Friday, January 02, 2009

At the Dawn of a New Year

By Alan Woods
Friday, 02 January 2009

With the exception of New Year, the most important festivals in the western world are associated with events in the Christian calendar. However, it is well known that these festivals have their real roots in the old pagan religions and were generally linked with the different solstices and their relation to agriculture.

Christmas was the old pagan winter festival derived from the Roman Saturnalia with other pagan admixtures of Germanic and Scandinavian origin. There is no mention of the date of Christ's birth in the Bible. The early Christians celebrated the birth of Christ on the sixth or seventh of January (a tradition still maintained in the Orthodox Church). With their customary opportunism, the leaders of the Church changed the date to the 25th December to take advantage of the old pagan tradition.

Easter was the festival of the Spring Equinox, with its associations with ancient fertility rites (the English word Easter is derived from the pagan goddess Eostre or Ostara). Haloween has roots in the Celtic festival of Samhain, when people communed with the spirits of the dead and thereby averted their anger. There are countless other examples that bear witness to the stubbornness with which humanity clings to the past.

The persistence whereby men and women preserve ideas and beliefs rooted in a remote and primitive past is proof of the profoundly conservative nature of human thought in general. Tradition, habit and routine weigh heavily on human consciousness. As a rule people do not like change, particularly sudden change that upsets their preconceived notions and beliefs.

But at decisive moments a series of small, imperceptible changes reach a critical point where quantity becomes transformed into quality. Then all the old ideas and prejudices are thrown into confusion. Men and women are forced in spite of themselves to question their old ideas, and also the kind of society they live in, its morality and justice.

Such a critical point was reached in 2008, when, after a long period of economic growth, the world economy entered into a sharp decline, which has not yet run its course. This fact has profoundly impacted on the consciousness of all classes in society, from the ruling class, the bankers, politicians and bureaucrats, through the middle class, small businesspeople and intellectuals, to the majority of humankind: the workers, peasants and poor people.

After a long period of relative prosperity, in which the values of "free market economics" were accepted without question and the impressive firework display of globalization dazzled the vision and befuddled the brains of the so-called intelligentsia (including the "Left"), it is no wonder that the first reaction to the economic crisis is one of shock and disbelief. Consciousness, with its innate conservatism, is still lagging far behind events, which are moving at breathtaking speed throughout the planet.

This state of affairs can only be surprising for minds that have been atrophied by formalistic thinking. For anyone with the slightest knowledge of dialectics, it is no surprise at all. Formalism rejects contradictions and cannot cope with them, whereas dialectics embraces contradictions and explains their logic and necessity.

It will take some time for the consciousness of the masses to catch up with events. This consciousness still lives in the past and is hoping against hope that the present crisis will be only a temporary interruption of "normality" which, if we are patient, will surely return. The alleged "backwardness" of the masses is only apparent and is destined to change into its opposite.

The real backwardness is in the psychology of the leaders of the mass organizations: the leaders of the trade unions, the socialist and communist parties, who have long ago abandoned all idea of socialism and adapted themselves to capitalism. Their only aspiration is that capitalism will, for some reason unknown to science, shed its ugly and oppressive features and acquire a humane and progressive character.

But the economic crisis has placed on the order of the day not a peaceful and democratic capitalism, but mass unemployment, savage cuts in wages and conditions, the abolition of social reforms and a general worsening of living standards. This is a recipe for class war on a massive scale. That is the reality of capitalism in 2009 and not the sugary illusions of the reformists who understand nothing and are only capable of seeing the backside of history.

It frequently happens that the intelligent representatives of Capital come to the same conclusions as the Marxists. At the time when the reality of the financial collapse finally made itself clear to all, the Financial Times on 5/11/2008 published a very interesting article by Chrystia Freeland, which deserves to be studied carefully for what it reveals about the current state of mind of the ruling class in the United States.

Ms. Freeland begins with a small anecdote that in the Halloween celebrations last October, in addition to the time-honoured witches and demons, current events inspired many of the revellers at the street party in New York's Greenwich Village to put on a more unusual costume - Sarah Palin disguises. This fact, trivial in itself, reveals the degree of contempt with which people in the USA viewed the discredited Bush administration - a contempt which they subsequently expressed at the polls.

