- Capitalism and Alternatives -

More discussion of free-market theology

Posted by: Samuel Day Fassbinder ( Citizens for Mustard Greens, USA ) on August 02, 1999 at 11:55:41:

In Reply to: True capitalism requires a free market. posted by DonS on July 29, 1999 at 13:11:32:

: : SDF: "Anything said three times is true." Joseph Goebbels, Nazi minister of propaganda.

: Don: Which applies to your claim that the USSR and PRC are "state-capitalist"!

SDF: No it doesn't. RD has already explained state capitalism. I will explain further in another thread.

: : RD has already detailed the extent to which the USSR and the PRC were state-capitalist dictatorships, not socialist places. Nikhil Jaikumar has already shown this, plus he's shown why it's ridiculous to use such regimes to characterize socialism in general.

: Don: "State capitalism" is an oxymoron. Jaikumar rejects the USSR, but embraces Cuba. His stated reason for rejecting the USSR is that it was not democratic. By comparison to Cuba, the USSR WAS democratic. As such, if he wishes to be consistant, he should reject Cuba.

SDF: This is a red herring argument, having nothing to do with your claim that state capitalism is an oxymoron.

: Don: You reject the idea that the USSR and PRC are socialist, by defining terms to suit yourself.

SDF: We've seen Don defining terms to suit himself, too... the state-capitalist regimes were and are certainly not socialist in Karl Marx's terms.

: I am willing to agree that there can be different types of socialism, and that one type does not fully characterize the other.

: Don: In common usage, socialism means state ownership of the means of production, or common ownership of the means of production. All large socialist nations have been the former. The latter has been restricted to village level societies.

SDF: If the state is still using a monetary economy to distinguish those with power (nomenklatura) from those without (the rest of us), it's state capitalist. If you want to call that socialist TOO, fine.

: Don: The idea that socialism must be democratic and must be moneyless, etc., amounts to intellectual cherry picking. It simply amounts to an attempt by advocites to reject failed socilist experiments.

SDF: Here we have the double standard once again. By the SAME LOGIC we can declare that the idea that capitalism MUST exclude situations where "if the government controls industry" AS DONS DOES BELOW amounts to the same sort of intellectual cherry picking that I was accused of, above. It simply amounts to an attempt by procapitalist advocates to divorce themselves from the authoritarian legacy of capitalism. Not a convincing hypocrisy.

: : : Don: But that doesn't make them capitalists! The USSR had considerable forign investment, but it wasn't capitalist either! Japan has considerable government intervention and control of the economy, and Russia still operates large numbers of state run indistries that make stuff no one wants. Forign investment does not a free market make.

: : SDF: I see, so here we have that old argumentative chestnut: the erection of a double standard. Any old tinhorn regime is "really socialist" as long as DonS wants to call it socialist (regardless of whether there is any socialism going on there), whereas if something is "really" capitalist, it has to meet DonS's exacting standards for purity. This despite the fact that we have one singular definition for capitalist activity. Look, if people are hiring other people for profit, it's capitalism. Period.

: Don: No. True capitalism requires a free market.

SDF: Nike is as free as you please to invest in Vietnam and China, and it's not as if we can call its executive board a pawn of the PRC or the Vietnamese Politburo. More intellectual cherry picking.

: If the government controls industry but industry is privitly owned, it is a fascist system.

SDF: Fascism has already been defined otherwise. Please especially see Benito Mussolini's book FASCISM, where he defines fascism as a system where the individual must submit or be conquered by all higher forms of social organization. Look, the fact that we called it "Nazism" didn't stop the Krupp family from making enormous profits off of it.

: If industry is state owned, it's socialism. Like the USSR,
: and the PRC. The US today is closer to fascism than true capitalism.

SDF: The ravings of militia kooks as spammed over the Net these days are the only thing that give the above statements any credibility at all. Capitalism is defined in the WEBSTER'S NEW COLLEGIATE DICTIONARY as "an economic system characterized by private or corporate ownership of capital goods," (which the US has) "by investments that are determined by private decision rather than by state control," (which the US has) "and by prices, production, and the distribution of goods that are determined mainly by competition in a free market" (which the US has, although arguably there is a variant "monopoly capitalism" in a few industries where large corporate actors are capable of determining prices and production all by themselves, such as for instance the oil industry.)

According to the dictionary's definition, the first two clauses of the definition would allow the PRC to define itself as at least partially capitalist, and the third clause is a matter of theological speculation. How free is a free market, really? It costs a lot of resources to participate, it has monopoly tendencies, it reduces most of the public to sellers of their labor at the lowest market prices.

This idea that we can set up a special category "fascism" for variants upon capitalism that DonS doesn't want to admit to, while obscuring the common meaning of the word "fascism," is the sort of word-game one might find in George Orwell's imaginary language "Newspeak" in "1984".

: : SDF: Any serious analysis of global conditions will show this to be wrong. See for instance Guy Arnold's THE RESOURCES OF THE THIRD WORLD, p. 9: "Overall, the world produces sufficient food to feed its entire population; malnutrition and famine are not the result of absolute food shortages but of local or regional conditions such as wars, climatic variations and poverty, since millions of people are simply too poor to purchase adequate food even when this is available."

: Don: I realize that the US and other non-socialist nations produce enough food to feed the world. I also realize that attempts at feeding starving people in the Third World by the US have often failed, because of corrupt local governments. Because of war, and poor distribution systems.

SDF: I'm sorry, but if the US does provide free food for ALL of these people, and not merely those who have shown up on our TV screens in dramatizations of Ethiopian or Somalian famine, why aren't all of the hunger organizations claiming the problem's been licked? What's with their common claim that there are 800 million undernourished people in the world, that they exist in capitalist countries? It wasn't convincing when some poor frosh merely repeated his argument after some other participant in my debate class ripped huge holes in it with evidence to the contrary; it's not convincing when you do it now. I'm convinced that I'm wasting my time presenting evidence to you -- so I think this will probably be my last post on this thread.

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