Tuesday, May 19, 2009

A Cheerful Little Thought

Here’s a cheerful little thought from Obama’s top economic advisor, Lawrence Summers, in which he justifies dumping toxic waste in poor countries:

[T]he economic logic behind dumping a load of toxic waste in the lowest-wage country is impeccable and we should face up to that. The measurement of the cost of health-impairing pollution depends on the foregone earnings from increased morbidity and mortality. From this point of view a given amount of health-impairing pollution should be done in the country with the lowest cost, which will be the country with the lowest wage[1]

There you have it: because the cost per unit of the poor is less than the cost-per-unit of the rich, it follows, ergo/post-hoc/post-haste, that it makes more economic sense to snuff a peasant than a lord. When you kill the poor, you kill idlers, sustenance farmers and slum dwellers; when you kill the prosperous, you kill people just like us, and that simply won’t do!

This is what happens when rational thought is divorced from ethics and morality. The result is the value-free thinking so valued by the social sciences (in its self, a contradiction in terms). The ultimate expression of this type of “thinking” was the holocaust, which was bureaucratic slaughter writ large. It was all policy, goals and objectives. It succeeded because of the management skills that were brought to bear on the question of how to kill all the Jews.

Chris Hedges calls this moral nihilism and cites Fyodor Dostoevsky’s Notes from the Underground as an example of it when he points out that,

The main character in Notes from the Underground carries the bankrupt ideas of liberalism to its logical extreme. He becomes the enlightenment ideal. He eschews passion and moral purpose. He is rational. He prizes realism over sanity, even in the face of self-destruction.

There are four moral absolutes which any society must live by if it is to be considered moral: Don’t kill, don’t steal, don’t lie and don’t exploit. You will notice that a prohibition against gay marriage is not included. However, a corporate society loves to get its knickers in a knot over gay marriage because it diverts the public’s attention from the fact that corporatism is quite willing to trash all four of the moral absolutes if it will add a point or two to its profit margin.

All ideologies are exercises in moral nihilism. They all proceed along the steel tracks of their linear thinking and care not who or what is destroyed in the process. Every ideology constructs a castle in the sky, complete with turrets, pediments, gargoyles and towers. Within the walls of this castle, shut off the reality and the world, the ideologue can make his pronouncements with the absolute certainty of one who knows only his master’s voice, be it Marx, Freidman or Rush.

Yes, Summer’s logic is as impeccable as it is amoral; it is an amorality that is well suited to the corporate state as it fights for its survival in this, the swan song of the Age of Capitalism.

--Case Wagenvoord

[1] Richard York, Brett Clark and John Bellamy Foster. “Capitalism in Wonderland.” Monthly Review 61, No. 1 (2009): 6


thepoetryman said...

When you kill the poor, you kill idlers, sustenance farmers and slum dwellers; when you kill the prosperous, you kill people just like us, and that simply won’t do!

Reads like something out of the bible.

Oh! There I've gone again it and done...

Case Wagenvoord said...

The old guy's getting reallly pissed off at you.