However, far more interesting was the comments this journalist quoted from leading figures in the US Establishment. And when we read these comments, let us bear in mind that they are not meant to be read by ordinary men and women. The Financial Times is not an ordinary newspaper but something like an internal bulletin for the bourgeoisie. This makes what we read here even more important:

"That day a senior Wall Street executive ruefully predicted to me that next year it will be New York bankers who are the nation's villains of choice." And the article continues: "In private, some of America's most influential business and political leaders are uttering the same warning: with the election resolved, the big political story in the US will be the wave of public anger directed at capital and capitalists, particularly of the financial variety." (My emphasis, AW).

These are quite extraordinary things to read in a paper like the FT. What do they mean? They mean that the ruling class in the USA is well aware that the political and social effects of the economic crisis have not yet manifested themselves. The growing anger of the people has temporarily been diverted by the electoral circus (this is its main purpose in any case). The blame for the crisis is placed on the shoulders of the Bush administration in the first place. And while the masses were distracted by the Obama campaign (which undoubtedly sowed great illusions) the bankers and capitalists were temporarily forgotten. But this will not last.

The banker quoted in the above lines is not any banker, but a senior Wall Street executive (who does not want to be named for obvious reasons). What is he predicting? He predicts that as soon as the intoxicating fumes of the Presidential elections clear away, there will be an explosion of popular anger directed against capital and capitalists, particularly of the financial variety. It would be impossible for us to put it any clearer than this! The article continues:

"In recent weeks, a former Clinton cabinet member warned a private equity firm he advises that this new hostility will be the single biggest threat facing the company. An east coast senator told a lunchtime group of Wall Street supporters that public anger toward them will top the political agenda, and expressed sympathy for the peoples' rage. A memo about the financial risks the new president will face prepared for Barack Obama's transition team listed as point one the possibility that ‘sympathetic victims drive policy response' ". (My emphasis, AW)

Here again, the real situation in the USA is admirably expressed. This unnamed former cabinet member warns the US capitalists that they will face the anger of the population, that this question will "top the political agenda" in 2009 and that he himself has some "sympathy for the peoples' rage".

Some of this anger already found expression during the election campaign, when both Democrat and Republican politicians sought popularity by denouncing "Wall Street greed". The article continues:

"But this riveting election campaign, and the financial wildfire that erupted in the middle of it, may actually have served to muffle public anger. The financial crisis is the reason Wall Street is out of favour, to be sure, but from September 15, when Lehman Brothers went bankrupt, to October 13, when Treasury secretary Hank Paulson coercibly bought an equity stake in all of America's big banks, the urgency and the severity of the economic threat were so great as to preclude much of a hunt for culprits. The political battle, meanwhile, featured many rhetorical shots aimed at Wall Street, but the real fight was between the two political parties, and their two champions, who have been the main focus of public passion in recent weeks.

"Today, that has changed. The credit crisis, ever so slowly, seems to be easing, and with it the fears of a second Great Depression. America has chosen a new president. The country now has the leisure to reflect on its economic plight - and demand that the man it elected yesterday act on its conclusions."

This is the central problem. Having struggled to divert the attention of the public from the crisis of capitalism by building up the image of Obama as the miracle man, the American ruling class is preparing the ground for a colossal backlash when the miracles do not appear. We continue to read:

"Americans already are unhappy -Wharton economists Betsey Stevenson and Justin Wolfers have found that overall happiness plunged in September, the month the Dow did, and has now declined as deeply as it did during the 1981 recession. Things are likely to get worse, with further economic contraction and concomitant job losses and bankruptcies. Moreover, the hundreds of billions the state has committed to shore up the financial sector have not translated into cheaper personal credit, or fewer foreclosures, for ordinary Americans.

"Financiers are bracing themselves for a wave of public rage - hence, for instance, the recent meeting at which they agreed collectively to promise not to use the Treasury's $135bn capital infusion to pay bankers' bonuses. They know, however, that gestures like this one won't be enough."

