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wirtschaft artikel (Interpretation und charakterisierung)

Capitalism - and other important items of the western world's systems





In my last upload, \"For God\'s sake, teach us!\", I promised a short piece in defence of capitalism if anyone asked me for one. Well, they have; so here it is!

At the end of 1989, with the Wall knocked down and the Czechoslovaks, Poles, East Germans, Balts -and not a few Russians - and the rest all running free of the Soviet bear, I never thought that anyone would have to publish articles like this one ever again. Then, in 1991, when the Soviet Empire finally fell apart at the gates of its own Parliament, with Boris Yeltsin standing on a tank and defying the old communists to do their worst, I was of the same opinion, only more so. Books by such as Francis Fukuyama (with titles like \"The end of History\"; (no, I have not read it either!) only served to confirm me in my belief that the great battle of this century - one of the most important conflicts of all time - between the opposing ideologies of socialism and freedom, was won by freedom, and that the rest of man\'s days in the universe were going to be occupied with the at once simple and complex process of moving onwards and upwards in all fields of endeavour, without distraction by petty diabolic forces that only seek to hinder and delay him. The great ideological debate of the century, perhaps the greatest ever, was over. the capitalists had won and the Stalinists had lost, and that was that.

I am so sad to report that this is not turning out to be so. At no time in the last 20 years has the philosophy of capitalism been under such mortal attack from so many quarters. After such a triumph, too! What has gone wrong? Why does \"capitalism\" remain one of the most lynched words in the English lexicon? We have to investigate. This is how we will do it.

(1) What is capitalism? Capitalism is the only political or moral philosophy which describes how men actually behave in real societies and attempts to codify this behaviour, as opposed to other belief-systems, which describe a utopian ideal of how he is supposed to behave (in the opinion of the particular writer) in a so-called \"ideal\" society. But capitalism, having described man\'s real behaviour, draws on the Judaeo-Christian tradition of morality to show how a \"capitalist\" society can be at the same time; - liberal (i.e. whatever is not expressly forbidden - such as crime - is allowed; witness the totalitarian opposite - whatever is not expressly compulsory - like voting for the ruling junta - is instead forbidden. Even voting is frequently compulsory in these societies.) - progressive (i.e. the general lot in life of everyone gets bigger and better, in real time, without the intervention of government, and also despite it.) - highly ordered (i.e. there develop, quickly, generally accepted norms of social behaviour, plus popular institutions for defending Natural Rights - see \"Rights\" below - the purpose of which is to encourage more stability and therefore more liberality.) Liberty is the mother, and not the daughter, of order.

I suppose that it could also be summarised as a philosophy, by saying that it is all about people doing what they would like to do, with the goods, money, gifts, skills or whatever they have that is rightfully theirs, in ways that respect the freedom of others to do that too, with their own stuff. Here, we will have to say a bit about Rights, for the definition I have just given implies that people ought to be allowed to perform certain acts as described.

(2) Rights Murray Rothbard, Chris R. Tame and Brian Micklethwait1 have said that all liberty can be condensed into three Natural Rights, which are as follows;

the right to your own life, the right to your own liberty, the right unconditionally to enjoy and dispose of your own justly acquired property, howsoever you will.

These all come with the proviso that you do not, in exercising these Rights, infringe the exactly similar and mirroring Rights of others. Therefore a system of Natural Rights presupposes knowledge in Man of the nature of morality and duty; creatures with morals can understand what Natural Rights are and how to have them in relation to duties towards other creatures; animals, having no morals in this sense, cannot therefore have Natural Rights. This does not mean that Man has no duty to save animals from unnecessary cruelty, but it rather puts the kybosh on the \"animal rights movement\", let alone its terrorists, does it not? I feel a new upload coming on, but not today; back to capitalism.

Now look here; you are all intelligent and successful people or you would not have been able to afford computers with fast modems, so as to be able to read my mumbling prose. Therefore I need not illustrate all these Rights for you; use your imagination which you have been trained to use (see DDTEACHU.TXT in the same library where you found this file) However, their summary seems to me to mean the same thing as the definition that I had evolved above in (1), but expressed differently.

In talking about \"rights\", of course, we have to be careful. There are Natural Rights which everyone possesses by virtue of being a man or woman and which have just been described, and their are the spurious \"rights\" that the socialists and bleeding-heart Liberals insist loudly and whiningly are Rights, like housing, healthcare, education, transport, work and a wage (eh? in return for what?) and the like. It is no coincidence that these are all things that powerful centralist bureaucracies force on subjugated populations. Why not enshrine a \"right\" to a video recorder, and to a mobile phone, and a foreign holiday every year! How about, also, a \"right\" to free sex with whosoever you wish! What is the difference between this and a \"right\" to be given someone else\'s money (that was taken away from them) when you have not got a job? What about my \"right\" to the best and most high-tech military defence that money can buy, against our enemies? I would have thought that this was nearer to the spirit of the three Natural Rights than a socialist \"Right\". Oh, I see; there are not enough votes in this one...

