David Stockman’s tirade against the corruption of capitalism
David Stockman gives us quite a tirade today on what he sees as the “Corruption of Capitalism in America”. The article seethes with anger on this Easter Sunday at the defilement of that most holy of sacred relics – Capitalism. We have sinned, we have corrupted the purity of capitalism, and are about to pay the price!
Things are bad and end-times may be near, but as is true in most religions, this self anointed priest completely misses the underlying truth: that the very system he so relishes, defiling as it does human nature itself, is the corruption. Any reasonably unbiased view of history or understanding of the underlying logic of the system demonstrates this to be true. The unending exploitation of human beings in the name of forever expanding profit, colonialism, imperialism and war, unbridled self interest, never ending financial crises, inability to serve public welfare, gross inequality, rampant poverty and insecurity in the face of unsurpassed productivity – these are just some of the realities that tell us capitalism is incapable of being corrupted because it’s the very face of corruption itself.
One of the cleverest ideological tricks of this obscenity of a socio-economic system is to divide its unity into two artificial halves: a “political” encompassing the state and “capitalism” which runs pretty much everything to do with material well being, i.e. the economy. In reality, we have just one system but proponents such as Stockman have great success blaming its unending failures on the “political” while leaving “capitalism” blameless. The perpetuation of this duality is perhaps the most successful propaganda effort in human history!
The system is almost always sick and has been on its death bed many times – the Jacobin turn in the French Revolution, the 1848 Europe wide revolution, World War I, the Depression, World War II, the 1960’s, the 1970’s, and now today. Stockman’s right that the system is in grave danger and he tells us this in the most apocalyptic of ways: “sundown in America”, “we should be very afraid”, the current “bubble” will soon “explode”, “we are now state-wrecked”, “the future is bleak”, we will “face a day of reckoning”, we are in “an end-stage metastasis”, “the United States is broke — fiscally, morally, intellectually”, “ there will be nothing to stop the collapse”, and so on. The problem according to Stockman, again, isn’t capitalism which is by its nature pure, but the evil state and especially its “rogue” central bank, the “mad money printers”, public debt, and Keynesian policies. That the state role came into play largely to offset the abject failure of capitalism to meet even the most minimal needs is ignored.
Stockman’s solution is essentially a return to an idyllic 19th century version of pure capitalism. No new ideas here, all we need do to solve our problem is turn the clock back and enter into a Nietzschean cycle of eternal return. How we could possibly expect anything different the next time around is left unexplained. I suppose a hundred years from now, if we’re lucky enough to survive our replay, some distant progeny of Stockman’s can prescribe yet again a renewal via return!
Stockman’s view is both dismal and sick. He tells us (rightly) we are collapsing but prescribes a quack remedy that’s nothing but a recipe for tragedy. Unsurprisingly, he brings in to his argument a populist referral to the “99%”. Right wing libertarianism played a major role in the Occupy movement, at least here in Colorado, and was a great force in neutering any true progressive agenda.
The only sane way out of our global mess is to come to grips with the true nature of our corruption and recognize we can’t have a truly prosperous, just world when virtually everything is owned by the tiniest fraction, our modern day lords, and everyone else is forced into a never ending cycle of desperate competition. (Look no further than the same opinion pages of the Times to find the typical Thomas Friedman lunacy in this regard.)
We need to see the system of capitalism as the basic fundamental problem and advance to a place where we put human values and widespread prosperity front and center.