Thursday, January 18, 2007


Iain Murray at The Corner asks, Is Affluence the Root of All Evil?

So argue the new moralists of the left, especially the anti-consumer greens. A new book entitled The Challenge of Affluence: Self-Control and Well-Being in the United States and Britain since 1950 advances the idea that consumer choice, affluence and progress have brought us to a moral abyss. Prof. Christie Davies of the British think tank The Social Affairs Unit savages the thesis:
British sobriety was built at an earlier time of increasing affluence, indeed alcohol consumption fell in the last decades of the nineteenth century because the men's beer money was diverted into consumer goods. The problem today is that it has been diverted back again. Yet the worst of all alcohol problems, one that knocked several years off life expectations, was produced in the old Soviet Union - a land of rising money incomes, no consumer goods, high levels of personal saving, no advertising and a population that got fat on bread and spuds, stank of rank tobacco and rolled drunk in the snow. But according to Offer, it's all the fault of capitalism and advertising...

Offer does not suggest how we (and in their different ways the unhappy Americans and the shrinking childless peoples of Eastern and Southern Europe) get out of the pit of affluence but his snide remarks about Conservative politicians imply he likes leftist solutions incorporating the evils of social justice. Sensible people know that it is only through a return to a society based on our old loyalties, traditional values and primordial commitments that a solution could be found. Maybe there is no solution at all but this is the only path with any promise at all. You certainly won't solve the crisis by letting the economy collapse and setting up committees on happiness.

The new moralists of the left have erected a secular religion as fundamentalist and rigid as any in its belief system. Those who understand the etiology and purpose of postmodern rhetoric will recognize that the agenda of this book is to promulgate (whether consciously or unconsciously) the same old tired anti-capitalistic, anti-consumer slogans of socialism and communism under the new trappings of multiculturalism, political correctness, and radical environmentalism
(three of the four pillars of the 21st century's socialist revival )

It just so happens, that these tenets represent three of the four pillars that are the foundation of an evolving epistemological, ethical and political strategy that the socialist remnants in the world have developed and are using to prevent their ideology from entering the dustbin of history.

Because, even Karl Marx believed that wealth was a good thing. He was only delusional in thinking that socialism would be able to deliver the goods more efficiently and "fairly" than capitalism. Reality proved him terribly and catastrophically incorrect.

It is said that the only way to make a small fortune as a Marxist is to start with a large one--and this truth has been proven repeated all over the world where Marxist ideas have been applied to national economies.

Thus, Marx's decendents have been faced with a terrible ethical dilemma. Their ideology of choice is complete crap and is unable to deliver any of the material goods it promises--so what to do? Simple! You make one tiny little ethical change, and instead of touting that wealth is good, you convince people that wealth--and everything that is necessary to create it--is bad!

The new ethics of the neo-marxists have taken their beloved Marxist theory several steps further into the realm of delusion; dismissing wealth as anything worthwhile, since they aren't capable of producing it anyway. Meanwhile, the radical environmental wing of the party aggressively asserts that technology is bad and inherently evil because it destroys the earth.

All in all, in their anti-capitalist fervor, they have managed to conclude not only that wealth itself is bad; but producing wealth is bad, and that producers of wealth are bad. This has enormous implications, especially for the poor saps in the proletariat class (everyone but the revolutionary leaders and the damn capitalists).

But not to worry! Those benevolent leaders will tell you the best way to live as they control all that evil technology for you (just like they did in the old Soviet Union, for example; one of the worst polluters and destroyers of the environment in history); and as they control what makes that technology possible--the human mind.

They will heroically manage whatever wealth does come from your mind and work, for the happiness of all!

Siggy observes in his recent post on "The Patron Saints of Fascism" :

The new religion of the left, anti-Americanism, was founded for one reason and one reason only: to counter the incoming high tide of truth. Revolutions today aren’t about marxist or socialist agendas. Today’s revolutionaries cannot hide the truth any longer. Today’s revolutions are about power.

