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August 29, 2012

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Posted: 29 Aug 2012 12:06 AM PDT

The 'Grand Old Marxists'

Posted: 28 Aug 2012 12:30 AM PDT

Who are the real Marxists? This is from Timothy Snyder at the NYRB blog:

Grand Old Marxists, by Timothy Snyder, NY Review of Books: A specter is haunting the Republican National Convention—the specter of ideology. The novelist Ayn Rand (1905-1982) and the economist Friedrich von Hayek (1899-1992) are the house deities of many American libertarians, much of the Tea Party, and Paul Ryan in particular. ...
Romney has lots of money... In the right-wing anarchism that arises from the marriage of Rand and Hayek, Romney's wealth is proof that ... unhindered capitalism represented by chop-shops such as Bain must in the end be good for everyone. ...
The attempt to add intellectual ballast to Romney's career pulls the ticket downward into the slog of twentieth-century ideology... Like Marxism, the Hayekian ideology is a theory of everything, which has an answer for everything. Like Marxism, it allows politicians who accept the theory to predict the future, using their purported total knowledge to create and to justify suffering among those who do not hold power. ...
Hayek and Rand are comfortable intellectual company not because they explain reality, but because, like all effective ideologists, they remove the need for any actual contact with it. ...
Rich Republicans such as Romney are of course a small minority of the party..., the Republican electorate ... must be instructed that their troubles are not simply a pointless contrast to the gilded pleasures of the man at the top of the Republican ticket, but rather part of the same story, a historical drama in which good will triumph and evil will be vanquished. Hayek provides the rules of the game: anything the government does to interfere in the economy will just make matters worse; therefore the market, left to its own devices, must give us the best of all possible worlds. Rand supplies the discrete but titillating elitism: this distribution of pleasure and pain is good in and of itself... In her novels, the suffering of ordinary Americans ("parasites," as they are called in Atlas Shrugged) provides the counterpoint to the extraordinary pleasures of the heroic captains of industry (which she describes in weird sexual terms). A bridge between the pain of the people and the pleasure of the elite which mollifies the former and empowers the latter is the achievement of an effective ideology.
In the Romney/Ryan presidential campaign, Americans who are vulnerable and isolated are told that they are independent and strong, so that they will vote for policies that will leave them more vulnerable and more isolated. Ryan is a good enough communicator and a smart enough man to make reverse Marxism work as a stump speech or a television interview. But as national policy it would be self-destructive tragedy. ...

'The Party of Capitalism?'

Posted: 28 Aug 2012 12:24 AM PDT

Why do conservatives support job and economy killing austerity?:

The party of capitalism?, by Chris Dillow: Most of us instinctively think of the Tories as the party that promotes capitalists' interests. But is this true? ...
Cameron's apparent desire to see a fall in household debt, would both be bad for profits (except under unlikely conditions). This poses the question: if Tory policies threaten to depress profits, how can we say that the Tories are the party of capitalism?
One answer might be that they'd like to be the party of capitalism, but are also the stupid party, and so are incapable of seeing that capitalists' interests require - at least temporarily - a looser fiscal policy.
Another possibility is that they are playing a longer game. They believe that fiscal austerity will weaken workers' bargaining power and so permit higher profit margins. ...
Yet another answer would be Kalecki's famous one - that governments must renounce activist fiscal policy in order to maintain capitalists' power in the longer-term by ensuring that the economy remains dependent upon business "confidence."
All these answers have a common problem. They render the claim that "the Tories are the party of capitalists" untestable. Pretty much any policy that seems to jeopardize capitalists' near-term interests can be explained away either as stupidity or as being in capitalists' longer-term interests. This poses the question: what evidence would disconfirm the claim that the Tories are the party of capitalism? Unless this can be answered, the claim loses any empirical interest.
There is, though, another possibility. Maybe it's not that Tories like the capitalist class, but rather that they hate the working class.

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