Barak Obama reminds one of the fake medicine men in the Old West who travelled around the small towns selling bottles of "snake oil" guaranteed to cure every known ailment for a modest fee. The promise was highly attractive and many people queued up to purchase this wondrous medicine. The problems arose when, after consuming it, no signs of improvement were observed, by which time the medicine man, now considerably richer, had driven his wagon to the next town. However, Barak Obama cannot just get into his wagon and move on. He must stay and face the consequences of the expectations he has aroused.

The revelations of fraud and downright corporate robbery that are already emerging will pour petrol on the flames. Smart politicians like congressman Henry Waxman will make their careers from mercilessly exposing leading hedge fund managers in Washington. In an attempt to pacify public opinion there will be Enron-style trials, and some bankers are certain to go to jail. But all this will not be enough to prevent the gathering storm. The article ends with a significant historical parallel:

"Americans will be pressing their new leader to help them determine who is to blame. That is, after all, a favourite question of angry people during turbulent times: it was one of the slogans of the Russian revolutionaries. If he is to be successful, the president-elect must find a way to move the national debate beyond this vengeful query to the other great Russian revolutionary cri de guerre: What is to be done?"

The problem for the ruling classes of the USA and the rest of the world at the dawn of the New Year is that they have not the slightest idea of what to do. The vast quantities of money that have been handed over to the bankers in various ways have had very little observable results. The snake oil is not working. The banks pocket the loot and refuse to lend to the consumer, the industrialist or even to each other. Demand and credit continue to shrink, leading to more bankruptcies, closures and unemployment.

At first sight 2009 has opened under the black flag of reaction. Israeli imperialism has concentrated all its military might on the bloody task of battering a defenceless Gaza into submission. As usual the "United Nations" display utter impotence, while the leaders of the "Free world" reveal their nauseating hypocrisy by placing victims and aggressors on an equal plane, shaking their heads and weeping crocodile tears about the evils of "violence".

The bloody events in Gaza are a further expression of the impasse of capitalism on a global scale. It manifests itself in universal turbulence at every level: economic, social, political and military. These are the convulsions of a socio-economic system that has no future yet refuses to die. The results of this contradiction will be untold misery, poverty, unemployment, wars, death and suffering for millions. This is the only future that capitalism has to offer the peoples of the world at the dawn of 2009.

But appearances are deceptive. Beneath the surface, powerful forces are maturing. As the crisis unfolds, millions of people will begin to draw the necessary conclusion, which is this: the capitalist system must die in order that humanity can live. The capitalist class is well aware of the dangers facing them. The strategists of Capital look to the future with fear and trembling. The pages of their press are filled with the blackest pessimism and foreboding.

The year 2009 is a year of many anniversaries. It is the anniversary of the Cuban Revolution, when the people of that courageous island stood up against the might of US imperialism and defeated, ending the rule of landlordism and capitalism. Today the Venezuelan Revolution is reaching the decisive moment when it must also break the economic power of the oligarchy by expropriating the landlords and capitalists, or else face defeat in the future.

As they will soon be reminding us, this is also twenty years since the fall of the Berlin Wall. That was a time when the capitalists and their spokespersons felt triumphant. They announced the end of Communism, the end of Socialism, even the end of History. But now it is clear to all that their predictions were false. What collapsed 20 years ago was not socialism or communism but only a bureaucratic and totalitarian caricature of socialism.

The collapse of Stalinism was a great historical drama, but in retrospect it will be seen by history as only the prelude to an even greater drama: the collapse of capitalism, which is already being prepared. Of course, capitalism will never collapse under its own weight, through its own contradictions. History requires the conscious intervention of men and women, fighting for their own emancipation. It requires the revolutionary movement of the working class, organized and led by its most conscious representatives.

January 1919 is a tragic anniversary in our revolutionary calendar. It is the anniversary of the Spartakist uprising in Berlin, which ended in defeat and the murder of two of the most outstanding revolutionary leaders of the international proletariat: Karl Liebknecht and Rosa Luxemburg. That was a terrible blow against the German working class. Then too, the bourgeois and their agents in the leadership of the Social Democracy, Noske, Ebert and Scheidermann, felt that they had triumphed. But the German proletariat recovered from the defeat - as the workers of all countries always recover from every defeat - and went on to defeat the Kapp putsch in 1920 and two years later formed a mass Communist Party.

