It seems to me that being free to accumulate some micro-property of your own is more like contenting onesself with the table scraps left from the gargantuan feast of your exploiters - a feast of superprofits and virtually uninhibited, arbitrary economic power.
And it seems to me that you're being distracted by the immense wealth created in the West. If the West disappeared tomorrow, would the Third World be richer or poorer? Is the West disenfranchising the Third World, or does the considerable disparity of wealth creation simply motivate a great deal of angst, resentment, envy, and antipathy?
You know by now that I will not apologize for the truly imperialistic adventures of the West. There are numerous examples of clear, overt action on the part of Western governments which can be blamed for a great deal of the poverty in the Third World. However, to blame the action I have in mind on "capitalists" would be ridiculous in the extreme.
Also, the burden is you on to explain why the millions of starving, impoverished, and ill of the so-called Third World apparently aren't entitled to it.
Explain why the Third World isn't entitled to the First World's wealth? Simple: to say that it is would be to undermine every wealth-creating principle that has led to the prosperity of the West. Worse, it would destroy both hemispheres. Whatever economy exists in the Third World would be wiped out, and the Western golden-egg-laying goose would be slain overnight.
For example, you could say, as bc does, that these countries just don't produce any wealth, so that's why they don't make any money and can't get any food or medicine with it.
That's a simplistic way to put it. More to the point, these countries produce less wealth per capita than the West, yes.
Another answer is that they have tyrannical governments that mismanage the economy and don't allow capitalism to develop freely there, but this is a generalisation that really just doesn't hold up.
Another simplification, but equally valid in its way. I wouldn't say that the governments "mismanage the economy", but rather that they stand athwart it. Healthy capitalism is predicated upon healthy Society, since the one is a natural outcome of the other. All Third World countries suffer from diseased, destructive States, but many of them also suffer from Imperial hangovers (for example, the Western creation of the Israeli state, the Western establishment of Yugoslavia, the Western carving-up of the Islamic Middle East). Many of them suffer from internecine strife, and many of them suffer from a sheer scarcity of the kind of resources that lead to a rapid-growth economy.
You can see a microcosm of this even in the ludicrously-wealthy United States. Some states have fabulous wealth-creation potential, and some have far less. As a young, career-minded man I far prefer to live in North Texas than in West Virginia. Does this entitle W. Virginia to the wealth of Texas? I should think not.
Still another answer is that for whatever world-historic reasons, the forward march of modernity has simply passed these hapless people by, and it is the West's job to promote their development in whatever manner they see fit.
Capitalism naturally finds the most productive use for every resource. If there is wealth-creation potential in the Third World (and there most certainly is) an unhampered free market would put it to use in short order. We have already seen many fruitful market efforts in the Third World, although they are almost never publicized to any significant extent. Even the astonishing and miraculous growth of the Chinese market economy gets less press than the dire predictions of Western "security analysts" that China will invade the US or shoot potato guns at us or some such nonsense.
If you think about it, it's really quite irrational, and defies basic human sensibilities - it's like farmers pouring tonnes upon tonnes of milk out onto the street during the Great Depression because of a total price collapse.
Yes, that's quite ridiculous. It's akin to postponing your commute until after "rush hour" and expecting to arrive earlier as a result. It doesn't work that way. Destruction of wealth doesn't improve the economic outlook. Dairy farmers weren't pouring out milk in the expectation that their remaining milk would sell for a sufficiently-high price to justify the short-term loss; that's sheer economic nonsense, as any brief examination will bear out. No, farmers poured out milk in order to put pressure on the political process in favor of the agricultural subsidies and domestic price controls they wanted.
Can't we do better than that? I propose that we can do better than that. What is Capital's reply? "No, no, don't you see? You have to play by my rules! They're the only rules of resource allocation that exist in the universe! I said so!"
No, no, no. Start again. Can we do better than a short-term policy of what you might call "exploitation"? Yes, absolutely, yes. Next question: will we? No, in most cases, we won't. Next question: why not? Because long-term investment in the Third World is a short road to economic ruin. I'll let you do your own investigation into long-term economic calculation of Third World investment, but it boils down to this: the Third World is a proven fuckup. China is the noteworthy exception that proves the rule: it has Rule of Law, it has political stability, it has a disciplined and ethical populace... it has everything investment-minded individuals like to see when they assess long-term risks.
