Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Are capitalism and communism related?

The first articles from John Medaille that I remember reading were his five part series on distributism. Since then, I’ve always learned something from his articles on the economy (whether I agree or not). This past week’s article was no different. In a speech entitled “Why Isn’t Romania Rich?”, Medaille goes far beyond Romania and discusses the “science” of economics as a whole:
[L]et me point to a curious parallel. In the last days of the tyrant’s reign, Ceauşescu starved his people to pay the foreign debt. Now, look at the situation in Europe today, and we find that the solution proposed for Greece is that she should starve her people to pay the foreign debt. That is to say, what Communism accomplished with tanks and the Securitate, finance capitalism accomplishes with bonds and bankers. 
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This leads us to note a curious parallel between the universalism of Marx and the globalism of the capitalists. For both, place and culture meant nothing; global capitalism, like international communism, knows no limits and recognizes no borders. Is it not fair to ask if Brussels is home to a Fourth Internationale, with lyrics provided by Goldman-Sachs, to a tune played on a cash register, and accompaniment by the unholy trinity of the World Bank, the WTO, and the European Central Bank? As the Marxist critic Slavoj Žižek, noted, “Socialism failed because it was ultimately a subspecies of capitalism…Marx’s notion of Communist society is itself the inherent capitalist fantasy.”
The parallels with this Fourth International and its crude predecessors can be startling. For example, the communists gathered production into vast collectives, conglomerates that shut down any competing source of production and political power, and concentrated effective ownership in the hands of the bureaucrats. But in the capitalist world, production is gathered into vast conglomerates, which are collectives which shut down any competing source of production and political power, and concentrate effective ownership in the hands of the bureaucrats. 
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The attempt to eliminate ethics from economics created a world that was devoid of both social justice and economic order. Having abandoned any objective standards of truth and justice, there was simply no way to resolve the disputes between the contending views, which now became, not science, but pure ideologies. Lacking any recognition of some common good, the only way to resolve disputes between the contending schools of thought was by violence, and as ideologies became nationalized, ideology meant war. It is no accident that the 20th century, the most ideological century in history, was also the bloodiest century in history. 
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What is needed is new thinking, by which I mean old thinking—that is, ancient truths—applied to new situations. I think it is time to end the 20th century’s disastrous experiment with economics as a pure science and return to the older idea of political economy as a humane science. There are three things that differentiate political economy from economics, and they are justice, purpose, and property. Justice (taken here as an economic notion) is necessary for the proper balance of supply and demand; a stated purpose is necessary to be able to reach a judgment about economic systems; and property is the most basic of all economic relationships.
The entire thing is worth reading, especially for anyone interested in economic thought.
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