The Problem of Those “Left” in Form but Right in Character AND
The Truth Finally Revealed: Capitalism Defined
by Mark S. Tucker | Veritus Vampirus | ISSUE #870 — NOVEMBER 2013
provocateur, hector, meta-anarchist
“Have brain, will use; have pen, will poison.”
[I’m ripping off Malik Osei for the ‘Left in form, Right in character’ phrase. I modified it slightly through the use of quotation marks, but the meaning is, if not exactly the same, then awwwwwwwfully damned close. That guy comes up with the coolest lines…and I should mention that, for those who’ve noted and commented upon a subtle new wrinkle in my thinking, Malik’s rigorously merciless clarity of thought has been affecting my own, inculcating a few refinements I’d been neglecting.]
PREFACE: I started this essay over a year ago but tucked it away, synchronistically rediscovering the piece just as I read Richard D. Wolff’s “Debating Capitalism – Redefining Outdated Terms”…in which he pulls a tentative Thom Hartmannism: he does NOT define capitalism but instead seems to want to tack ‘socialist’ onto it as a projective revision, and no, I’m not kidding one little bit. Here: read for yourself:
This is vaguely in line with Hartmann’s ‘representative democracy’. Wolff, however, whom I very much respect, points out something no communist, Marxist, anarchist, socialist, or anyone wants to acknowledge, and which I heretofore myself perhaps have not been sufficiently adamant in harping upon: the fact that “previous socialist and communist critics of capitalism proved unable, in those transitions, to go beyond state and planned forms of capitalism”, and he’s 100% on the mark. This is EXTREMELY important, the great sin no one wants to accuse Trotsky, Lenin, or any of the great figures of: they were just ersatz capitalists. Sorry, Trotsies, commies, and IngSocs, but it’s the truth. Wolff’s remedy is that “[w]e could do better this time by insisting that genuinely democratized enterprises be part of any transition beyond the capitalisms and socialisms of the past”.
That’s a cagy sentence in an article full to the gills with hedging and rhetoric. I suspect that Wolff suffers from the same problem I did until I wrote this two-parter: an inability to come to an honest and undeniable definition. I also suspect his reason was the same as mine, and as unknown to him as it was to me: he never conducted a full etymological search. Note in his piece that he neither advocates for nor against capitalism or socialism, but his is nonetheless an honest approach; stealthy but honest and in line with the essay’s preternatural wont to affirm both sides, that Hartmann gig that can be so annoying, but, hey!, both sides here are, after all, when the idealisms fade away, realities, like them or not. Nonetheless, he never did what he purported to do and the synchrony of that failure along with my ongoing research into Dialectics further provoked my discontent…and when I’m discontent, watch out!, because I act.
Wolff described capitalist manifestations and functionings but never defined ‘capitalism’, the the essay title asserted otherwise. I think this is why he hedges so damn much when the word comes up. I trust this guy on Economics more than anyone since Thorstein Veblen, but I think he’s laboring under the same hazy terra infirma everyone else is: he doesn’t know what some of his words mean, often the most important ones. Thus I hereby remedy his, my own, and everyone’s ignorance on this one all-important term and say “Fuck adding adjectives to it, understand it for what it is, then relegate it to the trash heap, and let’s move on to a long overdue technologized socialism”.
What you find in this article, you will find NOWHERE in the world, at least as far as I’ve been able to determine, certainly not in Wolff’s work, where one would most exect to locate it. He can thank me for finally doing what he, Chris Hedges, and everyone has too long been fallaciously claiming they’ve done…or he may not, as he pleases. I’ve dealt with far too many media luminaries to not expect hubris, arrogance, and disdain whenever someone else finally actually does what they couldn’t.
