Highly varied responses to my previous posting about the danger of blackmail in public life. Some people complain about the length of my blog-missives, which are often full-length essays, seemingly archaic in an era of clipped, micro-rants. But I refuse to be hurried. Some ideas deserve detailed appraisal. And this one -- suggesting that unscrupulous enemies of the West would seek to entrap and blackmail public servants -- badly needs wider exposure.
Capsule summary: Nowadays many people worry about “corruption” and politicians “selling” their services. But if rich and powerful forces out there really are conniving and cheating their way into influence, it is far more effective, long-lasting, and economical to lure decision-makers into well-photographed compromised situations than it is to keep paying and paying for every favor. Public servants (especially Washington neophytes.) need to stay vigilant for entrapment, ESPECIALLY by “friends.”
Those who are already trapped ought to contemplate the “algebra of redemption” and keep their eyes open for opportunities to change their role. To be the heroes who stand up, fight back, and are forgiven everything.
-- Other matters --
* Robin Hanson (world expert on prediction registries) has a new blog. Says Michael Vasser: “It has replaced www.marginalrevolution.com as my choice for "best thing on the web" (imago.hitherby.com still deserves honorable mention).”
* Speaking of provocative but sometimes cogent blogging. The December Armageddon Buffet is now online. Also, while I am not always a big fan of Truthout, this article by Richard Clarke is terribly important. http://www.truthout.org/docs_2006/123106C.shtml
* The drive by the Christian right to take control of military chaplaincies, which now sees radical Christians holding roughly 50 percent of chaplaincy appointments in the armed services and service academies, is part of a much larger effort to politicize the military and law enforcement. This effort signals the final and perhaps most deadly stage in the long campaign by the radical Christian right to dismantle America’s open society and build a theocratic state. A successful politicization of the military would signal the end of our democracy.
Author Chris Hedges goes on to offer yet more-chilling insights: “Erik Prince, the secretive, mega-millionaire, right-wing Christian founder of Blackwater, the private security firm that has built a formidable mercenary force in Iraq, champions his company as a patriotic extension of the U.S. military. These mercenary units in Iraq, including Blackwater, contain some 20,000 fighters. They unleash indiscriminate and wanton violence against unarmed Iraqis, have no accountability and are beyond the reach of legitimate authority. The appearance of these paramilitary fighters, heavily armed and wearing their trademark black uniforms, patrolling the streets of New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina, gave us a grim taste of the future.”
* Finally (and at some length) since most of my recent postings have been neutral or targeted at the right, it felt like time to do a leftward poke, just to keep that hand in ;-)
--- THE ULTIMATE REFUTATION OF KARL MARX ---
Bernd Skiera has lately written about ever-shortening reinvestment horizons. "Due to the shortening of product lifecycles, the development of new products is one of the biggest challenges that companies currently face." I’d like to share with you folks a riff that I wrote in response to that statement. Actually, this one phenomenon (shortening re-investment horizons) is of more significance than people imagine... in the realm of social-political theory. It is, in fact, the most decisive and fundamental refutation of Marxism.
Was any more refutation needed? The failure of the Soviet empire and all other Leninist experiments would seem to have been sufficient. But not in the eyes of many quasi-Marxist intellectuals and campus postmodernists, who claim (with some justification) that countless Marxian variants were never tested in real life. In particular, Lenin veered steeply off course, down a path that was exacerbated by Stalin & Mao, etc. A detour into personality-cult despotism and murderous paranoia that Marx probably would have disavowed. Hence --"The experiment was never really tried," they claim.
Of course, to non-Marxists, there appear to be plenty of refutations of his ornate dogma on a scientific level. e.g. the inherently competitive nature of humanity and the patent absurdity of the labor theory of value. Above all, old Karl’s complete misunderstanding of Darwinian evolution doomed him to Lamarckian-style thinking. Absolutely (and proudly) ignorant about biology or tribal anthropology, he simply did not have a clue about the raw material (human nature) that he was working with.