1919 was not only the anniversary of a terrible defeat but also of a great step forward. In March of that year in Moscow the Communist International held its first Congress, uniting the genuine proletarian revolutionaries of the whole world. In the programmatic documents of the first four years of the CI we find the summing up of all the rich experience and theoretical heritage of our movement, beginning with the Communist Manifesto of Marx and Engels.

Today, ninety years later, we stand on the basis of these marvellous ideas, which have been vindicated by history and which today are more relevant than ever. While the bourgeoisie and its ideological defenders and reformist hangers-on are plunged in despair and pessimism, we Marxists look to the future with confidence and optimism. The American banker who spoke to the Financial Times last Halloween was already terrified of a phantom - the same phantom that haunted Europe in 1848 - the phantom of Communism.

The forces of genuine Marxism were thrown back for decades by the material conditions of capitalism and the crimes of Stalinism, forced to swim against a powerful current. Now the tide of history is beginning to flow in another direction and we are beginning to swim, not against the current of history, but together with it.

The International Marxist Tendency, which is proud to stand on the basis of the ideas of Marx, Engels, Lenin, Trotsky, Luxemburg and Liebknecht, has consistently defended these ideas when it was difficult to do so. Other tendencies that laid claim to the name of Marxism have sunk without trace or else abandoned the defence of these ideas. The next period will create the most favourable conditions for the growth of the IMT.

When the agents of the ruling class murdered Luxemburg and Liebknecht, they thought they had settled the matter. When the agents of Stalin murdered Leon Trotsky, they thought the same. But you cannot murder an idea whose time has come. On this historic anniversary, as we pay homage to the memory of the martyrs of our movement, we call out with a confident voice: "WE ARE HERE AND READY TO CONTINUE THE FIGHT!"



nanc said...

could you possibly have been more verbose?

Larry Gambone said...

Good statement, Ren. the only thing I would add is that the world is facing not just the economic crisis of capitalism, but two other related crises as well - peak oil and global warming. We really are at balanced on a knife's edge. I can see no escape from this massive crisis, humanity has to advance and eliminate the instrumentalist (capitalist and Stalinist) approach to humanity and the environment or we face an unprecedented disaster.

SecondComingOfBast said...

I've been saying for some time now this globalism trend is going to crash and burn, and nobody is happier than me that it is in the process of doing so, but I don't see where its going to lead to international socialism, which might be just as bad if not worse.

Nothing's written in stone. If anything, I see a return to nationalism and protectionism, which would have its own set of negatives and positives. But its just too early to tell where its going. Or for that matter whether things will straighten out over time, which is also not beyond the realm of possibility.

We could also see a Third World War before too long. It's just impossible to tell with any certainty.

A lot of people put all their eggs in the "new world order" basket, and you see what they got. Not an omelette, just a slimy damn mess.

SecondComingOfBast said...

Yeah, Gambone, it's been so damn warm here in Kentucky the last few weeks I've had to stop wearing the hood on my parka.

Larry Gambone said...

Pagan, if you are a climate change denier, I really don't want to get into that. Where I live we have also had the worse winter in 41 years. Atmospheric warming means extreme weather, it doesn't mean Kentucky will become sub tropical- at least not for a good while.

SecondComingOfBast said...

No, I'm not a climate change denier. I do have serious reservations about the idea that mankind is the major culprit, but that's neither here nor there. I support developing alternative energy sources, including by the way nuclear, which makes me a higher advanced order of mammal than most climate change alarmists.

Mainly, though, I support alternative energy development on the grounds that it would make the US energy independent. The Global Warming hobgoblin is irrelevant to me.

However, just on the off-chance that mankind is a major factor behind that climate change, I would suggest the major ways mankind is the culprit are-

*deforestation-because it takes away needed sources of oxygen replenishment to balance out the CO2 output of a continually growing population.

*mountain top removal-because it takes away the needed barrier to warmer air currents from the gulf and other regions.

*air traffic-because CO2 emissions from airliners are too high up in the atmosphere to allow for significant filtering through rain.