The one sure way to configure any media personality’s bias is to first determine whether or not he or she is capitalist or pro-capitalist. Hell if I can figure what the difference would be between the two, but I’m told it exists; for convenience’s sake, we’ll just call ’em all ‘capitalists’ and leave it at that. The best analogue of such rhetorical confusion, though, is in regard of slavery: it is said that one can be a slaver or be pro-slavery, and I suppose being an actual slaver is the more reprehensible estate, but, to rational intelligence, the difference in degree is negligible as between action and empathy, since the latter abets the former. The second case normally just means one can’t afford to be slaver or slaveholder but indeed would be were circumstances to permit. Putting this in an argument once elicited, from a woman passionately convicted that the slaver was far the worse monster, a shocked “Oh!…oh!…I get what you mean!”, to which I replied “Yes, and I get what you don’t”.
The oddest part was that she was a “Leftie” arguing an anti-slavery position but only from a reactionary stance, one indoctrinated into her by our glorious American educational system and by “Left” media, both of which are only slightly less facile than Republican vacuities. That incident and a number of others, however, coming years ago at a particular time as they did, helped define for me the beggarliness of “Left” thinking: better than the Right’s, no argument, but still disheartening for anyone unlucky enough to be able to grasp logic and reason for more than one or two introductory steps and then have to try to converse with the illucidities trotted out hourly on “Left” radio and in other “Left” media.
Thus, ‘pro-capitalist’ means you’re either working on becoming a capitalist or are happily reconciled to being a slave in the system it invokes, first a weird dance of differences with no distinction and then a reversal of that already muddy position resulting in the usual six of one, half a dozen of the other; in other words: same-same no matter where you drink your beer. With the slavery system per se, you’re happy to see others indentured to your profit; with the capitalism system per se, you’re happy to see others indentured to your profit. HUGE difference, hm? One respects slaves and capitalist workers who rebel, but I’d have to wash my mouth out with sulfuric acid were I to say I could reconcile pro-slavery and pro-capitalist true believers with any palpable degree of humanity other than blanched sterile mouthings referencing the possibility of something less than ceaseless monstrosities. Thus, those espousing that there’s a difference between slaver and slavery per se possess a dim retrogressive point, but, in even listening to the proponency, we’ve ceded territory to the enemy. We, not they, become intellectual capitalists, Republicans, and we allow the opposition to encroach on our moral and intellectual ground, despoiling and perverting that which isn’t theirs except through our own lack of the moral clarity we see they’re devoid of. Ignorance has such an endearing way of bringing people together, doesn’t it?
I’ll show why that’s so, but this central modus of mis-thought, this glossing of terms through shallow cerebrations leading to misdefinition, is at the heart of the “Left’s” determination to keep many terms off the table as much as possible. That’s the fruit of capitalist think-tanks and those who work there, co-incident with this bizarre new “I hold no identifiable political position!” meme (hint: that’s novo-Libertarianism). There is, I grin as I write, very good reason for that imposture. More than anything, the capitalism element panics “Left” radio and TV hosts for two understandable reasons:
- if they are indeed capitalist and make a virtue of the point, they lose most if not all of their audience, or
- if they are not capitalist, they mustn’t reveal the fact or must downplay it as much as possible while on Rightwing air…and all air is Rightwing and/or Rightwing-owned even when seemingly Centrist; yea, even unto the rapidly descending KPFK.
The fact of the problem is seen quite easily: unashamedly Right media hosts bray paeans to capitalism every chance they get, fully, unreservedly, with masturbo-erotic fervor. “Left” hosts, on the other hand, do so apologetically, hedgingly, only when use of the term can’t be avoided. It wasn’t the Right which invented such idiotic phrases as ‘crony capitalism’ (a redundancy), ‘disaster capitalism’ (a redundancy), and the array of weasel words inviolably betraying the neologizer’s secret desires – no, it was the “Left”. Yep, true. The true Right and the true Left, on the other hand, are far more honest and just call it ‘capitalism’, quite content to do so without any degree of adjectival fairy-tale-making because that’s all it is: capitalism, whether it shows itself in stealing your friend’s candy bar or thieving land and resources from an entire foreign nation while putting them to the sword in order to satisfy a kleptomania differing only in scale from, but 100% aligned with, myriad other corporate criminalities (capitalism). In other words, the “Left” is forcing religion, mythology, down your throat in the nervous claim that there are varying forms of capitalism, a whole-cloth lie. Rather than positing super-powered imaginery beings, because that’s just too obvious any more, they’re making up imaginary super states of mind.
