Friday, 31 March 2006

They really aren't out to get you, George

There's an interesting article in the London review of books this week by Slavoj Zizek. It quotes the Commandments of Liberal Communism (original from Technikart magazine):

1. You shall give everything away free (free access, no copyright); just charge for the additional services, which will make you rich.

2. You shall change the world, not just sell things.

3. You shall be sharing, aware of social responsibility.

4. You shall be creative: focus on design, new technologies and science.

5. You shall tell all: have no secrets, endorse and practise the cult of transparency and the free flow of information; all humanity should collaborate and interact.

6. You shall not work: have no fixed 9 to 5 job, but engage in smart, dynamic, flexible communication.

7. You shall return to school: engage in permanent education.

8. You shall act as an enzyme: work not only for the market, but trigger new forms of social collaboration.

9. You shall die poor: return your wealth to those who need it, since you have more than you can ever spend.

10. You shall be the state: companies should be in partnership with the state.

The author then goes on to say that people who adhere to these commandments (in whose ranks he counts Bill Gates and George Soros) are the real enemies of progress.

Now, one never likes to punctuate a well-crafted delusion, but sometimes they really are not out to get you, Slavoj. A major proponent of the capitalism is an evil conspiracy theory is George Monbiot, hence the title of the article: he makes the same error as the LRB writer, the mistake of anthropomorphising the system. So, George and Slavoj, there is no single entity which is the capitalist system. There is no smoke filled room full of oligarchs plotting the destruction of liberties and the enslavement of the world's workers. There are just (not very) rational economic actors, working within an economic system. The system can sometimes produce consequences most of us would agree are desireable, like increasing wealth; and sometimes ones that are less so, like the farrago that is most of the developed world's protection of its farmers at the expense the less developed countries. So let me add an eleventh commandment.

11. You must understand the system and its rules, for that determines everything that is possible. If you do not like what is possible, then you must strive to change the rules.

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