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February 26, 2005



Can you provide any support whatsoever for the following statement : "The rules of U.S. capitalism are currently stacked in favor of the top one percent to the overall detriment of society as a whole"

... I happen to disagree, in fact I find the statement laughable ... but would be interested in hearing any coherent proof for this.


Mark Foxwell

Sure, /TJ! No problem!

Play a game of Monopoly some time. What happens? Someone pulls ahead, as likely as not by sheer luck, and once that happens that person becomes increasingly invulnerable in the transactions that ensue, while everyone else becomes _more and more_ vulnerable. The richest player is able to leverage their wealth into devices for siphoning off everyone elses'; as they lose in transactions with the leader, they lose the ability to siphon any back and become nothing more than conveyer belts between "Go!" and the pocket of the winner. Eventually each one dies most likely at the hands of the leading player; their property is gobbled up and eventually goes down the gullet of the winner.

That, my friend, is a very apt and reasonable model of the dynamics of unregulated laissez-faire capitalism. Wealth has its own gravitational force, under the rules both legal and inherent in the market mechanism, that biases all transactions toward the benefit of whomever holds the most. The idea that competition somehow offsets this phenomenon is an ideological illusion; we are long past the point where an ordinary working person can ante up enough to join the high rollers at the casino table we call the stock market, or business in general. The immense power of the very small minority that now effectively controls the entire economy and also the political and legal systems is masked to an extent but in this generation that mask is starting to come off as the powerful no longer fear that the majority can organize politically to check them.

I don't know about you but my impression is that we live in a very stagnant sort of world, in terms of technical advances or general economic progress, compared to a generation ago. Mechanisms that were intended to offset or reverse the upward concentration of wealth once kept us healthier, but these have been under political attack and are being dismantled.

And what exactly about the system strikes you as tending to create a balance of power between rich and poor? Do you think you can go head to head with Bill Gates or Warren Buffet and stand a 50/50 chance of winning? On _any_ playing field?

If elites tended to rule wisely and well this would not bother me; I don't care if some people live better than I do. But in fact the track record of elites tends to be in proportion to how well they are checked and held in suspicion by jealous underlings. Since that kind of thing is on its way out, things have been getting worse and more dangerous for ordinary people--and the disparity between wealth and poverty has spun out of control, worsening the crisis. Point to the glorious achievements of capitalism in the past and I will show you where the people rose up and democratically demanded checks and balances, thus laying the groundwork for prosperity and the success of the elites. For a time capitalism and progress went hand in hand, in a rough way. Now I think its time as a progressive force has passed. But by all means, enlighten us as to how it is going to work out well. We'd really like to know that things are going otherwise than they appear, because they appear to be getting very grim for most of us.

Mark Foxwell

And now, Abigail--this is your blog and I will back you up 100 percent--you are not a socialist! Really she isn't, people! _I am_ a socialist, and she is correct. Retaining her faith as she does in the eternal necessity of competitive private enterprise, she is exonerated from that charge as long as she holds that view, so just _back off_, OK? She is a liberal, not a socialist, so there.

As a socialist, I want to clarify where I disagree:

"In fact, the failure of the Soviet Union shows us that government ownership of the means of production just doesn’t work." Actually, it only shows that that experiment failed, not that the system cannot ever be made to work in any form. The USSR had a lot of hurdles to overcome and by the time they solved the problems that threatened to tear it down in the 1920s, they were locked onto the course toward Stalinism, which closed off the possibility of the government that regulated the economy being _democratic_, which is essential to classic ideals of socialism. Even so, Stalin and his successors deserve credit for producing a major industrial society in a nation that, under the rules of international capitalism, would have developed hardly at all. This came in handy for the people of the world when the Soviets, pretty much on their own, stopped Hitler from conquering their country and then pushed him back and stamped him out. We owe them that anyway. (Yes, I think the Soviets could have beat Hitler all by themselves, it would have just taken longer--and no, I don't think Britain and the USA could have done it all by ourselves without the Russians. They accounted for something like 2/3 of all Hitler's losses--more in troops and tanks, less in airplanes). And then Soviet society went on to recover from the terrible damage Hitler inflicted, to be first into space and to nearly match US military might. These are not the most humane achievements but you can't deny they _also_ became progressively more humane too, which is why Khrushchev was just fired without being executed or killing his challengers, and then the USSR let itself be disbanded with little bloodshed in 1991. Economic progress under "socialism" handicapped by having no democracy was often accomplished brutally--but if you study the history of capitalist nations honestly, without leaving out the mean parts, you will find quite a track record of brutality here too. The Soviets did it quick and dirty--much more quickly than capitalism could ever develop. Imagine what might happen if socialists took over a highly developed capitalist economy instead of a war-devastated feudal colony.

