17th Century England – Onwards to Restoration.

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In the 17th century England, the middle class had carried forward their rebellion against absolute monarchy based on divine rights. The Parliament was the representation of this class and its fight. The men who now fought the Stuart Kings were precisely those who had profited from Tudor absolutism, which now began to irritate them. The lower middle class then split from their upper counterpart and rallied Cromwell. So far as the untitled and unmoneyed class was concerned, they stood largely by the throne, although they had as little to gain by the King as by the Parliament. The middle class was so afraid of the poor people as of the King. When the parliamentarians talked of a government based on consent, they had no intention of extending the franchise to the people; it was to be their own consent. Right to property, which they held to be sacred, meant to them the principle that the King had no right to tax them without their consent; it also meant a denial of property to the people who were poor.

Coke, who was appointed the Attorney General (and also the Chief Justice) in 1594, was attacking the divine rights of Kings and he regarded both King and the Parliament, as subject to common law which, to him, was the truly sovereign power in the land. Common law had to be interpreted by the judges. Throughout Europe, absolute state was becoming the order of the day. Louis XI had first subjugated the feudal nobility. The Reformation then enabled the monarchs to better the Church. Henry VIII had claimed jurisdiction and powers, which earlier no British King had done. To the discomfiture of Hobbes, the cursed Puritans had undone the work so artistically done by Henry VIII and the price had to be redesigned so that the fabric may be saved from total destruction in the hands of the rabble. Someone, like Thomas Hobbes agrees with Machiavelli that man is selfish and that human nature is bad but insists that the state could transfer the man into a moral being by the exercise of the master’s rod.  He is indebted to Bodin for his concept of sovereignty, but, unlike Bodin, would impose no limitations of Divine, Natural or Constitutional law on his subjects. He agrees with Grotius that, reason is the basis of law but insists that it must be sovereign’s reason alone. He modifies the Divine Right theory by discarding the divine origin of state and by giving Divine Right to the State instead to the King. Hobbes like Machiavelli, subordinated ethics and religion to politics and was the first prophet of unlimited sovereignty.

Elizabeth (1558 – 1603)

Elizabeth was the daughter of Henry VIII and Anne Boleyn. She ascended to the throne at the age of 25 in 1558 on the death of Queen Mary. She was not only regal but also human. Like her father, she had courage, determination and self-confidence. She was willful and domineering in all matters. Like her mother she was fond of pomp and pleasure. Her great virtue was that she loved the people of England and for their sake she was prepared to make any sacrifices. Her conservative mind made extreme Protestantism suspect to her, separated the foreign policy from any enthusiasm and fitted her to be the real maker of Anglicanism.

When she ascended to the throne, she had to face many difficulties. There was the danger of the civil war in the country. The orthodox Catholics regarded Elizabeth as an usurper and they were prepared to take up arms against her in order to support the cause of Mary Stuart. The Protestants were also bitter. They were determined to carry the Reformation further. There was also a danger of foreign invasion and conquest. A lot of money had been wasted in the French war during the reign of Mary Tudor. The coinage had also been debased. The credit goes to Elizabeth that she not only surmounted all these difficulties but were also able to make her country great and strong.

Religion at her time of ascension

The first great achievement of Elizabeth was her religious settlement. The policy followed by her was that she stopped the burning of the people. The “Act of Supremacy” eliminated the authority of the Pope in England and made Elizabeth the head of the Church of England. She took up the title of “Supreme Governor” and not “Supreme Head” as had been done by her father. The monasteries were dissolved and their lands were passed to the crown. A Book of Common Prayer in English was issued. Extremists among the Catholics and the Protestants were not prepared to reconcile themselves with her religious settlement. However, Elizabeth did not take any strong action against them so long as the people attended the Church. The Church settlement got a setback after 1570, when the Pope issued an excommunication and deposed Elizabeth and declared her to be longer a Queen of England. Her subjects were absolved from their allegiance to her. In 1571, the British Parliament passed an Act, which declared to be high treason for anyone in England to call the Queen a heretic, and usurper or an infidel. The puritans also attacked the Church settlement. They were utterly dissatisfied by the moderate character of it. Most of the ceremonies prescribed by the Church were considered by them to be a relic of Popery and they would like to abolish the same. However, the fact remains that, Elizabeth succeeded in attaining a large unity in the Church and that is the reason why she was successful against Spain, when the Armada attacked England in 1558.

Her foreign policy

The foreign policy of Elizabeth was essentially that of peace. Since England had been weakened in the reigns of Edward VI and Mary Tudor, it was not in her interest to fight against any foreign power in that condition. Her great danger was an invasion from France or Spain, both Catholic countries. However, Elizabeth took advantage of the bitter rivalry going on between France and Spain and was successful in playing off the one against the other. Her foreign policy approach was not dogmatic, but was guided by enlightened national interest. The reign of Elizabeth saw the beginning of English maritime activity. It brought naval supremacy to England.

Her rule in general

Elizabeth can rightly be called as one of the greatest rulers of England. No other ruler was called upon to face so many difficulties and none else faced them so boldly and successfully. She addressed in these words a deputation of both the houses of Parliament: “Though I be a woman, I’ve as good a courage answerable to my place as ever my father had. I’m your anointed Queen. I’ll never be by violence constrained to do anything. I thank God that I’d been endued with such qualities that if I were turned out of the realm in my petticoat, I were able to live in any place in Christendom.” She was the child of the Renaissance rather than that of the Reformation. Skeptical and tolerant in the age of intolerance, she was born and brought up to re-establish the Anglican Church and to evade religious war by a compromise between the Catholics and Protestants.

Tudor rule 

Tudor rule was arbitrary and autocratic in nature. It was despotism, under more or less parliamentary forms. Though despots, their rule was not a tyranny. It was popular despotism based upon the assent of the people and it was assented to because in the main it identified itself with national interests. Their rule in nature was of the dictatorship. The rising middle class called for a strong ruler and was ready to overlook his violence and unconstitutional acts if he would maintain peace and order. The policy of the Tudors was to rule with the support of the subservient Parliament. As a result, Parliament was degraded into an instrument of royal will. The Tudors had broken the power of the great nobles. Monarchs could influence elections and so secure the return of members who favoured his views. Thus, as against the sovereign, Parliament had little influence. The Tudors, however, never sought to override the authority of the Parliament. On the contrary, they encouraged the parliamentary action of the commons. Grave and momentous questions were brought before it such as the anti-papal measures, which cut off Pope’s authority in England. As a consequence, the importance of Parliament increased. The commons grew more self-reliant and were gradually fitted to shake off their tutelage to the crown. There was little friction between the Crown and the Parliament. Parliament submitted to royal guidance and the sovereign in its turn never sought to override its legislative authority.

One of the most important characteristics of the Tudor rule was the growth of the strong monarchy built upon the ruins of the feudal system. That was partly due to the decline of the power of the nobility and the invention of the gunpowder. Another important point was the broadening of the people’s minds on account of the Renaissance movement. The new spirit paved the way for the Reformation movement.

James I (1603 – 1625) 

James I ruled from 1603 to 1625. He was born in 1556 and he came to the throne after the expulsion of his mother from Scotland. When his mother was a prisoner in England, he was the King of Scotland. He did nothing to support the cause of his mother. The result was that Elizabeth accepted him as her successor to the throne of England. He had been brought up under rigid Calvinist discipline. He failed as the King of England, even though he was a man of great learning. He was so fond of “unbuttoning his royal stores of wisdom for the benefits of his subjects” that Henry IV of France called him the “wisest fool in Christendom”. He was intolerant to any criticism. He believed that Kings should have supreme authority over all. He believed that people had no right to revolt. “The state of monarchy is the supremest thing on Earth; for Kings are not only God’s lieutenants upon Earth and sit upon God’s throne, but even by God Himself, they are called Gods…it is sedition in subjects to dispute what a King may do in the height of his power. I will not be content that my power be disputed on.” 

Here is an extract from the Vicar of Bray, an old ballad:

                  To teach his flock he never missed,

                  Kings are by God appointed,

                  And damned are they, who do resist,

                  Or touch the Lord’s Anointed.

He had fixed views about politics and the status of Kings. He believed in the Divine Rights of Kings. This view was that Kings were Kings because God made them Kings and they were responsible to God alone for whatever they did and the people had no right to either find fault with them or to challenge their authority. It was this concept of monarchy that was responsible for all his troubles. James I stood for universal peace. He raised the slogan of “Beati Pacifici” (Blessed are the peace makers). His ideas of religious toleration were a cry in the wilderness. In spite of his good intentions, he was a complete failure as a king.

His relations with the Parliament

The relations between James I and the Parliament were not cordial. He believed in the Divine Rights of Kings, but the Parliament claimed certain rights on the basis of tradition, customs and evolutionary growth. Parliament based its rights and privileges on the score of History. Parliament, during the reign of James I, asserted with success its right to impeach the ministers of the King. It protested against the new impositions. It passed its law against monopolies. It asserted its rights to discuss all the affairs of the State although the King strongly protested against the claim. It failed to secure the right of meeting regularly. From these relations, it was clear that the struggle between the two had begun.

Common law

No account of the reign of James I can be complete without a reference to the common law lawyers headed by the Chief Justice Coke. In 1594, Coke was appointed Attorney General. He was a great champion of the common law. His view was that the propriety of all actions must be judged by the common law. There was no place for the Divine Rights of the Kings. The judges alone could resolve the conflicts between the prerogatives and the statutes. The view of Coke was different from that of Bacon who held that judges were lions, but lions under the throne. It was during the reign of James I that many English colonies were established beyond the seas. In 1612, the English East India Company set up its factory at Surat (Gujarat, India). Thus, the beginnings of the future British Empire in India and America were laid during the reign of James I.

