Posts Tagged ‘Free Market

28
Jul
10

A Communist Response to the Tea Party

The Tea Party has made a point of lambasting the Communist movement. Pictures of Obama (for the last time- not a Communist) are adorned with the hammer-and-sickle emblem, or set up alongside pictures of Marx and Lenin. There are picket-signs with such slogans as “Revolt Against Socialism”-in short, it’s the largest anti-leftist movement since McCarthyism. And not without reason, either. It’s undeniable that there’s a certain appeal to the Tea Party movement. Joining the fight against the [alleged] looming threat of an authoritarian state, bringing the country back to its original values, lowering taxes for the middle-class-everyman- who wouldn’t want in? But as with every political/social/economic movement you have to cut through the buzz words and slogans and examine the core principals and goals.

The Tea Party seems to be focused around three central issues, (1) the limiting of government power, (2) the restoration of Free Market Capitalism, and (3) through these two goals bring America back to the values of the Founding Fathers. In and of themselves these principals seem perfectly reasonable- admirable even. Until you look at history.

Limiting government power? Hey- Communists are all for it. One of the principal goals of Marxism is the abolition of the state. Indeed, despite the Tea Party’s pictures of Democrat politicians with the hammer-and-sickle superimposed on them, Communists have more in common with Libertarians- as far as governmental issues anyways. The problem with the Tea Party is that there not against big government- they’re against big Democrat government. The Patriotic Act was one of the greatest expansions of government power since the Civil War- did the Tea Party protest then? In the Tea Party’s defense though- this is a problem on both sides of the political spectrum; those who protested the Patriot Act have remained strangely silent about the issue now that Obama is in power.

As for the restoration of Free Market Capitalism- there’s a reason regulatory laws and branches have been developed. Before the advent of market regulation, the state of things was appalling. Child labor, strike-breakers, low wages, dangerous work conditions, false advertising, a complete lack of product safety and quality control, rampant pollution- to put it mildly, it was nightmarish. And even despite regulatory laws, corporations continue to pollute and exploit- look at third-world sweatshops and the continued destruction of the environment! If things are bad now, how much worse will they be without laws to protect the workers and consumers?

And lastly and most importantly, there’s the issue of the founding fathers. If you listen to far-right pundits (Glen Beck would be a prime example), you’ll hear repeatedly that the US must be returned to the plans the founding fathers had for it. A closer look at the writings of America’s founders, however, suggest that they might not have been as wild about Capitalism as conservative pundits and Tea Party members make them out to be. Thomas Jefferson, for example, had this to say about private property:

It is agreed by those who have seriously considered the subject, that no individual has, of natural right, a separate property in an acre of land, for instance. By an [sic] universal law, indeed, whatever, whether fixed or movable, belongs to all men equally and in common, is the property for the moment of him who occupies it, but when he relinquishes the occupation, the property goes with it.

Or look at this statement by Thomas Paine (technically not a founding father, but his influence of the Revolutionary War and the formation of the American government is immeasurable):

Men did not make the earth… It is the value of the improvements only, and not the earth itself, that is individual property… Every proprietor owes to the community a ground rent for the land which he holds.

and

…To pay as a remission of taxes to every poor family, out of the surplus taxes, and in room of poor-rates, four pounds a year for every child under fourteen years of age; enjoining the parents of such children to send them to school, to learn reading, writing, and common arithmetic; the ministers of every parish, of every denomination to certify jointly to an office, for that purpose, that this duty is performed… By adopting this method, not only the poverty of the parents will be relieved, but ignorance will be banished from the rising generation, and the number of poor will hereafter become less…

Even half a century later, Lincoln (not a founder, still an important figure in the shaping of American politics) gave us this warning:

As a result of the war, corporations have been enthroned and an era of corruption in high places will follow, and the money power of the country will endeavor to prolong its reign by working upon the prejudices of the people until all wealth is aggregated in a few hands and the Republic is destroyed.