I’ve more than once gone over the fact that there’s no definition for capitalism. Not even Mr. Wolff, impressive bastard that he is, can define it, and every single dictionary seems to agree with every so-called political tome. Attempts at ideational stasis are baffling at best, so I’m going over this once more from a somewhat new perspective. And, no, you don’t get the surprise ending before its proper time. The history is crucial.
There’s a reason no one wishes to entertain the bizarre wealth of discrepancies genetic to the term: to define ‘capitalism’ would be to reveal it as indeed imaginary, to show that the mode is not any new thing which, so we’re told, arose with the Industrial Revolution but rather just the transfer of the eternal reins of power from kings to mercantiles, which signifies nothing, and against the far too slow march to a dubious democracy, an arrival point still nowhere in sight. ‘Capitalism’ is a form of divertive re-branding, nothing more than the “New! Improved!!” tag you see perennially on your dishwashing detergent though it’s the exact same overpriced liquid the company has been making for decades – ahhhhh, but with glitzy new hypnotics!
The word ‘capitalism’ can’t be nailed down for that reason – to define it properly would be to reveal the game – but it continues to remain in force as testament to my earlier disgruntled citation that we can’t think further than a couple shallow steps into any matter without losing our way entirely. ‘Capitalism’ persists as a murk-word because we’ve been conditioned to respond to it in the fashion the capitalists, our slavers, prefer. After all, the schools are as much theirs as the marketplace; what did we expect? One need only inspect history and particularly Horace Mann to know this. Schools were 100% capitalist from the git-go, from colonial days forward, but, with Mann, the move to completely erode education into a dumb-down proper to slaves began with a vengeance.
That’s where Righties and their step-children, the “Lefties”, emerged in full glory. True Lefties were thus thrown into sharper relief, and the “Left” commenced its schizophrenic manifestation, grabbing and twisting weird negative economic terms like ‘liberal’, a hideous Rightist fantasy if ever there was one (originally referring to the injection literally of insanity into money fevers). The more intelligent among the dim “Left”, people like Thom Hartmann, saw the error, however, and thus co-opted ‘progressive’ into the illexicon as a rescue operation. They also soon came to understand that ‘progressive’ is likewise a meaningless vapidity within a capitalism. One cannot vend or even faintly approve any form of capitalism and call oneself in any manner ‘progressive’. It’s literally impossible, though our dear dear “Lefties” like to have you think otherwise, another holdover from their present or former religious and other Republican ways.
Nonetheless, after desperately and successfully inducting listening legions into their purgatories, we’re now stuck with both. Lovely. We now see the oft shrill caterwauling necessary to the imposture as it wears thin for what it is. The most unseemly far side of this is noted in Brad Friedman joining a capitalist think tank, the Commonweal Institute, while hilariously but quite seriously typifying himself a ‘velvet revolutionary’, erecting a website as ghostly calling card of self-mocking authenticity. Very nice, that: one creates, inspects, and authenticates oneself, conveniently 86ing peer review…which isn’t terribly positive when it does crop up…but think about that Institute for a moment if you wish to see the depth to which thought can be mangled: a foundation dedicated to capitalism referring to itself in terms of ‘commonweal’. This can only be acceptable to blind adulants, to “fellows” as such think tanks like to call them, who haven’t a clue what political terms mean, else they’d laugh and walk away from such blatant chicanery.
‘Weal’ refers to the general, the common, good and to the public’s welfare, how well it’s faring. ‘Wealth’ arises from ‘weal’ because only when the ‘good’, the wealth in all its forms, is shared among ALL are we really ‘well’; therefore, only in a common weal (commonweal), in a common wealth (commonwealth), can we have sanity and the common health. That which detracts from it induces only sickness. Enter capitalism, stage Right, and its “Left” apologists, the spin doctors.