Reverse these trends and implement some other common sense strategies and you reverse climate change, maybe even regardless of whether it is man-made or not. Plus, I would also point out that significant reduction in unnecessary air travel (and really, how much of that shit is really necessary) would free up significant amounts of petroleum for use in other more necessary things (like say home heating fuel).

Finally, we really need to do something to get those Martians on board the Kyoto Treaty. Word on the street is those green-skinned morons are destroying their polar regions with their climate changing activities.

Frank Partisan said...

Nanc: This article is more agitational than Woods usually writes. The first half has the major point, how people change.

Pagan: I don't believe the kind of changes needed to keep emissions down, can be accomplished under capitalism. Even more than it being a system for profit, it is also a system based on competition.

I'm in the middle on climate change, rejecting denial and ecologists who believe people own too much (denial lifestyles). I'm red not green.

This is an incredible debate on the topic. A Brian Baker wrote on a scathing critique of climate change. It was replied to as well.

Spiked Online is very anti-climate change. Its politics are close to Beatroots.

Nuclear power doesn't work. Nobody will insure a plant. Too many problems.

Actually it was in the 60s last week on the East coast.

Globalism isn't crashing. Reaganism is what died. You are right that each country is trying a national solution to the crisis,

Larry: Speculation is the main reason for high oil prices.

Anonymous said...

The free market is the means by which "Wall Street greed" gets transformed into a productive economy.

The 'credit' part of the free market system that failed was the one part that was controlled by governments and government regulations.

And it failed because the systems governors attempted to distort the market to favor the inexperienced and uncreditworthy with regulations and financial instruments which both increased and obscured the default risks associated with newly invented financial instruments through the offer of implicit government guarantees. In doing so, they created a grave moral hazard, which the "greed" inherent in the free market quickly fell victim to.

But the blame for this financial collapse rests squarely at the feet of government financial regulators in the US House of Representatives and US Senate. And until these two bodies are purged, and the regulations mended, America and the world's economy will continue to founder.

The communists and socialists would have us believe that nationalizing our economy is the only solution to our economic problems.

It's certainly a quick and easy measure that avoids the pain of untangling the Gordian Knot of misteps committed in HUD, Treasury and the House and Senate Banking Committees over the past decade and a half.

But contained within this easy solution lies the inevitable death of the American economy. Because without the greedy capitalism of private individuals serving as the economies engine, partisan politics and corrupt politicians will be the only instrument available to serve as its' replacement.

So, unless you enjoy the prospect of watching the American economy devolve into the mafia-style political economics of Russia, we must throw the bums out in 2010.

For the idiots who regulated us into this mess are incompetent to regulate us out of it. Barney Frank and Chris Dodd MUST GO!

SecondComingOfBast said...


When countries start developing national solutions to the problem, that's the beginning of the end of the global economy as envisioned by the free-traders. It won't die with a whimper, but with a bang. There are too many factions that have a stake in the system, such as it is.

All of the ideological claptrap behind the so-called free-trade global market economy is just window dressing, a facade to disguise the real motives behind the movement, which is of course power and profit in the hands of a relative handful of international elitists, the multi-nationals and their political pawns, and the bureaucracies they would empower.

The rest of us are just supposed to shut up and drink the Kill-Aid.

Viks said...


'Fight' is a negative word, hence the statement is negative, hence the consequences will be negative.

All in all, what you may aim for, which could be of great good to this world, may not be achieved, just because of a mere negative word, 'fight'.

'An idea maybe right, but if the approach is wrong, then the result would also be wrong'

troutsky said...

Do you approve of the word struggle , viks? Positive enough?

I also see "consciousness lagging behind events", Ren, but it is the unconscious mind which also causes problems .We leftists seem to assume rationality will prevail eventually, but Americans have already forgotten missing WMDs and praise the Surge.They still think Saddam plotted with Osama and that Obama is related to both. Much more education is necessary, events alone won't translate into positive change.

Larry Gambone said...

