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Samizdata, derived from Samizdat /n. - a system of clandestine publication of banned literature in the USSR [Russ.,= self-publishing house]

Well done, Mr. Monbiot!

George Monbiot has had a revelation… a few decades later than it should have been, but hey, better late than never. Having had the rare pleasure of meeting George Monbiot in the flesh, I was somewhat incredulous to read of his sudden insight that the only plausible way to end capitalism is with totalitarianism rather than caring sharing ‘democracy’:

Whenever anyone in Paris announced that capitalism in all its forms should be overthrown, everyone cheered. But is this really what we want? And, if so, with what do we hope to replace it? And could that other system be established without violent repression? In Paris, some of us tried to tackle this question in a session called “life after capitalism”. By the end of it, I was as unconvinced by my own answers as I was by everyone else’s. While I was speaking, the words died in my mouth, as it struck me with horrible clarity that as long as incentives to cheat exist (and they always will) none of our alternatives could be applied universally without totalitarianism.

Of course the choking weed of ‘democratic’ regulatory statism will continue to bugger up that great impersonal global capitalist wealth generation machine for quite a while yet. However in the long run Monbiot is quite right that the only way to actually kill off that protean virus-like thing called capitalism is to kill 20 or 30 million people in the developed world… and that ain’t gonna happen. Nevertheless, do not expect Monbiot to abandon his attempt to replace as many several social interactions as possible with collective political interactions any time soon (euphemistically called ‘making the world more democratic’). In many ways, his sudden realisation that he cannot wish capitalism out of existence by calling for a show of hands will make him more keen on gaming the system to achieve his ends, much the same way Ralph Nader holds himself up to be a ‘consumer advocate’ (and what could be more ‘capitalist’ that a ‘consumer’, right?) and speaking outside the tradition left wing meta-context.

18 comments to Well done, Mr. Monbiot!

  • Zhombre

    Why let a few million human lives stand in the way of creating heaven on earth? Monbiot should abandon his petty bourgeoisie sentimentality and immediately transport himself to Moscow to give CPR to Lenin’s corpse.

  • David R Beatty

    It took George Monbiot awhile to realize what F.A. Hayek had already pointed out 60 years in “The Road to Serfdom”.

  • Reid of America

    Monbiot comments: “the only way to actually kill off… capitalism is to kill 20 or 30 million people in the developed world… and that ain’t gonna happen.”

    History tells us that killing 20 or 30 million in the name of socialism to eradicate capitalism has happened on numerous occasions (Nazism, Stalinism, Maoism). Considering the weapons available today it is much more likely to happen again in the future than Monbiot believes.

  • David R Beatty

    That should read “60 years ago”; preview is my friend …

  • JH

    “It seems to me that the questions we urgently need to ask ourselves are these: is totalitarianism the only means of eliminating capitalism?”

    Yes,Monbiot,and you know why?Because ANY KIND of system where “the cake” is divided politically (shared),causes the problem of free-loading.How do you deal with people who like to eat the cake but don’t want to contribute to making it?

    There are two,and only two,solutions.

    1)Force people to work.This is what Stalin did.During his reign in the SU,people who skipped work got a personal meeting with the GPU.Many of them didn’t come back.This is also the preferred method of slaveowners through the times.

    2)Let the markets decide.People will get whatever income they can by selling their services to others.This is voluntary exchange,since nobody is forced to do anything except by the force of circumstance.It is also known as the free market.

    Two solutions:One based on compulsion,the other on voluntary choice.Pick your favorite.

  • JH

    I hope there’s someone out there who doesn’t consider the above rant as merely stating the obvious…

    Preaching to the choir,I know.

  • Cydonia

    “incentives to cheat” eh? Now what could he mean by that?

  • Alfred E. Neuman

    It’s amazing how even when these people get it, they don’t get it. A recent Samizdata posting, I think by R.C., was titled “The Impenetrable Stupidity of Socialists”. That statement is frighteningly accurate.

  • toolkien

    Two solutions:One based on compulsion,the other on voluntary choice.Pick your favorite.

    But I suppose the picking is based on who does the compelling and who is compelled, or who feels themselves compelled, anyway—-obviously those who favor collectivism are made up of those who view the world as a singular whole stacked against them and logically feel that collective efforts are the proper redress against it.

    From this point of view it is felt that capitalism locks away access to resources to a select few (of course unreasonably selected a vast majority of the time) and is these rights are protected by force (the compulsive force in this case). As long as there is a mass population who feel themselves victims of the system that places them lower on some pecking order than they feel is right (and when will that not be the case?) we will have some involvement of the State in markets, to their detriment.

    It is the quasi-religious zealots, with outsized egos, who think that they can create some appreciably better reality for all, based on some central allocation system, and the brutal force necessary to execute it, that really cause alarm. I hope that it opens some eyes that central planning can only be executed if major force is involved. Unfortunately too many people have felt that such force is proper if the cause is just enough.

