Posts Tagged ‘Religion

13
Jan
12

Arguments for Communism

A while ago, I wrote a post listing brief counterarguments to the claims usually used to “disprove” Communism. To this day, it’s been one of the most read pieces I’ve written, so I thought it might be time to expand it a bit. Written below are the most common arguments people use against Communism, and my responses to them.

 

Communism Has Been “Tried and Failed”:

The problem with this commonly used argument is that more or less everything has been tried and failed. Take democracy for example. Can I argue that democracy is a futile endeavor because it failed not once but multiple times it was tried?

"I propose we write really depressing plays!"

If I recall, democracy didn’t work for the Athenians.

"I propose we totally rip off of the Greeks!"

And the republic didn’t exactly wind up being a lasting facet of Roman society.

Even in America, democratic government needed to be reworked- but despite the many failed attempts at democracy, the idea that anyone today would want anything other than a democracy is laughable. Let’s keep this in perspective before claiming that Communism was tried once and should now be abandoned for all time.

 

Communism is “Great on Paper”:

I’m particularly irked by this argument because most everything is “great on paper”! Now there’s no real response to the whole “Communism is great on paper but doesn’t work in application” because of how broad it is. Really, it’s more of a prefix to an argument (such as the ones below), and any response is going to have to be more specific. Still, if you really do need an immediate response, simply point out that egalitarian, classless societies that shared work and held common property have existed since the beginning of time.

Remember us?

Communism Conflicts with Human Nature:

I’ve found this line of reasoning especially prevalent among religious groups, and while you could debate whether or not humans are basically good or bad till the end of time, there is an argument you can use in defense of Communism even if humans are inherently evil (which, for the record, I myself believe).

 

Now the argument tends to go “If humans were also basically good, Communism would work. But humans are basically bad- that’s why Capitalism works. Capitalism takes humanity’s evil nature into account.”

 

See, this argument is just ridiculous- first, if humans were basically good, we wouldn’t even be having to bring up Communism to begin with. Second, Capitalism doesn’t so much “take humanity’s evil nature into account” at it does reward it. Greed, deception, selfishness, reckless individualism, decadence, and the like- these are all things that Capitalism not only makes excuses for, but encourages! If we’re going to base our economics on the concept that greed is acceptable, should we then base our legal system on the concept that perjury, harassment, and murder are acceptable?

There's actually a big market for furniture made from human skin...

Just because humans are naturally bad doesn’t mean we should base our entire society around the hopes that they’ll act badly.

 

Communism Is Against Religion:

Let’s face facts- Marx was an atheist, as were many prominent Communists. However, to assume that Communism and religion are opposed would be wrong- indeed, if you take a look at what Marx wrote about religion, you’ll find his issues weren’t so much with faith, as the use of religion by the powerful for control, and the use of religion by the powerless as an excuse for not taking action. In reality, even Communists who would describe themselves as “anti-theist” almost universally hold to the belief that what you believe (or don’t believe) is your own business. On the other end of the spectrum, you will in fact find Christian Communism, liberation theology, and social justice movements arguing that it is not Communism but Capitalism that is antithetical to the basic principals of religion.

Totally what Jesus had in mind...

Communism is Against Democracy:

My response to this accusation is two pronged- first, we need to point out that not all Communist leaders seized power, most prominent among Marxists democratically elected to power was Chilean president Salvador Allende, who lost his life in a CIA-backed military coup. Second, while there were dictators who claimed to be Communist, these men were Marxists in about the same way that the propagators of the Spanish Inquisition were Christian. Take a look at the writings of Marx or Engels or Luxembourg and you’ll see the demands for power to be put in the hands of the people, not the party chairman or head of the military. Communism believes in democracy- it is with Capitalism that democracy doesn’t mesh so well. Democracy is meant to be a system in which all have equal power. However, in a system where money is power, any inequality in wealth is going to mean an inequality in influence over government. The wealthy man can hire lobbyists, give campaign contributions, fund advertising, hire people to smear his opponents, and so on (and let’s not forget the straight-up bribe). Is that equality? Let’s take a look at what democracy looks like in the US.

Not exactly faith-inspiring is it?