Save for a very few aboriginal tribes here and there, there has been only one form of government on Earth since we evolved, or so we’re told, from apes (even though, um, somehow the apes we see now, clever bastards that they are, managed to escape the evolution common to all biological forms otherwise, never evolved into men so that…huh????, wait a minute, why is science so much ike religion?), and that form is totalitarianism, mild or weak but always totalitarian in form, intent, and function. The United States has always been a totalitarian State, never otherwise; it’s just traditionally been a somewhat weak one (Daniel Shays and others from colonial days would disagree with my ‘weak’ adjective, and they’d be somewhat correct, but I’m thinking dialectically of true naked dictatorships as the contrast). Should you doubt, merely read the Constitution correctly – that is, after perusing Frederick’s Lundberg’s Cracks in the Constitution – and then inspect such actions and edifices as the government’s ability to at will convert citizens into soldiers. Then look at the IRS, the court system, the imposition of military bases in foreign lands, and etc. Soon, what you may first want to hock me for, my questionably excessive statements.
‘Capitalism’ is at best an ambiguous term, actually a false flag, one of those “It is what I say it is, goddammit!” glosses so favored of authority. This time around, I’m going to start with Art Goldwag’s capsule history of capitalism and then gravitate to definitional review. Goldwag’s an unusual choice perhaps, but his Isms & Ologies book provides a very convenient timeline condensation that both aligns with the usual mythology as espoused by apologists like Hartmann and then offers a more centered look at a few usually ignored elements. More, it gives me a chance to expose Thom enmeshed within the same indoctrination most of us true Lefties had once been gamahuched by. That he remains so isn’t attributable to brainwashing but rather through quite conscious choice, however. This much should be obvious by now. As opposed to many, Thom’s a fully willing participant, a capitalist to the hilt, though he vigorously, when put to the question by wily callers, denies it. That shouldn’t be surprising, and one can catch Thom himself occasionally admitting to the condition when he’s not busy denying it; depends on what day of the week you hear him, and whether or not his ADHD drugs are kicking in.
Goldwag first lays out what Smith very pointedly exposed as the most basic form of government per se in Wealth of Nations:
“[F]irst, the duty of protecting the society from the violence and invasion of other independent societies; secondly, the duty of protecting, so far as possible, every member of the society from the injustice or oppression of every other member of it or the duty of establishing an exact administration of justice; and thirdly, the duty of maintaining certain public works and certain public institutions which can never be for the interest of any individual, or a small number of individuals, to erect and maintain”
If there’s ever been a more concise job description of government, I’ve never read it. However, Hartmann and quite a few “Left” mouthpieces have themselves run across this same passage, so why haven’t they ever referred to it among many many other references to Smith? Odd. I mean, this is a beautifully crafted turn of thought, the sort of thing “Lefties” at least seem to pride themselves in espousing, yet they hold complete ignorance on the matter? Very very odd. An’ b’gosh, one might even think the move purposeful, but, if you look at Points 2 & 3 in Smith’s words, the reason for such a wall of silence becomes obvious: his reductio informs the masses easily and simply, providing a slate for true democratic demands, but it also goes against everything the Republicans, Libertarians, and Centrist accommodationists (the so-called “Left”) stand for: free-market exploitation, the free invisible hand against the common weal; business, in other words, and Thom’s nothing if not a businessman. His entire life and all his actions have been dedicated to it. Other considerations have remained secondary, if even that high on the list.
– – – – –
The Problem of Those “Left” in Form but Right in Character AND
The Truth Finally Revealed: Capitalism Defined
by Mark S. Tucker | Veritus Vampirus | ISSUE #870 — NOVEMBER 2013
provocateur, hector, meta-anarchist
I had to leave just when I thought I knew ya
It was a new day yesterday, but it’s an old day now.
