Wednesday, June 13, 2012

The Failure of Communism in Russia and Capitalism in the West

Thoughts inspired by the Crooked Timber's on-going seminar on Francis Spufford's Red Plenty and by Gordon's remark, “The dreamers and revolutionaries are still there, but now that the USSR is gone they confront a Right which has far more confidence” in this thread.

    Yet now the right is failing, drifting into ever more radical and authoritarian politics, as its policies fail. They take over powerful countries and what do they do? Impoverish those countries. Start pointless wars. Trash banking and property law systems so that even the privileges of wealth and power are endangered. And in the background, the rising storm of environmental disaster. Like the Soviet Union, this also cannot be sustained.

    I admire this sentence of Spufford's: “The theory of rule by steely, ‘conscious’ guardians of the public good arrived pre-vitiated, grotesquely self-cancelled, by having the actual representatives of the theory turn out to be beefy backslappers with the mental horizons of warthogs.” Yet no more than “steely, ‘conscious’ guardians of the public good” are there Randian super-heroes; many capitalists also have “the mental horizons of warthogs.”

    There is, I think, something wrong with our philosophies, something other than poor economic theories. It is striking to me how both capitalism and communism seem to be failing in the same way and for the same reasons.

    Perhaps we are solving the wrong problems. the 20th century has given us economic theory that could vastly improve the lives of vast majority. And yet we do not implement that theory. If both the Soviet calculation model and the Austrian market model were foredoomed by taking on too much complexity, by trying to encompass too much, what can we say of Keynesian models and the mixed economy, which, setting more modest goals, seem capable of vastly improving material life, and yet which we seem unable to implement with any resolve?

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