Words With the Meaning Removed

"[FDR] knew that fascism is capitalism without boundaries, that both fascism and communism (with a small "c") are apolitical, and that economics trumps politics every time."
- Bonnie Blodgett for the Twin Cities Star-Tribune
First, let me admit that Blodget does have the right of the case, in material terms, in one particular.  She has figured out that "reckless spending at all levels of society" is largely to blame for the current fiscal problems and credit crunch.  The bubble always bursts.

You would think this would probably make her a Tea Partier - but you would apparently be very, very, wrong.  Actually cut spending?  Maybe reduce taxes to encourage the economy when the spending cuts start making us able to afford it?

Nope: Blodgett just wants to hammer "the [Republican] elite" some more.  After all, if it was not for their "spin", everyone would know overspending is bad.  (Again, I do not want to be too hard on her, because it sounds like she really would make a good Tea Partier if she had any idea what the current argument was actually about.  Her factual deductions are reasonable, but her causes are wildly misunderstood.  The temptation is to blame "the mainstream media", but since my acquaintance with CNN is maybe monthly 10-minute segments at McDonald's, and any other television even less, I would be talking about I-know-not-what.)

But the real problem here, as cited at the top of this piece, is that Blodgett has no idea what her vocabulary means.  Facism as apolitical?  Name the world's three most (in)famous facists: that would be, yes, Hitler, Mussolini, and Franco.  Facism is not just political but overwhelmingly political.  It is totalitarian; it is total control.

Communism can claim to be apolitical in final goals; but it would be more accurate to call even that goal anti-political.  And in the reality, outside of small communes (largely protected by the rule of law imposed by traditional societies) or the interactions of families and friends, communism has never attained to any "height" beyond socialism - to the point where the two in practical terms are synonymous, though conceptually different.  Socialism, as I used to assume everyone knew, means the state has control of the means of production (either by ownership or heavy regulation).  Anything that involves the state is political by necessity and definition.

Capitalism, on the other hand is only incidentally political.  Of course it is more comfortable and possible in some political climates than others, but a capitalist, considered only as a "capitalist" and thus speaking only with regard to the economy, is unconcerned by anything about government that does not affect his market; I suppose this does make him a bit heartless but it does not make him particularly political.  But in conversation, on the one hand, "capitalism" is (mostly Leftist) short-hand for "people who are more successful than I think they ought to be", or sometimes, "not paying me what I think you should".  (Okay, I guess maybe it is more commonly, "You don't pay that guy what I think you should.")  On the other hand, we use the word capitalism more technically to refer to the system of a free market which is essentially unregulated.  Of course, this means a capitalist economist will stand against, politically, socialism, fascism, mercantilism, etc. - any system designed as or with elements of a "command economy".  A capitalist is therefore likely to support some political views and reject others.

What one real problem is, of course, is so-called "crony capitalism", where the businessman goes to Washington to get regulations passed that favor him, or to pull down contracts by quietly greasing palms.  This practice is apparently as old as civilization itself - but it is worth pointing out that in a deregulated market it would be nearly entirely pointless.  "This legislation would really help my business, and I'm carefully not mentioning that it would hurt my competitor."  "And you want us to regulate the market why?"

Blodgett ends up blaming risky finance not on, for example, government regulations enforcing and subsidizing cheap loans, but on "deregulation".  She talks about rises in campaign spending, but does not ask who is spending, or on whom.  "Economics trumps politics", she says, while protesting that the economics winning the political argument are bad economics, "reckless spending".  She clearly is looking to beat up on the crony capitalists, but does not realize how the environment of regulation enables interference with governance (after all, the government started the interference first).

Off the soapbox.  What I am trying to point out here is that even trying to analyze this piece is almost pointless.  The words are misdefined and then misused even in their redefinitions; isolated examples and broad generalizations are used to evoke a worldview, rather than an argument; logic is attempted but muddled beyond recognition.  I am sure there are better examples, maybe even good examples, of writing making a similar point, if I only knew for sure what the point was.  There are probably equally horrible examples of work attempting to make an opposite case.  But my point is that this column of gibberish got published, and that fact means that American journalism, particularly the Star-Tribune, ought to be ashamed of itself.

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