The First Russian Gas Pipeline to Germany

Natural gas—the fuel of modern prosperity—is now the lynchpin of geopolitical tussles: Russia is the largest producer of natural gas, while Europe is an ever-hungry market for reliable energy. An ideal commercial relationship, one would think. But geopolitics has intervened and things have taken many drastic turns—because the geopolitics of energy means using natural gas as a tool to influence political outcomes.

This interesting documentary film gives us a glimpse of the early days of the Russian supply of natural gas, when the then Soviet Union and Germany signed the 20-year “gas for pipes” agreement in 1970, in Essen, where Germany would supply the steel pipes, while Russia supplied the gas. The deal worth a billion dollars at that time. Adversaries could still do business in those halcyon days.

This film then goes on to show the prosperity brought to, what was then, West Germany and East Germany, by this easy and reliable energy supply.

By the time construction was completed, in 1973, from the Russian side, the pipes ran to the Czech border, from where a German pipeline took the gas further into Germany proper. This initial effort was greatly expanded over the years, with the Brotherhood Pipeline (completed in 1984) and later the Yamal-Europe pipeline (completed in 1996).

In other words, Siberian natural gas fueled the prosperity of Europe, because by 1985, some 20,000 kms of pipeline economically linked Europe and Russia. From the very beginning, this so-called “dependence” of Europe on Russian gas was a sore point for the USA.

Despite the many sanctions, Siberian natural gas still makes its way into many parts of Europe, since it is difficult to deny the reality of geography and the huge pipeline infrastructure put in place to facilitate supply.

The Nordstream pipelines 1 and 2 were the latest expansions of what is shown in this film, back in 1970. (NS1 was “mysteriously” blown up on September 26, 2022 although Seymour Hersh has explained away the “mystery”). Nordstream 2 still functions, but given geopolitical commitments, Germany no longer wants Siberian natural gas—in October of 2022, Chancellor Scholz refused Russia’s offer to resume shipment via NS2.

This Echo film was made by the Darer Corporation, a newsreel production company located in New York City. It was owned and operated by Stanley P. Darer (1934-2013). Interestingly, many of the Echo films do not carry titles, and begin in the middle of things, in the Classical manner (in medias res).

Ten Years of the Establishment of the Eurasian Economic Union

May 29 is the EAEU Day, because it was on this date in 2014 in the capital of Kazakhstan, Astana, that the signing of the Treaty on the Establishment of the Eurasian Economic Union by the presidents of Russia, Belarus and Kazakhstan took place. On January 1, 2015, the three states were already officially in the new union, with Armenia joining the next day and Kyrgyzstan in August. Until now, all five powers are in the EAEU. In the year of the decade since the establishment of the organization, the Republic of Armenia, which is now experiencing social and political upheaval, is the chair.

If we look at the historical retrospective, the timing of the creation, or rather the transition from the EurAsEC and the Customs Union to a more closely integrated union, was quite difficult. Ukraine, which was considered a candidate for membership in the EAEU as early as 2013, experienced a coup d’état in February 2014. After the referendum in Crimea and its return to Russia, our country was hit by sanctions from the U.S. and Western countries.

The first sanctions were imposed on March 17, 2014, and new ones have been introduced all the time since then. Their volume has now reached a record high compared to other countries.

On May 2, 2014, in Odessa, neo-Nazis, supported by the authorities, massacred and set fire to the Trade Union House, resulting in numerous civilian casualties. This was a clear signal of the point of no return. On May 11, 2014, referenda were held in the Donetsk and Lugansk People’s Republics on independence from Ukraine.

Undoubtedly, the United States was behind the process of Ukraine’s negative transformation. And the facts show that the coup was initiated precisely to prevent Ukraine from joining the EAEU. Hillary Clinton as US Secretary of State back in 2012 tried to criticize Eurasian integration trends, calling them attempts to recreate the USSR. “We are trying to find an effective way to slow down or prevent this process,” Clinton said at the time.

On November 29, 2013, Viktor Yanukovych refused to sign an agreement with the EU at the Eastern Partnership summit in Vilnius. In December, he signed the Russian-Ukrainian action plan, which envisioned a reduction in natural gas prices and Russia’s purchase of Ukrainian Eurobonds. But this plan never materialized. Ukraine was already engulfed in protests, where American emissaries were adding fuel to the fire.

Nevertheless, the EAEU has been established and is functioning. The Union is open for accession to any state that shares its goals and principles, on terms agreed by the member states.

The EAEU applies the Single Customs Tariff, unified customs regulation and administration, free movement of goods between the territories of the member states without customs declaration and state control (transport, sanitary, veterinary and sanitary, quarantine phytosanitary) except in cases provided for by the Treaty.

Within the Union, a common foreign trade policy is implemented (conclusion of agreements with third countries is possible only on behalf of the EAEU and its member states), common technical regulation is implemented, common sanitary, veterinary-sanitary and quarantine phytosanitary measures are applied. In addition, the “five” countries pursue a coordinated macroeconomic, industrial, agro-industrial, transportation policy, and work on the formation of a common digital space. A common labor market also functions on the territories of the Union’s member states.

On May 14, 2018, the Republic of Moldova received the status of an observer state to the EAEU, and on December 11, 2020 – the Republic of Uzbekistan and the Republic of Cuba.

In addition, free trade zones are in place with Vietnam, Serbia and Singapore, and negotiations are underway with a number of other states. The most active negotiations are underway with the Islamic Republic of Iran. The Russian and Iranian sides are optimistic about the results achieved.

In 2016, the decision of the Supreme Eurasian Economic Council, “On the beginning of negotiations with the Arab Republic of Egypt on the conclusion of a free trade zone agreement” was adopted. Six rounds of negotiations have been held so far.

On December 9, 2022, the Supreme Eurasian Economic Council adopted a decision to start negotiations with the United Arab Emirates on the conclusion of a free trade agreement. Two rounds of negotiations have already taken place in 2023 (on this issue.

It may seem strange that Syria is absent from the list of Arab states that are interested in establishing some kind of special treatment with the EAEU. This is probably due to the continuing conflict in this country. Although in July 2015, during a ministerial meeting in Damascus, Syrian Prime Minister Wael Al-Halki said that negotiations were underway with Russia to join the Eurasian Economic Union and the free economic zone. He said, “We consider it a boon and a strengthening of relations. We intend to develop trade cooperation.” Since Russia and Syria are allies and, in addition, Syria is home to a large number of Armenians, this stimulates mutual interest in EAEU integration.

In September 2017, Jordan signed a Memorandum of Understanding with the Eurasian Economic Union to promote and diversify trade between Jordan and the Eurasian Economic Union. And Morocco and the Eurasian Economic Union signed a memorandum of cooperation to strengthen economic relations and interaction in Rabat on September 28, 2017, indicating that EAEU countries view Morocco as a reliable partner and gateway to Africa and other regions with which the Kingdom has close relations.

On October 17, 2022 in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, Armen Arutyunyan, Director of the Agro-Industrial Policy Department of the Eurasian Economic Commission, and Maxim Protasov, Head of Roskachevo, met with Ahmed Saleh Ayad Al Hamshi, Deputy Minister of Environment, Water Resources and Agriculture of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. The parties discussed a wide range of issues of mutual interest, including the development of organic agriculture, ensuring food security, sustainable development of the agro-industrial complex in the context of climate change and others. They considered proposals to elaborate an international treaty between the EAEU and Saudi Arabia on the equivalence of organic agriculture systems to ensure free trade in organic products, to create a platform on the basis of the Commission to attract investments, to promote agricultural products and food produced in the EAEU on the markets of third countries.

In 2023, the interest of the EAEU and Saudi Arabia in expanding cooperation was confirmed. In general, Saudi Arabia is consistently ranked among the 15 largest consumers of EAEU agro-industrial products. According to data for 2019, in 2018, Saudi Arabia ranked 12th among all partner countries in terms of agricultural imports from the EAEU, with the best result (9th place) observed in 2012 and 2015.

The best result of the United Arab Emirates was 17th place (in 2017) among all partner countries to which the EAEU exports agricultural products, while Iraq had the 25th place (2015 and 2016). The remaining countries were among the top 100 buyers from the EAEU in 2018 (Oman 54th, Qatar 75th, Kuwait 93rd), with the exception of Bahrain (114th in 2018).

Insignificant volumes of agricultural products are imported from the Gulf countries. Thus, in 2018, the UAE ranked 75th among the countries – suppliers of agricultural products to the EAEU, Saudi Arabia – 121st, Oman – 162nd, Kuwait – 172nd, Bahrain – 176th. Iraq and Qatar did not supply agricultural products to the EAEU in 2018.

This indicates that these countries are more interested in receiving agro-industrial products from the EAEU, as they lack certain agricultural products due to the hot climate.

It should be noted that Arab economic and political analysts provide statistical data on the degree of progress achieved in the countries of the Eurasian Economic Union due to Russia’s contribution to the development of the region.

Undoubtedly, the main factor of other countries’ interest in interaction with the EAEU is the optimization of tariffs and mechanisms of trade and economic interaction through the creation of free trade zones and other special regimes.

Secondly, it is the same logistics, as Russia has now intensified a number of regional projects, such as the Northern Sea Route and the North-South international transportation corridor (it is worth recalling that in August 2023 the first train was sent from Russia via Iran to Saudi Arabia).

Third, these are joint investments and common projects. Since we are talking about a supranational association, through its structures it will be much easier to protect their capitals from undesirable political influence (which the U.S. and its satellites will try to do).

Fourth, there is the risk of increasing the toxicity of the dollar as a reserve currency. A number of foreign countries, possessing such assets, will want to diversify their investments, which can be done through new venture funds together with the EAEU or some innovative initiatives.

There is also an opinion that the purpose of participation in the EAEU may be different, so each country may receive different preferences depending on its participation and capabilities. It should be noted that the EAEU and China’s Belt and Road Initiative are still being linked, so this vector may also be of interest to other actors.

While it is tempting to wait and see what happens in the face of global political turbulence, it is clear that Russia retains a very strong position and that de-westernization has led to a transition to a new economic policy that is showing success. As the strongest member of the EAEU, Russia will seek to support its partners in the union, and this may be another good incentive for those who are still undecided about participation in the EAEU.

Of course, we need to look realistically at the processes taking place and adjust the agenda. Thus, based on the plans outlined earlier and the results achieved, we can analyze what needs to be done in the first place, what needs to be adjusted, and what makes sense to abandon altogether.

In December 2022, the Strategy for the Development of Eurasian Economic Integration until 2025 was signed in Minsk. If we compare theoretical calculations with practical solutions that have been implemented in a year and a half, we still need to work on the creation of joint financial and industrial groups and Eurasian transnational corporations. Especially for high-tech projects. Due to the sanctions on the Russian banking system, the launch of a common financial market is still far from being realized.

According to the Eurasian Economic Commission, the share of settlements in Russian rubles in the EAEU in 2023 rose to 81.3%. Over 10 years, this indicator has increased by 14%. The share of settlements in tenge also increased significantly – from 0.5% to 2.7%. At the same time, the share of settlements in U.S. dollars fell by 15% and now amounts to 11%. So the process of leaving the toxic currencies of dollar and euro continues.

The benefits of a common financial market should be felt by all citizens: so that “Mir” cards function throughout the EAEU and there are no problems with money transfers.

Access to public procurement is also an important topic that has not yet been resolved. Since there is still state protectionism in this area, which hampers mutual access of enterprises and companies of the EAEU countries to national public procurement systems and, consequently, to public procurement.

And some provisions, such as establishing a dialog with the EU and the European Commission, may need to be abandoned. The years of the SWO have shown what the current political elite in the EU represents. And the July 2014 elections to the European Parliament are unlikely to fundamentally change the situation. The same can be said about the OECD and the WTO, which are blatantly Western creatures. Conversely, deepening cooperation with ASEAN, the SCO, Mercosur, the African Union and other non-Western organizations should be stimulated and encouraged in every possible way.

Looking back, of course, it is important to correctly assess the mistakes made. It is no secret that the EAEU was modeled on the EU. However, a number of nuances were not taken into account. For example, ideology. Initially it was stated that the EAEU would pursue exclusively economic goals. But how can we talk about full-fledged integration if culture, identity, worldview, historical traditions and the same policy are not taken into account? Multi-vectorism can lead to the tearing of the country, as it happened in Ukraine.

Since all EAEU members were previously in a single space (the Russian Empire, then the USSR), there is a significant difference from the EU countries. In fact, we have reintegration, where all members retain their full sovereignty, and, in addition, according to the EAEU Charter, all decisions of the Supreme Body are taken by consensus. This is a big plus compared to the EU, where its members lose their sovereignty and everything is managed by European commissioners from Brussels.

It is, of course, about a new type of ideology for the EAEU, where we should avoid hackneyed political stamps and theories that have shown their failure. The development of such an adequate ideology, which would be actively demanded by all EAEU participants as a long-term and attractive strategy, is still necessary.

Leonid Savin is Editor-in-Chief of the Analytical Center, General Director of the Cultural and Territorial Spaces Monitoring and Forecasting Foundation and Head of the International Eurasia Movement Administration. This article appears through the kind courtesy of Geopolitika.

The Economic Personality

Personality and individual: Differentiation of Concepts

The concept of the “total laborer” as a source of economic history can be supplemented by the formula “economic personality.” Economic personality is a total (integral) worker. In this case, the focus is on the personality in its anthropological interpretation (primarily in the French school of Durkheim-Moss and the followers of F. Boas in the USA). Here, the personality (la personne) is opposed to the individual (l’individu), since the personality is something social, public, complex and artificially created in contrast to the individual, which is an atomic datum of a separate human being without any additional characteristics. The individual is the product of the subtraction of the personality from the person, the result of the liberation of the human unit from any ties and collective structures. Personality consists of the intersection of various forms of collective identity, which can be conceptualized as roles (in sociology) or as filiation (in anthropology). Personality exists and makes sense only in relationship to society. Personality is a set of functions, as well as the result of a person’s conscious and meaningful creation of his or her identity. Personality is never a given; it is a process and a task. Personality is constantly being constructed, and in the course of this construction the surrounding world is established, ordered or, on the contrary, destroyed and chaotized.

Personality is the intersection of numerous identities, each of which belongs to a species; that is, it includes an indefinitely large number of identities as aspects of them. A particular identity is a combination of these filiations (species), each time representing something original—since the number of possibilities within each species, and even more so the combinations of these possibilities, is unlimited. Thus, people use the same language, but they utter with its help many different discourses, which are not so original (as it seems sometimes to the person himself), but also not so predictably recurrent as in the case of a machine or even the signaling system of animal species. Also, identities consist of the overlapping of age, gender, social, ethnic, religious, professional, class, etc. identities, each of which has its own structure. Thus, identity is the intersection of structures whose semantics is determined by the structural context.

