Friday, July 01, 2016

Money! Money! Money!

The old Soviet system couldn't care a shit about gods; after all, they were implementing the ideas of a thinker who declared that religion was the opium of the masses.  Commies were godless and were anti-market.

The pro-market America was all about god and bible-thumping politicians.  "God bless America" became a mantra that if not faithfully rendered made one a dirty commie.  Can you imagine an American President not concluding a serious address to the nation with a "God bless America"?  It is like how beauty pageant contestants wish for world peace ;)

In that lies an interesting irony. The faith in god requires many beliefs, including that there is a higher purpose to life, with the path leading to god.  The market, on the other hand, is built on the exact opposite idea--there is no purpose to any damn thing.  If you want to sell and if there are buyers for it, the transaction happens.  If you can't sell, you lose.  If you make money out of it, so be it.  The market simply is.  The commies, on the other hand, firmly believed in a political economic system that served a higher purpose.  They were, ahem, religious about it.

Perhaps it would be more consistent if the god-believing "non-commies" designed their political economy in order to serve a higher purpose, while the godless "commies" lives in the anything-goes system.  But, inconsistency is what life is, I guess.

Apparently god likes the purpose-less free market of anything, and cursed the godless "higher purpose" commies to collapse ;)

The sudden death of the command and control Soviet economy features a lot in Svetlana Alexievich's Secondhand Time.  One of the people, who talks to the author dropped out of the university after his second year, says "the market became our university ... Maybe it's going too far to call it a university, but an elementary school for life, definitely."
I feel sorry for my parents because they were told flat out that they were pathetic sovoks whose lives had been wasted for less than a sniff of tobacco, that everything was their fault, beginning with Noah's Ark, and that now, no one needed them anymore.  Imagine working that hard, your whole life, only to end up with nothing.  All of it took the ground out from underneath them, their world was shattered; they still haven't recovered, they couldn't assimilate into the drastically new reality.  My younger brother would wash cars after class, sell chewing gum and other junk in the subway, and he made more money than our father--our father was a scientist. A PhD! ... This was how capitalism came into our lives ...
Whether or not we believe in gods and religions, every one of us--consciously or subconsciously--attempt to create a meaning for the insanely short times that we have in this cosmos.  When that meaning is shattered, the existential crisis becomes unbearable.  When people here in the US suddenly lose their jobs for no fault of theirs, the existential struggle is as real as the Russian PhD who was not needed anymore.  The tragedy is that the pro-market but god-believing people, who vastly outnumber us infidels, rarely want to spare a dime and help ease that existential struggle of the "losers."  But then that's what the "free market" is all about, I suppose.


Ramesh said...

You couldn't be more wrong in your depiction of pro market god believing people, or that of markets and capitalism itself.

Mike, Anne, we have to wean the good Prof away from Soviet writers :)

Sriram Khé said...

But you have not provided one iota of explanation for "You couldn't be more wrong in your depiction of pro market god believing people, or that of markets and capitalism itself." I can't be wrong simply because you deem so ... ;)

Mike Hoth said...

I'm no communist, but I'm also not a free market enthusiast. My religion, which largely forms my beliefs in all things (including economics) espouses protection of the poor but not much on capitalism vs socialism. Many devout Christians give shares of their wealth to the poor, while one of the pillars of Islam is to give money to the poor.

That puts me somewhere between the systems. The capitalist tells me to leave the poor to suffer because they earned it, while the communist tells me I'm required to share my wealth. Neither expects me to be charitable.

Sriram Khé said...

Just because I am a "godless," it does not mean that I am a commie ;)
My left-of-center political economic framework means that any day I am more willing to help out (by contributing my share) the ones who are struggling. Important and difficult questions for all of us to think through, but the politics of all these means that the public policy discussions are far from thoughtful :(

Anne in Salem said...

Ramesh - at least he's not writing about death.

You have repeatedly commented that religious people don't care about the poor, that we do nothing. I wholeheartedly disagree. Tithing is an ancient concept still practiced by many. Not all the tithe goes to the church; charitable organizations are encouraged. Many who cannot afford to give money give time. Many give both. I could introduce you to dozens on any given Sunday morning at 9:30. Perhaps we don't publicize our donations like Zuckerberg and Gates and other billionaires, but perhaps we care for the poor because it is the right thing to do, not because we want to increase market share.

Sriram Khé said...

If such posts annoy you folks, then I can always go back to writing about death ;)

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