Quite simply, as far as the founders go, I doubt their ideologies would have mixed too well with those of the Tea Party.

To summarize, the Tea Party may have a heroic and patriotic veneer, but that’s all that there is- catchphrases, dire warnings about an apocalyptic future, and desperate attempts to restore a past that never existed. And the truly tragic thing is there’s a lot in the Tea Party that could be used for the betterment of the American public. The rejection of big government is admirable- just make sure that you’re not substituting one lack of liberty for another. The desire to restore prosperity is good- Capitalism isn’t the way. The attempt to restore the country to the principals of the founding fathers is commendable- but only so long as you know what those principals were.

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25
Jun
10

Socialism vs Capitalism vs Communism (and a quick note about the tea-party)

According to some pundits the US is currently locked in a struggle between its so-called Capitalist, free-market heritage and the looming threat of Socialism. Keep in mind that the term ‘Socialism’, while once synonymous with ‘Communism’, is currently used to describe a country where the majority of property lies in the hands of the government. Now as you can see by simply looking at some of the policies being enacted by the current administration that the US isn’t moving towards Capitalism or Socialism. Property isn’t being privatized or nationalized to any major extent. What has happened is that the federal government has been increasing in size and power, leading some elements on the right (namely the “tea-party”) to begin making dire predictions of an oppressive Orwellian future.

Now before I start, I feel that I should comment a bit about the tea-party:

Now I don’t have a problem with people protesting big government. As a Communist, I’m as opposed to a powerful central government as much as the average member of the tea-party, perhaps even more so. The problem is that the tea-party isn’t protesting big government! Where was the tea-party when the Bush administration pushed through the Patriot Act? The simple reality of the tea-party is that it’s not about resisting big government, it’s about resisting Democrat big government (in the same way, many of those who protested the Patriot Act have failed to complain about the increases in Government power under Obama- yeah the rule applies to Democrats too).

Now back to the point.

Despite the typical, melodramatic slap-fight between the Democrat and Republican parties, it can’t be denied that every once in a great while, the issues of privatization versus regulation of the markets comes up. On one hand there are the Libertarians who state that government involvement in all areas of life should be minimized. The markets should be allowed to boom and crash of their own accord and government interference only exacerbates existing issues and prevents natural growth (an argument Adam Smith first came up with). On the other hand, there are Socialists and Progressives who point out that history has shown businesses to be corrupt and dangerous if not regulated.

It seems more and more that the public is seeing this debate as an either/or dilemma- free market Capitalism or government regulation?

The sad truth of the matter is that both options are equally awful. Consider this: if there’s no government regulation of business (or as anarcho-Capitalists and objectivists would have it, no government at all), what’s to stop the meat industry from selling dangerously unclean meat? What keeps the pharmaceutical industry from selling us untested cough medicine, or even flavored sewer water labeled “cough medicine”? It is true that history has shown us, time and again, businesses have only one goal in mind- profit. Child labor, slavery, dangerous working conditions, chemical dumping, pollution- what would the state of our world be in if there were no laws against these things? If there were no regulations or watchdogs?

At the same time, regulating the free market has serious side-effects as well. Corporations will do anything to get around labor laws or environmental regulations and the like, and the government will find itself forced to constantly increase the number of regulatory departments and their power and extent of jurisdiction. The result is an inevitably gargantuan, bureaucratic government. State capitalism- as the USSR has demonstrated- is inefficient and oppressive.

But despite what the proponents of free market Capitalism and regulated Capitalism would have you believe, it’s not an either/or situation! Communism advocates the abolition of both Capitalism and the state, offering instead a system based on public property and public choice.

