UnHerd | think again

Challenging the herd with new and bold thinking in philosophy, politics and culture.
— Read on unherd.com/

A graduate school friend shared a post from http:www.unherd.com. The post left me conflicted. On the one hand, for twenty years Aristotle’s Nicomachean Ethics has anchored every course I have taught. More specifically, Aristotle’s distinction between the “bovine” approach to life, which counts anything that is pleasurable good, and mistakes the good for the pleasurable; and the life of “virtue” or aristes, where “the good” is counted as that which depends on no other, but upon which all else depends. It is from this principle that Aristotle then derived the social or political character of the human being, the good for the many being superior to the good for the one, the principle covering the many superior to the principle covering the one. On the other hand, the supreme classicist Friedrich Nietzsche took Aristotle’s Nicomachean Ethics at face value to derive its natural successor: the good for the many could not possibly be the good at all. The “good for the many” was, by definition, the very “herd” mentality that Aristotle had initially castigated. It followed, for Nietzsche, that Aristotle was mistaken.

I am not a critic of Nietzsche. At least not a uncritical one. But I also feel that, in this instance, he was a less than careful reader of Aristotle. For Aristotle, the good for all was not, under any circumstances, a democratically derived principle. The good could only be thought by those who acted good — who were themselves good. And being good was not itself a matter of thought, but a consequence of care. For Aristotle, any individual who had been cared for — fed, clothed, secured against harm, sung to, read to, walked with, talked with — in Greek society only a privileged individual was equipped to act virtuously and therefore privileged to know the good, the true, and the beautiful. In theory, therefore, every individual who was thus privileged could be equipped to judge, to identify the right path.

What Nietzsche — and Aristotle — objected to was granting to individuals who had not been so equipped the power to judge. This, for Aristotle, would be the equivalent to granting preference to “the herd.”

There is a curious anthropological footnote to this dissonant discourse. Anthropologists have shown that so long as communities maintained a size not exceeding one hundred and twenty-five, lying is ineffective. For communities larger than 125, the only way to organize effectively is to collectively embrace shared lies. To this extent, the herd mentality is a function of size. From this vantage-point, Aristotle was eager to press the limits of this functional limit. He hypothesized that freedom could expand the circle of individuals equipped to conduct their lives transparently: freedom from fear, freedom of knowledge, freedom from hunger, freedom from loneliness, freedom from want.

The classical republican theory is that a society composed entirely of highly educated, healthy, secure, safe, cared for individuals could conduct themselves individually and collectively as an independent society, irrespective of their size, far beyond the anthropological limit of 125 individuals.

Ideally, I would like to believe that radical republicans are right. A highly educated, cared for, well fed, healthy community could push the anthropological limit. But, of course, this was not at all Nietzsche’s ideal. Instead, he viewed the vast majority of human beings, exceeding ninety per cent, as irredeemable members of the herd. Only a minuscule few could unherd. And, in a very real way, he was right. Until all members of a community are sufficiently equipped, they will remain members of the herd, and those who are not members of the herd will be condemned either to manipulate the herd or remain subject to their judgments.

This means, however, that unherding requires a concerted, collective, effort to generate the conditions that make for freedom. It requires an operationalization of achieving the unherd, a very un-Nietzchean idea.

The modernity of anti-modernism in Islam

“Throughout the colonized lands of the Middle East and North Africa, the voice of modernism and integration with the Enlightenment ideals of the European colonialists was consistently drowned out by the far louder and more aggressive voice of traditionalism and resistance to the insufferable yoke of imperialism.”

— No god but God by Reza Aslan
https://a.co/bWWTQjj

And, yet, Aslan would be the first to admit that empire was often resisted in a voice that is as much the voice of capital is empire: the voice of nationalism. Islam and Islamic empire was born prior to the emergence of capitalism. In its best expression, Islamic empire was multi-ethnic and even multi-religious, even if the clan or tribe always lay not far beneath the surface. But this means that the drawing out and extension of what we imagine the past to have been — traditioning — which Hadith got wrong even before the Holy Prophet was buried, should not be confused with its fetishized form under capitalism, which, in its opposition to the specific fetish Islam calls “the West,” incorporates the logic of capitalism itself into its very core. Modernism and the Enlightenment are not enemies of traditionalism, but its perfect complement; traditionalism is among its most illustrious fetishes. A deep critique of Islam, a critique in which Islam redeems criticism, has yet to be written.

