Posts Tagged ‘Capitalism’
We have to realise that capitalism has distorted our humanity. Social Darwinism is utterly mistaken so “survival of the fittest” is not how evolved societies work. Darwinism applies to solitary animals competing for resources, but society is one way in which animals can evolve so as to have better chances of surviving through co-operation, sharing, caring, empathy and altruism. Capitalism pretends that humans within society are equal to solitary animals outside it. On that basis they establish that the least human (the most greedy and selfish) will do better than the ones who stick to their social instincts to help others and care for them.
In the primitive communistic phase envisioned by Marx before there was any surplus to exploit, society still had different tasks to be done, and those that did not do their fair share were punished by the community, almost certainly by expulsion in serious or persistent cases. That will have meant death, and will have been the way the prosocial genes were increased in the genome relative to the anti-social ones, the latter over several million years being culled out (a process not completed). What though made someone agree to take on an onerous job like say the group leader? A leader was necessary because there is no time nor inclination to hold a conclave when we are attacked by a pride of lions, say. A leader shows the way, but why should anyone accept such a job?
There are no perks in terms of surplus value but what there is is prestige, the esteem of others in the group. Once we have had a few generations of socialism—which will need to guard against lapses back into capitalism meanwhile (“dictatorship of the proletariat”, would you believe), the instinctive kindly, sharing, helpful nature of people will return and the attitude will be one of wanting to do risky and unpleasant things for others, to have the regard that comes with it. Wanting to be admired is another natural instinct, complementary to sharing and caring. When we return to natural behaviors, helping each other because we like it and want to, the state can whither away.
It has been amusing over the last few days reading, and even participating in, the debate in The Washington Post on whether Christianity should favor socialism or capitalism. The leading article From Jesus’ Socialism to Capitalistic Christianity was written by Gregory Paul who argued in favor of Socialism but offered several hostages to fortune in introducing Ayn Rand into the debate, and implying that socialism was necessarily coercive. Two other articles followed refuting Gregory Paul’s argument. One was worthless, written by some Catholic member of the Discovery Institute, and another one, almost as bad but written I believe by a pair of evangelical lawyers, David French and Jordan Sekulow, was titled The Impossibility of a Socialist Jesus.
One of the points Gregory Paul made was that of the sharing of possessions in the first Christian community described in Acts. The act of sharing was so important to them that Luke, if he is the author, described how two supposed recruits, Ananias and his wife, Saphira, are struck dead for not sharing fully. They held back some of their wealth. The Christian lawyers claim the God killed the wicked pair for lying not for failing to share all of the money with the community. They say the notion of an honest lawyer is an oxymoron. It seems it is when it is a right wing preaching lawyer!
The ordinary US Christian is not noted for reading the book they value so highly, so they are easily fooled by right wing pastors and lawyers who cite things selectively. The full story of Ananias and Saphira starts at Acts 4:32, as follows:
And the multitude of them that believed were of one heart and of one soul: neither said any of them that ought of the things which he possessed was his own, but they had all things common. Neither was there any among them that lacked, for as many as were possessors of lands or houses sold them, and brought the prices of the things that were sold, and laid them down at the apostles’ feet. And distribution was made unto every man according as he had need. And Joses, who by the apostles was surnamed Barnabas, (which is, being interpreted, The son of consolation,) a Levite, and of the country of Cyprus, Having land, sold it, and brought the money, and laid it at the apostles’ feet.Acts 4:32; 34-37
It says they all had their things in common. The apostles’ community had set its rules, and Ananias and Saphira broke the rules by trying to deceive the community. People joined voluntarily, but once they had, they had to follow the rules. That is true of any just society, surely. As Gregory Paul had said, these early Christians in Acts held everything in common, so Ananias and Saphira were holding from the group some of their wealth, thereby breaking the community’s rules. They need not have become Christians so could have kept their house as their own, or sold it and disposed of their money just how they liked, but they had joined the community of Christians and so were obliged to give up all their wealth. It is justice.
Capitalist societies are not just. In the UK a lot of unemployed young people have been rioting, and not a few employed people too. Why? They have no prospects, and they have just seen politicians and bankers robbing the public purse by billions without being severely punished, or even being properly regulated. When cheating is so transparent in society people get angry. It seems that Peter got angry with Ananias and Saphira, and as the group’s enforcer, dealt with them.
Desperate to avoid the obvious crime, breaking the socialistic rules of the apostles’ community, Christians like to emphasize that Peter in quizzing Ananias wanted to know why he had lied that they had given all the proceeds of their sale when they had not. The crime was lying, they say, not the deed of withholding. Well naturally withholding necessitated lying but breaking the community’s rule was the primary crime and the reason for the consequent lying. But Peter does not ask Saphira why she lied when she arrived a while later. He says:
Tell me whether ye sold the land for so much? And she said, Yea, for so much.
The Christian lawyers justify capitalism by justifying cheating, though lying is a capital crime in God’s eyes, it seems. Well capitalism depends on both for one necessitates the other. It is quite true that many people have tried to be honest dealers while practising capitalism, but ultimately it is impossible. Christian bankers, politicians and lawyers prove it, all too transparently, and, in the end, the oppressed masses will not put up with it.
The political idea of socialism might not have arisen until the nineteenth century, but it is an ancient economic system, and unarguably the one that the first Christians adopted!