You seem to believe that "capital" is a $100 bill sitting idle in a fat lawyer's wallet. Wrong, "capital" is opportunistic wealth looking for its most productive way into the wealth-creation engine. Even if I — as a high-minded and deeply sympathetic individual with piles of capital burning a hole in my fund manager's pocket — define "productivity" in terms of improved human existences, where is my capital going to get its best return, valeko? In Indonesia, where Suharto's thugs and Sumatran pirates will confiscate 30 cents on the dollar year over year? Or in inner-city Chicago, where my family lives and where bright young African-American potential is being wasted for want of educational resources?
Now ask yourself again why private funds are building community art centers in Dallas and Ft. Worth, but the East Timorese are eating shoe leather.
In a positive but ahistoric observation, you make allusions to the fact that many of the "excesses" of this are anti-capitalist, anti-social, and wicked in nature, but refuse to recognise that statement as a repudiation of the heritage of capitalism, and, in fact, its historical basis.
I don't even know what you think you're talking about. Capitalism's historical basis? You still don't seem to have grasped that capitalism is not a goddamned political movement. Capitalism does not have a Marx and Engels, valeko. Capitalism has a Cain and Abel. It's as old as wealth-creation itself.
However, what is meant by capital is not necessarily money or machinery or land, but any means of production in human society.
Valeko, stay on target. We both know that Marx criticized "capitalists" who controlled the "means of production", but we also know that Marx was a meticulous and well-educated economist who would never have confused "capital" with "means of production" in any but a rhetorical sense. Please, do us both a favor and decide upon a sensible definition of "capital" and then stick to it.
[I've ignored the rest of that paragraph. I like you and want to respect you, valeko, but the whole thing is 100% bullshit.]
What is clear here is that the capitalist is only an agent of the laws of capital's behaviour, that it is a system complete with its own limitations, tendencies, inner compulsions, division of labour, and so on.
No. This isn't true, and in any case it simply doesn't make any sense. The only (only, ONLY) actors in a marketplace of humans are humans. Capital is not an actor. Mises:
Individual man is born into a socially organized environment. In this sense alone we may accept the saying that society is--logically or historically--antecedent to the individual. In every other sense this dictum is either empty or nonsensical. The individual lives and acts within society. But society is nothing but the combination of individuals for cooperative effort. It exists nowhere else than in the actions of individual men. It is a delusion to search for it outside the actions of individuals. To speak of a society's autonomous and independent existence, of its life, its soul, and its actions is a metaphor which can easily lead to crass errors.You make just such an error in building your metaphor of "capital" as though it were a notion laden with graven strictures and carved pathways.
But let us be clear -- capitalism is an expression of human activity in a systematic way that places certain limits and rules on the said human activity according to its own rules.
Economics does not assume or postulate that men aim only or first of all at what is called material well-being. Economics, as a branch of the more general theory of human action, deals with all human action, i.e., with man's purposive aiming at the attainment of ends chosen, whatever these ends may be. To apply the concept rational or irrational to the ultimate ends chosen is nonsensical. We may call irrational the ultimate given, viz., those things that our thinking can neither analyze nor reduce to other ultimately given things. Then every ultimate end chosen by any man is irrational. It is neither more nor less rational to aim at riches like Croesus than to aim at poverty like a Buddhist monk.What one may aim to achieve from the productive use of capital is up to each. Capital does not place arbitrary constraints upon its owner; quite the opposite.
To this end, I disagree with the tone of your premise that "capitalism is, and always will be, everywhere humans exist." This is true at a given state of productive relations, but that doesn't mean it can't be changed. What it does mean is that it can't simply be overthrown; it must be recast. And it is, in fact, a system of social organisation and productive relations. That you can't dictate to me literally, on a secular, day-by-day basis, what I will and won't do, doesn't change that. I am subordinate to the exigencies of the system, and must play within its pen. So are you, for that matter. Whether you accept this as a good thing or see it as an ultimate evil is where our disagreement lies.
It's clear by this point that your fundamental objection is not merely to "capitalism", but to Society itself. In this regard, you are in good company with the disestablishment and anti-hierarchical Left-wing anarchists and libertarians. As far as I can tell, what you positively hate is the notion that any man can lay claim to your liberty in any way that you do not absolutely and comprehensively approve.
You must recognize, from an intellectual standpoint, that it is quite pointless, at this juncture, for you to argue whether Socialism or Capitalism is more appealing; you flatly reject that any de facto "system of social organisation and productive relations" can be acceptable and justifiable on the merit of its having risen voluntarily amongst cooperating Men.
As good old software hats say - "You are in very safe hands, if you are using CVS !!!"
[ Parent ]