Recently, in a post on the flaws of socialism, I pointedout that socialism responds too closely to changes in information.
A member of the studio audience challenged me with the following:
Is that why trans-fats had been banned in several countries of the world long before US America would even admit they could be problem? Is that why the various bans on cigarette advertising and smoking in stipulated places was slow to occur in the US?
Part of the answer to this is that a portion of the American economy and its culture is neither capitalist nor socialist. It follows another set of terms that I identify with the label “corporate feudalism”.
I call it this because it is an ideology that divides the population into two groups – those who own businesses, and everybody else. It then grants to the former all sorts of legal rights (not moral rights) and privileges that neither capitalism nor socialism would permit.
Capitalism does not grant any person the moral right to kill or maim or poison others, or to destroy their property, merely because the person doing the killing, maiming, poisoning, or destroying considers it profitable to do so. According to capitalist principles, these would be considered violations of the rights of the person being killed, maimed, poisoned, or whose property is being destroyed.
The American system of government, on the other hand, is one in which the argument is often made that businesses must be given such rights because it is good for the economy – because to prohibit businesses from doing such things is bad for business.
So, for example, we have the issue of global warming. The reason the Bush Administration offered for not taking steps against this problem is that it would harm the American economy to do so. Yet, what he was permitting, according to the best scientific evidence, was the rights of business to engage in actions that scientist told us would take tens of millions to hundreds of millions of lives, and destroy a great deal of coastal property.
I have yet to hear of a Republican candidate, in spite of claiming to be a defender of capitalism, bring up this argument against business practices that kill, maim, or poison others or destroy their property. Instead, Republican candidates seem to exist to do the opposite – to defend the practices – which is inconsistent with capitalism.
Now, we are familiar with those businesses branding their practice of killing, maiming, and poisoning others and destroying their property as “capitalism”. This is because lying is another “right” that the corporate feudalists have. We must remember that these businesses are masters of marketing – at least those that survive tend to be.
In a country like America, businesses that refrain from engaging in the practice of killing, maiming, and poisoning others an destroying their property finds themselves at an economic disadvantage – unable to compete against companies that do kill, maim, poison, and destroy the property of others for profit. Those businesses close their doors, leaving only those willing to inflict such harms to rule the marketplace.
It would actually be an act of instituting capitalism to condemn businesses that engage in these practices. However, any attempt to make the country more capitalistic by prohibiting businesses from inflicting these harms – creating these externalities – is met with political stonewalling from a group of politicians who tend to call themselves capitalists.
It is quite ironic, if you think about it.
Well, actually, it is just another component of this package of deception.
This is not a flaw either with socialism or with capitalism. It is a deviation from an area in which both of these systems speak with a common voice. They both prohibit people with capital from treating people without capital as mere tools of production - or as "statistics" who may be made to suffer externalities without a trace of a moral qualm. Yet, this is exactly what the American system of government permits in far too many cases.