Public Humiliation of Capitalism:
'Das Kapital am Pranger'
by Sabine Barnhart
by Sabine Barnhart
There are very few outspoken voices of the classic-liberal sense in Germany raised in support of a free market economy. One of these voices is Roland Baader, economist and member of the Mont Pelerin Society, who makes an appeal to a German speaking audience in his new book Das Kapital am Pranger. With some tongue-in-cheek humor and with a passionate approach to defending liberty, he unravels the misuse of words and gives them their rightful place and meaning. Each chapter guides the reader out of the socialist maze that has kept entire nations confused and captive. He convincingly shows how the erroneously used concepts surround capitalism and how the false accusations made by its political and intellectual opponents have clouded the judgment of the German citizens. The book serves as a wake-up call to a people whose survival hinges on this very truth.
Last year's publication came during a time when the German nation has placed capitalism on the open market to be publicly pilloried by its political caste. This is not surprising; the free-market has been chained to the German legal system and its political figures for over a Century. For the last four decades capitalism has been made subservient to the socialist politicians and populace, which has crippled not only the performance of the German economy in general, but has also fostered a general Weltanschauung that grew to distrust the moral order of an unhindered free market system.
Mr. Baader, a student of Friedrich A. von Hayek, refers to this system as Scheinkapitalismus (pretend capitalism). In his first few chapters of the book, he sets up the rhetorical idea of a free market for his reader. He defines capital as human capital (i.e. knowledge, education, skills, imagination, and talents) and the application of human capital leading to the creation of tangible property and financial wealth, their natural interactions and ultimate benefits to man, his community, his country and the world at large. Capitalism, in that sense, is not an invented ideology, as its opponents would like to argue. It is based and thrives on the free and peaceful cooperation of people, who are also known as market participants. The concept of capitalism is therefore a natural order without any (political) force or coercion.
A large part of the emphasis in his writings, which are heavily influenced by the Austrian School of thought and Ludwig von Mises, is to refute the leftwing slanders against capitalism that it creates corruption and fosters injustice and immorality. He points to the historical facts on how the majority of people were poor, oppressed and without rights to any liberty prior to the onset of the Industrial Revolution in the modern era. From the 20th Century, the author uses examples of the former GDR (East Germany) and USSR to show the dire consequences of a centrally controlled society that is absent of entrepreneurial spirit and private capital.
Roland Baader brings up several but often little-known examples of how the suppression of a voluntary exchange between people in those communist states always found its way into the criminal world through the black and gray markets. Despite the ill intent of the leaders of those nations, and their police (Stasi and KGB), laws did not prevent the natural order of the free market from emerging, as it prospered illegally, which forced a great shortage of popular and mostly imported items and the relative abundance of the state-companies own produced Dreck.
Herr Baader further describes how the well-developed shadow economy behind the Iron Curtain not only served as an outlet against the thievery of the state but, oddly enough, as a last ditch attempt by the regular folks to keep from sliding further into abject poverty.
The creation of the German welfare state has similarly affected the behavior of its citizens. The working-class German might look for illegal work to supplement his income in order to offset the heavy tax burden and social contributions, which may leave him only with a third of his income. Bribery and special favors have become bargaining tools not only in politics, but also in private enterprise as well. A competitive employer or employee is often publicly ridiculed as a Streber (striver) or a nerd. Mobbing in the workplace and in public schools are only side effects of a society in which competence and personal accomplishment are belittled. Germans, like Americans, have noted an alarming increase of aggression against those who want to be successful.
The once legendary German work ethic and drive for perfection, while not yet completely demolished by the socialist mentality, have been subverted in many instances. This has further eroded the ability of German companies to compete on a global market where the high quality of German products remains a signature characteristic, but where their affordability is a long-forgotten past. Legislated wages and labor protection laws have been detrimental to the German economy whose performance is ultimately stifled by their oppressive legalism.
An outspoken supporter of the minimal state, Baader challenges the accepted misinterpretation of the noble ideas of "profit, entrepreneurship, liberalism and trade/globalization" that have had their lexicon hijacked by a domineering Left. Their negative slogans within the mainstream of the German culture have degraded and sneered at the very notions that brought Germany its economic miracle between the late 1940's to 1960's. Similar sentiments existed prior to 1933 in the German mind-set and Mr. Baader emphasizes that the degradation of these concepts always lead to poverty, destruction and war.