"The competition of private individuals and groups is what creates innovation and more efficient allocation of resources." I don't think so. Creative human beings create innovation and efficiency. The private individuals who own the means of production need not be the creative ones, even in the often brutal matter of "efficiently allocating resources." As wealth has concentrated, more and more often they just hire people to do that for them. There is a division of "labor" as it were, between actual labor and its rewards, and the efficiency of capitalists lies mainly in figuring out _how little_ to let the actual working people who create wealth take home, so they can gamble with the rest. It was quite true that this system, flawed as it was, was superior to alternatives that existed. No matter what, coordination of an economy takes a lot of work. But allowing mindless market mechanisms to do it has costs as well as benefits and as the integration of the world proceeeds and technological industry gets more intricate, the costs are more severe and the benefits less irreplacible. As wealth is concentrated there is a tendency for cartels to form, and within these constellations of shared ownership competiton need not rule. Systems of global _cooperation_ are forming. With the political reaction against public, democratically controlled, organization, these systems are private and irresponsible. But nevertheless, the world is moving toward central control and a situation where socialistic takeover of the assets held by a small and increasingly obnoxious minority would be a clear improvement. This is known as an objectively revolutionary situation, and the task of government and ideology is to try to hide that fact from general awareness. It gets harder and harder as more people are being made miserable by irresponsible competition; that is why things are getting uglier--diversions must involve more and more promises of violence against inappropriate targets (like other nations, the poor, women, etc) lest people turn their anger on appropriate ones.

"But capitalism has rules." Do you mean rules arbitrarily made up for it by governements or moralists, or the inherent, natural rules of the system? Either way, the statement is true as far as it goes. Capitalism would not exist without governments that make rules about property rights. But the system grew up behind the backs of regulators (like St Thomas Aquinas for instance) who had very different priorities. No one planned it. But it has a structure, it derives logically from basic premises that are widely accepted. _However_ those rules do not include fairness or balance. It is not some recent perversion of government regulations, but the fundamental tendency of capitalism itself, that tends toward concentration of wealth and the power that goes with it into fewer hands. In order to _check_ this natural tendency, several waves of American (and parallel movements, overseas) activism have enacted various reforms. Unfortunately, none of the reformers who were allowed anywhere near actual power had a clear and honest vision of what they were regulated and so the game of a democratic people people trying to _channel_ the power of capitalism to the good of the majority without betraying the basic priniciples of reverence for property has been an interesting one, but dangerous and liable to failure. If unregulated capitalism were as infallible as its proponents think the people might not have ever won any victories, but failures of the market like the Great Depression cried out for reform and weakened the capitalists to the point where they not only endured it--the wise among them were grateful for the second chance it gave them.

As a _liberal_, Abigail, you accept the idea of countervailing power between a democratic people and a private market economy. I am telling you, as a socialist who once was a liberal, that I am convinced that cannot exist in a stable way. _If_ democratic regulation can succeed, this points the way to gradual replacement of competition by democratic, planned cooperation. If it cannot, then regulation fails and we must take the evil of markets (increasing concentration of wealth, callousness toward the fates of the majority of people) along with the good. But this evil is less and less tolerable and more and more dangerous as time goes on. We must set our sights on how to achieve a sustainable, just society, or we will kill each other. And I am convinced that competition is not a creative force and should not have central place in a workable and fair society. Feel free to prove me wrong and come up with a reasonable regulatory order to govern competitive capitalism that the capitalists will accept without trying to undermine it; that would be very comfortable, much like the American way I was raised to believe in. But I doubt it can be done. We are better off trying to figure out how to have a command economy that is flexible, fair, tolerant, and supportive of real democracy. That will take some work too, but it has the merit of being possible. It has this drawback--there must be confrontation with that increasingly powerful privileged minority, and experience tells us, it will probably get violent (when they unleash terrible violence on the people as they often have.) That is bad. But if we must risk blowing each other up, it would be good if one possible outcome were not a continuation of the nightmare but its resolution and progress to a new phase.

