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Einstein, the Dangers of Pure Capitalism, and “Goldilocks Freedom”

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Socialism – the mere mention of the word brings fear and loathing to conservatives all across America. When we were young, we all just knew that there’s no such thing as individualism and constitutional rights in a socialist country – and all the proof we needed was the Soviet Union a.k.a. The Union of Soviet Socialist Republics. But what is socialism? Here’s one definition:

Socialism is an economic and political theory advocating public or common ownership and cooperative management of the means of production and allocation of resources. A socialist society is organized on the basis of relatively equal power-relations, self-management, dispersed decision-making (adhocracy) and a reduction or elimination of hierarchical and bureaucratic forms of administration and governance; the extent of which varies in different types of socialism. This ranges from the establishment of cooperative management structures to the abolition of all hierarchical structures in favor of free association.

Now most of us who were raised in capitalist democracies are aware that such political structures – like true communism, true anarchism, and true libertarianism – sound nice in theory, but are simply unworkable on a macroscopic scale. Why are these political philosophies, these ‘isms’ doomed to fail? Because in order for society to function under such regimes, the great majority of people must be like-minded. The populace must by and large be okay with everyone having a say in such ‘dispersed decision-making’, with management and leadership being minimized or eliminated altogether. The problem with this is that (1) society as a whole is suddenly run by committee, and (2) the leadership positions that remain will then expand to fill the power vacuum left by the departure of the other management.

In other words, due to the fact that humans tend to either lead or follow, any political structure that by design leaves a leadership power vacuum will lead unerringly to dictatorship. This is true not only of pure socialism, but also of pure forms of communism, anarchism, and libertarianism.

But does that mean that pure capitalism is the best and most effective solution for society? It turns out that Albert Einstein had some very interesting, indeed, even prophetic warnings about ‘pure’ capitalism. Now some might question his wherewithal to speak on any subject other than high-energy physics, but I strongly feel it would be a great error to ignore his opinion. Why? Because those of high intelligence are not limited to one interest or field of study. Here is what Einstein had to say about capitalism:

Private capital tends to become concentrated in few hands, partly because of competition among the capitalists, and partly because technological development and the increasing division of labor encourage the formation of larger units of production at the expense of the smaller ones. The result of these developments is an oligarchy of private capital the enormous power of which cannot be effectively checked even by a democratically organized political society. This is true since the members of legislative bodies are selected by political parties, largely financed or otherwise influenced by private capitalists who, for all practical purposes, separate the electorate from the legislature. The consequence is that the representatives of the people do not in fact sufficiently protect the interests of the underprivileged sections of the population. Moreover, under existing conditions, private capitalists inevitably control, directly or indirectly, the main sources of information (press, radio, education). It is thus extremely difficult, and indeed in most cases quite impossible, for the individual citizen to come to objective conclusions and to make intelligent use of his political rights.
 

Einstein goes on to note where this would ultimately lead:

About Glenn Contrarian

White. Male. Raised in the deepest of the Deep South. Retired Navy. Strong Christian. Proud Liberal. Thus, Contrarian!
  • Roger B

    28 – Doug
    “… Coming to terms in a free market is slavery so I suppose mandating wages, terms, and redistribution at the barrel of a government gun is what?”

    I guess you’re referring to some kind of metaphorical gun. But there was a time in the 20s and 30s, in my fathers time, when real guns wielded by real policemen were used to threaten and even murder union organizers upon orders from management.

  • troll

    Glenn – since air travel only ‘actually worked’ in the 20th century does that mean that it was impossible before then? or again as constitutional monarchy only ‘actually worked’ in the 16th century (? – correct my dates if needed) does that mean that it was impossible before then? Perhaps ‘limited government’ is impossible in the sense of these examples and will become a reality with the passage of time.

    I suggest that you consider our friend Roger’s argument that the EU represents a trend in the direction of limited State sovereignty and government and progress towards anarchism.

  • Glenn Contrarian

    troll –

    Air travel is a matter of technological progress. And I believe you’ll find that constitutional monarchy – albeit by different names – has been tried many times over the centuries with varying levels of success, not just in the 16th century. But what we’re discussing here is a matter of human nature.

