Being an Ideologue Means Never Having to Say You’re Wrong … “Communism would have worked, if the Soviet Union had only tried it for real.” … For any political-economic ideology, there is always a hard core of believers who will never waver in their conviction that if only the program were tried in its pure form, it would succeed. Any failures — even debacles on a grand scale, including the fiasco of 20th century communism — will be chalked up to ideological impurity and improper application.- Bloomberg
Bloomberg’s Noah Smith, the site’s most provocative and often wrongheaded columnist compares communism to free-markets in this editorial. His conclusion: “Hard core believers” of any type are probably wrong.
We don’t think so.
Communism in its modern form is a pervasively authoritarian ideology. Its corollary is state control. Free-market economics is exactly the opposite. It is most effective when the state is at least dormant.
Can societies ever be too free? That’s hard to fathom. Certainly – and sadly – that doesn’t seem to be a problem in the world today. Nonetheless, Noah pursues his points.
In reality, true believers often cling tenaciously to their worldviews … [But] the tendency toward ideological commitment is now being tested in the U.S., as free-market dogma — sometimes known as neo-liberalism — is coming under increasing attack.
Bernie Sanders’s presidential campaign gained a surprising amount of support from young people. Economists, both in the public eye and out of it, are focusing more on inequality and embracing a more activist role for the state.
Business professors are starting to question the short-termism of financial markets and shareholder control. Some researchers at right-leaning think tanks are saying that Republicans need to move away from Reaganomics and its mix of tax cuts and deregulation.
In fact we don’t recognize what Smith calls “free-market dogma.” What the US has in place now is what we’ve called technocratic fascism.
To conflate it with a pure form of anarcho-capitalism is ludicrous.
The US government runs on well over $3 trillion a year. It pursues bloodthirsty hegemony abroad and repression at home.
The dominant ideology of the US – and the West in general – is corporatism. And corporatism is the result of Supreme Court decisions that have at least partially created a reign of judicial terror that includes intellectual property rights, corporate personhood and monopoly central banking.
Absent these three disastrous influences, the US probably would look a lot more like it did before the Civil War, when the country – despite slavery and genocidal policies toward Native Americans – produced something of a golden epoch in the annals of industrial freedom and creativity.
The success of this era, ironically, laid the building blocks for the current American empire. Pre-Civil War, creativity was fairly untrammeled by government regulations and entrepreneurship was not constrained by the current faux fervor of environmentalism.
Here, a summary, as follows:
The antebellum era was a time not only of profound political change but also of great technological and economic innovation. The Industrial Revolution, which began in Europe in the 1700s, had produced new inventions and methods of production.
American inventors transformed the U.S. economy with new innovations of their own. This rapid development of manufacturing and improved farming had such a profound effect on American society that historians often refer to it as the Market Revolution.
Some antebellum inventions? The cotton gin, the steamboat, the Erie Canal and railroads.
The building blocks of modernity not just for the US but for the world were put in place during a period of incandescent creativity. People could invent what they wanted and put their ideas into production.
Contrast this with communism. From what we can tell, Stalin’s number one product was genocide. Certainly, people abandoned communism as soon as they could. The system was only kept in place by force.
Contrast that to the US, where it took a war – the Civil War – to change the texture of society and replace laissez-faire with the beginnings of the technocratic capitalism that the US is sinking under today.
Smith writes in his conclusion that people generally are not ideological. The implication is that free-market “neoliberalism” has moved in an overly energetic fashion in the direction of industrial anarchy.
But as explained above, laissez-faire has been retreating in the US for well over a century-and-a-half now. Smith seems to be confusing fascism with freedom.
Nonetheless, he is fairly certain what’s coming next:
“I expect the U.S. public to cast around for alternatives to the neoliberalism of Reagan, Bill Clinton and George W. Bush … Some sort of course change, rather than a doubling down, seems inevitable.”
Leave aside our disagreement with his characterization of the philosophies of these three men, it is hard to conceive of a society failing from too much entrepreneurship, industrial vitality and freedom.
On the other hand, it equally hard to visualize a successful society shaped by the brutal intolerance of communism – as it apparently evolves inevitably when it is tried.
Conclusion: One can never have too much freedom, in our view. And one can never have too little forcible communism. Human action is preferable to authoritarianism. Societies work best when people (absent sociopaths) are left to their own devices.