Today’s revolutionaries need to upend free societies, capitalism and market economies. That is what people want, from Africa to South America to Eastern Europe because those are the ideas that have liberated and empowered billions of people. The war of ideas is over and the socialist agenda has been soundly defeated on every front. The high tides of freedoms and the aspirations of free men can no more held be back than the high tides of the oceans. Todays’ leaders of ‘the revolution’ will be forgotten. Their proved excesses in death, destruction and the curtailing of human rights have guaranteed their legacy- and the legacy of their supporters.
The religion of the left is as bereft of ideas as it is of political integrity. The sloganeering of ‘No to Terror! No to War!‘ is as relevant as saying ‘No to Cancer! No to Radiation!
In fact, the most self absorbed and materialistic are the leaders of the most tyrannical regimes in Africa and the Arab world, where greed, corruption, excess and deceit are the defining adjectives of those regimes. Those levels of greed, excess, corruption and self serving attitudes rival the most fanatical religious extremists in their tenacious expressions by citizens of all strata in those countries- and these are the leaders the left reveres.
This is the new fascism; the latest postmodern ploy; the socialist dead-enders' last ticket to power over the masses. Their latest motto is: No to capitalism! No to the human mind! Happiness, they claim, can be found only in a lack of affluence--i.e., in poverty. This attitude is extremely convenient for them ideologically, particularly since that is precisely what the new socialists will create: poverty for all.

One truth that the left must deny with rabid ferocity is the fact that the greatest human advances--social, cultural, political and economic-- have all come about as the result of the human mind set free to explore every possibility and every potential.

Happiness , contrary to any and all propaganda, is hidden within the free and joyful exploration of your own potential. Look at any growing child learning about his or her world if you want confirmation of this.

Any psychologist worth his or her salt could tell you that happiness is not tied either to wealth or poverty per se; but is only a by-product that comes about when individuals take responsibility for their own lives; and when they are able to pursue thoses lives, relationships and goals freely, without undue interference from the state or collective.

In other words, in a politically and economically free environment, an individual retains responsibility for his or her own happiness. When the state and those who rule the state say they will take responsibility--then beware.

Happiness is not a gift that any economic or political system can bestow on you or guaranntee. The best any state or society can do with regard to happiness, is to strike down as many barriers that prevent a person from pursuing it in their own unique, individual way. The state can no more dictate what will make you happy, than it can dictate what would please your palate.

Nevertheless, as the Clare Boothe Luce once wisely quipped, "Money can't buy happiness, but it can make you awfully comfortable while you're being miserable."

At least under capitalism you can be comfortably unhappy. Under the benevolent fascism of the neo-marxists, you will be given endless opportunities to be miserably unhappy.

The neo-marxist fascists--the people who claim to know what is best for you and how to make you happy--will tell you that it is capitalism, materialism, wealth, money, affluence that is the root of all evil; but affluence is only a product of the human mind. As SC&A have remarked many times, utopia cannot be arrived at without the imposition of tyranny. When you try to control affluence--no matter how "good" your intentions might be--you must first enslave the human mind.

And there is no worse evil than that.


From Atlas Shrugged via Capitalism Magazine:

"So you think that money is the root of all evil?" said Francisco d'Anconia. "Have you ever asked what is the root of money? Money is a tool of exchange, which can't exist unless there are goods produced and men able to produce them. Money is the material shape of the principle that men who wish to deal with one another must deal by trade and give value for value. Money is not the tool of the moochers, who claim your product by tears, or of the looters, who take it from you by force. Money is made possible only by the men who produce. Is this what you consider evil?

"When you accept money in payment for your effort, you do so only on the conviction that you will exchange it for the product of the effort of others. It is not the moochers or the looters who give value to money. Not an ocean of tears not all the guns in the world can transform those pieces of paper in your wallet into the bread you will need to survive tomorrow. Those pieces of paper, which should have been gold, are a token of honor--your claim upon the energy of the men who produce. Your wallet is your statement of hope that somewhere in the world around you there are men who will not default on that moral principle which is the root of money, Is this what you consider evil?

"Have you ever looked for the root of production? Take a look at an electric generator and dare tell yourself that it was created by the muscular effort of unthinking brutes. Try to grow a seed of wheat without the knowledge left to you by men who had to discover it for the first time. Try to obtain your food by means of nothing but physical motions--and you'll learn that man's mind is the root of all the goods produced and of all the wealth that has ever existed on earth.

"But you say that money is made by the strong at the expense of the weak? What strength do you mean? It is not the strength of guns or muscles. Wealth is the product of man's capacity to think. Then is money made by the man who invents a motor at the expense of those who did not invent it? Is money made by the intelligent at the expense of the fools? By the able at the expense of the incompetent? By the ambitious at the expense of the lazy? Money is made--before it can be looted or mooched--made by the effort of every honest man, each to the extent of his ability. An honest man is one who knows that he can't consume more than he has produced.'