Charles I (1625 – 1649)

James I died on the 27th March 1625 and was succeeded by his second son, Charles I. Charles I loved those who were close near him, but was cold towards others. He was devoted to the Church of England and was punctual in his devotion to it. To Charles I, the Divine Right was the question of his faith, as deeply rooted as his belief in the Church. He was a bad judge of public questions and political men. He viewed them through the lens of his affections. He saw only rebellion in the critics of the Church of England. The reign of Charles I can be divided into four periods. The first four years of his reign from 1625 to 1629 covered the first period. During this period foreign wars were fought but lost and the relations between the King and the Parliament were bitter. The second period was covered by the years from 1629 to 1640. During this period, he ruled without a Parliament. The third period was covered by the years 1640 to 1642. It was also a period of short and long Parliament. The fourth period is covered by the two Civil wars (1642 – 1649). Charles I was executed in January 1649.

Relations with the Parliament 

The fundamental dispute between the King and the Parliament was that the Parliament was determined to become the sovereign of the country and was not prepared to allow the King to do whatever he wanted to do. The execution of Charles I shocked the people. The people were not in favour of Parliament going to such an extreme. The dignified behaviour of the King at the time of his execution also excited universal admiration. There was a strong reaction in favour of the monarch. Many called him the martyr who died for the Church of England. There were others who gave him the credit for having died for the laws and liberties of the English men. A few days after his death, a book entitled “Sikon Basilike” was published. It purported to give the views of the King on Government. It was felt that the dictatorship of the army was no guarantee to safeguard the popular institutions of England and the liberties of the people. The army could fight but could not reconstruct society. This execution was followed by military despotism, which was as bad as the tyranny of the King himself. The question has been asked whether the execution of Charles I was justified or not. From the legal point of view, there was no justification for trying the King as no process could be issued against the monarch. Moreover, the members of the court were partisans and did not come up to the ideal of impartiality as required by the judges. The only justification for the execution of Charles I was moral and political. Cromwell was right in saying that it was a cruel necessity. It was cruel because it was an extreme measure involving the execution of the King. It was a necessity because without it there would have been no liberty for Englishmen. Charles I was not at all prepared to accept any limitations on his powers. He was given many opportunities both by the Parliament and the army to come to reasonable compromise but he was declared dishonest by these very bodies and hence it was difficult to come to any sort of an agreement with him. The Parliament and the army always thought of him as extremely cynical and his dealings with these two constitutional bodies were inherently insincere in nature and thus no wonder such an insincere man was put to death.

Commonwealth 

The Commonwealth was established in England on January 4, 1649 by a proclamation by the Rump Parliament that “the people are, under God, the origin of all just power…that the commons of England in Parliament assembled, being chosen by and representing the people have the supreme power in this nation”. On February 5, the Rump decided that the House of Lords, being dangerous and useless, should be abolished. On February 6, it was resolved that “it hath been found by experience and this House doth declare that the office of the King in this nation and to have power thereof in any single person, is unnecessary and burdensome and dangerous to the liberty, safety and public interest of the people of this nation and thereof ought to be abolished”. On March 17 and 19, 1649, two Acts were passed by which the offices of the King and the House of Lords were abolished. Thus the House of Commons became the sole governing body of England. The chief organ of administration of the Commonwealth was the Council of the State. It was annually chosen by the Parliament. The council was concerned with the army, the navy, foreign affairs etc. In July 1649, was passed the “Treason Act”, which made it treasonable for anyone who published maliciously that “the Government is usurped or unlawful or that the Commons assembled in Parliament are not the supreme authority of this nation”. In September 1649, was passed the “Press Act” which muzzled the freedom of the press. The publication of any printed material without a license from the Government was forbidden. A special court of justice consisting of 12 judges was established to liquidate the enemies of the Commonwealth.

The members of the Parliament were Presbyterians and they insisted on imposing “certain fundamentals before a man should be free to propagate his opinions”. Cromwell was in favour of religious toleration for all except the Roman Catholics. Certain changes were introduced in the Church whereby it became less Presbyterian. It lost its autonomy and became subordinate to the State. Rump Parliament was “the first English Government to appreciate the importance of sea power”. It also was responsible for England a great sea power. The Rump Parliament also attended to foreign trade and the overseas empire of England. In 1651, was passed the “Navigation Act”. This Act was intended to strike a blow at the commercial power of Holland and no wonder it aroused the indignation of that country. The Rump had become unpopular with the army because it was a small body, which did not represent the whole nation. Moreover, many of its members were guilty of favouritism and corruption. Cromwell and his army urged the dissolution of the Parliament but the Rump refused to be dissolved. Cromwell could not tolerate the pride ambition and self-seeking of the members of the Parliament. On April 20, 1653, Cromwell himself went to the House of the Commons and turned out the members of the House and had the doors locked. The same afternoon, the Council of State also fell before military violence. After the dissolution of the Rump, Cromwell set up a new council of State which recommended that a Parliament of saints composed of 140 Godly men, 129 from England, 5 from Scotland and 6 from Ireland be summoned. This Parliament met in 1653. it is also known as Barebone’s Parliament. This Parliament was a unique one and it passed many laws like the solemnization of marriage a civil institution, public registration of births, marriages and death. Another law provided for the better custody of insanes. But this Parliament too failed. Cromwell was essentially a reluctant and an apologetic dictator. Lambert drew up a constitutional document called the “Instrument of Government”. It was the first and the last written English constitution. By this instrument, Cromwell was made Lord Protector for life with Council of State to help him. England, Scotland and Ireland were to be united in a single commonwealth with a Parliament representing the three countries. Parliament consisting of one House was to possess the legislative power and was to be elected every three years by a reformed electorate. This instrument gave Cromwell a limited monarchy for life. While the peculiarity of the English constitution was that it was flexible and unwritten, but the instrument tried to make it rigid and written.

Cromwell

Cromwell was one of the greatest figures in the History of England. He was born in 1599 at Huntington. He was a son of a country gentleman and was educated in a college in Cambridge. He emerged as a leader of his country when she was plunged in a Civil war on account of the conflict between the King and the Parliament. He not only won victories for the Parliament but also restored law and order in the country. Cromwell was the first pronounced imperialist in the history of England. His objective was to extend the power of England overseas and he did not hesitate to use all possible means to achieve that end. In his foreign policy, he showed zeal for Protestantism, but while doing so, he did not ignore the trade and commerce of his country. He was himself a Republican, but circumstances forced him to act as a military despot. He tried to govern by a system involving the division of power between himself and the Parliament. When he failed in that objective, he ruled despotically. He levied taxes without the sanction of the Parliament. He imprisoned people without trial. As a matter of fact, he set up a military tyranny. He wished for the Parliament to be supreme and did not wish to take up the title of the King. His faith in God was both a source of his strength and his weakness. In all that he did, whether good or evil, in the three kingdoms, his conviction was that God would support him in everything that he undertook. What he judged to be necessary for the present, that he thought to be predestined for the future. His victories seemed to him, not the result of the means, which he employed, but proofs that his policies were also the will of the Divine. Although he is regarded by some as the greatest patriot and by others as the greatest traitor, he was without doubt one of the greatest men of his country. He possessed military capacity of a very high order. He organized and maintained an army, which was so efficient that he did not meet with any defeat. Oliver Cromwell died on September 3,1658. When his strong hand was removed, the country was plunged into confusion. The Levellers stood for a Republic in which the common people were to rule without Lords, Priests or Lawyers. They had a very treatment from Oliver Cromwell but now they felt that they could do whatever they pleased. Another set known as the Fifth Monarchy Men was led by Harrison. They foretold the immediate end of the world. According to their reading of Daniel, the four monarchies of antiquity, Babylonia, Persia, Greece, and Rome were to be succeeded by the fifth monarchy, now at hand, the reign of Christ and his Saints.

Oliver Cromwell had named his son Richard Cromwell to succeed as the Lord Protector. He lacked political capacity and had no advisers. The gulf between Richard and the army was widening. In order to strengthen his position, Richard decided to summon the Parliament and the members of the Parliament were hostile to the army. The army did not like the law, which forbade the army officers from having political meetings. Parliament was dissolved by force in April 1659 and the Rump was recalled. Richard resigned his charge. About the period between 1649 and 1660, monarchy had gone and the House of Lords was established as “useless and dangerous”. This “freedom” was to rise to a climax of Puritan democracy, to decline by reaction into military dictatorship and at last to expire through faction. But it left a legacy. Puritanism released an energy, which called for liberty in religion and every department of life with efficiency greater than anything England had seen. It took long strides towards union with Scotland and Ireland. Its administrative machinery pointed towards the cabinet and its economic doctrine led to the capitalist Britain of the next two centuries.

Restoration

The Restoration of Charles II to the throne of England in 1660 was not merely the restoration of the King but also of Parliament, the Anglican Church, the historic law courts and the old system of local governments in the country. It is wrong to say that the monarchy that was restored was the unlimited and absolute monarchy of Charles I and James I. The “Triennial Act” of 1641 had not been repealed and it meant that the King could not carry on Government without calling a Parliament at least once in three years. Thus, the “Triennial Act” put a check on the power of the King. The result was that Charles II had to be less arbitrary and act according to the law. The very fact that Parliament had made Charles II, the King of England implied that in the last resort Parliament could also unmake him. The Divine Right of Kings to rule was practically dead. A point of conflict between the first two Stuart Kings and the Parliament was the question of taxation. Charles I had levied taxes without the consent of the Parliament. Now it was clearly understood that new taxes could be levied only with the consent of the Parliament. It is clear that although monarchy was restored, it was restored with a difference. Restoration gave to Parliament its old form and organization, which had so radically been changed during the Commonwealth period. The two Houses of the Parliament were restored and the House of Commons became more powerful than the House of Lords. Charles II never questioned the privileges of the Parliament. As a matter of fact, most of his important laws were passed through the Parliament.

Restoration of the Church

Restoration was also the restoration of the Church of England. The Parliament, which was elected in 1661 after the dissolution of the convention Parliament, was predominantly Anglican in nature. The Presbyterian element had disappeared altogether. The so-called Cavalier Parliament ended the work of the Presbyterian majority and restored the Anglican Church to its former position. The “Act of Uniformity” of 1662 provided that all clergymen and teachers were to declare their acceptance of the Anglican Prayer Book. The “Conventicle Act” of 1664 forbade under severe penalties, attendance of any public worship, which was not of Anglican form, of more than four persons, unless they belonged to the same family. The “Test Act” of 1673 provided that all civil and military officers were to take the oath of allegiance and accept the supremacy of the Church of England. In 1679, was passed the “Parliamentary Test Act” which provided that no person was to be a Member of Parliament unless he belonged to the Church of England. 1679 was also the year of Hobbes’ death. It is clear that the Anglican Church was established as a State Church, but with the difference that the headship of the Church no longer belonged to the King as a prerogative right. The leadership of the Church lay with the King-in-Parliament. As has been rightly put by Sir D. L. Keir that the restoration of monarchy in 1660 was especially a return to Government by Law. In this period, the legislative union with Scotland and Ireland was dissolved.

