Salon recently published a piece on its website by Jesse Myerson which defends communism and bashes capitalism. I highly suggest that every reader of this article comb through it in detail before continuing.
It is a long read, and so is this article. However, they are important for everyone to read.
This is the kind of nonsense that Marxist college professors are pounding into our kids’ heads in their classrooms. Myerson discusses what he calls seven “myths” about capitalism and communism. I contend that these are not “nonsense” beliefs that “Americans think they know about capitalism and communism.” Most of them actually true, although a couple of them are just nonsensical straw man arguments. The only way for conservatives to fight this false narrative is to fully understand it, then understand what the logical counterarguments are.
Not-A-Myth #1: “Only communist economies rely on state violence.”
Myerson is clearly delusional because nobody is advancing this argument. Governments in capitalist countries must at times use violence to enforce property rights. On the other hand, where rule of law is present, the government also has legal limitations on its own activities, including the use of force (i.e. due process, justification, etc.). Without rule of law there is corruption, and property rights cannot be secured in a corrupt political system. Capitalists generally agree that rule of law is a necessary ingredient for capitalism to function properly.
What we on the political right are actually arguing is that communist governments have historically shown a great propensity for using violence against those that they deemed undesirable. They use arbitrary violence and fear to crush dissent because that is the only way totalitarian governments can maintain their power. Since all property is public according to the tenets of communism, government officials may go any place and confiscate any property at any time. There are no systems in place to curb their power, and therefore there is no rule of law in a communist state.
Not-A-Myth #2: “Capitalist economies are based on free exchange.”
I really don’t see how any of Myerson’s arguments dispel the notion that capitalism is based on free exchange. What he discusses in this section are mostly tragic political events, along with a pathetic lament of how terrible it is to live and work in a capitalist system. What most Marxists don’t seem to realize is that capitalism is not a political system, nor is it a moral system. It is not meant to make everyone euphorically happy all the time. It is not guaranteed to make everyone’s life fair. Rather, capitalism is simply the most effective, efficient economic system humans have yet devised for producing wealth and generating economic mobility.
Myerson begins by discussing the mass exodus of British peasants from rural environs to cities as they sought work in factories during the 18th and 19th centuries. Many historians blame this development on the enclosure of common lands by wealthy landowners who used their political power to appropriate this traditionally open land for their own private use. The enclosing of common lands had little to do with capitalism per se and a lot to do with the waning legacy of feudalism, where peasants worked the land at the pleasure of their landlords. It suffices to say that The United States Constitution bans granting titles of nobility for a very good reason.
Myerson also claims in this section that people in capitalist economies “find [themselves] constantly stuck between competing pressures and therefore stressed out, exhausted, lonely, and in search of meaning. — as though [they’re] not in control of [their] lives.” He adds that entrepreneurs are forced to “relentlessly accumulate wealth and develop the forces of production or else fail.” He is entitled to his opinion of course, and I am also entitled to mine: Myerson is not making a serious analysis of the psychological affects of capitalism. He is being a whiny leftist.
Perhaps the most annoying argument Myerson makes in this section is that in order for American capitalism to flourish, the U.S. had to “[exterminate] a continent’s worth of indigenous people” and “[enslave] millions of kidnapped Africans” while “white women, considered the property of their fathers and husbands, were performing the invisible tasks of child-rearing and housework, without remuneration.”
What I love about leftists is the way they anachronistically judge history. Never mind that most of the African slaves were sold to U.S. buyers by other Africans. In fact, slavery was practiced all over the world during this time period. The same can be said of imperialism, which is essentially what Manifest Destiny amounted to. However, the American Indian tribes were not peaceful people. They warred with each other long before the white man arrived. As for women, the political and social seeds of change for women’s rights had barely been planted at this time. Most women performed these duties because someone had to do it while their husbands were toiling away earning the family’s daily bread. Wrong or right, people in the past all over the world lived like this.
Not-A-Myth #3: “Communism killed 110 million people for resisting dispossession.”
The actual statement Myerson was trying to refute came from a commentary by Greg Gutfeld of “Fox News”:
“. . . only the threat of death can prop up a left-wing dream, because no one in their right mind would volunteer for this crap. Hence, 110 million dead.”
Gutfeld made no specific mention of “resisting dispossession,” nor did he state that there were not willing volunteers in the Chinese or Soviet communist revolutions. He merely implied that any willing volunteers must have been crazy, and that compliance by the unwilling could only be assured by the “threat of death.”
Mao and Stalin backed their destructive policies with iron fists and loaded guns. Saying “no” to the Great Leap Foward or a Five Year Plan meant a quick execution. Cooperating meant being part of a poorly managed system which caused massive amounts of death and misery. The total number of deaths which resulted from mass killings, starvation in all communist regimes during the 20th century is estimated to be close to 100 million. Gutfeld’s numbers may be a tad bit higher than this, but they’re not far off. He did fail to cite his source, a minor oversight.
Not-A-Myth #4: “Capitalist governments don’t commit human rights atrocities.”
Myerson’s argument in this section pretty much devolves into a bunch of jaw about how capitalists are responsible for “the tens of millions of people who die of malnutrition every year,” as well as the 100 million future projected deaths of those who “will die climate-borne deaths between 2012 and 2030.”
Never mind that “climate change” theories have been demonstrably inaccurate when predicting pretty much anything of consequence since their inception. Probably the best thing wealthy countries could do for developing countries around the world is drop their protectionist barriers and actually engage in open, free trade with them (in a word: capitalism).
