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Dr. Richard Wolff calls socialism a longing for more. Capitalism is a longing for more for me. It impersonates social science but is a quasi-religion that manipulates cherry-picked data to morality-wash greed. It is a church erected to the greater glory of what it pleased Adam Smith, the Machiavelli of greed, to call self-interest but is, at its core, simple selfishness, just as socialism is at its core, simple sharing. (Neither selfishness nor sharing are per se bad or good; like all isms, everything depends on how individuals behave in relation to them. Ayn Rand apologists will argue that sharing is a form of selfishness, and, in the same way that breathing is a form of selfishness, they’d be correct.)

As there are multiple variants of socialism thriving (everywhere but here), there are multiple possible variants of capitalism. Bipodal—Physical and Financial—variants manifest different combinations of the seven deadly vices: lust, envy, gluttony, wrath, sloth, pride, and greed. They can be imposed on any culture and will, for a time, produce outwardly stable societies that generate significant wealth. Without government intervention—one economist’s intervention is another economist’s interference—that wealth will concentrate at the top (although some will inevitably trickle down, or on, those below). 

But governments based on bipodal capitalism will always be of limited duration: The widespread misery they spread generates resentment that trickles up. As resentment builds, violence erupts. That begets response violence, and the ensuing cycle accelerating violence becomes increasingly expensive to contain. Increasing efforts to contain the violence drains resources that weaken those governments, and they eventually fail. Bipodal capitalist regimes nearly always end in brutality, fascism, and revolution.

Tripodal variants such as FDR’s Democratic Capitalism are more stable because they make room for human unpredictability. FDR-era reforms domesticated capitalism, and later progressive reforms tamed it further. By regulating and restraining bipodal capitalism’s worst impulses, Democratic Capitalism gave free market capitalism a human face. But the uber rich found even mild constraints—the equivalent of Attila decreeing that Huns could no longer pillage on Sundays—intolerable. For them, it is always all or nothing at all, and the ends—regardless of their cruelty—justify the means. As some capitalists like to say, Money knows no conscience.

But simply removing FDR-era constraints, simply returning capitalism to the soulless, pre-FDR, bipodal iteration that brought about the Great Depression, is unsatisfactory to today’s hyper-capitalists; today’s capitalist Templars seek to disrupt (a euphemism for fuck over) the entire system. Not content simply with deregulating and deconstraining capitalism, they want to supersize it. In their video-game-warped imaginations, supersizing capitalism will turn trickles into torrents.

(It is insufficiently pointed out by Democrats, who wouldn’t know a winning issue if it bit them in their asses, that it was only socialism-inspired economic safety nets erected during and after the FDR era—unemployment insurance, social security, Medicare, et al—that kept 2008’s Great Recession from plunging us and the world into Great Depression version 2.0. Or that Trump-era tax cuts financed faux prosperity. Or that the huge deficits that the tax cuts generated, covered by borrowing from the uber rich the same money that the tax cuts supplied to them—only now subject to interest— are contributing to the inflation that Republicans are gleefully blaming on President Biden.)

Boom-and-bust cycles are inevitable under laissez-faire capitalism, because laissez-faire capitalist economies, like patients having difficulty breathing, inhale and exhale their monetary supplies. When inhaling, everything seems great; when exhaling, things get dicey. A deep exhale, which can seem like a death rattle, can be devastating (to all but the uber rich, who ultimately benefit). In the near future, when hyper-capitalists, enabled by delusional conservatives, have completed dismantling the remnants of Democratic Capitalism’s social safety net, then watch out. Without those programs in place, the inevitable Great Depression version 2.0 will be what economic theorists call a “doozy.”

Pre-FDR American capitalism relied heavily on laissez-faire (literally leave to do, but practically leave alone) economic policies, i.e., keeping the government’s hands out of private enterprise: Other than to maintain the market, business is not the government’s business. Post-FDR, Democratic Capitalism was based on retenez-faire (prevent doing). [That’s not an actual economics thing; I made it up.] That worked pretty well for 90 or so years, but during that period capitalists were grinding their teeth, grievously feeling the loss of profits they could and would have amassed had their hands not been tied, angrily watching those profits being diverted to more—though far less deserving—people. 

When Chicago School economists prescribed a return to laissez-faire, Ronald Reagan eagerly agreed, and the dismantling of FDR’s Democratic Capitalism began. By 2008—it took that long for enough of the post-FDR regulatory structure to be dismantled—the wantonly deregulated financial industry engaged in a profit-taking frenzy that crashed the US economy, and thus the world’s. When the COVID-19 pandemic hit, the world economy, still fragile, was unable to cope. (This is something else that a savvy Democratic party could profitably pin on the tail of the Trump administration and free market capitalism in general. Assuming, of course, that they wanted to.)

Laissez-faire has metastasized into propulsez-faire (force to do) [Ditto.] The synthesis of Keynesian thesis and Chicago School antithesis is the Chicago Bros School of Economics. Followers of the Chicago Bros School believe in disruption: You can’t make an omelet without breaking eggs. But when cooked, the entire omelet is theirs. Unlike their laissez-faire predecessors, Chicago Bros embrace Keynesian-style government intervention, but unlike Keynes, who sought to spread wealth over a greater population, the Chicago Bros intend to use government intervention to clear obstacles to their amassing enormous wealth for themselves.

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Their theories are based on what they see, correctly, as a flaw in laissez-faire theory, which holds that free markets could solve every economic problem if only governments would stay out of the way. The constant failure to solve every problem, or even most problems, is inevitably attributed to a lack of purity: Governments (or, really, those acting in the name of governments) just can’t stop themselves from intervening. If the economy doesn’t perform as predicted, it is never the fault of the theory: If you don’t laissez it alone, it can’t faire. 

This boils down to Our theories are sound. It’s people who are the problem. The obvious flaw: Humans lack discipline. The Chicago Bros plan to harness government power to encourage, or failing that to force, profit-friendly behavior on citizens in order to make making money easier.

In other words, they’re fascists.

Disappearing America Series:

Disappearing America: Feeling the Bern—Part 1
Monday, 28 November 2022

Disappearing America: The Red Menace—Part 2
Tuesday, 29 November 2022

Disappearing America: I Was Objective When I Started—Part 3
Wednesday, 30 November 2022

Disappearing America: It’s Only Faire—Part 4
Thursday, 1 December 2022

Disappearing America: More For Me—Part 5
Friday, 2 December 2022

Disappearing America: Indoctrination Nation—Part 6
Saturday, 3 December 2022

America Disappeared: What We Could Have Been Doing in the Shadows—Part 7
Friday, 4 December 2022