The reign of Charles II

During the reign of Charles II, some constitutional progress was made. The system of appropriation of supplies was established. While granting money to the King, the Parliament laid down the specific purpose for which the money was granted. The responsibility of the Ministers of Parliament was also secured to some extent. During the reign of Charles II, parliamentary parties with definite political programmes were formed and that also added to the strength of the Parliament. The passing of the “Habeas Corpus Act” in 1679 has become a cornerstone of the liberties of the people of England. The Parliament, which placed Charles II on the throne, was known as the Convention Parliament because it was summoned without a royal writ. The lands of the Royalists, which were confiscated, were restored. The Royal revenue was fixed at a fixed sum. Feudal dues and purveyance were abolished. A permanent excise tax was granted to the King as a compensation for the loss of his feudal revenues. The Convention Parliament was dissolved in 1661 and fresh elections were held. The new Parliament, which met in 1661, sat for 18 years and is known as the Cavalier Parliament. It was so called because the cavalier spirit was present among its members. This Parliament was royalist in nature in politics and Anglican in religion. It hated the Puritans and stood for the strengthening of the Church of England. It is true that during the reign of Charles II, the court was corrupt and there were pleasures all around. However, during this period, humanity and refinement spread rapidly in England. Literature, art and science, architecture and etiquette and fashions were copied from the court off Louis XIV, the grand monarch of France. One of the most notable men of this age wasIsaac Newton (1642 – 1727). There were great strides made in the disciplines of Astronomy, Physics, Chemistry and Medicine.

Why Do Sovereign Borrowers Seek to Avoid Default? A Case of Self-Compliance With Contractual Terms.

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Every form of debt is typically a contractual agreement between a lender and a borrower. The former initially pays a money amount to the latter, the latter promises regular interest payments in the future (ct) for a certain time period (n years) and then return of the whole nominal value of the contract (C). This practically means that the owner of the contract (creditor) acquires a right on a future stream of payments and the contract a present value for the same reason. In a general case, the present value of the contract is given by the following formula (r is the discounting rate):

PV = ∑t=1n ct/(1 + r)t + C/(1 + r)n

Put simply, the equation gives the present value of the liability discounting all future anticipated payments. Default is by definition any ex post change in the stream of current and future payments on the debt contract. This change makes the contract less valuable to the creditor, reducing its present value for non-execution of the agreed payments.

In the case that the borrower is a private firm (or a household), law and related third party enforcers (including but not limited to the courts) guarantee the execution of the contractual terms. If the borrower in the international financial markets is a sovereign state, things are quite different as the third-party enforcement is typically futile. Sovereign borrowers may voluntarily choose to self-comply to the contractual terms; nevertheless, if not, there is no typical third-party enforcement on the international level. Even in the case that the debt contracts are subject to foreign law, the enforcement powers of the foreign courts are limited. The case of Argentina is indicative enough. As it is now well known and widely discussed, the court judgment of Thomas P. Griesa determined that the Argentine government should pay the holdouts pari passu despite the fact that the great majority of creditors had agreed to a restructuring. The decision had its results and triggered a new mini-default, but by no means could typically enforce a policy change to Argentina. In the relevant literature, this is usually called fundamental asymmetry of the sovereign debt market. In the mainstream misleading analytical context (where states, firms, and households are treated as coherent agents acting on a cost/benefit basis and pursuing the optimum position) the key question is the following: why do sovereign borrowers comply with the contractual terms much more often than expected?

Sovereign borrowers avoid default and self-comply with the contractual terms because the strategic benefits from a default do not exceed the anticipated losses. There is truth in this argument. For instance, a sovereign default would heavily affect the domestic financial system, which is usually not only exposed to domestic sovereign debt but would also face serious impediments in its organic connection to the international markets (in the case of a developed capitalist economy, this implies extra financial costs for the private sector and thus serious macroeconomic consequences for employment and growth). One should also take into consideration the economic and political consequences of a default, since negotiations with the creditors take considerable time. The list of cost/benefit analysis can be quite long, but this train of thought misses the crucial factor: the very nature of contemporary capitalist power.

Cost-benefit analysis takes a concrete form only within the contemporary context of capitalist power. International financial markets do not curtail the range of state sovereignty – they reshape the contour of capitalist power. Contemporary capitalism (the term “neoliberalism” is too restrictive to capture all its aspects) amounts to a recomposition or reshaping of the relations between capitalist states (as uneven links in the context of the global imperialist chain), individual capitals (which are constituted as such only in relation to a particular national social capital), and “liberalized” financial markets. This recomposition presupposes a proper reforming of all components involved, in a way that secures the reproduction of the dominant (neoliberal) capitalist paradigm. From this point of view, contemporary capitalism comprises a historical specific form of organization of capitalist power on a social-wide scale, wherein governmentality through financial markets acquires a crucial role. The new condition of governmentality (reproduction of capitalist rule) thus takes the form of a “state-and-market” type of connection. Regardless of the results of cost-benefit calculus, the organic inclusion of the economy in the international markets is a critical premise for the organization of capitalist rule. On the other hand, it is also clear that a recomposition of the relation to international markets (national self-sufficiency) can easily incite the most regressive and authoritarian forms of state governance, if it is not accompanied by a radical shift in the class relations of power.

In Praise of Libertarianism. Drunken Risibility

The-True-Political-Spectrum

Devotion to free markets is a sin??? Nah!!!. Like quantitative induction and philosophical deduction, economics has always had a political purpose, and the purpose has usually been libertarian. Economists are freedom nuts, which is to say that they look with suspicion on lawyerly plans to solve problems with new state compulsions and longer jail sentences. Economics at its philosophical birth, among physiocrats in Paris and moral philosophers in Edinburgh, was in favor of free markets and was suspicious of overblown states. Mostly it still is. Let things be, laissez faire, has been the economists’ cry against intervention. Let the trades begin.

True, not all economists are free traders. The non-free traders, often European and disproportionately French, point out that you can make other assumptions about how trade works, A’, and get other conclusions, C’, not so favorable to laissez faire. The free-trade theorem, which sounds so grand, is actually pretty easy to overturn. Suppose a big part of the economy – say the household – is, as the economists put it, “distorted” (e.g., suppose people in households do things for love: you can see that the economists have a somewhat peculiar idea of “distortion”). Then it follows rigorously (that is to say, mathematically) that free trade in other sectors (e.g., manufacturing) will not be the best thing. In fact it can make the average person worse off than restricted, protected, tariffed trade would.

And of course normal people – meaning non-economists – are not persuaded that free trade is always and everywhere a good thing. For example most people think free trade is a bad thing for the product or service they make. But, the reality is to think the need to blockade entry into the profession of being an economist: it is, in all agreement, scandalous that so many unqualified quacks are bilking consumers with adulterated economics.

And very many normal people of leftish views, even after communism, even after numerous disastrous experiments in central planning, think socialism deserves a chance. They think it obvious that socialism is after all fairer than unfettered capitalism. They think it obvious that regulation is after all necessary to restrain monopoly. They don’t realize that free markets have partially broken down inequality (for example, between men and women; “partially”) and partially undermined monopolies (for example, local monopolies in retailing) and have increased the income of the poor over two centuries by a factor of 18. The felony lies in, the lefties think, in exactly its free-market bias.

But, my dearly beloved friends on the left, think, think again. There really is a serious case to be made against government intervention and in favor of markets. Maybe not knockdown; maybe imperfect here or there; let’s chat about it; hmm, a serious case that serious people ought to take seriously. The case in favor of markets is on the contrary populist and egalitarian and person-respecting and bad-institution-breaking libertarianism. Don’t go to government to solve problems, said Adam Smith. As he didn’t say, to do so is to put the fox in charge of the hen house. The golden rule is, those who have the gold rule: so don’t expect a government run by men to help women, or a government run by Enron executives to help Enron employees.

Libertarianism is typical of economics, especially English-speaking economics, and most especially American economics. Most Americans if they can get clear of certain European errors, are radical libertarians under the skin. Give me liberty. Sweet land of liberty. Live free or die. But alas, no time, no time. Libraries of books have been written examining the numerous and weighty arguments for the market and against socialism. Really, that the average literary person believes the first few pages of The Communist Manifesto suffice for knowledge of economics and economic history, in which he professes great interest, is a bit of a scandal. As Cromwell said wearily to the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland, 3 August, 1650, “I beseech you, in the bowels of Christ, think it possible you may be mistaken.” Oh, permit one short libertarian riff.

Nor is government obstruction peculiar to the present-day Third World. In one decade in the eighteenth century, according to the Swedish economist and historian Eli Heckscher in his book, Mercantilism, the French government sent tens of thousands of souls to the galleys and executed 16,000 (that’s about 4.4 people a day over the ten years: you see the beauty of statistical thinking) for the hideous crime of… are you ready to hear the appalling evil these enemies of the State committed, fully justifying hanging them all, every damned one of their treasonable skins? … importing printed calico cloth. States do not change much from age to age. In view of How Muches and Oh, My Gods like these – the baleful oomph of governmental intrusions world-wide crushing harmless (indeed, beneficial) exchange, from marijuana to printed calico – perhaps laissez faire does not seem so obviously sinful, does it now? Consider, my dear leftist friends. Read and reflect. I beseech you, think it possible that, like statistics and mathematics, the libertarianism of economics is a virtue.

Liberalism.

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In a humanistic society, boundary conditions (‘laws’) are set which are designed to make the lives of human beings optimal. The laws are made by government. Yet, the skimming of surplus labor by the capital is only overshadowed by the skimming by politicians. Politicians are often ‘auto-invited’ (by colleagues) in board-of-directors of companies (the capital), further enabling amassing buying power. This shows that, in most countries, the differences between the capital and the political class are flimsy if not non-existent. As an example, all communist countries, in fact, were pure capitalist implementations, with a distinction that a greater share of the skimming was done by politicians compared to more conventional capitalist societies.