When it comes to Farmers take on the crisis, you have to turn to psychology. His is a classic case of denial
Ren, speculation in oil certainly drove the price up, but the era of cheap oil is over. If capitalism somehow manages to come out of the present crisis, it will be hit by a return of high oil prices which will then shove it back into crisis again. There is no escape for this system.
Other than the naive, I don't know of anyone who thinks “we” have to do with less. If you have a situation where resources are used in a grossly inefficient manner – as they are in North America – acting more efficiently you use less of them but have as high – or higher – a living standard. This is the position of mainstream environmentalists in Canada. Quality of life also has to be taken into account. You can surround yourself with a lot of Walmart junk or have fewer things but of a high quality. The person who opts for the former is poorer than the latter. Thus it is possible to seemingly have less, while actually having more.

Anonymous said...

Well gambini, I stand unrefuted. Ad hominem's make lousy arguments.

Larry Gambone said...

An analysis is not ad hominem, Farm Boy. Denial is part of the psychological make up of reactionaries and other forms of extremist. You can't face the truth about the ideology you uphold - so you deny it. In this last example with this silly fantasy about the causes of the economic crisis.

Frank Partisan said...

The main point about this post is the first few paragraphs, about how change comes.

FJ: Much of what you are saying is true, about the capitalist's greed creating wealth, if you are talking about the 1950s. Now we're in a period when capitalist greed emphasized wealth for the sake of wealth, speculation, selling debt etc.

It was both liberals and conservatives who went on the ride. Blame Clinton, Gramm, Reagan etc.

The Russian economy is different than the US's. It is at a primitive accumulation stage.

The economic crisis of 2008, is to Reaganism what the fall of the Berlin Wall was to Stalinism.

Pagan: I think I agree.

Viks: Thank you for visiting my blog. Its been awhile.

I don't agree with you. I could live with the word struggle.

Troutsky: I agree. We need more people positioned in the right places.

Larry: You are correct overall. You know the greens I was describing.

At a meeting I attended planning an event, there was a guy who paniced because there was going to be styrofoam cups,

SecondComingOfBast said...

"At a meeting I attended planning an event, there was a guy who paniced because there was going to be styrofoam cups,"

I love to mentally and emotionally torture people like that. I just can't help myself.

By the way, viks is right about the power of words. I don't necessarily agree about "fight", but to me the word "revolution" conjures up images of chaos, rioting, and rivers of blood flowing on the streets.

I also dislike the words "bourgeois" and "proletariat". That last one sounds like some kind of demonic creature loosed from the depths of hell, like a gang of rock trolls or gremlins or something. The first one when used by someone to describe others sounds, ironically, elitist and snobbish.

Frank Partisan said...

Pagan: My rhetoric is mostly for writing.

Atleast he volunteered to wash the glass cups.

Anonymous said...

I'm yet to be convinced that Marxism is the answer to any of the ailments we live in. Capitalism works because it is fit for human nature. We humans are competitive animals, evolution endowed us with those traits for survival, they are here and will always be here. Any system that inhibits such strong human tendencies is bound to fail.

To me the socialist model of central and northern europe is the ideal mix between empowering human invention/innovation and human well being and societal justice that creates tranquil and safe societies. Full Marxism, a big no.

IMHO, the pursuit of profit is not bad in itself, it is bad when it is not bound by the societal rules that guarantee a fair distribution of wealth.

Larry Gambone said...

Mohamedhassan, humans as innately competitive is an 19th Century myth called social Darwinism. It is a rationalization for the existing system just like the myth of racial inferiority was a rationalization for imperialism. Humans survived as a species through cooperation. Where competition did occur is between groups of humans not within the groups. Internal group competition would have weakened the group and thus made it less likely to survive. Examine the anthropological evidence with hunting and gathering bands - a premium is placed on cooperation within those groups.

Larry Gambone said...

Marxism is a critique of capitalism, not an economic system. Socialism is actually a very simple idea – that those who do the work should be the ones to own and control the means of wealth production. Full socialism would not occur overnight, it would take generations to develop. Its first step would not be the imposition of some abstract model of an economy, but popular power through workers and neighborhood councils.

Anonymous said...

An "analysis" of your opponent's motives and/or psychic state is hardly a refutation to an argument, gambonehead. And additional ad hominems will forever fail to yield additional argument. So try again, gamboner.

Now we're in a period when capitalist greed emphasized wealth for the sake of wealth, speculation, selling debt etc.

