Obviously (what's the Left problem with GM food?)

Charles Brown CharlesB at CNCL.ci.detroit.mi.us
Fri Oct 20 14:22:34 PDT 2000

>>> dhenwood at panix.com 10/20/00 03:36PM >>>

....The point is that capitalism has given us material wealth and sophisticated technology, but it's done a very bad job of using those things to better the lives of all. Before Coxian pessimism became hegemonic on the left, such as it is, there was a belief that humans could do better with the capitalist inheritance. I still believe that, and I think that biotech has the potential for being one of those things that could make life better in the right hands.


CB: On this, one of the constant back and forths around here, today's capitalism is sort of the best of times and the worst of times. Capitalism's sophisticated technology has certainly produced more material wealth than we have record of any previous society producing. But it is not just that it hasn't used those things to better the lives of all. That sophisticated technology has also provided the most efficient destruction of life and wealth of all times. In the worst example, WWII , 50 million people were killed in 6 years. That never even nearly happened before.

With GM foods both new extremes are real. GM food in capitalist hands could feed more people or starve or poison more people than ever .

For the left of Marx's time, when he was enthusiastic about using the capitalist inheritance and sophisticated technology for everybody, capitalism's full destructive potential had not been realized as it has in our time. So, sadly, the hard , cold facts of actual capitalist history since then require that we evaluate each new technology with much greater caution than Marx did. The gravity of the danger of capitalism's newly realized destructive potential means things have changed from the old days.

To say it abstractly, if a course of action has the possibility of resulting in slight good or slight harm, we can readily undertake the action because the worst possible scenario is not that bad. But if a course of action has the possibility of resulting in extreme good or extreme harm, we are more cautious because the worst case scenario is much worse. The extreme good in contrast with the slight good does not balance the change in the bad possibilities.

The worst case scenarios of use of capitalist technologies are much worse than they were when lefts and Marxists readily endorsed the development of capitalist technology and science in the 1800's.

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