Wednesday, August 08, 2018
American culture suffers from an overwhelming preponderance of stupidity. Big business has a virtual monopoly over government and the media, the information, entertainment, commentary, ideologies, and educational policies are not conducive to rational thought. What you get is an electorate 25% of whom are inclined to libertarianism. Huge numbers of people are persuaded by the propaganda of the Cato Institute, the magazine Reason, Ayn Rand's novels, and Milton Friedman's ideological hackery to express their rebellious and anti-authoritarian impulses. They believe that power belongs in the hands of private, unaccountable tyrannies, namely corporations. They think that if you just get government out of the picture and let capitalism operate freely, unencumbered by regulations or oversight or labor unionism, all will be for the best in this best of all possible worlds. The spectacle of millions adhering to such a stupid ideology would be comical if it weren't so tragic.
The economist Rob Larson has a new book Capitalism vs. Freedom: The Toll Road to Serfdom, which briefly and lucidly demolishes the glib nostrums of Milton Friedman and Friedrich Hayek.
To be a libertarian is to be deplorably ignorant of modern history, economics,commonsense sociology, human psychology, and morality itself. The idea that capitalism promotes freedom is so widespread that even many left leaning liberals buy this absurd view. The fact is that socialism, which is to say workers' democratic control of the economy, not only means greater equality and justice than capitalism but also greater freedom, at least for the 99%. The Golden Rule is an essential ethical maxim, and "From each according to his ability, to each according to his need," is a derivative of the Golden Rule and fundamental to any humane social organization.
Negative freedom is the absence of external constraint, such as a power that can force your behavior. Positive freedom is the opportunity to realize your own purposes and wishes, to control your destiny. Classical liberals like John Stuart Mill and modern conservatives like Friedman and Hayek are more concerned with negative freedom, which explains their desire for a minimal state; socialists are concerned also with positive freedom. Capitalism withholds opportunities to enjoy positive freedom and encourages the growth of economic power.
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