You know, I was just thinking about this thing people do, where you point out something terrible that capitalism does, and they say, “Communism wouldn’t be any better!” Let’s look at that for a minute. Let’s ignore the fact that, sometimes, it doesn’t even make sense in context, and let’s also ignore the fact that it almost always indicates someone whose study of political philosophy hasn’t advanced since high school social studies. Let us, as a thought experiment, pretend that this is literally true.
Okay, now what? Do we stop criticizing capitalism? Do we lie about it and say that it is perfect in all details? Anyone with a shred of decency will realize that even if—especially if—convinced that capitalism is the ultimate answer to how to produce and distribute human wants, insofar as there are problems, we should try to understand them, in order to, at least, attempt to alleviate them. Isn’t that, after all, the essence of reformism? “This will be here forever, so let’s make it as good as we can.”
But this requires study. This requires an understanding of the mechanisms of wage-labor, the generation of surplus value, capital investment, market forces, competition, efficiency of scale, &c &c. And if, in the course of this study, we were to come across something that is inherent in the very nature of capitalism, or is a natural result of the inevitable domination of finance capital over industrial capital, or the inextricable ties between capital and the state, or of the nation-state system that is so closely tied to commodity production, we ought to point it out. How else can those who see capitalism as permanent hope to improve it?
This, however, we never get from these people. When you make the observation that financial catastrophes, that destroy countless lives, happen with appalling regularity, you do not get anyone saying, “No, that doesn’t happen!” which I admit would be a hard case to make. And you don’t get anyone saying, “That’s because they’ve been doing it wrong for the last five hundred years, but I know how to fix it.” You also don’t get anyone saying, “Yes, that is true, and it is inherent in capitalism, so we should figure out how to alleviate the harm as much as possible.”
No, what you get is, “Communism would have the same problem!” It is the political equivalent of the schoolboy’s cry, “And you’re another!” and does just as much to advance human knowledge.
Exactly what this says about the defenders of capitalism I will leave as an exercise for the reader.