Tag Archives: Scott Walker

The Decade of Anger: Capitalism(s), Wisconsin, Egypt, and Beyond

Or Whose Afraid of the Big Bad Marxist ?

On December 31st, 2010, I was just shooting the breeze, and yet:

Tunisia.

Egypt.

Libya,

Bahrain.

Wisconsin.

Ohio.

Soon to be Texas.

One could not have imagined that non-violent protest would take the world by storm, but it has, and I am truly hopeful.

Christian Salafia suggests that it is Governor Scott Walker‘s fault for Wisconsin’s economic “crisis.”  However, that is impossible. Governors cannot cut taxes on their own. They need help from legislatures. According to this document, the Wisconsin legislature took up a vote for the tax breaks, but it was anonymous since no roll call took place. Now, if it turns out that even one of the 14 “missing” Wisconsin Democratic Senators voted in favor of the tax cuts, I think it would be safe to say that they are the ones who are guilty for behaving irresponsibly.

Over the past few days I have been keeping up and re-tweeting (that is not an endorsement) a few posts I disagree with, and many I do agree, but one in particular from Craig Carter’s fatigue of theologians who criticize capitalism.

I do not expect every Christian theologian to agree, but at least in mainline and progressive seminaries and churches it seems to me at least that capitalism is somewhat of a whipping boy, through the use of generalities.  What is agreed upon in these circles, for my two cents, is that the economic inequality as well as the uneven power distribution is at the heart of America’s moral crisis. From all the critiques of capitalism I have read in theological texts, it is not the abstract “labor theory of value” that is put into question, but the concrete evidence and statistics that points towards economic inequality and in-opportunity.  What is questioned is the impact that policies have on human persons.

In the first place, there are many forms of capitalism, and so one must distinguish between pre- & post- industrial capitalist setting, and secondly, with the advent of  de jure human enslavement (14th-19th centuries), I can hardly call that capitalism. At best, it should be considered a capitalist-friendly brand of mercantilism  and at worst, the re-birth of feudalism.  So when liberation theologians talk about capitalism in the U.S., it is more appropriately called corporatism, for it is the heads of corporation (and not the stockholders) who wield a majority of the economic power.  This undue influence is a product of Keynesian economics, where the state and corporations cooperate with such projects such as corporate-sponsored public projects (charter schools, prisons). What Craig Carter seems to be defending is this corporatist economic system which he and others mistakenly refer to as capitalism. However, I think I side with Ayn Rand (on this issue) in that capitalism has really never been tried. Especially when one thinks about the histories of racial segregation and denials of opportunities for persons of color up until the 1950s.  That, my friends, we cannot call capitalism, for it was a feudalistic racial oligarchy that went unchallenged for decades.

My concern for human flourishing, with human (bodily) freedom as the norm in the political economy allows me to agree with the critical analysis of persons such as a “Marxist” and “Laconian” philosopher such as Slajov Zizek, who consistently takes aim at chrony capitalism, while allowing me to reject his suggestion of communism as a panacea for our political situation.

In a collection of essays, John Howard Yoder compares the modern Christian theologian’s use of Marxist analysis to the early Christians’ assumption of the various Platonisms available to them in their surrounding contexts. I believe this comparison is quite accurate, with a few qualifications. Yoder’s “Liberating Images of Christ” in The War of the Lamb: The Ethics of Nonviolence and Peacemaking suggests that the use of Christ as the norm in constructive theology relativizes all philosophies, so that no one philosophy is declared absolute; in Colossians 2:8 NRSV, the author advises believes to avoid having the Gospel captivated by any philosophy in our freedom to use human tradition to advance the Good News.

We have yet to see if capitalism works because it has never been tried, and what I see as problematic in the political economy is a government that intervenes in favor of companies that support politicians in power; Congress is not alone in this, for even this week, a federal judge is on trial in Louisiana for taking kick-backs for sending impoverished teenagers to a for-profit juvenile detention facility.

My inner-Minarchist says that this is exactly why only government should have the right to detain criminals in its capacity to protect citizenry.

I think with all of this in mind, the beginning of the Decade of Anger has convinced me that my interests for a potential PhD program may be the study of historical theology, with a minor concentration, possibly, in economics. Tentatively, I envision a theological economic project where the principle of non-violence is put at the forefront, similar to probably the free market pursuit of non-aggression, but with a concern for violence done to the victim, but definitely a call for the separation of corporation and state (thank you, Chad).

Enhanced by Zemanta