One form of a humanistic (!!!!!????) government is socialism, which has set as its goals the welfare of humans. One can argue if socialism is a good form to achieve a humanistic society. Maybe it is not efficient to reach this goal, whatever ‘efficient’ may mean and the difficulty in defining that concept.

Another form of government is liberalism. Before we continue, it is remarkable to observe that in practical ‘liberal’ societies, everything is free and allowed, except the creation of banks and doing banking. By definition, a ‘liberal government’ is a contradiction in terms. A real liberal government would be called ‘anarchy’. ‘Liberal’ is a name given by politicians to make people think they are free, while in fact it is the most binding and oppressing form of government.

Liberalism, by definition, has set no boundary conditions. A liberal society has at its core the absence of goals. Everything is left free; “Let a Darwinistic survival-of-the-fittest mechanism decide which things are ‘best'”. Best are, by definition, those things that survive. That means that it might be the case that humans are a nuisance. Inefficient monsters. Does this idea look far-fetched? May it be so that in a liberal society, humans will disappear and only capital (the money and the means of production) will survive in a Darwinistic way? Mathematically it is possible. Let me show you.

Trade unions are organizations that represent the humans in this cycle and they are the ways to break the cycle and guarantee minimization of the skimming of laborers. If you are human, you should like trade unions. (If you are a bank manager, you can – and should – organize yourself in a bank-managers trade union). If you are capital, you do not like them. (And there are many spokesmen of the capital in the world, paid to propagate this dislike). Capital, however, in itself cannot ‘think’, it is not human, nor has it a brain, or a way to communicate. It is just a ‘concept’, an ‘idea’ of a ‘system’. It does not ‘like’ or ‘dislike’ anything. You are not capital, even if you are paid by it. Even if you are paid handsomely by it. Even if you are paid astronomically by it. (In the latter case you are probably just an asocial asshole!!!!). We can thus morally confiscate as much from the capital we wish, without feeling any remorse whatsoever. As long as it does not destroy the game; destroying the game would put human happiness at risk by undermining the incentives for production and reduce the access to consumption.

On the other hand, the spokesmen of the capital will always talk about labor cost contention, because that will increase the marginal profit M’-M. Remember this, next time somebody talks in the media. Who is paying their salary? To give an idea how much you are being fleeced, compare your salary to that of difficult-to-skim, strike-prone, trade-union-bastion professions, like train drivers. The companies still hire them, implying that they still bring a net profit to the companies, in spite of their astronomical salaries. You deserve the same salary.

Continuing. For the capital, there is no ‘special place’ for human labor power LP. If the Marxist equation can be replaced by

M – C{MoP} – P – C’ – M’

i.e., without LP, capital would do just that, if that is optimizing M’-M. Mathematically, there is no difference whatsoever between MoP and LP. The only thing a liberal system seeks is optimization. It does not care at all, in no way whatsoever, how this is achieved. The more liberal the better. Less restrictions, more possibilities for optimizing marginal profit M’-M. If it means destruction of the human race, who cares? Collateral damage.

To make my point: Would you care if you had to pay (feed) monkeys one-cent peanuts to find you kilo-sized gold nuggets? Do you care if no human LP is involved in your business scheme? I guess you just care about maximizing your skimming of the labor power involved, be they human, animal or mechanic. Who cares?

There is only one problem. Somebody should consume the products made (no monkey cares about your gold nuggets). That is why the French economist Jean-Baptiste Say said “Every product creates its own demand”. If nobody can pay for the products made (because no LP is paid for the work done), the products cannot be sold, and the cycle stops at the step C’-M’, the M’ becoming zero (not sold), the profit M’-M reduced to a loss M and the company goes bankrupt.

However, individual companies can sell products, as long as there are other companies in the world still paying LP somewhere. Companies everywhere in the world thus still have a tendency to robotize their production. Companies exist in the world that are nearly fully robotized. The profit, now effectively skimming of the surplus of MoP-power instead of labor power, fully goes to the capital, since MoP has no way of organizing itself in trade unions and demand more ‘payment’. Or, and be careful with this step here – a step Marx could never have imagined – what if the MoP start consuming as well? Imagine that a factory robot needs parts. New robot arms, electricity, water, cleaning, etc. Factories will start making these products. There is a market for them. Hail the market! Now we come to the conclusion that the ‘system’, when liberalized will optimize the production (it is the only intrinsic goal) Preindustrial (without tools):

M – C{LP} – P – C’ – M’

Marxian: M – C{MoP, LP} – P – C’ – M’

Post-modern: M – C{MoP} – P – C’ – M’

If the latter is most efficient, in a completely liberalized system, it will be implemented.

This means

1) No (human) LP will be used in production

2) No humans will be paid for work of producing

3) No human consumption is possible

4) Humans will die from lack of consumption

In a Darwinistic way humanity will die to be substituted by something else; we are too inefficient to survive. We are not fit for this planet. We will be substituted by the exact things we created. There is nowhere a rule written “liberalism, with the condition that it favors humans”. No, liberalism is liberalism. It favors the fittest.

It went good so far. As long as we had exponential growth, even if the growth rate for MoP was far larger than the growth rate for rewards for LP, also LP was rewarded increasingly. When the exponential growth stops, when the system reaches saturation as it seems to do now, only the strongest survive. That is not necessarily mankind. Mathematically it can be either one or the other, without preference; the Marxian equation is symmetrical. Future will tell. Maybe the MoP (they will also acquire intelligence and reason somewhere probably) will later discuss how they won the race, the same way we, Homo Sapiens, currently talk about “those backward unfit Neanderthals”.

Your ideal dream job would be to manage the peanut bank, monopolizing the peanut supply, while the peanut eaters build for you palaces in the Italian Riviera and feed you grapes while you enjoy the scenery. Even if you were one of the few remaining humans. A world in which humans are extinct is not a far-fetched world. It might be the result of a Darwinian selection of the fittest.

Financial Entanglement and Complexity Theory. An Adumbration on Financial Crisis.

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The complex system approach in finance could be described through the concept of entanglement. The concept of entanglement bears the same features as a definition of a complex system given by a group of physicists working in a field of finance (Stanley et al,). As they defined it – in a complex system all depends upon everything. Just as in the complex system the notion of entanglement is a statement acknowledging interdependence of all the counterparties in financial markets including financial and non-financial corporations, the government and the central bank. How to identify entanglement empirically? Stanley H.E. et al formulated the process of scientific study in finance as a search for patterns. Such a search, going on under the auspices of “econophysics”, could exemplify a thorough analysis of a complex and unstructured assemblage of actual data being finalized in the discovery and experimental validation of an appropriate pattern. On the other side of a spectrum, some patterns underlying the actual processes might be discovered due to synthesizing a vast amount of historical and anecdotal information by applying appropriate reasoning and logical deliberations. The Austrian School of Economic Thought which, in its extreme form, rejects application of any formalized systems, or modeling of any kind, could be viewed as an example. A logical question follows out this comparison: Does there exist any intermediate way of searching for regular patters in finance and economics?

Importantly, patterns could be discovered by developing rather simple models of money and debt interrelationships. Debt cycles were studied extensively by many schools of economic thought (Shiller, Robert J._ Akerlof, George A – Animal Spirits: How Human Psychology Drives the Economy, and Why It Matters for Global Capitalism). The modern financial system worked by spreading risk, promoting economic efficiency and providing cheap capital. It had been formed during the years as bull markets in shares and bonds originated in the early 1990s. These markets were propelled by abundance of money, falling interest rates and new information technology. Financial markets, by combining debt and derivatives, could originate and distribute huge quantities of risky structurized products and sell them to different investors. Meanwhile, financial sector debt, only a tenth of the size of non-financial-sector debt in 1980, became half as big by the beginning of the credit crunch in 2007. As liquidity grew, banks could buy more assets, borrow more against them, and enjoy their value rose. By 2007 financial services were making 40% of America’s corporate profits while employing only 5% of its private sector workers. Thanks to cheap money, banks could have taken on more debt and, by designing complex structurized products, they were able to make their investment more profitable and risky. Securitization facilitating the emergence of the “shadow banking” system foments, simultaneously, bubbles on different segments of a global financial market.

Yet over the past decade this system, or a big part of it, began to lose touch with its ultimate purpose: to reallocate deficit resources in accordance with the social priorities. Instead of writing, managing and trading claims on future cashflows for the rest of the economy, finance became increasingly a game for fees and speculation. Due to disastrously lax regulation, investment banks did not lay aside enough capital in case something went wrong, and, as the crisis began in the middle of 2007, credit markets started to freeze up. Qualitatively, after the spectacular Lehman Brothers disaster in September 2008, laminar flows of financial activity came to an end. Banks began to suffer losses on their holdings of toxic securities and were reluctant to lend to one another that led to shortages of funding system. This only intensified in late 2007 when Nothern Rock, a British mortgage lender, experienced a bank run that started in the money markets. All of a sudden, liquidity became in a short supply, debt was unwound, and investors were forced to sell and write down the assets. For several years, up to now, the market counterparties no longer trust each other. As Walter Bagehot, an authority on bank runs, once wrote:

Every banker knows that if he has to prove that he is worth of credit, however good may be his arguments, in fact his credit is gone.

In an entangled financial system, his axiom should be stretched out to the whole market. And it means, precisely, financial meltdown or the crisis. The most fascinating feature of the post-crisis era on financial markets was the continuation of a ubiquitous liquidity expansion. To fight the market squeeze, all the major central banks have greatly expanded their balance sheets. The latter rose, roughly, from about 10 percent to 25-30 percent of GDP for the appropriate economies. For several years after the credit crunch 2007-09, central banks bought trillions of dollars of toxic and government debts thus increasing, without any precedent in modern history, money issuance. Paradoxically, this enormous credit expansion, though accelerating for several years, has been accompanied by a stagnating and depressed real economy. Yet, until now, central bankers are worried with downside risks and threats of price deflation, mainly. Otherwise, a hectic financial activity that is going on along unbounded credit expansion could be transformed by herding into autocatalytic process that, if being subject to accumulation of a new debt, might drive the entire system at a total collapse. From a financial point of view, this systemic collapse appears to be a natural result of unbounded credit expansion which is ‘supported’ with the zero real resources. Since the wealth of investors, as a whole, becomes nothing but the ‘fool’s gold’, financial process becomes a singular one, and the entire system collapses. In particular, three phases of investors’ behavior – hedge finance, speculation, and the Ponzi game, could be easily identified as a sequence of sub-cycles that unwound ultimately in the total collapse.

