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Friday, July 11, 2014

Reviewing The Cultural Case For Capitalism Part 3 of 12

I was going to originally combine parts 2 and 3 together, this is why the title for the last post in this series has a grammatical error, but I changed my mind at the last minute. Part 3 of Jonathan Witt's A Cultural Case For Capitalism (click here) wants to make the case that individual liberty is king while trying to disconnect it from our current cultural decay. But Witt wants to so honor individual liberty as long as we understand what individual liberty is. Individual liberty, according to Witt, does not include the freedom to steal, cheat, pollute, or practice violence. Nor is individual liberty seen when big government gets involved in aiding select business as they compete in the market. Such invites corruption. But Witt does acknowledge the legitimate role of government to enforce the 'rule of law.' So individual liberty, according to Witt, does not give one permission to be unjust to others. Rather, individual liberty occurs when government becomes minimally involved in the economy to enforce laws the occurrence of which should be an exception rather than the rule. 

So Witt acknowledges that we must have laws with his "lawless road" analogy so as to control theft, cheating, and pollution; however, there is a problem. For how does government determine what is stealing, cheating, polluting, and alike? For example, is paying poverty wages a form of stealing either from employees or from public funds used in government assistance programs? Were some of the practices of or products sold by the Financial Sector during the housing bubble a form of cheating? And how much CO2 emissions can we allow before calling it pollution? Who is suppose to answer these questions?

In addition, doesn't the community in which a business is located have legitimate concerns besides basic moral issues? After all, such a business does have an impact on its surrounding community as well as consumes public services and demands a certain quality of society that helps the business succeed.

There is another problem here. The problem is that Witt seems to say that big, intrusive government almost seems to be the sole source of corruption. That without government's ability to interfere in the free market, businesses would be much less likely be involved in corruption. In fact, Witt uses the examples of Venezuela and Russia as places where a planned economies have ruined things. We should note here that the US and a few other countries from the then G7 insisted on a Neoliberal form of Capitalism for Russia after the Communist empire collapsed--we should note that Neoliberal Capitalism drastically reduces government's control of the economy. To implement this, these countries pushed for a replacement of Russia's then leader Michael Gorbachev with Boris Yeltsin all of which led to an increased amount of corruption (see Naomi Klein's Shock Doctrine). We should also note that a significant amount of the fraud that occurred during our economic collapse in 2008 was due to unregulated financial products (see Inside Job). 

Here, not only does Witt seem to suggest that without big government, most of business's temptation to practice corruption would be eliminated, Witt gives no recognition to another limiting factor to individual liberty besides basic moral principles; that is democracy. According to the model presented in part 1 of this series (click here), the less one favors democracy as a way to distribute power, the more one favors elite rule. So with no mention of democracy here, what we need to look for in the following parts of Witt's series is who he thinks will have power.

According to our model, the less democracy is employed, the more power is consolidated (see the illustration below). And the more that power is consolidated, the more we have elite rule. And we should note here that power is not the same as authority. Authority is based on the official position one has in the government. Power is the ability to get things done. 


American Capitalism Today

So far, we are too early in the series to verify if Witt is advocating the consolidation of power by minimizing the role of government and possibly the role of democracy. Witt's denouncement of big government should not fool us into thinking that he is against the consolidation of power. For we should note that power follows wealth so that those with wealth can either exercise control over others or practice injustice with impunity. So if Witt's model allows for the consolidation of wealth, it will also enable the consolidation of power.

Likewise, there seems to be no mention of stakeholder claims to the rights and ownership of a business. In fact, we could easily say that with Witt's emphasis on economic liberty, he recognizes little to no claim of a Collective Consciousness. For this to occur, Witt must either deny the significance of or the existence of the interdependency that exists in our economy and society. For the degree to which a Collective Consciousness should exist depends on the degree of interdependency that exists in our economy and society.

Despite Witt's denouncement of a government corrupted Capitalism and his advocating the need for the rule of law in our economy, the question will become whether Witt can present an economic model that will be free of the problems he has cited here. Will Witt's model almost all but eliminate corruption in as well as injustices and pollution that currently come from our many of our businesses? If the model presented on this blog significantly represents the real world, then the increased wealth disparity, which is suppose to follow an overemphasis on individual rights at the expense of a Collective Consciousness, and the increased tyranny, which will more like result when Elite Centered rule is favored over Democracy, will make it unlikely that Witt's economic model can escape the corruption and other problems that we see in today's flawed Capitalism. Please stay tuned to see who is right here.

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