Planned Economies Aren’t Efficient:

It’s not a common argument, but every once in a while you’ll run into someone with a penchant for economics who’ll take this line of argument. They state “Hey, there’s no way a planned economy will work unless you’re always over producing ______ or trying to catch up to the demand for ______. It’s inefficient.”

 

Now you can probably argue exactly how a planned economy could work- and that’s a debate for another time. The easiest response to this argument is to point out that Capitalism isn’t exactly efficient either. When someone can take natural resources, use them to create a product, and finding that the market for novelty sumo tables doesn’t actually exist, be stuck with a warehouse full of the stuff, you can’t exactly assert Capitalism doesn’t have just as much potential to be wasteful.

All this and more garbage available from SkyMall!

Society Won’t Function Without the Free Market:

Another argument sometimes used by the economically minded is that the only way for society to function is through the natural process of supply and demand. Now my response to this is to use my own conditions- unless you attend a college set in an extremely rural area, I’m geussing you won’t be able to use the exact same points, but hopefully you’ll be able to use the basic logic behind them.

 

Now as I said, I attend a college surrounded by miles of forest and not much else. There is a massive demand for theaters, restaurants, shops, grocery markets, and other diversions, yet nothing happens. See, what the acolytes of the infallible system of supply and demand don’t realize is that supply and demand is like fate- it only works in retrospect. Yes, demand is met (or else, it moves elsewhere), but how long and how much do you have to demand for a product or service before it shows up? There’s no standard, no pattern, no system. Things were either meant to be or not meant to be- all in all, the whole “supply and demand will answer everything” stance taken by some really can’t be held.

Communism is Against My “Right” to Private Property:

You ever see ads for buying a star, or property on the moon? You laugh at it- maybe you’ll think it’s a nice sentiment- but at the end of the day you don’t take it seriously. After all, the moon and stars can’t be bought because they’re not anyone’s to sell. It all makes about as much sense as buying a cubic foot of air from a man named Steve. Steve can’t actually give you a cubic foot of air, can’t prevent you from moving through said cubic foot of air, and has no way of owning a cubic foot of air to begin with.

Yet we view land (and private property, made from resources from land) as a sacred right. Why? Land is just land- land didn’t belong to anyone until some neanderthal took up a club and declared that all dirt between points A, B, C, and D were his and his alone. Yet today if I were to attempt to do the same thing and claim that all within an invisible border belongs to me and no one else, I would be called a thief. That’s the origin of this so-called “right”, someone in the distant past just took it, and because of this, you can “buy” a plot of land, never use it for anything, and yet have every right to keep anyone from living there. That’s just not rational- the world belongs to everyone, and you can only “own” property in as much as you can be the one currently using it.

Communism Is Against Prosperity:

Come one- you don’t have to be a Communist to recognize that we can’t live in decadence and luxury. Communism isn’t against prosperity, but it is against mindless excess. Private jets, whaleskin leather seats for you SUV (look it up), imported caviar with every meal- there’s no way that we can live like this- the planet is having a hard enough time keeping up with current rates of consumption as it is. Further, let’s not imagine for a moment that fast cars and big houses are what make a life worth living. Freedom, dignity, peace, equality- I’d take that over a gold plated BMW any day.

If You’re a Communist, Why Aren’t You Poor?

The inbred cousin of the question of “Why can’t I be stinking rich?” is the question “Why aren’t you desperately poor?”.  Now I’ve touched on this question before, but it comes up a bit and I’ll try to address it here as well. We might not believe in decadence, but we don’t want people to be poor either- that’s not what Communism is about. Equality in wealth will mean the end of millionaires and billionaires, but for countless people across the planet, the standard of living will dramatically increase. We aren’t poor because we’re not supposed to be poor- no one is!

We’re not big fans of either extreme…

Big Government Doesn’t Work:

We couldn’t agree more. Communists don’t believe in big government, we believe in collectives,  communes, and communities working on a local level to address problems and issues unique to them. If they choose to band together for whatever reason, they may of course do so, but at the end of the day, we do not believe in the state. Even Lenin, a Communist who was about as “big government” as Marxists get, called for the abolition of the state. Communism is about power to the people, not the politician.

Communism  Has Killed Millions:

Here’s the big one.

