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May 16, 2011


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Chad Nelson

I can see the protestors' frustration. They were promised a prosperous society via a system in which their goverment confiscated private wealth and promised it to the masses, and to the favored corporations.

It's the same blend of socialism/corporatism going on everywhere...and all we hear is the utter nonsense of the free market failing.

Robert Allen

yes, we all know they are protesting because the free market is succeeding! It's quite obvious...

Chad Nelson

i bet they wish it'd been tried now that they see what the other system hath wrought.

The Mathmos

This kind of junk history first emerged during the Lippmann Colloque in Paris at the time of WWII. A bunch of proto-neoliberals scrambling to pin the blame for nazism, and any other forms of political evil by the same token, on state intervention. The free market being scott-free, since it hadn't been tried yet.

Now after thirty years of hardcore neoliberalism (with, yes, state intervention), the same zombie arguments. The free market hasn't been tried yet, don't we all know. What we're seeing is what state intervention has wrought. If only we tried freeing the market...

After close to a century of such rhetorical maneuvers, neoliberals should have lost all remaining credibility. These people are paid hacks, please ignore them.

Free market without state intervention is a myth, Chad. Open a book for Christ's sake.

Jodi Dean

I agree with Robert and the Mathmos. Since Chad clearly has no idea what he's talking about, we should assume he is troll.

Robert Allen

Sadly it doesn't matter that these uber rightists "don't know what they're talking about", this is the meme being brought forward by the rightists, spearheaded by their vanguard mouthpiece Ron Paul. It is scary that like the Nazi tactics, facts don't matter as much as what the masses can be inculcated with. Troll or no, this is the voice of the angry white male, low hanging fruit for the neo Fascists. These guys are a dime a dozen where I live and work, but their power and influence is on the wane which probably makes them even more outraged...

Chad Nelson

Wow, National Socialist Nazi Germany is now a spawn of the free market? Do you guys make up your own history and teach it to eachother?

Robert Allen

It is an exciting time, obviously we're not going to convert true believers like Chad who buy into nonsense like "corporatism/socialism", but I think it shows how the problem is not one of education or reasoning but one rooted in irreconcilable class war; i.e. conflict between those who fetishize "private property" and those willing to fight for socialism. These libertarians need to deny that capitalism leads to monopoly so they can promote the notion of "every man a small business success", and this equation of socialism with corporatism will only work on the true believers, a dwindling pool of middle aged white gun nuts.

Chad Nelson

Now that we've gotten our assumpmtions and name calling out of the way, let's talk about why it's an exciting time. Because I believe it is one too.

What does the future hold, Robert, that excites you?

When you talk about those willing to fight for socialism, does that include you? What kinds of things are tops on a socialist's agenda today? Is a socialist pleased with the current state of affairs in America, or the direction it appears to be heading? I ask because would genuinely like to know what an American socialist's vision for the future is. I know none, personally. So try to put aside the hatred for a libertarian and have a conversation.

I might add that I'm not middle aged (not even 30) and have never shot a gun in my life.

Chad Nelson

See, I think we could probably come to agreement on a lot of issues. I don't know you from a hole in the wall, but I'm willing to bet we both abhor things like the Patriot Act, the endless military daliances and the hubristic empire mentality of Washington, the Wall Street bailouts, and the general supression of individual choice.

Do you really think we are really so polar opposite that we can't find common ground?

Robert Allen

yes we can agree on all those things. I suppose as a practical matter this state of affairs (us agreeing on all those issues) this is fine, but there is no common ground at the root of all this because libertarianism as practiced in the US is a conscious anti-Marxism (John Birch, Ron Paul, Ayn Rand, etc) in which "they make up their own history and teach it to each other" for real. It is destined to flop. Can you think of a country where libertarians have taken power? (well I guess this one is pretty close, right now).

Chad Nelson

I don't think it's an extreme view to believe in a system where no one may threaten or commit violence against another man's person or property.

