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Can Capitalism Survive?
If by "civilisation" we mean that state of affairs where men are free from other men, where there is no involuntary servitude, then we may equally say that the terror attacks have been directed at capitalism itself-a view made explicit by the terrorists themselves, both in their rhetoric & their choice of targets. Can capitalism survive this relatively new type of enemy-suicidal mass-murderers who, in the words of one of their mentors, "love death just as much as Americans love life"?
It's instructive to contemplate what capitalism has survived hitherto.
It has survived Das Kapital & The Communist Manifesto. Karl Marx acknowledged that capitalism was wondrously efficacious at producing things, but claimed it had a built-in contradiction whereby it couldn't help but chronically over-produce, causing increasingly calamitous crashes that would lead inexorably to its self-destruction. The masses, he claimed, were condemned under capitalism to ever-worsening misery & servitude, against which they would-& should-revolt. The facts, let alone the formal conclusions derived from them by capitalism's better theoreticians, have proved him woefully wrong. Never have so many people lived so well & so free.
Capitalism has survived the hostile totalitarian Marxist regimes that littered the globe barely a hundred years after Marx's ideas gained currency. Those regimes, with three exceptions, now belong to the ash-can of history. It was communism, not capitalism, that collapsed under the weight of its own contradictions. Of the three remaining communist regimes, the most powerful-China's- is attempting to have its cake & eat it too, with an increasingly capitalistic economy but an obstinately rigid Marxist polity. Sooner or later, one of them will have to go.
Capitalism has survived the intellectuals within its own societies who have been & are to this day almost universally hostile to it. These intellectuals, of whom Lenin observed (accurately) that they could be kept on-side by having their vanity massaged, are state employees who live off the largesse created by the very businessmen they despise & whose enslavement they deem to be proper. Tenacious in their parasitism, they are virulent in their anti-capitalism, & will not readily give up. We may take solace from the
fact that, should they succeed, the loot that keeps them alive will disappear.
Remarkably, capitalism has survived even some of its own advocates & practitioners. Ayn Rand's notion of the "sanction of the victim" is well-known, but Joseph Schumpeter also said it well:
Perhaps the most striking feature of the picture is the extent to which the bourgeois, besides educating its own enemies, allows itself in turn to be educated by them. It absorbs the slogans of current radicalism & seems quite willing to undergo a process of conversion to a creed hostile to its very existence. Haltingly & grudgingly it concedes in part the implications of that creed. This would be most astonishing & indeed very hard to explain were it not for the fact that the typical bourgeois is rapidly losing faith in his own creed. This is verified by the characteristic manner in which particular capitalist interests & bourgeoisie as a whole behave when facing direct attack. They talk & plead or hire people to do it for them. They snatch at every chance of compromise. They are ever ready to give in. They never put up a fight under the flag of their own ideals & their interests.Yet capitalism, albeit diluted & distorted by the countless taxes & regulations that the above ambivalence & acquiescence have permitted, has endured. (Perhaps we should call it "capitalism lite.")
Most surprisingly, capitalism has survived Christianity & the ethic of self-sacrifice (of which the contemporary Muslim suicide-murderers are actually the most precise embodiment!). If there were indeed a contradiction within capitalism, which is based upon self-interest, then historically speaking, this is it. But still, capitalism has not collapsed.
If it has survived all of this, can it survive this new, unprecedentedly lethal form of terrorism? Probably. "Capitalism" of course does not exist in the abstract but in the concrete form of billions of people freely creating values & then freely trading them for other values in a constant effort to improve their lot. This is an activity so fundamentally human that it's doubtful that even the most fanatically murderous followers of the most self-mortifying, life-hating asceticism could ever obliterate it.
The real challenge, especially as the War on Terrorism tempts people to suspend their "eternal vigilance" on liberty's behalf, is not merely to preserve "capitalism lite," but to create a full-strength version-to make real the "unknown ideal" of which Ayn Rand spoke.
The way Americans & all freedom-lovers love life demands nothing less.
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