“New Day Yesterday”, Ian Anderson (Jethro Tull)
Smith’s second aspect is quite disturbing, though. It explains the bottom line of human nature much too nakedly, at least insofar as expressed in a capitalism: after outsiders, Smith is saying, we fear each other, and with good reason. We’re all capitalists (that is: predators) whether we like it or not. It’s our nature – whether original or not, I couldn’t say, not having access to a time machine to carry me to live among pre-feudals, among cavemen, or among the aliens who seeded us – and for the moment inescapable with a nasty proviso: we don’t seem much inclined to re-program ourselves, and so we fear fellow human beings outside our artificial nation-state boundaries and also within. Inside that dualistic condition, though, we know what we know about both because we hide a segment of it inside ourselves, quietly and nervously understanding that differentiations are actually very minimal if present at all; whatever monsters we see, we also are. Tat tvam asi.
That’s what morality really springs from, checks on ourselves as much as on anyone else. Well, it’s that way for those who possess intelligence, that is. Capitalism defeats intelligence while wringing it dry, disempowers all but the narcissists and psychopathic. Does this so far sound like a hopeless base-system to you? It does to me, yet this is what our Right and “Left” monkeys cherish. And we’re really not even talking about “capitalism” yet. Remember: in Smith’s time, there was no such word. We’re talking pre-“capitalism” for the moment (but again, “capitalism” doesn’t exist and never has, a pseudo-idea of transvestitured monarchialism fractionated upon itself, and I can’t say whether Smith understood that or not because I haven’t read through his work anywhere nearly as much as I’d like to).
In elder days, such matters existed in the same condition internally and externally: you feared the furriner and you feared the king, his lords, the soldiers, the brigands, and the businessmen. Wasn’t much left over to befriend except fellow peasants, IF you could befriend very many of them, which you couldn’t because they existed in a feudalism and had to act according to its strictures and insanities. Same today, except we think otherwise because we have acquaintances, call them “friends”, and get sideclipped the day we have to depend upon anyone being honest and fair when an advantage to them will be had by being otherwise with us. That’s a capitalist prime directive. In response, we then become businessmen as well and weigh advantage in everything (capitalism), yet, heh!, the businessman is an excess-value thief and a criminal (capitalist) because that’s what business is, and capitalism makes businessmen of us all…so what the hell is “capitalism”?
Goldwag makes an interesting observation:
“The word capitalism didn’t come to us until long after the economic system, or more precisely, the absence of a centrally organized economic system, had already supplanted mercantilism, which itself had succeeded feudalism as the basis of European commercial life.”
You’ve probably already analyzed Goldwag’s “mercantilism” as against a “centrally organized economic system” as Libertairan cryptography for “the free market” as versus “regulated economy”. I’ll for the fleeting moment take it that he’s correct in general and that it was a long time before the term was coined, though I have reason to doubt his sobriety there. I’m not, for instance, sure what he meant when he wrote that an absence of a system supplanted mercantilism; it’s a silly claim, but after that, he tells us that:
“[t]he word was first used in its present sense – as a nonpejorative reference to the so-called free exchange of goods in a competitive marketplace where prices are set strictly according to the laws of supply and demand…[in] the book Modern Capitalism by…Werner Sombart, which was published in 1902”
Uh, hm, aren’t we forgetting an obscure little tome – oh hell, practically unknown, right? – titled Das Kapital by some schmoe named Karl Marx? I mean, that one was issued in 1867, so maybe it’s been forgotten. Right. But what’s Goldwag doing? He’s undertaking a “Leftism”, wishing to arrive at a self-formulated conclusion that facts won’t support. Thus, he’s massaged history by injecting modifiers (the passage reeks of them) in order to mangle truth and arrive at a personal fiction.
The idea of a “free” marketplace where prices are set “strictly according to the laws of supply and demand” is an unachievable fantasy. Were that the case, the fucked-up ‘supply and demand’ misquotation would follow its true formulaics (‘demand and supply’) for there is no hope of market supply where there is first no demand (at least according to the moribund world of Economics anyway) – and the price would be set by the buyer not the seller. Interestingly, that would even preclude haggling, which occurs only in a barter situation. In the illusion Goldwag erects, the consumer would merely walk up, give the Ford dealer 35 cents for his F-105 and drive it away…right, Libertarians?
