Why capitalism is inherently immoral

Think of it as an example of the problems of an exploitative, extractive system of social organization, perhaps as a culmination of that system:

We cannot know if the cotton industry was the only possible way into the modern industrial world, but we do know that it was the path to global capitalism. We do not know if Europe and North America could have grown rich without slavery, but we do know that industrial capitalism and the Great Divergence in fact emerged from the violent caldron of slavery, colonialism, and the expropriation of land. In the first 300 years of the expansion of capitalism, particularly the moment after 1780 when it entered into its decisive industrial phase, it was not the small farmers of the rough New England countryside who established the United States’ economic position. It was the backbreaking labor of unremunerated American slaves in places like South Carolina, Mississippi, and Alabama.

When we marshal big arguments about the West’s superior economic performance, and build these arguments upon an account of the West’s allegedly superior institutions like private-property rights, lean government, and the rule of law, we need to remember that the world Westerners forged was equally characterized by exactly the opposite: vast confiscation of land and labor, huge state intervention in the form of colonialism, and the rule of violence and coercion. And we also need to qualify the fairy tale we like to tell about capitalism and free labor. Global capitalism is characterized by a whole variety of labor regimes, one of which, a crucial one, was slavery.[1]

This passage is buried in the middle of a Chronicle Review article by Sven Beckert which traces the relationship between slavery and capitalism. This is about the only place he mentions the expropriation of indigenous lands, but he does mention it and his historical treatment of capitalism’s origins is useful. Read more

  1. [1]Sven Beckert, “Slavery and Capitalism,” Chronicle of Higher Education, December 12, 2014, http://chronicle.com/article/SlaveryCapitalism/150787/

Keeping it off the court

Note: This post has been edited for readability since it was first published.

That some whites just don’t get it, that is, that they seem to think there is nothing about policing in the United States worth getting upset about, has been brought closer to home for me. Specifically, in a neighboring county.

Mendocino, which shares a name with the county, is one of the few towns along the California coast where it is possible to find vegan food. And just as with much of the coast, the surrounding scenery is spectacular. Read more

Itchy trigger fingers

It seems that amid the uproar over police killing Blacks, there is at least one very confused Black cop:

Dennis Shireff, a nearly 30-year police veteran, has never been shy about speaking out against what he saw as brutality and racism among his peers. While serving with the St. Louis police, he was even suspended for saying that the department recruited too many “Billy Bob, tobacco-chewing white police officers.”

So after the high-profile killings of unarmed black men by white police officers in Ferguson, Mo.; New York; and elsewhere, Officer Shireff, who now works for a small department outside St. Louis, feels the tug of conflicting loyalties: to black people who feel unfairly targeted by the police, and to his fellow police officers, white and black, who routinely face dangerous situations requiring split-second life-or-death decisions.[1]

Read more

  1. [1]John Eligon and J. David Goodman, “At Home and at Work, Black Police Officers Are on Defensive,” New York Times, December 24, 2014, http://www.nytimes.com/2014/12/25/us/at-home-and-work-black-police-officers-on-defensive.html

Holding Blacks to white standards

I have refrained, until now, from commenting in my blog about another part of Bill Cosby’s story, the part where he, in essence, blames Black poverty on Black families for failing to raise their children properly.

Bill Cosby went off on another tirade against the black community Thursday [July 1, 2004], telling a room full of activists that too many black men are beating their wives while their children run around not knowing how to read or write.

Cosby made headlines in May when he upbraided some poor blacks for their grammar and accused them of squandering opportunities the civil rights movement gave them. He shot back Thursday, saying his detractors were trying in vain to hide the black community’s “dirty laundry.”[1]

Read more

  1. [1]Associated Press, “Cosby berates blacks for abuse, failure as parents,” NBC News, July 2, 2004, http://www.nbcnews.com/id/5345290/ns/us_news-life/t/cosby-berates-blacks-abuse-failure-parents/

The uglier kind of atheism

I guess it’s the holiday season. For some reason, the uglier kind of atheism is showing up throughout my social networks a lot lately.

