31 October 2010

Fatuous, if not malign

'More is better' eventually degrades into 'more is mine.' The notion that economic actors, after having developed a culture where self-interest is the only acceptable criterion for action, will suddenly be able to exercise self-restraint regarding their submission to the rules of fair competition once the opportunities for wealth accumulation have become scarce, that notion is fatuous, if not malign. 
"... the whole thing is a delusion. Public life takes on the deceptive aspect of a total of private interests as though these interests could create a new quality through sheer addition. All the so-called liberal concepts of politics (that is, all the pre-imperialist political notions of the bourgeoisie) -- such as unlimited competition regulated by a secret balance which comes mysteriously from the sum total of competing activities, the pursuit of 'enlightened self-interest' as an adequate political virtue, unlimited progress in the mere succession of events -- have this in common: they simply add up private lives and personal behavior patterns and present the sum as laws of history, or economics, or politics. Liberal concepts, however, while they express the bourgeoisie's instinctive distrust of and its innate hostility to public affairs, are only a temporary compromise between the old standards of Western culture and the new class's faith in property as a dynamic, self-moving principle. The old standards give way to the extent that automatically growing wealth actually replaces political action." (The Origins of Totalitarianism, Hannah Arendt, 1994; page 145).

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