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human nature

A Professor Defends Capitalism

A Capitalism versus Socialism debate

Professor David Marsland, West London Institute

Serious consideration of alternatives to capitalism needs to address: the nature of capitalism; its validity as an instrument of progress; the threat from existing alternatives; and the plausibility and cost/benefit ratio of socialist alternatives.

The nature of capitalism

The real nature of capitalism is widely misunderstood, especially by intellectuals. Over and above ignorance, there is widespread prejudice. This serves to confuse description with evaluation, and fosters naive wish-fulfilment.

Capitalism is not inherently or by definition exploitative, cruel and arbitrary, or unjust. These are empirical issues, to be judged as part of the objective evaluation of capitalism in terms of relevant evidence and reasoned argument.

Objections Overruled

One of the most frequent objections to socialism is "That's all very well in theory, but you can't change human nature".

Karl Marx: Anthropologist

Text of a talk given by guest speaker Brian Morris at a Socialist Party meeting in London on 21 April this year

The Polish philosopher Leszek Kolakowski began his well-known history of Marxism with the words ‘Karl Marx was a German philosopher’. True: Marx studied philosophy at the University of Berlin in his early twenties, and had a passion for German philosophy, particularly that of Hegel, but it hardly needs saying that Marx cannot be understood simply as a philosophical thinker. Better known, perhaps, as a political journalist, an erudite economist, and a revolutionary socialist, Marx was also, in an important sense, an anthropologist, for he always repudiated scholastic metaphysics. He can indeed be described as one of the founding ancestors of anthropology.

Pathfinders: Caring and Sharing

You have a pie, and you have to share part of it with someone else. The question is, how much should you offer? Logically, not much, and logically, the recipient should be happy to accept any amount, no matter how small, since it’s better than nothing. But here’s the rub. If that someone thinks you’re being stingy they might refuse your offer, in which case neither of you gets anything.

In the human version of this ‘ultimatum game’, where the pie is replaced with money, the players tend  to make roughly equal or ‘fair’ offers, showing that human concepts of fairness can override the logic of economics. Exactly why this happens is uncertain. It may be that the donor is motivated by some internalised moral framework, or it may be that the donor feels nothing of the sort but is simply responding to the fear that the recipient is fundamentally irrational and will ruin everything by throwing their proverbial toys out of the pram in response to a perceived injustice.

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