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Friday, January 23, 2009

A Tiresome Fallacy

Monopoly Men
Image from BBC News
Michael Parenti has an excellent and articulate essay on the foolish contradiction of "Capitalist Democracy" (emphasis mine, and go read the whole thing, of course):
In the midst of the meltdown, at an October 2008 congressional hearing, former chair of the Federal Reserve and orthodox free-market devotee Alan Greenspan confessed that he had been mistaken to expect moneyed interests--groaning under an immense accumulation of capital that needs to be invested somewhere--to suddenly exercise self-restraint.

The classic laissez-faire theory is even more preposterous than Greenspan made it. In fact, the theory claims that everyone should pursue their own selfish interests without restraint...

Is the crisis of 2008-09 caused by a chronic tendency toward overproduction and hyper-financial accumulation, as Marx would have it? Or is it the outcome of the personal avarice of people like Bernard Madoff? In other words, is the problem systemic or individual? In fact, the two are not mutually exclusive. Capitalism breeds the venal perpetrators, and rewards the most unscrupulous among them. The crimes and crises are not irrational departures from a rational system, but the converse: they are the rational outcomes of a basically irrational and amoral system.
Will we ever be loose the coils of this madness? I don't know the answer to that, but I will say I see some incremental intelligence between the crisis/solution cycles of the Gilded Age and the Great Depression, but that is based on historical record, a highly suspicious source of information. We (the U.S.) are in our third iteration, and it's in my lifetime so I can watch real-time, to see if we've ratcheted up the self-awareness any...

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