Seeds of Authoritarianism: No True Capitalism
The polarized ideologies subsumed into the economic systems of Capitalism and Communism are based fundamentally on an interpretation of human nature. On the face of it now, it seems amazing that any government could believe that a single understanding of human nature and ideology could guide humanity. But contemporary societies still grip ideologies thought to have been discredited in the nightmarish 20th century. Capitalism is necessarily more interested in human nature at the level of the individual and then works upward, while Communism begins its analysis with a critique of the history of human social organization. Outsiders looked askance at the obsession of the Soviet Union with constant reanalysis and perfection of Marxist ideology. But try to imagine that you are in a society that reaches for a utopia of perfect unity, unsullied by cretinous human selfishness and individuality. Since the object of Communism is unity of purpose, the Soviet government attempted to unite all aspects of the human experience under one explanatory theory. Conjure the physicist grasping desperately for The Theory of Everything that unites General Relativity and Quantum Mechanics, and you can understand the mindset of the Soviet Marxist ideologue trying to reconcile genetics with art history. The Soviet leadership understood that it was impossible to unite humanity behind an ideal freely, and so they consciously decided to coerce the citizenry under a modern system of government by totalitarianism.
Strict adherence to ideology necessitates authoritarian government. In the beginning, the megalomaniac believes that he has discovered the theory of everything, the true nature of the human. In the United States, the prevailing ideology of our government adheres to the most diabolical insight of Adam Smith, that rational self-interest governs human behavior. Our society is governed by strict competition, with cooperation only appearing in certain settings. We retrofit the notion of rational self-interest, from the exploits of big business to the research performed in chemistry laboratories. You may personally find it abhorrent that your behavior can be entirely attributed to rational self-interest, you may even find it to be un-Christian. But the rules of the game are such that you must compete, or society will set you aside as a failure no matter how resplendent your talents. The more your behavior conforms to the prevailing ideology, the more success you can expect. And yet there are obvious cracks in our reigning ideology. An entire alternative economy of non-profits, community organizing, and social entrepreneurs has developed. The radicalism inside this alternative economy varies wildly, but the point is that a huge portion of the American economy does not adhere to the prevailing ideology of rational self-interest. Reality contradicts orthodoxy.
So what happens when it becomes obvious that no one theory of human behavior can guide a government? There are two impulses. One is to accommodate a pluralist conception of a Democratic society, and the second is to embrace authoritarian governance to enforce adherence to the ideology. The Republican Party is emblematic of this embrace of the authoritarian impulse. It explains the party’s deranged hatred of the alternative economy because it presents an existential threat to the reactionary way of life. Yet most reactionaries are just as upset as leftists about the state of American society. They complain that the U.S. economy is a parody of the ideals of Capitalism. And it is! But that’s the point. You cannot engineer society to produce the ideals of Capitalism or Communism. When put into practice, rational self-interest can only explain a facet of human nature. Disappointed idealists believe that if we could only install true capitalism and enforce their understanding of human nature we could have a perfect society. And that is the essence of megalomania.