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OpEdNews Op Eds    H3'ed 11/10/09

Social Capitalism

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"Capital as such is not evil; it is its wrong use that is evil. Capital in some form or other will always be needed."

Mohandas K. Gandhi (1869—1948), Indian political and spiritual leader. Harijan (28 July 1940).


"Real socialism is inside man. It wasn't born with Marx. It was in the communes of Italy in the Middle Ages. You can't say it is finished."

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Dario Fo (b. 1926), Italian playwright, actor. Times (London, 6 April 1992).


"History repeats itself, first as tragedy, second as farce."

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Karl Marx (1818—83), German political theorist, social philosopher. Paraphrase of the opening sentences of Marx, The Eighteenth Brumaire of Louis Bonaparte (1852; reproduced in Karl Marx: Selected Works, volume 2, 1942)


My brother-in-law Tim was visiting his sister (my brother's wife) from St. Louis a few months back, with his friend and fellow retired firefighter Fran (short for Francis) in tow. These are good guys, what they use to call "the salt of the earth." I am certain that in the encyclopedia under the heading of "representing middle class, Midwest America," there has to be a picture of these two men, a beer in their hands, watching a Cardinals' baseball game.

We were drinking (ice tea for myself; alcohol is not a good idea for people with bipolar disorder), eating pizza, discussing the politics of the world, and the nation. This included our mutual disappointment that President Obama had not done anything to curb the excesses of Wall Street and the banks. Then Fran made a statement that nearly knocked me off my chair, given the source: that considering the recent actions of the major capitalist institutions, he was willing to try socialism as an alternative. And Tim voiced his agreement.

This made up my mind that I should write down my ideas on the concept of Social Capitalism as quickly as possible, as soon as I had time to organize my notes; without discovering every possible contingency for my system.

Like laissez faire, or anti-social capitalism—or as Marx named it "political economy"—Social Capitalism is a moral system, having its own inherent system of penalties and rewards. Unlike anti-social capitalism, Social Capitalism is a socially positive and humane system; a system whose ultimate goal is to (within the limits of human ability) promote the development and maximize the potential of all humans.

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The primary underlying principle of Social Capitalism is that of fairness. It is an ideal that we can never perfectly achieve, because humans are not perfect. One of the first things we must set aside under the concept of Social Capitalism is the false dichotomy of selfishness and altruism, and replace it with the correct dichotomy of selfishness and fairness. The false dichotomy has, in my opinion, represented a roadblock to the cause of human social justice for centuries.

So what are the differences between Social Capitalism, and anti-social capitalism, or as Marx called it, political economy. I will start by giving Marx's description of what he called political economy, from his Economic and Philosophical Manuscripts (p.p. 120-121; 1844), serving it up in easy to digest pieces: "(1) By reducing the worker's need to the barest and most miserable level of physical subsistence, and by reducing his activity to the most abstract mechanical movement; thus he [the capitalist] says: Man has no other need either of activity or of enjoyment. For he declares that this life, too, is human life and existence. (2) By counting the most meagre form of life (existence) as the standard, indeed, as the general standard—general because it is applicable to the mass of men. He turns the worker into an insensible being lacking all needs, just as he changes his activity into a pure abstraction from all activity. To him, therefore, every luxury of the worker seems to be reprehensible, and everything that goes beyond the most abstract need—be it in the realm of passive enjoyment, or a manifestation of activity—seems to him a luxury."

What Marx is saying here is that for anti-social or laissez faire capitalism, at least in its origins, the economic philosophy of Ebenezer Scrooge at the beginning of Charles Dickens' A Christmas Carol is the working model. If you listen to many conservatives today, they argue that you cannot possibly be poor if you have a car, a television, a VCR or DVD player, or anyone of a number of other items that the average American takes for granted. Essentially, the anti-social capitalist system says that if you are poor, you should give up every human comfort and convenience until you are no longer poor, which reduces the poor to a group of mindless robots whose sole purposes are working and hoarding capital, spending the bare minimum for survival, until they are no longer poor.

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Richard Girard is an increasingly radical representative of the disabled and disenfranchised members of America's downtrodden, who suffers from bipolar disorder (type II or type III, the professionals do not agree). He has put together a team to (more...)
 
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