The individual is the product of external observation of the human individual, where the personal aspect is either unclear or removed altogether. The individual is thought of in isolation from structures and affiliations and is fixed only on the basis of his actual bodily presence, reactive nervous system, and capacity for autonomous movement. In a certain sense, the individual as a concept is best understood in behaviorist theory: in this theory, the person is black-boxed, and that which interacts with the environment is the individual in its prima facie empirical state. However, while empirically the individual is quite realistic, as a metaphysical concept it is purely nihilistic. Behaviorism claims that it knows nothing about the content of the “black box” and, moreover, that it is not interested in this content. In principle, this is a logical conclusion from the American philosophy of pragmatism. But just because the content is “not interesting” does not mean that it does not exist. This is very important: pure pragmatism, while refusing to be interested in the structure of the individual, still does so modestly and does not draw any conclusion from it about the ontology of what is in the “black box.” American pragmatism is therefore individualism only in part—in its empirical aspect. Radical individualism has different—purely English—roots and is associated with the idea of the elimination of all filial lines. In other words, individualism is built on the conscious and consistent annihilation of the individual, on its negation and on giving this negation a metaphysical and moral status: the annihilation of the individual is a movement toward “truth” and “goodness,” which means “toward the truth of the individual” and “goodness for the individual.

Here we see the line between indifference and hatred: American pragmatism is simply indifferent to the individual, while English liberalism and its universalist and globalist derivatives hate and seek to destroy it. The goal is to transform the individual from an empty concept obtained by subtraction into something real, in which the physical separateness of the singular being would interlock with the element of the metaphysical abyss (obtained by eliminating the individual and all the structures that ground it).

Economy of the Personality

After this explanation, it is easy to apply both concepts—personality and individual—to the economy. The integral (total) worker is precisely an economic personality, not an economic individual. Here integrality, which we characterize as the connection of production and consumption and ownership of the means of production, is supplemented by the most important characteristic: inclusion in social structures that have an organic nature. The integral worker lives (including production and consumption) in a historical and cultural environment, which offers him a branching set of collective identities. This set predetermines his language, clan, faction, place in the kinship system (C. Lévi-Strauss), gender, religion, profession, belonging to a secret society, connection with space, etc. In each of the structures, a person occupies a certain place, endowing him/her with appropriate semantics. And this is what determines his economic activity. The laborer (first of all, the peasant) works not just for survival or enrichment, but for many other—and much more important—motives arising from the structures that form his personality. The laborer labors because of language (which is also a kind of economy—an exchange of speech, greetings, blessings or curses), kin, gender, religion and other statuses. At the same time, labor also involves the whole person—in all the diversity of its constituent elements. In this sense, the integral worker in the process of farming constantly and continuously affirms personal structures, which makes farming a kind of ontological liturgy, creation, protection and renewal of the world.

Economic personality is a quite concrete expression of species properties, where these properties, having multiple levels, are combined in a complex and dynamic combination. If structures are common (although this commonality is not universal, but is determined by the boundaries of culture), their expression and affirmation in personality is always isolated: not only are the structures themselves different in some cases (for example, in the field of gender, profession, castes, where they are, etc.), but their moments are manifested with different degrees of intensity, purity and brightness. Hence, differentials arise, which make life unpredictably diverse: individuals reflecting combinations of common (adjusted for cultural boundaries) structures are always diverse, as they carry differently emphasized and combined elements of these structures. This is what allows us to consider society both as something uniform, permanent, and subject to a common paradigmatic logic, and as something unique and historical, since individual freedom is extremely great and can generate a myriad of situations.

Nevertheless, the society of the integral laborer as a whole is defined by the unity of the paradigm, where the main law is the domination of the individual as the basic gestalt.

This is the kind of society any traditional society is, where the sphere of economy is singled out as a separate rather independent sphere, distinct from the other sphere, which includes warriors, rulers and priests. It is important that warriors and priests do not participate directly in the economy and act as the Other, called to consume the surplus of the economic activity of the integral laborer. It is important that it is the surplus. If warriors and priests demanded something more than surplus (“the cursed part”, J. Bataille), the laborers would die of hunger and shortage, and this would entail the death of warriors and priests themselves. At the same time, in societies where there is no social stratification, the addressee of the destruction of the “cursed part” (excesses) are the spirits, the dead and the gods in whose honor the potlatch is carried out. The Russian word “lihva” is very expressive: it means something superfluous, as well as bank interest, and comes from the base “liho,” “evil.”

From this observation an important principle in the theory of integral toilers emerges: the labor community of integral toilers must be sovereign in the economic sense; that is, it must have complete autarky in every sense. In this case, it will be independent of the superstructure (warriors and priests), who can consume the “cursed part,” or they can be absent, in which case the “cursed part” will be destroyed by the integral laborers themselves in the course of a sacred ritual. Thus, the very prerequisite for the interiorization of the curse will be eliminated. And this interiorization of the curse is the split (Spaltung), which means capitalism.

Capitalism brings with it the splitting of the economic personality, its detachment from structures, that is, its depersonalization. This simultaneously leads to the de-secularization of the labor community, to its dependence on external factors, to the division of labor and to the economic curse: the integral worker (peasant) becomes a bourgeois, that is, an immanent consumer of the cursed part. From here comes the disintegration of the personal character of the economy and a change in the whole nature of the economy: from the economy as a sacred way of life in the context of personal structures to the economy as a way of accumulating material resources. According to Aristotle, this is the transition from economy (οἰκονόμος) to chrematistics (χρηματιστική). The personality is the central figure of the economy as a household. The individual is the artificial unit of chrematistics as a continuous process of enrichment.

Chrematic Individual

The model of capitalism is based on the view of society as a set of economic individuals. In other words, capitalism is not an economic doctrine of the household of personalities, but an anti-economic doctrine that absolutizes the chrematistic individual as a schematization of the egoistic activity of individuals. The chrematistic individual is the result of the split (Spaltung) of the economic personality.

Capitalism assumes that at the heart of economic activity is the individual who seeks enrichment. Not to the balance of the cosmic structure and the sacred element of the liturgy of labor (as an integral toiler), but precisely to enrichment as a monotonous process and an increase in asymmetry. This means that capitalism is the conscious desire to interiorize and cultivate the “cursed part.” This is exactly what the chrematist individual is—he seeks to maximize wealth, and this desire is reflected in the capitalism of desire. Desire here is depersonalized (hence M. Foucault’s “desire machine”), for it is not the desire of the personality, reflecting the structures of filiation, but the nihilistic will of the individual, directed against the structures as such. This chrematistic desire is the force of pure nihilism, directed not only against the personality, but also against the economy as such, and moreover, against man as a structure.

Capitalism destroys the cosmos as a sacred field of existentialization of a community of personalities, asserting instead a space of transactions between chrematistic individuals. These individuals do not exist because each particular person is still—even under capitalism—phenomenologically a person, that is, the intersection of collective filiation. But capitalism seeks to reduce this personal aspect as much as possible, which is only possible by replacing humanity with posthuman individuals. It is in the transition to posthumanism that the chrematistic desire reaches its culmination: the “damned part” realizes the implosion of the human that began with capitalism.

A perfect transaction is only possible between two cyborgs—neural networks that completely lack existentials and connection to personal structures.

But the cyborg is not introduced into the economy today. From the very beginning, capitalism has dealt with the cyborg, because the chrematic individual is the cyborg, an artificial concept obtained through the splitting of the total (integral) laborer. Both the proletarian and the bourgeois are artificial figures obtained by decomposing the peasant (the traditional third function) and then artificially folding the parts into two non-equilibrium sets, the urban exploited and the urban exploiters. Cyborg bourgeois and cyborg proletarians are equally individual and mechanistic at the same time; but the former are dominated by the liberated “accursed part,” while the latter are dominated by the dark mechanical fate of production rooted in the poverty and insignificance of matter. We become bourgeois and proletarian when we cease to be human beings, when we give up our personality.

Economic Eschatology and the 4PT

In the context of the overall structure of the Fourth Political Theory, we can speak of the eschatological structure of economic history.

In the beginning stands the economic personality, the integral (total) worker, which in the specifics of Indo-European societies (primarily in Europe) is represented by the gestalt of the peasant. The full-fledged personality is the peasant, who represents the aspect of man (in the broad sense of the Anthropos) turned to the element of the Earth. In the course of growing bread, the peasant goes through the mystery of death and resurrection, seeing in the fate of grain the fate of man. Peasant labor is an Eleusinian mystery, and it is important that Demeter’s gift to people, thanks to which they moved from hunting and gathering to agriculture (i.e., the gift of the Neolithic revolution), was bread and wine, an ear of wheat and a bunch of grapes. The peasant is a person of mystery, and the economy in its original sense was based on the mysteries of Demeter and Dionysus. These cults did not simply accompany peasant activity; they were this activity itself, represented paradigmatically. The Athenians considered a full-fledged person to be an initiate in the mysteries, and specifically in the Eleusinian mysteries—the mysteries of bread and wine, that is, in the peasant mysteries of death and new birth. This figure is the figure of the integral laborer.

The next point in economic history is the advent of capitalism. It is associated with the splitting of the economic personality, the disintegration of the unified image of the sacred toiler, and consequently with industrialization, urbanization, and the emergence of classes—the bourgeoisie and the proletariat. Capitalism postulates the chrematic individual as a normative figure, describing him as a symbiosis of animal and machine. The metaphor of the animal “explains” the will to survive and “desire” (as well as the predatory motivation of (anti)social behavior—Hobbes’ lupus), while rationality (Kant’s “pure reason”) is seen as the prototype of artificial intelligence.

This was implicit in early capitalism (the beginning of the New Age) and explicit in late capitalism (Postmodern). Thus, the integral laborer repeated the fate of grain once again, not in the structure of the annual rural cycle, but in “linear” history. However, the linear time of capitalism is a vector directed toward the pure element of death, which nothing follows and is fraught with nothing. The death of the New Age is death without resurrection, death without meaning or hope. And this vector of irreversible death, of annihilation, reaches its maximum at the moment of the appearance of the pure individual, as the culmination of capitalism as a historical stage. The pure individual must be the bearer of physical immortality, because there will be nothing in him that can die. There should be no hint of structure or filiation in him. He must be completely free of all forms of collective identity as well as existentialism. This is the “end of the economy” and the “death of the personality,” but at the same time the flowering of chrematistics and the immortality of the (posthuman) individual. The grain of the human rots, but in its place comes not a resurrected life, but a simulacrum, an electronic Antichrist. Capital is etymologically related to the head (Latin, caput), i.e., capital has historically been a preparation for the coming of artificial intelligence.

So, what is the economic aspect of the Fourth Political Theory that challenges liberalism in its final (terminal) stage?

Theoretically, we should argue for a radical return to the integral toiler, to the economic personality against the disintegrated capitalist “order” (or rather controlled chaos) and the chrematistic individual. This means radical deurbanization and a return to agricultural practices, to the creation of sovereign peasant communities. This is the economic program of the 4PT—the resurrection of the economy after the black night of chrematism, the revival of the economic personality from the abyss of individualism.

But we cannot ignore the bottomless scale of capitalist nihilism. The problem has no technical solution: capitalism cannot be corrected; it must be destroyed. Capitalism is not just the accumulation of the “damned part,” it is the damned part itself, its very essence. Therefore, the struggle against capitalism is not a competition for a more efficient way of life, but a religious eschatological struggle against death. Capitalism historically, or rather hierohistorically, Seynsgeschichtliche, is the penultimate chord of the Eleusinian mystery. The economy rots under the spud of chrematistics, the economic personality is ruptured by the individual, the element and structure of life is destroyed by the mechanics of electronic desire. But all this makes sense if we take economic history as a mystery. This is the last pre-dawn hour. Capitalism today has come to its last stand. The seal of the electronic Antichrist has been broken; everything is coming to light. Not just a crisis or a technical failure, we are entering the moment of the Last Judgment.

But this is the moment of the Resurrection. And for the Resurrection to take place, there must be a subject of Resurrection, that is, an initiate, a person, a peasant, a human being. But it is precisely this figure who dies in history. And it seems to be gone. It is already gone. And it is impossible to bring it back: the distance from the moment of innocence (traditional society) is irreversibly distant and grows so with each passing moment. But at the same time the distance to the final moment of Resurrection is shortening. And all bets are on the fact that what is destined to be resurrected will preserve itself until the final explosive thunder of the trumpet of the Archangel.

Therefore, in the end we see not just an integral laborer, a peasant, an economic personality, but an integrated laborer, not a grain personality, but a sprout personality, a bread personality, a wine personality. The peasant today is conscripted into the militia, his destiny in the last hour before dawn—the darkest hour—to become part of the economic army, whose goal is to defeat Death, to tame time again, to subjugate it to eternity. The Fourth Economic Theory cannot be another projection and fantasies of modernization and optimization. These are not our projections and fantasies; they are encoded and embedded in our imaginarium by Capital. We need to think personally, not individually, historically, not situationally, economically, not chrematically. It is not about building a better economy than liberalism; it is about how to destroy the “damned part.” Accumulated wealth is a gift from the devil; it will disintegrate into shards at the first crowing of the rooster. Only the gratuitous gift belongs to us personally; only the given, the donated, the freely given constitutes our patrimony. Therefore, the dream of the economy must be a knowingly resurrectional, resurrecting, dream of the Gift.

Alexander Dugin is a widely-known and influential Russian philosopher. His most famous work is The Fourth Political Theory (a book banned by major book retailers), in which he proposes a new polity, one that transcends liberal democracy, Marxism and fascism. He has also introduced and developed the idea of Eurasianism, rooted in traditionalism. This article appears through the kind courtesy of Geopolitika.

Featured: Farmers’ Lunch in the Field, by Vladimir Makovsky; painted in 1871.

On Gigantism: Against the Core Belief of Conventional Statecraft

Conventional wisdom holds that centralised control can yield efficiency gains without any noticeable downsides. It facilitates decision-making at scale. It opens up possibilities of horizontal integration, of drawing linkages between different phases of the distribution mechanism, to deliver a singular, more coherent offering. Going big{-er} is always better.

This is gigantism: the belief in the inherent value of aggrandising the scale of operations while concentrating control. Everything should ultimately be determined at a single locus of authority or, at least, as few as possible. Corporations operate along those lines, as do states and institutions therein.

The Hierarchy as an End in Itself

Gigantism defines every entity that handles its communication channels and decision-making processes in the form of a hierarchy. A vertical structure creates a built-in incentive—indeed drive—to diffuse uncertainty by means of imposing uniformity. Heterogeneity must give way to homogeneity. Plurality must be superseded by singularity. All shall be streamlined for the distribution mechanism of the vertical structure to function with as little friction as possible.

In a nutshell, gigantism is the ideology that underpins the hierarchical model of political, social, economic organisation. It is the set of rationalisations developed by the members of the hierarchy itself in pursuit of their model’s self-preservation, augmentation, and proliferation.

We can find gigantism as a fully realised ambition in the empires of yore as well as everywhere in our world. The Romans at the height of their reign, which can also be understood as the point in time when they fully realised and embraced the inherent propensities of imperialism, developed a system of absolutism that featured a single deity (the Christian God, the pantokrator or almighty), a single representative of said deity (the Church, headed by the Pope—a hierarchy par excellence), and a single sovereign or superordinate political office (the Emperor).

The Reign of Wealth as an Expression of Gigantism

First a definition: Platform: properly equipped basis for the development of new endeavours, applications. The set of prerequisites for a chain of functions.

The concentration of control as a necessary good also exists in the domain of economics, or rather in a subset of economistic thinking that exalts the corporation as the driver of all unmitigated blessings in the economy. Most industries in mature capitalist economies feature a two-tier system that is falsely considered the by-product of the unencumbered operations of the “free market”:

The platformarchs (platform owners, else rentiers). Large, typically multi-national, corporations that own the very infrastructure or means of access or essential ‘intellectual property’ in the given industry. They become the industry leaders and enablers. This is the economic elite and manifests as an oligopoly or de facto monopoly with strong, symbiotic ties with the domestic political establishment.