    But there is NO instance of which I’m aware of any human nation above the tribal level where ‘limited government’ has worked. It didn’t work in America the first time we tried it, which is why we got the Constitution in the first place.

    Again, nature abhors a vacuum. If you’ve got a situation where no one’s in charge, SOMEone’s gonna step up and take charge and others will follow. Why? Because there are people who love power, who feel they MUST be in charge, that it is their RIGHT to be the one in charge…and then there are the followers.

    This is human nature, troll – and I think you must agree with my last paragraph.

  • troll

    Glenn –

    Air travel is a matter of technological progress.

    and still would be illustrative of my point even if I were to agree contrary to fact that there is no more to the development of air travel than simply technology

    I suspect that it will require a technologically advanced society to make anarchism work on any scale beyond tribes

    And I believe you’ll find that constitutional monarchy – albeit by different names – has been tried many times over the centuries with varying levels of success, not just in the 16th century.

    what are some examples of these experimental pre-16th century constitutional monarchies that ‘actually worked’(your criterion)?

    in any case although you’re wrong about the nature of human nature I see no point in arguing about it – we will not change each other’s mind – I can find very little in your position that I do agree with and certainly not the idea that nature abhors a vacuum (given the fact that there is so very much of it in the universe) and the idea that the Rabelais’ saying reflects some necessity about all human societies

  • http://blogcritics.org/writers/dr-dreadful/ Dr Dreadful

    what are some examples of these experimental pre-16th century constitutional monarchies that ‘actually worked’(your criterion)?

    Imperial Rome, perhaps? Or Pericles’ Athens?

  • cindy

    53 – Because you will likely prefer “expert” opinion…when I get to my computer I will demostrate that our social sciences have moved past your narrow and outdated (by the standards of academic thinking within the educational system you hold in such esteem).

  • troll

    were those constitutional monarchies?

    I guess I’m wrong again

  • troll

    yup – ‘monarchy’ applies to those cases…so I guess anarchism is impossible due to human nature

  • cindy

    …narrow and outdated pic regarding human nature.

  • cindy

    pic should be pov (phone spelling nazi…)

  • Glenn Contrarian

    troll –

    Yes, anarchism IS impossible due to human nature. Like the ‘pure’ concepts of communism, socialism, and libertarianism, it is incompatible with human nature. As I keep telling you, nature abhors a vacuum…and this applies to political power – always has, always will.

    Here, troll (and Cindy) – let me tell you when such concepts WOULD work: when all people are like-minded, and when everyone is equal in every sense.

    But when are people all like-minded and equal in every sense when it comes to money? Some are single-minded about becoming richer than Midas. Some others – like myself – don’t really care about money…unless there’s not enough of it to live fairly comfortably. The old saying goes “Everyone is equal , but some are more equal than others.”

    But true equality in every sense, though we truly strive to achieve it, is impossible – with money, with authority, with responsibility, with capability.

    So yeah, anarchy sounds good on paper – just like communism, socialism, and libertarianism did. But when it comes to its practical application…no. Ain’t gonna happen no matter how hard we try. Why? Because we’re too human.

  • Clavos

    …and certainly not the idea that nature abhors a vacuum (given the fact that there is so very much of it in the universe)

    Thank you, thank you, thank you troll. That has needed saying for some time now…

  • cindy

    Glenn’s presumption is flawed. Where equality replaces slavery, Glenn claims there is a vacuum.

    Where is the vacuum, Glenn? It is not as if power, protection, etc are eliminated. They are merely redistributed. So I am having trouble seeing your vacuum.

    Glenn, it seems to me your idea reduces down to the point where nothing exists. If what you suggest is true…the US gov’t cannot exist as it represents a power vacuum from previous more authoritarian modes of governence.

  • cindy

    Governance?

    (stupid phone doesn’t actually help you spell; just changes stuff you don’t want changed)

  • Glenn Contrarian

    Clavos –

    How very logical of you! Interstellar space exists…so that means limited government is quite compatible with human nature!

    Such an in-credible leap of imagination!!!!

