Sunday, January 27, 2008

Imperialism and capitalism

I neglected to reply to Che Bob, and I'm attempting to rectify things with a post. He writes:

There is no legitimate way of disproving the obvious link between capitalism and modern imperialism. One must either be willfully blind or dishonest to deny it. And those of you who do so remind me of those that deny the overwhelming proof of climate change and evolution. Furthermore, choosing to ignore the link is tantamount to criminal complicity with the crimes committed for the sake of profit.

First, bringing up climate change and evolution is perfect, but only because both are so dubious. If by climate change, one means that the climate is not static, one would have a point, albeit a trivial one. It is far more likely that Che Bob, who can correct me if I am wrong in my assumption, believes that the human responsibility for climate change has been substantiated. Only it hasn't. The hysteria over global warming is due to a number of factors, but good science is hardly one of them. The models used to predict calamitous temperatures in the far off future are wholly unable to predict temperatures accurately in the short term.

Evolution is another case where something has been proven, only it hasn't. I'm not a young earth creationist, or even necessarily a creationist at all, but evolutionary theory requires far too much faith for me to believe, at least at present. A reasonable hypothesis isn't the same as a demonstrable theory. Evolution is a good guess of what may have happened, but it's hardly scientific since it can't be tested, at least at the macro level. As soon as we can start evolving animals in laboratories, and make accurate predictions about the ways in which the animals evolve, I'll cast aside my skepticism. Until then, I'm not biting.

Now, as for capitalism and imperialism, the connection is tenuous. For one, the most capitalistic country of the 19th and 20th centuries, America, was the least imperialistic; until recently, we were "a republic, not an empire", in Pat Buchanan's phrase. The growth of imperialism, such as our misadventures in Iraq, is linked to capitalism in part--war profits for corporations--but it was made possible by the growth of the State. A government that practices laissez-faire economics is, by definition, small. Corporations--which are also the creation of the State; corporations are not capitalism, to quote Vox Day--may have desired to increase profits by engaging in imperialism, but the State was too impotent to grant such a wish.

Capitalism is best defended by libertarians, such as Ron Paul, who is also the least imperialistic of those running for President. Those who believe in free markets, tend to abhor compulsion, in any forms, imperialism being just one example thereof. If capitalism were really to blame, America would have become an empire much sooner, but as we drifted away from laissez-faire, we moved toward imperialism. The connection may not be specifically causal, and yet, at root, the foolish belief of control serves both. Those who refuse to regulate the market, seldom attempt to coerce whole countries.

Capitalism is the endless accumulation of wealth, period! It must grow or die. It needs markets! It must expand.

That's simply not true. If anything, capitalism tends toward what Hilaire Belloc dubbed the Servile State. Capitalism reached its height during the early 20th century, at least in America; what we know possess is very unlike capitalism, though it still removed from outright Socialism.

You make a couple of mistakes in your characterizations of capitalism, typical of, but by no means exclusive to Marxists. The first is that capitalism can expand of itself; economics is not a zero-sum game. Henry Ford's assembly line increased automobile output, as well as the standard of living. He did this without having to resort to imperialism. This sort of thing happens frequently in capitalist countries, though the government is excellent at ensuring that it doesn't happen too often.

On the other hand, it was the Communist/Fascist regimes of the 20th century which were forced to be imperialistic. Since Lenin and Stalin were inept at running the economic show, they needed to resort to conquering other countries; they also made extensive use of slave labor. It is ironic that as the relatively benevolent empires of the western democracies began to collapse, the liberated countries erupted in violence and terror; meanwhile, other lands were engulfed by the Soviet empire, which was anything but benevolent. The U.S.S.R. demonstrates the silliness of your premise. You can't possibly insist that it was capitalistic, and yet, it was undeniably imperialistic.

Just think for a moment of all of the human and non-human nature that has commodified, privitized then exploited. Life has become patentable.

What you are discussing happened in the Soviet Union as well, so it's not strictly a result of capitalism. Instead, it was the fruit of a relativistic world, in which God had parted and man was left as the ruler by which all things would be judged. With the idea of the supernatural discarded, all things were temporal. Eat, drink, and be merry, for tomorrow we die. Doing away with capitalism won't change the commodification of human existence; it, will, however, ensure that there are fewer things to commodify under the despotic regimes which inevitably replace capitalist ones.

Sorry Wiser and Co., but there is no excuse, nor defense for Capitalism. It is inhumane, unsustainable and undemocratic.

And with what on earth would you replace it? Capitalism has its flaws, but it is a workable model that protects private property and human dignity better than its misguided substitutes. All of your charges are incorrect: capitalism is more humane than Communism; it is more sustainable; and it is more democratic. For goodness sake, you are perfectly free to lambast the system on a public forum! If you tried to do that in the Soviet Union, they would have shipped you straight to the Gulag.


troutsky said...

I wish you luck in your mutualist vision (stateless, pure markets) but feel it is more Quixotic than even our socialist vision.At least it's not the status quo, socialism for the rich, wage slavery for the rest,which is unsustainable and undemocratic.
As for warming, doesn't it make a little sense that pumping all that co2 into the atmosphere would have some effect? Don't you think viruses evolve or dogs can be bred for certain traits? It's called genetic engineering and survival rates produce the same results, ie select for performance.Fairly well documented.

Doom said...

With the small actual impact of CO2 on global temperature, the fact that more C02 is stored/released in one major volcanic event or a single large body of salt water (think Utah lake, not oceanic, and merely a layer and one degree within that constraint) than is pumped by all of men's machines in a year, and the fact that the release of CO2 from those natural sources is temperature related (meaning CO2 is an effect, not a cause of global warming), you continue to shoot yourself in the foot. If the truth must be told, it is global cooling which is about to be a severe problem, though none of the weather patterns are anthropomorphic.

This "sky is falling" is so trite. They have been saying this (pagans and other lessers) since tribes first formed. Talking monkeys, without God that is all you are and you act it.

I hope someday you set aside your passions and begin to run with reason. At some point, all but the most devotedly anti-logical do so. The rest just mumble while they stumble around exclusive and dead symposiums to false logic, Grateful Dead wakes, Episcopalian leadership councils, and the like. Even children know when they see you, it is almost sad. I do not even believe you have the legitimate excuse of sex to hide behind.

A Wiser Man Than I said...

I wish you luck in your mutualist vision (stateless, pure markets) but feel it is more Quixotic than even our socialist vision.

Thanks. Of course, laissez-faire systems have existed, and in this country, whereas the equal ownership of the means of production is fantasy which erupts in totalitarian bouts.

As for warming, doesn't it make a little sense that pumping all that co2 into the atmosphere would have some effect?

Based on what? I am not a scientist, but neither do I take the word of one every time he speaks. We've not established what effect C02 has. And we're not going to find out either, since everyone who doubts is an anti-science ignoramus.

Don't you think viruses evolve or dogs can be bred for certain traits?

Yes. This doesn't mean speciation has occurred. Nor does it explain the curious incident of rational man. No one has figured out how consciousness has evolved. And hat's just one of the many problems.