The platformzens (platform dwellers, else tenants). Smaller business entities that can only operate in the industry within the half-spaces left by the platform owners. They cannot compete with the platformarchs on equal terms due to their lack of ‘scale’. Platformzens typically perform ancillary functions to those of the {mono,oligo}-polistic interests. In cases where platformzens grow in size, they are outright bought by the platformarchs, essentially ending their autonomy and reinvigorating the two-tier system of capitalist business economics.

The reign of [concrentrated] wealth—plutocracy—is the political system that emerges from the fusion of the interests of the platform owners with those of the political elite. For that to be accomplished, the state apparatus must also be structured along the lines of gigantism, in order to be in a position to impose its corrupt will on the populace.

The Political Establishment Promotes Gigantism

Which brings us to the point of quotidian politics. Virtually every party across the political spectrum peddles a variant of gigantism. Their ideologies are imbued in imperialistic doctrine, litanies to the contrary notwithstanding.

The Contradiction of “Free Market Capitalism”

The neoliberal, else conservative, purports to support the free market, but is in fact in favour of state interventions in the interest of the economic establishment. They have no hesitation whatsoever to push through with draconian measures such as austerity for the masses coupled with excesses for the economic elite: “quantitative easing” which basically is free money for the banksters, bailing out banks or legislating in favour of oligopolies or de facto monopolies in the various sectors of the economy…

Here is the catch. There is a fundamental misconception that capitalism is all about forming an economic domain defined by the symmetry of power among its actors. Naive capitalists think that the terms “capitalism” and “free market” are interchangeable and practically the same. In fact, capitalism throughout its history is the gigantist ideology by which state interventions should be limited to the support of capital owners, which at scale is limited to the support of platformarchs.

I define it as a type of gigantism because the practice of pampering the economic elite presupposes a powerful state that can extract taxes from the masses, impose its will without much trouble, and implement measures in a uniform way. Consider for example, institutions such as that of an independent central bank that is practically immune to public scrutiny—like the European Central Bank or the Federal Reserve Bank of the USA. As such, the capitalist state shares close, nay, inseparable ties with powerful economic interests, forming a politico-economic oligarchy.

Furthermore, neoliberals or conservatives promote individualism, which is an ideology that greatly facilitates gigantism. You are but a decontextualised human. Your local community, your culture, mean nothing. You are just a factor of production that holds “human capital”—and all individuals are replaceable by each other.

Individualism creates precarious living conditions for everyone that is not part of the economic or political elite. Rootlessness makes us weak, keeps us divided and at odds with each other by forcing us to resort to our base instincts of surviving in the face of precarity.

And the capitalist suggests that this inherent asymmetry is just the level-playing field where the “invisible hand” (according to Adam Smith) of the market is allowed to work its magic. Madness! Or rather class consciousness that rationalises every hideous measure in the interest of the status quo’s preservation.

Ultra-Conservatives are Capitalists with a Different Rhetoric

For all intents and purposes, the ultra-conservatives are in the same camp as the neoliberals, at least insofar as gigantism of the capitalist sort is concerned. They just focus more on the promotion of traditional values: values that embed and embody the capitalist values of individualism and the deification of the amoral corporation.

They are explicit about wanting a paternalistic political order. The state as a cop and pimp. Their ideas of the homeland, public security, and the archetypical family are to be enforced by the all-mighty state apparatus—an assortment of bureaucrats that claims to know what is good for its subjects and has the means to impose its will: propaganda, security forces, mass surveillance… These initially keep the populace in submission and are eventually marshalled for the support of the domestic economic elite typically under the pretext of some patriotic cause of “protecting our own companies”.

Economic elites need only conform to the utlra-conservatives’ demands on the social policy front. A fairly trivial task, especially once social policy is reduced to a mere witch hunt against certain groups of immigrants. Otherwise, the balance of power and distribution of resources remain in tact.

The Self-Righteous Professional Central Planner

Social democrats are slightly different than capitalists, or so they think. Their starting point is the aggrandisement of the state architecture. The power elite should be omnipotent and omniscient, so as to have the means of forwarding whatever agenda of social reform. The typical social democrat is an exponent of technocracy, albeit one that conforms to the ideals of progressivism, however defined in any given context.

Perhaps without realising it, the social democrat believes in the essentials of capitalism. A powerful state that can enforce its edicts with ease. A state that can, in other words, manipulate every aspect of public life. A bureaucracy that can engineer social reform with the help of large corporations that control the means of production—the platformarchs.

Now combine that with the quintessence of “progressivism”: the notion that social reform should take place in an incremental fashion, as opposed to abolitionism. Progressives are satisfied with keeping the core of the system in tact. It is what gives them nourishment.

Make no mistake: “progressive” in this case seldom is about going forward and being enlightened. It concerns the management of the capitalist nexus of interests in a more overt and involved way compared to the deluded advocates of ‘free market capitalism’.

The social democrat is typically the one who toils to preserve domestic big businesses by means of subsidies, so that these may in turn stick around to employ people. This is their notion of “creating jobs”: keep the platformarchs happy, support the plutocracy and enhance it, so that the rest of society may perpetuate its precarious living. In effect, social democrats are desperate to reinforce the multitude of symbiotic relationships between public entities and private interests.

Think of all the laws that are being passed which expect from banks to hold more capital or from a handful of software giants to police the Internet. All in the name of the “average citizen”, as if the progressivist technocracy has any first hand experience of precarity!

In every field of endeavour, the self-righteous professional central planner imposes bureaucratic constraints that harm small private entities while ultimately reinforcing the dominion of the economic elite.

Their understanding of social policy presupposes the presence of large corporations and of state-business symbiosis. Big state, big capital, big labour unions, with the bureaucrat as the glue—the nasty goo—that keeps everything together.

Meanwhile, they may claim to be against individualism, but their exhortations tend to have the same effect as those of the neoliberal. Open borders, the idea that we are all just “humans” or “people”, enforced multiculturalism, quotas in the interest of ‘positive discrimination’ and other items from the social justice warrior’s agenda…

All converge at a vision of the human person as a rootless individual that can be moved around with ease and, more importantly, manipulated by the almighty state.

Communism is Neither about the Community nor the Commons

The communist wants a ubiquitous, all-knowing state, that directs intersubjective experience from a single command centre. Allusions to “the commons” are nothing but references to complete ownership of the means of production and governance by a state apparatus; a bureaucratic elite.

In practice, the communist is a louder social democrat. The differences between their beliefs are ones of degree, not category. Oh, they also have distinct circles of cronies. Same principle, new faces.

More importantly though, state ownership of all that can be owned produces a monopoly of power, which can then be distributed with ease among the technocrats that form the communist elite. The Soviet Union was such a kleptocratic dystopia, as is modern-day China.

No, such regimes do not constitute a deviation from the ideal communist polity. Rather, they are the natural outcome of the complete concentration of authority at a single locus of power.

The Three Scales of Modern Gigantism

The only noteworthy differences between gigantists qua gigantists concern the ceiling they place on the upward concentration of power.

  • Nationalists (nation-statists) want to concentrate control at the national centre.
  • Continentalists seek to do the same at the continental level (e.g. the EU).
  • Globalists wish to take things to the international domain, where a global bureaucracy will take charge (e.g. the UN).

One can identify such tendencies across the political spectrum, depending on the subject matter. The common denominator is gigantism.

Gigantism Detests Autonomy and Autarky

We may not live in a modern incarnation of the Roman Empire. Yet we still have to struggle against its greatest legacy. At every scale there is an oligarchy consisting of political and business elites.

For gigantists, politics is about the distribution of control and the management of interests that are detached from actual human communities. They loath distributed systems because they cannot manipulate them. And they dislike strong organic ties between people as these remain robust to the sense of rootlessness that gigantism preaches and thrives in.

The gigantist wants to think of abstractions as physical entities so as to reinforce their drive for the concentration of sovereignty. Hence the tendency to speak of states or nations as if they were individuals. “Europe needs”, “Germany wants”… Such language makes it easier to render things impersonal and to proceed to take power away from communities.

The faceless state and the impersonal corporation can work in tandem, while the ordinary fellow toils at the sweatshop in pursuit of some consumerist fantasy, else dies on the battlefield driven by patriotism. Either way, the promise of a better life post-death keeps them at awe—another expedient myth that formed part of the tenets of Roman totalitarianism.

Consumerism is the equivalent of a treadmill whereby we must ceaselessly work to reproduce our precarious lifestyle, while precarity ensures we always suppress our demands. Bad eating habits, poor health in general, a deviation from the simple and natural life, constant bombardment of {mis-,dis-}information, means that the consumer cum guinea pig is always subject to the machinations of the oligarchy—to the bureaucrats that peddle peanuts as welfare subsidies and to the economic elite that exploits their psychology by inducing in them the false needs that are characteristic of the insatiable consumerist behaviour.

The terra patria (homeland) is yet another abstraction else fiction that obscures the tyranny of the plutocracy by virtue of placing the exploiters and the exploited under a common denominator, ignoring social injustices altogether. The exploiter is depicted as “one of us”, conveniently disregarding the fact that their very conduct runs contrary to the conviviality and solidarity shared by organic communities (who truly identify in their fellows “one of them”). The tyrant’s cultural background, the language they speak, the religion they practice or worldview they hold, does not make their dominion any less odious.

Time for Re-Institution

There is no point in trying to fit into this system. We will always be struggling against its built-in propensity to engender elitism. We must enact reform at both the political and the personal level. To achieve that we must first combat rootlessness, which manifests as individualism, humanitarianism, racialism, and similar ideological constructs that decouple the human person from its natural and social habitat.

You are neither a decontextualised human nor a part of an imaginary homogenised whole. You have individuality but it is brought into being through your inter-subjective experience, which unfolds in your immediate community and locality. That is where you belong. That is what makes you, and your community as a whole, stronger. And that is where you may build your collective life in a spirit of genuine freedom; freedom from the control of gigantists.

The goal is to bring the locus of authority to the local level. We do not need some bureaucrat to decide for us, nor some politician in the capital city to forward the agenda of their corporate sponsor. The task must be to gain control of the means of production and governance within our milieu. We must own the land we live on. By owning our space, we must also take control of its politics. We literally have a stake in the community. We are a fraction of it.

Citizenship is not about a legal arrangement between the state and its subjects. It rather signifies the capacity of each of us as a member of the local community, as an owner and defender of its land, and as one among equals in terms of power within the political compact. This is the ideal of the citizen-homesteader-guardian.

A fully fledged revolution should not be ruled out. However, we must not let that be an obstacle to gradual-yet-inexorable change. Reform is also about “small, continuous victories” as I like to call them.

We start by changing our ways and leading by example. For instance, we boycott industrial loaf and switch to eating real bread that is produced locally. We organise events where we help our neighbours and friends install free/libre software on their computers. We want to liberate them from the shackles of corporations that spy on them and try to extract profit and ultimately power from their entire computing experience. In a similar fashion, we prepare group activities where we instruct our fellow citizens best practices for cultivating their land, preparing their food, raising their kids, etc. in a manner that is sustainable for the locality, the community, the surrounding ecosystem.

We must strengthen the intimate link between locality and community through such forms of activism. The objective is to put an end to urbanisation (and its concomitant rootlessness) by re-establishing the agrarian model with the help of technology and the latest scientific breakthroughs. In this regard, we must share knowledge about sustainable agriculture, ecosystem-friendly ways of water management, the importance of cultivating bacteria (benign microorganisms) for the purposes of gastronomy and land preservation, and the like.

Ecosystemic consciousness, a frugal and natural modus videndi, is not merely about being in peace with the rest of nature. It constitutes a direct opposition to the interests of gigantism that seek to control the food chain. We fight against chemicals, pesticides, patented crops—patents and artificial scarcity in general—, and the complex of corrupt politics and big business behind them.

At the level of ideas, we must cultivate the virtues of locality and community. Localism is about fighting for control within the very space we occupy. Communitarianism is about strengthening the ties between us at the inter-personal level. Our answer to gigantism is a distributed system built around local communities: an organic polity.

Protesilaos Stavrou is a Greek philoospher who lives in the hills of Cyprus. He also teaches and coaches privately.

The Real Bread Paradigm

You too can help reform the world

We must stop with our busy schedules and think things through for a while. Our choices as consumers have a profound effect on how the economy works. You keep buying a product, then the company selling it grows stronger. Lower your demand for it and the producer has to adapt accordingly or go out of business.

You as an individual control a fraction of the total power consumers can wield. So if you alone change your ways, nothing noticeable will happen. But if you can coordinate your efforts with your local community or people online, things will start moving.

This is another way of thinking about the re-institution of society. Not everything needs to be done by politicians at the national or supranational level. We too can enact reform in a bottom-up, gradual, sustained and more resilient way.

This is Not Just about Bread

Allow me then to introduce you to the idea of real bread and why preferring it will have far-reaching implications on economic organisation. We want to fight against large corporations that seek to control food supplies. We also wish to strengthen our local lifeworld: give work to our neighbours, engender a sense of belonging to our immediate locality. And we wish to improve our health by eating food that has no preservatives, artificial flour conditioners, sugar. Gaining control over our health is a parallel struggle against the interests of large pharmaceuticals and their assignees.

The items you buy on the supermarket labelled as “bread” are anything but. These are bread-like flour products enhanced with a mixture of chemicals. The intention is to maximise efficiency for factory scale production at the expense of quality, both in terms of taste and health. These products include a series of dubious additives that no average consumer can identify and that no one ever keeps on their shelf: propionic acid, sodium lactate, calcium propionate, acetic acid esters of mono and diglycerides of fatty acids…

The industry has a number of incentives for using those:

  • Accelerated leavening to speed up production.
  • Rapid adjustments to the dough’s texture to ease the pressure on the machinery that does the ‘kneading’.
  • Enduring soft touch, so that the loaf gives the false impression of freshness even days after baking.
  • Addictive—yet still poor—flavour.

The immediate effect of the massive supply of fake bread is to alter the expectations of consumers. They are made to believe that this is the genuine food people would always eat. So they buy from the supermarket or suppliers who only care about short-term profits. The small bakery cannot compete at that level. It lacks access to the machinery and the additives, or can only get them at a premium. As such, there is a built-in tendency of the system to concentrate power at the top. It becomes oligopolistic, as with most other sectors in developed economies.

Small and Confident Steps Forward

Industrial loaf favours big business, which means that their creditworthiness improves in the banker’s eye. With cheaper credit comes more R&D, more market manipulation, more lobbying, with the ultimate end of re-invigorating this cycle. All at the expense of our health, the erosion of our local communities and sense of belonging with our neighbours, and indeed our power as citizens and consumers.

Instead of lamenting the inertia of politicians, let us take the initiative. I suggest this three-fold course of action everyone can follow or support:

1. Bake your bread. Start by reading on how to make real bread at home. Search for the simplest recipe. You only need water, flour, and yeast. Perhaps add some salt. Nothing else is necessary. Try baking your own bread for a while. Get a hang of it to understand how the process unfolds. I have been doing so for more than a year—the results have always been vastly superior to fake bread, even on first attempt.