Ren, do you REALLY expect anyone to believe that the nature of "greed" has evolved and become somehow more "odious" in the past sixty years?

Yes, members of both parties participated in an excursion from capitalism in a vain attempt by regulators to expand access to housing (wealth) and capital to minorities without capital. But as the housing market has demonstrated, that "excursion" from market realities (and its' attendant moral hazards) has proven to be the greatest financial mistake in modern history.

So the solution to our financial predicament is not to go off on an even greater digressive experiment in regulatory excesses in some vain attempt to overpower and directing the "invisible hand" towards rewarding the the inept and incapable, but rather to face the simple Maltheusian truth that poverty and vice are the only limits inherently greedy and selfish human beings will accede to in limiting both their conspicuous over-consumption and population growth.

Anonymous said...

If you wish to redistribute wealth, then tax it. Don't try and devise a system that can fairly distribute it. Plutus always was, and always will be, blind. There's no reforming him, or healing his eyesight at a sacred temple of Asclepius

Anonymous said...

So while any Marxist "critique" of capitalism will resoundingly condemn avarice, it completely ignores and excuses the prodigal and offers them no incentive to ever mend their ever profligate ways.

Larry Gambone said...

Farmer, I apologize for my previous statements. Re-reading your posting, I found that I read it too quickly the first time and came to the conclusion that you were blaming the entire crisis on loans to the poorer sections of the populace and letting the system off the hook a la Ann Coulter, which, of course, would be irrational position to take.

Your position is more complex than hers.

Nonetheless, social psychology is a handy tool for understanding why people hold irrational views, though perhaps you might disagree.

Frank Partisan said...

Mohamed: This is not my favorite post.

If you read this post, and instantly turned Marxist, I would be suspicious.

When I list specific proposals, that's what should be discussed. This post was mostly to talk about the times in history, when masses join the world stage.

FJ: Not more odious, just not a force for progress like it was.

I don't think a Marxist critique would attack avarice. It would acknowledge it as a natural part of capitalism. Marxism doesn't deal with ideas of capitalists as the behavior. People are different under feudalism or a slave society, than under capitalism.

Frank Partisan said...

Larry: I've noticed that the rightists we talk to, aren't with the establishment like Bush. Bush isn't above expediency.

He's rarely mentioned.

Anonymous said...

Not a force for progress? I suspect that absent government profligacy, it's as great a force today as it has ever been. Have you ever seen the illustrations for avarice in Dante's Inferno? Think Sisyphus.

But then again, why should the avaricious apply themselves when governments will supply all their wants in exchange for nothing?

But then again, I'm not from the political party that favours increasing our sixty trillion dollar unfunded national debt by offering free medical care and extended unemployment benefits.

Frank Partisan said...

FJ Adam Smith said: "The proposal of any new law or regulation of commerce which comes from this order [the capitalists], ought always to be listened to with great precaution, and ought never to be adopted till after having been long and carefully examined, not only with the most scrupulous, but most suspicious attention. It comes from an order of men, whose interest is never exactly the same with that of the public, who have generally an interest to deceive and even to oppress the public, and who accordingly have, upon many occasions, both deceived and oppressed it."

SecondComingOfBast said...

That's exactly why I've always been a believer in and proponent of some regulations, though they should be temperate and moderate, yet to that point enforced to the letter. Otherwise, you are actually giving power to what amounts to an unelected class of people who will then proceed to rule the roost.

One of the biggest mistakes the US government ever made was in codifying into law the dubious proposition that a corporation should be viewed with the same rights as an actual living human. This has led to a plethora of odious practices.

At the same time, I am by no means against accumulation of wealth or against corporations per se. I'm not against leopards either, but you have to keep them contained, or you're going to have some problems.

Anonymous said...

Had Smith lived contemporaneously, he would have issued the same admonition warning against legislation proposed by idealistic elected representatives.

SecondComingOfBast said...

"Mohamedhassan, humans as innately competitive is an 19th Century myth called social Darwinism. It is a rationalization for the existing system just like the myth of racial inferiority was a rationalization for imperialism. Humans survived as a species through cooperation. Where competition did occur is between groups of humans not within the groups. Internal group competition would have weakened the group and thus made it less likely to survive. Examine the anthropological evidence with hunting and gathering bands - a premium is placed on cooperation within those groups."

