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Thursday, November 13, 2008

Beck: It's About the Values - Not the Prices

Billy Beck says a mouthful here:

Wed Nov, 12 2008
It's About The Values — Not The Prices

Man, I was doing pretty well with Matt Welch's article from the December '08 print edition of Reason, "Back To The Barricades", until I got to this line near the end:

"One could perhaps be forgiven for thinking the 20th century's great economic argument had been settled."

I don't bloody think so.

The whole reason why the times are giving Matt such a fit (a righteous one, mind you: he's right) is contained right there in his sentence that I quoted. One of the most ghastly conceptual deformities of the twentieth century lurks in one single word right in the middle of his plea: it's the reason why this whole fight is necessary -- yet again -- and it cannot be won unless this is grasped and integrated as a crucial axis of intellectual battle.

Are you ready? See if you can see the difference when I change the word:

"One could perhaps be forgiven for thinking the 20th century's great moral argument had been settled."

Of course, the change does not survive examination against actual history -- nothing about these arguments was ever "settled" -- but that has nothing to do with general ignorance of the fact that the "economic argument" is an argument over consequences of a moral system. It is not fundamental in any way.

It must be understood that socialism -- any political system in which people are forced to live the decisions of others (this includes all variants and their dictionary specifications) -- and individualism must, in the nature of their concepts, result in economic manifestations as different as their fundamental principles. It is these manifestations -- these symptoms -- which have taken up so much of the debate of a whole century, and it is this superficiality which has brought us to yet another lap around the mulberry-bush.

It is this myopia which abides reference to something like communist China in terms of "markets", thus doing horrible violence to the concept of "markets".

It was this infirmity that made Francis Fukuyama a star among ninnies.

The economic consequences of socialism (the morality) may justly be called socialism (the well-known disasters).

The economic consequence of individualism must rightfully be known as capitalism, for all the reasons having to do with value-production and preservation, and it must be known as a consequence -- a cause-and-effect product -- of its necessary foundation: the morality of individualism.

To divorce "economics" from morality, as if it had no moral component and people really were the virtual lab-rats that they are taken for in contemporary "models", is to invite endless debate of the sort that many have very foolishly thought settled. That folly is now being demonstrated.

It will not do to attempt any of this on grounds of "economics" if we float those "grounds" in mid-air without reference to the subject matter of economics, which is: the productive effort of members of a distinctive species and the known conditions for their survival and flourishing. This is the moral axis of the argument, and the reason why we have not reached "the end of history" in all this is that this lesson has never been learned. Never: in all the glory since the Renaissance Humanists and the Enlightenment, and through all the lessons that every human depravity might have taught, this one remains -- exactly as Ayn Rand said -- Unknown.

All that is why we're where we are now, and the howling question is whether anyone remarking on these matters can do justice to the depth and breadth of the crisis.


(I just now edited two crucial words into this -- 11:42am)

Nov 12, 08 | 10:06 am


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