It is all-too easy to forget that Marx was brilliant in other areas. His work on the underlying process of capital formation was a huge leap forward... before he got sucked into the egomania of becoming a cult guru. Worst of all was the mental sin of *tendentiousness*... a belief that there is some teleological TREND to history. That is mysticism, not science. Still, true believers and excusers can -- and do -- wave all of this aside. True believers (of all kinds, not just Marxists) are great at armwaving away inconvenient inconsistencies.
But what they cannot wave aside is a decisively mistaken explicit prediction. One that is absolutely fundamental to the entire Marxian edifice. One of old Karl’s keystone assumptions... and one that has proved diametrically wrong.
Marx confidently forecast (and hence this is also of interest to any predictions group) that once the capitalization process was "completed" in any nation - the means of production established and all factories finally in place - there would be no further use for the (till then) necessary entrepreneurial/capitalist class. They could then (but not before) be eliminated by the urban proletariat, since capitalist-entrepreneurial skills would no longer be required. No more creative investment or reinvestment, hence no need for competitively motivated investment specialists.
(As one sign of the grotesque ignorance of today’s howlingly ill-educated leftists, very few have likely ever encountered the notion that Marx highly approved of capitalists! He saw their “historical role” as absolutely vital in forming the productive capital that all subsequent prosperity would depend-upon. True, he saw them as somewhat rapacious, greedy and shortsighted, but he did not hold that against them. Their role was to build factories! And then to be toppled once that job was finished.)
All of this may have seemed reasonable in 1848, when the world only had a few centers of mass production. Marx could peer ahead and imagine Manchester City duplicated everywhere on Earth -- a vast proliferation of steamdriven mills -- after which all human needs would be satisfied. Voila. Only, today, this entire notion is revealed as profoundly absurd! As capitalization proceeds, we realize that rates of obsolescence ACCELERATE. Management of capital and investment becomes an evermore frenetic art, requiring increased, not declining. entrepreneurship.
Now, let’s keep perspective here. I am NOT saying that capitalism lacks a whole slew of problems of its own. We are living through an era when the human-nature propensity for outrageous cheating by corrupt elites may threaten doom for the very same free markets that engendered them. (If he were alive today, Adam Smith, the “first liberal” would be tearing the guts out of every monopolist.) Moreover, just because it is proved that entrepreneurial investment is still needed at accelerating rates, this process does not have to be controlled by a ruthless plutocrat caste of oppressive and secretive exploiters.
Still, however the re-investment process is done, it remains an utterly dynamic process requiring leadership skills and ever-advancing proficiency at prediction/extrapolation, all motivated by the great efficiency-driver of profit. Moreover, it seems proved that this is best done along competitive market lines. (Find one counter-example.) The crux: there appears to be no “completion of capitalization of the means of production.” The very notion - fundamental to Marxism - is utter nonsense.
Alas, this fierce and absolute disproof of one of the great quasi-religious dogmas of all time goes without notice. The significance of the recapitalization curve would not have escaped an earlier generation, steeped in the old debates over Marxist theory. But today, amid a steady decline in the intelligencia, it seems not even to have been raised, allowing campus romantic-leftists - profoundly ignorant and unread - to keep dwelling on scenarios that are now, decisively, disproved.
Will they eventually take the blatant lesson and finally abandon Marx, along with the whole suite of vocabularies and assumptions that are as quaint as phlogostin, turning instead to the mature task of negotiating a trimmed-down and more scientific approach to world liberation? The same goals (universal peace and freedom and tolerance) could be approached from angles that are consistent with human nature and scientific fact, as well as hard lessons from the past. It could be done!
But watch. See what they consider more important. Clutching, indignantly, to comforting traditional rituals and dogmas and incantations will be far more important and precious than sacrificing favorite illusions. Lazy to a fault, they will neglect to do the very thing that Marx himself was bold enough to do... re-invent a movement that is badly, badly in need of some fresh air.