Tag Archive: America

Reflection: The Founding Fathers, or Honesty in the U.S.

Lots of nations have mythologies built around their founders. Hell, Romans believed Rome was founded by two twin brothers, descended from the gods, who were sucked by a she-wolf as children. I think that story needs a fact-check or five, but if you think a nation is great, you’re inclined to think that every part of it is Good, Noble, and Decent, right down to its founding. Had the Nazi’s won WWII, five hundred years later history books would paint them as spreading civilization, freedom, and democracy across the globe.

Like Rome, we have our own foundation myths. Popular mythos is that America was founded on the purest, truest love of freedom and democracy anyone has seen since, well, God. Sure, there were little minor blips, like slavery, but the Founding Fathers meant well. But in real life, this country was, in fact, founded on the most massive (and successful) genocide the world has ever known, among the largest systems of slavery (and perhaps the most brutal) in human history, and originally this country was designed to disallow the vote to women and non-propertied men (and every non-white person, of course). By design. But instead of facing it critically, and seeing things for what they are, why can’t we acknowledge the weaknesses and atrocities of the past, so we can have a bright future?

Capitalism and efficiency I

People say that capitalism is more efficient than socialism, that it has been ‘proven’ . . . but ‘efficient’ means that something achieves an end better than something else.  But it requires an answer to the question ‘efficient. . . as to what?’ before you can weigh two options.  Capitalism is ‘efficient’ according to the distributive standard that you ought to distribute according to those who can pay, i.e. efficient demand.  If the standard is something like, “you ought to distribute goods according to satisfaction of need” capitalism is woefully inadequate.  People in Africa are starving, for example (http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/in_depth/africa/2002/famine_in_africa/default.stm) (not to mention everyone else who is starving), people go without basic medicinal and health care, people go without their basic needs being satisfied, but it is not for want of production.  Surpluses of food exist, farmers get paid to not farm, medicinal goods exist, etc., but those who need cannot pay, and those who can pay don’t need (at least anymore).  Capitalist laws prevent goods from meeting the needs they are meant for.  To say that that is ‘efficient’ is to presuppose your own laws of distribution, which is circular and vacuous.  It means (roughly), in short, “capitalism does well what capitalism does.”  Trying to save the system by establishing a ‘welfare capitalist’ state does not save its respectability in this regard either, because while ‘welfare capitalist’ states have their successes (say, the Nordic states and Canada), their successes are due entirely to distributing according to a need based, external-to-capitalism standard.  In short, the goodness of this system exists where it is not capitalism, outside of capitalism.  The reason why this system does not produce rampant suffering and allow needless death is because sectors of it are not completely capitalist.  I hardly call that a defense of capitalism; I call it quite an example to the contrary.  The ‘efficiency’ argument, quite frankly, fails to hold water.