29 May 2007

Someday Debs

"The issue is Socialism versus Capitalism. I am for Socialism because I am for humanity. We have been cursed with the reign of gold long enough. Money constitutes no proper basis of civilization. The time has come to regenerate society — we are on the eve of universal change."

-Eugene V. Debs, Letter to the American Railway Union, 1897

I will openly confess to knowing almost nothing about economics. It's not even fair to say I know just enough to get myself in trouble, though that might be accurate in a way. When someone begins throwing all manner of numbers and concepts at me, my eyes glaze over and roll back in my head.

The question, I'm sure, is how did I find out I was a filthy pinko without airtight knowledge of economic principles?

The slow slide toward my current state had a number of little benchmarks along the way, and oneof them occurred a few years ago when I was participating on a message board of mostly twenty-something evangelical Christians of the "emergent" variety (many things came from there, really, I'm just pointing out this one in particular. Making my mind more receptive to change was the fact I didn't like many of the people there. I've always figured if you're an asshole, one ought to take a closer look at what might make you such.)

Anyway, off in some thread about a subject I've forgotten, a poster came along enlightening us to the wonderful saving power of the profit motive; and how dangling fistfuls of dollars in front of people and promising them a life of luxury is the only efficient way to produce innovation, great art and culture, or scientific breakthroughs.

And the thought occurred to me, from somewhere buried deep inside my consciousness of which I was previously unaware that, wait a minute, this means we are effectively relying on the human capacity for greed to advance our species. If the only way you can get a leg up on your fellow man and push his face under your boot where it belongs is by curing his disease then, by God, that's what we'll have to rely on.

Then the bell went off in my head, and I realized I didn't actually care what maze of numbers someone might try to hypnotize me with concerning how capitalism was really the most wondrous way to achieve Real Equality (which seems demonstrably false anyway, which first-world country has the greatest wealth disparity besides our own?). I'm not going to be that skeptical about human depravity. (Or should I say total depravity? Or perhaps Original Sin? Well, there are many interesting things to be written about Calvinism and capitalism that I'm nowhere near capable of writing, but perhaps someday I'll take a crack at it.)