Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Ayn Rand, capitalism

I'd like to emphasize one point about liberal capitalism. To be precise, I should use the phrase "real capitalism", as opposed to today’s "capitalist" systems throughout the world. Thus meaning  - the work of Adam Smith, Carl Menger, Ludwig Von Mises, the experience of the 19th century and so on, which is not the same, and is even often contrary to today's political systems in the West that are often labeled as “non-free”, with significant elements of “socialism”.

And also -- Ayn Rand, who, by her own words, attempted to produce an underlying philosophy for capitalism.

On one hand, I respect and find very natural many ideas, standpoints and practical explanations expressed in “real capitalism”. Rand's Atlas Shrugged is filled with so many brilliant, eerie in the reality of the details, descriptions of corruption, and very natural and straightforward responses of the main characters.

What's more, I am pretty fond of the deeper analysis of the phenomena, that permeates the events in the book -- it is nicely presented that it all boils down to very personal traits of honesty or dishonesty to oneself and others, even in smallest of situations.

However, I always find a significant issue with any attempt to place capitalism or material economy in general, at the root of human action, life and the world around us. That is, these ideas and concepts are practical, useful, honest, natural, but exactly and only within the context of material economy; they do not explain the purpose or the source of the world around us, and the position of man and material world within it. And any such attempt, in fact, turns it into a destructive outlook instead of constructive.

Basic axioms in the liberal capitalism are all focused on the man’s well being in this world and production of material goods. The essential questions of “why”, “where is the source”, “what is the purpose” are not really being asked. There is no real, living God in capitalism (not that there is one in socialism either). It is assumed that we need to deal with the world as we see it, and that the goal is to fare good in our lives. Key concepts and tools, whose source is not contemplated in depth, are taken to be freedom and reason. Anything beyond that is not considered as an essential question.

So, capitalism (particularly Ayn Rand's capitalism) is a "this world's" affair. It is a closed system, where everything begins with the necessities of life on Earth, and ends when they end. Everything else, including God, is just part of the "necessities". Consequently, the highest authority is man, and the most virtuous activity is production. Not surprisingly then (although odd on first read) that we see in “Atlas Shrugged” children playing on a scrap yard and indignantly consider their activity to be “adventurous exploration of the world”.

While “non material” production is recognized just as important as “material”, and while ideas are considered to be the beginning of every activity and every result, they are simply considered choices on Earth, “earthly fruits” we get to pick or not in our lives, just like the material goods are. And all the consequences of actions and ideas are considered significant only in this life. The realm of ideas and spirituality is just the “capacity” of productive life on Earth. Thus, the production is considered "sacred", and “producer” (whether strictly material or not) is “god”. In that sense, ideas and spiritual matters are considered inherently materialistic, i.e. "of this world".

It is just as if we had lively paintings of beautiful nature that really lighten up our house and make us inspired in doing chores, but we never give but a though that those mountains exist in reality somewhere, let alone venture to go out into the mountains. We remain content with “using” them indirectly to improve the “affairs” and the atmosphere in the house. Such “nature” is also then our possession, being on a picture, which we utilize to our ends.

It is not then surprising that such philosophy yields, for example, the Ayn Rand’s "Virtue of Selfishness". It is understandable. There is simply no other possibility for a world without God, the world in which man is god, than to value our human capacities the most. Whether it is "virtue" of selfishness, or "virtue" of social happiness, it all begins and ends with man. And the “best man”, the most “free and capable producer” is “god”, and allowed to set absolutes. And, again, it is only natural that in “Atlas Shrugged”, the main character at the end of the book kills a man, a guard, out of sheer principle, simply because the guard is indecisive about “the true virtues”. Of course, what else can happen, because, to paraphrase Dostoyevsky, where there is no real, living God, we are gods ourselves, and everything is permissible.

But man is not God. Man simply cannot create, produce and give what he doesn't have. A small child cannot be a caring head of a household or a CEO when he doesn't have the means - material, psychological, spiritual.

Saying that the man has the means to be god, is simply and obviously not true. Saying that he does, but hasn't developed them yet, and we just need the time, is irresponsible and careless (when not intentional) speculation. Saying that it doesn't matter, and that, by the running evidence, he is still god in the nature, is arrogant and an attempt to take away which is not man’s to take.

Старозавјетни катехизис

"Старозавјетни Катехизис" је емисија радија Светигора ( која се емитује седмично.

Прије неколико година сам слушао на радију ове кратке емисије, и био сам фасциниран свијетом који ми се откривао у њима. 

Од једног, непознатог, скоро мрачног свијета, углавном нејасног, за којега сам подразумијевао да једноставно припада неким прошлим временима, која се не могу ни разумјети без детаљне, малтене професионалне историјске анализе, одједном сам упознао свијет у којем сам јасно видио ово наше вријеме, савременике, блиске и конкретне људе и ситуације, па и самога себе. 

Запањује ме и дан данас, до које мјере и детаља се и нама у данашње вријеме једноставно понављају исте ствари, па чак и исти покрети срца, као што су се дешавале људима кроз историју од најранијих времена

Тако веома брзо човјек осјети стварну, живу блискост и наклоност према многим од старовремених ликова које иначе можда познајемо само као неку врсту књишких или чак "музејских" имена или појмова. 

Начин објашњавања догађаја у овим емисијама је једноставан, директан и веома близак нашем данашњем животу.

У најмању руку због тога, што заиста у пуном смислу ријечи оживљавају старозавјетне догађаје и ликове и живо их доводе у везу са нама самима, препоручујем свакоме да послуша барем неку од ових емисија. 

