Monday, June 23, 2014

On domination

It seems to me that opportunity is the source of domination not capitalism per se.  People dominate if they have the opportunity and if they think they can get away with it.  Capitalism creates opportunities for domination (colonialism, slavery, "free" trade agreements, monopolies, bottlenecks, economic rents).  But capitalism is one of just many forms of domination.

Men have a slight physical size advantage over women, and that's led to millennium of domination in the form of patriarchy. So that's domination that springs from how biological difference creates opportunity.

Catholic priests are trusted in the community -- and research from the Catholic priest abuse scandal shows that they committed pedophilia at twice the rate of the average population (8% of Catholic priests are pedophiles as compared with 4% of men in the general population). The Catholic priest example is telling because it's so clearly not capitalism as the driver of domination. It's socially created but distinct from capitalism.

There is a notorious case in Australia right now involving Rolf Harris who was a beloved entertainer -- who used his celebrity to abuse children for decades.  So too in the UK, the entertainer Jimmy Savile, used his celebrity to sexually abuse upwards of 1,000 people over his lifetime.  This is a variation on the Catholic priest abuse scandal -- where trust, in this case the trust that comes with celebrity, enabled these men to get away with these crimes for decades. The Jerry Sandusky sex abuse scandal in the U.S. is similar -- in that case the celebrity and trust associated with collegiate athletic success created the opportunity for abuse.  People who work with disabled children (particularly those with limited or no speech) will tell you that nearly 100% of these children are abused at some point in their life (the perceived inability of the child to ever report the crime creates the perception of  opportunity).

We often see men as the drivers of domination, but women in positions of authority -- Mother Theresa, Margaret Thatcher, Arianna Huffington -- are notoriously cruel.  So that's another variation of socially created forms of domination, but independent of biological sex.

But then here's the question:  Not all people who have the opportunity to commit acts of domination, choose to do so.  Many find domination abhorrent and would not even consider it.  So what explains the fact that most people, when given the opportunity to commit acts of domination, choose not to do so?

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

While reading Greg Grandin...

Is it possible that, the freedom described in Wealth of Nations is not in spite of but because of slavery. [Yes.] Was that kind of wealth possible before? [No.] Is Wealth of Nations in fact a subtle defense of slavery in the liberal contract tradition as described by Carole Pateman. What does Carole Pateman say about Adam Smith? Is Adam Smith marveling at the wonders bought as a result of the slave trade?

Is it possible that...

...the failures of capitalism, are actually just the failures of the human condition? Namely is it possible that all of the greed, domination, corruption, and just general awfulness that we associate with capitalism are actually just natural human inclinations that were there all along (unleashed, given a stage by capitalism, but not necessarily created by capitalism)?  Now that being said, we still can and should design systems to check natural human impulses towards awfulness.  But that would be a different conversation would it not -- rather than trying to unleash liberty -- we might see political and economic institutions as properly restraining our more awful impulses (in order to create a larger freedom for more people).