All of those items we just agreed on are the result of state coercion and aggression, either directly accomplished or enabled by such aggression.

My problem with socialism is that while there may not need to be a great degree of difficulty in planning the economic life of a family, and maybe not much more for a small community, as the scale increases, the amount of agreement on ends diminishes, and this kind of state coercion becomes more and more necessary.

For those that fail to see this difficulty, it's merely because of their belief that it will be they who will settle the differences of opinion, and more, that they can do so justly and equitably.


In reading Chad's comments I thought of this passage from the historian Robert Heilbroner:

"Marx recognized that the economic difficulties of the system were not insuperable. Although anti-monopoly legislation or anti-business-cycle policies were unknown in Marx's day, such activities were not inconceivable: there was nothing inevitable in the physical sense about Marx's vision. The Marxist prediction of decay was founded on a conception of capitalism in which it was politically impossible for a government to set the system's wrongs aright; ideologically, even emotionally impossible...
It is just this lack of social flexibility, this bondage to shortsighted interest, that weakened European capitalism—at least until World War II...It is frightening to look back at the grim determination with which so many nations steadfastly hewed to the very course that he insisted would lead to their undoing. It was as if their governments were unconsciously vindicating Marx's prophecy by obstinately doing exactly what he said they would."

But since Heilbroner was writing in 1980 instead of now, he goes on to say this:

"Yet out of the American milieu came a certain pragmatism in dealing with power, private as well as public; and a general subscription to the ideals of democracy which steered the body politic safely past the rocks on which it foundered in so many nations abroad.

It is in these capacities for change that the answer to the Marxian analysis lies. Indeed, the more we examine the history of capitalism, especially in recent decades, the more we learn both to respect the penetration of Marx's thought and to recognize its limitations."

If Heilbroner were still around, I'm pretty sure he'd be suggesting that Marx may be getting the last laugh. Capitalism looks more and more as though it truly does have a self-destruct mechanism built in. Last time around it took the depression, WWII and the threat of nuclear obliteration to get capitalism to submit to a few measures to save it from itself. This time around I think we can be pretty sure that we won't survive whatever would be necessary for capitalism to come to its senses.

Robert Allen

Marx and Lenin figured out a perfectly viable theory of the State and its intents and purposes, and what we need to do about it. Because of the suppression of Marxism in the US, and the valorization of antiMarxism, we get crackpot theories of what the state's functions and purpose is (i.e., the gubmint is socialism, the state is a parasitical collectivist Left instead of a steering committee of capitalists). We need to call out their lies, not join together with them around the campfire singing Kumbaya because we agree on a few things. Just as one can't weave a silk purse out of a sow's ear, let's suppose Marxism is bunk. Do we now attribute truth to a rightist philosophy patched together from the ruins of its opposite, to further the ends of that "discredited" philosophy's enemies? We need to be fighting about this, not having "conversations" about peace and non compulsion.

Chad Nelson

What do the socialists on this blog feel about Paul Krugman? Are you in line with his views on how an economy functions, and what are good policy prescriptions?

Asked differently, do socialists generally agree with a Keynesian view of economics?

And believe me, I have no problem fighting over our differences. It's clear that although we agree that the above four or five states of affairs in the modern day U.S. are despicable, that we see their root causes as being completely different. My intention was not to give in to central planning, but rather to point out that our present ills are the result of it.


Chad you have not presented any evidence that "our present ills" are the result of central planning. And speaking for myself, I am not sure I even think central planning is a good idea. Certainly Keynesians in general don't believe that either.

It does come down to what is the proper role of government and what do we mean by terms like democracy and self governement. I am certain we ultimately have fundamental disagreements about those things as well.

Jodi Dean

Alain and Bob--you will not be surprised at all when I write that I agree with Bob and appreciate Alain's points (the first paragraph of the Heilbroner passage was really interesting). I think that planning is a good idea and think that the term, 'central planning' tends to be distorting, for example, even central planning in the USSR had to rely on interactions between the state bureaucracy and local factories.

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