Archives For Crony Capitalism

Capitalism may be plagued by the sin of greed, a greed that hinders the free market through hoarding and monopolies, but ultimately capitalism creates room for compassion. Laws exist to fortify the free market, so as to protect the free market from the death blows of a greed-is-good culture. Through the referee of small government the free market is nurtured. Through capitalism doors are opened for freedom; for people to be free to be compassionate; free to give out of the abundance of what they have earned; out of the abundance of what they are free to own.

Socialism on the other hand has no checks and balances against greed. Socialism therefore cannot produce a people who are free to be compassionate. Although socialism is viewed as compassion, it doesn’t allow room for compassionate giving because by definition, under a socialist system, there shouldn’t be any need for anyone to have to give compassionately. However, the theory that all needs should be met, does not meet with the reality.

Socialism presupposes that the poor worker will never get rich or rise above his or her poverty. Socialism has to keep people poor in order to justify its own existence. This is because there can be no proletariat, no cause for class war, without keeping the working poor where they are.[i]

Socialism strips the individual of their right to own private property. The individual is left with no amount of abundance to give. Anything given outside the absolute rule of the socialist regime is frowned upon as suspiciously capitalist imperialism. In an exaggerated form, compassionate giving, at least without the state taking its cut, is a crime against the state. To give freely is treasonous because, in theory, under socialism there is no need for people to be compassionate. Every want and need is fulfilled even if the collective has to work for the time being in order to eradicate work entirely. The socialist holds fast to the paradoxical dream of a work-less society.

Unlike compassionate capitalism, compassionate socialism cannot exist. It’s an oxymoron because socialism as absolute economic law only has what it’s taken from the people; it has no capital outside what socialism has taken without compassion; creating no real margin of abundance for individuals to give compassionately from. Therefore the people themselves aren’t free to be compassionate in their giving towards one another.

People are to believe in strict equality, but not fairness. By concessions, the individual under socialism may have the freedom to earn or how they earn it, but they don’t have the freedom to be compassionate with what they earn. They couldn’t, even if they wanted to, because there is no abundance in socialism unless it is awarded to them by the state. The people have what the socialist government gives and nothing more. By default the socialist ruler becomes god, employer, mother and father; in essence the Führer is raised up as savior, because it is believed that he, through the socialist system he controls, knows what’s best for the people of the fatherland.

The Bible does not preach or foster socialism as an absolute economic law or morality. What the Bible does preach is that greed is a sin, that God loves a fair weight; fair trade; that He is a compassionate judge who wills to govern for His people, not govern at the whim and will of His people. The biblical witness as a whole holds fast to fairness and justice within the bounds of a life lived in freedom, under grace, in His Word; Jesus Christ. It is Father God, not führer-as-father who should rule out hearts and guide our minds.

As Paul noted to the Church in Corinth, in 2 Corinthians 8:8-24: give earnestly; give from abundance; give from that which is left over to those in need. Give what you can, when you can, where you can. Trade in fairness, do acts of grace, and do so freely [complete the work you started]. Do so with joy, for this will encourage reciprocal giving. Provide out of abundance in order to bring relief for those experiencing affliction.

Without compassion, capitalism fails. That is why checks and balances exist in order to keep the capitalist system from gorging itself to death with gluttony. Socialism, however, has no room and sees no need for compassion once it holds power. The socialist only sees the capitalist as his or her enemy, upholding socialism religiously, without opposition. Socialism is seen as true compassion and therefore the only compassion anyone truly needs. All who disagree or refuse to fall in line with this are labelled, without compassion, an enemy of it.

Socialism as a paragon of virtue lost its shine a long time ago.The socialist and capitalist can both operate under a “I will take from you to benefit me” rule.

It is, however, the necessary function of compassion that capitalism not only allows, but empowers, that sets capitalism apart from socialism. From this empowerment the individual under capitalism can and is empowered to say, “what can I give you in order to benefit you” as opposed to “what can I take from you to benefit me”.