Now if you’ll take a look at the texts of Communism, nowhere will you find anyone say “By the way, you should totally purge entire sections of your population”, yet nevertheless, it cannot be denied that millions are dead at the hands of “Communists”.

That’s “Communists” in quotation marks- you see, mass murder reflects on the ideals of Communism in about the same way that (as I’ve said above) the Spanish Inquisition reflects the ideals of Christianity. Let’s face it, people will use any justification for their actions. The men who killed in the name of Communism only used Communism as a facade for their own agendas. After all…

The Tuskegee Spyhilis experiments did nothing to treat African American farmers the researchers knew were infected, and did so  in the name of science, but exactly how is (secretly) giving someone a disease reflective of the goals of science?

And the reign of terror- was this the product of enlightenment and reason?

And is this democracy?

People kill people- that’s the sad truth. Communism has nothing to do with it.

25
Jun
11

Joining the Party: Revolutionary Communist Party USA (Part III)

To be perfectly honest, I’m at a bit of a loss as to how to write about the RCPUSA. The party’s history, its ideological background, its principals, its goals- there’s a lot of ground to cover.

Let me try to start by giving you a quick look at the party’s history. The party was formed in 1975, in the wake of the anti-war, anti-establishment, and counter-cultural movements of the 60s and early 70s. A number of leftist and collectivist groups merged, forming the Revolutionary Communist Party, USA. While very much a local movement, the party has managed to survive to this present day (not something one can say about most leftist parties).

Now for ideology, where things get tricky. You see, I’m a Trotskyist. The RCPUSA is Maoist. In general, Maoists hate Trotskyists with a passion. Trotskyists aren’t exactly wild about Maoists either. Nevertheless, I’ll try to do my best to give an accurate picture of what Maoists believe, offering alongside it some notes on what Trotskyists believe- so if nothing else, you’ll at least know where I’m coming from.

  • Maoists call themselves “Third Worldist”, that is, they believe that (as many on the left do) that the people of the third world are key in the fight against Capitalism. At first glance, that might look fairly standard- it’d be well nigh impossible to find a Communist who doesn’t believe the third world is key to the fight against Capitalism. However, some Maoists take things a step further, arguing that the struggle in the third world is the only battleground that Communists should be concerned with- that Communists in “developed” countries are actually Capitalist stooges and exploiters. Of course, considering that the party in question is the Revolutionary Communist Party USA– it’s doubtful that they hold this particular perspective. Still it’s important to know the belief is out there.
  • Stemming in part from the emphasis on Third Worldism, Maoists are nationalists– that is, they believe that Communism can exist fully within the confines of a border, that the state can coexist (nay, must) coexist with Communism, and that the nation must resist foreign imperialism at any cost. Trotskyists, on the other hand, are internationalists– that is, we believe that Communism cannot exist in a vacuum (no coexistence with Capitalism- ever), that the state cannot coexist with Communism, and that while imperialism should be resisted, it should not be resisted at the expense of the freedoms of the people of that nation. For example, during Iran’s “Green Revolution”, Maoists sided with Ahmadinejad, claiming he would protect Iran from Western imperialism and Trotskyists sided with the rebels, claiming that democracy must be maintained.

Now with all those differences, why not write off the RCPUSA right now? Well, as much as I am a Trotskyist, I’d like to imagine that I’m also a pragmatist. While I’m not going to drop my views, I’m not going to let them stand in the way of me working with people who I disagree with in order to, let’s say, fight for a union, or protest the murder of Oscar Grant, or advocate collectivism. So let’s get right down to the pros and cons.

 

Among the pros are:

  1. While not as old as the CPUSA, the RCPUSA certainly has been around long enough to merit some respect. Further, the RCPUSA has connections with such famous leftist groups as the SDS (Students for a Democratic Society) and the Black Panther Party for Self Defense.
  2. Unlike the CPUSA, the RCPUSA endorses revolution as the only means of achieving Communism. This doesn’t mean that the RCPUSA holds that violence is the only answer to every problem, but rather, that militant action is still and option, and that the RCPUSA recognizes that the evils of Capitalism, exploitation, and authoritarianism aren’t simply going to go away.
  3. Again, unlike the CPUSA, the RCPUSA does not believe in compromise in any way shape or form. No voting for Democrats, no making concessions. Yes, this rigidity can be a problem, but it certainly doesn’t seem any worse than the extremely conciliatory track taken by the CPUSA.

