Archive for March 14th, 2011
In an earlier post on this topic I made the claim that the thing which changed everything in this country was the rise of capitalism as the dominant economic model. It’s time to make good on that claim.
Firstly, we need to understand, once and for all, just what Capitalism is and how it is misunderstood in these sorts of discussions.
Capitalism is an umbrella term used to describe a variety of practices under one general heading, practices like mercantilism, industrialization, and interest-based lending. But to be precise, all these different practices overlap but are not themselves capitalism.
Capitalism is the strategic use of money to determine the value of money and thereby transfer latent wealth from one sector of an economy to another.
This simple distinction does much to explain the animosity throughout the 19th Century toward any kind of centralized bank, including the Jacksonian war on the United States Bank, and Jeffersonian suspicion of corporate power. It is nothing less than the ability of a small group to determine the value of local currency and the buying power of a community, all through the manipulation of currency exchange markets (like Wall Street), regardless of intrinsic values of manufactures and production.
But we have so conflated this with all other aspects of our much-vaunted “free” enterprise system that to criticize capitalism is seen as an attack on the American Way of Life. It is not. Although many Left attacks on it become hopelessly mired in broad attacks on wealth, it is not so much an attack on wealth per se—that is, wealth based on the prosperity of a community—but wealth derived at the expense of the community.
Which is what we are seeing take place today. Which has taken place often in our history.
The difficulty is, this has been one of the most successful economic systems ever for creating prosperity, especially for the individual who understands it and works it, and, if properly regulated, has been the foundation of American achievement, at least materially. So any critique can be made to seem like a critique of America itself. This fact has been useful to plutocrats defending their practices against attempts to rein in and control abuses. The coupling of what in extremes are parasitic practices of economic pillage with grass roots patriotism has been the most difficult combination to deal with in our history. In its contemporary guise, it couches itself in an argument that socially responsible community-based efforts to address economic and resource inequality are Socialist and therefore fundamentally un-American. This is historically inaccurate and strategically manipulative, but the bounds between the anti-federalist sentiments that began even before the revolution and became quasi-religious among certain groups in the aftermath of the Civil War are many and strange and need teasing apart to understand.
[More . . . ]
I’ve feeling a big stretched out these days, often wondering how I’m going to get everything done. In the midst of this, I noticed this article by Heidi Grant Halvorson in the Harvard Business Review. She offers nine things that successful people do differently, and I do like this list.