  • Glenn Contrarian

    Cindy –

    The US federal government is a strong central government – there is no power vacuum…though your counterparts on the far right would have you believe otherwise…just like they try to get you to believe that the government’s TOO powerful – “There they are a-comin’ in their black helicopters, an’ they’re a-comin’ to take our guns away!”

    Don’t you see it, Cindy? Do you really want to argue that there’s a power vacuum in America while at the same time arguing that the government’s got too much power? Do you not see the contradiction?

    Has human nature changed over the millenia? Not really. Along with love, courtesy, honor, courage, and gratitude, we still have hate, jealousy, suspicion, greed, spite, malice…

    …and the need for power.

    Cindy, ‘Limited government’ has been tried before…even in America. It didn’t work then, and it won’t work now. Not now, not ever, not as long as human beings are human.

    As with communism, socialism, and libertarianism, anarchy sounds really nice in theory…but it will never work in the real world. As before, I invite you to show me one nation – even ONE NATION – where it has worked for any real length of time before. I suspect you’ve already tried to think of examples…but you’re stumped. And there’s a very good reason why you’re stumped. Just because there’s never been a successful nation with a limited government in all of human history, that may not mean that it’s impossible…but neither does it mean it’s possible at all. Just ’cause you want it to be so doesn’t mean that it can happen. Ever.

    And I strongly suspect that some here agree with this (not you), but are supporting you just for the sake of argument. As far as I’ve seen, you are always sincere – but I cannot say that of everyone here.

  • cindy

    Glenn,

    Did I mention how the Zapatistas got where they got? They took on the Mexican army. Their intent was so popular that the gov’t had little choice but to let them have their land. The people supported them. They even hoped the Zapatistas would lead the country. But the Zapatistas understood why accepting power would not work.

    Who am I to argue with you or to show you anything? You are stubbornly ignorant. And you are the very worst kind of ignorant-hthe kind who prevents himself from knowing it.

    I could wager my bank account that you know as much about the Zapatistas the

    !Kung, or Anarchism as you ever did.

    Please try not to brag endlessly about your superior fact-based pov. It’s like a shell game. You are as guilty of utter ignorance of available

  • cindy

    information as those you accuse. You are as narrow in thinking and controlled by you bias and anti-intellectual as those you hold in contempt.

    You want people to just show you what you demand. Well you’ve second-guessed the form the evidence takes because you don’t know what you don’t know.

  • cindy

    As long as you claim to know what the evidence SHOULD look like, your mind will be convinced not to bother looking at what is there openly.

  • Glenn Contrarian

    Cindy –

    I know this is very narrow-minded of me to even suggest such a thing…but a revolutionary movement is NOT equivalent to a sovereign nation.

    Perhaps you’d like them – according to this pro-Zapatista blog:

    Zapatista communities prohibit the cultivation, trafficking, and consumption of drugs. It’s not even permitted to drink or sell alcohol there. This isn’t a new fact. The rebel commanders have made this law public since the beginning of the armed uprising. The measure remains in effect under the civil authorities who have been put in charge of the autonomous municipalities and the good government councils.

    Ah. Not only no drugs, but no alcohol either. And SOMEone is enforcing that law! Yes, SOMEone among your anarchists is enforcing a law STRICTER than any law found in America! And who, exactly, were the ones who put ‘civil authorities’ in charge? Seems to me, those in authority were placed in charge by someone in GREATER authority!

    Nature abhors a vacuum. Where there is a lack of authority, someone will take over for good or for ill. Your own reference is a great example of that!

  • cindy

    Glenn,

    Yes, someone IS enforcing that “law”. Each individual child, man, and woman is abiding by that “law”. Did someone say there were no rules? You are demonstrating just what I claimed above…you are speaking from ignorance.

    How do you live with such arrogant belief that you know what we are discussing without even looking at it?

    You are embarassing yourself. Good thing you aren’t able to see that.

  • cindy

    Glenn,

    I just realized we agree. Whatever half-baked lame-brained idea you have in YOUR mind about what anarchism is. THAT definitely would never work.

  • cindy

    People can choose to make whatever rules work for them. They could decide to drink at work (like some worker run businesses do) or they could decide not to drink at all. I told you as much over a year ago.