2. Inform your community. Offer your friends some of your produce. Tell them about the merits of real bread and why they should never buy industrial loaf. Also explain to them how didactic and therapeutic the experience of making bread can be. You learn to take things in, slow down, be patient, more deliberate. Basically the opposite of the busy and boisterous archetype that modern capitalism wants you to conform with.

3. Help establish a support network. While always talking about real bread, make sure you identify like-minded people. We need to build networks of support. To share information and enlighten the public. Also to point consumers to their closest real bread bakery or cooperative venture.
I am at stage two right now. Trying to convert people over to real bread. In the meantime, I am learning to make sourdough so that I may eliminate my dependency on dry yeast. My hope is to make an even better product, something that is more distinct, more genuine.

People First

This all translates into political action. I am making a stand against the powers that be on this front (just like I do on many others, e.g. boycott all sorts of food brands, partake in free/libre software, de-google my life, reject social media, etc.). I am actively choosing communitarianism and togetherness with my fellow people over individualism and rootlessness. And I am making a case of how to use knowledge for the greater good, instead of taking advantage of others.

If there is enough momentum behind this initiate we will see tangible results. Our health improves as our food gets better. We no longer take in all those dubious additives. With a more robust constitution, comes a decreased dependency on medicine, doctors, and the like. Let us make the big pharma complex at least a bit smaller. Meanwhile, we support our community, give job to people we know in person, to those who would never be able to compete against fake bread. By offering employment opportunities, we reduce brain drain—we should not be immigrants for all our life as per the interests of the plutocratic elite.

Real bread cannot be coerced: it is an art that takes skill and patience. The process of making it will always be involved. Not everyone needs to bake their own. What we do require though, is to cooperate. Changing our ways is the first step to upsetting the establishment. I firmly believe in the importance of incremental improvements to one’s life, whose cumulative effect is a reformative impulse on institutions. I call them “continuous, small victories”. We need lots of them—all of us together—to make an impact in our world.

Protesilaos Stavrou is a Greek philoospher who lives in the hills of Cyprus. He also teaches and coaches privately.

Featured: Baking Bread, by Engels Kozlov; painted in 1967.

Capitalism and Morality: A Conversation with Jayant Bhandari

Capitalism and the West have long been inseparable. In order to understand this special relationship a little better, we recently had a fascinating discussion with Jayant Bhandari whose area of expertise is investment in various sectors of industry, especially natural resources. Mr. Bhandari brings an important blend of experience and wisdom that veers past the usual nostrums that we are often forced to hear. He has published widely on economics, investment, culture and the question of liberty.

Mr. Bhandari also organizes and runs, “Capitalism & Morality,” an annual seminar on freedom. Further information about his work may be found on his website.

The Postil (TP): Your project of “Capitalism & Morality” is a very interesting one. Could you please give us a description of it, and what led you to start it?

Jayant Bhandari (JB): My first flight and trip outside India was to the UK in 1991. Though I often felt hungry while living there, those 20 months were the best of my life. I experienced liberty and respect, witnessing the harmony with which people worked. From my perspective, it was a well-oiled machine. People walked around unmolested, unafraid of those in power. The constant dynamic of the oppressor-subservient relationship I was accustomed to in India was nowhere to be seen among the native English. People did their work without asserting power or asking for bribes.

People in the UK were sophisticated and knowledgeable about their work areas, unlike in India, where people didn’t pursue further learning or reading after leaving university. In India, education was viewed not as a means to learn skills or provide services but as a tool to acquire wealth and power. Anyone with even a slight amount of power was bound to flaunt and abuse it.

In the UK, people openly and freely engaged in conversations without the pressure of being proven correct. They sought truth, a concept alien to me, as discussions as matches to be won. There, I began to grasp the meaning of “truth” for the first time.

I was surrounded by immense prosperity and well-being, shocking me for decades. Could all that wealth indeed be possible? I had only a superficial glimpse of the UK before I moved there. With time, I would discover the reservoir of virtues inherent in Western civilization beneath the visible surface.

In the society where I grew up, moral values held no significance. People could not distinguish between sins and virtues, and the larger society admired individuals who engaged in criminal activities and evaded consequences.

Without foundations in objectivity, reason, and morality, India was so dysfunctional or non-functional that I often say that any Indian organization with two people has one person too many. Everything was a show-off, with “might is right” as the operating principle.

I was often amazed at how the UK worked. The authorities were not predatory; weak, disabled, or older people were respected and helped rather than preyed upon. Even children and beggars were treated with respect. I say “even” because in India, the weaker you are, the worse you are treated. Disabled and weak people, widows, orphan girls, and boys were labeled as such and exploited without guilt or shame.

In the UK, men and women were respectful to each other. In India, “happy smiley families” is cynically used to describe families that maintain a façade of niceness while being bloodthirsty. Having grown up in this environment, I was so accustomed to this hypocrisy that I didn’t consider families could be different in the West.

It took me a couple of decades living in the West to realize that families could have decent, happy, and mutually loving relationships. The realization that love could be anything other than physical marked a paradigm shift for me.

My stay in the UK exposed me to the essence of civilization or at least set me on a path to a deeper understanding. It made me aware of the humanistic values that must underpin any civilization. I was awed by the honesty, integrity, honor, fairness, and empathy I witnessed.

I was trusted by people in the West, quite in contrast to India, where no one trusted anyone. In India, trusting someone was seen as foolish, and others would readily label you as such if you made that mistake.

Later, for work and to learn, I traveled extensively worldwide. I have lived in 7-8 countries and visited a hundred. I was driven to understand what distinguished prosperous societies from those in wretched conditions. I extensively researched this topic, delving into a wide range of literature, including new-age books that erroneously claim that poor people are happy even in their drudgery—despite such claims, India consistently ranks as one of the most stressed countries in the world.

I have realized that what the West possesses is unique, something distinct from the rest of the world: a culture of honor and reason intertwined with Christianity. Westerners possess a unique ability to remain rooted in truth and utilize it as a fulcrum to assess facts. Many who grow up within this system often assume their values are universal. However, the truth is far from it; much of the world sees no issue in being envious and covetous. Sins proliferate in their hearts, while virtues remain elusive to them.

In my seminar, I aim to underscore the greatness of Western civilization, the only civilization I have known and come to admire. Capitalism, the economic branch of civilization, is often defined overly simply, mechanistically, and linearly. However, capitalism requires a society with a solid moral foundation, as I have nuanced so far. Ethical values must be instilled and internalized by individuals and integrated into our social and economic relationships.

TP: As you know, “capitalism” and “morality” are often seen as being incompatible categories. How do you understand “capitalism?”

JB: As I have mentioned, morality, reason, and honor are inherent in the concept of capitalism. However, many people perceive capitalism as a system driven by unrestrained greed, akin to the Wild West, where certain individuals have the right to exploit the underprivileged and the weak. For these individuals, money devoid of values is all that matters. This distorted version of capitalism is often termed “crony capitalism,” which is, in essence, an anti-concept. It unfairly tarnishes the reputation of capitalism, especially in the minds of those who do not delve deeply into the matter.

The very term “crony capitalism” is deceptive, juxtaposed with the seemingly benign term “socialism.”

Most people fail to delve deeply enough to recognize how their base instincts are exploited for manipulation. Our emotions and primal instincts are deeply ingrained, exerting immense pressure that renders our reasoning capacity malleable and highly vulnerable. Constantly seeking rationalizations, our animalistic instincts and primal desires yearn for expression by any means necessary. Invariably, emotions prevail over reason. Nothing is more cathartic than discovering a gap, a loophole—using the language of software—in our civilizational values to indulge our sinful nature.”

People are infused with certain emotions through propaganda, marketing, sloganeering, and soundbites, all disguised as virtuous cover-ups and rationalizations for their envy and covetousness. This serves as the foundation for their disdain towards capitalism. This hypocritical approach is even more insidious than raw envy because the believer becomes entrenched in his narrative, preventing them from ever examining their subconscious.

Some individuals have turned their sugar-coated sinful nature into a profession. These are the so-called do-gooders, the modern-day Robin Hoods who believe they know better how others should live or use their money. Scratch beneath their veneer of virtuosity, and you’ll find a lust for power and a desperate desire to control other people’s money.

There is a reason why our base desires should be channeled appropriately or restrained from the outset. Sins and virtues are not inherent in the universal firmament; they require continual reminders and conscious awareness to ensure we remain vigilant in recognizing them. We must be reminded regularly of the actions we should adamantly refuse to engage in. Otherwise, we risk falling into rationalizations, as often seen in the behavior of so-called do-gooders.

In essence, those who blame capitalism—within the detailed definition I provided earlier—for being regressive and sinful, ironically, often project their own character flaws onto others.

The question remains: Do systems of exploitation, abuse of power, and sadism exist in the world? Sadly, this is how most of the world is run, reflecting our original, natural state of existence. In at least half of the world—Africa, Latin America, the Indian subcontinent—oppression is so rampant and the law of the jungle so prevalent that those who grew up there cannot conceive of a moral system. This included me. This worldview handicapped me from understanding the meanings of certain words and concepts. As I mentioned earlier, I had a skewed understanding of the word “truth.” Similarly, before arriving in the UK, I believed that “socialism” meant the power to abuse and exploit others.”

Virtually all of the oppressed world claims to be socialist or communist, with their leaders often portraying themselves as do-gooders. However, the only places where exploitation and abuses are minimized are the capitalist nations of the West and East Asian countries like Japan, Korea, Taiwan, Hong Kong, Singapore, and, increasingly, China. These countries have adopted institutions and social behaviorism modeled after the West, leading to their relative stability and prosperity.

If a society lacks morality, the notion that an external structure like a socialistic government can enforce morality is logically fallacious. Governments, at best, arise from within their people, although they may manifest in psychopathic forms with far less accountability.

While some individuals mistakenly believe that the capitalist system offers unrestricted freedom, this notion is fundamentally flawed. Actions that curtail the liberties of others through fraud, oppression, or theft directly contradict the principles of the free market. To truly grasp the concept of the free market, one must understand its inherent complexity, wherein individual actions are intricately interwoven with transactions among people.

The essence of the free market lies in its universality—it can only truly be free if it ensures freedom for everyone.

As a corollary, the free market can exist only among morally evolved people. The degree to which people are amoral or immoral creates fissures for psychopaths to emerge into positions of power and tyrannical governments to emerge. Expecting such socialists or communists to do anything except predation is a fool’s errand.

It’s worth reflecting on the cultural evolution ignited in England during the Industrial Revolution. This era ushered in a surge of prosperity that left the rest of Europe bewildered. While the inventions existing for centuries played a role, the true catalyst lay in the invisible workings of capitalism and its underlying social and moral values. The English harnessed these inventions for societal betterment, guided by principles of fairness, respect for contracts, and honor. These values served as the bedrock that harmonized society’s intricate workings, though it’s important to acknowledge the generations of turmoil that also ensued from this transformative period.

Capitalism transcends mere economics; it fosters a symbiotic relationship with meritocracy, honor, and other human virtues. Through this synergy, capitalism facilitates a continuous refinement of society, as evidenced by Europe’s historical evolution over time. Even those who fail to understand or respect moral values must act them out in such a system.

Capitalism refines and inculcates moral values in society.

In societies lacking moral evolution, kleptocracy and a dog-eat-dog mentality prevail. Some argue for enforced socialist structures in such contexts to hinder wretchedness, predation, and degradation. This is very idealistic and detached from reality. Unfortunately, there is no easy remedy for morally backward societies, condemning them to a wretched existence. Whatever you do, their economic and social relationships and law and order would mirror the moral impoverishment of such societies. Moreover, imposing socialism would exacerbate the situation, providing opportunities for even worse psychopaths to ascend to power, as evidenced by the post-colonial experiences of the Third World countries. Such a system would institutionalize predation and foster citizen apathy and fatalism due to the lack of incentives for self-improvement.

The only hope for morally impoverished societies lies in establishing a benevolent dictatorship supported by an army of ethically strong bureaucrats. This is only possible through colonization. The British, French, Germans, and Portuguese should never have left sub-Saharan Africa, India, and elsewhere. Despite centuries of efforts by colonizers and Christian missionaries to awaken these societies, success was limited. As it stands today, the only future I see is that the Third World countries will fall apart and devolve into Taliban-like systems, which will be an improvement on their current so-called socialism. Over centuries and millennia, some may organically evolve into civilizations, but the prospects are dim for most.

Not too long ago, I advocated for the end of drug prohibition, the legalization of prostitution, and the open expression of one’s sexuality. However, witnessing the consequences firsthand in places like Vancouver, where I have spent much time, has led me to reconsider. With the increasing legalization of drugs, crime has surged, and more individuals have become unhinged and dependent on society. The availability of drugs has made it easier for them to be pushed onto vulnerable individuals, including children.

One might argue that within capitalism, as long as transactions are conducted fairly and with consent, the availability of drugs, prostitution, and other vices should not be restricted. However, we must acknowledge that even seemingly victimless sins can have detrimental effects on society as a whole. Prostitution often breaks apart families, while drug use fosters dependence on society’s resources.

A crucial aspect of capitalism is the existence of civil society, along with institutions of liberty and social opprobrium associated with unethical behavior. Those who envision capitalism as a lawless, do-as-you-please environment have not fully grasped its complexities.

TP: And “morality” first necessitates transcendence; in other words, where do you base “morality” that can then work alongside capitalism?

JB: As I mentioned earlier, morality is intrinsic to capitalism. We are all driven by base, primal, animalistic desires that often override reason unless tempered by moral consciousness. Discipline and self-control are essential precursors, necessary to restrain and direct our base desires toward morally right actions rather than succumbing to emotionally attractive impulses.

The emergence of moral consciousness marks the beginning of civilization. Europe is a prime example, undergoing millennia-long processes that intertwined Greco-Roman philosophy, a culture of honor, and Christianity. This amalgamation was a transcendence, a pivotal shift from mere animals to fully realized human beings. Similarly, Japanese, Chinese, and Korean societies developed honor cultures that enabled them to adopt positive aspects of European civilization.

However, much of the world remains oblivious to these civilizational values and instead indulges in hedonism and materialism, relegating themselves to savagery and barbarism.

TP: Since “Wokeism” is also a “moral” project, there is also therefore “woke capitalism,” where all the mega-corporations push progressivism as their “morality.” How are we to separate “Woke morality” from your own project?

JB: I don’t see it that way. “Woke capitalism” is an oxymoron. Values are essential for accumulating both philosophical and financial capital. Wokeism has non-values of hedonism and virtue signaling. It has fantastic similarities with Third World non-cultures. It embodies a regression, a departure from civilizational constraints towards a feral existence.

Wokeism is repulsive and fundamentally anti-civilization. It is inherently amoral and leads inevitably toward savagery and barbarism. Woke people might look cute and admirable only within the confines of a civilized and prosperous society that bears the costs and burdens of their ideology.

There is a reason why all religions disdain hedonism. Initially, wokeism appears innocuous, even appealing, but left unchecked, it becomes increasingly perverse. Like termites, it will eat away the civilizational innards of the West.

Wokes are often associated with leftist ideologies. It’s worth considering what Stalin or Mao would have done with them—they likely would have been among the first sent to the Gulag.

At first glance, wokes may appear affable and non-threatening. They might engage in peaceful protests or civil disobedience, occasionally inconveniencing others by blocking roads. However, they don’t pose direct harm like terrorists. They seem to care about poor people and the environment. They might smoke a joint and then immerse themselves in a pleasant feeling. They express their sexuality freely, unrestrained from societal expectations.