The Political: NRx, Neoreactionism Archived.

This one is eclectic and for the record.

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The techno-commercialists appear to have largely arrived at neoreaction via right-wing libertarianism. They are defiant free marketeers, sharing with other ultra-capitalists such as Randian Objectivists a preoccupation with “efficiency,” a blind trust in the power of the free market, private property, globalism and the onward march of technology. However, they are also believers in the ideal of small states, free movement and absolute or feudal monarchies with no form of democracy. The idea of “exit,” predominantly a techno-commercialist viewpoint but found among other neoreactionaries too, essentially comes down to the idea that people should be able to freely exit their native country if they are unsatisfied with its governance-essentially an application of market economics and consumer action to statehood. Indeed, countries are often described in corporate terms, with the King being the CEO and the aristocracy shareholders.

The “theonomists” place more emphasis on the religious dimension of neoreaction. They emphasise tradition, divine law, religion rather than race as the defining characteristic of “tribes” of peoples and traditional, patriarchal families. They are the closest group in terms of ideology to “classical” or, if you will, “palaeo-reactionaries” such as the High Tories, the Carlists and French Ultra-royalists. Often Catholic and often ultramontanist. Finally, there’s the “ethnicist” lot, who believe in racial segregation and have developed a new form of racial ideology called “Human Biodiversity” (HBD) which says people of African heritage are naturally less intelligent than people of Caucasian and east Asian heritage. Of course, the scientific community considers the idea that there are any genetic differences between human races beyond melanin levels in the skin and other cosmetic factors to be utterly false, but presumably this is because they are controlled by “The Cathedral.” They like “tribal solidarity,” tribes being defined by shared ethnicity, and distrust outsiders.

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Overlap between these groups is considerable, but there are also vast differences not just between them but within them. What binds them together is common opposition to “The Cathedral” and to “progressive” ideology. Some of their criticisms of democracy and modern society are well-founded, and some of them make good points in defence of the monarchical system. However, I don’t much like them, and I doubt they’d much like me.

Whereas neoreactionaries are keen on the free market and praise capitalism, unregulated capitalism is something I am wary of. Capitalism saw the collapse of traditional monarchies in Europe in the 19th century, and the first revolutions were by capitalists seeking to establish democratic, capitalist republics where the bourgeoisie replaced the aristocratic elite as the ruling class; setting an example revolutionary socialists would later follow. Capitalism, when unregulated, leads to monopolies, exploitation of the working class, unsustainable practices in pursuit of increased short-term profits, globalisation and materialism. Personally, I prefer distributist economics, which embrace private property rights but emphasise widespread ownership of wealth, small partnerships and cooperatives replacing private corporations as the basic units of the nation’s economy. And although critical of democracy, the idea that any form of elected representation for the lower classes is anathaema is not consistent with my viewpoint; my ideal government would not be absolute or feudal monarchy, but executive constitutional monarchy with a strong monarch exercising executive powers and the legislative role being at least partially controlled by an elected parliament-more like the Bourbon Restoration than the Ancien Régime, though I occasionally say “Vive l’Ancien Régime!” on forums or in comments to annoy progressive types. Finally, I don’t believe in racialism in any form. I tend to attribute preoccupations with racial superiority to deep insecurity which people find the need to suppress by convincing themselves that they are “racially superior” to others, in absence of any actual talent or especial ability to take pride in. The 20th century has shown us where dividing people up based on their genetics leads us, and it is not somewhere I care to return to.

I do think it is important to go into why Reactionaries think Cthulhu always swims left, because without that they’re vulnerable to the charge that they have no a priori reason to expect our society to have the biases it does, and then the whole meta-suspicion of the modern Inquisition doesn’t work or at least doesn’t work in that particular direction. Unfortunately (for this theory) I don’t think their explanation is all that great (though this deserves substantive treatment) and we should revert to a strong materialist prior, but of course I would say that, wouldn’t I.

And of course you could get locked up for wanting fifty Stalins! Just try saying how great Enver Hoxha was at certain places and times. Of course saying you want fifty Stalins is not actually advocating that Stalinism become more like itself – as Leibniz pointed out, a neat way of telling whether something is something is checking whether it is exactly like that thing, and nothing could possibly be more like Stalinism than Stalinism. Of course fifty Stalins is further in the direction that one Stalin is from our implied default of zero Stalins. But then from an implied default of 1.3 kSt it’s a plea for moderation among hypostalinist extremists. As Mayberry Mobmuck himself says, “sovereign is he who determines the null hypothesis.”

Speaking of Stalinism, I think it does provide plenty of evidence that policy can do wonderful things for life expectancy and so on, and I mean that in a totally unironic “hail glorious comrade Stalin!” way, not in a “ha ha Stalin sure did kill a lot people way.” But this is a super-unintuitive claim to most people today, so ill try to get around to summarizing the evidence at some point.

‘Neath an eyeless sky, the inkblack sea
Moves softly, utters not save a quiet sound
A lapping-sound, not saying what may be
The reach of its voice a furthest bound;
And beyond it, nothing, nothing known
Though the wind the boat has gently blown
Unsteady on shifting and traceless ground
And quickly away from it has flown.

Allow us a map, and a lamp electric
That by instrument we may probe the dark
Unheard sounds and an unseen metric
Keep alive in us that unknown spark
To burn bright and not consume or mar
Has the unbounded one come yet so far
For night over night the days to mark
His journey — adrift, without a star?

Chaos is the substrate, and the unseen action (or non-action) against disorder, the interloper. Disorder is a mere ‘messing up order’.  Chaos is substantial where disorder is insubstantial. Chaos is the ‘quintessence’ of things, chaotic itself and yet always-begetting order. Breaking down disorder, since disorder is maladaptive. Exit is a way to induce bifurcation, to quickly reduce entropy through separation from the highly entropic system. If no immediate exit is available, Chaos will create one.

Thomas Hobbes, the Materialist (1)

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Hobbes was fundamentally a materialist and was utterly hostile to the supernatural hypotheses in the realm of social thought. In his political philosophy, Hobbes tried to conceptualize the relationship between the new nation State, which had been emerging under the Tudors, and the individual citizen, who could no longer be regarded simply as having a set place in a divinely instituted order. In the old medieval society a man was bound by ties attaching to his status and by duties prescribed for him by the Church. Aristotle’s doctrine of natural kinds and natural places and his account of man as a social animal provided a fitting naturalistic foundation or the theological world view that was accepted by the rulers and the ruled alike. But with the rise of individualism and the social mobility that accompanied the rise of commerce and capitalism, this old conception of man in society no longer applied. Men had shaken off the ties of their guilds and local communities, and the new natural philosophy was beginning to render the naturalistic foundations of the former worldview untenable.

Hobbes’ picture of life as a race, in which we must suppose to have no other good, nor other garland, but being foremost, was a gruesome form of social control which could take its place and prevent the anarchy of a State of nature. The answer was to be found of course in the increasing power of the

executive power of the State and in the growth of the statute law, together with the development of the individual conscience, whereby regulation from within replaced the external authority of the Catholic Church. Hobbes distrusted the anarchic tendencies of the individual conscience as much as he loathed the extramundane authority of the Church of Rome. For him, the task was to banish both, along with the traditional ties. He thought of reconstructing the civil society as a simple mechanistic system.

Let us take a brief look at his social contract and the commonwealth.

Social Contract: Hobbes had a ready model at hand through which he might present his Galilean analysis of the rationale of civil society, the social contract theory. Despite its obvious flaws, the social contract theory was an attempt to rationalize political obligations, to substitute an intelligent bargain for mystifying appeals to Divine Right and tradition. Hobbes’ feat was to employ this model to demonstrate that absolutism is the only possible logical outcome of consistent concern for individual interests. In his attitude towards tradition and Divine Right, he was at one with the defenders of the Government by consent. But because of his depressing estimate of human nature, he came to the somewhat gleeful conclusion, that absolutism could be the only rationally defensible form of Government. Hobbes imagined the individual in the State of nature as having an unlimited right to “protect his life and members” and “to use all the means, to do all the actions, without which he cannot preserve himself.” Hobbes uses the concept of right in a way to talk about both what a person is entitled to do and what a person cannot be obliged to renounce. Hobbes’ “Rights” of nature are derivative from man’s tendency to assert him and seek power. Hobbes held that men would also be driven by his fear of death to accept certain laws of nature and prescribed that every man should lay down his rights to all things and be contended with so much liberty against other men, as he would allow other men against himself. This could be done with either not interfering with other’s enjoyment of their rights or by transferring one’s rights to another, in which case the transfer is obliged not to hinder the recipient. The mutual transferring of such rights is called a contract and the third law of nature is that men perform their covenants made.

Commonwealth: The definition of commonwealth is, “one person, of whose acts a great multitude, by mutual covenants one with another, have made themselves everyone the author, to the end he may use the strength and means of them all, as he shall see expedient, for their peace and common defence.” The person that results is the Sovereign, and everyone else is his subject. The Sovereign is created by the contract, but is not a party to it. His basic principle of human nature is revealed by his Galilean resolution, “that the dispositions of men are naturally such that, except they be restrained through some coercive power, every man will dread and distrust each other.” No motive in human nature, except the fear of death, is strong enough to counteract the disruptive force of man’s self-assertion. The fear of death must, therefore, the explanation of the existence of civil society. Sovereignty must be perpetual, undivided and absolute, for to divide and limit sovereignty would be to risk anarchy. The safety of the people is the supreme law.