  • Clavos

    How very logical of you! Interstellar space exists…so that means limited government is quite compatible with human nature!

    Once again, putting words in my mouth, Glenn.

    It’s not that interstellar space exists, nor did I even mention limited government, much less liken it to interstellar space (though our government’s leadership and staffing is about as spacey as they come) it’s that it’s a near-perfect, frictionless vacuum, and thus demonstrates the vacuity of the old wives’ tale that “nature abhors a vacuum,” which you’ve been quoting ad nauseam of late.

  • Glenn Contrarian

    Cindy – here’s a suggestion: while I may be quite stubborn and quite sure that I’m right (which can be said about almost everyone on BC), I’ve yet to insult you or anyone else. Is it truly so offensive to you that I post my opinion as strongly as I do (but without insults) that you feel the need to reply with insults?

    BE THAT AS IT MAY, I looked more deeply at the Zapatistas, and particularly at their Councils of Good Government. It does seem that it can work, for it seems to have been working for the Zapatistas since 2004 as best as I can gather. I’m hesitant to say anything more concrete about it because I’m not seeing more than one side of the story online.

    But in any event, this DOES give credence to your argument. Perhaps it can work. I could continue to be stubborn and argue that this still applies to a largely rural population…

    …but then it could be argued quite correctly in return that the group is conducting self-government not only within their region, but effectively conducts diplomacy not only with the Mexican government but with other governments.

    So it appears that I am wrong. And my determination has always been that if someone proves me wrong, then I will be sincerely grateful to them. Why? It’s not a matter of pride and it never was – it’s a matter of what is factual and what isn’t. You showed me a fact I did not know…and helped remove some of my ignorance.

    So thank you, Cindy – I am sincerely grateful. I really did not think that such a socioeconomic system was compatible with human nature. While their system may not stand the test of time, the fact that it has lasted this long even in the face of the Mexican drug war says much.

    So again, Cindy – thank you. I would ask you to please do not insult those who do not insult you…but that observation does not detract from my gratitude to you.

  • Glenn Contrarian

    Clavos –

    Pls. note that Cindy won the argument…and did so because as angry as she was, she provided what I asked – proof that such was not only possible, but extant.

    If you want to convince me that you and yours are right, then show me proof that I am wrong. As I told her, it’s not a matter of pride, but of what is factual and what is not…and as long as those on the right insist on ignoring facts in their proclamations and positions, I’ll continue standing with those who are more wont to stick by the facts…which in the case of American politics occurs much more on the Left than on the Right.

    Unless you can show me facts that prove otherwise.

  • Clavos

    If you want to convince me that you and yours are right,…

    I don’t.

    Stick with the lefties, Glenn you’ll be happier over there, they have all the “facts.”

  • Glenn Contrarian

    Lemme see –

    The Right has birthers, AGW deniers, creationists, the black-helo’s-a’comin’ crowd, the family-values bunch, the deficits-don’t-count-unless-a-Dem’s-in-the-WH crowd, the don’t-give-me-GAY-cooties crowd, the rape-is-YOUR-fault crowd, the Civil-War-wasn’t-about-slavery crowd, the America’s-a-Christian-nation crowd…and a significant portion who can see Russia from their front porch…

    …but you’re the real Americans, I know….

  • http://takeitorleaveit.typepad.com/an roger nowosielski

    Why is this conversation degenerating into the usual Left vs. Right tirade?

    Just askin’

  • Glenn Contrarian

    Roger –

    If you’ll look at the bottom of the previous page, I agreed with Cindy. Roger, I’m not hidebound to any philosophy or political school of thought – show me proof that I’m wrong, and I’ll be grateful for it…and as you can see by my last comment to Cindy, those aren’t just words. Not too many people can say the same.

  • http://takeitorleaveit.typepad.com/an roger nowosielski

    Yes, I find it very encouraging, Glenn, that you’re not beyond considering new POVs. Just didn’t think the Right vs. the Left tired old horse did much to move the discussion forward.

  • Clavos

    Why is this conversation degenerating into the usual Left vs. Right tirade?