06
Jun
10

[Not] Free to Choose

Despite a growing dissatisfaction with Capitalism, there are many who refuse the concept of doing away with the system altogether. Such individuals tend to advocate “happy mediums” between free market Capitalism and state regulation. For example, the 2009 documentary Food, Inc. attempted to expose issues within the American food industry. While the film was highly critical of the some major food corporations in the US and the general way the industry is set up, the film advocated not the abolition of the Capitalist system that has allowed the situation to come to be, but rather the idea that through selective consumption, the food industry will be forced to alter its practices and products. For example, in this new system, one would choose to buy only “green” products, showing corporations that (1) the consumers will no longer buy ecologically harmful products and (2) there’s a profit to be made by selling eco-friendly merchandise.

It’s a painfully flawed system.

First, we must recognize the central role profits play. A product that is eco-friendly, made well, and made by laborers who are being paid decent wages is going to be substantially more expensive than a product that is made with no regard to the environment, the health/well-being of the consumer, and made by sweatshop workers. Products that have the qualities of the former are either too expensive to be profitable (enough) for the corporations producing them or too expensive to be purchasable by the majority of consumers. While there is some degree of public choice involved, overwhelmingly other factors such as the poverty of the consumers make this system impossible to realize.

Second, we must understand that Capitalism is in no way, shape, or form a democratic system. A while back, I had a conversation about Capitalism’s displacement (and to a degree, eradication) of local cultures. The person arguing with me made that claim that if the people of a country didn’t want McDonalds springing up across their nation, they would have only to stop eating there and the McDonalds, seeing no profit, would withdraw. The issue with this is that even if 95% of a population is against there being a product sold, if the remaining 5% buys enough to allow the company to make a profit, they will keep selling.

To recap the situation, product A is bad but cheap, product B is good but expensive, you will probably only be able to afford product A, and even if you manage to purchase product B, your ability to purchase other good products like B will be reduced because B is still expensive. But if you were somehow to rally the public and declare a boycott of product A, the fact that you’ve managed to get 75% of the populace to stop buying A doesn’t mean that A will cease to be a source of revenue. Short of getting a universal ban on product A, there’s not a whole lot you can do.

Now don’t misunderstand this post- I’m not arguing that because you don’t have much choice, you should capitulate to unethical business practices. On the contrary, out of principal, when it is your choice, you ought to spend money on the eco-friendly, fair-trade products rather than harmful or slave-labor products. I’m merely showing that Capitalism cannot be controlled by popular choice. Capitalism cannot be moderated so long as it remains based entirely on the acquisition of capital– and any change to this- the most fundamental aspect of Capitalism- would be an abolition of the Capitalist system altogether.

If you’re not free to choose within Capitalism, maybe you ought to considering choosing something other than Capitalism.

31
Oct
09

What Would Jesus Buy?

Today is Halloween, formerly All-Saint’s Day Eve, formerly Samain Night. The origins of the holiday aren’t important- like many Christian celebrations, it combined local traditions (in this case, the Celtic equivalent of Dias de los Muertos) with elements of Christianity. What happened nearly two thousand years ago has happened again, though this time it isn’t a case of one religion attempting to exploit another- it’s Capitalism attempting to exploit religion.

Now you’ll have heard these kinds of arguments before- Christmas has become too materialistic, Valentine’s Day is just about consumerism, and so on. Let’s face it- it’s true. Capitalism, as it always does, attempts to take advantage of whatever situation and profit from it. The problem with this in the case of religious holidays is that consumerism and religion simply do not mix.

Take Valentine’s Day for example. While there are several differing accounts, most records agree that Valentine was a third-century Christian priest who was executed by the Emperor Claudius for proselytizing. According to legend, Valentine sent his friends and supporters letters and flowers while he was imprisoned, a tradition that eventually evolved (or devolved, according to your opinion) to the exchange of romantic notes and roses today (though most stories assert that Valentine sent crocuses- but that’s off topic). Here you can see the problem for Capitalists: profiting off of historical religious intolerance isn’t exactly easy. So Capitalists came up with the idea to pervert the holiday and change it from a memorial of a saint to a day of obligated romance. As you can imagine, there’s a lot more money off of over-priced chocolates, perfumes, roses, and red construction paper than there is in the general appreciation of fellow members of your faith. The same could be said about Christmas, Thanksgiving, Mardi Gras (believe it or not, it started as a religious event), Easter, and to a lesser extent, Hanukkah and Ramadan.

