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Here's the ironic thing about this.  Capitalism is supposed to make mean more peaceful by taming the passions (i.e. I'm going to get glory by killing those heathen mother fuckers over there) that depend on the relative position of oneself to others, by the interests (i.e. I'm going to make a million dollars, and I don't care how much the rest of you make.)

So spoke Albert Hirschman in The Passions and the Interests in which he traces this idea from the 17th century on, showing that before capitalism was justified on the basis of efficiency it was justified on the basis that it was a more peaceful way than the blood and iron of the earlier period in which the passions were central.  

I can't locate the diary now, but Martin Wolf made this exact same argument recently in the FT, making the point that it's much better to live in a world in which people seek status through wealth than by war.  Schumpeter made much the same point earlier, and would seem to be the source that Wolf drew from.

Now, the interesting thing is that it just may be (and probably is) that as economic inequality increases you have the rise of these other ways in which to pursue status for those disenfranchised by the market.  One way, socialism, seeks equality, the other way, fascism, creates an explicit in group (Aryans, etc.) that is equal and an out group that is supposed to be exploited and/or exterminated for the benefit of the in group.  Capitalism gives us fascism, because it isn't concerned with economic distribution, only total economic output.

Status seeking is part of most human existence, but this points to the need for a recognition that you need social rules and social order that is both collectivistic and egalitarian, you need social democracy.  Liberalism is a failed ideology, the choice is between social democracy and fascism.

And I'll give my consent to any government that does not deny a man a living wage-Billy Bragg

by ManfromMiddletown (manfrommiddletown at lycos dot com) on Tue Dec 4th, 2007 at 10:15:19 AM EST
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