Unfortunately, that probably will not happen anytime soon. Governments usually believe it is in their countries’ national interest to protect their national economies from ultra cheap foreign goods. On that note, someone should tell Myerson and his card carrying comrades that communist China overtook the United States as the leader in greenhouse gas emissions back in 2007.
Not-A-Myth #5: “21st Century American communism would resemble 20th century Soviet and Chinese horrors.”
Count on it. Myerson’s best defense against this “myth” is that the United States is far more technologically and socially advanced than Russia or China were when they underwent their own communist revolutions. The United States, he contends, would approach communism in a “far more open, humane, democratic, participatory and egalitarian” way. Didn’t he say something earlier about slavery and murdering Indians and enslaving women? Anyhow, he adds that this wonderful new American communism would not even require “the wholesale and immediate abolition of markets” because “communists love a good farmer’s market.” Right.
Let me briefly compare some pairs of countries which were once unified, then split up by communism. Germany was a technologically modernized state before World War II, after which it was divided into East and West Germany. West Germany became democratic, capitalist and affluent. East Germany fell under the shadow of communism and became a nightmare.
China and Taiwan were also both part of the same country when mainland China fell to the communist revolution, resulting in the exile of Chiang Kai-Shek’s nationalists to Taiwan. Taiwan is a paradise compared to China today. The same comparison can be drawn between North Korea and South Korea.
Need I say more?
Communism sounds so pretty on paper. In practice it hasn’t fared so well. The fact is that not a single communist state, former or current, has ever come close to achieving the communist dream since Karl Marx wrote “Das Kapital.” There are few self-professed communist states left in the world today, mostly due to the collapse of the Soviet Union. Those which remain (namely China, Laos, Cuba, North Korea, and Vietnam) are run by more or less oppressive governments which still use a state socialist model and have yet to realize a heavenly communist apotheosis.
China and Vietnam have even embraced a number of market-oriented reforms in order to vitalize their economies. If they know what’s good for them they’ll someday join the 21st century and just abandon communism altogether.
Not-A-Myths #6: “Communism fosters uniformity.”
It is certainly difficult to prove that an economic system does or does not “foster individuality” or “foster uniformity.” However, Myerson’s absurd attack against the supposedly widely held belief that communism fosters uniformity is beyond ridiculous.
He starts by admitting that there is not much product variety in a communist economy, but then goes on a rant about the beautiful communist utopia where everyone’s life is dominated by leisure time and people can pursue all sorts of interests, making them “tremendously [diverse].” He follows with a baseless claim that “such a society would breed tremendous individuality and offer superior avenues for expression” because “so many great artists and writers have been Marxists.”
What Myerson fails to mention is how an inefficient economic model like communism can permit everyone to have so much leisure time. I have never understood this belief even though I’ve personally perused large portions of Marx’s writing. Excessive leisure time in modern economies is mostly a capitalist phenomenon, mainly because capitalism relies more on capital and entrepreneurship than labor and land as primary factors of production. That is one of the many benefits of the inventions and innovations that are encouraged by the profit mechanism. Also, has Myerson considered that while many great artists are Marxists, many other great artists are not Marxists? Doesn’t that create a logical contradiction? I guess it doesn’t in Marxist-land.
Not-A-Myth #7: “Capitalism fosters individuality.”
Whether capitalism fosters individuality or not is nearly impossible to prove either way, and it is really not all that important anyhow. Capitalism is not some New Age philosophical ideology that people adopt to expand their minds or discover themselves. Capitalism is an economic system that gets people the things they want as fast as possible at prices they are willing to pay.
What Myerson argues is that the economies of scale found in capitalism mean that many products are mass produced and therefore homogenous. He laments all of the “suburban residential developments” and “grey-paneled cubicles” and “strip malls” and “sitcoms.” Then he makes the blanket statement that “most of the greatest art under capitalism has always come from people who are oppressed and alienated.” This art, he goes on to say, “is homogenized, marketed, and milked for all its value by the ‘entrepreneurs’ sitting at the top of the heap.” I really do not recall ever meeting a happy Marxist in college, not once.
While many products are mass produced, they are not all homogenous. I marvel at the variety of soft drink flavors, breads, and canned soups that are for sale at the local supermarket. If I choose among varieties of just those three products alone I could leave the store with cola, pumpernickel and split pea, or perhaps I could choose pineapple, multi-grain, and lobster bisque. Almost every product one can find in any store has a “flavor” that suits most individuals.
So what about individuals who have particularly unusual tastes? E-commerce has also made it possible for niche markets to emerge where buyers looking for very specific or unusual products can easily find them. Just a quick search on Google showed me 20 weird things I can buy on Amazon that included “Unicorn Meat” and “Wolf Urine.”
As for the artists and musicians that Myerson feels so sorry for, let me see if I can put what he’s saying into a perspective that people who do not suffer from Wah-Why-Me Syndrome can understand. ‘m going to make an assumption that Myerson discovered all of these artsy folks through various museums, concerts, radio programs, websites, books, and perhaps a ton of other venues I am not listing here.
I am willing to bet that it was mostly entrepreneurs who were responsible for the creation of all nearly all of those venues. Even library books are made by evil corporations. However Myerson feels about capitalism and its relationship to art, there is no denying that capitalism facilitates a lot of art exposure. Who the hell had ever heard of The Beatles before they met a record producer and signed a contract? Also, I can’t say I really care too much for the art they produced in the Soviet Union.
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