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A Man Needs A Fish Like A Woman Needs a Bicycle
Friday, January 28, 2005
of HOW MARKET FREEDOM LEADS TO FREEDOM... Since I am on this freedom thing, a look at the NY Times Op-Ed piece by Robert Wright is quite instructive. He writes

"capitalism helps drive history toward freedom via an algorithm that for all we know is divinely designed and is in any event awesomely elegant. Namely: Capitalism's pre-eminence as a wealth generator means that every tyrant has to either embrace free markets or fall slowly into economic oblivion; but for markets to work, citizens need access to information technology and the freedom to use it - and that means having political power. "

Where to start? The astounding religious imagery or the implicit invisible hand? The wonderful faith in the power of information to spread liberty? Or, maybe the complete disregard for the lessons of history?

One thing (well another thing) that worries me about the President's Inaugural Speech is the complacent confidence that he has in the way in which History follows his vision (shouldn't that be that his "vision follows the course of History....?" :). That Wright picks up on this with his comment to "Give history some guidance, but resist the flattering delusion that you're its pilot" is admirable. But for Wright to ignore the ways in which History has spun off interesting pathologies that hurt many societies is inexcusable. Thus, when speaking of the linkage between capitalism and democracy, Wright ignores the pathology of fascism. One characteristic of fascism is the manner in which capitalism is quite happy to ride authoritarian coattails in order to fulfill its aim. After all, what is the fundamental goal of a capitalist? If you guess "Promote Democracy" you would be wrong. If you said that it was to "Maximize (or optimize) profitability" you would be right. That is why capitalists are very happy to work with oppressive regimes (as long as doing so helps the bottom line. An historical example: Nazi Germany. In Nazi Germany, industrialists were quite happy to work with Hitler. He provided stability and a compliant workforce. Hell, even IBM wanted to work with Hitler.

So, capitalism and authoritarian regimes can mean increased liberty but it can also mean decreased liberty. Is information dissemination the key? Again I respectfully disagree with Mr. (Dr.?) Wright. Information is a useful variable but information diseemination has been the friend of authoritarian regimes everywhere. Propaganda propagagtion is information propagation. Invasive surveillance technology propagation (and centralizing use) is information propagagtion, admittedly with a centralizing tendency.

So, there is more going on than Mr. (?) Wright lets on, with his overly simplistic assertion that the President needs to take advantage of the necessary (!!!!????) linkage between History, Democracy, and Capitalism. How about contemplating issues concerning institutional frameworks within which capitalism and democracy takes place? Are these necessary (Hegel where are you?) or are they historically based, based on accidental accomadations and contingent decision making? I admire Mr. (?) Wright's confidence in History and its relation to Democracy and Capiatalism, but it is a confidence that I do not necessarily share.

Should I think of History the way that I suspect Mr. (?) Wright does: as if he were its co-pilot and oracle?


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