Wokes have employed political correctness and cancel culture to shut out free speech and manipulate language to neutralize social opprobrium and effectively alter societal standards, all to steer society into following their feral ways.

I trace the emergence of wokeism to the 1960s, particularly when the hippies began traveling to India. The Beatles, in particular, played a significant role in popularizing India as a mystical land imbued with spirituality. For visitors coming from disciplined societies with strong honor codes and civilizational constraints, the Indian experience was cathartic. India is chaotic and has no civilizational boundaries. The visitors to India partook in drugs and an ecology of no dos and don’ts. The money they brought from the West went far, further enhancing their sense of freedom and euphoria.

These visitors did not engage in societal life in India, thus avoiding exposure to the less glamorous aspects of paganism and moral relativity. Their experience was akin to visiting a pub on a Friday evening and being surprised by the friendliness of the people there—without experiencing the less pleasant aspects of those same individuals. It was a selective encounter with freedom and liberation, divorced from the broader context of societal realities.

Catharsis is not spirituality.

For an Indian, however privileged or well-placed, India is an unmitigated hellhole—a cesspool of corruption, savagery, and barbarism characterized by the absence of honor, values, civilization, and, ironically, freedom. This grim reality starkly contrasts the romanticized view of India experienced by the hippies. The consequences of wokeism, as seen through the lens of Indian society, reveal a disturbing truth. I recommend watching a documentary, The Gods of New Age, to gain an insight into the insidious effect of seemingly benign belief systems.

Over time, woke beliefs have permeated deeply and widely in society. Today, the notion of diversity, inclusion, and equity (DIE) has become ubiquitous. It’s no longer confined to mega-corporations; even smaller companies and family gatherings must pay lip service to these principles under the threat of cancellation. Banks and other service providers may refuse to cater to individuals whose views they find objectionable. This is their way of marketing themselves as chivalrous to get more clients and business. This money-centeredness, which confuses everyone, including themselves, in the garb of virtue-signaling, is not capitalism.

I envision a capitalist as akin to the heroes depicted in Ayn Rand’s books—willing to shrug and risk losing everything for their values.

Wokeism, if seen for what it truly is, emerges as fundamentally anti-meritocratic. This ideology is eroding our corporations, even impacting safety-critical industries like Boeing. It’s concerning to ponder the compromised state of their organization, where individuals lacking merit may have risen to top positions, and subcontracting decisions may prioritize factors other than quality.

Wokeism and the anti-meritocratic order it engenders will prove to be the death kneel of Western civilization. As termites do, it will eat away the innards of the West.

TP: Many countries deploy capitalism in differing ways; for example, China’s use of capitalism has led to different results than, say, India where capitalism seems to have only created greater chaos and a deeper divide between the rich and the poor. How would you explain this dynamic? Does this mean that capitalism is not good for all nation-states?

JB: I am a frequent visitor to India and China. Chinese banks open until late in the day and even on holidays. Chinese want my business. If they don’t have what I want, they will find a way to provide it. There is a huge emphasis on children’s education, their extra-curricular activities, and developing them into well-rounded human beings. While I may not always agree with the methods employed, I admire the determination and willpower driving China’s rapid economic growth and its aspirations toward becoming an educated and well-rounded society.

During my visits spanning the last two decades, I’ve witnessed remarkable progress in China, both economically and culturally. The country has become notably more prosperous, sophisticated, and environmentally conscious, leading to greater well-being and happiness among its people. Once marred by pollution and environmental degradation, Chinese cities have radically transformed. Rivers once littered with animal carcasses are now actively maintained, and the air quality has significantly improved.

The Chinese are remarkably eager to learn from foreigners, often approaching them to practice English and showing a keen interest in emulating aspects of Western, Japanese, and Korean cultures. Lee Kuan Yew of Singapore, whom I consider the greatest statesman of the last century, was pivotal in guiding Deng Xiaoping in establishing effective systems and institutions. This influence is evident in their public transportation system, which resembles Singapore’s. Today, traversing the highways of China can evoke the feeling of being in the USA or Canada, a testament to their capacity for rapid adaptation and transformation.

Over time, I’ve noticed significant changes in Chinese society. There’s been a noticeable decline in behaviors like spitting on the streets, with people increasingly adhering to norms like lining up. Contrary to the narrative often portrayed by the international media, I’ve witnessed instances of Chinese citizens actively fighting for their rights with police and government authorities. While openly challenging the legitimacy of the CCP may be risky, it’s essential to recognize that no country is perfect, and comparisons should not be based on an idealized notion of perfection. Although political conversations are not openly conducted, it’s worth questioning whether widespread political activism, as seen in the West, is necessary in a society where many individuals may lack awareness of political developments.

During my visits to China, I’ve witnessed firsthand the flourishing free-market economy. Everything seems readily available, from abundant fruit and groceries to a wide range of goods and services. What’s more striking is the remarkable improvement in quality across the board compared to my visits over the past years. It’s evident that people take pride in their work and are committed to providing high-quality services, reflecting the dynamism and vitality of China’s economy.

While China lacks some of the philosophical and moral values of the West, its day-to-day operations reflect a strong adherence to capitalism, sometimes even surpassing that of the West. It’s conceivable that China will gradually absorb more Western values, aided by the corrective interactions inherent in capitalist systems.

India does not follow capitalism. It is a wretched hellhole, wallowing in poverty, sadism, mysticism, irrationality, depravities, exploitation, and degradation. I would not have used these words had I seen India improve. It continues to worsen with time, with its institutions now hallowed out and with utterly corrupt and, worse, braindead people manning those.

The Indian mind is ossifying. It is becoming increasingly xenophobic, anti-minorities, parochial, mystical, irrational, and uncivilized. India is dominant in the list of the world’s most polluted cities. Ironically, it became polluted even before industrialization started.

Indians don’t set high standards for themselves and ridicule those who do. Indians find shortcuts at the cost of quality and safety. In an economic transaction, they think in terms of transferring money from your pocket to theirs—any value they create is incidental.

The concept of philosophy and ideas is missing in India. If you discuss ideas, people laugh at you. People are incredibly money-minded and materialistic. When they grow more prosperous, unlike in China, they become even less compassionate and more sadistic. When given higher positions, the lower-caste people exploit in ways that the higher-caste couldn’t even dream about.

India does not have capitalism. I call its system chaos-ism or feral-ism. So dysfunctional it is that even socialism would be a vast improvement. Alas, India is continuously getting worse. Society is disintegrating, and the institutions that the British left behind have been hallowed out. India will continue to regress towards its pre-colonial days.

I have no issue with a divide between the rich and poor as long as people are not denied opportunities and the institutions treat them fairly, which includes letting them go hungry if they refuse to pull their weight. Ironically, when poor people get into a victim mentality, their low position in life solidifies. I have yet to meet a German, a Japanese, or a Japanese-American who complains about what the USA did to them during World War II. Winners move on in life, which is why Germany and Japan have become one of the most prosperous nations in the world and Japanese-Americans among the most assimilated people in the US society.

Unless wealth disparity exists within a legitimate institutional framework that is not predicated on class, caste, racism, sexism, or affirmative policies that perpetuate new forms of bigotry, there is no incentive for individuals to strive for improvement. The implementation of redistribution and welfare systems in the West has led to a decline in values such as self-reliance, honor, and the pursuit of excellence. Instead of fostering a culture of self-improvement and aspiring to higher values, reliance on welfare programs contributes to a decaying sense of individual agency.

At the heart of capitalism lies morality, which gives rise to institutions built on principles of liberty, justice, and contractual integrity. Societies lacking in ethics see the proliferation of tyrannical and predatory systems. Attempts to enforce top-down values in such societies backfire as institutions adapt to underlying moral deficiencies, exacerbating societal issues.

In essence, artificially enforced institutions can become distorted and work against their intended purpose, leading to outcomes that contradict their original design. While this perspective may seem unconventional to modern Western sensibilities, many parts of the world find structures resembling the Taliban’s governance to be natural, sustainable, and equitable. India’s trajectory reflects a move towards such a model.

The key lies in fostering a moral society where capitalism can organically emerge. My seminars have reflected this, emphasizing the importance of prioritizing morality in societal development efforts.

TP: What stage are we at with capitalism in North America; and here perhaps you could contrast Canada and the USA?

JB: In both Canada and the USA, the pillars of morality, social opprobrium against bad behavior, and the integrity of law and order have faced continuous erosion. Canada, historically ahead of the USA in terms of welfare and liberal policies, has seen these initiatives stealthily undermine the foundations of society, akin to the gradual but unseen until-too-late destruction wrought by termites. Despite my deep affection for both countries and their vibrant, compassionate populations, the undeniable reality is that our societal foundations have decayed.

I find it challenging to pinpoint the singular root cause behind the erosion of Western societal values. Could it be feminism or the misguided acceptance of compassion and tolerance as unassailable virtues? Or is a multi-ethnic society, like the USA, destined to decay, which also passed on its political correctness to the rest of the West? The emphasis on multiculturalism, with its portrayal of every culture as equally valid, may have inadvertently fostered moral relativism akin to the pitfalls of paganism and polytheism. Alternatively, the post-World War II guilt, possibly fueled by Christianity, could have played a role. Why have honor and individual responsibility slipped away as social values? Or was it the misinterpretation of liberty, as exemplified by the hippie movement and its association with India’s feral culture, easy access to drugs, promiscuity, and the facilitation of public protests, that catalyzed this metastasis in the West?

I find myself pondering why countries like Japan, Korea, Singapore, and Hong Kong, despite extensive adoption of Western practices, have managed to sustain societal improvement without succumbing to the decay observed since in the West. East Asia’s survival involves staying ethnically homogenous. Homogeneity does not allow any subgroup to feel victimized and ask for special privileges, compromising meritocracy. Additionally, these societies’ prevalent sense of shame ensures that social opprobrium effectively reinforces societal norms, and they do not feel guilty about ancestral actions. While East Asian nations afford many liberties similar to the West, they strictly prohibit drugs and view woke ideologies unfavorably, and their overt promotion is often met with legal repercussions.

Some believe societal awakening will occur in the West as conditions deteriorate. However, history suggests societies that worsen because of moral compromises adapt to those circumstances rather than mobilize for change. With weakening objectivity and fraying anchoring to truth, analogous to the proverbial frog in a boiling pot, we acclimate to progressively deteriorating conditions. The West was fortunate to inherit foundational principles such as honor, Greco-Roman philosophy and reason, and Christianity. Yet, once lost, the reconstruction of these values could require a lengthy cycle spanning millennia, potentially accompanied by violence, backlash, and collateral damage. Those who grew up in a society with a moral compass think that it exists in nature. It does not, and discovering it is virtually impossible.

Given these considerations, the future outlook for Canada and the USA is bleak.

TP: In your moral approach to capitalism, how do you understand debt and the banking system in general?

JB: Our society has regressed to a state more degraded than even that of cavemen. We have no money. Erroneously, we consider fiat currency to be money, which hypocritically promises to pay us a clone of the same paper.

Fiat currency, lacking defined backing, means its perceived value depends on government diktats and its ever-changing mood. The government can acquire goods and services by printing new currency, essentially implementing the most fraudulent tax possible, disproportionately harming the poor. This system also imposes substantial unnecessary risk and uncertainty on entrepreneurs, especially regarding long-term planning.

The result is boom-and-bust cycles that the government creates and then tries to dampen or avoid, keeping the pressure down until it can no longer be maintained, as happened in 2008 and as we are currently experiencing with increased nominal interest rates.

Despite being the top currency in the world, the US dollar has lost over 95% of its value over the last century. The real interest rate people get on their cash is negative, even today when the nominal rate is around 5%. Consequently, individuals are compelled to speculate and take risks they don’t fully comprehend to preserve their wealth.

Desperate for yield in a negative-yielding fiat currency system, savers have no choice but to chase investments they don’t understand in hopes of protecting their assets. This desperation creates an opening for scammers to exploit.

You seriously harm society by enriching and empowering crooks and scammers.

Some people chase properties, which are depreciating assets or, at best, non-yielding, although those who have bought properties over the last few decades might not perceive them that way. This situation results in a lot of housing being unoccupied, collecting dust, and succumbing to mold, while for millions, housing remains unaffordable.

There were Keynesians who believed that you could create wealth by breaking someone’s window or even by digging a hole and filling it up. Now, we have an advanced version of these, called MMT economists, who believe that the government’s printing of money creates value and generates no inflation. Those in the government love these MMT quacks.

Fiat currency also imposes a moral hazard on the individual.

The abstract nature of fiat currency fosters a speculative mindset, promoting a focus on money-making without regard for value creation. Ironically, the financial sector is one of the most “valuable” activities in economic terms in the USA. Yet, it so often detracts value from other industries, resulting in significant frictional costs and diverting talented individuals from roles beneficial to society. Many of our brightest mathematicians and physicists find themselves working in the stock market.

Citizens are led to believe that wealth creation lies in trading on the stock exchange, and they often engage in hectic day-trading sessions.

Fiat money fosters a mindset within government circles that money grows on trees. Career bureaucrats and demagogues frequently lack real-life experience, and even if they do possess it, they often have incentives to disregard it due to their positions’ lack of accountability. This environment nurtures a god-like image of themselves as they wield billions of other people’s money or freely printable fiat currency.

Recipients of welfare money, often not too rational or honorable, convince themselves that money is there for the taking, with no cost or burden on others involved. This mentality leads to a deep and widespread decay in moral values. It also fosters the irrational belief that one can improve one’s life simply by printing money rather than through hard work. This incentivizes irrational behavior and promotes a belief in magic.

Without the capability to print money, governments would not have initiated so many wars, nor would we have created a massive population reliant on welfare payments. In the West, we have skewed the balance to such an extent that if welfare recipients are not outright the majority, they hold a significant swing vote. We find ourselves trapped in a vicious cycle.

In short, the harm caused by fiat currency is profound, extensive, and multifaceted.

TP: Closely tied to capitalism is the culture of consumerism where the economy becomes fetishized. Do you see this as a problem?

JB: Although often misunderstood, capitalism has nothing to do with consumerism and materialism. If anything, capitalism encourages thrift. For instance, the owner of IKEA drove a mid-sized car. Despite being one of the wealthiest people in the world, Warren Buffet still resides in the same house he moved into when he was relatively poor.

People who accumulate wealth through productive endeavors do not use it for ostentatious purposes. When a wealthy person was looking for a vehicle in Vancouver, I suggested a Mercedes SUV. It is safe, gives a good pickup, and beats the starting traffic at the intersection lights. He responded that he would be too embarrassed to drive such a car.

The trouble arises when people discover ways to make money easily through financial games and welfare checks, which the fiat currency encourages. For these individuals, money flows like water, appearing easy and free.

The most ostentatious, materialistic, and consumerist societies are not capitalist but rather socialist, as are those in the feral Third World. Those who have bothered to read socialist literature realize it is fixated on money and how to redistribute it.

Materialism is a state of mind resulting from a lack of spiritual interests. Materialists are hedonistic, believing that life revolves around seeking pleasure. Even worse are the money-minded individuals who obsessively collect wealth by any means necessary. Ironically, these people fail to get lasting pleasure, money, or peace. In rare cases, when they acquire such, they fail to find fulfillment.

