Freedom: Promise and Menace
by Scott Nearing

An essay on the concept of freedom (particularly political and social freedom) written by a Marxist. It is annoyingly doctrinaire. It is interesting to see his blind spots. For example:
"This freedom of the dominant to exploit the subordinate is still the primary domestic relationship in every community based on private enterprise." page 26.
He could have ended that sentence after relationship or after community, or he could have made it more accurate by changing private enterprise to the state. He didn't do these things, because he regards private property as the ultimate source of antisocial behavior. He associates free enterprise and laissez-faire policy with war, depression, rebellions, and revolutions and says it is a menace to human well-being. (page 65). How he can think that war and the rest can occur without state intervention (which is what laissez-faire means) is hard to understand. It is as if he believes the right-wingers when they say they are for free enterprise while they lobby for more government expenditures on weapons. On the next page (66) he correctly identifies the state as the tool of the exploiters, and he concedes the whole argument when he says
"... the market which had been free only in theory, was "rigged," "fixed" and manipulated by monopolists until they had converted competitive enterprise into monopoly capitalism and destroyed the free market which competitive enterprise was designed to promote."
After this glimmer of insight, he wanders off into Marxist fantasies about class wars, poverty, starvation, and degradation in the advanced capitalist countries. He implies that the USA, because it is a wasteful, exploitative, capitalist country, is converting fertile land to desert and is running out of food. The reality of American farm surpluses and Russian food shortages undermines his position, but he ignores these realities. The menace of freedom he complains about is actually the menace of intervention by the state to prevent competition and free exchange and to wage war and weaken the economy by wasteful military spending. He undercuts his own argument again on page 75 by recognizing the "rapid rise of an extensive middle class" in the capitalist countries, which would be impossible if the threat of starvation were necessary to the capitalist system as he says it is on page 67. He aims extensive criticism at capitalist countries, but has only praise for Red China, whose first 5-year plan he calls a success (page 77). How many millions of Chinese were murdered to achieve this success? He doesn't mention that mass murder was used. He imagines that the West is wasting its resources while the Soviet Union is a spectacular success. He ignores the fact that the West produces all the necessities of life such as food in addition to consumer luxuries, and he thinks the Russians proved the superiority of what he calls "socialist construction" by launching Sputnik (ignoring the fact that such a space program is a criminal waste of resources when your country can't feed its workers. He ends by advocating socialistic duties and restrictions on freedom.

Year Read: 1987

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