The Politically Incorrect Show - 19/10/2001
Music - Die Fledermaus
Good afternoon, Kaya Oraaaa & welcome to the Politically Incorrect Show for Friday October 19, proudly sponsored by Neanderton Nicotine Ltd, the show that says bugger the politicians & bureaucrats & all the other bossyboot busybodies who try to run our lives with our money; that stands tall for free enterprise, achievement, profit & excellence against the state-worshippers in our midst; that stands above all for the most sacred thing in the universe, the liberty of the human individual.
[Music up, music down!]
Can capitalism survive?
The recent terrorist atrocities have been widely & accurately characterised as an assault on civilisation itself. If by "civilisation" we mean that state of affairs where men are free from other men, where there is no involuntary servitude, then we can equally say that the terror attacks have been directed at capitalism itself - a view that is hardly contentious, given the terrorists' choice of targets, & their rhetoric. Can capitalism survive the onslaught from this new enemy - suicidal mass-murderers who, in the words of one of them, "love death just as much as Americans love life"?
It's instructive to contemplate what capitalism has survived hitherto.
It has survived Das Kapital & The Communist Manifesto. Karl Marx acknowledged that capitalism was wondrously efficacious at producing things, but claimed it had an inbuilt contradiction whereby it couldn't help but chronically OVER-produce, causing increasingly calamitous crashes that would lead inexorably to its self-destruction. The masses, he claimed, were condemned under capitalism to ever-worsening misery & servitude against which they would - & should - revolt. The facts, let alone the formal conclusions derived from them by capitalism's better theoreticians, have proved him woefully wrong. Never have so many people lived so well & so free.
Capitalism has survived the hostile totalitarian Marxist regimes that littered the globe barely a hundred years after Marx's ideas gained currency. Those regimes, with three exceptions, now belong to the ash-can of history. It was communism, not capitalism, that collapsed under the weight of its own contradictions. Of the three remaining communist regimes, the most powerful, the one in China, is attempting to have its cake & eat it too, with an increasingly capitalistic economy & a rigid Marxist polity. Sooner or later, one of them will have to go.
Capitalism has survived the intellectuals within its own societies who have been & are to this day almost universally hostile to it. These intellectuals, of whom Lenin said that they could be kept on-side by massaging their vanity, are state employees who live off the largesse created by the very businessmen they despise & whose enslavement they deem to be proper. Tenacious in their parasitism, they are vicious in their anti-capitalism, & will not readily give up. We can take solace from the fact that, should they succeed, the loot that keeps them alive will disappear.
Capitalism has survived its own advocates. Ayn Rand's notion of the "sanction of the victim" is well-known, but Joseph Schumpeter also said it well:
"Perhaps the most striking feature of the picture is the extent to which the bourgeois besides educating its own enemies allows itself in turn to be educated by them. It absorbs the slogans of current radicalism & seems quite willing to undergo a process of conversion to a creed hostile to its very existence. [Greens, anyone?] Haltingly & grudgingly it concedes in part the implications of that creed. This would be most astonishing & indeed very hard to explain were it not for the fact that the typical bourgeois is rapidly losing faith in his own creed. This is verified by the characteristic manner in which particular capitalist interests & bourgeoisie as a whole behave when facing direct attack. They talk & plead or hire people to do it for them. They snatch at every chance of compromise. They are ever ready to give in. They never put up a fight under the flag of their own ideals & their interests."
Yet "capitalism lite" - capitalism diluted & distorted by the countless taxes & regulations which the above acquiescence has permitted - has endured.
Most surprisingly, capitalism has survived Christianity & the ethic of self-sacrifice. If there were indeed a contradiction within capitalism, which is based upon self-interest, then historically speaking, this is it. But still capitalism has not collapsed.
If it has survived all of this, can it survive terrorism? Probably. "Capitalism" of course does not exist in the abstract but in the concrete form of billions of people freely creating values & then freely trading them for other values in a constant effort to improve their lot. This is an activity so fundamentally human that it's doubtful that even the most brutal & destructive of ascetics could ever obliterate it.
The real challenge, when the dust from the current conflict has settled, will be not merely to keep "capitalism lite" afloat, but to create a full-strength version - to bring to reality the "unknown ideal" of which Ayn Rand spoke.
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