Monday, November 3, 2008

Professor of Dismal Science

From the Socialism Or Your Money Back blog

Everyone wants to know is Barack Obama a socialist? Well, one might be forgiven for thinking so judging by the two million seven hundred and ninety thousand Google results to this question! Whatever, let us suppose you really do want to know - who ya gonna call? Ask whoever you want, and keep asking but be prepared for some confusing and contradictory answers. Perhaps if you are lucky or persistent, you will come across the Crapbusters. They are attracted like flies to anything with a high BS value. A Professor of Economics answering this question about BO in the Christian Science Monitor (sic), is likely to have a Bogus Socialism value that's off the scale. Until the end of last month we were spared such an abortion of socialst understanding.

Professor Boudreaux of George Mason University considers that BO is 'not exactly' a socialist, which is rather like saying that the DPRK isn't exactly democratic. The Professor's next mistake is to say "in the classic sense of the term "Socialism" originally meant government ownership of the major means of production and finance, such as land, coal mines, steel mills, automobile factories, and banks." BS! Actually, the term ‘socialist’ is found for the first time in the Owenite Co-operative Magazine of November 1827, where it stands for a society of common ownership. Marx and Engels used the words ‘socialism’ and ‘communism’ interchangeably to refer to a society of common ownership.

The Professor's goes on to state that a "principal promise of socialism was to replace the alleged uncertainty of markets with the comforting certainty of a central economic plan. No more guessing what consumers will buy next year and how suppliers and rival firms will behave: everyone will be led by government's visible hand to play his and her role in an all-encompassing central plan. The "wastes" of competition, cycles of booms and busts, and the "unfairness" of unequal incomes would be tossed into history's dustbin." Buy? Rival firms? Government? Central plan? None of these are features of Socialism, which the Professor says has utterly failed. By this he must mean efforts taken by the state to control capitalism's boom & bust business cycles, which is true enough.

Invoking the ghosts of Heilbroner and Hayek does not do the Professor any favours, as their understanding of Socialism is no better than his. Similiary, by saying that the collapse of the Iron Curtain has anything to do with Socialism Bourdreaux is digging himself an even deeper hole. Some countries today, as well as the Iron Curtain dictatorships of the past, have a form of state capitalism. The main features of this system are

  • · State ownership of the principal means of production.
  • · Generalised wage labour.
  • · Generalised use of money and money calculation.
  • · A relatively free market for consumer goods in the form of agricultural products and light industrial products.
  • · A market for means of production which is closely monitored by the state.
  • · Wide-scale planning activity, allocating supplies and directing products within the sphere of heavy industry, setting production targets, fixing prices and directing the flows of capital.
  • · A sizeable black-market.
  • Later Boudreaux produces another howler: "socialism's requirement that each person behave in ways prescribed by government planners is a recipe for tyranny." We in the World Socialist Movement stick to our principles and the original meaning of socialism: common ownership, democratic control and production solely for use. What place tyranny? More BS! Wealth we are told results chiefly from risk taking and explains how Michael Dell (you might be using one of 'his' computers) became a capitalist. BS! Wealth is, by definition, a product of human labour, acting upon nature-given materials, that is capable of satisfying needs. This identifies wealth with use-value. But capitalism is a society where wealth becomes a commodity having exchange value also, and sometimes only a socially-bounded use-value that is peculiar to this society – as with nuclear weapons.

    So, the really important question is not whether we have Tweedledee or Tweedledum with his finger on the nuclear button, or even if BO is full of BS, but rather if you want to side with the Professor of Dismal Science and his capitalist masters in supporting a global system in which war, waste and want are endemic or strive for its replacement with real Socialism?

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