Compassionate capitalism empowers compassion because it provides enough for people to choose to be compassionate. Socialism doesn’t allow this kind of freedom because it ultimately denies individuals the freedom to give. Whilst allowing the potential for greed, capitalism must eventually give a firm “no” to it, for its own sake. If not, the free market falls victim to the similar kind of totalitarian rule as that of socialism, only in this case, it’s a corporation, not a government left holding the throne without opposition.

‘No constitution or ethic can prevent power from becoming totalitarian. It must discover outside itself, a radical negation. [such as grace; the Divine compassion exhibited in, through and by Jesus Christ].’ (Jacques Ellul, Jesus & Marx. 1988 p.174)

References:

[i] ‘In Marxist dialectic, the oppressed must become the oppressor – the poor person becomes the absolute, a kind of priest – only through him can we meet Jesus and God; through serving him we are sanctified – this horizontal theology [or version of natural theology] returns quite simply to the project of excluding God’ (Jacques Ellul. Jesus & Marx, 1988. pp.42 & 48 parenthesise mine)

Photo credit: Milada Vigerova  ‘Hand, closeup, prayer‘ on Unsplash

Born out of conversations with a friend from the United States, I was given the opportunity to read a compilation of fragments and essays written by Simone Weil called: ‘Oppression and Liberty’.  The compilation flows in chronological order and presents some of Weil’s thoughts on anthropology, economics, politics, ideology and war.

Simone was a French intellectual. Like Jacques Ellul, whom she presumably never met, Weil worked in the French resistance and was well schooled in Marxism.  Among many others in the elite French communist circles of mid 20th Century, she was a contemporary of rebel and excommunicated member, Albert Camus.

Later in life, Weil matured back towards Roman Catholic Christianity, taking an interest in aestheticism and Catholic mysticism. Detaching herself from the French intellectual trends of her day, Weil also made a break with Marxism. Whilst remaining a fan of Karl Marx, Weil set alongside her criticism of [crony] capitalism, an intense critique of Marxism, detailing the threat posed by plutocrats and bureaucrats when they choose to entertain and ride the backs of both monsters.

Unpacking this threat is ‘Oppression & Liberty’s recurring theme. Weil makes it known that she is no fan of big business or big government. It’s more apparent in the latter than the former, but both big business and big government form big bureaucracy.  This creates a ‘bureaucratic caste’ and is dangerous because ‘all exclusive, uncontrolled power becomes oppressive in the hands of those who have the monopoly of it’ (p.15).

Readers wouldn’t have to look far to locate examples of where big business and big government corroborate to create big bureaucracy. Some corporate promotion and imposition of new cultural laws such as those posited by radical feminist ideology, punishment for disagreeing with any forced imposition or disloyalty to the LGBT flag and the questioning of the movement’s agenda; weapons factories, political groups, career politicians, Islamist shar’ia, some parts of the institutional Christian church, pharmaceutical, oil and power companies, information tech companies and, the education and military industrial complexes, all provide adequate proof.

From an historical point of view, it’s easy to see the beneficial relationship that developed between industrialists and “Captains of industry” with the rise of National Socialists in Germany, Europe and America throughout the 1930’s. As is shown by Thomas Doherty in his 2013 book ‘Hollywood and Hitler’, European and American corporations did their best not to upset the newly established status quo. It could be argued that this is one of contributing factors to why Winston Churchill was so highly criticised for speaking out against the ‘gathering storm’.

Additionally, the Soviet nonaggression pact with the Nazis also gives further credibility to Weil’s conclusions about how big government and big corporations create big bureaucracy. Stalin had imperialist ambitions. Hitler was a way to implement them. Hence the Soviet attack on Norway on the 30th November 1939, three months after the Molotov–Ribbentrop Pact (23rd August 1939) between the Nazis and the Soviets was signed. This gave parts of Eastern Europe to the Soviet Union and open commercial ties with the Nazis.