So why would this matter to Communism? Doesn’t Communism claim that religion is simply the “opiate of the people”? The answer is both yes and no- interpretations vary and Communists are by no means united on what exactly Marxism’s stance on religion is- but that’s all irrelevant. My purpose here is to demonstrate that Capitalism will profit off of anything, no matter the origin or purpose. The very days and events meant to celebrate anti-materialism, community, and spirituality are warped into being the epitome of gluttonous consumerism, self-centeredness, and wasteful excess. If nothing else can convince you of the twistedness of Capitalism- this will. Capitalism is making (and with great success) an attempt to infiltrate and dominate religious holidays- it’s only a matter of time before they target religion.

So I guess what I’m trying to communicate is this. Ask yourself, the next time you’re confronted with a ten-dollar bag of stale candy; a garish, plastic snowman lawn-ornament; or carton of foul-tasting chocolate bunnies; what would Jesus buy?

16
Oct
09

War for Sale

War has plagued humanity since one caveman discovered that using a heavy stick got him what he wanted a lot quicker than his fists did. Since that discovery, humanity has come a long way in the development of weapons, from bronze spears to compound bows to cannons to nuclear missiles. Now of course, there is nothing wrong with this- be it saber-tooth tigers or serial killers, humans will always have something to fight. What is wrong with this, however, is that there are those who take advantage of this fact. I’d call them “human vultures”, but that would be an insult to the birds- after all, vultures don’t attempt to instigate, prolong, or exacerbate conflicts. You probably know these people as the “Industrial-Military Complex”.

Now of course, “Industrial-Military Complex” is a term often misused. Conspiracy theorists warp the definition to describe supposed shady corporations controlling the military, or vice versa. In reality, however, the term “Industrial Military Complex” is simply used to refer to companies and corporations that develop and/or sell weapons for combat (as opposed to hunting and recreation). Now is there anything wrong the research and manufacturing of arms? Of course not- every government in the world has a need to defend itself- to spend money and effort on maintaining a strong defense force is both right and natural. The problem is the Capitalist system allows for all forms of commerce, from advertising to research to fast-food to prostitution. Anything and everything can be produced and sold- including weapons.

Now the issue here should be obvious- if a corporation creates a products (a fighter jet, for example), it isn’t enough to simply have a  supply of the product- you have to sell it; to sell something, there must also be a demand. As you can imagine, a fighter jet isn’t exactly cheap- selling it is going to make you a massive profit. Of course, you’re going to need someone to sell your fighter jets to, and let the facts be faced, people aren’t going to wake up one morning with a sudden urge to buy one. So now you have two options: (1) scrap trying to sell fighter-jets and sell something else or (2) create a demand for fighter-jets (and whatever other weapons you might be selling).

Now let the facts be faced; people who feel secure don’t attempt to fortify their houses or stock up on assault rifles. People only raise the drawbridge when they feel threatened– either by violence or the fear of violence. Of course, it is in the interests of those selling the weapons to promote either (1) violence or (2) fear (which, incidentally, is the definition of “terrorist”). How does one go about doing this? There are a number of ways. You could make sizable campaign contributions to “hawk” (pro-war/pro use of military action as a first resort) politicians. You could make sizeable campaign contributions to politicians in hope to buy their sympathies. You could advertise- try to convince the public that they live in a dark, scary world filled with monsters they need to protect themselves from. You could attempt to- through any number techniques- disrupt the attempts of peace negotiations (after all, the more war, conflict, and violence there is, the more weapons people will pay for).

Now this obviously isn’t right. To feed off of fear and conflict and escalation is- frankly- sick. War is and always will be a tragic but often necessary event in human history. To incite, encourage, prolong, or exacerbate violent conflict for profit is perhaps the height of immorality, and yet by the Capitalist standard the industrial-military complex is not an abomination but simply free trade- the production and exchange of goods for capital (money).

