Information Landmine

"The Americans keep telling us how successful their system is. Then they remind us not to stray too far from our hotel at night." - An un-named EU trade representative quoted during international trade talks in Denver, Colorado, 1997.

Sunday, March 18, 2007

Nothing is sacred in the chase for profit

One of Scotland's most significant historical battlefields, the site where the nation won its then-independence, is about to be permanently desecrated merely for the sake of a road-building company's profits.

What was Drummer Dave saying about The Golden Age of Greed (tm)?


Blogger DrummerDave said...

The Golden Age of Greed (tm) is among us now, and I would be hard pressed to think or feel like we're going to be breaking from it any time soon...

The key to its power over us is the general consensus that money/profit/capitalism is the highest calling possible. As we are in this age, Greed is ultimately what everything boils down to - few seem ready to stand and let something other than their own pockets trump any sort of cause, whether it would be personal freedom or keeping a historic locale intact.

I don't know how long it will take us to break from this age, but until we do, we truly are hopeless.

19 March, 2007 22:27  
Blogger Steve said...

Capitalism has come to a kind of ideological hegemony largely by default, because since the Industrial Revolution nothing else has ever really been tried in any serious sense. "Ah," I hear the braying voices on the right of the house ((c)Billy Bragg, 1985) say, "but what about that great leftist invention, Marxism? Gee, wasn't that a great success?"

Well, Karl Marx never envisioned the attempted implementation of socialism/communism by predominantly agrarian societies like Russia, China, Cuba, etc. He himself would almost certainly have pointed out the abject futility and tragically ludicrous nature of such efforts had he been alive to witness them.

When the proponents of laissez-faire capitalism sneer and point to, say, Albania as an example of the complete and utter ideological bankruptcy of socialism/communism, their arguments are at best naive and at worst disingenuous in terms of actually proving anything about the viability of Marx's socio-economic model. It was never designed for a country at such an early stage of economic and industrial development.

Marx had modern, industrialized countries like Britain, the US and Germany in mind when he developed his theories of proletarian revolution and socio-economic reorganization. Those were the societies where conditions made a successful implementation of socialism/communism a real possibility.

Make no mistake: Marxism has a number of inherent flaws and contradictions that would, were such a system ever implemented within the kind of advanced industrialized socio-economic context Marx envisioned it working in, prevent it from achieving the kind of utopian world that he claimed was possible. But capitalism likewise has serious internal problems that make Adam Smith's utopian vision just as naive and unobtainable.

The problem for the left in trying to offer a semi-workable alternative is that the Soviet Union et al. ended up discrediting socialism/communism despite never actually ever being socialist/communist states in any meaningful sense. Sure, they claimed to be creating a series of workers' paradises, but that's like me claiming to be the Pope: just saying it doesn't make it true. Nevertheless, it was convenient both for the Soviets and other self-proclaimed communist regimes and their capitalist foes - for different reasons - to just go along with that and pretend that the USSR, East Germany, Albania, Vietnam, etc. really represented the highest ideals of Marxism in action.

However, because nearly everyone on both the right and the left bought into that, following the collapse of the Eastern Bloc the left has found itself struggling to come up with any kind of credible and coherent alternative to what has become a capitalist juggernaut.

The growing problem for all of us, right and left alike, is that the juggernaut is going to slam into a wall soon, in the form of a self-inflicted environmental catastrophe or economic crisis or perhaps both. But by that time it may be too late for the human species and most of the other living beings on the planet, save for las cucharachas, which will most likely outlive the anthropocene and move into the next era of life on earth without us. Ultimately they may prove themselves to be smarter and more adaptable to changing circumstances than the human race!

20 March, 2007 01:14  
Blogger Uncle Petie said...

My feeling is that Adam Smith cops a lot of unfair flak - he didn't suggest that the market was a cure-all, just that free trade was more efficient for producing wealth. He also seemed very receptive to the idea that the government should step in to alleviate the markets worst excesses, and was deeply suspicious of the idea of corporations or joint-stock companies.

John Kenneth Galbraith asks a good question along the lines of "How many CEOs who extol Smith's genius at every turn realise he would probably have thought their activites illegal?"

20 March, 2007 19:17  
Blogger Uncle Petie said...

I'm loving the idea of "Robert the Bruce's camp followers" though. They were, after all, wearing skirts...

20 March, 2007 19:24  

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