"To trade by means of money is the code of the men of good will. Money rests on the axiom that every man is the owner of his mind and his effort. Money allows no power to prescribe the value of your effort except the voluntary choice of the man who is willing to trade you his effort in return. Money permits you to obtain for your goods and your labor that which they are worth to the men who buy them, but no more. Money permits no deals except those to mutual benefit by the unforced judgment of the traders. Money demands of you the recognition that men must work for their own benefit, not for their own injury, for their gain, not their loss--the recognition that they are not beasts of burden, born to carry the weight of your misery--that you must offer them values, not wounds--that the common bond among men is not the exchange of suffering, but the exchange of goods. Money demands that you sell, not your weakness to men's stupidity, but your talent to their reason; it demands that you buy, not the shoddiest they offer, but the best that your money can find. And when men live by trade--with reason, not force, as their final arbiter--it is the best product that wins, the best performance, the man of best judgment and highest ability--and the degree of a man's productiveness is the degree of his reward. This is the code of existence whose tool and symbol is money. Is this what you consider evil?

"But money is only a tool. It will take you wherever you wish, but it will not replace you as the driver. It will give you the means for the satisfaction of your desires, but it will not provide you with desires. Money is the scourge of the men who attempt to reverse the law of causality--the men who seek to replace the mind by seizing the products of the mind.

"Money will not purchase happiness for the man who has no concept of what he wants: money will not give him a code of values, if he's evaded the knowledge of what to value, and it will not provide him with a purpose, if he's evaded the choice of what to seek. Money will not buy intelligence for the fool, or admiration for the coward, or respect for the incompetent. The man who attempts to purchase the brains of his superiors to serve him, with his money replacing his judgment, ends up by becoming the victim of his inferiors. The men of intelligence desert him, but the cheats and the frauds come flocking to him, drawn by a law which he has not discovered: that no man may be smaller than his money. Is this the reason why you call it evil?

"Only the man who does not need it, is fit to inherit wealth--the man who would make his own fortune no matter where he started. If an heir is equal to his money, it serves him; if not, it destroys him. But you look on and you cry that money corrupted him. Did it? Or did he corrupt his money? Do not envy a worthless heir; his wealth is not yours and you would have done no better with it. Do not think that it should have been distributed among you; loading the world with fifty parasites instead of one, would not bring back the dead virtue which was the fortune. Money is a living power that dies without its root. Money will not serve the mind that cannot match it. Is this the reason why you call it evil?

"Money is your means of survival. The verdict you pronounce upon the source of your livelihood is the verdict you pronounce upon your life. If the source is corrupt, you have damned your own existence. Did you get your money by fraud? By pandering to men's vices or men's stupidity? By catering to fools, in the hope of getting more than your ability deserves? By lowering your standards? By doing work you despise for purchasers you scorn? If so, then your money will not give you a moment's or a penny's worth of joy. Then all the things you buy will become, not a tribute to you, but a reproach; not an achievement, but a reminder of shame. Then you'll scream that money is evil. Evil, because it would not pinch-hit for your self-respect? Evil, because it would not let you enjoy your depravity? Is this the root of your hatred of money?

"Money will always remain an effect and refuse to replace you as the cause. Money is the product of virtue, but it will not give you virtue and it will not redeem your vices. Money will not give you the unearned, neither in matter nor in spirit. Is this the root of your hatred of money?

"Or did you say it's the love of money that's the root of all evil? To love a thing is to know and love its nature. To love money is to know and love the fact that money is the creation of the best power within you, and your passkey to trade your effort for the effort of the best among men. It's the person who would sell his soul for a nickel, who is loudest in proclaiming his hatred of money--and he has good reason to hate it. The lovers of money are willing to work for it. They know they are able to deserve it.

"Let me give you a tip on a clue to men's characters: the man who damns money has obtained it dishonorably; the man who respects it has earned it.

"Run for your life from any man who tells you that money is evil. That sentence is the leper's bell of an approaching looter. So long as men live together on earth and need means to deal with one another--their only substitute, if they abandon money, is the muzzle of a gun.

"But money demands of you the highest virtues, if you wish to make it or to keep it. Men who have no courage, pride or self-esteem, men who have no moral sense of their right to their money and are not willing to defend it as they defend their life, men who apologize for being rich--will not remain rich for long. They are the natural bait for the swarms of looters that stay under rocks for centuries, but come crawling out at the first smell of a man who begs to be forgiven for the guilt of owning wealth. They will hasten to relieve him of the guilt--and of his life, as he deserves.

