Tuesday, January 02, 2007

Racism Masquerading as a Concern for Criminality

In a lively piece from a review of Eric Schlosser’s “Reefer Madness: Sex, Drugs, and Cheap Labor in the American Black Market,” in Live Journal at: http://debido-shodo.livejournal.com/56772.html, we find Smith dragged in to a contentious argument blaming Ronald Reagan for undoing the post-war American state supported economy.

The reviewer punts his view that: “The final section, which he titled, “Out of the Underground,” is simply brilliant”, and from which I draw this paragraph as representative of the book author’s opinions:

Schlosser is at his best when he shows how the conservative myth of Adam Smith’s “unseen hand” of market forces has never really existed. From Alexander Hamilton’s activist government--with its First Bank of the United States--to public works such as the Erie Canal and the railroads--to post-civil war tarriffs, Teddy Roosevelt’s reformism, the New Deal, the New Frontier, and the Great Society--the US government has guided the economy and regulated its business. And the economy was at its strongest when it was most regulated, businesses at their most profitable when Union membership was highest and workers had dependable health care, a reasonably secure retirement, and wages they could spend on the products the businesses sold.”

We agree on the non-existence of ‘Adam Smith’s “unseen hand” of market forces’, though it is obvious that Schlosser writes from the proposition that Smith’s metaphor of ‘an invisible hand’ applied to markets (when, of course, regular readers of Lost Legacy will know that Smith did not have a theory of ‘an invisible hand’ that had anything to do with ‘market forces’, never mind that metaphors are not theories).

The post-Colonial rebellion faced the economic problem that almost its entire economy was built on a foreign Mercantile policy as a reservoir of natural resources, not manufactures, for the mother country, Britain (and dependence on the mother-country’s defence expenditure for its security – the dispute as to who paid for this service was at root the difference that set the colonies onto the road to separation). Once the US public finances were sorted on a firm basis, the transformation of the US economy began, and the rest is history as they say.

That public expenditure and regulatory capitalism is present in the US is not necessarily part of the solution to its economy’s problems – in large measure they have become the source of many of its problems.

But all that is another debate, and not my role or purpose. In so far as Adam Smith’s legacy has anything to contribute to general insights into these problems, I shall offer them on occasion. That Smith’s invisible or ‘unseen’ hand is quoted in the debates I shall offer my corrective medicine by referring to his Texts.

What Schlosser has to offer is along the lines of:

If the current abuse of illegal immigrants is allowed to continue, the United States soon won’t have to import a foreign peasantry. We will have created our own.”

I am unhappy with racism masquerading as a concern for ‘criminality’ and linking this to ‘capitalism’, and when he calls for the prosecution of those employing, what he describes, tellingly, as ‘illegals’. The enthusiasm of the reviewer for this approach is not something that does much for the image of the US and some of those who live there.


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