Monday, September 27, 2010

the end of capitalism? - let it die....,

New Deal 2.0 | This is the second installment of “The Influencers,” a six-part interview series that Lynn Parramore, the editor of New Deal 2.0 and Media Fellow at the Roosevelt Institute, is conducting in partnership with Salon. She talked to Lewis Lapham, the former longtime editor of Harper’s and the founder of Lapham’s Quarterly, about the nature of American-style capitalism — its beginning, its historical manifestation and, possibly, its end.

Lynn Parramore: Historically, what do you see as the dominant characteristics of America?
Lewis Lapham: It’s faith in the spirit and mechanics and moral value of capitalism. It is a country of expectant millionaires. You have the notions of risk, of labor put to a productive use, deferred pleasure - ideas that come out of our Puritan ancestry. And Puritans, by the way, were also venture capitalists. The plantation in Plymouth, and then in Massachusetts Bay, was intended to bring money to its investors in London.

Capitalism is the promise - it’s the bet on the future. It’s the hope of a new beginning over the next ridge of mountains, around the next bend in the river. It gives the common man a chance. That’s in the Declaration of Independence: life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. The original wording was: life, liberty and property. But happiness and property were almost synonymous in the Calvinist mind!

Capitalism, as you mention, is future-oriented. Do you think it relies on historical amnesia?
Well, there’s a new book called “Relentless Revolution: A History of Capitalism,” by the eminent historian Joyce Appleby. And her argument - and I think it’s probably true - is that capitalism is an historical phenomenon. It’s not a given. It’s not human nature. It arises at the end of the 16th century in Holland, but then is developed over the next four centuries for the most part in England and America. It’s had a life span of four centuries.

Prior to, let’s say, the 16th century, you had warrior kings who disdained commerce. Commerce existed from the very beginning - you have trading going on in Islam, in the Indian Ocean, in China … this goes back thousands of years. But the hope of the government is stability, hierarchy, order, degree. People knew the stations to which they belonged, to which they were born. Until 1600, 80 percent of the people in England lived on farms, and there was no question of improving their stature. There was no place for their surplus labor to go until you begin to develop commercial venture, trade and so on.

But 18th- and 19th-century European imperialism is a dynamic of private enterprise rather than state enterprise. The Roman legions are in the service of the Roman so-called Republic, or Empire. But the East India Company is acting on behalf of its principal owners and stockholders and, to a certain extent, of the sailors. It’s evolving toward our present sense of venture capital. The capitalist idea is to turn loot to a productive purpose - to yoke it to the wheels of industry. And this, of course, comes along, during the four centuries [17th century to present] with a steeply rising curve of scientific discovery and technological advance, so you get to the steam engine, the railroad, the iron smelter, the telephone, the radio, the TV, the Internet. We shape our tools, and our tools shape us. And by that shaping us, they shape our attitudes, our moral sense, our sense of self-interest. Competition is the spirit elixir of capitalism. This is not true in the more traditional society where the emphasis is on community, hierarchy, order, where people are terrified of starvation.


logic said...

this couldn't be more wrong.

logic said...

if they knew anything, they would know that democracy doesn't work, people would always find out that they can vote themselves money... now a democratic-republic or a republic mixed with a capitalism, that works. that is how the founding fathers wanted the american system to work. the progressive and liberal democrats have been getting rid of the republic for the last hundred years. a good example of this is the amendment stating the free election of senators created by Woodrow Wilson, that made a direct decline of the republic part of the government. now fascism is so far from capitalism. fascism is in my opinion a type of socialism. you did not see Hitler or fascist Italy giving up any of their power, did you? where was their constitution that limits the government? where was this at all? and you can tell that Hitler knew he did not want a small government because his party was called the national socialist German workers party. democrats continue to say how Hitler was right wing (capitalist) but then say his economic policies were amazing..... whats up with that democrats????

CNu said...

Welcome to the spot.

You're covering a fairly wide swath from a political perspective kinda-sorta..., what about this?