I had planned to devote today's column to ridiculing communists for yet another infantile "Manifesto." This one by then-Bolivian President Evo Morales. His December 21, 2013 speech at a solstice celebration in Lake Titicaca, in the Andes, is published as the "Manifesto os Isla del Sol."
A cheap thrill, though, refuting the words of romantic New Age sentimentalists. Or pointing out the confabulations of a cottage industry of recent communist manifestos, Aaron Bastani's Fully Automated Luxury Communism and one by the editor of Jacobin Magazine Bhaskar Sunkara's The Socialist Manifesto: the case for radical politics in an era of extreme inequality.
Then I encountered an impressive Marxist thinker in the LA Review of Books, Professor Jodi Dean, author of 13 books of what appear Marxist political thought and cultural criticism. Dueling with an adversary as formidable as Prof. Dean is a worthier and more interesting challenge.
Prof. Dean sets forth trenchant arguments in her essay Neofeudalism: The End of Capitalism? Rising neo-feudalism indeed is a legitimate, and properly major, concern. William Collier and I recently addressed neo-feudalism in our book The Capitalist Manifesto: "As even orthodox Communists admit Socialism is inferior for the production of wealth. The transition to that neo-Feudalism called Socialism leaves less to distribute. That further weakens society's ability to realize the Capitalist goal of universal opulence to the lowest ranks."
Prof. Dean notes that neo-feudalism is being addressed by Joel Kotkin, another first-rate thinker and member of my own conservative tribe. Kotkin has recently published The Coming of Neo-Feudalism: A Warning to the Global Middle Class. Kotkin: "Following a remarkable epoch of greater dispersion of wealth and opportunity, we are inexorably returning towards a more feudal era marked by greater concentration of wealth and property, reduced upward mobility, demographic stagnation, and increased dogmatism."
The emergence of neo-feudalism is real. It is pernicious. It presents as dire.
Thus let's welcome the attention of rigorous minds, including those on the far left.
After inventorying the libertarian (Tyler Cowen) and conservative (Kotkin) position, Dean moves to the tech perspective: "A number of technology commentators share the libertarian/conservative critique of technology's role in contemporary feudalization even as they don't embrace fossil fuels and suburbia." She concludes that "Capitalism is turning itself into neofeudalism." I dispute both the role of technology and the proposition that capitalism, rightly understood, is even capable of turning itself into neo-feudalism.
Prof. Dean also provides a trenchant critique of left-wing shibboleths.
"The big confrontation today is not between democracy and fascism. Although popular with liberals, this formulation makes little sense given the power of oligarchs — financiers, media and real estate moguls, carbon and tech billionaires. …. Organized labor in much of the Global North delivered a cooperative working class in exchange for a piece of the good life. Labor's defeat and the subsequent dismantling of the welfare state should have demonstrated once and for all the bankruptcy of a strategy requiring compromise with capitalist exploitation. … Universal Basic Income is an untenable survivalist approach. It promises just enough to keep those in the hinterlands going and barely enough for urban renters to hand over to their landlords. Catastrophism becomes that hip negativity denigrating hope and effort, as if the next hundred years or so just don't matter."
I hold neofeudalism as antithetical to capitalism while applauding Prof. Dean's analysis of "a new socioeconomic structure with four interlocking features: parcellated sovereignty, new lords and peasants, hinterlandization, and catastrophism." I dispute that the cause of neofeudalism is "capitalist expropriation of the social surplus" while concurring that "neofeudalism brings with it the insecurity and anxiety of an overwhelming sense of catastrophe. There is good reason to feel insecure."
Workers, the "proletariat," wish to and, with true capitalism, can enter the middle class, the "bourgeoisie." The communist call for class warfare is toxic. Yet the emergence of neo-feudalism is toxic as well.
Attacking neofeudalism is a moral imperative. Shame on us, the thought leaders of the free market, if we do not grapple with the emergence of neofeudalism as forthrightly as Prof. Dean. If we don't rise to the occasion of re-educating an intellectually bankrupt GOP and a stale conservative movement as to the armature of true capitalism we are derelict in our duty to champion the moral imperative of fashioning and implementing policies the deliver equitable prosperity.
Prof. Dean? Game on!
Ralph Benko, co-author of "The Capitalist Manifesto" and chairman and co-founder of "The Capitalist League," is the founder of The Prosperity Caucus and is an original Kemp-era member of the Supply Side revolution that propelled the Dow from 814 to its current heights and world GDP from $11T to $88T. He served as a deputy general counsel in the Reagan White House, has worked closely with the Congress and two cabinet agencies, and has published over a million words on politics and policy in the mainstream media, as a distinguished professional blogger, and as the author of the internationally award-winning cult classic book "The Websters' Dictionary: How to Use the Web to Transform the World." He has served as senior adviser, economics, to APIA as an advocate of the gold standard, senior counselor to the Chamber of Digital Commerce and serves as general counsel to Frax.finance, a stablecoin venture. Read Ralph Benko's reports — More Here.
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