Welcome to the Vitus Capital Blog!
Notes to myself, possibly of interest to others.
-- Bill Northlich

Sunday, March 3, 2013

Carrying Water for the Rentiers

Ludwig Von Mises mocks those who would dare point out the obvious: (HT DeLong)
"Nonetheless, many people, and especially intellectuals, passionately loathe capitalism. As they see it, this ghastly mode of society’s economic organization has brought about nothing but mischief and misery. Men were once happy and prosperous in the good old days preceding the Industrial Revolution. Now under capitalism the immense majority are starving paupers ruthlessly exploited by rugged individualists. For these scoundrels nothing counts but their moneyed interests. They do not produce good and really useful things, but only what will yield the highest profits. They poison bodies with alcoholic beverages and tobacco, and souls and minds with tabloids, lascivious books and silly moving pictures. The “ideological superstructure” of capitalism is a literature of decay and degradation, the burlesque show and the art of striptease, the Hollywood pictures and the detective stories." ---The Anti-Capitalist Mentality (1956)
Von Mises, born in 1881, came of age in the 19th century. Note the humor and irony in the above. Not so humorous or ironic? Certainly not to a modern ear.

Actually, the passage is, to Vitus, a fairly clear antecedent of modern conservative "thought" - the poetry of class warfare. Poetry? Yes - not science, not economics, not history, not moral philosophy, not facts. Just name-calling - but effectively, artfully so. A free-verse art is, sort-of by definition, poetry. In Von Mises' case, art of the 19th century; admittedly a bit flat on today's scale.

"They do not produce good and really useful things, but only what will yield the highest profits." - The imagined complaint of of, in today's parlance, the Takers, of the Makers. But we are a hundred years more knowledgeable now. We know that the Marxist characterization of Capitalists as only interested in profits, while having an echo of truth, is clearly naive. We know about Silicon Valley.

Capitalism is many things. It it's Steve Jobsian form, it produces goods and services which, through markets, are rendered useful, affordable and valuable to many. It is responsible for the amazing advance of the human condition in the 20th century. It -does- "produce good and really useful things".

In capitalism's Mitt Romnyian form, it is venal, mean, self-serving, and value-destroying. In the latter link Vitus makes the case that if the success of your business depends on a material change to the regulatory regime, if you spend your time working the system rather than building things or providing value in some clear way, then you manifestly deserve the Marxist vituperation that Von Mises mocks. You have met the enemy and he is you.

Galtian minions such as Beck, Limbaugh, and Paul Ryan, use the poetry of class warfare to charm the innocents of America, who never suspect they are carrying water for their overlords. It's much easier to charm the masses to give you money, than to do actual work. Von Mises:  The Glen Beck of 1956.

No comments:

Post a Comment