A good description

Yes, it\’s Boris:

We should remember that the boom-slump cycle is a natural part of our history; indeed, it is indispensable to our psychological make-up. It is like love. It is a basically incurable condition, and we revert to it again and again. First. we conceive the passion – the Tulip Mania, the South Sea Bubble, the dotcom or the property boom – and then we bicycle-pump our hearts with wild hormonal elation, and every time it happens we tell ourselves that this is the big one, this time it\’s real, this time we have broken the paradigm; and we invest with ever more irrational exuberance, and though some people occasionally tell us that the love-object is not worth it, we don\’t see it that way, of course we don\’t, since our exuberance is irrational.

And then it turns out that we have been in some way deceived, and the bubble bursts, as bubbles do, and the irrational optimism gives way to a pessimism that is equally irrational, and life isn\’t worth living, and nothing will ever be the same again, and we wish we could be towed out to sea and sunk with 20-inch guns.

Although it has to be said that this isn\’t quite right:

There is a system called capitalism, by which goods and services are allocated by markets, and under capitalism I can go to the off-licence and buy five times the cider, of vastly superior quality, for a twentieth of the price, and I can use the time and money saved to buy other things and stimulate the economy in other ways; and by the time the mistresses of the bedchamber have finished trying to make and mend her clothes, I expect you could say the same of the Queen\’s dresses.

Capitalism may indeed operate that way but that\’s not a definition of capitalism. That\’s a definition of markets and the associated division of labour. There\’s nothing there that requires the capitalist method of the ownership of assets, nothing at all.

6 thoughts on “A good description”

  1. “There’s nothing there that requires the capitalist method of the ownership of assets, nothing at all.”

    Except that’s what emerges from the market and they have become synonymous. Marxist may moan and groan but capitalism works.

  2. “Except that’s what emerges from the market and they have become synonymous.”

    They have become a bit synonymous, but they shouldn’t be. This distinction is worth preserving ( cf ‘fewer’ vs ‘less’ debate). After all John Lewis and Legal firms are not capitalist, but do operate in a free market.

  3. Legal firms arguably are capitalist: the shareholders = the partners, and they ‘exploit’ (in the technical Marxist sense, and arguably in the normal sense too) the trainees and associates.

    But yeah, capitalism in the ‘plcs and iPods’ sense doesn’t result from the market at all – the existence of joint-stock companies stems from 19th century governments’ desire to get railways built without having to pay for them out of taxation.

  4. “(in the technical Marxist sense, and arguably in the normal sense too) ”

    I applaud you for being honest in distinguishing between the technical sense in which Marx uses the word, and its everyday meaning. Many are not, and some cynics may even think that Marx chose this word in the hope that the technical way in which he used it would soon be forgotten.

  5. Its debatable whether capitalism would emerge as the dominant organisation type in a free market, we can’t tell because we’ve never had one…

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