>Look: In the twentieth century revolutions don't work very well--they put
>into power people who don't seem very interested in decentralization, or in
>human liberty. The Rousseauian road to Utopia is shut.
Why do we need to achieve Utopia in order to replace state sponsored capitalism? This sets the bar way too high. We merely need to find something better than what we have now.
You could even argue that something better already exists. Take Cuba for example. By many objective measures (education level, availability of medical care to the general population, etc.) Cuba has done better under Castro than it did before Castro took power. And all in the face of very harsh treatment by the US.
I'm not saying its paradise, just better off now than it was under a more capitalist, free market system. You might not agree with me when it comes to Cuba, but you can at least make a rational argument that Cuba has done better under Castro. I imagine you could make a similar argument for Nicaragua under the Sandinistas. Maybe others could provide better examples.
>But meanwhile the market economy is still delivering what Adam Smith
>thought it would deliver--ample material prosperity, even though
>accompanied by substantial inequality, by a less-than-fully-humanized
>existence for the "lower orders," and requiring constant watch by
>benevolent statesmen to try to keep the masters of capital from confusing
>their interest with the public interest. And political democracy has still
>not totally disappointed the hope of Alexis de Tocqueville that it would
>provide space for individual liberty. A larger and better-furnished cage,
>if you will.
>So I'm casting my lot with Smith and Tocqueville: creeping social democracy
>(or, more accurately, trying to stem the erosion of social democracy in the
>hope of being able to creep forward again in a decade or so).
If this is the best we can do, its mighty depressing. Perhaps you are comfortable with it, but I can't abide by it. The amount of inequality is stunning - the world's billionaries (~400 people) have as much wealth as the bottom 40% of the world's population. The "less-than-fully humanized" existence that you refer to includes outright murder at its worst but more commonly a life of grinding poverty. Much of this suffering is entirely preventable.
>When you find an alternative political strategy that will not lead to
>Nuremburg or Lubyanka or Tuol Sleng or Tien an Men, let me know. But you
>haven't found one.
This is a cheap shot. There are plenty of western atrocities you could point to, such as American devastation of Vietnam and the bombing of Cambodia, or Israeli repression in the occupied territories. I'm not trying to diminish the magnitude of the crimes you cite, just to say that the west hasn't eliminated similar crimes in its sphere of dominance either. This type of argument could be used just as effectively against state sponsored capitalist systems.
In regard to your challenge about finding a better strategy, I like Mike Albert's vision of a participatory economy. I know others disagree with me (Louis, to take just one example), but I'll present this as a counter example anyway. Here's a system that I think is superior to the social democracy you favor. I'd be interested in hearing your thoughts concerning a participatory society.