And now for the cons:

  1. The RCPUSA requires members to reject any belief in religion or god. Now I’ve got plenty of criticisms about organized religion and various theologies, but there’s no way I can support the RCPUSA’s demand that members reject any and all beliefs that there might exist more than just the material world. First and foremost, I have a number of religious beliefs, and I don’t feel inclined to just throw them away because the party wants members to be “scientific” (that’s the justification they gave to me when I asked them about this). If nothing else, being told that I can’t believe in god because I must be “scientific” is both a deeply disturbing reflection on what the party believes to be scientific. The existence of god isn’t something that can be proven or disprove- being told to reject the existence of god is just as unscientific as being told to accept the existence of god And beyond the seem logical issues, there’s application. How dare the party attempt to dictate the person thoughts and opinions of its members? Where does it end? Doesn’t every person have the right to make conclusions about the state of the universe based on his own experiences and studies? This tiff I have with the RCPUSA is alone enough for me to write it off my list, but there still so much more to cover…
  2. There’s a strong possibility the RCPUSA is a pseudo-Communist organization, that is, while calling themselves Marxists, their actual ideology is contrary to Marxism. For example, while the RCPUSA spends a lot of time criticizing democracy. Now it’s fairly normal for Communists to criticize “democracy” in a Capitalist society, but the RCPUSA spends so much time lambasting it, one begins to wonder whether they’re against democracy entirely. After the fall of Capitalism, Communists believe that there will exists a “dictatorship of the proletariat”, that is, “true democracy” or “pure democracy”, untainted by the class system, will emerge. However, this term “dictatorship of the proletariat” has often been misused by pseudo-Communists to justify totalitarian regimes, such as the USSR and North Korea. While the RCPUSA never explicitly state “we’re against the very concept of democracy” or “we believe in authoritarianism”, there’s enough skirting of the issue to make me nervous. I’ve watched a number of recordings of Bob Avakian, the RCPUSA’s leader, speak, and the general feeling I get is that he’s endorsing an open-minded, benevolent, dictatorship, in which the party control wields total control. If this is true, it would mean that RCPUSA is not only not Communist, but a straight up danger to the ideals of Marxism.
  3. I mentioned Bob Avakian, founder and leader of the RCPUSA. While he’s a good speaker, the guys is, to be perfectly blunt, creepy. Almost everything on the RCPUSA website is written either by him or about him. Just from a pragmatic standpoint, he’s so central to the RCPUSA, I’m not sure the organization will survive without him after he dies. Again, the whole party seems to really be a casual personality cult of this man who just happens to be a Communist (if he really is one).

Avakian

 

So the final verdict?

All in all the RCPUSA is a weird, small organization that might not even be Communist. What little- what very little- it has going for it is absolutely dwarfed by its disturbing policies, obsession with its leader, and its unbelievably backward demands concerning religion. The whole thing seems more like a bizarre recreation of the worst aspects of the USSR, only the USSR was less invasive.

 

So yeah, that’s a no.

02
Mar
11

A Breif Note on Liberation Theology

For a college theology class, I had to watch the 1989 film Romero– the story of Oscar Romero, the Archbishop of San Salvador and an advocate of Liberation Theology. In one particularly poignant section of the film, just after a brutal massacre has taken place by the Salvadoran Army on left-wing peasants and priests, a young woman asks Romero “Will I go to heaven when I die? It’s so bad here… I’ve got to have something I can look forward to…”. It reminded me of Marx’s comment “Religion is the opiate of the people”.

Now most people, even many communists, understand this comment to be Marx’s denouncement of religion as nothing but myths concocted to keep the have-nots from rising up against the haves. I don’t believe this was the point Marx was trying to make. Yes, Marx was a committed atheist, but after studying his discussions of religion, what I have found is that Marx doesn’t actually have an issue with concepts of faith and spirituality. Marx’s attacks on religion aren’t so much attacks on the ideas of the supernatural, but attacks on the use of religion by those in power to subjugate those who they were exploiting. “Religion is the opiate of the people” doesn’t speak so much on the nature of religion as it does on the predicament of the poor and oppressed. Going back to that scene in Romero, what is shown is that there are those whose lives are so utterly miserable, that an existence beyond death is the only thing that makes existence bearable. Again, Marx doesn’t decry the idea of life after death, but the conditions of life before.

