A response to another blogLike many out there, I occasionally put my own name into an Internet search engine, just to see what pops up. The other day, while trolling through the Google listings “Jesse Harasta” I saw a link to a blog discussing a letter I wrote to the editor of the Press and Sun Bulletin (out of Binghamton, NY) in response to an earlier letter entitled “Capitalism Makes Lives Better.” In my letter (which the paper edited, shortened and named “Capitalism isn’t All Good”), I said that the earlier letter had been naïve in its assumption that unregulated the story of Capitalism was “a loving, blissful stroll through history.” His original post is here.
The author of the blog, a fellow named Drizzten, responded to my comment by accusing me of wanting to bring down the oppressive power of the state as a solution to the problems caused by capitalmism. “In wanting to fight slave labor, he wants to enslave people to the state.”
Now, granted, the published letter was very short (and even shorter than the original version I sent to the paper), but I felt that Dizzten had misrepresented me and made a gross misinterpretation of my beliefs. Graciously, however, he agreed to post my response to his comments and, if he feels the need, post his own rebuttal.
Like Drizzten, I believe in the inalienable liberties of human beings and believe that the state is one of the greatest sources of oppression in the world today. Daily, I am horrified and disgusted by the concentration of power in the hands of fewer and fewer individuals. These days, we are bombarded by news reports of warrant-less wire tapping, secret prisons, systemized torture and limitless detentions; the naïve (primarily Democrats in this case) seem to believe that this is merely the product of the current Bush Administration, but in fact the power of the government and especially the power of federal executive and bureaucracy have been growing continuously for decades. Democrat and Republican, all of the administrations and Congresses wage wars (the ultimate abuse of centralized power), increase secrecy and gather power to themselves. In my mind, the destruction of New Orleans was a powerful symbol of the misplaced trust that Americans have put upon uncaring, centralized bureaucracies and the disastrous effects that it can have (for more discussion on this, check out this essay on my blog).
However, the government is not the only source of centralized power in the world today and, especially in places where the central government is weak such as the Third World, corporations and private enterprise have become just as oppressive and even more unaccountable. What difference does it make to the young Chinese girl laboring incredible hours if she works for the central Communist government or if she is in one of the “free market zones” and works for a Western company?
By its nature, Capitalism is an economic system that works to concentrate wealth in the hands of the ruthless. Since wealth is a stand-in for power in our society (with wealth you have the power to do things you normally wouldn’t be able to), this is as much a concentration of societal influence as a Presidential mandate. And in our modern era of business-government cooperation, the line between economic and political power has been blurred into non-existence.
So what are we to do about it? Unfortunately, there is no simple answer as we have learned that so-called populist revolutions are too often rooted in the rhetoric of government and centralized leader-worship and serve to replicate the oppression they sought to remove. Our path instead is a much rockier, foggier one: to shape a society of equals (in every sense of the word: economic, social and political) out of the society of inequality. To do this, we should focus upon the local, on building our communities and creating organs of truly democratic expression. Will a perfectly equal society ever be achieved? I doubt it, but I believe that we will find that as we move closer, each step that we take will loosen the grip that authoritarianism has upon our minds and hearts and improve our lives and communities.
Drizzten, thank you for allowing me to respond with comments to your earlier post, I apologize for the length, but I feel that sometimes (like in a letter to the editor) complex ideas can never be given justice in a few lines.