Historical background

In the 17th century England, the middle class had carried forward their rebellion against absolute monarchy based on Divine Rights. The Parliament was the representation of this class and its fight. The men who now fought the Stuart Kings were precisely those who had profited from Tudor absolutism, which now began to irritate them. The lower middle class then split from their upper counterpart and rallied around Cromwell. So far as the untitled and the unmoneyed class was concerned, they stood largely by the Throne, although they had as little to gain by the King as from the Parliament. The middle class was so afraid of the poor people as of the King. When the parliamentarians talked about the Government based on consent, they had no intention of extending the franchise to the people; it was to be their own consent. Right to property, which they held to be sacred, meant to them the principle that the King had no right to tax them without their consent; it also meant the denial of property to the poor.

It was in this climate that Hobbes arrived on the intellectual scene of England. Coke was attacking the Divine Rights of Kings and he regarded both King and the Parliament, as subject to common law which, to him, was the truly sovereign power in the land. Common law had to be interpreted by the Judges. Throughout Europe, absolute State was becoming the order of the day. Louis XI had first subjugated the feudal nobility. The Reformation then enabled the monarchs to better the Church. Henry VIII had claimed jurisdiction and powers, which no earlier British King had done. To the discomfiture of Hobbes, the cursed Puritans had undone the work so artistically done by Henry VIII and the price had to be redesigned so that the fabric may be saved from total destruction in the hands of the rabble.

Hobbes was eclectic as he borrowed from previous thinkers, but gave his own orientation to their concepts. He agrees with Machiavelli that man is selfish and that human nature is bad but insists that the State could transfer the man into a moral being by the exercise of the master’s rod. He is indebted to Bodin for his concept of sovereignty but, unlike Bodin, would impose no limitations of Divine, Natural or Constitutional law on his subjects. He agrees with Grotius that, reason is the basis of law but insists that it must be sovereign’s reason alone. He modifies the Divine Right theory by discarding the Divine origin of the State and by giving Divine Right to the State instead to the King. Hobbes like Machiavelli, subordinated ethics and religion to politics and was the first prophet of sovereignty.

Morality as a basis for his political philosophy:

Political philosophy of Hobbes was based on Moral philosophy on the one hand and politics on the other. Hobbes treated it systematically in his three discourses viz., Elements of Law, Elements Philosophiae and in the Leviathan. In so far as the principles of political philosophy are not borrowed from natural sciences, the two are independent of each other. According to Hobbes theory of human nature, the basis is in the two most certain postulates of human nature. The first being that of ‘natural appetite’. The second being ‘natural reason’. Hobbes reduces man’s natural appetite to vanity; he can’t recognize the fear of a violent death, not the fear of a painful death, and certainly not the striving after self-preservation as the principle of morality. As he aptly puts it that it is not the legality of the action, but the morality of the purpose that makes a just man.

Concept of individual:

In modern political philosophy, the individual is looked upon as the unit of the society and his liberty and freedom are of central importance. He undoubtedly has the duty to obey the law of the State, but the ground of political obligation is no longer an inexplicable divinity, which hallowed the medieval polity; but an expanded area of freedom which, obedience would release. The State is all-powerful, but its omnipotence is not the outcome of sheer physical force; it is a result of the superior moral ethos, which is the offspring of the contract. The primary functions of the modern State are threefold:

  1. Happiness or Utility.
  2. Material or moral progress.
  3. Promotion of fear and extension of liberty.

The individual, therefore, is of capital importance and the State is, in the long run, subservient to him. It is to hinder hindrances. The hindrance may be the individual himself, or a group of individuals or a class; it may be other states, aggressive, jingoistic and expansionist. In every case, the State has to function as a shield for the individual against aggression and as a sword for his welfare. Positive in content, modern political philosophy is scientific and empirical in nature, approach, and methodology and in technique. Advances in pure and applied sciences have had a deep impact on political thought, the chief example being Hobbes.

Hobbesian Morality and State

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Political Philosophy, as that branch of knowledge which consists of moral philosophy on the one hand and, and politics on the other, was treated systematically and in details by Hobbes in three different pieces of work viz., Elements of Law (1640), in the second and third parts of the Elementa Philosophiae, and in the Leviathan (1651). In all of these three presentations, his political philosophy shows traces of Galilean science and more so of Galileo’s ‘resolutive – compositive’ method. Everyone who has written about Hobbes’ political philosophy has interpreted his treatises as heavily dependent upon natural science, either for his material or method, which he heavily incorporates through out his works. However, the recognition of this fact on closer and meticulous scrutiny proves to be extremely questionable.

The propensity of natural sciences in his political philosophy is questioned, because Hobbes very well knew the fundamental differences between the two disciplines in the contest of material and method. On this awareness lay his basic conviction that political philosophy is essentially independent of natural science. This independence is corroborated because the principles of political philosophy are not borrowed from natural science, and indeed not from any sciences, but borrowed from experience, which one has of him, or to put it more accurately, are discovered by the efforts of self-knowledge and self-examination of everyone. The evidence of political philosophy on the one hand, is much easier to understand: its subjects and its concepts are not so remote from the average man as are the subjects and concepts of Mathematics which form the basis of natural science. On the other hand, ‘the politiques are the harder study of the two’; by reason of their passions, men obscure the, in itself, clear and simple knowledge of the norms which political philosophy builds up. Moreover, man with his passions and his self-seeking is the particular subject of political philosophy, and man opposes by every kind of hypocrisy the self-knowledge on which the proof of these norms rests.

Hobbes considered both political philosophy and the natural sciences as the main components of human knowledge. It can be said that Hobbes’ classification of the sciences is based on a classification of existing things into natural and the artificial. It is not so much the artificially produced things that are basically different from all natural things as the production, the human activity itself, i.e. man as an essentially productive being, especially as the being who by his art produces from his own nature the citizen or the State, who, by working on himself, makes himself into a citizen. In so far as man works on himself, influencing and changing his nature, so that he becomes a citizen, a part of that artificial being called the State, he is not a natural being. ‘Manners of men’ are something different from ‘natural causes’. The basic classification of existing things which in truth underlies Hobbes’ classification of the sciences is classification under nature on the one side, and under man as productive and active being on the other.

The question whether his political philosophy is intended to be naturalistic or anthropological, bears not only on the method, but above all on the matter selected. The significance of the antithesis between naturalistic and anthropological political philosophy for the matter becomes fully apparent if one grasps that this antithesis is only the abstract form of a concrete antithesis in the interpretation of and judgment of human nature which extends throughout the whole of Hobbes’ work. Hobbes summed up his theory of human nature as it underlies his political philosophy in ‘two most certain postulates of human nature’. The first postulate being that of ‘natural appetite’. Eclectic as he was, this postulate takes its roots as rooted in man’s sensuousness, in his animal nature. Like that of all animals, his is constant movement. But, the specific difference between man and other animals is that of reason. Thus man is less at the mercy of momentary sense impressions, he can envisage the future much better than can animals; for this very reason he is not like animals hungry only with the hunger of the moment, but also with future hunger, and thus he is the most predatory, the most cunning, the strongest, and most dangerous animal. This view of human appetite is a specifically Hobbesian view, but then is contradicted in Hobbes’ writings by his repeated and emphatic statement that human appetite is infinite in itself and not as a result of the infinite number of external impressions. Seeing this, one can note that human appetite is essentially distinguished from animal appetite in that the latter is nothing but reaction to external impressions, and, therefore, the animal desires only finite objects as such, while man spontaneously desires infinitely and this corresponds to the intention of Hobbes’ political philosophy. The two conceptions viz., mechanistic and vitalistic conceptions differ not only in substance, but also in method. The mechanistic conception is based on the mechanistic explanation of perception and on the general theory of motion; on the other hand, the apparently vitalistic conception is based not on any general scientific theory, but on insight into human nature, deepened and substantiated by self-knowledge and self-examination. In spite of these differences, the two conceptions below the surface have something in common, which allows us to characterize them both  as naturalistic. 

The naturalistic conception of human appetite is clearly expressed in the proposition that man desires power and ever greater power, spontaneously and continuously, in one jet of appetite, and not by reason of a summation of innumerable isolated desires caused by innumerable isolated perceptions

‘…in the first place, I put for a generall inclination of all mankind, a perpetuall and restless desire of power after power, that ceaseth only in Death’. And the cause of this, is not alwayes that a man hopes for a more intensive delight, than he has already attained to; or that he cannot be content with a moderate power: but because he cannot assure the power and the means to live well, which he hath present, without the acquisition of more’.

According to him, only the irrational striving after power, which is found more frequently than the rational striving, is to be taken as the natural human appetite. The only natural striving after power, and thus man’s natural appetite, is described by Hobbes as follows: ‘men from their birth, and naturally, scramble for everything they covet, and would have all the world, if they could, to fear and obey them’.1 In the case of man, animal desire is taken up and transformed by a spontaneous infinite and absolute desire which arises out of the depths of the man himself.

We find a more detailed definition of the irrational striving after power:

‘because there be some, that taking pleasure in contemplating their own power in the acts of conquest, which they pursue farther than their security requires; if others, that otherwise would be glad to be at ease within modest bounds, should  not by invasion increase their power, they would not be able, long time, by standing only on their defence, to subsist. And by consequence, such augmentation of dominion over men, being necessary to a man’s conservation, it ought to be allowed him’.

It is clearly seen here that rational permissible striving after power is in itself finite. The man guided by it would remain ‘within modest bounds’, would ‘be content with a moderate power’. Only the impermissible, irrational, lustful striving after power is infinite.

In four different arguments, Hobbes designated the characteristics in the difference between man and animal as the striving after honour and positions of honour, after precedence over others and recognition of this precedence by others, ambition, pride, and the passion for fame. Since man’s natural appetite is a striving after precedence over others and recognition of this precedence by others, the particularities of natural appetite, the passions, are nothing other than particular ways of striving after precedence and recognition. Speaking about the cause of madness, Hobbes says: “The Passion, whose violence, or continuance maketh Madnesse, is either great vaine-glory; which is commonly called Pride, and selfe-conceipt; or great Dejection of mind”. All passions and all forms of madness are modifications of conceit or of a sense of inferiority, or in principle, of the striving after precedence and recognition of that precedence.