Now my message here is simple. War is being sold to you- don’t buy into it. Don’t be frightened by stories of monsters under the bed when you have the real monsters trying to scare you into buying their automatics and Kevlar. Don’t be imprisoned by paranoia.

Be brave.

01
Sep
09

Communist Slang

Throughout the years, Communists have been depicted and portrayed in the media as always having beards, thick Russian accents, and a unique vocabulary used when interacting with Capitalists. While only some Communists actually ever had the thick accents and beards hair (let the facts be faced, Colonel Sander’s is just a composite of Stalin’s face and Trotsky’s facial hair) for once the media stereotype of Communists is accurate when it comes to the slang. Communism, you see, is not merely a political-economic system but also a worldview and a kind of culture, and like every culture, there’s a specialized vocabulary that goes along with it. Listed below are some of the more common Communist phrases and terms:

Comrade: Though originating during the French Revolution, the word first became associated with Communism during the mid 1870s, though it was briefly used by the Nazis during the Second World War. The word itself was created (and to this day used) as a term of address doing away with any titles of nobility and royalty. While used in a derogatorily and sarcastic manner by Capitalists to describe someone of a far left-wing orientation, the term “Comrade” is still used as a formal term of address among Marxists.

Imperialist: The term “Imperialist” is an insult commonly used throughout the Communist movement. While the word may have any number of uses, it is most commonly employed to describe a person or group engaged or associated with globalization, unrestricted international or “free” trade, or war. The insult has its origins in the early years of Communism, when imperialism was taking place under the name of colonialism. Sympathizing with the indigenous populations, Communists began applying the word “Imperialist” to those involved in the expansion of European (and later, American) power. The word is still used frequently today, though it is often paired with another word, creating combinations such as “Imperialist Pig” or “Imperialist Exploiter”.

Fascist: While “Fascist” does technically have its own definition (Fascist: noun. A movement or group attempting to maintain culture, Capitalism, tradition, and the status quo through whatever means available) when used as an insult, the word takes on the simpler meaning of “repressive”, “authoritarian”, and “totalitarian”. Often applied to the police, members of far right-wing/conservative groups, and the military, “Fascist” perhaps can be ranked as one of the stronger Communist insults. For those of you who may have difficulty discerning when a Communist is using “Fascist” to refer to the insult or the actual political theory, simply study the tone- if the Communist is screaming and/or throwing things at you while referring to you as a “Fascist”, chances are he’s using the word as an insult rather than a technical term.

Revisionist: While the word “Revisionist” may refer to a number of things, when used in a Communist context, this most commonly refers to heterodox Communist theory (i.e. “Communism” with one or more basic tenets changed). “Revisionist” is often used as an intra-Communist insult, used to attack members of a school of Communism the insulter deems to be strayed from orthodox Marxism.

Revolutionary: While technically used to refer to anything associated with the Communist revolution, the term, when used casually, is simply a positive Communist term meaning “good” or “excellent”. For example, while a Communist would not reply “revolutionary!” when informed of a good event (such as free pizza being delivered to his house), some Communists might describe the pizza as being “revolutionary”. While this term is by no means common, it is used in certain circles.

Capitalist: Like “Revolutionary”, the word “Capitalist” has both a technical and casual usage. Technically the word refers to an economic system based on private-property, free trade, and commerce, however when used informally, the word acts as the reverse of “revolutionary” (see previous entry)- used simply to refer to anything considered “bad” or “unfair”. For example, if a Communist did not like the price of pizza at a certain restaurant, chances are you’ll hear him angrily mutter something about the restaurant being run by “filthy Capitalists”.