"Then you will see the rise of the men of the double standard--the men who live by force, yet count on those who live by trade to create the value of their looted money--the men who are the hitchhikers of virtue. In a moral society, these are the criminals, and the statutes are written to protect you against them. But when a society establishes criminals-by-right and looters-by-law--men who use force to seize the wealth of disarmed victims--then money becomes its creators' avenger. Such looters believe it safe to rob defenseless men, once they've passed a law to disarm them. But their loot becomes the magnet for other looters, who get it from them as they got it. Then the race goes, not to the ablest at production, but to those most ruthless at brutality. When force is the standard, the murderer wins over the pickpocket. And then that society vanishes, in a spread of ruins and slaughter.

"Do you wish to know whether that day is coming? Watch money. Money is the barometer of a society's virtue. When you see that trading is done, not by consent, but by compulsion--when you see that in order to produce, you need to obtain permission from men who produce nothing--when you see that money is flowing to those who deal, not in goods, but in favors--when you see that men get richer by graft and by pull than by work, and your laws don't protect you against them, but protect them against you--when you see corruption being rewarded and honesty becoming a self-sacrifice--you may know that your society is doomed. Money is so noble a medium that is does not compete with guns and it does not make terms with brutality. It will not permit a country to survive as half-property, half-loot.

"Whenever destroyers appear among men, they start by destroying money, for money is men's protection and the base of a moral existence. Destroyers seize gold and leave to its owners a counterfeit pile of paper. This kills all objective standards and delivers men into the arbitrary power of an arbitrary setter of values. Gold was an objective value, an equivalent of wealth produced. Paper is a mortgage on wealth that does not exist, backed by a gun aimed at those who are expected to produce it. Paper is a check drawn by legal looters upon an account which is not theirs: upon the virtue of the victims. Watch for the day when it bounces, marked, 'Account overdrawn.'

"When you have made evil the means of survival, do not expect men to remain good. Do not expect them to stay moral and lose their lives for the purpose of becoming the fodder of the immoral. Do not expect them to produce, when production is punished and looting rewarded. Do not ask, 'Who is destroying the world? You are.

"You stand in the midst of the greatest achievements of the greatest productive civilization and you wonder why it's crumbling around you, while you're damning its life-blood--money. You look upon money as the savages did before you, and you wonder why the jungle is creeping back to the edge of your cities. Throughout men's history, money was always seized by looters of one brand or another, whose names changed, but whose method remained the same: to seize wealth by force and to keep the producers bound, demeaned, defamed, deprived of honor. That phrase about the evil of money, which you mouth with such righteous recklessness, comes from a time when wealth was produced by the labor of slaves--slaves who repeated the motions once discovered by somebody's mind and left unimproved for centuries. So long as production was ruled by force, and wealth was obtained by conquest, there was little to conquer, Yet through all the centuries of stagnation and starvation, men exalted the looters, as aristocrats of the sword, as aristocrats of birth, as aristocrats of the bureau, and despised the producers, as slaves, as traders, as shopkeepers--as industrialists.

"To the glory of mankind, there was, for the first and only time in history, a country of money--and I have no higher, more reverent tribute to pay to America, for this means: a country of reason, justice, freedom, production, achievement. For the first time, man's mind and money were set free, and there were no fortunes-by-conquest, but only fortunes-by-work, and instead of swordsmen and slaves, there appeared the real maker of wealth, the greatest worker, the highest type of human being--the self-made man--the American industrialist.

"If you ask me to name the proudest distinction of Americans, I would choose--because it contains all the others--the fact that they were the people who created the phrase 'to make money.' No other language or nation had ever used these words before; men had always thought of wealth as a static quantity--to be seized, begged, inherited, shared, looted or obtained as a favor. Americans were the first to understand that wealth has to be created. The words 'to make money' hold the essence of human morality.

"Yet these were the words for which Americans were denounced by the rotted cultures of the looters' continents. Now the looters' credo has brought you to regard your proudest achievements as a hallmark of shame, your prosperity as guilt, your greatest men, the industrialists, as blackguards, and your magnificent factories as the product and property of muscular labor, the labor of whip-driven slaves, like the pyramids of Egypt. The rotter who simpers that he sees no difference between the power of the dollar and the power of the whip, ought to learn the difference on his own hide-- as, I think, he will.

"Until and unless you discover that money is the root of all good, you ask for your own destruction. When money ceases to be the tool by which men deal with one another, then men become the tools of men. Blood, whips and guns--or dollars. Take your choice--there is no other--and your time is running out."

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