Did I ruffle a few feathers? :)

Chris M. Sciabarra sciabrrc at is2.NYU.EDU
Thu Sep 21 08:33:22 MDT 1995

On Thu, 21 Sep 1995, jones/bhandari wrote:

> >  But I fully recognize that many who
> >oppose welfare today are worse than social darwinists.  They want to
> >throw "welfare queens" off the welfare rolls, but offer no understanding
> >whatsoever of the origins of poverty, and propose NOTHING to alter the
> >structural imperfections in the social economy that generate such
> >poverty.
> But Chris the question is not what you fully recognize (you seem indeed to
> be a nice guy).  And the question is also not whether someone proposes
> SOMETHING to alter the structural imperfections.
> The question is here what would Hayek offer and the social consequences and
> potential effectiveness of the Hayekian medicine.

	The question you ask is one of the most crucially difficult ones
any thinker must confront:  how do we get from here to there?  I don't
know the answer to that question.  Russians and Chinese are struggling
with political and economic dimensions, and it is difficult to say what
method is better.  I think that there is an intimate connection between
economics, politics, culture, and social psychology, and oppression works
on each of these levels and more.  And it has taken a good century to get
where we are now, with all of the unfortunate consequences that one might
suspect.  Hayek would have probably advocated bad medicine-- like
chemotherapy -- with the risk of killing the patient, but even he
recognized that there is an intimate connection between culture and
economics, and that it is ultimately culture that must be changed in
order to sustain any economic system.  Moreover, I would guess that most
Hayekians would attack the wider welfare system for corporate America,
the privileges, subsidies, regulations, and what-not that corporations
enjoy, which severely limit market entry, choking off economic growth,
and narrowing economic opportunities. And of course, let's not forget
that Hayek and Austrians are most critical of the financial monopoly
because it is here that ultimate decision-making resides.  The problem of
course, is that if Austrians are correct, NO class of people is going to
give up such privilege voluntarily.  The state-banking nexus and its
immediate beneficiaries in capital-intensive and military industries are
the greatest obstacles to "freeing up" the economy in the manner that
Hayek envisions.

> In particular, the question is what the effect would be of higher interest
> rates and lower wages at this stage in capitalist development.

	I don't know if that will in fact, BE the effect.  I just don't
know, because there are too many factors to consider here.

> Is it really that simple: welfare=dependence?  Is it not possible that
> welfare allows workers to bargain tougher with their bosses, that it
> enables autonomy to some extent?  Even libertarians must at times recognize
> the coercive power of bosses to fire workers.

	Yes, of course, let's be "dialectical" about it-- it is a
double-edged sword after all.  People have no choice to be on welfare,
sometimes, and it can give them a certain measure of autonomy.  But the
institution itself and its origins is far more complicated, and I think
it can and does create a psychological dependency... but corporations are
just as dependent, if not more so, in this regard.  They've been slurping
at the public trough for decades, a century or more perhaps.

> As for Chris' analysis of the price mechanism in generalized commodity
> production;the Hayekian discovery of the epistemic constraints on the very
> possibility of central planning; and the analysis of business cycles and
> economic crisis, I will of course have to do much work before I can take on
> whom Lenin would have doubtless called a most civilized philistine
> (Hayek,that is). And I do think that as Marxists we are obligated to
> criticize important bourgeois thinkers to the best of our ability.  So I
> welcome Chris' presence on this list.
	Thanks Rakesh!

> As I look through the short chapters in Ben Seligman's Main Currents in
> Modern Economics, I must say that I am given much hope by the fact that
> Hayek, Schumpeter and Keynes seem to be the best the bourgeoisie can come
> up with.
> Rakesh
				- Chris
Dr. Chris M. Sciabarra
Visiting Scholar, NYU Department of Politics
INTERNET:  sciabrrc at is2.nyu.edu

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