Materialism proves to be an unsatisfying pursuit, often leaving adherents financially impoverished. Hedonists, constantly chasing temporary highs, struggle to find enduring happiness, perpetually seeking the next thrill. Similarly, those solely focused on accumulating wealth find that money cannot provide lasting security or contentment. Such is the nature of life: external sources of fulfillment are fleeting and transient at best.

TP: There is a capitalist Left and a capitalist Right. How do we distinguish the two? Why is one better than the other?

JB: Capitalists lean towards conservative and libertarian ideologies, valuing solid communities and individual autonomy. Capitalism itself fosters the weaving and maintenance of moral fabric, as individuals learn to engage in transactions without relying on government intervention. A capitalist system establishes invisible moral boundaries, guiding individuals to align their behavior with ethical values. Even those who may not naturally incline towards moral living are influenced to do so by this invisible force. Capitalism enforces a social stigma against unethical behavior.

Upon arriving in the UK for the first time, I was astonished by the cooperative and helpful nature of the people, their aversion to backstabbing, and their willingness to work together. It was a revelation that took me years to appreciate fully.

However, as Western societies increasingly lean towards the left and the regulatory and welfare state has expanded, the incentive for moral behavior has seriously diminished. The government has increasingly become the nanny of people and the husband of women. As a result, society, churches, and temples have mattered less and less, weakening social opprobrium. Moral hazards have emerged as individuals rely on the government for future savings and healthcare needs.

There is no left capitalism. There is only one kind of capitalism, and it indeed has a symbiotic relationship with spiritual and conservative values. You might call it right capitalism, but “right” would be superfluous.”

TP: Does capitalism have a limit? Or is it limitless in its expanse?

JB: Human fallibility and egotism necessitate a robust framework of rules and institutions to maintain a functional society. Contracts must be upheld, justice must be administered, and an external authority is needed if voluntary compliance is lacking.

Capitalism has a symbiotic relationship with morality. To the degree a society lacks values, its deficiencies will reflect in bigger governments and psychopaths in power. If we cannot monitor our behavior, something has to emerge to do so. A morally weak society will have a big government, and alas, a big government will create an ethically weak society.

I am no big fan of the state because it lacks competition and accountability, making everything slow, expensive, often convoluted, and even corrupt.

We cannot go back in time to experience how Europeans ran their countries or when the USA had no income tax, but we can still visit minimal states like Singapore that keep the government small and tight. Eventually, we should work towards minimizing the state and aiming for a no-state situation with maximum competition and accountability. However, a force to keep the state small can only come from a morally improving society.

Prioritizing the development of moral values is crucial. Christian missionaries recognized this, emphasizing the importance of moral awakening in sustaining institutions.

TP: What is the role of the nation-state in relation to capitalism?

JB: The nations of Europe emerged from a tumultuous period marked by decades of wars in the middle of the last millennium. They were organic products shaped by their societies’ desires and social and ethical values, forged through churning, massive violence, and continuous conflict. It’s understandable why they, as nation-states, sought to protect their values from external aggression.

However, Western nations transitioned over time into welfare states, eroding their civilization and core values. They opened their borders without regard for their cultural heritage, diluting the essence of their existence. Trudeau’s characterization of Canada as a post-national state epitomizes this trend.

The state has usurped the roles of local communities, religious institutions, and even husbands within families. Consequently, our communities, families, and civic life have significantly weakened. The state takes away half of your earnings through taxes and interferes in every aspect of your life. Despite this, policing has deteriorated, and crime and drug addiction have risen. Seeking justice is not easy. Doug Casey argues that the judiciary and policing are too essential to be left to unaccountable bureaucrats and demagogue politicians.

The issue with the nation-state, especially within a democratic framework, lies in its inherent incentive to expand unchecked. The USA was initially envisioned as a minimal state, allowing for the flourishing of entrepreneurship, individual liberties, and economic and philosophical growth. However, those in power often succumb to the temptation of increasing government size and intervention, dipping into citizens’ wallets under the guise of promoting the general welfare. Unfortunately, a minimal state tends to grow over time, as has occurred not only in the US but also across the Western world.

An informed citizenry, aware that taxes, regardless of their magnitude, equate to forceful confiscation, can exert pressure to minimize state intervention and taxation. The state should not usurp functions that private entities, churches, and local communities handle better. This awareness empowers individuals to advocate for limited government involvement and taxation, promoting freedom and self-reliance while ensuring that the most appropriate entities efficiently and effectively deliver essential services.

TP: Any last words?

JB: Capitalism and morality share a profound relationship, yet the latter often receives insufficient attention in our increasingly mechanistic worldview, which has also corrupted science and reason into scientism. This issue is exacerbated among socialists and Marxists, who believe they can engineer society and human nature—an extreme form of naivety. The emerging woke culture, lacking even the slight objectivity of Marxism, is proving to be even more extreme, placing undue emphasis on hopes, positive thinking, and hedonism as the sole constituents of life.

In closing, let’s address a few issues often wrongly attributed to capitalism: outcomes of wealth, comfort, societal complexity, division of labor, and the subsequent erosion of our moral compass. Adam Smith aptly noted the adverse effects of commerce on human courage and martial spirit, especially under the division of labor, leading to moral deformity and vulnerability to demagoguery. Marx termed this “alienation.” Even the higher classes can focus excessively on their limited work area, forgetting whether they generate social value.

In a similar vein, Hannah Arendt uses the phrase “the banality of evil” to describe Eichmann’s behavior at the trial, which included showing no guilt or hatred for those trying him and claiming he was “doing his job.” Arendt warns of the dangers of technocracy, pointing to the blunted moral conscience of Eichmann, a Technocrat, who reasoned that he was only putting people on trains and did not have the intellectual curiosity to consider their destination and the likely outcome or was casually indifferent.

As we become wealthy, we risk becoming too comfortable, which dulls our moral spirit and sense of honor. We become too tolerant for selfish reasons. Why fight when it does not directly affect us? We learn to compromise when financial costs look higher than the benefits. Constant compromises drain the warrior spirit. I can understand why asceticism is so highly valued in most religions.

Unless we understand our place in the larger ecosystem and how our actions within our limited area of work affect society, we are likely to rationalize or remain unaware of the burdens we may be imposing on society while making money personally. This situation is exacerbated among socialists; at least in the capitalist system, competition and feedback mechanisms exist, which unaccountable bureaucrats don’t have.

Wealth should have only one purpose: to provide a better platform to improve ourselves spiritually.

TP: Thank you so very much for sharing your views with us.

JB: Thank you.

Financial Capitalism, Or Legalized Usury

In the framework of financial capitalism, speculative markets dominate the economy. Finance, which in the preceding phase of capitalism was connected to production and was functional to its development, becomes autonomous and becomes an end in itself, subjugating production itself and, in general, what has been called the “real economy” (in order to distinguish it from the purely fictitious and fetishistic economy characteristic of finance).

Through the possibility of the creatio ex nihilo of money, the practice of integral speculation in the financial sphere has been encouraged; a practice which, to frame it conceptually, can be qualified as the trade of money self-referentially established as an end in itself and emancipated from any productive purpose.

An emblematic example, among the many available, is the modus operandi of the stateless financier and liberal-progressive herald of the Open Society, George Soros. In 1992, he perpetrated a speculative attack on the Italian lira and the British pound sterling, thanks to which he earned, in a single night, an immense fortune. Specifically, he borrowed ten billion pounds sterling and converted them into German marks. He waited until the pound depreciated on the markets by 15% and, at that moment, he resold the marks and obtained in exchange almost twelve billion pounds. In this way he was able to pay back the ten billion he had borrowed, with interest, and keep the rest, with a profit of about two billion pounds sterling.

What Soros did can be taken as a “textbook” example of this financial speculation which, in short, consists in “gambling” and making profits by “playing” with the difference in prices in time and space of financial instruments, commodities and currencies, without providing any added value. For speculation on the economy and on society to become hegemonic, the monopoly of currency and the complete freedom of capital are indispensable conditions. And it is with this result in mind that financial capitalism developed, especially after the end of the Bretton Woods agreements and through successive processes of financial deregulation.

Speculation, as a consubstantial element of the financial system of the “banksters” and Wall Street (or rather, “War Street”), confirms Keynes’ thesis; in his opinion, if it is not regulated, financialized capitalism is the closest thing to a casino. To be precise, it is a truly sui generis gambling house, based on a very simple rule: if it comes up heads, the banks win; if it comes up tails, the taxpayers lose. Or, to put it with the title of Sheldon Emry’s book, Billions for Bankers, Debts for the People (2017).

Some investors can easily earn formidable amounts of money in a very short time, but the majority of the population loses and the productive economy falls into ruin. This is what Susan Strange stated in her study, Casino Capitalism (1997): “For the great difference between an ordinary casino which you can go into or stay away from, and the global casino of high finance, is that in the latter all of us are involuntarily engaged in the day’s play” (p.2).

The Keynesian definition of Casino Capitalism is also convincing because, in the liberal-financial order, the objective is not to reduce risk as much as possible but, in a diametrically opposed way, it is consciously assumed, since it is the element that makes it possible to obtain enormous profits, while “generously” leaving it to others to always lose. On the other hand, the prevalence of short-term speculative activity on the financial markets—mainly in the field of automated securities trading—has exponentially increased the social irresponsibility of investments.

Such endemic irresponsibility is also due to the fact that the speculative casino of neo-capitalism is governed, in its own way, by a rigorous logic or, to paraphrase the words of Shakespeare’s Hamlet, it manifests itself as a madness endowed with its own method, which can be condensed as follows: the more you risk, the more you stand to gain or lose. And as it corresponds to its aim of maximizing profit, exceeding all possible limits, speculative finance ventures into ever more acrobatic and risky operations, often taking advantage of savers’ deposits to create money and generate profits. This is, for example, the logic-logic of hedge funds, which speculate by borrowing money.

The mechanics of speculative finance also sets in motion a paradox worthy of note: savers, despite not wishing to take risks, entrust their savings to a bank which, au contraire, can use this wealth—without their knowledge, in fact—to embark on risky speculative operations. Among other things, it can be inferred from this that the asymmetries essential to the capitalist financial mode of valorization are also of a cognitive order: the financial institutions and the large speculation agencies have at their disposal a volume of information inaccessible to small and medium-sized investors, let alone ordinary savers.

It goes without saying that the constellation of the banking system, the financial order and the dynamics of speculation constitute—by their very essence and not by accident—an immense amplifier of social inequalities. And this is based on the very structure of financial logic, since money makes possible multiple opportunities to generate more money (Marxianly, D-D1-D2) and, therefore, whoever has more can get richer.

For this reason, the Occupy Wall Street protests, beginning in 2011, while presenting a peculiar aesthetic of impotence, had an irrefutable foundation: thanks to financial capitalism, the majority of the planet’s inhabitants have been literally expropriated of the fruits of their labor and their land by a borderless plutocratic elite minority. In technical terms, it is usually defined as “financial deepening”: a locution that indicates, on the one hand, the widespread capillary penetration of financial markets in all spheres of the world of life and, on the other, the strategy of mass impoverishment or, more precisely, the redistribution of income from the bottom up (conceived, therefore, as an essential moment of the class struggle redefined as the univocal massacre of the dominated by the dominant).

This philosophical-political thesis is corroborated by the data. It is enough to consider the fact that around 1980 (before the massive turbo-capitalist financialization), the richest nation in the world had a wealth equivalent to 88 times that of the poorest country. Well, with the arrival of the new Millennium, the disparity has risen to 270 times. It should be added that the world’s 1,000 richest individuals have a net worth slightly less than twice the total wealth of the 2.5 billion poorest people.

To bring up another relevant fact, the salaries of the top managers of large companies, in 1980, amounted on average to 40 times the average gross salary of the worker; with the new Millennium they have grown to represent between 350 to 400 times this reference. The Marxian thesis of the “centralization of capital,” enunciated in the first book of Das Kapital, seems to adhere to factual reality, especially if one considers that the dominant turbo-capitalist, liquid and post-bourgeois class currently numbers around ten million people on a planet populated by more than eight billion inhabitants.

On the other hand, it is generally known that the Western financial market is dominated by three American giants, Black Rock (which manages more than 10 trillion dollars), Vanguard (which manages about 7 trillion dollars) and State Street (which controls about 4 trillion dollars).

These globocratic giants, moreover, not only confirm the Marxist thesis of the centralization of capital but, at the same time, demonstrate how this also generates, without interruption, a consequent political centralization—the power of these financial institutions is such that they become a political force capable of placing themselves above the states and conditioning them, very often turning them into mere executors of their economic will. In fact, if the banking and financial giants revoke the confidence of the states that do not follow their economic prescriptions—usually oriented in a liberal-progressive, deregulatory and imperialist direction—then the price of their Public Debt securities will plummet. And, in this way, governments will be forced de facto to offer higher yields so that investors will decide to finance their Debt.

The fabula docet is that, thanks to the centralization of capital and the oligopolistic concentration of currency, the lords sans frontières of cosmopolitan finance exercise a practically autocratic power even over the United States and, a fortiori, over the economy of the most financially fragile countries.

It is in this same context that the way the Rating Agencies operate must be interpreted, as they reflect in their maximum expression the hypocrisy of the capitalist order and its intrinsically undemocratic essence. Rating Agencies, such as Moody’s, Fitch and S&P Global Ratings, evaluate the reliability of securities and represent, so to speak, the “barometers” of global finance. In other words, they judge whether companies and banks, public entities and states (all treated indiscriminately and with no possible escape), are in a position to pay their debts.

Leaving aside the fact that the evaluation criteria used by the Rating Agencies seem decidedly opaque and often discretionary, and that, moreover, they sometimes give rise to gross miscalculations in the attribution of their ratings (for example, they incomprehensibly assigned the famous “3 A’s” to companies such as Lehmann Brothers and Enron), their inescapable politicization must not be overlooked—i.e., the fact that, with their judgments, they are able to strongly mediatize even national states, threatening or punishing them if they dare to deviate from the neoliberal canon. The spread is the measure of a country’s credibility when it comes to paying its Debt; and so the Rating Agencies are in a position to attack states by downgrading their rating, as they do with any other company. Some have rightly coined the formula “Spread Dictatorship.” The very fact that these Rating Agencies are American makes them decidedly not very neutral with respect to the interests of US finance, not to mention, ultimately, the “incestuous” link with their clients. In short, rather than the generic finance-capitalism theorized by Luciano Gallino, we are faced with the Dictatorship of Cosmopolitan Usury as the culmination of capitalism itself.

Diego Fusaro is professor of the History of Philosophy at the IASSP in Milan (Institute for Advanced Strategic and Political Studies) where he is also scientific director. He is a scholar of the Philosophy of History, specializing in the thought of Fichte, Hegel, and Marx. His interest is oriented towards German idealism, its precursors (Spinoza) and its followers (Marx), with a particular emphasis on Italian thought (Gramsci or Gentile, among others). he is the author of many books, including Fichte and the Vocation of the IntellectualThe Place of Possibility: Toward a New Philosophy of Praxis, and Marx, again!: The Spectre Returns. This article appears courtesy of Posmodernia.

Featured: La Roulette in the Casino, from Monte-Carlo, by Sem; color lithograph, printed ca. 1910.