This is a kind of atheism that takes a scientific failure to prove the existence of a deity as proof that such a deity does not exist. Not only is this logically fallacious, but it is a gross misuse of the very scientific method that these atheists claim to uphold. Read more

This challenge cannot be permitted

To me, it’s inconceivable that this prosecution motion will not be granted (December 19, 2014: The judge has indeed ruled as much, saying “Whether you like the politics or don’t like the politics is totally irrelevant to whether the government has met its burden of proof.”[1]): “Prosecutors in the case against alleged Silk Road mastermind Ross Ulbricht want the court to prohibit Ulbricht from saying almost anything political at all, according to a motion filed last week by the government.” It seems they’re afraid a jury will choose to nullify the law in this case.[2]
Read more

  1. [1]Paul Carr, “Judge says alleged Silk Road founder can’t be held responsible for every bad thing that happened on the platform,” Pando Daily, December 19, 2014, http://pando.com/2014/12/19/judge-says-alleged-silk-road-founder-cant-be-held-responsible-for-every-bad-thing-that-happened-on-the-platform/
  2. [2]Patrick Howell O’Neill, “Silk Road prosecutors want to ban Ross Ulbricht’s libertarian politics in court,” Daily Dot, December 16, 2014, http://www.dailydot.com/politics/silk-road-jury-nullification-political/

Why there might be change at the CIA, and why there probably won’t

Senator Ron Wyden has allegedly “put CIA Director John Brennan on notice on Sunday after the intelligence chief gave a press conference defending the U.S. torture program.”[1]

“I want to give him the chance to end this culture of denial, to deal with these misrepresentations,” Wyden told host Chuck Todd on NBC’s “Meet The Press.”

“If he doesn’t do that, we’ll have to get somebody who will,” he said.[2]

Wyden is a Democrat, Democrats are losing control of the Senate, and it’s unclear how much support for change at the CIA there is now, let alone how much there will be in when Republicans take over. Read more

  1. [1]Brendan James, “Dem Senator: John Brennan Needs To Change The CIA Or Get Out,” Talking Points Memo, December 15, 2014, http://talkingpointsmemo.com/livewire/ron-wyden-john-brennan-torture-report
  2. [2]Brendan James, “Dem Senator: John Brennan Needs To Change The CIA Or Get Out,” Talking Points Memo, December 15, 2014, http://talkingpointsmemo.com/livewire/ron-wyden-john-brennan-torture-report

When the bully cries, “They’re picking on me!”

It’s time—probably well past time—to notice a certain something that’s happening in the discourse in the United States.

“I would call attention to the parallels of fascist Nazi Germany to its war on its ‘one percent,’ namely its Jews, to the progressive war on the American one percent, namely the ‘rich,'” wrote venture capitalist Tom Perkins.[1] Read more

  1. [1]Tom Perkins, “Progressive Kristallnacht Coming?” Wall Street Journal, January 24, 2014, http://online.wsj.com/news/articles/SB10001424052702304549504579316913982034286

Becoming a bigot

Resisting the ‘fusionism’ that brought together diverse conservatives as the force in U.S. politics that we see today, Richard J. Birshirjian writes “that construction of conservatism by Frank Meyer is an ideology, a making of abstractions that are imposed on reality rather than a reflection of our conservative folkways.”[1] It’s a useful warning. Bishirjian happens to be right about this and my dissertation will entail an exploration of some very real differences among conservatives. Read more

  1. [1]Richard J. Bishirjian, “Why I Am a Conservative,” First Principles, July 10, 2008, http://www.firstprinciplesjournal.com/articles.aspx?article=173

Cops and complicity

Associated Press reporters Tom Hays and Colleen Long appear to be seeking to preserve their access to police. “Officers say the outcry [in reaction to a grand jury’s failure to indict white police officer Daniel Pantaleo in the chokehold death of Eric Garner] has left them feeling betrayed and demonized by everyone from the president and the mayor to throngs of protesters who scream at them on the street,” they write in an article wholly devoted to telling the cops’ side of the story, giving protesters no opportunity to respond to specific claims.[1] Read more

  1. [1]Tom Hays and Colleen Long, “Police: Chokehold Victim Complicit in Own Death,” ABC News, December 5, 2014, http://abcnews.go.com/US/wireStory/police-cases-stir-national-protests-debate-27383589