A two-fer! One short. One long. Same topic.
It’s wrong for you to steal from me; and getting 52 million of your friends together to to vote on it and say it’s OK, doesn’t make it so.
Some of the demonstrators in this week’s G20 protest jamboree are demanding the “overthrow” of capitalism. Well, there are lots of things than can be done to “capitalism” – it can be undermined, suppressed, sabotaged, even outlawed – but it cannot be “overthrown” because in itself, it has no power.
It is the very opposite, in fact, of a tyranny. It is simply the conglomeration of all the transactions made between individual and corporate players in an open market. Some people may gain power through those transactions but that power is transient and contingent on their own financial success: they are not installed in immutable positions from which they can be forcibly removed in a coup d’etat.
The question we are wrestling with now – and which the G20 will certainly fail to resolve – is how much the bodies which actually do have power should undermine, suppress, sabotage or even outlaw the practice of capitalist exchange.
Those who talk of “overthrowing” capitalism are determined to depict it as a system of government in a precise parallel with socialism, when in reality, capitalism is not a system in the ideological sense.
It is, if anything, an anti-system: the aggregation of human behaviour as it goes about fulfilling particular wants and needs. It can be described in anthropomorphic terms, such as “ruthless” or “benign” but of itself has no motives and no objectives. (Gordon Brown is more than usually fatuous when he insists that markets need to have “values”: only people have values, methods of exchange do not.)
There’s more goodness where those links go to.