The same conclusion is reached if one compares the arguments by which Hobbes in the three presentations of his political philosophy proves his assertion that the war of everyone against everyone arises of necessity from man’s very nature. Every man for that reason is the enemy of every other man, because each desires to surpass every other and therefore offends every other. The discrepancies between the three presentations shows that Hobbes himself never completed the proofs of his fundamental assertion, and, as is seen on closer inspection, did not complete them simply because he could not make up his mind explicitly to take as his point of departure the reduction of man’s natural appetite to vanity. At the end of the most important part of his work, “Leviathan”, Hobbes says:

‘Hitherto I have set forth the nature of Man, (whose Pride and other passions have compelled him to submit himselfe to Government;) together with the great power of the Governour, whom I compared to Leviathan, taking that comparison out of the last two verses of the one and fortieth of Job; where God having set forth the great power of Leviathan, called him the King of the Proud’.

The state is compared to Leviathan, because it and it especially is the ‘King of all the children of pride’. Only the State is capable of keeping pride down in the long run, indeed it has no other raison d’etre except that man’s natural appetite is pride, ambition, and vanity. 

Why could not Hobbes take man’s natural appetite, which is vanity as the basis of his political philosophy?  If this conception of natural appetite is right, if man by nature finds his pleasure in triumphing over all others, then man is by nature evil. But he did not dare to hold this consequence of his theory. For this very reason, in the Leviathan, he puts vanity in the end. Because man is by nature animal, he is not by nature evil, therefore he is as innocent as the animals; thus vanity cannot characterize his natural appetite. Hobbes in defence against the reproach that according to his theory man is by nature evil does not mention vanity at all. In laying the foundations of his political philosophy, Hobbes puts vanity more and more into the background in favour of innocent competition, innocent striving after power, innocent animal appetite, because the definition of man’s natural appetite in terms of vanity is intended as a moral judgment. He is finally obliged to attribute to the judges the wickedness which he disallows in the case of the guilty, the criminals; he betrays particularly in his description of the striving after power itself, that the innocence, neutrality, and moral indifference of that striving is only apparent. The apparent moral indifference arises simply and solely through abstraction of the necessary moral difference. Hobbes’ political philosophy rests not on the illusion of an amoral morality, but on a new morality, or, so to speak according to Hobbes’ intention, on a new grounding of the one eternal morality.

The second of the ‘two most certain postulates of human nature’ is ‘the postulate of human reason’. In accordance with the naturalistic reasoning this postulate is reduced to the principle of self-preservation: since the preservation of life is the condition sine qua non for the satisfaction of any appetite, it is the ‘primary good’. As a logical conclusion of this thought, Hobbes attempts to deduce natural right, natural law, and all the virtues from the principle of self-preservation. It is noteworthy that Hobbes prefers the negative expression ‘avoiding death’ to the positive expression ‘preserving life’. That preservation of life is the primary good is affirmed by reason alone. On the other hand, that death is the primary evil is affirmed by passion, the passion of fear of death. And as reason itself is powerless, man would not mind to think of the preservation of life as the primary and the most urgent good, if the passion of fear of death did not compel him to do so. According to Hobbes, the preservation of life is the primary good, an unhindered progress to ever further goals, a ‘continuall prospering’, in a word, happiness is the greatest good, but there is no supreme good in the enjoyment of which the spirit might find repose. On the other hand, death is the primary as well as the greatest and the supreme evil. For death is not only the negation of the supreme good; but at the same time, it is the negation of all the goods. Only through death has man an aim, the aim that is forced upon him by the sight of death, the aim of avoiding death. For this reason, Hobbes uses the negative expression ‘avoiding death’ to the positive expression ‘preserving life’. This is also because we fear death infinitely more than we desire life. 

But Hobbes also does not adhere to the theory of death as the supreme evil, since for him the tortured life is a greater evil as compared to death. So for him, an agonizing death is much more evil than death. But in contradiction, if Hobbes had considered agonizing death as the supremest evil, he would have attributed an ever-greater importance on medicine, which he tends to forget. When he says of an agonizing death that it is the greatest evil, he thinks exclusively of violent death at the hands of other men. This fear of getting killed at the hands of other men, is a mutual fear, i.e. it is a fear each man has of every other man as his potential murderer. This fear of a violent death, pre-rational in its origin, but rational in its effect, and not the rational principle of self-preservation, is, according to Hobbes, the root of all right and of all morality. He finally denied the moral values of all virtues which do not contribute to the making of the State, to consolidating peace, to protecting man against the danger of violent death, or, more exactly expressed, of all virtues which do not proceed from the fear of violent death.

Since, Hobbes reduces man’s natural appetite to vanity, he cannot but recognize the fear of a violent death, not the fear of a painful death, and certainly not the principle of the preservation of life as the principle of morality. The ever-greater triumph over others, and not the ever-increasing, but rationally increasing, power is the aim and happiness of natural man. ‘Continually to out-go the next before is felicity’. Man’s life may be compared to a race: ‘but this race we must suppose to have no other goal, nor other garland, but being foremost’. Absorbed in the race after the happiness of triumph, man cannot be aware of his dependence on the insignificant primary good, the preservation of life and limb; failing to recognize his bodily needs, man experiences only joys and sorrows of the mind, i.e. imaginary joys and sorrows. Living in the world of his imagination, he need do nothing, in order to convince himself of his superiority to others, but simply think out his deeds for himself; in this world, in which indeed ‘the whole world obeys him’, everything is accomplished according to his wishes. He can awaken himself from this dream world only when he feels in his own person, by bodily hurt, the resistance of the real world. ‘Men have no other means to acknowledge their own Darknesse, but onely by reasoning from the unforeseen mischances, that befall them in their ways’. Because man by nature lives in the dream of the happiness and triumph, of a glittering, imposing, apparent good, he requires a no less imposing power to awaken him from his dream: this imposing power is the imperious majesty of death.

The ideal condition for self-knowledge is, therefore, unforeseen mortal danger. The vain man, who, in his imagination, believes himself superior to others, cannot convince himself of the rightness of his estimate of himself; he requires the recognition of hiss superiority by others. He therefore steps outside his imagination. Now, either the others take his claim seriously and feel themselves slighted, or they do not take his claim seriously and he feels himself slighted. In either case the making of the claims leads to contempt. The one slighted longs for revenge. In order to avenge him he attacks the other, indifferent whether he loses his life in so doing. Unconcerned as to the preservation of his own life, he desires, however, above all that the other should remain alive; for ‘revenge aimeth not at the death, but at the captivity and subjection of an enemy…revenge aimeth at triumph, which over the dead is not’. The struggle which thus breaks out, in which, according to the opinion of both opponents, the object is not the killing, but the subjection of the other, of necessity becomes serious, because it is a struggle between bodies, a real struggle. From the beginning of the conflict, the two opponents have, without realizing and foreseeing it, completely left the imaginary world. At some point in the conflict, actual injury, or, more accurately, physical pain, arouses a fear for life. Fear moderates anger, puts the sense of being slighted into the background, and transforms the desire for revenge into hatred. The aim of the hater is no longer triumph over the enemy, but his death. The struggle for pre-eminence, about ‘trifles’, has become a life and death struggle. In this way natural man happens unforeseen upon the danger of death; in this way he comes to know this primary and greatest and supreme evil for the first time, to recognize death as the greatest and supreme evil in the moment of being irresistibly driven to fall back before death in order to struggle for his life. Only for a moment can he free himself from the danger of death by killing his enemy, for since every man is his enemy, after killing of the first enemy he is ‘again in the like danger of another’, indeed of all others. The killing of the enemy is thus the least far-sighted consequence of the withdrawal from death. In order to safeguard his life, not only for the moment, but also in the long run, man needs companions, with whose help he can successfully defend his life against the others. Companions can be gained in two ways, by force or by agreement. The former appears as if it stands in the midway between the killing of the enemy and agreement with him; so it is natural enough for him to try out the latter. Since fear can hardly be made manifest, but by some action dishonourable, that betrayeth the conscience of one’s own weakness; all men in whom the passion of courage or magnanimity have been predominated, have abstained from cruelty…In one word, therefore, the only law of actions in war is honour. Thus arises the relationship of master and servant. The victor who has safeguarded his honour becomes the master. The vanquished, who ‘submitteth…for fear of death’, who admits his weakness and with that has forfeited his honour, becomes the servant. The dominion of the master over the servant, despotic rule, is one form of the natural State, and as the other part of the natural State, patriarchy, is construed by Hobbes entirely according to the pattern of despotic rule, we may even say: despotic rule is the natural State. The artificial State, which is as such more perfect, arises when the two opponents are both seized with fear for their lives, overcome their vanity and shame of confessing their fear, and recognize as their real enemy not the rival, but ‘that terrible enemy of nature, death’, who, as their common enemy, forces them to mutual understanding, trust, and union, and thus procures them the possibility of completing the founding of the State for the purpose of providing safeguards for the longest possible term, against the common enemy. And while in the unforeseen life-and-death struggle, in which vanity comes to grief, the futility of vanity is shown, it is revealed in the concord of living, and of living in common, to which their pre-rational fear of death leads them, that the fear of death is appropriate to human conditions, and that it is ‘rational’. It is even ostensibly shown that it is only on the basis of fear of death that life comes to concord and that the fear of death is the only ‘postulate of natural reason’.

Hobbes distinguishes no precisely than any other moralist between legality and morality. Not the legality of the action, but the morality of the purpose, makes the just man. That man is just who fulfils the law because it is law and not for fear of punishment or for the sake of reputation. Although Hobbes states that those are ‘too severe, both to themselves, and others, that maintain, that the First motions of the mind, be Sinnes’, he yet ‘confesses’ that ‘it is safer to erre on that hand, than on the other’. In believing that the moral attitude, conscience, intention, is of more importance than the action, Hobbes is at one with the Christian tradition. He differs from this tradition at first sight only by his denial of the possibility that just and unjust actions depend wholly on the judgment of the individual conscience. In the state of nature every action is in principle permitted which the conscience of the individual recognizes as necessary for self-preservation, and every action is in principle forbidden which according to the judgment of the individual conscience does not serve the purpose of self-preservation. If, then, in the state of nature, any and every action is permitted, even in the state of nature not every intention is permitted, but only the intention of self-preservation. Thus the unequivocal distinction between just and unjust intentions holds even for the state of nature and is, therefore, absolute.