"Bring back the forty hour work week." Of course that is a wonderful idea. But how to enforce it? If all jobs were of the model "one person works for one employer' it would be simple. But alas, that has never been universally true and today it is far less true than in the heyday of liberalism when _unionized_ jobs set the standards. Under capitalism, every worker is "free" to negotiate, and if they cannot get hired by a capitalist who operates under the union-imposed rules, they work for those who are "free" of those restrictions. We have a rule against one boss employing you for more than 40 hours? Fine, you are hired for only 20. That way, I can nudge your hours up by nearly a factor of 2 and still not run afoul of the law. You, sadly, must still get enough money to pay your bills and eat, so you get a second job for 20 hours. So this week boss A and boss B both need you to work 39 hours. Who pays the overtime? Who do you say no to, knowing that one will fire you, hire some other poor sucker, and the other boss will eventually put you back down to 20 hours or less. In reality, you work both jobs as well as you can, hope not to get fired (say when one boss finds out you work for the other one too) and gratefully take the money which might perhaps make up for how little you got paid the other weeks. We have no laws regulating how long a _worker_ works you see, only how many the _employer_ can hire one worker to work. But to coordinate the workplace so that _workers_ had a cap on working hours, we would need elaborate governmental mechansms. And what if a worker feels she needs a little extra money? The system would look like an imposition on the workers if it just flatly forbade working extra hours; even if wages did rise, people would _percieve_ an unfair, unneccesary restriction which their bosses would eagerly assure them is the root of all evil, just as they now grouse against minimum wages. Or hour restrictions. What if it tried to guarantee overtime? Then workers would be happy but _bosses_ would cry injustice, since they would not _control_ how many hours a worker works if we count all the hours they work for all employers--not unless they had a say in who could hire a worker they had already hired. Which puts the ball of government-backed interference in private decisions back in the bosses' court, and the grievance back to the workers. It is a messy problem that seemed like less of one when there was a generally progressive trend in the 1960s than it clearly is in harder times.

I would entirely favor such a tangled, contentuous system over no regulation whatsoever, or regulation in favor of the rich. But if we have regulation and also great private wealth, who can doubt the wealthy will strive both to get control over regulation so it at least balances, if not favors outright, their interests with workers? And if workers can, by virtue of their numbers and by having a reasonable share of political intelligence, triumph politically over their bosses, why should they not just take control and use their intellegent political leadership to just run the economy directly in the interests of ordinary people? I assure you, if they could do that the society that resulted could be innovative and efficient too, indeed I would expect innovations to be more efficiently advanced under wise collective leadership than under chaotic capitalism. The "balance" between wealth and democracy just isn't stable; it tends to tumble over one way or the other and the most able advocates for both sides want their side to win completely. Because we acquiesce in this state religion that says that capitalism is eternally necessary and good, and collectivism is unworkable and evil, it will be one side only that can win in the end. And the more that happens the more fed up ordinary people will become with liberal compromises. Usually this means they knuckle under to the power of wealth, but if people get the idea they might win a big and lasting victory they might change sides fast. In short--a revolutionary situation. It is to defuse that danger than enlightened capitalists ought to support liberal compromise, but they have no living fear of the mob to enforce it.

What this country needs is a strong political left--right or wrong, they would do good by scaring the propertarians into decent behavior. Or who knows, they may just provoke a Holocaust--but you know that is coming anyway. Only a strong and intellegent left that is not afraid to denounce private property might prevent that.

The Liberal Avenger

Silly conservatives like to believe that liberalism = socialism or better yet that liberalism = communism. They know not of what they speak.


The people calling you a socialist are the same people who think Bush is a Texan who earned everything he has. In other words, ignoramuses.


Yes she is a socialist and socialism WILL NEVER WORK. You are spouting off socialistic ideals and claim it's capitalism. Government MANDATES employee work rules, government regulates business practices, etc..., means a business does not have CONTROL over its own resources. That is a form of socialism. INCOME resdistribution is socialism. You claimm its capitalism for a government to control all aspects of a business, profit, employee hours and wages, etc..

I suggest, again, you all read an economics book. Creativity and innovation come from competition in the market. Socialism gives NO incentive for creativity and innovation, therefore, they are stifled and stagnate. In a socialistic society businesses have no incentive to create and innovate. I would guess that you, Abigail, The Liberal Avenger, merallen, and Mark Foxwell, have never owner or managed a business; it would obviously fail. You people are TRUE socialists.


Cracker, you apparently missed the part where she cited the definition of the word socialism. It requires state ownership, not just regulation. You keep telling people to read an economics book. Please do so yourself before trying to redefine economic concepts, okay?