These are not Natural Rights at all, but could be described by their supporters as \"entitlements\" to which a majority in a liberal democracy has consented through the medium of its elected representatives. From Natural Rights they certainly are very different, however; they are all things which, if someone has a \"right\" to them, someone else therefore \"must\" provide or pay for them (more or less the same thing in a liberal democracy) and therefore it seems to me that the someone else then \"has to\" become a slave in the moral sense, in order to do so. Who is it who has taken the authority to decree these relationships? Who shall say who is to become who\'s slave? I was not aware of any such agency existing in free societies.

(3) Coercion, and its absence in capitalism The first thing, therefore, that we find in this investigation of the nature of capitalism, is that liberal democratic governments in their modern and statute-driven tyrannical form, are definitely not capitalist, but hybrid structures which tolerate (often on sufferance) a measure of capitalist behaviour in some walks of life while distorting it or suppressing it in others. There is obviously something in the armoury of tyrannical governments that makes them able to frustrate the fully-free behaviour of ordinary, good, men. (I use the word \"government\" on purpose here, to distinguish the corrupt juntas which in practice run things from the theoretical \'state\' in being, which on paper may be without sin, and is supposed to be for ensuring that there is just enough law, order and defence for men to go about their lawful businesses - see Rights, again.)

(4) Taxation Taxation is another clear example of this violation by governments of capitalist reality. Taxes were originally raised, collected or extorted (it depends on where you were) to enable governments to wage wars. War is most definitely not a capitalist activity, involving - as it does - not only destruction, which is anathema to men, but massive negation, at every level, of every one of the three natural rights I outlined above. The fact that capitalism enables profit to be generated even in the midst of wars, when so much destruction and loss is being organised and carried out deliberately by governments, should be a source of enormous gladness and optimism about man\'s future, rather than execration. It shows which of all the \"isms\" is morally the superlative one, and that governments are only good at destroying things and not at creating them. When did YOU last declare war upon somebody, and then spend other people\'s money, that you had extorted, in trying to destroy them? Would these be good acts, or bad ones?

Britain\'s monarchs and governments have been no exception, but history does show the English always to have been in the forefront of resistance to the fiscal demands of the over- mighty state; our history has from Roman times always been about money, and men wanting to keep what they had rightfully got! Magna Carta of 15th June 1215, which was also the first document signed by a ruler in the history of the world that admitted there were limits to state power, clearly shows this in its drafting. The \"Peasants\' Revolt of 1381 was not about revolting peasants but was a tax rebellion by the emergent middle classes, who by then had something to lose in the face of activities by a profligate and bankrupt government still bent on doomed foreign adventures. The English civil war of 1642-49 was chiefly about Parliament\'s right to veto the Crown\'s decrees in respect of taxation. The American colonies were ultimately lost to us because of a bungled attempt by London to retain taxation powers across the Atlantic (they would have got free anyway, and soon - the question was only when and how, and the inevitable result has never failed to benefit all mankind, nor will it ever so fail.) And so it goes on.

Today we seem to be in a strangely quiet period, although our tax rates have, since 1812, rarely been higher or more difficult to evade. This is strange, for the coming of the Internet, and the imminent arrival of cybercash together with uncrackable encryption, the spread of which (nearly-ex) President Clinton has happily failed to stop, will make the paying of taxes a voluntary activity, and men should by now be getting restless and impatient with the reactionary demands of governments. They will, and soon. Nobody entered into a contract with governments to provide them with all this money that they have taken, often by force; it has just been - and continues to be - taken; the taking seems to be based on status - the status of the junta calling itself the government, relative to the status of \"the people\", who simply are made to pay, and also on the assumption by governments that this taking will continue to be tolerated in the name of some democratic ideal.

It would be interesting to debate whether a person can delegate a right that he does not possess. You and I cannot go about the streets using coercion to take money off others, and then giving the residue to third parties after having extracted our \"salaries\" from it. therefore I would argue that since we do not have the authority to do this, we cannot give it to others on our behalf or anyone else\'s.

(5) Contract So, we have also found that, unlike under governments, there is in capitalism no means to enforce a \"deal\" based merely on the relative status of the two parties (lucky, for it may not be voluntary - see taxation.) Nothing actually exists but \"contract\", or the substance of the agreement itself, the honour of the parties, and (in the event of difficulty) whatever the courts may discover about law relating to deals of the kind in question. For, in capitalism, as in English Common Law, courts are a tool for discovery of the law based on precedent, which is in turn based on morality; and they are not simply an instrument of enforcement.

(6) Progress We touched on this earlier, but not in detail. Adam Smith has done this bit much better than I ever will, but what we seem to observe is that in a civilisation which behaves capitalistically at the atomic level, progress, for people, from bad to good, occurs in all sorts of fields at once, very quickly, without any apparent guiding hand. History shows that men, when deciding on and peacefully pursuing their own ends and at their own risk, inevitably operate in a way which benefits other men. This atomised aspect of achieving good particularly irritates the Platonists, who would like a \"philosopher-king\" (on being pressed, usually themselves or someone else with a \"good education\" or who is in any other way \'p.l.u\') to direct the destinies of all men \"for the greatest good\" or some such other nonsense. My father, a superhumanly intelligent man, and one of the most thoughtful and humane scientists I have ever known, even in his 81st year is yet one of these. As the late Friedrich A. Hayek has said; who can possibly know, in a society that is any bigger than one family, what the greatest good is? The tragedy of \"planning\" is that it is a myth, and can only work in theory. The (also late) Sir Karl Popper said that if a thing is perfect in theory but does not work in practice, ther is something wrong with the theory. Thus did the Soviet Empire fall down; from within, in the end, owing to the contradictions between reality on the one hand, and the \"planning\" and \"management\" of people\'s supposed wants and needs in the \"perfect\" Marxist State on the other hand.

