Culture Wars/Current Controversies

Capitalism’s Just-So Stories

An interesting essay on economic history from Kevin Carson. I’ve found that it’s possible to make interesting comparisons and find interesting parallels between different public intellectuals. I’ve said before that Noam Chomsky is the Bertrand Russell of our time, the elder left-liberal icon whose ideas range from the brilliant and humane to the ridiculous and borderline crazy. Ted Kaczynski is to the technophobes what William Pierce was to the neo-Nazis. And Carson seems to increasingly be to the left-libertarians what Gary North is to the right-libertarians, an emerging icon of reactionary leftism in the same way that North (along with Hans Hermann Hoppe) symbolizes the reactionary rightist sector of libertarianism.

By Kevin Carson, Center for a Stateless Society

During one of the many civil wars between patricians and plebians that racked the early Roman Republic in Livy’s account, Menenius Agrippa — a spokesman for the oligarchy that had enclosed the common lands and reduced the Latin peasantry to tenant status and debt peonage — defended the privileges of the landed aristocracy with a Parable of the Body:

It once happened that all the other members of a man mutinied against the stomach, which they accused as the only idle, uncontributing part the whole body, while the rest were put to hardships and the expense of much labour to supply and minister to its appetites. The stomach, however, merely ridiculed the silliness of the members, who appeared not to be aware that the stomach certainly does receive the general nourishment, but only to return it again, and redistribute it amongst the rest.

Every system of class domination relies on a collection of myths — “just-so stories” — to present itself as natural and inevitable to those living under it, and to defend the wealth and power of the ruling classes as the result of merit. And they usually involve justifying the wealth of the ruling oligarchy as really being good for ordinary laboring folks. This is just as true — if not more so — for capitalism as for any other system.


Leave a Reply