What remains of today's economy is a nearly-empty granary after hungry socialists and a misguided public have raided the troves to fatten up the state-cow. Both Germany's public media, with its two major state-owned broadcasting stations which charge every radio and TV owner a monthly fee of 17 Euros, and its state-run education system, have been instrumental propaganda tools that have served as mouthpieces for socialist ideas. Mr. Baader believes that nothing will change for Germany until at least 18 to 20 percent of intellectuals in these influential institutions comprehend the essence of capitalism (including those who call themselves "capitalists"). He mentions the dire need of a private think tank along the lines of IEA (Institute of Economic Affairs) which is found in most of the larger industrialized nations. Germany, he sadly states, is the only industrialized nation on earth without such a branch.
Page after page, the author unmasks the illusion that an economy and the wellbeing of Bürger (citizens) depend on the interference of a centralized state. He places strong criticism on politics in which he rightly states the political power plays: poor against rich, young against old, patients against doctors, consumers against producers, men against women, smokers against non-smokers, etc. This, Mr. Baader writes (paraphrased), creates a continually heated friction which only fuels the fire of envy and jealousy. It has an appealing attraction to special interest groups whose votes are solicited by political advocates to represent their rights.
Briefly mentioned in his book is his observation that Germany still has private ownership; and yet its bureaucracy has heavily burdened that ownership with laws which limit the rightful use of one's property, which in turn narrows choices and limits the supply of products and services. Germany is only a miniature reflection of what the political monstrosity of the EU resembles. Its original idea as a vehicle of economic cooperation between the European nations has grown out of all proportion until it has turned the Continent into a political wasteland. Brussels squanders billions of Euros annually on farm and energy subsidies in the hands of an organizational structure that comes to resemble more and more a political tool of economic destruction rather than unity.
EU-enforced mandates already restrict private contracts, as ordered through the "Anti-discrimination Law," which is a sure start down the "the path of stupidity." Baader explains that economics unites peoples, and that what could have been a peaceful exchange between individuals in these old cultures is being destroyed by its political rulers. EU executive committees are thus creating disorder, conflict, and hostility which hinder the natural flow of a peaceful market.
"It is the long absence of politics that brought man out of the Stone Age," says Baader, who continues to say that "dictatorship does not grow from politics announcing evil deeds; but from its promises to bring more happiness, wealth, more security and justice." He quotes the great philosopher, Edmund Burke, who says: "The Thing (politic), the Thing itself is the abuse." It is the wisdom of these words that does not penetrate the understanding of the social and political engineers who would like to control the free interaction of people by placing them into legal straight-jackets designed to "reform" their fallen natures.
It is precisely this false mentality that has eroded the moral ground in das Abendland (the Western World). A society whose politics takes on a "semi-religious character" will gradually force the removal of any competing influence over people's lives, which in the West has always been the Christian Church. Social justice has become a misused political and Christian expression that, as of today, is, as Baader quotes W.S. Schlamm, "the death slogan of the vertical civil war."
People must ask the question why they want to be governed by social justice rather than morals. The book makes a striking comparison between this ideology, which killed 30 million people under Mao Zedong in China, and capitalism, which has brought 300 million Chinese out of starvation and poverty. Its irrational reasoning lies in "social rights" and a misuse of the concept of justice that has transgressed against personal rights. The coercion by the state to enforce social justice through political force is an act of injustice when judged by morals. It unquestionably leads to loss of personal freedom and eventual totalitarianism.
The book comes at a critical time with a plea made especially to the citizens of Germany. It is not a book that merely preaches to the choir; it can also reach the undecided. It can be an enlightening revelation to those questioning the current political and social dilemma in Germany, and provides many in-depth examples specifically to the German nation. Roland Baader is a supporter of a minimal state, which means that free citizens must reclaim their right to self-govern their communities, cities, and counties. "Capitalism: Those are people themselves. Only in capitalism is there a natural order. Only in capitalism can there be liberty and dignity of life," writes Baader. "This only happens when people know what it is and is not."
Roland Baader is a minority in his crusade to reduce the power of the modern state, which controls both the economy and human behavior. His publication is a rarity indeed, since classic-liberalism has very little public exposure in written print or in the media. Junge Freiheit is the only publication available in hard print for which Herr Baader also writes occasional articles. There is a great need for German citizens to be educated about capitalism, its benefits, and its ultimate link to their well-being. The final six points in his last chapter on the characteristics of capitalism should arouse a serious debate within the mind of any reader and make him or her ponder over the erroneous teachings that have been pounded into the heads of students and workers for decades.
Das Kapital am Pranger and all of his other books are only available in the German language. Considering that Engel and Marx started off with their writings in German as well, it would be a delight to see Roland Baader's book reach the same crowd.
August 5, 2006
Sabine Barnhart [send her mail] moved to the US in 1980 and lives in Fort Worth, TX with her three children. For the past 15 years she has been working for an international service company.
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