Capitalism: The Unpopular Class Mate

It’s a familiar tale, the unpopular class mate. You know the one. The weirdly dressed individual with spectacles, acne and a funny high pitched voice that sounds something like the classic comedy character Steve Urkell.

Though Steve Urkell was oddly popular in his day, Capitalism in the current cultural and political climate isn’t so lucky.

It seems fortuitous then that our esteemed colleagues at Menzies House would release a free download entitled ‘The Morality of Capitalism’. I was initially intrigued by the title because it immediately evokes the thought of Socratic debate about the ‘morality of capitalism’ at the beginning of the Industrial age, as compared to the postindustrial age that we are currently in.

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Lords of Poverty

I’ve just finished Graham Hancock‘s 1989 classic “Lords of Poverty” and recommend it to anybody interested in the working of the international aid bureaucracy. Hancock is scathing in his assessment of international aid agencies such as the United Nations, bilateral aid agencies (eg US AID), development banks (eg World Bank), and the IMF, and concludes that they haven’t just made a few unfortunate mistakes but they are irredeemably broken and need to be abandoned.

I found a few of his examples to be overly harsh, but found his thesis to be generally persuasive. Instead of trying to review his themes, I think it best to provide some extended quotes, and then encourage you to read the rest…

“This is how the game works: public money levied in taxes from the poor of the rich countries is transferred in the form of ‘foreign aid’ to the rich in the poor countries; the rich in the poor countries then hand it back for safe-keeping to the rich in the rich countries. The real trick, throughout this cycle of expropriation, is to maintain the pretence that it is the poor in poor countries who are being helped all along. The winner is the player who manages to keep a straight face while building up a billion-dollar bank account”

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Heroic Deadlines (by Ron Manners)

Late last year I went along to the book lauch of Ron Manners‘ latest offering: “Heroic Misadventures: four decades – full circle“, following Ron’s life story over the last 40 years and his many business and libertarian adventures. It’s a good read. I have previously said that a full life should be interesting enough so that you could write a book about it, and Ron passes that test.

In between representing the business interests of brothels, helping out in money laundering (back when it was respectable), making and losing lots of money, and being on the run from the tax office, Ron also found time for Australia’s first libertarian party, the Workers Party. Other members of that party include Nick Minchin, Greg Lindsay and John Singleton. The Workers party died out about 30 years ago, though Australia does now have another libertarian political party in the Liberal Democrats. But that’s enough spoilers. If you want to know the full stories, you’ll have to buy the book.

Then in the lead up to Christmas Ron sent out the following poem, which he gave me persmission to reproduce below:

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BOOK REVIEW: The End of Charity, by Nic Frances

I am very interested in topics about civil society and social entrepreneurship. I have the greatest respect for the libertarian social entrepreneur, founder of the Grameen Bank and nobel laureate  Muhammad Yunus, have started up a little project of my own in Cambodia, and have written and spoken about civil society issues. So when I saw an Australian book about social entrepreneurship called “the end of charity”, I was hopeful.

I shouldn’t have been.

This book by Nic Frances is confused. He likes to tell us how great he is, and some of the stuff he’s done (such as the Furniture Resource Centre in the UK) was worth gloating about. But then he goes on to try and create a broader philosophy while displaying hopeless ignorance, anti-market bigotry and fascist tendencies.

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BOOK REVIEW: Politics of fear, by Frank Furedi

I had heard some good things about Furedi, and there are some excellent parts of this book — ‘Politics of Fear: Beyond Left and Right’ — but unfortunately there is a major confusion at the core of the book which is hard to forgive.

Furedi has noticed that people are disengaging from politics. And he doesn’t like it. From p29:

“In fact, the affirmation of anti-politics expresses a profoundly pessimistic outlook towards the future. It represents a new form of deference. Whereas in the past people deferred to hierarchical authority, today they are encouraged to defer to Fate. Disengagement allows other to determine your fate. Anti-politics is not, as it sometimes appears, a rejection of particular parties and politicians, but an expression of a deeper conviction that politics as such is futile. The very idea that anybody could achieve any positive results through political action is often dismissed as naïve or arrogant. But those who perceive some sort of radical imperative behind the rejection of politics ignore the fact that the flip-side of anti-politics is the acceptance of the world as it is. ‘Politics is the denial of fate,’ argues the Austrian political scientist Andreas Schedler. Or to put it the other way around, anti-politics represents acquiescence to Fate.”

Similar ideas are expressed elsewhere. With all due respect to Furedi, that is utter bullshit.

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BOOK REVIEW: Liberal Fascism, by Jonah Goldberg

The first half of Liberal Fascism is brilliant — insightful, informative, interesting and disturbingly accurate in its portrayal of early 20th century politics. Fundamentally, there is very little difference between the fascism of Mussolini’s Italy and the progressive leftism of Wilson and FDR. While Hitler adds dogmatic anti-Semitism to the mix, the Nazi’s also aren’t far different. it is disturbingly difficult to tell the difference between left-progressive quotes and fascist quotes.

While the industrial socialists of the Soviet Union nationalised land and industry, the fascists and progressives instead aimed to nationalise the people by tying all life to the state. Private property and business could continue, but only if it played by political rules in the service of “the community”. As Mussolini says on behalf of all leftists: “everything in the State; nothing outside the State”.

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