Thursday, August 25, 2005

Einstein the pinko

While making no profound exhibition of economic theory, Albert Einstein presented a thoughtful argument for the establishment of a socialist economy. In so doing, he openly identified the contradictions inherent in both capitalism and popular democracy, and socialism and private freedom, advocating that the problems of planned economies be discussed openly. His essay appeared in the inaugural May 1949 Monthly Review:

Private capital tends to become concentrated in few hands, partly because of competition among the capitalists, and partly because technological development and the increasing division of labor encourage the formation of larger units of production at the expense of smaller ones. The result of these developments is an oligarchy of private capital the enormous power of which cannot be effectively checked even by a democratically organized political society. This is true since the members of legislative bodies are selected by political parties, largely financed or otherwise influenced by private capitalists who, for all practical purposes, separate the electorate from the legislature. The consequence is that the representatives of the people do not in fact sufficiently protect the interests of the underprivileged sections of the population. Moreover, under existing conditions, private capitalists inevitably control, directly or indirectly, the main sources of information (press, radio, education). It is thus extremely difficult, and indeed in most cases quite impossible, for the individual citizen to come to objective conclusions and to make intelligent use of his political rights.

Reinforcing the weakness of labor, capitalist economies produce a constant supply of unemployed:
Production is carried on for profit, not for use. There is no provision that all those able and willing to work will always be in a position to find employment; an “army of unemployed” almost always exists.

Boldly calling for the creation of a planned socialist economy, Einstein squarely identified the contradictions to personal freedom inherent in such a model, calling on further discussion to overcome the contradictions:
Nevertheless, it is necessary to remember that a planned economy is not yet socialism. A planned economy as such may be accompanied by the complete enslavement of the individual. The achievement of socialism requires the solution of some extremely difficult socio-political problems: how is it possible, in view of the far-reaching centralization of political and economic power, to prevent bureaucracy from becoming all-powerful and overweening? How can the rights of the individual be protected and therewith a democratic counterweight to the power of bureaucracy be assured?

Clarity about the aims and problems of socialism is of greatest significance in our age of transition.

Still reading? You haven't called my name in to Homeland Security yet? Read more interesting remarks on capitalism by Pope John Paul II in an earlier People Get Ready post.

6 Comments:

At 8/26/2005 07:25:00 AM, Blogger Michael said...

Thanks for bringing this up AND for mentioning M.R. I keep forgetting that (the late) Sweezy and Magdoff's journal is online.

Believe it or not, Monthly Review was pretty easy to buy at one time here in BR--somebody I knew had "sustainer" subscriptions for both it and the Nation, and he had them on consignment at a local bookstore...that is when there WERE local bookstores...

Now it's all Barnes & Noble, all the time.

 
At 8/26/2005 09:07:00 AM, Blogger Schroeder said...

Independent bookstores? Oh, and independent magazine stores? Who'd want to go to one of those places? I mean, why wouldn't you want to browse nothing but glossy glamour, gaming, sports, and mainstream news magazines?

The Nation? What are you, some kind of commie? Why, they don't even have the gall to think that they can sell magazines printed on cheap newsprint and without ads. You mean, you actually READ magazines?

 
At 8/26/2005 12:31:00 PM, Blogger Michael said...

(slapping myself back to reality)...um, read? I'm sorry, what was I thinking?

Hear the sugar ration's been raised--half kilo a month...doubleplusgood, eh?

 
At 8/26/2005 01:53:00 PM, Blogger Schroeder said...

Why read when the telescreen gives you all the information you need, and prevents us from crimethink.

 
At 8/26/2005 02:07:00 PM, Blogger Mixter said...

I am a thought criminal, just thought you'd like to know.

Don't tell anyone, 'k?

Mix

 
At 8/26/2005 03:01:00 PM, Blogger Schroeder said...

I already knew that mixter. I'm sure the man has your number.

 

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