All of this is right, but it only tells half the story. Humans are more complex than you make them out to be. Group cooperation is an essential part of our make-up, but so is competition both within and without the group.

Life is like a football game, or any other group competitive sport. You have competition between the two opposing forces, but cooperation within each of the teams. When cooperation within one team falls apart, you generally have a rout.

That's the way life is. We evolved under competitive circumstances. We competed with animals for food and with the natural forces for food and shelter. It's so ingrained within our DNA it will never be eradicated-nor should it be.

Success requires cooperation and at the same timer competition, and a healthy balance between the two. So hast it ever been, and so mote it be.

Larry Gambone said...

I agree Pagan, its just that some people reduce humanity to its competitive aspect, ignoring the cooperative, and then try to rationalize domination and exploitation as being a logical outgrowth of that innate competitiveness. Furthermore, most cultures historically have limited internal competition, or sublimated it in harmless ways such as games or status symbols, rather than made it a virtue as has capitalism.

Larry Gambone said...

Farmer, There would be no greater enemy of "Christianity" than Jesus. There would be no greater enemy of so-called free market ideology than Smith, there would be no greater enemy of most "Marxism" than Marx...

Larry Gambone said...

"One of the biggest mistakes the US government ever made was in codifying into law the dubious proposition that a corporation should be viewed with the same rights as an actual living human. This has led to a plethora of odious practices."

Thank you Pagan Temple! I have been saying that for years. You can also add to it the limited liability fraud.

Dave Brown said...

This is a shocker from Woods.
Was he on something?
What a ramble.

Anyway best for a revolutionary new year.

Anonymous said...

...or sublimated it in harmless ways such as games or status symbols, rather than made it a virtue as has capitalism.

You don't see capitalism as just such a "sublimation" with "nice cars" as the trophies of the victors?

Anonymous said...

One of the biggest mistakes the US government ever made was in codifying into law the dubious proposition that a corporation should be viewed with the same rights as an actual living human. This has led to a plethora of odious practices."

Amen! Death to the Struldbruggs!

Anonymous said...

Whoever has the most toys upon their death, wins!

But "immortals" should never be allowed to play!

Anonymous said...

It's high time we put the Ltd. (limited) BACK in Inc. (in-corpse-oration).

SecondComingOfBast said...

Any good football game, or any other team sport, has to have rules, or you have chaos on the field or court, etc. Pretty soon, it would just be a free-for-all, and the next thing you know, all but the hooligans are leaving in disgust, or maybe just watching in amazement from a safe distance.

American capitalism is the same way. As long as there are reasonable rules-regulations-then we all stand to benefit. However, add in too many regulations, and pretty soon you have something that is more trouble than it is worth. Just like no one wants to watch an overly regulated football game. Risks are unrewarded, if not penalized, and before long it becomes more of an exercise in walking on egg-shells.

Worse, it discourages competition. In sports, it results in domination by the best-managed and funded teams with the resources to buy the best players.

In capitalism, it results in all but the wealthiest corporations regulated out of business. Which is of course precisely the reason many major corporations and CEO's promote certain regulations to begin with. They know they can absorb the shock, and of course pass it on to the consumer, while many of their smaller competitors can't hope to adjust.

Still, you need to have some rules and regulations, or ironically you end up with the same net long-term effect, and the consumer and worker pays the price.

Frank Partisan said...

Dave: This is not my favorite Alan Woods piece. I posted it for the first half, about how people become involved in change. Holiday Greetings.

Pagan: Well said, people have both cooperative and competitive aspects.

FJ: If something happens and $$$ is again circulated, it'll go for rent and bills. The productive businesses are in other countries.

Larry G:It has evolved that corporations have more rights than people.

? said...

I am sure Iran has been on the radar for quite sometime as sponsoring Hamas. I mean this may take a very different and surprising turn. I may be wrong but something tells me it may be the beginning of something much more broader. I hope not.

Frank Partisan said...

Blue in Green: Iran is needed to help the US break with Iran. New relations will be developed soon with the US.

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