Now evolving out of that criticism, or at least, out of similar views, was the concept of “Liberation Theology”, a perspective of Christianity (specifically Catholicism in South and Central America) that focused on alleviating the suffering of poor and oppressed peoples and bringing about fundamental changes in society that were the root causes of poverty and exploitation. Another scene in Romero probably gives the best example of Liberation Theology doctrine, in which the bishop leads a number of locals in prayer “Lord, you created us for freedom… Christ, you made us to live in dignity… Lord, you strengthen us in the struggle for justice…” and further commenting “The mission of the church is to identify itself with the poor and to join with them in their struggle for justice….”.

Naturally, Liberation Theology, directly attempting to improve life and the advance the rights of the powerless was embraced by the poor, and not just a few Marxists as well. Indeed, some of the goals between Liberation Theology and Communism were so similar, that governments accused local clergy of colluded with Marxist rebels (which was, in some cases true) and others to denounce Liberation Theology as Christian Marxism. Indeed, one of the most outspoken critics of Liberation Theology was a German cardinal named Joseph Ratzinger, now Pope Benedict the XV. Sadly, while Liberation Theology does still exist (as well as variants of it), a its precepts were rejected by the greater Catholic Church and for many still, religion remains an opiate to many of the poor and disenfranchised.

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?

25
Oct
09

Anglicans and Anglo-Saxons

As I’ve mentioned before, the relationship between Communism and religion is a strange and complex one. Take this BBC article, for example, in which the former Archbishop of Canterbury (technically the head of the Anglican church, if you discount the queen) attacks the white-supremacist British Nationalist Party (BNP)- an old enemy of the Communist movement in Britain.

http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/uk_news/politics/8324455.stm

(For some reason it doesn’t appear as a hyperlink, so you’ll have to copy-and-paste it into your address bar).

24
Jul
09

The Many Faces of Capitalism

Throughout the blog I have been discussing various aspects of Capitalism, however, one must keep in mind that Capitalism isn’t so much an economic theory in and of itself but rather a general category of economic theories based around capital (money). For one to describe Capitalism without making note of the various schools of thought within the system would be the equivalent of describing Christianity without mentioned the beliefs of Catholics, Orthodox, and Protestants, or describing warfare without noting the invention of gunpowder. So, in the interests of clarity, listed below are the descriptions of the major classes of Capitalism.

Classical Capitalism

While the actual term “Capitalism” was coined by Karl Marx, the first comprehensive work on the subject of Capitalism (or “commerce”, as it was simply known as) was penned by British economist Adam Smith, in his The Wealth of Nations (considered by many to be the “Bible of Capitalism”. Smith’s essential argument was that humans ought to work in their self-interests which would create a strong and healthy society. Smith stated that if one person owns a product and attempts to sell it, the purchaser will buy it for whatever he deems it to be worth, leaving both seller and buyer richer and happier than before their transaction. Throughout his work, Smith advocates this concept of self-interest as the foundation of commerce, stating that “We address ourselves, not to their humanity, but to their self-love, and never talk to them of our own necessities, but of their advantages.”. Additionally, Smith claimed that it is in the best interests of the economy and the government for the government to interfere as little as possible with the economy (see “Free Trade” below).  Today, Adam Smith is viewed by many as the founding father of Capitalism and one of the most important economic theorists in the history of the world.

Laisseiz-Faire

Laisseiz-faire (literally “Hands-off” or “Let-do”) can perhaps best be described as an aspect of Capitalism (Classical Capitalism, to be precise) rather than a school of Capitalism. Based on the works of Adam Smith, Laisseiz-faire is a philosophy that states that the government should never interfere or attempt to regulate the economy which- according to the advocates of Laisseiz-faire- functions best without outside influence. While developed separately from Adam Smith, the philosophy of Laisseiz-faire and Classical Capitalism are often combined or associated with each other. While Smith primarily objects to government tariffs, Laisseiz-faire has historically opposed government interference in the form of anti-monopoly laws, minimum wage, and unions.