FDR's liberalism saved capitalism. If you don't know that, just read some history. Laissez-faire leads to concentrations of capital and the formation of monopolies. A market is not "free" if its controlled by monopoly, free of competition perhaps. The two traditional approachs are of course anti-trust and/or regulation. You can't just sit back and let the giants abuse their monopoly power.

I just want to add that living standards and life expectancy have gone down in post-soviet Russia and Eastern Europe, while unemployment has skyrocketed. The extreme neoliberalism imposed by the IMF/World Bank has been a failure replacing a slightly better failure.

Mark Foxwell

cracker, you obviously like to use "socialism" as a scarecrow word to shut down all thought. As a business owner which you are boasting of being (or did you lose the business?) of course it is in your objective interest to pay your workers as little as possible, work them in risky situations for as long as possible and just fire them if something bad happens so you can take on fresh blood. What exactly is supposed to protect them? That they can always run out and start their own business? You know so much about business, you know that it takes a major accumulation of wealth (called "capital") to start one, and statistics show if you won't admit it that the vast majority of these ventures fail, so a person who can only scrape up a stake for one is more likely to lose it than to get ahead. That would be all right if capital were so abundant that eventually any diligent person could click, but it isn't. I guess you've never played Monopoly? Because what I described _does_ happen in a Monopoly game, and the game is popular because it _does_ model what happens in a real capitalist economy. Wealth gravitates toward those who already own it and not those who create it.

Yep, I admitted it, I am a socialist. I worked for 16 years taking care of a person who has recently died; this limited my opportunities to figure out how to exploit suckers whom I could push around like a little dictator, which is the sort of feeling you are used to as boss and business owner that you feel entitled to all across the board--that working people should not be voting unless they vote for what you, their boss, want; that the world owes everything to this fantastic category of being called "the employer." Yes, you hire people, but where does the wealth come from that hires them? You, and your personal efforts, and your wonderfully original ideas? Or does it not come from _their_ work, from the products _they_ make and the servicies _they_ provide. They need someone to orgainize and guide their efforts so they mesh with other people. Capitalist owners provide that service but at a price way out of proportion to their contribution. Besides their personal take-home income, they as you point out get to _run the show_ with no backtalk, and this works about like any other dictatorship. It works a lot of the time but the dictator bets on being right _all_ the time and discourages information that would cloud that picture, and the whole business goes _down_ because of one man's mistake. Not as often as they avoid the mistake, but under capitalism if you as boss screw up you ruin not just your life but the people who have to trust you. But hey, you can always hire a new batch when you get back on your feet, right?

Abigail is proposing very reasonable _compromises_ involving practices that have, I agree, socialist tendencies--but have evolved and been accepted because they _work_. Regulation enables working people to survive and have confidence that they and their families won't be wiped out if something goes wrong in the workplace, and that their employer is obligated to avoid such cases because they are held _accountable_ for the downsides of their decisions. This is supposed to be a conservative value, is it not, accountability? Not I suppose applied to the people best able to _be_ accountable and who handle the most of society's assets I guess--it is only the poor who are supposed to be responsible for their actions, the rich should get a pass because they are _employers_.

Taxes--if you understand the capitalist economy so well, you can see that wealth concentrates. If it were not for redistribution of some kind the water would have pooled at the bottom of the hill long ago. In fact that was happening in the late 19th century and the result was a lot of angry ordinary Americans who formed the Populist and Socialist parties among a host of other agitational ideas--such as Henry George's "Single Tax" on "unearned wealth" by which he meant the price of land. That was more popular than Marx or your classical economists in the late 19th century--go take a look at history, now that I have told you what a "single tax" is. But agitated they were, and what headed off all this activism was the adoption, by the ruling classes, of their own protective movement called "progressivism" which was mainly in the Republican party but picked up by Democrats too--people like Theodore Roosevelt; Woodrow Wilson; that crowd. The ones that is who proposed the framework of modern _liberalism_ that Abigail wants to return to, with progressive taxes, the Federal Reserve, government regulation of products and working conditions, recognition of the rights of workers to organize--all these were Progressive era platforms and in turn they were watered-down co-optation, or compromises if you like, with the _fact_ that working people, the vast majority, could plainly see they were being cheated and were about to do something drastic about it--like take over the government and develop real socialism.