On Eating Insects, or Disgusting Globalization

For some time now, the EU has been pushing for Europeans to willingly accept larvae and insects, worms and flies in their diet—the gastronomically correct single dish, a variant of the politically correct single thought. This is a decisive moment in the deconstruction of European identities, starting from the table.

It can be affirmed that the entomophagic gesture is not only not part of the table traditions of the European peoples, but has historically almost always been the object of social repugnance. The reasons must be identified in the symbolic sphere. To tell the truth, from a purely material point of view, there are no reasons that prevent eating insects, larvae or crickets. In a “technical” sense, they are perfectly “edible.”

In terms of nutritional properties, for example, insect meat, which is very rich in micronutrients (protein, vitamins, minerals and amino acids), is equivalent to red meat and poultry. And, as Harris reminds us in Good to Eat (2011), one hundred grams of African termites contain 610 calories, 38 grams of protein and 46 grams of fat. Furthermore, Franz Bodenheimer, in his study Insects as Human Food (1950), documented the existence of human “insectivores” on all major continents.

Even in terms of environmental impact, the reasons for eating insects would be “acceptable”: the “feed conversion ratio,” which establishes how many kilograms of feed are needed to produce 1 kilo of meat, is 10:1 for cattle, while for insects it is 1:1. Therefore, from ecological parameters, the advantage would be appreciable.

The same objection according to which insects, being covered by a hard substance, chitin, could be difficult for man to digest, would not be convincing: for the same reason one should not eat shrimps or some other shellfish. Even the argument that insects should not be eaten because they could transmit diseases falls apart easily, if one considers that, without proper care, also sheep, pigs, cattle and chickens can transmit them, and that, above all, through cooking and proper “cooking” (roasting, frying, baking, etc.) the problem can be solved in one case as well as in the others. In short, as paradoxical as it may seem, insects are not “dirtier” or more “infectious” than many of the animals we usually eat.

Why, then, has there always existed in Europe a deep-rooted suspicion, usually deriving in repugnance, towards entomophagy? Harris’s materialism in his Good to Eat (Op. cit.) and, in particular, his theory of “residual utility” may provide a possible hermeneutical key. In his view, it does not seem appropriate to eat those animals that are most useful when alive. This is the case, for example, of the cow in India. But also the dog of Westerners, used to carry out functions of companionship and vigilance. However, animals that are counterproductive to raise, such as the pig for Jews and Muslims, are not eaten either. If the animal not consumed does not even produce utility, then it becomes an “abomination” (as we have just said, this is the case with the pig for Jews and Muslims, unlike the cow for Indians, which, on the contrary, is considered “sacred” for its utility).

Following Harris’s reasoning, entomophagy is not among the tastes of Europeans because the advantage to be gained from the capture and preparation of insects is decidedly limited compared to that of large mammals or fish. In accordance with his theory of the “maximum profitability of food research,” Harris explains that hunters or gatherers were only interested in species that allowed them to obtain the maximum caloric return in relation to the time spent foraging. For this reason, in the tropical forest, where few large animals are found, entomophagy is profitable, in contrast to what historically occurs in Europe, where goats and sheep, pigs and poultry, fish and cows abound.

This would be another reason—Harris concludes—why entomophagy is alien to the customs rooted in the history of the Old Continent. It should be added that, not being part of European food consumption habits, insects and larvae become strictly useless and also cause harmful effects: they destroy crops (think of locusts, traditionally understood as “divine punishment”), eat our food, sting us, bite and prick. And this tidy sum of causes brings as a consequence that, even, they come to be perceived as more “abominable” than the pig can be for Muslims and Jews. In the syntax of Lévi-Strauss, they are not “good for thinking” and, moreover, only generate bad thoughts.

So why does the EU insist on making us eat something that is outside our culture, using insistent advertising campaigns and such tenacious propaganda?

We propose two interpretations, reciprocally innervated. On the one hand, there is the Social Question: from the point of view of the dominant groups (the turbo-capitalist power elite), worms and larvae, crickets and insects of various kinds could guarantee the possibility of having food at low cost for the increasingly precarious masses, offering them this resource, however fragile, to alleviate hunger. And this, for the neoliberal oligarchic bloc, from a paternalistic perspective, could prove to be of vital importance, in order to contain the explosion of conflicts and antagonisms difficult to tame that would derive from new and possible waves of hunger in the pole of the losers (hunger, as we know, is historically the first vector of insurrections).

On the other hand, there is the Identity Question: the spread of entomophagy, directed from above and ingeniously presented as a fashion spontaneously generated from below, seems to represent the non plus ultra of the processes of disidentification at the table and, if you will, also the fundamental moment of the dynamics of that deconstruction of identities and cultures, of traditions and tastes that is functional to the unlimited expansion of the commodity form and its expressive functions. The memory of the macabre coprophagous banquet staged in Pasolini’s Saló (1975) is once again prophetically instructive.

The disidentification of gastronomy strongly contributes to the more general disidentification of man in the time of his technical reproducibility, which I have dealt with extensively in Difendere chi siamo. Le ragioni dell’identità italiana (Ed. 2020).

Capitalist production gradually deprives local communities of their crop varieties, which are the result of their own intelligence developed over time to solve the problem of hunger, and replaces them with varieties dictated by the market order. It thus deconstructs food sovereignty and imposes forms of consumption that promote the industrialization of agriculture, instead of the protection of local producers and biodiversity, of traditions and typical products. The result is an accelerated degradation of the environment, a planetary homologation, a barbarization of public life, an increasingly marked asymmetry in the access to resources between the Center and the Periphery of the world.

The topic was pioneered by Jack Goody in his Cooking, Cuisine and Class (2017), where he devotes ample space to the epochal change implemented on food production after the Industrial Revolution. The genesis of an “industrial cuisine” has produced an irreversible impact on the culinary style at a global level: the progressive mechanization of production processes and the continuous technological development—explains Goody—have determined a homologation of the food diet, which has initially focused only on the West, to then proceed to run across, in cascade, the rest of the planet.

In this sense, “food de-sovereignization” does not only mean the cosmopolitization of food production and consumption, more and more detached from territories and nations, identities and cultures; it also alludes to the growing subtraction of control over food and its production from local communities and peoples.

This contributes to the loss of the relational and communal function of food and gastronomy, which is redefined as a succession of mere unstable forms for perennially isolated individuals in perpetual movement. And, at the same time, the cultural and symbolic value of the different dishes is annihilated in the name of their purely nutritional character.

“Modern man,” wrote Heidegger, “no longer needs any symbol (Sinnbild),” since everything is reabsorbed in the power of production as the only source of meaning (hence the theologomenon “the market demands it of us”). The level of enticity survives only as a background of production and traffic and, for this very reason, “all possibility and all need for a symbol disappears.” The pantoclastic fanaticism of the freemarket economy accepts no symbols other than the icons of merchandise, of gadgets and, in general, of any tautological reference to the entropic order of the civilization of markets.

From this derives the gray monotony of the indistinct, which is presented as a consumerist homologation of identities and, in turn, as the planetary triumph of the single thought as the only admitted thought. The different, who does not accept to disidentify himself and become homogeneous to the other of himself, is declared sic et simpliciter illegitimate and dangerous, violent and terrorist.

This is the essential characteristic of technocapitalism as coercion to the equal. In Heidegger’s words, “the im-posed (Gestell) puts everything with a view to the equal (das Gleiche) of the orderable, so that it constantly re-presents itself in the same way in the Equal of orderability.” In this sense, das Gleiche, “the equal” or, better still, “the homologated,” is the uniform, the disidentified, the quantitative indistinct which, serially substitutable, figures as the only profile admitted by the unlimitedly self-empowered will to power. By virtue of the processes of technocapitalist “uprooting” (Entwurzelung) and planetary homologation, everything becomes serially indistinct and usable: nothing is itself anymore, when everything is interchangeable in the form of the universal equivalent proper to alienation without borders.

Liberal-globalist nihilism first neutralizes cultures and identities (the moment of Disidentification). Then, once they have lost the capacity to resist through neutralization, it includes the disidentified in the model of global market homologation: and redefines them according to consumer micro-identities, produced ad hoc to be functional to the New World Order (moment of homologated Re-identification). This is what I have called “Neutralizing Inclusion.”

From this derives the image of the current tribe of the last men, confined in the borderless techno-space of the cosmopolis in integral reification: a single uprooted multitude, a single vision of the world, a single deculturalized culture, a single forward-looking perspective, a single falsely plural mass monologue. And, therefore, a single uniform and alienated way of eating. And also repugnant. To paraphrase Chairman Mao, Globalization is not “a gala dinner,” either.

Diego Fusaro is professor of the History of Philosophy at the IASSP in Milan (Institute for Advanced Strategic and Political Studies) where he is also scientific director. He is a scholar of the Philosophy of History, specializing in the thought of Fichte, Hegel, and Marx. His interest is oriented towards German idealism, its precursors (Spinoza) and its followers (Marx), with a particular emphasis on Italian thought (Gramsci or Gentile, among others). he is the author of many books, including Fichte and the Vocation of the IntellectualThe Place of Possibility: Toward a New Philosophy of Praxis, and Marx, again!: The Spectre Returns. This article appears courtesy of Posmodernia.

Featured: Grangers vs Hoppers, cartoon by Henry Worrall, ca. 1874-1875.

Practical Policies for a Distributist Economy

Part One.

Distributists want as many people as possible to own the means of their production. A farmer should own the farm, a baker should own the bakery, and factory workers should own the factory. But how do we bring this about? Anyone from a libertarian to a socialist may identify as a distributist, agreeing on the end goal but disagreeing completely on what will get us there. So answering “how?” is the key to any distributist politics. I argue that once we get past the false dilemma of government intervention, we must pursue three lines of progress: countering capital concentration, directly distributing capital, and expanding the commons.

The Question of Government Intervention

The first disputed question between distributists is: how much should the government intervene in the economy so as to bring about the distributist goal?

This is a meaningless question. Government intervention is what every economic system is composed of! Of course the libertarian wants to say that a truly free market with all goods and services owned privately and traded voluntarily is a state of minimal government involvement. But this is an illusion. Private property itself is a government program. You own property only to the extent that the government says you do. You may claim to own your coat, but if I file suit claiming the coat belongs to me and the court decides in my favor, then the coat is mine even if you continue to illicitly possess it. Even such minor instances of private property are a government program.

This is even more clear in the case of large assets like vehicles and real estate where ownership is established directly by government in the form of title documents, and all the more so for fictitious entities such as corporations, whose very existence depends completely on the government. So a “free market” is not “free” of government intervention. Just the opposite: it is constituted through and through by government interventions. Distributists, then, should seek the most effective and just forms of government intervention to achieve their goals, and should repudiate objections that doing so is coercion, theft, or giving power to the State. The real question is: in what ways should the government intervene in economic life?

Countering Capital Concentration

Distributism is not “nice capitalism”. It is bluntly anti-capitalist. But what I mean by capitalism is not “free markets and entrepreneurialism.” That is just a market economy. Capitalism is the system where a class of people are paid simply to own the means of production. Not paid to develop or utilize capital, nor to allocate itwisely; just paid to be the person who is on some government form somewhere listed as the owner. Distributism would have all capital owned by the people who use it: by the workers, and ideally in as small and local units as possible.

But how do we dismantle capitalism without lopping off heads? Can we radically change our world without the violence and chaos of revolution? As explained above, private property is a government program, so we begin by looking at how government creates capitalism in order to see how we should dismantle it.

Any free market economy is going to tend toward the concentration of wealth: specifically and most importantly of capital. As businesses compete inevitably some will out-compete others and acquire their capital and their market share. Smaller numbers of companies continue to compete and consolidate, gaining competitive advantage through economy of scale as they go. This trend is accelerated by capitalism which demands that the consumer pay 5-10% more than the cost of production. That portion goes to ownership, which increases the owners’ share of national wealth year by year. Occasionally concentration gets disrupted here and there by luck, by technological change, and by exceptionally skilled or ruinous management. Still, the overall trend of wealth concentration is inevitable and unquestionably proven by all historical evidence since the beginning of capitalism. Let’s find the apparatuses set up by the state to enable and protect this concentration, and reroute them toward widespread distribution.

If you’ve ever tried to create a company more complex than a sole proprietorship, you’ve seen that the state has detailed rules about who in the partnership, LLC, or corporation has what rights and what responsibilities, and who gets what in the event of dissolution. It could just as well be written into all business law that the state and the employees must get some equity and/or profit share in any business.

I’m the founder and current sole owner of a business. I realize how much effort and risk and how little reward a founder often sees in the first few years of a company. That should be compensated. Our economic well-being depends on the entrepreneurial drive and it should be incentivized. But it does not follow that the founder of a successful company naturally “deserves” a lifetime (much less his descendant’s lifetimes!) of increasing income just because his name is on the charter.

The workers who build and maintain the company deserve their share of the success. Distributists believe every worker should own the means of his own production. We could simply require that all employees get a share of annual profit, and any employee who stays at a company more than a few years starts accruing equity in the company. Couple this with increased worker protections so that employers can’t just fire employees to prevent them from getting equity, and eventually the company becomes (at least to a significant degree) employee owned. In an age when unions continue to shrink, this would empower employees to have some say in the conditions of their employment while giving them more of a stake in their company’s success.

For larger companies, I’d suggest they should also be partly publicly owned. Our original corporations were created by the government to provide some public benefit, such as the transcontinental rail roads, that purely private business would never undertake. There was an understanding that these corporations were to serve the public good, not just their shareholder’s private financial interests.

Perhaps it’s too late to go back to that form of the corporation, but we could turn the purely financial drive of corporations to the public good by having a significant part of the shares of any publicly traded company automatically go to a sovereign wealth fund. The income generated by the sovereign wealth fund would provide public goods such as infrastructure, health care, education, or direct income. A sovereign wealth fund ensures that the public benefits from the profitability of that part of the private sector most dependent on government support.

We’d also do well to consider limiting corporations’ ability to own property in multiple states, and certainly in multiple nations. Part of the reason our government must to be so large is because business is so big (thanks to government enabling). By limiting the geographic reign of corporations we could scale back the level of government needed to regulate them.

States cannot stand up to national corporations because those corporations wield enormous economic power over states. They are able to play one state off of another to see who can cut regulations and taxes most, sacrificing good governance for the sake of procuring the corporation’s favor. Thus ten thousand small acts of different businesses have the unintended result of growing the centralized, federal government because they are the only ones left to direct the market as the corporations require.

We now see this race to the bottom in the service of capital on a global scale. Yet there is no natural reason a New York corporation must be able to buy a factory in South Carolina, or an American corporation buy a factory in Honduras; it only happens because the state and federal governments choose to allow and enable it. Limiting corporations to smaller geographic areas would allow smaller governments to regulate them, and would open up space for smaller businesses to compete with them.

Countering capital concentration is the negative side of the distributist program. It is an ongoing necessity, but in itself it only provides the open space for widespread ownership. The ground is tilled but the seed must be planted and watered. [Next] I will describe how we can continually replenish an ownership society through distribution of capital and expanding the commons.

Part Two

Directly Distributing Capital

Countering capital concentration is only half the solution to the distributist goal of widespread capital ownership. The positive half is actually getting capital into the hands of each worker. I’ve already identified one way to do that – mandatory equity for all employees. The American Solidarity Party supports worker-owned cooperatives, but an employee equity mandate would give that support real teeth. Worker ownership is not just a nice idea, it’s a requirement of justice.