Hobbes expressly denies the existence of a law, as if it were a natural law, which obliged man unconditionally, and therefore obliged him even in the state of nature. He says: ‘These dictates of Reason, men use to call by the names of Lawes; but improperly: for they are but Conclusions, or Theoremes concerning what conduceth to the conservation and defence of themselves; whereas Law, properly is the word of him, that by right hath command over others’. Law as an obligation is the basis of a covenant between formerly free and unbound men. Thus ‘where no Covenant hath preceded, there hath no Right been transferred, and every man has right to everything…But when a Covenant is made, then to break it unjust: And the definition of injustice, is no other than the not Performance of Covenant’. The just attitude cannot be anything but earnest striving to keep one’s given word; and is therefore far from being obedience that it is, on the contrary, nothing else but proud self-reliance. From the Leviathan, it is clearly noticeable that opinion, far from being the origin of just attitude, is rather the only origin of the unjust attitude. Not pride, and still less obedience, but fear of violent death, is according to him the origin of the just intention. It makes possible the distinction between the attitude of an unjust man who obeys the laws of the State for fear of punishment, and the attitude of the just man, who for fear of death, and therefore from inner conviction, as it were once more accomplishing in himself the founding of the State, obeys the laws of the State. 

Since man is by nature fast in his imaginary world, it is only by unforeseen mischance that he can attain to knowledge of his own darkness and at the same time a modest and circumspect knowledge of the real world. That is to say: the world is originally revealed to man not by detachedly and spontaneously seeing its form, but by involuntary experience of its resistance. The least discriminating and the detached sense is the sense of touch. This explains the place of honour which is tacitly granted to the sense of touch in Hobbes’ physiology and psychology of perception; all sense-perception, particularly that of the most discriminating and detached sense, the sense of sight, is interpreted by experience of the sense of touch.

Thus it can be seen, that the moral and humanist antithesis of fundamentally unjust vanity and fundamentally just fear of violent death is the basis Hobbes’ political philosophy. As an objection, it can be called to effect that this antithesis is to be found in Hobbes’ political philosophy only because Hobbes had not yet completely freed himself from the influence of the Christian Biblical tradition. This antithesis is the ‘secularized’ form of the traditional antithesis between spiritual pride and fear of God, a secularized form which results from the Almighty God having been replaced by the over-mighty State, ‘the Mortall God’. Is this affiliation to the antithesis in Hobbes’ moral work right by itself?

On the contrary, this antithesis is an essential indispensable element, or, more accurately, the essential basis of, Hobbes’ political philosophy. Political philosophy deprived of its moral foundations is, indeed, Spinoza’s political philosophy, but not Hobbes’. Spinoza made might equivalent to right. Thanks to the moral basis of his political philosophy, Hobbes kept the possibility of acknowledging justice as such and distinguishing between right and might. Hobbes’ political philosophy is really based on knowledge of men, which is deepened and corroborated, by the self-knowledge and self-examination of the individual, and not on a general scientific and metaphysical theory. And because it is based on experience of human life, it can never, in spite of all the temptations of natural science, fall completely into the danger of abstraction from moral life and neglect of moral difference.

The contention is that Hobbes’ humanist moral motivation of his political philosophy is more original than the naturalistic motivation. The important points of his moral motivation were firmly established well before he turned his attention to natural science and especially to Euclid’s Elements. This discovery of Euclid was an epoch in his life; everything he thought and wrote after that is modified by this happening. His discovery lent maturity to his later works and whether this is the case, can be decided only after the sparse remnants of his youthful philosophy is meticulously studied. 

 

 

Austrian Economics. Some Ruminations. Part 1.

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Keynes argued that by stimulating spending on outputs, consumption, goods and services, one could increase productive investment to meet that spending, thus adding to the capital stock and increasing employment. Hayek, on the other hand furiously accused Keynes of insufficient attention to the nature of capital in production. For Hayek, capital investment does not simply add to production in a general way, but rather is embodied in concrete capital items. Rather than being an amorphous stock of generalized production power, it is an intricate structure of specific interrelated complementary components. Stimulating spending and investment, then, amounts to stimulating specific sections and components of this intricate structure. Before heading out to Austrian School of Economics, here is another important difference between the two that is cardinal, and had more do with monetary system. Keynes viewed the macro system as vulnerable to periodic declines in demand, and regarded micro adjustments such as wage and price declines as ineffective to restore growth and prosperity. Hayek viewed the market as capable of correcting itself by taking advantages of competitions, and regarded government and Central Banks’ policies to restore growth as sources of more instability.

The best known Austrian capital theorist was Eugen von Böhm-Bawerk, though his teacher Carl Menger is the one who got the ball rolling, providing the central idea that Böhm-Bawerk elaborated. For the Austrians, the general belief lay in the fact that production takes time, and more roundabout the process, the more delay production needs to anticipate. Modern economies comprise complex, specialized processes in which the many steps necessary to produce any product are connected in a sequentially specific network – some things have to be done before others. There is a time structure to the capital structure. This intricate time structure is partially organized, partially spontaneous (organic). Every production process is the result of some multiperiod plan. Entrepreneurs envision the possibility of providing (new, improved, cheaper) products to consumers whose expenditure on them will be more than sufficient to cover the cost of producing them. In pursuit of this vision the entrepreneur plans to assemble the necessary capital items in a synergistic combination. These capital combinations are structurally composed modules that are the ingredients of the industry-wide or economy-wide capital structure. The latter is the result then of the dynamic interaction of multiple entrepreneurial plans in the marketplace; it is what constitutes the market process. Some plans will prove more successful than others, some will have to be modified to some degree, some will fail. What emerges is a structure that is not planned by anyone in its totality but is the result of many individual actions in the pursuit of profit. It is an unplanned structure that has a logic, a coherence, to it. It was not designed, and could not have been designed, by any human mind or committee of minds. Thinking that it is possible to design such a structure or even to micromanage it with macroeconomic policy is a fatal conceit. The division of labor reflected by the capital structure is based on a division of knowledge. Within and across firms specialized tasks are accomplished by those who know best how to accomplish them. Such localized, often unconscious, knowledge could not be communicated to or collected by centralized decision-makers. The market process is responsible not only for discovering who should do what and how, but also how to organize it so that those best able to make decisions are motivated to do so. In other words, incentives and knowledge considerations tend to get balanced spontaneously in a way that could not be planned on a grand scale. The boundaries of firms expand and contract, and new forms of organization evolve. This too is part of the capital structure broadly understood.

Hayek emphasizes that,

the static proposition that an increase in the quantity of capital will bring about a fall in its marginal productivity . . . when taken over into economic dynamics and applied to the quantity of capital goods, may become quite definitely erroneous.

Hayek stresses chains of investments and how earlier investments in the chains can increase the return to the later, complementary investments. However, Hayek is primarily concerned with applying those insights to business cycle phenomena. Also, Hayek never took the additional step that endogenous growth theory has in highlighting the effects of complementarities across intangible investments in the production of ideas and/or knowledge. Indeed, Hayek explicitly excludes their consideration:

It should be quite clear that the technical changes involved, when changes in the time structure of production are contemplated, are not changes due to changes in technical knowledge. . . . It excludes any changes in the technique of production which are made possible by new inventions.

…….

 

Foucault, Noys, Grammar of Neoliberalism and the Bizarre Concessions to Market Resiliency

According to Foucault, the state intervention of neoliberalism is Kantian; it is designed to act on the conditions of the social to create the possibility of competition and enterprise. Neo-liberalism is opposed to the specter of the passive consumer just as much as various forms of leftism and anarchism. Second, the philosophical roots of neoliberal intervention can be traced back to the roots of German neoliberalism in the philosophy of Husserl. In this case, competition does not arise naturally but only as an essence that has to be constructed and formalized; neoliberalism is Husserlian. Foucault remarks that according to Marxism, there can be only one capitalism with one logic, contrasting this with the historical institutional argument that capitalism is a singularity with different possibilities. Neoliberals then try to invent a new logic for capitalism.

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If we accept that we are not dealing with an essential capitalism deriving from the logic of capital, but rather with a singular capitalism formed by an economic-institutional ensemble, then we must be able to act on this ensemble and intervene in such a way as to invent a different capitalism.

For Benjamin Noys, the neoliberal government intervention is no less dense, active, frequent and continuous than in any other system. The difference is rather the point of application. It intervenes on society so that competitive mechanisms can play a regulative role at every moment and every point in society and by intervening in this way, its objective will become possible, that is to say a general regulation of the society by market. The necessity is to analyze how neoliberalism creates a new form of government in which state performs a different function, permeating society to subject it to the economic.

Despite the aggressive role the state plays, Noys tells us it misses the point to identify neoliberalism as another form of statism, rather the state subjects society to the economic. Now which “economic” would that be? The only “economic” Noys mentions are competition and the market. To this point in his 2010 paper, Noys has not even discussed capital the social relation itself. The single social relation that connects classical liberalism to fascism to neoliberalism is itself never discussed by Noys.

How the fuck does this happen?

Noys explains, “the state constantly intervenes to construct competition at all levels, so that the market economy is the ‘general index’ for all governmental action”, but Noys never explains that this construction is not ideology driven but aimed at the production of surplus value. What Noys never mentions is that the state itself is acting as the social capitalist and is imposing a capitalist regime on all of society. This is important for Noys to ignore because, despite his actual narrative that this is the action of the fascist state, the real problem identified by Noys is the market. It is not that the state is functioning as society’s capitalist, but that it is doing this by imposing the market on society.

Clever money versus the accelerationists reaches its crescendo here: The real poverty in Noys’ paper on grammar of neoliberalism is in his embarrassingly piss poor grasp of labor theory, and his obsession with the ideology of neoliberalism, rather than real relations of production. Icing on the cake happens with the #accelerate club seeming to be a variation of the post-humanist desire-assemblage forming among the 25-35 year old Caucasianistas that wants us to get our Übermensch on without giving up Xboxes and smartphones…..