So ideologically speaking, you are correct. All these things you, as a boss and cracker, don't like _do_ point toward socialism, and you will have _none_ of it. No deal--nothing to protect the worker, let them sink or swim, eh? And why shouldn't the majority rise up and burn down your house and kill you, if you have an attitude toward their lives and safety like that? They had a deal and people like you and Tom DeLay the exterminator who could not be bothered with rules meant to keep him from killing his customers along with the bugs decided to break it so you could get ahead. Now unless you back off and agree to put back the deal as it was, and stop calling balanced people like Abigail "socialists" just because they think an ownership society should have some check and balance, all deals are off. It is class warfare and who broke the truce? You did; American working people were not _trying_ to impose real socialism. But you want laissez-faire capitalism even though that resulted in 16 hour working days with child labor and deadly working conditions for pay that barely bought cheap, contaminated food. Chances are there will be no socialist revolution because we are all conditioned to avoid thinking clearly about socialism and won't organize to make it work, and organizing for socialist purposes was made a crime something like ninety years ago. But then we can expect the sort of track record you privateers have racked up ever since the failure of the USSR has taken all fear away from you, of numerous wars, rising violence, arrogant police who use torture, the general sense of Armageddon you cultivate.

Have you ever read your precious economic texts yourself? What do they tell you of practical value? Our so-called economists are all about glorifying what property owners do in a religious sense, and scaring people away from socialism. But do they ever explain why we have the business cycle, which results in a depression every 10 years? Presumably they teach that wealth does _not_ naturally compromise, but how do their pronouncements match up to reality?

No businessman ever turns to an economics text for guidance in business decisions. That stuff is pure politics, and the politics of pious self-deception at that.


Mark Foxwell, "Only a strong and intellegent left that is not afraid to denounce private property might prevent that."

This tells me all I need to know. Your long winded post shows you to be what you are, regardless of what you CLAIM to be.

You are a communist. Anyone against private property is a communist. It is the right to OWN property that has made America great.

No matter what you espouse as your ideaology you are a communist plain and simple.

Look it up!


uh. didn't he admit to being a commie in the first sentence of paragraph 2. it's not much of argument to call him what he already calls himself. but what the hell, happy red baiting.

anyway, Kender, I agree with your rhetoric. it is the right to own property that is being denied to our people by our reactionary thug politicians. there hasn't been this much inequality since the roaring 20s. the richest 1% of Americans now own more wealth than the bottom 95% combined. Americans have been steadily losing their property with the decline of the New Deal and Great Society. Your rhetoric hits the nail, it is exactly about property, and reclaiming the wealth that has been stolen from the workers of the world by an elite few.

America has had a rich history of class struggle that that needs to be reintroduced to the people. A hundred years ago America was practically a third world nation until the people, many ordinary people, fought and pushed their politicians for change. If you look at the polls that ask Americans issue specific questions the majority almost always picks progressive solutions. The problem is they are constantly being lied to by politicians and the media. All we need to do is get the truth out.


"America has had a rich history of class struggle that that needs to be reintroduced to the people."

Yay, Phil! Really. Most people are allergic to any mention of social class in America. Yes, it does exist, and classes are becoming more rigid than ever. (Check out The Economist article "Ever higher society, ever harder to ascend" for some powerful evidence that this is the case.) If people don't start talking about it, the gulf between rich and poor will increase.

It is as if people would rather be "brainwashed," to borrow Abigail's apt term, than to admit that they are in a lower class. It isn't shameful to be from the working class or middle class - as long as people are allowed to move up and risk moving down.

Now, Cracker, are employing a classic logical fallacy. (Actually, you've employed a few ... but it's already been mentioned.) What Abigail and others are calling for is greater government control over business. This will not automatically turn us into a bunch of raging, hog wild commies. Canada has universal health care, but we wouldn't call them Socialist.


What Abigail and others are calling for is greater government control over business.

This is not necessarily what I'm calling for. We may actually have too much micro-control, with government regulating small things but ignoring the bigger macro-issues.

The relation between employee and employer is the macro-issue that I've been discussing so far on my blog. This is an issue that affects every business and everyone who has a job.


living in one of the richest areas of the country, i should clarify what i meant by class. yes indeed there's a large lower class who struggle to make ends meet, from which it is hard (but possible) to escape.

but i was thinking of the term, working class, more broadly to include those who live mainly on earned income (maybe 99% of us) vs. those who make most of their money from unearned income (dividends, interests, capital gains, etc.). using this widely encompassing definition, even someone with a comfortable six figure salary would be considered working class and would share many common interests with the lower class, against the corporate elites who make their money by not working.