We can also distribute capital to individuals directly by transfer payment. A substantial bit of real capital should be provided to every adult at the beginning of their career. It’s nice to be born into a family business that you learn as you grow, and then help take over as an adult. But that’s not a realistic opportunity for most children, and wouldn’t be for those born to parents in worker-owned cooperatives either. If every citizen had, say, $50,000 seed money available for use pending approval, using something like the same process as loan approval but with no repayment needed, everyone would have an opportunity to launch into an ownership economy without usury. Even if it were used on a prudently considered home purchase, this would allow stability of place and economic freedom to resist the forces of capitalism that turn people into atomized wage slaves.

Free post-high school education and training would lift a heavy burden from the working and small-business owning classes, and it would widely distribute one of the most useful forms of capital. “Human capital” (a problematic phrase, but makes sense when talking about skills and qualifications rather than about people) is especially valuable in a distributist sense because it can never be alienated from the worker: you can’t sell off your welding skills to pay for a kidney transplant. Wherever you may need to travel, that training accompanies you, and your employer must pay enough to access it.

This sort of capital distribution is especially amenable to cheap, local-scale solutions. Currently professional accreditation programs (i.e. universities) have become a sort of cartel designed to create scarcity and drive up costs, thus supporting a massive industry of accreditation suppliers, and a constrained class of accredited elites. This drives up the costs of all kinds of professional services (medicine being the most obvious). And it keeps many talented people out of the most respected and high paying vocations. The state has participated heavily in creating this state of affairs, and it could do much to reverse it. We probably all know more than one disgruntled philosophy or English MA who can’t find an academic job, but who could lead a book discussion more worthwhile than any intro-level Gen-Ed class in a seven hundred student lecture hall.

The Saxifrage School in Pittsburgh was (as far as I know it is currently stalled out) an attempt to create an accredited asset-free college program. The idea was students would meet with instructors in public spaces such as libraries and coffee shops. The professors would be free-lancing, so the only expense would be paying for the professor’s time and the administrative cost of the program. The government could facilitate and fund such decentralized educational programs as they do state schools. Everyone who wants to get two years of liberal arts and/or two years of vocational training (white or blue collar) should be able to get it for free, and we could do it a lot cheaper than the current university system by using existing resources in our own communities.

Expanding the Commons

In our agrarian past ‘the commons’ was land available to all for grazing, hunting and gathering fuel. The commons provided a resource for people who had lost all private property, enabling them to survive and get back on their feet. We should expand the concept and the content of the commons in ways suitable to our modern context. I think we can turn some expensive goods into public goods provided to all free of charge. We already do this with many of the goods businesses depend upon, like roads, fire fighting, crime prevention, trade regulation, and primary research. Let’s do more of the same for workers. What are expensive goods that don’t work well as market commodities which we could add to the commons?

I’ve already explained why and how post secondary education should be added to the commons. Let me reinforce that bit by noting that education is often bought with little to no price-based rational analysis. No 18-year old knows if $100,000 of debt is worth it, nor are they likely to make a prudent decision at that age anyway. And frankly parents are hardly in a better position to make the evaluation, even the few who are in a position to pay. It just doesn’t make sense for education to be a market based commodity. Prices become distorted by lack of information, prevalence of irrational decision, and collusion between supplier and regulators. Rather education should be in the commons, available freely to all who can make the most of it.

Health care is another socially-created good that does not work well as a market commodity. Very few people have the resources to pay for it personally when needed, and when it is needed no one is able to make a free and rational decision about what health care to get. You’re basically the victim of a stick-up at that point. A personal anecdote: in the early days of starting my business I was providing for a wife and two kids on income of about $30,000 a year and simply could not afford health insurance. One day I received a visit from the appendicitis fairy and was rushed to the emergency room. I was never asked what treatment I wanted or told any prices, but to be honest, I would have said yes to anything, especially once the euphoria of the first dose of pain medication set in!

When I received $12,000 of bills from about six different providers, I was lucky enough to negotiate major reductions and assistance on all of them except the anesthesiologist. When that bill went to collections I had many entertaining conversations with debt collectors arguing about whether we should negotiate the price after the fact. Considering that when service was rendered I was on death’s door, under the influence of drugs and had no recollection of being offered a choice of services or told their price, I thought we could make a deal. Those conversations ended only when I was doing well enough to just pay the bill in order to save my credit score. A more prudent person, foreseeing this possibility, would never have started my business. They would have chosen a job with Monsanto, something which offered health insurance. We can change that calculus. Free universal health care would allow many more workers to strike out on their own as entrepreneurs or just be independent homesteaders without the fear of losing employer provided health insurance. And it would allow small business owners to survive, both literally and financially, a surprise injury or illness. We should stop hedging about this as a ‘possible option to be explored’ and fully support free universal single-pay health care.

Finally and most controversially, we should support Universal Basic Income without reservation. UBI would enable employees to stand up for better pay and working conditions because they can hold out longer during a strike or period of unemployment. It would enable entrepreneurs much more freedom to strike out on their own, sustaining them during the lean start-up years that crush many new businesses. It would support homesteaders on the path to economic independence. And for the unsuccessful business owners who lose their personal capital to bad luck or poor management on the first try, UBI would give them a surer way to build up capital and try again, wiser for the experience.

Although as distributists we should want wage labor to be a minimal part of the economy, there will always be a role for it, especially as a way for new workers to enter the economy before they become long term owners in their own business. UBI would allow the wage labor market to be a truly free market. No one would be coerced into taking an exploitative job by material need, and businesses would not have to pay an arbitrary minimum wage. If, say, we had a UBI equivalent to $10/hr full time (or whatever covered the necessities of a modest but decent life), a business could offer $2/hr for an unneeded but valued greeter position. That would allow someone who has few skills a chance to participate in work life and improve their financial situation through their own effort. At the same time no one would be forced to take demeaning or grueling jobs at low pay simply because they lack the credentials for more respectable and high paying work. With a UBI we might find that a business has to pay just as much to get someone to clean the toilets as to design the website. Our current system values white-collar work at the real expense and dignity of blue-collar workers. But manual labor, be it cleaning the toilets or raising children, is what allows the website designer to work at all. The world has existed without website designers; we cannot survive as a species without waste management. UBI would make us acknowledge the real value of all jobs, as opposed to our current system which artificially inflates some while denigrating others.

In these two posts I’ve laid out some concrete policies distributists should advocate to bring about the goal of widespread capital ownership. We should counter capital concentration by mandating public and employee equity in corporations and by limiting companies’ ability to own property; we should directly distribute capital through mandated employee equity, transfer of funds for capital purchase, and free education; and we should expand the commons to include education, health care and universal basic income. Some of these ideas might seem distant and far-fetched, but it is only by boldly naming our destination and then taking the first incremental steps directly towards it that we will ever arrive.

Zebulon Baccelli is a father of five in rural western Pennsylvania. He runs a business selling organic produce grown by a local community of Amish farmers. The Baccellis are active in their Byzantine Catholic church community and in a Catholic-Orthodox home school cooperative. This article appears through the kind courtesy of Imago Dei Politics.

Featured: Reapers, by Edith Hume; painted ca. 1890.

The Crisis of 2007: The Great Financial Capitalist Swindle

Despite the seismic crisis of 2007, a question persists that is likely to remain unanswered. Colin Crouch condensed it in the title of his 2011 book, The Strange Non-Death of Neoliberalism: why did neoliberalism re-emerge stronger from the 2007 crisis, from which in fact it might have been expected to emerge, at the very least, weakened?

One plausible answer could be the following: the turbo-financial elites managed to make the crisis, for which they were mainly (if not exclusively) responsible, appear to have been caused by the inefficiencies of the public sector and by the Debt of the States. On this basis, by skillfully manipulating the consensus of public opinion, through the ever-zealous work performed by the intellectual clergy, the aforementioned elites managed to make the State itself—and, therefore, the Public—pay for the crisis: that is, they “generously” made wage-earners and pensioners pay for it, as if they had really been responsible for the failure of the financial system.

In this way, the capitalist system, with its asymmetrical social relationship based on bonds of Lordship and Servitude, has not limited itself to generating the poor as it has always done, but, evidently with the crisis, it forced them to subsidize the rich themselves through an authentic and genuine Economy of Swindle. Through it, it triggered concrete transfers of property and power to those who, from above, kept their resources intact and are in a position to manage credit. There is no image that clarifies the situation better than the one used by Robert H. Frank and Philip J. Cook to title their study, The Winner-Take-All Society.

Incidentally, the fabula docet is that to assert—as the hedonistic singers of the free market paroxysmally do—that in the long run the economic system produces its own equilibrium constitutes a false position, since—as Hegel already pointed out—even the plague ceases at a given moment, but in the meantime hundreds of thousands are its victims. In addition to this argument in support of the need for political regulation of the wild beast of the market, Hegel mobilized another one: liberals make a profession of faith in individualism, but they are precisely the first to sacrifice the welfare of the individual on the altar of market power and economic equilibrium. They forget that it is not the market, as an abstract entity, but only the individual, as a particularity, who represents an end and who is the holder of rights.

In the context of the 2007 crisis, “Save the banks” was the new and indecent slogan repeated by the elites and, above all, by their politicians and intellectuals of reference. As if it were a new Aztec religion fed by human sacrifices, in the name of liberalism the resolution of all problems could wait, but the solemn call to help the banks in difficulties became the new categorical imperative to be obeyed immediately. And this was also thanks to the new imaginary spread urbi et orbi; an imaginary for which, basically, it was easier to imagine the end of the world than the end of capitalism (fiat profitus, pereat mundus).

According to a well-established practice that is fully inscribed in the modus operandi of ideology, the masters of discourse and of the media circus chose to invert reality; and attributed the responsibility for the crisis of private finances to the State, thus laying the necessary foundations to make it possible to attack it head-on and plunder it without restraint.

The storytelling, concocted by the anesthetists of consensus and by the administrators of the superstructures after 2007, can be summarized as follows: it was the increase of the Public Debt that caused the crisis, so it is fair and necessary to claim against the State. On the other hand, the cataclysms of speculative finance and fictitious capital should not be the subject of debate, almost as if they had never happened. Moreover, the “Public Debt theorem” proves to be functional to the neoliberal processes of de-sovereignization of the national State and the contextual simultaneous transfer of sovereignty from the State (and politics) to the banking system (and the economy). In the words of Mario Draghi, maximum exponent of the global class and protagonist—as president of the ECB—of the maneuvers referred to above, “a country loses sovereignty when the level of the Debt is such that any decision passes through the scrutiny of the markets, that is, of actors who do not vote but determine the processes.”

This situation, surrealistic to say the least, was on the other hand the palpable proof, as Dardot and Laval have suggested in Guerra alla democrazia, that in the framework of neoliberalism every obstacle becomes an opportunity, every collective tragedy a triumph for the ruling elite. The financial crisis was ridden to direct the offensive against the State and against wages, against the public and, in short, against the subaltern classes that live off their own labor.

This is also the quid proprium of the neoliberal order: to ensure that the Lords of Big Business enjoy the benefits of globalization without charge, often taking advantage of a tax system that tends to zero, where the losers of globalization—the “glebalized”—are the only ones who pay the bill on behalf of all, through the iniquitous transfer of the entire tax burden onto the shoulders of poor families and the impoverished middle classes. Neoliberalism, the supreme phase of the hegemony of the ruling classes and of the new spirit of capitalism, thus presents itself also in the form of a fanatical faith and a fundamentalist religion of the capitalist economy; a faith by virtue of which—in the triumph of a credo quia absurdum deprived of transcendence—the market is always right on principle, even when it is flagrantly wrong.

The fanatical faith of economic fundamentalism, coessential to the neoliberal order, is based on an ideological naturalization of mercantile exchange, elevated to the condition of an aprioric endowment of the human mind (a natural-eternal forma mentis) and, at the same time, to a natural relational practice among individuals, conceived in turn as free-trading atoms. If, in The Wealth of Nations (1776), Adam Smith already posed free exchange as a quid proprium of human nature (“no one has ever seen a dog make with another dog a deliberate and fair exchange of one bone for another bone”), Milton Friedman goes further. And he ventures to extend the activity of free exchange to the very foundation of human relations: “economic activity is by no means the only area of human life in which a complex and sophisticated structure arises as an unintended consequence of the cooperation of a large number of individuals, each pursuing his own interests.”

In this sense, the formula—among those preferred by neo-liberal discourse—”working to sustain the Public Debt” means, no more and no less, than working to pay usurious interests to the financial markets, depriving the real economy of those scarce residues of wealth that the financial markets have not yet managed to “dematerialize” and make their own. The States, deprived of their sovereign currency, are forced to pay very high interests for the loans obtained in the financial markets and this determines the uninterrupted growth of the Public Debt. This, and certainly not the excessive cost of the welfare State, is the real cause of the Public Debt, whose calculated increase is intended to annihilate, in perfect neo-liberal style, the residues of welfarism and public spending, favoring the complete privatization of the world of life.

Strictly speaking, what has been said above is hardly refutable proof of Ezra Pound’s assertion that “a nation that does not want to get into debt makes usurers rage,” as well as of the vital need for nationalization of the banks in order to reduce the public debt and free itself from the auri sacra fames of the financial markets. The case of Japan remains exemplary. It has a sovereign currency and, despite having a fairly high Public Debt, is not subject to the rapacious attacks of financial speculation. In fact, on the one hand, Japan is guaranteed by its own Central Bank, which acts as “lender of last resort” and, on the other hand, 95% of the Japanese Public Debt is in the hands of the Japanese and not of speculators.

From this also follows the governmental character of the crisis: to govern by means of a crisis—one of the cornerstones of the neoliberal raison—means to manage it as a weapon for the benefit of the ruling classes who live off capital and against the dominated classes who live off labor. In effect, there is no crisis that is not exploited by capital and its servile governments to accelerate and intensify the transformation of the economy for the benefit of the dominant classes, sweeping away all still existing limits and, therefore, specifically and gradually weakening the sphere of the Public and the State.

If neoliberalism not only does not implode but strengthens, even after the continuous catastrophes it generates, it is also, because it continually manages to change the world (in the capitalist sense, of course), adapting it to the demands of the market, and exercising (also in this case in a capitalist way, that is, for the benefit of the ruling class) the hegemony theorized by Gramsci: from the Cato Institute to the Heritage Foundation, from the Adam Smith Institute to the Institute of Economic Affairs, from the Mont Pelerin Society to the Bilderberg Group and the Trilateral Commission, capitalism triumphs also thanks to its cultural hegemony, that is, through the domination combined with the consensus it manages to impose on all those who, truly, should have every interest in rebelling against it.

Diego Fusaro is professor of the History of Philosophy at the IASSP in Milan (Institute for Advanced Strategic and Political Studies) where he is also scientific director. He is a scholar of the Philosophy of History, specializing in the thought of Fichte, Hegel, and Marx. His interest is oriented towards German idealism, its precursors (Spinoza) and its followers (Marx), with a particular emphasis on Italian thought (Gramsci or Gentile, among others). he is the author of many books, including Fichte and the Vocation of the IntellectualThe Place of Possibility: Toward a New Philosophy of Praxis, and Marx, again!: The Spectre ReturnsThis article appears courtesy of Posmodernia.

Featured: le Naufrage (Shipwreck), by Joseph Vernet; painted in 1772.