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Old December 10 2012, 09:10 PM   #11
Crazy Eddie
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Re: Scientist declares “Earth is F**ked" --Discuss?!

Aeronef wrote: View Post
^Oddly enough, given the progressive slant of your post, I think you're making the same mistake that many right-wing people make: namely, equating "capitalism" with "laissez-faire capitalism."
That's like equating "gun" with ".50 caliber automatic machinegun." If it's pointed at a child's head when it goes off, that's a distinction without a difference.

I do agree with you that some ways of managing a country's economy are more humane and rational than others, and that free-market fundamentalism inevitably leads to the sort of spectacular pile-up we saw in 2008.
True as that is, I was mainly alluding to the disaster-capitalism experiments that devastated Argentina in the 1980s and other similar misadventures in South and Central America. There's a fairly large collection of broken countries and broken governments in our recent history who saw their economies implode basically because somebody (or a large group of somebodies) pulled a leveraged buyout of all their key industries and then stuck the taxpayers with the bill.

I'm not convinced, however, that a "less materialistic, more socially-oriented set of economic policies" must necessarily be un- or anti-capitalist.
Many capitalists are quite insistent that it IS. And I am not sufficiently impressed by the achievements of capitalism to pretend that it is an appropriate solution to all possible social/political needs.

Put that another way: capitalists are great at producing new commodities or superior versions of old ones. They are great at driving industry, at employing people, at creating wealth and prosperity. They are great at innovating and evolving new capabilities in existing technologies. There are, however, a number of things that capitalists do exceedingly poorly. Social investment -- that is, maintaining the stability of important institutions that promote broad social stability -- is one of those things. Justice and law enforcement is another, along with education, emergency response, political discourse and military defense. None of those things are capitalistic in nature, and a civilized society cannot function properly without them.

Problems arise when capitalists insist on being placed in charge of these inherently non-capitalistic institutions and running them as if they were commodities. This is the equivalent of using a loaded gun to hammer in a nail because your gunsmith told you that "guns don't kill people, they're just really useful tools." Then when the mishandled gun inevitably goes off, the wounded patch themselves up and resolve to start using the right tools for the right job. They buy smaller guns and fewer of them, much to the chagrin of the local gunsmiths.

What's more, I'm not convinced that capitalism has a monopoly on economic injustice, or that only capitalist economic systems fail.
True, but only capitalist economic systems fail systematically. Socialist systems mainly fail when/because they are designed to benefit influential party members at the seat of power to the expense of everyone else. They're actually QUITE successful in that context, considering that they tend to remain relatively stable for long periods of time with only occasional disruption. It's probably similar to the kind of stability that sideshow bo-- er... the author of the OPs paper had in mind when he wrote this paper.

Some of the most atrociously unjust economic systems in history had nothing capitalistic about them.
True as that is, just because a system is unjust doesn't make it a failure. Saddam Hussein, for example, was arguably the most effective leader Iraq ever had, despite the fact that he was basically a gangster with an army of psychopaths at his beck and call.

What causes a lot of problems is that many people -- especially capitalists -- like to believe that capitalism is a social/political system as well as an economic one. When it is used in this way, it inevitably disrupts and collapses the social and political apparatuses it sought to improve. To put that another way: many people in many countries have found out the hard way that while there are many capitalist MARKETS, there is no such thing as a capitalist SOCIETY.

Thus few people are willing to admit that Iraq possesses and has always possessed a capitalist economy, even under the Hussein regime. Its long term stability had much less to do with the inherent stability of capitalism than it had to do with the imposed stability of Saddam's iron-fisted rule.
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