Christian Capitalism

While the US and much of Europe has never had any theocratic rule since the end of the Renaissance, it is undeniable that in the West, a Christian concept of Capitalism has existed for some time. Of course, this “Christian Capitalism” by no means applies to all Christians, but the fact remains that this philosophy does indeed exist. Christian Capitalism attempts to reconcile the self-focused, competitive tenets of Classical Capitalism with the rather community-focused, anti-materialist teachings of the Christian religion. The end result is what one might call a “moralistic Capitalism”, where competition and materialism do exist, but are tempered by ethics. Those within the system are free to make a profit, but gouging the buyer, deceiving the competition, or tricking the seller is considered to be unacceptable. Charity is advocated but not mandated (as opposed to other religious economic theories to be discussed later). While this form of Capitalism is often considered to be the ideal, there are many split on issues of what is and is not moral (what are the limits when trying to outsell a competitor, for example).

Regulated Capitalism

Contrary to common belief, regulated Capitalism is not a form of Communism or Social but simple government interference. Regulated Capitalism, like Laisseiz-faire, isn’t so much a theory of Capitalism but an aspect of Capitalism. Teaching the very opposite of Laisseiz-faire, regulated Capitalism states that economies require some form of control in order to flourish. This “control” can range from basic laws on minimum wage and worker-safety (such as in post 1940s America) to major government control (as in 1920s and 1930s Italy). While regulation is often confused with Socialism, one must keep in mind that so long as the state does not own the company, the products it sells, and the revenue generated, it does not count as Socialism.

Keynesian Capitalism

British economist John Maynard Keynes could perhaps be described as the most anti-Capitalist Capitalist the world has ever known. Keynes held that Capitalism is “the astounding belief that the most wickedest [sic] of men will do the most wickedest of things for the greatest good of everyone.”, and yet was himself a Capitalist. From a philosophical standpoint, Keynes despised Capitalism and yet saw it as the only option. As a result of this, his economic theory (known as “Keynesian economics”) attempts to protect the public from Capitalism’s costs while maximizing its benefits. Keynes advocates government regulation to protect the public while stating that the public, in order to prevent recessions and depressions, should spend their money without excessive investment or saving. Currently, Keynesian economics are often criticized by other schools of Capitalism as requiring too much collective and government interference.

Ayn Rand Capitalism

Also called “tooth-and-claw Capitalism” “Anarchist/Anarcho-Capitalism”, and “Social Darwinism”, this form of economics focuses on individualism to the point of egotism (or as Rand dubbed it, rational self-interest). Theorized by novelist Ayn Rand (most famously in her books The Fountainhead and Atlas Shrugged), this form of Capitalism is perhaps the most brutal. Rand’s philosophy vehemently opposes all forms of government interference, charitable aid, altruism, and religion. While never explicitly stated in her works, Rand’s economic theory holds that the wealthy and privileged are wealthy and privileged because they earned it, while the poor and proletariat are at the bottom of the economic food-chain because they are lazy or simply choose to be poor. In her book Atlas Shrugged, Rand submits that the wealthy and powerful are the most productive and useful members of society, capable of bringing the world to a sudden halt by going on strike. While Rand’s theories are essentially Capitalist, many other schools of Capitalism look down on Rand’s theories as barbaric, excessively anti-charity, and basically flawed. Despite public criticism, many hold that Rand’s Capitalism is by far the most pure form of Capitalism.

Free Trade

Free trade, like regulated Capitalism and Laisseiz-faire Capitalism, is a concept- not a theory. Free trade essentially is the belief that international trade should not be regulated or controlled by governments. Outsourcing, the import/export of resources and goods, multinational corporations, and international investment are all aspects of Free Trade that its advocates state will produce higher profits, lower production costs, more jobs, more demand, and generally stronger economy.

Protectionism

Protection (perhaps more of a political concept than an economic one) demands the very opposite of Free Trade. Protectionists believe that jobs should go to citizens of the country the company is in, that resources and products should be obtained and produced locally and that massive export and import tariffs should be maintained for the purpose of preserving jobs for the citizens of the country. Protectionists will often also oppose immigration for the same reason.

