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On Tax Day Let Us Talk About Spending and Free Stuff I Want a President Who Can Teach Us to Accept Capitalism

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It is Grand: Three Anti-capitalist Candidates for the USA

by Christopher Chantrill
April 26, 2016 at 12:00 am

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I JUST GOT my copy of Deirdre McCloskey’s new Bourgeois Equality: How Ideas, Not Capital or Institutions, Enriched the Worldwhich completes her three-volume hymn to the middle class. The first thing that jumps out, in the introductory “Exordium” that tells the story so far, is this:

For reasons I do not entirely understand, the clerisy after 1848 turned towards nationalism and socialism... and proliferating regulation for imagined but not factually documented imperfections in the market[.]

Gosh, I thought immediately. Isn’t it grand that here in the good old USA we have running for president one nationalist candidate, one socialist candidate, and one regulationist candidate, three anti-capitalist candidates in one.

Then I paused for a moment, and I tried to think. What are these anti-capitalist crackpots telling us?

And then I realized, plumbing the deep well of my knowledge of the human condition, that this is all about the scapegoat mechanism. Something has gone wrong, but we don’t, we can’t blame ourselves, or even admit that life is unfair, even in the Great Enrichment from $3 per day to $100 per day.

So the nationalists, rallying to Donald Trump, blame foreigners that things have gone wrong.

The socialists, rallying to Bernie Sanders, blame the rich that things have gone wrong.

And the regulators, rallying to Hillary Clinton, blame the hoi polloi that things have gone wrong.

The way to get a grip on this is last week’s “Smug Style in American Liberalism” by Emmett Rensin.

It is central to the liberal self-conception that what separates them from reactionaries is a desire to help people, a desire to create a fairer and more just world.

Quite so, liberals. But stripped of smug “self-conception” the reality is that liberals want to help people by ordering everyone around. And the nationalists want to help people by ordering foreigners around. And the socialists want to help people by ordering the rich around.

Then there is Ted Cruz, who wants to help people by ordering the Washington cartel around. Yay!

The problem with all these nationalists and socialists and regulators is their lying use of the word “help.” They are not really talking about help; they are talking about men with guns.

In liberals this Big Lie is what I would call the Kindly Librarian fallacy. No, you liberals, government officials are not kindly librarians; they are politicians and bureaucrats backed by police power.

In nationalists this is the Brave Patriot fallacy. No, you nationalists, government officials are not brave patriots facing down rascally foreigners, they are ordinary politicians paying off entrenched interests.

In socialists, this is the revolutionary fallacy. No, you socialists, government is not collective action urged by peaceful protestors. Government is force, and political protest is raw intimidation.

All these nationalists and socialists and regulationists are united in one thing: their opposition to the price system. They don’t like crafty foreigners undercutting American products with the price system. They don’t like greedy bankers setting the terms of the credit market. They don’t like employers bidding wages in the labor market. They have a better idea and they mean to enforce it with men with guns.

Don’t you guys get it? The Great Enrichment of the last two centuries didn’t come from nationalists beating the foreigners into submission; it didn’t come from the workers enforcing their rights against the big corporations; it didn’t come from a wise and educated regulatory elite. It came from ordinary people bringing new ideas to market; it came from workers finding out the best use of their talents. It came from open markets and uncoerced prices.

It is a curious thing that the clerisy should turn away from the Great Enrichment to the dead pools of nationalism, socialism, and regulationism at the moment that the working class really began to benefit from the industrial revolution, and that the 170 years should have echoed with the pessimism of intellectuals, and tens of millions die on battlefields and a hundred million die in man-made famines, and billions suffer under the demented rule of strutting nationalists and bloody socialists and smug regulationists.

Perhaps we are missing something, like Hegel’s impenetrable master/slave dialectic. We strive all our lives to lord it over the lesser folk, but can scarcely understand ourselves, let alone others, when we spend our whole lives “helping” other people with whips and taxes and regulation.

Maybe the utopian ideologies of 1848 are an inevitable dialectical negation of the equally utopian ideology of market capitalism. After all, in a world where everything eats everything else, from worms to humans, how can it be possible that voluntary cooperation in the market will end wars and enmities, and bring on Kant’s perpetual peace?

The only thing we know for sure is that the meaning of life, the universe, and everything is an ever-deepening mystery. And somebody will be elected president in November.

Christopher Chantrill blogs at www.roadtothemiddleclass.com.

Buy his Road to the Middle Class.

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presented by Christopher Chantrill

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