Могу се наћи на сљедећем линку:

"Видиш - прича, поетско дјело, писано старим превазиђеним језиком, а оно - најдубља истина твога живота." 

"...Прије свега, та тумачења и те тајне, говоре нам да Свето Писмо није дјело писано у служби личног пишчевог поетског надахнућа, нити ради прецизног научног историјског израза, нити пак у служби нечега попут, нама савремене постмодернистичке игре између писца и читаоца, већ видимо да је Библија писана у служби и ради службе људи Господу Богу.

Његов се смисао не да исцрпити у осамљеном читаочевом домишљању и одушевљењу, у академским расправама, језичким анализама, поетском и мистичном заносу самозваних тумача, врачара и гатара. Његов смисао у православном схватању живота и стварности одређен је његовим физичким положајем у цркви, у православном храму. Тамо се Свето Писмо налази на сред олтара, Свете Трпезе, дакле у центру Богослужења, у центру Свете Литургије, у центру чудесног сабора Бога и вјерујућих људи.

Ето зато и отуда, нама се чини да смо прочитали извјештај о политичким немирима у Египту, о егзодусу једнога народа, о прастарим превазиђеним обичајима, да смо прочитали некакав нестваран јудејски мит, а оно нам се изненада кроз ријечи Цркве откривају судбинска питања нашег личнога живота, па не буде да смо прочитали "измишљени и научно оборив извјештај" о раздвајању мора стар 30-так вјекова, него то читамо о нашем крштењу, бјекству из робовања незнабоштву и страстима које симболизује Мисир - Египат, усласку у велику пустињу овога живота пуну колебања и разочарења за крштену душу и примицању коначној побједи и смирењу Царства Небеског коју симболизује Земља Обећана.

Нити то читамо "поучну причу о издаји међу браћом и великодушности одбаченога брата", него нам се то открива истина о страдалном Христу записана вјековима прије његовога оваплоћења, записама прије вјекова.

То је тајна Богослужења. Свето Писмо као Богослужбена књига, има ту тајну.
Видиш - прича, поетско дјело, писано старим превазиђеним језиком, а оно - најдубља истина твога живота.

Тако и на Светој Литургији, видиш - хљеб и вино, а то сами Господ који те позива да му приступиш.

Ми људи својим разумом и чулним моћима не можемо директно видјети лице Господње. Зато доиста често, ослањајући се на тако крње знање, закључујемо да смо ми сами у читавој васиони, да Бога нема. Вјера је, каже апостол Павле, потврда оних ствари које нама људима нијесу видљиве. Вјера је она сила која нас упућује у области крајње неизвјесне и недоступне нашим ограниченим сазнајним моћима. Вјера је наше једино средство и чуло пред непознатим. Вјером видимо невидљивога Бога.

Вјером, Јудејски излазак из Мисира кроз Црвено море постаје наговјештај Христовога страдања и потом васкрсења, наговјештај нашега крштења и по њему усмјерења ка животу вјечном, Земљи Обећаној. Вјером, пут изашавшег Израиља предвођеног Мојсејем постаје наш пут. Патње и колебање Јудејаца постају наше патње. Једна стара и на први поглед наивна прича постаје путоказ нашим срцима. Вјером Света православна Литургија, од представе за наше очи, збира неразумних радњи, превазиђене традиције и обичаја, постаје предворје, предукус Царства Небескога у који се сабирамо "опет и опет", како каже литургијска молитва.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Economy, good household, Capitalism and Socialism

Just because these things are so interesting (or "interesting") a topic these days, and because everyone, not only professionals, are the ultimate benefactors or victims of the economy, here is a few words on that from this one little end-consumer.

Economy, οἰκονόμος (Greek), "managing a household", domaćinstvo, domaćin (in Serbian)... These days, good principles of managing households and economies, are widely being abandoned on so many levels and instances. 

All the basic good principles that would make a household strong and healthy, should stand in a country's economy, regardless of the fact that, as they say, "the two are as different as a speed boat and an ocean liner". 
Prudence, awareness of one's fragile position in the world, full knowledge that the food and other necessities as well as luxuries have to be produced, earned, or in other way acquired with effort and sweat. 
That we don't just get them for free from other people, and when we do, then they are the product of others' effort and should be considered a present, not a right. 
That we cannot consume more than we produce.
That we have to produce first, then consume.
That the resources at our disposal are limited and should be allocated with care and diligence. And if we really, really have to breach any of the principles, we should consider that an exception and handle it prudently, and even more, with fear, lest it become a habit.

The world is dealing with the monumental credit crisis, which has already become the confidence crisis. Why - because there is so much of imprudency, recklessness, arrogance - all the opposites of the good principles. Seems everyone has been spending money they didn't have. Not only governments, but everyone. Everyone was after "free lunch", to get "something for nothing", and "more of it".

There have been so many examples in the recent years (and explanations) of how ignoring this ultimately leads to crisis, personal, or obviously even on a global scale. We, who have lived in socialist countries, have experienced severe national crises for the very same reasons.

I am not implying, however, that liberal economy, (nowadays quite loudly represented by "Austrian School"), and especially not today's political systems in the West, are sole, or even firm keepers of these principles, as many do say. I also do not intend to say that socialism has no such prudent, sustainable principles (although I do think that socialism as we know it from practice, did have a systemic inclination for ignoring them). 

In fact, having seen the same kind of amazing corruption of governments and capital both in socialist and capitalist countries throughout the world, I think the terms “capitalism” and “socialism” and the polarity between them have become anachronistic and do not represent reality well anymore. They should be used to describe only the past events, while today we are dealing more with the polarities such as "corruption" and "honesty", "transparency" and "secretiveness", and similar.