporation and your market just dried up because the boss's son screwed the business up, then the sensible thing to do is to go bribe a politician in return for a spot of beneficial regulation from the Clinton Crime Syndicate.

So, of course when capitalism fairly got started in the 19th century reactionary movements of opposition sprouted out of the ground. Capitalism, exchange economy, free market, whatever its name it is a wrenching change from the old ways. And even without the periodic messes from government stupidity, there are always people experiencing decline because capitalism has invented something new that has made their skill obsolete or at least less valuable.

And so we have presidential candidates bidding for the support of the disappointed ones. Some people seek shelter in the nation. Some seek shelter in the collective under some great lord. Some seek shelter in government manipulation of the market. And hey presto, there is a candidate for each reaction, for each lunge for the sweet use of force.

Because when peaceful cooperation fails to deliver the goods, humans instinctively resort to force.

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