Your definition of classes may exist, and perhaps luck does play a large part of success ... but so does hard work, risk taking, etc. I take little risk, but work hard, so I will reach my goals - albeit slowly (and I have a much less a chance of ending in shambles)

Your metaphor falls apart quite readily in that Bill Gates started with very little, but (for whatever reason) was/is very successful. And others will follow him, from famine to feast - if they are willing to do so.

I am not advocating full blown laissez-faire Capitalism; some regulation is required. That does not (or atleast should not) include income redistribution, oppressive taxation, or the removal of all motivation ...

WRT - "As a business owner ... of course it is in your objective interest to pay your workers as little as possible, work them in risky situations for as long as possible and just fire them if something bad happens so you can take on fresh blood" ... that is not true in any positions that involve skilled labor. While unskilled labor is pretty much always available, people with the right skills are frequently hard to find / retain, and are therefore able to command higher salaries. This is why, as I mentioned elsewhere, I wouldn't expect anyone to stay a cashier at Walmart for their entire 'career' ... unless they so choose, in which case more power to them!

The Wide Awakes


Abigail's right. We weren't specific enough regarding control over business. Many of us in this conversation are making the same point that some regulation - whether it is limited to employer-employee relations or cracking down on corporate crime - may actually benefit our capitalist society. Pointing out wrongdoing or the existence of class in America sure isn't socialist in itself.

It didn't seem as if anyone was advocating income redistribution or re-enacting the storming of the Bastille. However, America as a society could create conditions that would encourage more hard work and risk-taking. As it stands now, it is so hard to move up in economic class (again, The Economist article) that we wouldn't be surprised if more people aren't throwing up their hands and asking, 'Why bother?'


TJ, Bill Gates didn't start with "very little." He started with quite a lot. He was raised in an intellectually stimulating environment, his parents were wealthy and sent him to a private school where he had access to computers from childhood. Those opportunites had as much to do with his success as talent and luck.

Mark Foxwell

And aren't you forgetting to mention, Shea, that Gates _also_ had millions of dollars in capital he owned outright, because his family was already rich?

It is the leap from working class--which means you don't own enough property to get income from it sufficient to live on, and so must work for someone else to survive--to being a capitalist on any scale that is hard to make; it is at that level, when people who have not been capitalists before scrape up their money, max out their credit cards, and give it a try, that they get wiped out. Their work feeds other people who are already rich and so are in advantageous situation "negotiating" with these plucky types. Who get plucked for the most part, and it is back to the job market for them. Our great American success stories are overwhelmingly those of people like Gates and Trump already born on the right side of the barrier. I don't care if he took a mere million and made billion or a trillion out it, that is a much easier trick than taking $10,000 and breaking even the next year.


ah. the old Bill Gates and his wealth discussions. Let me add that a lot of public investment went into making his private fortune. Billions and billions of dollars of our tax money (largely through defense spending) went into creating the technological foundation for his business. I'm mainly talking about computers and the internet. But you can also include public roads, public education for his employees, cheap oil/power, and countless other technologies I can't think of right now. Anyway, my point is his company didn't create a decent product/service out of a vacuum. In a sense, he's leeching off of others. Actually, Bill Gate's father is part of group of rich people (http://www.responsiblewealth.org) who understand this. That's why he's such a strong supporter of the estate tax.

Luke Lea

Here is what I said on the subject in my post, "The Price of Civilization:
Nobody is ever going to mistake Luke Lea for a socialist – my capitalist credentials go all the way back to the beginning of my adulthood, and I’ve paid dearly for them – so let nobody even think of accusing me of advocating government ownership of the means of production, or of taking a hostile attitude towards the market and our capitalist institutions.

I take a critical attitude, which is hardly the same thing. I don’t argue that corporations are bad or evil. I think they are completely amoral – like wild animals – and that it is the role of government to set the rules of their behavior. Cage the beast, absolutely, but please don’t shoot him! It is naïve for us, as citizens, not to realize that joint-stock companies, though they may have the legal status of persons, have the moral status of socio-paths. Human beings, or at least some human beings, will do literally anything that’s legal to make a pile of money. Just look at the cigarette industry, for a contemporary example. Or the slave trade in centuries past. Why, heck, how many people are aware that the Roosevelt family originally got its fortune in the opium trade with China?

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