Bourgeois/Bourgeoisie: Much like “Capitalist” the terms “Bourgeois” and “Bourgeoisie” (while technically referring to the middle-class) are used to describe anything distasteful or traditionalist. Essentially, the word “Bourgeois” is used to refer to anything considered to be “counter-revolutionary” or un-Communist. For example, if one person were to say to a Communist “My life’s goal is to get married and run a successful pizza restaurant”, the Communist may reply that this goal is sickeningly “Bourgeois”.

The Man/The System: While the exact era and region that this term originated in are unclear, most believe that the term was developed sometime between 1880s-1950s in rural America. “The Man” is a term used to refer to the government or indeed, any authority figure- derived from the word “management”. Likewise, the term “the system” is also used refer to political or social authority. Both terms are used in an extremely derogatory sense, though they are more often attributed to the left-wing in general, rather than Communism specifically.

Pig: While more commonly used in reference to the police (the exact origin of the term is unknown), when used among Communists, the word “pig” is often a suffix to a larger insult (i.e. “Capitalist Pigs”, “Imperialist Pigs”, etc.). It is commonly hypothesized that the origin of the use of the word “pig” in this context is derived from stereotypes of a pig’s nature, especially its association with gluttony.

Proletariat: (See “Revolutionary”)

Socialist: Once again, “Socialist” has a number of technical terms however when used among Communists, the word is often used according to its classical definition as being synonymous with Marxism.

Amerika/Amerikkka: Common Leftist derogatory refference to the United States, or right-wing elements of the United States.

08
Jul
09

Law and Disorder

We live in a world where almost anything can be bought. Paper clips, houses, pets, jets, guns, music, bottled water, sports teams, and so on. The so-called “Free Market” has made anything and everything available for those willing or capable of paying.

Justice included.

In the modern justice system, if a person is charged with a crime, he has the right to a lawyer to defend him. At first glance, this might appear to be a perfect system. Every person is entitled to a speedy trial in which he may face his accusers and employ a lawyer to convince a jury of the defendant’s peers that the defendant is innocent of the charges brought against him.

In reality, justice isn’t quite as blind as that. Equality before the law doesn’t mix well with Capitalist society.

When a person from a lower class is accused of committing a crime (armed burglary, let’s say), the defendant is at an immediate disadvantage whether or not he actually committed the crime. The prosecution may immediately link the defendant with a motive- after all, it’s easier to accuse a hungry man of stealing apples than a man who’s just eaten a meal. The poorer the accused person is, the stronger the case is against him. Equality before the law on exists if there’s equality in the bank accounts.

And the injustices of the legal system don’t end there.

According to the Miranda rights, has “…The right to an attorney present during questioning. If you cannot afford an attorney, one will be appointed for you…”. Now this would appear to solve any issues created by the economic gap between prosecutors and defendant. Everyone gets a lawyer regardless of social standing.

If attorneys were a mere commodity, then yes, this would solve the problem. In actuality, lawyers are human beings (contrary to the ocean of jokes about them being hell-spawned demons and leeches). Some lawyers are, quite simply, better than others. A criminal defense laywer that studied at Harvard will be better educated, more skilled, and infinitely more expensive to hire than a lawyer that graduated from some local law school. If a lower-class citizen is charged with a crime, he will not only have a “motive” due to his lack of money, but also only an average or even sub-average lawyer. On the other hand, a wealthy person can afford an entire team of the best and brightest lawyers available. In short, the same jury that would convict a poor person of one crime might easily find a wealthy person innocent on the same charge. In addition to this, the wealthy person may appeal and, if re-tried, will still be able to afford his army of Ivy League lawyers. Should a poorer person appeal and be re-tried, it’s likely that he won’t be able to afford the same quality of attorney he hired for his original case. In short, if a person is too poor, he could be convicted of a crime he didn’t commit. If a person is wealthy, he could be found not guilty of a crime he did. In the Capitalist world, innocence is a commodity that can be purchased for enough cash. There’s never a guarantee that the innocent will walk free and that the guilty will be punished according to their crimes.

Where’s the justice in that?