Weil is right then to say that the ‘bureaucratic machine, though composed of flesh, and well fed flesh at that is none the less as irresponsible and as soulless as are the machines made of iron and steel.’ (p.13)

The ‘bureaucratic machine excludes all judgement and all genius; it tends by its very structure, to concentrate all powers in itself. It therefore threatens the very existence of everything that still remains precious for us in the bourgeois regime […] Instead of a clash of contrary opinions, we end up with an “official opinion” from which no one would be able to deviate. The result is a State religion that stifles all individual values, that is to say all values’ (pp.15 & 16).

For Weil, bureaucrats, like [crony] capitalists, can become parasitic. They receive benefits by causing damage. The three main areas Bureaucrats operate in are ‘Trade Union bureaucracy, Industrial bureaucracy and State bureaucracy’ (p.16). The working-class only exist as pawns, even in the ‘hands of trade unions’ (p.26). The worker and the poor are putty in the hands of the revolutionists, who utilise the hope that revolution inspires, unaware that ‘fanning revolt to white heat, can serve the cause of fascist demagogy’ (p.21).

This last point then leads into her much larger criticism and separation of Karl Marx from Marxism, which is something I don’t have room here to delve into. Very briefly, Simone applies Marx’s critique of power structures, including Marxism, stating:

‘All power is unstable, there is never power, but only a race for power – the quest to outdo rivals and the quest to maintain’ (p.64). This is the black hole of greed, the ‘aimless merry-go round’ (p.65) which the lust for power drags humanity into.

Weil concludes that all monopolies (centralised power) to be a leading cause of oppression. This might surprise some, but her conclusion aligns with capitalist economists such as Milton Friedman, Thomas Sowell and Hayek. All of whom, see and saw, monopoly and big government as a being a restriction on the free market.  There are of courses differences between them on this, however, the object of their concern is the same. For the latter group, monopolies are oppressive to the free market, for Weil monopolies are oppressive to people. Despite this difference, they are essentially saying the same thing because economics is about people. There is no free market without people, who are free to operate responsibly within it.

My only point of real disagreement with Weil in regards to this subject is her position on Nazism and Socialism. For Wiel Nazism was not socialism, and attempts to bring National Socialism into the Marxist framework are ‘vain’ (p.7).

This is contrary to the well defended conclusions of F.A Hayek, George Reisman, Jacques Ellul, Roger Scruton, and Richard Wurmbrand. All of whom present National Socialism and Communist Socialism as branches of Marxism.

Simone seems to have her own definition of what Socialism and National Socialism are.

‘The orientation of the Hitlerite masses, though violently anti-capitalist, is by no means socialist, any more so than the demagogic propaganda of the leaders; for the object is to place the national economy, not in the hands of the producers grouped into democratic organizations, but in the hands of the State apparatus.’ (p.7)

On these points, genuine capitalists would agree that the economy should be in the hands of producers grouped into democratic organizations.  Genuine capitalists understand that capitalism without compassion is not capitalism. Greed strangles the life out of the free market. This is one of the reasons, why, in the West, Frank Capra’s 1946 movie, ‘It’s a Wonderful Life’ remains the number one film of all time.

Not because people long for a socialist revolution, but because they understand that a market weighed down by monopolies, big government and big business is not free. It is instead chained to the aimless merry-go round of big bureaucracy where the bureaucratic caste do what they can to outdo each other and maintain power.

Oppression & Liberty’ was a surprise. It wasn’t something I planned on reading, but am thankful I had the chance to. Simone’s work isn’t easy to read. ‘Oppression & Liberty’ sometimes comes across as lofty and too complex, which is very much a reflection of her schooling in French intellectual circles. That, however, doesn’t subtract from Simone’s sincerity or the insights that this compilation of fragments and essays offers.


References:

Weil, S. 1955 Oppression & Liberty, 1958, 2001 Routledge Classics NY