There are no laws of ‘supply and demand’, only the “laws” of ‘demand and supply’…and those don’t exist either. I’ve looked in the law books, I’ve scanned the Bible, I even checked the 10 Demandments of The Communist Manifesto. They don’t exist. There are no such laws. But the distinction in the order I’ve shown is crucial. ‘Supply and demand’ puts the businessman in power, because he’s the supplier and thus becomes prime in that equation. We see what that’s brought us. But ‘demand and supply’ puts the consumer in power, not the manufacturer, and if the consumer were ever truly in power, the first thing he would demand would be complete transparency of all business ledgers in order to determine what would be a fair price for commodities. How can one pay the fair price one wishes to pay if one does not know first the material costs of the product, then the labor and other costs, and finally the extended costs tacked on after: ecospheric and other concerns? Those things unknown, how can a consumer possibly understand what’s fair and what’s ridiculous excess?Wellllllllllll…that’s the point, isn’t it? Were we apprized of such, we’d not be in the troubles we’re in.
Thus, Goldwag’s seemingly professorial passage is complete inanity.
In Edinburgh, in the UK, Gavin Kennedy, who runs the Adam Smith’s Lost Legacy blogsite: http://adamsmithslostlegacy.blogspot.com/2009/01/free-capitalist-13-january-here-carries.html, on 1/14/09 ran a commentary from Free Capitalist (a site I’ve been unable to locate; the link provided by Kennedy is now dead): “Origins of the Word ‘Capitalism’ “, in which were made a few strange claims, among them:
“In modern society the term ‘Capitalism’ is used imprecisely and inaccurately. Many scholars suggest that the term ‘Capitalism’ and its related term ‘Capitalis,’ was [sic] first derived in the English vernacular from a translation of the pejorative term used by Karl Marx in the mid to late nineteenth century to describe the class of men he called the elite ‘bourgeois’ society who owned and controlled society’s capital resources”.
No partisan can avoid blustery infantilisms, so Gav ‘n Free Capitalist, while never defining ‘capitalism’, finding the origins the article intimated would appear, added:
“To students of the Founders, the philosophy of capitalism is the only moral system that guarantees to man his individual liberty, and therefore the only valid political, economic, and social standard for pursuing prosperity and peace.”
Good God. You’d’ve thought Brad Friedman and Charles Johnson were collaborating under pseudonyms. What tripe! The bizarre “students of the Founders” is a non sequitar, as the Founders wouldn’t hadn’t known the term ‘capitalism’. Then, extending that fantasy to it being the “only” “moral” system…what were the writers using for brains? Besides its non-existence in the period referred to, capitalism has no use for morals and has never itself been moral. That’d be like attributing cleanliness to manure. Only when it was leashed to bend towards socialistic ends did capitalism become ever so slightly vaguely humane.
The founders were aristos, inheritance babies, social climbers, careerists, businessmen, and so on. What the hell did morals mean to them? Jefferson ordered the slaughter of millions; Franklin, genius above them all, was a complete hypocrite (Never borrow?!?! Then what was he doing in France for the U.S.? Early to bed and early to rise? How about all the duchesses and scullery maids and whores he was chasing and bedding and boozing with all night in endless debauches [not that I dispprove, y’unnerstan’]? A penny saved? Why wasn’t he haranguing Jefferson the spendthrift? Cah-mon!!!!); in fact, finding where to start with the BS and where to end with some minute degree of humility and decorum is near impossible to contemplate. What in hell were Kennedy and Free Capitalist smoking that day? Their gym socks?