22
Jul
09

Professional Amateurs

The word “amateur” is derived from the Latin word “Amo” meaning “to love”. We use “amateur” to describe someone who is doing something as a hobby or for fun, rather than being paid to do so. An amateur baseball player plays for the fun of it, a professional baseball player plays for a living.

One of the most common arguments against Communism is that by abolishing the class system, money, and private property, people will have no motivation to work hard (or work at all) since they have no chance of advancing their position in life. It is claimed that the only reason most people can put with their mindless, soul-crushing jobs is that they are being paid to work. They can then take their money, gradually move up through the ranks of society, and buy material goods that bring them comfort and happiness (though whether material goods actually make us any happier is a debate for another post). If we take all of this away, then why would anyone do anything?

The answer is quite simple: people will do almost anything for the love of doing it.

I’m a writer. I don’t get paid to write, I don’t move up through the ranks of society, I don’t buy things in an attempt to make myself more comfortable of happy. According to Capitalist logic, I shouldn’t be writing since I have no motive- no reason for doing so. Quite simply, this logic is flawed. Yes people will do almost anything for money- after all, the single purpose of Capitalism is money- but there are other motivations. People will do things because they are physically forced to do them (slavery), people will do things out of fear for their wellbeing or the wellbeing of others (extortion, blackmail), and people will do things because they love doing it. Of course, the greatest of these is love- after all, even when enslaved or extorted, people will do the least amount of work possible. When they are doing what they love doing, however, the activity doubles as the end goal. In these cases, they will do as much work as possible.

Take the example of Giotto Di Bondone. Born in the late 1260s in Tuscany, Giotto was a shepherd boy who taught himself to paint. He was not being paid and was not coerced in any way to paint, he painted simply because he enjoyed painting. One might describe him as an “amateur” and while that word today often connotes substandard, Giotto’s paintings were anything but inferior. Indeed, Giotto’s abilities were so impressive that legends spread claiming he could paint a picture of a ewe so realistic that a lamb would confuse it with its actual mother, and that Giotto could draw a perfect circle without the use of any device. In short, Giotto, an uneducated, untrained Tuscan peasant was as a child a better artist than the best-paid painter in Florence (of course, Giotto eventually was paid to paint, but the fact remains that he was a gifted and prolific painter even before he became a professional).

Now this opens up a world of possibilities.

What if we all did jobs according to our talents, rather than our need to pay the bills or desire to become “wealthy” (again, the concept of true wealth will be discussed later)? What if everyone who was skilled at painting, math, cooking, and speaking could become artists, mathematicians, chefs, and orators? If everyone could become what they are talented at (and I’ve yet to find a person who doesn’t enjoy his or her talents) then we would have more work accomplished at a higher quality. It is this that Communism attempts to achieve: “From each according to his abilities, to each according to his needs.”.

Of course, one might argue that Capitalism attempts to achieve this as well, but this is simply not true. Granted, there are a fortunate few who can pay the bills and do what they love, but in reality the cast majority of people aren’t so lucky. Thousands- no, millions– of would be inventors, mechanics, actors, politicians, farmers, athletes, cooks, designers, musicians, programmers, and composers never get to be anything more than day-laborers, waiters, drug dealers, prostitutes, and street-sweepers. Is it because they didn’t try hard enough? Possibly, there is a handful who are, quite simply, lazy. But to state that the millions of poor, the hungry, and homeless are the way they are out of choice is ridiculous. Most never had the money to pay for a decent education, preventing them from ever rising out of the gutter. Others are simply held back by bills and debt. Still others are simply unlucky, some unforgiving disaster reducing them to taking whatever work is available. In the Capitalist world, it takes every ounce of energy to keep your head above water, let alone find a job doing what you love to do.

Of course, that doesn’t stop us from trying. Some attempt to struggle through Capitalism to achieve their dream job, others turn their talents into hobbies, instead of careers, and still others- such as myself- attempt to bring about a system based on people doing what they love. The astronomer Galileo once commented that he did not “…believe the same God that would endow us with senses, reason, and intellect has intended us to forgoe their use…”. Like Galileo, I do not believe that humans, gifted with the talents to compose a beautiful symphony or sing like angels, are meant to push aside their skills to make room for their careers. Instead, let as all be professional amateurs.