Such contempt for the powers of distinction of ordinary mortals, as shown by intellectuals, is such an astounding illustration of arrogance that the words to describe it fail me completely.

Now; what about some examples of progress? Most of the civilised world in the 18th century was not much nicer a place for ordinary mortals than it had been for millennia. Life, for all except the King, and often for him too, was nasty, brutish and short. Where can we find illustrations of the good done to many, without planning by Platonists, by the individual actions of many, or even a few, for the peaceful furthering of their own ends? Here are but a few;

(a) The English industrial revolutions; (b) The founding of the United States of America; (c) The recovery of Poland/Czechoslovakia after 1989 (& the subsequent fall-off in Slovakia through socialism, relative to progress in the Czech Republic); (d) The prosperity of liberal Hong Hong, in contrast to wretchedness and misery in the authoritarian \"People\'s Republic\" of China.

It is not my intention in this upload to go into all of these in great detail, as you would be here all night and most of tomorrow. You know about all of these anyway. However, all these examples have common aspects;

(1) A government that concentrated on providing only the minimum inventory of \"services\", whether by accident or design, and arguably only those which \"could not\" be provided by private enterprise, whether at that time or at all in the future. Taxation was always low in these situations as a consequence. All the territories administered by London in 1900 occupied the attentions of less than 100,000 bureaucrats. In contrast, the UK\'s Health & Social Security bureaucracy \"employs\" more people than the KGB did when it terrorised the planet. (No, Britain is definitely not a capitalist country today.)

(2) Basic law and order well-defined and actively enforced (perhaps not quite so effectively in example {c}) In general, everything is was allowed that is/was not expressly forbidden - if it was, it would be found to be in violation of a Natural Right and of that only;

(3) Populations which are/were strongly influenced at the individual level by morally-based notions of good and evil, and of absolute morality, such as would give a good grounding for a widespread understanding of Natural Rights. (Even in Central Europe, it is astounding to observe the extent to which people have resisted, successfully, the brutalisation of the spirit that flows inevitably from state socialism - and what an exposure they had to it, too! Two kinds; first the Nazis and then Stalin. I would have cracked.)

(7) Can we nail it down? Probably not. At least, not in the sense that academics and philosophers like to want to box up an idea. We can say what it will not do for man, and we can see as a result why these people mostly do not like it. In the end, capitalism has won - and every other -ism has lost - the battle to be the most moral and the most neutral ideal. It is the only father of liberty, just as liberty is the mother of order. It has also shown its credentials successfully, time after time, as the only reliable engine of Man\'s material progress and well- being in a hostile universe. It is the best guarantor that Man yet has of his freedom to dispose and arrange the apparatus and metaphysics of his life, and his relationships, while insuring him, just a little - but enough - against statist tyranny, which cannot, indeed, coexist with capitalist values for long.

It is definitely not a map, and therefore being blind, as it is, to the future and neutral towards objectives so long as enough people want them and will peacefully risk their goods and their time to get there, it is not utopian; it is therefore hated by all Platonists, most thinkers and many other clever persons, who, being all very clever, try to see the future that they think is good for man, and force him to march towards it - for of course, they are much better planners than their fellows, and thus they must be listened to! These people love maps as do I, but they fail, tragically, to see that maps can only chart physical objects and not the progress of ideas, which depends on whether the ideas are good ones or bad ones. Wise men can tell the difference between the two, based on observation of those ideas in action.

Capitalism will not, also, relieve man of his responsibility to himself for deciding what his own wishes and objectives are, before pursuing them. It will not buy happiness, if men do not know what makes them happy; for this reason too, utopians and socialists hate it, and try to claim moral superiority through their supposed ability to know what is best for the rest! It is such a tragic waste of intellect, that these people cannot see how capitalism, blind just like good justice, rewards good ideas and punishes bad ones as do the Mills of God, far more precisely and evenhandedly than the clever thinkers ever could. Just think what man would be capable of, if these people were on his side!

And do you want to know something else, too? All those clever utopians refuse to apologise, even now.

1 See the publications of the Libertarian Alliance, obtainable from Brian Micklethwait, 25 chapter chambers, Esterbrook Street, London SW1 England, Tel 0044 171 821 5502.

2 Income tax was introduced, as a \"temporary\" measure, at a rate of 1% of earnings, to pay for the increasingly costly Napoleonic war. It has never afterwards been removed, just as passports remained compulsory for British citizens after WW1 finished. The cleverest governments have always used wars as excuses to introduce, quietly, pieces of tyranny that they intend to be permanent.

 
 




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