- Capitalism and Alternatives -

Sorry I asked!

Posted by: Barry Stoller on October 10, 1999 at 17:09:08:

In Reply to: God, Individuals, and the state posted by Nikhil Jaikumar on October 08, 1999 at 13:51:17:

'To be for oneself is to be almost nothing.'
---B.F. Skinner.

: : And this business about 'just a little private ownership.' Who gets the tiny slice?

: Small peasants, individual tradesmen who don't employ others, artists, intellectuals, scientific research labs, hermits, and others who either 1) depend on some small amount of individually owned property to make their living, since state ownership of what they do would probably not allow them the needed flexibility, or 2) those rugged individualists who can carry on their living in a quiet corner somewhere without introducing exploitation into the society.

I knew it! The petty proprietor gets the tiny slice!

The petty proprietor, my friend, is an atavus. The popular ideological forms of the petty proprietor---the artist, the intellectual, the scientist, 'rugged individualists' all---are today largely mythical characters invoked by the ruling class (the bourgeois who, ironically enough, actually wiped them out) to: 1) garner support for the social division of labor and its concomitant hierarchy; 2) inculcate among the unpropertied the belief that social ascension, although essentially a lottery, is possible; 3) disprove the labor theory of value (that modes of production are actually social relations); and 4) perpetuate the 'great man of history' belief in individual autonomy (which conveniently explains away all instances of inability to ascend in class).

Got it?

: The state is democratically elected by us.

Who is 'us'? The worker who gets a choice of Old Coke or New Coke---or the capitalist who gets a cut of the Coke profits?

Other points:

: Say what you will, I believe that altruism and self-sacrifice, on the part of those who have wealth and power, is a necessary prerequisite to ever building a socialist society.

First of all, (Marxist) socialism has nothing whatsoever to do with altruism and self sacrifice. Marxism is about making sure that those who do the work get the majority of what they produce. It's all about self-interest!

Secondly, those today 'who have wealth and power' will only support whatever insures that they keep what they have. Hence the need for revolution. Hence the need to install equality of participation (job rotation) after the revolution.

: By the way, living in a democracy does not mean unlimited freedom.

I couldn't agree more. Freedom is always determined by the values of the ruling class. The question is: freedom to or freedom from? Or more to the point: freedom for which class?

: Belief in God is like living with a parent. I for one am glad to have an authority ruling over me, looking out for me, protecting me, etc. I do not have the pride in myself to assume that I alone can be my own master.

God, as I see it, is the ultimate 'great man of history.' God is the apotheosis of the petty proprietor, that 'rugged individualist' who needs no one other than himself. Plus he gets to call all the shots for everyone else! Sorry, but the Industrial Revolution put this dude out of business. The problem before us now, as I see it, is: how do we (the workers) get the capitalists off our back after the capitalists were nice enough, many hundreds of years ago, to get the monarchy off of ours and theirs?

I suspect you couldn't agree less. To suggest to someone who believes in God that the 'rugged individualist' no longer exists would entail a bit of a stretch...

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