I think it’s time I cleared up a few things, especially with people accusing me of being either “leftist” or “rightist” or espousing certain economic theories or wanting to ban/outlaw certain economic principles and all the rest. Hey, sometimes I write what’s in my head and I need the feedback to see where it gets lost in “translation”.
Most political blogs in English are set up in such a way that the author is some kind of partisan hack. If they’re generally conservative then they spend most of their time attacking everyone else and defending their own. Likewise for those who are staunch “liberals”, “progressives”, “libertarians” or all of the other main factions. I should hope it’s pretty obvious that that I’m not here to do anything like this at all. And if it’s not obvious, well now I’m telling you.
What’s interesting, in terms of history, especially as it relates to my recent post The Hidden History of 1492 is that the terms “left wing” and “right wing” came about from a meeting of the Estates-General (sort of a parliament) in France in 1789. One faction sat on the king’s left and so were referred to later as “leftists” or the “left wing”. Others sat on the king’s right. Even after the revolution, other parties and political ideas came to be called by these terms.
However few people remember that this meeting between the King and the Estates-General, which ended up leading to a tremendous amount of change in Europe from Britain to Russia, came about because of “financial problems”. The long and short of it is that the French government was dead broke and was far behind (in terms of capitalistic savvy) on how to raise new funds.
My position on these matters is vastly different than most other people’s, which is why it’s a little confusing. Sometimes I seem to be quite harsh about both the practice of representative democracy as well as capitalism. If Romania were still communist, I promise you I’d be equally as harsh. That’s because my standpoint is not one of partisanship, where I am backing one “horse” but from a systems theory.
That takes a little explaining and to prevent this post from being incredibly long, I’ll give one example. When I was a kid, I spent hours and hours having fun with my family and friends playing a game called Monopoly. I know they have a Romanian version because some of my friends here play it too.
Although vastly simplified, this is a game that is all about capitalism. You start off with money that comes from nowhere (from The Bank of course). The players start off exactly equal but over time, with a combination of luck and skill, one player ends up dominating or controlling the property market (hence the name monopoly). In fact, when you bankrupt the other players, that’s exactly how you win this game.
As far as the game goes, it can be fun. But imagine if everyone in the world were forced to play Monopoly not just a few hours one afternoon but day after day, for decades upon decades. Now it’s not quite so fun. Sooner or later, a group of players would rise to the “top” and expropriate all the land and wealth from someone else. The majority of the players remain in perpetual poverty and are now at the mercy of the wealthy. In fact, the only way they could even get back in the game is if The Bank doled out some more magic money.
My point here, in terms of systems logic, is that in the short time this might be a fun way to spend the afternoon. But when you change the time dynamic and look at it over the long run, suddenly it’s not fun. In fact, it would be miserable. Likewise with capitalism, as in the real thing.
In my last post, clearly the government of Britain was in a real quandary in 1690. They had just lost a major naval battle against France. Britain was completely unable to raise funds either the old way (through taxes or personal loans) or through the new way (loans on the money markets). Incorporating a Central Bank actually worked. The government got the money it needed, built a new naval fleet, went out and within 150 years had conquered half the world. If you looked at Britain in 1897 and compared it to 1690 and asked, “Was becoming a fully capitalist nation with a Central Bank worth it?” you’d be a fool to say no.
But in the long run, it’s not sustainable, for many of the reasons listed in my original post. A lot of things happening across the planet in their most modern forms are not sustainable, not just the economic model currently in place. Everything from food production (and food quality) to water quality (and quantity) to energy resources to air quality, crime, diseases and other things far too numerous to mention are built on unsustainable models.
But before I or anyone else can start discussing some very viable solutions, I have to put in the leg work and do the references and history of how we got here in the first place. Capitalism being barely 400 years old is already suffering tremendous shocks and on a systems level it is obvious that it is far too complex to withstand these for much longer.
I do believe there are some really good ideas about where to go next but have patience and we will get there. I promise you that these ideas are neither 1) outlawing or banning anything or 2) partisanship and defense of one of the institutional players in this “game” we call life. Not at all. I’ll leave the re-arranging of the deck chairs to others, thank you very much.