I’m not sure where they and Goldwag obtained this commonality on Marx’s sentiments as being pejorative, but it’s mistaken and most likely a Republican meme. It’s not that Marx was deprecating, it’s that capitalism is in itself a metonymically living breathing pejorative against the human condition. Neither FC nor Goldwag seem able to intuit that, but that’s fine too, insofar as it runs. Like me, Kennedy “approached this article with a degree of optimism, unfortunately not justified by its content”, though he agrees with the other authors that Marx “certainly used them pejoratively in his writing”. Forgetting for a moment the fantasy that it is, we’ll take another tack on that: If I say that pederasts are lowdown sacks of shit, am I being pejorative or merely describing a condition in its own terms? Do we need a cadre of gravely etched PhD headshrinkers to validate the assertion?
Kennedy then goes on to show what I so far only somewhat accept as capitalism’s true linguistic genesis. He did his research and found that the “Oxford English Dictionary (Vol II, p 863) locates its first usage in English in 1854 by William Makepeace Thackeray in his novel, The Newcomes.” That pre-dates Marx by 13 years, and I’d be fascinated as hell to discover what led Thackery to the coining, but this is even more striking: “Marx may have read Thackery”, claims Oxford, and it’s inferred that he therein cribbed the word. After all, Thackery was a widely read novelist, very successful in his day, and an ardent foe of the Upper Crust. Marx, dispositioned as he was, could’ve readily obtained a copy of The Newcomes due to its affinities with his own mindset. Whether he actually did or not, I can’t confirm one way or the other, nor, at least in my researches, can anyone else.
Threading the needle a bit more finely, which I expect in lexicographic explorations, Kennedy then purported to show that an earlier ‘capitalist’ “was first used in English in 1792, by Arthur Young (Travels in France)” but was also “used by Turgot (in the French argot) in his ‘Reflections on the Formation and the Distribution of Riches’ LXIII-IV, 1770”.
Uh-oh. Houston, we have a problem.
How on Earth can you use a term or even invent it without first having something to predicate meaning upon? ‘Capitalism’ was, we were told, genesised in the mid-1800s, yet Turgot was referring to it 80 years earlier, in 1770? Seems to me we have a ways to go before this mystery can be resolved, and the resolution, I think, will be quite interesting…but I ain’t gonna be the one to mine that nugget just now. My guess is that ‘capital’ was a term in at least somewhat common usage and that Young and Turgot were neologizing based on that term and their understanding of it, whatever that was, which means that…um…wait, hmmmmm, maybe I will rappel the mine shaft after all, and probably to my regret.
Looking to Marxists.org: http://www.marxists.org/glossary/terms/c/a.htm, we descend into the usual secondary Marxian madness. We are told that capital “is, in the first place, an accumulation of money and cannot make its appearance in history until the circulation of commodities has given rise to the money relation”, but that makes little if any sense, money being an illusion and, back then, a sigil for the commodities here said to be non-existent until this “money relation” thing (what the fuck is that? Valuation? Really?) came along. Major problem: money was existent long before before the Industrial Era inferred, explicated, and favored by Marxists.org and others, as were commodities, and thus this arrogation is horse dung – and ‘money relation’ is an exceedingly insipid term, making me, a non-scholar on Papa, wonder if, like ‘dialectical materiaism’, he used it at all – so let’s look further.
Online Etymology Dictionary tells us the early 13th century term ‘capitalis’ preceded and gave rise to ‘capitalism’ and meant “of the head”, taken from ‘caput’ (head) and ‘capitis’ (head). It referred to such things as the metaphoric head of a state (capital) or the taking of life in a capital crime (taking the head, beheading), and fluctuated between noun and adjective usage. After that, as is to be expected, it went kinda nuts and got bastardized hither and yon, but finally arrived at a 1610 financial usage for “stock, property”. In this case, ‘stock’ refers to livestock, not certificates of ownership, as, with Circle Of 13 re-constituting the history:
“[t]he lexical roots of the word ‘capital’ reveal roots in the trade and ownership of animals. The Latin root of the word capital is ‘capitalis’, from the proto-Indo-European ‘kaput’, which means ‘head’, this being how wealth was measured. The more heads of cattle, the better. The terms ‘chattel’ (meaning goods, animals, or slaves) and even ‘cattle’ itself also derive from this same origin.”