  • Reid of America: Your ‘Monbiot’ quote is in fact what I wrote… I am sure Monbiot know his history. My point was that there is no way a political mass movement willing to do what the National Socialists did in Germany, the Falagists did in Spain, the fascists did in Italy, the Communists did in the Soviet Union etc. etc. is going to arise in affluent , indolent Europe or the United State any time soon… hence making the option of literally killing of capitalism a pipe dream… as Monbiot is well aware to his credit.

  • Susan

    Monbiot demonstrates once again why his universal blogistan nickname of “Moonbat” is so apt.

    A couple of months ago he also stumbled upon the startling fact that free trade with the developed world would actually HELP the people in developing nations rather than hurt them.

    Next week: Moonbat reveals the identity of the US president who is buried in Grant’s Tomb.

    Week after that: Moonbat discovers that the Earth is actually round, and that it revolves around the sun. Full story on News at 11.

    Making fun of socialists: so embarassingly easy, it almost qualifies as a vice.

  • Dishman

    The only issue I have to take with this is that Perry left out a zero. That seems to be about the percentage required to achieve ‘socialist paradise’ in Cambodia and North Korea.

  • Guy Herbert

    Sorry to spoil the party, but Monbiot’s conclusion doesn’t read to me as if he’s accepted capitalism as a consequence of freedom. The peroration: “[…]if, as almost all of us profess to do, we abhor totalitarianism, can we continue to call ourselves anti-capitalists? If there is no humane and democratic answer to the question of what a world without capitalism would look like, […]” may imply a number of uncomfortable things about his views.

    1. It’s not that he has stopped being an anti-capitalist, he just doesn’t feel like sharing the label with people and policies that have been a disaster in the past.

    2. An “humane” answer to a question must also be
    “democratic” to be acceptable.

    3. Admitting he doesn’t know where he’s going is not the same as admitting he doesn’t want to go there.

    It is quite clear from the article that he still regards capitalism as an entity, something imposed on the world “from above”, rather than a convenient term for the incoherent consequences of voluntary action. Having accepted he can’t kill “the beast”, he still wants to harness it, under the illusiuon that there is an it to be harnessed.

  • Antoine Clarke

    Speaking for myself, I rejected collectivist anarchism after making pretty much the same deduction as Mr Monbiot appears to have done. In my case it was that a non-monetary society could not exist without consenting adults reintroducing it.

    Even if coinage etc did not exist, sooner or later a person would accept an IOU, at which point currency emission could be considered to have been re-established. The only way to stop it would be an incredibly repressive police force that could not be paid for by voluntary contributions: literally a police state. It was at this point that I decided that stateless capitalism was as far as any advocate of freedom could seriously promote.

    My point is that far from sneering at Mr Monbiot, we should welcome his unexpected insight, and be willing to assist him with evidence and arguments to sustain his reservations about statism.

    Calling someone “stupid” or patronising him with “who’s a clever boy then?” when he has just learned to read but is still struggling, because it took him longer to learn than I did may boost my ego, but it doesn’t help win arguments.

  • By Jove Monbiot, you’ve almost got it!

  • Guy Herbert: that was actually my point too, Guy, not that Monbiot has ‘become a capitalist’. Monbiot has realised capitalism is not going to go away, which I suspect means he realises that it will have to be attacked from a different direction (hence my Nader analogue, who got to the same conclusion long before George Monbiot).

  • I notice Monbiot doesn’t really reject totalitarianism as an approach in that article. Hmmm.

    The best bit in the whole piece, however, was this one:

    “But this movement is no longer just about protest, about ticking off the long list of things we do not like. It is now engaged in the troublesome and deeply serious task of building a better world.”

    Hmmmm… deeply serious student protest with long lists of things we don’t like. Yeah, that’ll fix things right up. Just look at all the good the student protest movements of the ’60s did using that model. I’m sure we’ll get to that better world in no time flat.

    Sorry chaps, Moonbat hasn’t had a Eureka! moment here. Not even close.

    If he had, he’d know that you can’t build a better world through earnest planning and long lists… a better world occurs only in the absence of master planning.

    Nurse, give that man an injection of Constitution of Liberty, stat. And 10 ccs of Milton Friedman, with a Bagehot/Rothbard drip.

  • Whether you speak of 3 million executions, or multiply it by ten, the figure is never enough. Communism or socialism or the totalitarian system has already exacted a toll of more than 100 million victims. Yet, it constantly creates more enemies or dissidents, because you simply cannot quell the human spirit.

    Also, no matter how idealistic it sounds, socialism also teaches people how to cheat, because when they cannot get ahead by their own hard work, they will do so by hook or by crook.

    Yet, the biggest crooks of all in the Socialist world are those who spout its slogans the loudest in the daylight, but then do their cheating in the dark of night.