Friday’s payroll malfunction makes a perfect backdrop for the latest Marxism revival. It has been a constant feature of this “recovery”, perfectly reflecting the labor realities of this “cycle” where financialism would be savaged from either end of the traditional political scale. As the tea party reflected the more libertarian, capitalist tradition against concentrations in banking and central planning, Occupy Wall Street and others have lamented not the great redistribution effort but rather its source and destination.
This has been a highly misleading debate the entire time, as even OWS found the target despite its grand misinterpretation. The uniting factor behind libertarian rejection of Wall Street and the neo-Marxism of late is that financialism, but somehow it persists on the one hand as “capitalism.” This is unsurprising given that the Fed and its proponents scattered throughout finance, government and media are quick to align monetary redistribution with capitalism, but banking has never been the heart of the capitalist tradition – and is not now. Wholesale banking simply obliterates any chances of maintaining the deception since it is a thorough perversion from top to bottom.
The worse the Fed manages the “recovery”, the more Big Ideas of rewarmed Marxism are expressed and often enthusiastically received. The latest is from the Washington Post whose “In Theory” column purports to deliver the next “big idea” from a “range of perspectives.” Last week it was basic income delivered under the headline, “Tired of Capitalism? There could be a better way.” Again, the timing with the payroll deficiency could not have been more perfectly planned.
By now, it is well established that capitalism is fundamentally built upon threats of force. As libertarian philosophers Robert Nozick and Matt Zwolinski have explained, the only way to turn unowned natural resources (such as land, minerals and other goods) into privately owned property is by violently preventing all others from using them. This one-sided exclusion destroys freedom of movement and cuts many people off from the things that they need to survive.
This is a thoroughly perverse reading upon true capitalism’s many and grand societal fruits; that we no longer have to grow our own food and manufacture our own shelter and clothing is not “cutting many people off from the things that they need to survive.” Quite the opposite, given that poverty in the US is no longer even associated with starvation (the “best” that can be managed is “food insecurity”, a moving goal-post if ever there was). Capitalism’s true gift to modern society has been that fact reborn in incalculable ways as to lift so much of humanity from bare subsistence. There was no government diktat supporting the effort, rather politics has been far, far more likely to intrude and impede as to have been barely responsible.
Labor specialty is, to be cute, a specialty of capitalism and it has been an unqualified godsend. The irony of bitching in the digital Washington Post about capitalism’s assumed shortcomings of wealth and progress is overwhelmingly thick. We can argue the merits of the distribution of modern living (and the effects of distribution) but the “basic income” thesis is pure politics.
But no amount of labor regulation can ever undo the fact that workers are confronted daily with the choice between obeying a supervisor or losing all their income. The only way to break the coercion at the core of the employment relationship is to give people the genuine ability to say no to their employers. And the only way to make that feasible is to guarantee that working-age adults, at least, have some way to support themselves whether they work or not.
Even as capitalism makes some workers’ lives miserable, those who can’t work are in even worse shape.
This is wrong in every way possible; labor in specialized economic systems is always and everywhere voluntary. What these “libertarian” philosophers propose is only to reverse their view of coercion (Marxism always sees the world as oppressed vs. oppressors, never as a voluntary and mutually beneficial arrangement) so that, like France, for example, businesses no longer have any such “choice.” The truth is far simpler, as in true economic expansions the vast majority of workers see this fantasy for what it is. When opportunity is vast and expanding, such redistribution guarantees are not liberating at all but extremely limiting.
This basic income thesis is, in fact, as old as Marxist thought. It was even argued strenuously in the US ante-bellum period as an excuse for the same kind of economic rigidity in the South. The full arguments then are identical to those being advanced now, both under the false promise of “fairness.” At least before the Civil War those making it were more forthright in calling it what it was – slavery.
In 1856, prominent Virginia slavery apologist George Fitzhugh wrote in his book Cannibals All! that:
The free laborer must work or starve. He is more of a slave than the negro, because he works longer and harder for less allowance than the slave, and has no holiday, because the cares of life with him begin when its labors end. He has no liberty, and not a single right. We know, ’tis often said, air and water are common property, which all have equal right to participate and enjoy; but this is utterly false. The appropriation of the lands carries with it the appropriation of all on or above the lands, usque ad coelum, aut ad inferos. (Even to heaven or hell.)
The paragraph I just quoted from slavery apologist Fitzhugh is nearly identical to what was written in the Washington Post (especially the two quoted passages above); only the language has changed. Not be outdone at that, Fitzhugh, in a fit of clarity that would fit right in with the grubby, self-aggrandized and intellectually barren “criticisms” that are recycled today, even presented the great inequality of the North in advancing the righteousness of non-racist slavery.
A Southern farm is the beau ideal of communism. There is no rivalry, no competition to get employment among slaves, as among free laborers… Wealth is more equally distributed than at the North, where a few millionaires own most of the property of the country.
Fitzhugh hoped that the downfall of Southern slavery could be arrested by separating the institution’s racist past and tendencies from what he saw as total human deficiency. He reckoned a “fairer” society was one in which “wage slaves” stopped working for the greedy and inequitable capitalist and instead became true slaves where the beneficent master took care of all basic necessities. Freed from want and hunger, Fitzhugh claimed, the slave could be left to leisure and total human fulfillment. Again, that sentiment is not at all different than what was written last week in the Washington Post:
True freedom requires freedom from destitution and freedom from the demands of the employer. Capitalism ensures neither, but a universal basic income, if successful, could provide both.
As usual, the utopian Marxist simply assumes the government as a better master than the Southern aristocrat. Fortunately for our modern society and the great wealth it has produced, our predecessors that fought the Civil War saw through the sophistry and realized that human dignity is inseparable from the fruits of labor – voluntarily exchanged through innumerable and indecipherable (from a centralized viewpoint) free expressions.
The problem now is that opportunity which rightfully should be bountiful again is not. Thus, the task is not retrograde politics but rather finding and removing the impediment. Given the most obvious correlation in the 21st century is rising financialism and central bank intrusion as directly related with this dearth of opportunity, that makes the obvious starting point to genuine concern (which, if we are honest about all this, is the true deficiency). Only politics prevents its exploration and atonement; that and the modern rehash where slavery has somehow become freedom in the words, at least, of those wanting to further and greater wield its exercise.
If we are truly separated from the basic necessities of life, we are truly blessed and need to get back to finding ways to further that gulf. Central banking has now proved the dead end of monetary redistribution, which isn’t substantially different than the government redistribution proposed last week (debt slave, after all, is in many ways an appropriate and germane phrasing).