Sunday, December 04, 2005

Brad Spangler on war, socialism and semantics

I encourage y'all to give Brad Spangler's new blog post titled "War, Socialism and Precision in Thinking" a good reading. He begins by stressing the difference between pacifism and the type of anti-imperialist position held by many war critics today. Switching over to the topic of socialism, Brad goes into an extensive dissection of corporate statism and the varying definitions of both capitalism and socialism in order to show where both the conventional Left and the "vulgar libertarians" go wrong in their understanding of the two isms.

Some people may lament the constant discussion of semantics, seeing it as a waste of time that diverts attention away from supposedly more important things. Brad's post shows why I must disagree with such sentiment. What is the point of action and the promotion of ideas if such things are rooted in imprecise understandings of other people and their positions? People are very rarely on the same page when engaging in political discussion, which is why some people can view the term "libertarian socialism" as being an oxymoron while others roll their eyes when hearing someone praise "free market capitalism" due to having a different idea of what capitalism is. As Brad puts it:
If “capitalism” is held as being genuine devotion to a free market, property rights, productivity and resulting prosperity — then clearly saving money (accumulating capital) is a “Good Thing(tm)”.

But if “capitalism” has nothing to do with a free market and is instead all about using the power of the state to craft market distorting privileges on behalf of a political class — then accumulation of capital by ordinary people becomes something mildly subversive to the established order and will be discouraged.

Clearly, capitalism[1] is not capitalism[2].

This also reminds me of the various conceptions of "property" that Proudhon discussed in "What is Property?" A condensed treatment of Proudhon's ideas on the subject by fictional character Hagbard Celine were included within the appendices of The Illuminatus Trilogy, and can be read here.


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