by John Hawkins | December 8, 2008 6:07 am
Over at the HuffPo, a hippie-dippy writer named Stephen Mo Hanan punched up a post called “Why Save Capitalism?”
In case you’re wondering, yes, this is the typical short-sighted, tie-died, socialistic, Commie-symp wail-fest against capitalism,
Now I’m not stupid enough to forget that capitalism is also a system that has allowed a substantial though relatively small group of human beings to amass titanic wealth and, so to speak, to capitalize on that wealth by exercising transformative power over the whole planet and everyone on it. If they were all wise and benevolent, that might be a satisfactory arrangement; they aren’t, and it isn’t. So any discussion of how human history (let alone human well-being) might continue after the demise of capitalism must get a good fix on the roots of greed and why it has persisted despite the abundant evidence of its perversity.
The left has such a myopic view of capitalism. They look at people like Bill Gates, Warren Buffet, Michael Bloomberg, etc., etc., and bemoan the fact that capitalism has allowed those people to have so much more money than everyone else.
Meanwhile, they fail to notice the fact that most Americans on the bottom end of the scale live better than the richest Americans did 50 years ago. To be lower middle class in America or in many cases, even poor, is to have a microwave, a 32 inch TV, air conditioning, a computer, a MP3 player, a cell phone, a roof over your head, clothes, and a full belly. Moreover, all that is aside from the political, cultural, and religious freedoms we have in this country that have come about in part because of capitalism. That’s one of the secrets of capitalism; it ultimately delivers more than just money. If you don’t believe that, ask yourself: would you rather make $25,000 a year and live in the United States or make $500,000 a year and live in Saudi Arabia, Sudan, Somalia, Afghanistan, or North Korea?
That being said, let’s get back to Hanan’s blog post. After tearing down capitalism, he surprisingly acknowledges that socialism can’t succeed at the moment either because a “system grounded in the cooperative sharing of resources can no more succeed within a competitive context than a CD can play on an LP turntable.”
So, what does Hanan suggest then?
The proper context is one where sharing rules, as any successful parent discovers. To create that context globally will require more than giving the advertising industry a sabbatical (though that would help). We must focus on our natural instinct for empathy. Children who are coerced into sharing via the weapon of guilt turn into hostile and resentful adults who hate welfare.
…I can hear the howls of “Utopian” already. Mostly they come from the broken-hearted, who continue to believe, despite millenia of evidence, that force and violence can have any ultimate effect beside generating more force and violence, in endless retaliation. Anyone who doesn’t acknowledge the connection between the present socio-economic meltdown and the waste of spiraling billions of money on aggressive weaponry that could fund beneficial public projects (health care?) instead, is in no position to give either economic or moral advice. The cancerous spell of profit-driven militarism packaged as “defense” must be broken if this planet is to witness a human future.
To those who doubt that humans en masse are capable of such spontaneous and sustained harmlessness, I reply that the shift has already begun. The great tide may have ebbed that bathed the 60s/70s in the glow that boomers still recall, but the energy behind it is perennial and flows readily without an assist from Birkenstocks or granola. Today, as then, self-appointed “realists” who perpetuate the illusion of separateness may dismiss the political call to unconditional love as naive. Perhaps, but then so is the Sermon on the Mount. And it’s true that by the time the meek inherit the earth it may not be that nice a place. We had better start doing our best without delay. By extending love we will find it.
Hanan’s scribblings remind me of a scene from South Park where these hippies try to explain to Stan & Kyle what their ideal world would look like,
Hippie: Yeah man, the corporations. Right now they’re raping the world for money!
Kyle: Yeah, so, where are they. Let’s go get ’em.
Hippie: Right now we’re proving we don’t need corporations. We don’t need money. This can become a commune where everyone just helps each other.
Hippie: Yeah, we’ll have one guy who like, who like, makes bread. A-and one guy who like, l-looks out for other people’s safety.
Stan: You mean like a baker and a cop?
Hippie: No no, can’t you imagine a place where people live together and like, provide services for each other in exchange for their services?
Kyle: Yeah, it’s called a town.
It’s not going to be all about greed, man! It’s all about “unconditional love” and sharing globally! We don’t need a military, man, we just need our “natural instinct for empathy!” Once they see we’re all about sharing and have no way to defend ourselves, they’ll be friendly to us man! All we need is for somebody to try it!
Yeah man…but, you see there is nothing new under the sun. There have been societies throughout history that came to believe that they didn’t need much of a “defense” from their fellow human beings. Of course, they’re dead now, so it’s hard for them to give a ringing defense of their beliefs.
There also have been people who believe that we can reprogram human beings to be just as willing to work for other people as they are to work for themselves and their families. Many of them are famous. Perhaps you’ve heard of Marx, Trotsky, Lenin, & Stalin?
Their philosophy was the superficially noble sounding ““From each according to his ability, to each according to his needs.” I say “superficially noble sounding,” because there is nothing truly virtuous about hard working, gifted, and skilled people toiling endlessly without reward to provide for the lazy, the dull, and the incompetent. So, even if it were possible to reprogram human beings that way, it would be more like a lifetime prison sentence for the best and brightest rather than something worth aspiring to for the human race.
Long story short: Setting aside the fact that government, not capitalism is at the root of our current economic problems, capitalism is the best economic system ever devised by man, communism is still communism even if you call it “unconditional love,” and no matter who tries it, ultimately, it doesn’t work and leads to oppression, violence, and misery.
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