Good ol’ Circ 13 then makes the usual proviso: “Though popular with Marxists, the word ‘capitalism’ was in fact neither used by Karl nor…[blah blah blah]”, but I think we can see that hairs are being split a bit too finely. Okay, maybe Papa didn’t write the exact word ‘capitalist’ precisely as such – after all, one source tells us he never used the exact term ‘capitalism’ in Kapital, another tells us he used it twice, a third alleges the Saturnians were mind-controlling him, etc.; same goes for ‘capitalist’ – but did he really need to say it explicitly, especially after predicating the whole damn book upon ‘capital’?
Of course not, especially when ‘bourgeoisie’ or ‘burgher’ pretty much covered it. They’re all synonyms. Still, if we want to get profoundly scientific about it: okay, there can be differences. After all, I can be of the bougeoisie as a young child of providence and not be a capitalist…yet. But, regardless, if that shit even matters, now we know ‘capital’ and ‘capitalist’ preceded Marx, a giant intellect, by many years (still, the Founders didn’t even know of it?, nor did Smith?; that’s very strange).
Whatever the truth in this convoluted knot, note the constant connection between ‘kaput’ (ironically now slang for ‘dead’ or ‘done in’), ‘capitis’, ‘capitalis’, and ‘capital’, oscillating between designations of the head, cattle, execution, and slavery. Kinda shows the gutter in which conservative thought inevitably runs and, I propound, also indites a not too subtle form of anti-intellectualism: Head (thinking) → cattle (lower life form) → slavery (degradation). Quibble with me if you will, but the devolution seems a skosh too possible and too obvious to discount completely.
Regardless, we’ve arrived at the irreducible baseline of capitalism: the possession of things first noted in cattle and then extrapolated to all material possessions. ‘Capital’, then, is the matter of those things, of one’s possessions, and ‘capitalism’ must become the means by which, the laws by which, ownership is protected. This at first seems beneficial. After all, I don’t want you rushing into my house, taking my dinner, and rushing back out again to eat it. You’ve stolen my possession, and I need to have recourse against you for the depredation. But it’s not me who formulates the laws, it’s the government, and the government, which is just a figurehead for business, is reserved the right to do as it damn well pleases in its ownership of you. You’re cattle to it, it is capitalism, and capitalism is oppression of the cattle. Capitalism = cattle-ism.
Simple baseline again, somewhat to the side and in just one citation of a single instance: if you can be forced to become a soldier against your will, or jailed for resisting that, and die in cabal attempts to garner extra-national resources, then you are owned, end of story, and all else is predicated upon that might-happen-might-not-but-it’s-there-and-used-in-every-needed-circumstance touchstone.
‘Capitalism’, finally, is a euphemism for ‘cattle-herding system’, for ‘the herding and slaughter of cattle’, none other than the eternal governential verity: totalitarianism. More, as said, it’s just a re-branding of what humans have labored under for millennia. In any true, fair, humane market, capitalists would have ironically been slaughtered yesterday. The means of their demise would be true democracy, which all capitalists, capitalist sympathizers, and capitalist think-tankers fundamentally hate, as Gore Vidal noted, paradoxically a part of the breathy attempts of the “Left” to disengage from Republicanism while exhorting it through at-best-laughable impostures. Think of that while Hartmann and Friedman and others engage in sophistries while cleaving like madmen to status quo in every respect.
And the next time you hear Thom Hartmann or Brad Friedman or Ed Schultz or Rush Limbaugh or Thomas Friedman or anyone telling you what a great thing, or what an okay thing, or even what a barely tolerable thing capitalism is, you might want to nail ‘em with all I’ve written above – or, hell, leave me out of it if you wish, as what I’ve shown is 100% historically accurate – and then inquire why they feel as they do. Have your camera ready. The looks on their faces will be priceless.
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