Armavirumque, Sep 17, 2008 05:38 PM
by James Bowman
As you might expect of a nation which, in the writings of its domestic and imported socialist intelligentsia, gave birth to the myth of "capitalism," the British papers have been full of discussion this week about the implications for capitalism of the current crisis in the world’s financial markets. Some say, with Jeff Randal of the Daily Telegraph that that mythical critter, capitalism, is "painful, but it works." Others hold with today’s Telegraph correspondent, Roger Payne of London N.W.3 in seeing in the markets’ turmoil "the excesses of capitalism" and a validation of "Marx’s prophecies of how capitalism would implode."
But capitalism cannot implode — much to the disappointment, no doubt, of many besides Mr Payne — because it never existed in the first place. It was merely the invention of socialist theorists for the purpose of putting things as they are — a.k.a. capitalism — on a speciously yet astonishingly persuasive equal theoretical footing with the merely speculative alternative to things as they are, namely socialism. Not surprisingly, in the couple of centuries since, things as they are have continued to be pretty much as they still are while the speculative alternative has remained stubbornly resistant to all attempts to turn it into reality.
What might well implode, however, is the Western political consensus of the past 20 years, since the manifest failure of the Soviet socialist experiment, that socialism does not, after all, provide a real alternative to the economic reality that socialists call "capitalism" — that is, the way inevitable markets inevitably work. In today’s New York Times, for example, Democratic pollster Mark Mellman notes with considerable satisfaction that
In the mid-1990s, polling that my firm conducted showed that more than 60 percent of voters were more concerned that "the federal government will try to do too much, not do it well and raise taxes." This year, 60 percent chose the survey’s other option, expressing greater worry that "the federal government will not do enough to help ordinary people deal with the problems they face." Americans who used to be wary of government involvement are now calling for it.
If this is true and the lessons of history have faded so quickly — hardly surprising, given the low priority of history teaching — it may be that we will have to learn them all over again the hard way.
This article originally appeared in Armavirumque Blog, Sep 17, 2008 05:38 PM
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