    Because it always does when Glenn shows up…He can’t even assert how good the Democrats are without comparing whatever “good” he’s praising with the corresponding “bad” on the part of the Republicans, in whom he lumps everyone who’s left of Mother Teresa.

  • Clavos

    Erm. That should have been …everyone who’s RIGHT of MT…

  • http://takeitorleaveit.typepad.com/an roger nowosielski

    I should say it displays a failure of the imagination, being stuck, as Glenn seems to be, only with comparative values to be assigned to either “goodness” or “badness.”

    Does Glenn’s dogged commitment to his version of “realism” and the noble art of compromise necessitate such a stance? Does his commitment to such Christian values as charity, empathy and love call for more of the same? And if not, what are the relevant criteria for making a Glenn-type of distinction?

    I suppose it’s for the reader of Glenn’s commentaries to ask and Glenn to answer.

    See you all tomorrow.

  • Glenn Contrarian

    Roger –

    Think on this, Roger – How many times have you seen someone on this website for months – as I have with this particular subject, not only with Cindy but with you – and then that someone not only admits that he was wrong but is also grateful to those who proved him wrong?

    No.

    Second question – how many times have you seen someone on this website admit error at all (except for minor gaffes)? Very, very seldom. I’ve been here since 2008, and I can count all such times (other than my own) on one hand.

    So that begs the question – Am I really wrong more often than everyone else here (from all sides) combined?

    No.

    So one could say that leaves the strong indication that either everyone else here is almost always right and I’m the puddin’-head who’s so wrong so often…or I’m the only one here who thinks that ‘winning the argument’ is less important than being on the true and factual side of that argument.

    Call me proud in my humility if you like…but I call it holding strict adherence to ethical behavior as more important than personal pride. It’s rarely “goodness” or “badness”…it’s much more often “factual” or “not factual” – thus my concession to Cindy yesterday. Why did I concede to her? Because even though she did not present the specific facts that proved me wrong and it was ME that went searching to find out the facts about what she was talking about, she did point me in the right direction and so she deserves the credit.

    Now all this will probably offend you on some level since I seem to be claiming the ethical high ground – but I learned a long, long time ago not to trust a man who didn’t have enough courage to own up to even the least of his errors.

    One more thing – you’ve pinged me on my imagination at least three times now. Tell me, Roger – how many times have you brought something to this website that was completely new to all readers?

    A Possible Biological Basis for the Differences Between Conservatives and Liberals

    An Observation That – Like the Symbiosis between Morlocks and Eloi – Conservatives and Liberals Need Each Other

    Elastic Space

    Freedom is Impossible Without Secrets and Lies

    How Reaganomics May Be Responsible for Global Prosperity Outside the U.S.

    Liberal Kudos for George W. Bush

    Yeah, I’ve got ZERO imagination and am SO hidebound that I think that anyone to the right of Dennis Kucinich is a Nazi, right?

    While you’re at it, Roger, can you point out ANYONE else on this website who’s been as considerate of the other side (whatever that other side may be) as I have been in the last two articles I listed above? Or would it be easier for you to simply continue thinking of me as an ideologue unwilling to see past my own dogma?

  • http://thingsalongtheway.blogspot.com/ Cindy

    Glenn,

    I will reply more later. I would like to say THANKS! for looking. :-)

    The Zapatistas have been working since Jan. 1 1994 — they are a peoples’ response to NAFTA.

  • Shane

    Doug said:”‘Pure’ socialism, or at least leaders under it’s guises, can lead to dictatorship, see Libya, Venezuela, etc.”

    I’m not so sure socialism lead to Gaddaffi. “On 1 September 1969 a small group of junior military officers led by Gaddafi staged a bloodless coup d’état against King Idris of Libya while the king was in Turkey for medical treatment.” Socialism didn’t cause that! Gaddafi accomplished what he did because the king kept all the oil money! “resentment began to build over the increased concentration of the nation’s wealth in the hands of King Idris.” It was the LACK of either socialism or capitalism that was the problem. Additionally, it was the LACK of public input (democracy).

  • krochetkids

    he essence of social capitalism is that private markets are the most effective allocation mechanism, and output is maximized through sound state macroeconomic management of the economy.

    social capitalism