|The Weight of Government||India, China, and the Disciplinary Society|
by Christopher Chantrill
November 27, 2008 at 4:32 pm
BACK IN the 19th century, we are told, Americans worked in sweatshops for long hours at low pay. There were no benefits, no weekends, no vacations. Every worker suffered under the most rigid industrial discipline and knew he could be fired on a whim.
So Americas thinkers and activists came up with a solution. Instead of the workers working in sweated conditions, the employers should sweat instead. Today business suffers under the most rigid government discipline, and every CEO knows that he could be hauled up for humiliation on the whim of a congressional committee and fined on the whim of a federal regulator.
The point of the old sweatshops was to milk the workers of their just wages, we are told. Employers would pay them only a bare minimum subsistence wage and pocket the rest in profit.
The point of the sweating of business is to milk commerce of much of its economic added value. Businesses and highly productive individuals are only supposed to earn a modest profit. High incomes and profits are questionable, and should be taxed away to share the wealth.
Last week we saw where this sweating of business leads. It leads to the looted hulk of General Motors and the other Big Three automakers stranded on Pennsylvania Avenue. Fifty years ago these industrial giants created the wealth to let every American see the USA in a Chevrolet. Now, harried and hamstrung by crippling wages and benefits, minutely supervised by excruciating government mandates, they are groveling at the gates of the corporate workhouse, begging for alms from truculent federal lawmakers. But they still have their executive jets.
Prior to the 19th century big business had been closely associated with the political class. The British East India Company was owned by the great and the good and used its connections to extract numerous privileges from the British government over its life from 1600 to 1873.
But the Industrial Revolution propelled jumped-up nobodies to the head of huge business enterprises that appeared out of nowhere. The nobodies were men like oilman John D. Rockefeller, son of a medicine man; steelmaker Andrew Carnegie, son of a hand-loom weaver; and railroader Jay Gould, son of an upstate New York farmer. Politicians and journalists were terrified. What would these upstarts do with their huge economic power? The answer was soon obvious: Nothing. Rockefeller retired at 50 and invented modern philanthropy. Carnegie funded libraries and wrote articles in intellectual quarterlies. Jay Gould died at 56 of tuberculosis, and never showed an interest in anything except business, growing flowers, and minor philanthropy. What a disappointment.
The terrifying robber barons werent interested in political power. But political power was interested in them. The political sector was interested in getting a cut of all the new-found wealth, and it was interested in bossing the wealth creators around. A century later, in the middle of an economic crisis we get this from Columbia University Professor Jeffrey Sachs, Democratic economist, at a roundtable at the New York City Public Library. He is responding to a question about the death of capitalism.
Capitalism comes in many flavors and with a tremendous amount of success in some of them, and capitalism is not ending. A market economy makes a lot of sense and it has great strengths, but this kind of fundamentalist market economy is ending in this country and will go back, I believeback and forward, will go back to the idea of a mixed economy again, of mutual responsibilityI think well go forward to a new kind of economy, also, that is more networked and more public/private partnerships, new innovative ways to do things, build things, connect people, network people, so I dont think that were going back to top-down, old-style big government programs in the old way because in the age of social networking we have better and new ways to do that but the idea that its just youre on your own and all the rest weve talked about, not to belabor the point, thats finished.
Notice how Sachs appears to think that capitalism is like one of those beverage dispensing guns that bartenders use. You pick your flavor and press the button; stuff gushes out Notice how he implies that the highly regulated and taxed economy of recent years represented a fundamentalist market economy. Notice how he implies that the mixed economy and public/private partnerships represent a kind of power sharing between the political sector and the economic sector rather than the complete domination of business by the politicians and the activists. Notice that apparently President-elect Obamas agenda of increased government control of health care and education, and a forced march to a carbon-free economy is not a return to old-style big government programs.
People like Jeffrey Sachs do not experience the economic sector as a fragile human artifact. They do not appreciate the hard-won human inventions such as double-entry bookkeeping, limited liability corporations, financial markets, and jumped-up nobodies that have utterly transformed the material life of the human race. They just see the economy as a political appliancewith success in some areasfor the use of political bartenders.
Do not expend an end to the sweating of American business any time soon.
Buy his Road to the Middle Class.
[W]hen I asked a liberal longtime editor I know with a mainstream [publishing] house for a candid, shorthand version of the assumptions she and her colleagues make about conservatives, she didn't hesitate. Racist, sexist, homophobic, anti-choice fascists, she offered, smiling but meaning it.
Harry Stein, I Can't Believe I'm Sitting Next to a Republican
Families helped each other putting up homes and barns. Together, they built churches, schools, and common civic buildings. They collaborated to build roads and bridges. They took pride in being free persons, independent, and self-reliant; but the texture of their lives was cooperative and fraternal.
Michael Novak, The Spirit of Democratic Capitalism
[To make] of each individual member of the army a soldier who, in character, capability, and knowledge, is self-reliant, self-confident, dedicated, and joyful in taking responsibility [verantwortungsfreudig] as a man and a soldier. — Gen. Hans von Seeckt
MacGregor Knox, Williamson Murray, ed., The dynamics of military revolution, 1300-2050
For [the left] there is only the state and the individual, nothing in between. No family to rely on, no friend to depend on, no community to call on. No neighbourhood to grow in, no faith to share in, no charities to work in. No-one but the Minister, nowhere but Whitehall, no such thing as society - just them, and their laws, and their rules, and their arrogance.
David Cameron, Conference Speech 2008
Imagining that all order is the result of design, socialists
conclude that order must be improvable by better design of some superior mind.
F.A. Hayek, The Fatal Conceit
[Every] sacrifice is an act of impurity that pays for a prior act of greater impurity... without its participants having to suffer the full consequences incurred by its predecessor. The punishment is commuted in a process that strangely combines and finesses the deep contradiction between justice and mercy.
Frederick Turner, Beauty: The Value of Values
[The Axial Age] highlights the conception of a responsible self... [that] promise[s] man for the first time that he can understand the fundamental structure of reality and through salvation participate actively in it.
Robert N Bellah, "Religious Evolution", American Sociological Review, Vol. 29, No. 3.
But the only religions that have survived are those which support property and the family.
Thus the outlook for communism, which is both anti-property and anti-family, (and also anti-religion), is not promising.
F.A. Hayek, The Fatal Conceit
[T]he way to achieve a system of determining admission to the public schools on a nonracial basis,
Brown II, 349 U. S., at 300–301, is to stop assigning students on a racial basis. The way to stop
discrimination on the basis of race is to stop discriminating on the basis of race.
Roberts, C.J., Parents Involved in Community Schools vs. Seattle School District
A writer who says that there are no truths, or that all truth is merely relative, is asking you not to believe him. So dont.
Roger Scruton, Modern Philosophy
Paul Dirac: When I was talking with Lemaître about [the expanding universe] and feeling stimulated
by the grandeur of the picture that he has given us, I told him that
I thought cosmology was the branch of science that lies closest to religion.
However [Georges] Lemaître [Catholic priest, physicist, and
inventor of the Big Bang Theory] did not agree with me. After thinking it over he
suggested psychology as lying closest to religion.
John Farrell, The Creation Myth
Within Pentecostalism the injurious hierarchies of the wider world are abrogated and replaced by a single hierarchy of faith, grace, and the empowerments of the spirit... where groups gather on rafts to take them through the turbulence of the great journey from extensive rural networks to the mega-city and the nuclear family...
David Martin, On Secularization