Divine Violence

I have been chanting the Benedictine hours through Covid. This entails many, many Psalms, every day, every week, along with the accompanying Canticles. Much of it is about war. Much of it places God at the head of armies. Initially I found this deeply offensive. The Trump White House has changed my views. Was I naive?

I have never been a pacifist. Even though I find the retrospective arguments for the US entering WWII historically unconvincing — we did not enter the war when we learned that Hitler was killing Jews, Communists, and homosexuals — I believe defeating fascism was a relative good.

But I have also never countenanced religious justification for war.

Well. That’s kind of the point of the Hebrew sacred text. And the Psalms. And the Canticles. So. How do you handle that?

Lately, I have become increasingly convinced that truly evil people — like Trump and his supporters — need to be defeated. They will be using real guns, real bombs, real violence. They will be fighting for the right to eliminate women’s rights, eliminate gay and lesbian rights, eliminate the rights of Muslims. They will be fighting with real weapons.

In graduate school I studied German Nazi culture. Not so much the war. I read about the war. But I was more interested in Nazi law, Nazi education, Nazi advertising, etc. These people wanted to eliminate Jews, homosexuals, and anyone who displayed divergent mental, physical, or spiritual characteristics. Who will defeat them?

I am now reading the war texts of the Hebrew Bible in a different light. Who defeats this evil? What does David (or whoever) mean by the arm of God? The sword of God? The army of God? Who is that? Who does this?

In the Hebrew sacred text, these are people. They are us. Although they are credited with divine agency.

Emptying into the streets. Holding banners. Pounding the pavement. Descending on state houses. All of this is good. This is the army of God. But the Hebrew sacred text suggests that there might be another stage.

Obama’s and the Left’s Blind Spot

As I near the end of volume one of Barrack Obama’s memoir, The Promised Land (2020), two sections are coming to stand out for me; sections that are indicative of a blind spot Obama shares with many of his detractors on the left. In one of these sections, Obama offers a sympathetic reading of the visceral white Christian nationalist hostility to him and everything he stands for. In the second passage, he openly wonders at why Republicans refuse to entertain legislation that only months earlier with Bush in the White House they had lustily endorsed. The two phenomena are intimately related. But Obama, and many of his left-wing detractors, keep them separate.

The hatred directed toward him, Obama attributes to un- and underemployment, to having been ignored by members of both parties since the 1970s. The refusal of Republicans to countenance legislation they had supported only months earlier, legislation that would lift working families out of poverty and extend the same privileges to them that are enjoyed by the educated, investor class, Obama cannot quite fathom. Why would Republicans refuse to help those whose anger is directed against him, against Obama.

This dilemma ought to be familiar. Left-wing Obama detractors regularly lay into the elitist, educated class, blaming them for having ignored the working class. The elite, educated class should abandon their identity-based, environmental, tree-hugging, trade- and tech-hungry narratives and embrace the working class, manufacturing carbon-heavy, predominantly white and male narrative that feeds anger against Wall Street Democrats like Obama. Then Democrats could seize the white Christian nationalist initiative and defeat the Republicans at their own game, like Andrew Jackson did, when he fed white anger by rounding up and slaughtering Indians in droves, before expanding the slave state into Texas.

Remember, Jackson too donned an anti-elitist, anti-banker, anti-Wall Street demeanor. But, of course, the bankers had the last say. They were only all too happy to have Jackson doing their bidding. And that precisely is the blind spot.

Indian Wells did not create white Christian male anger against the elites. Jimmy Carter’s and Bill Clinton’s neoliberalism was a petri-dish for white Christian male anger. Indian Wells simply packaged that anger. They created the narrative that is now on the tongues of every left- and right-wing pundit: white Christian men are angry. They are angry at educated, elitist, social democrats who wish to deprive them of their freedom. Why would Republicans want to promote this narrative?

If you don’t know the answer to this question, you are not paying attention.

Externalities and Labor

According to one popular microeconomics textbook, an “external cost” is “an uncompensated cost that an individual or firm imposes on others,” while an “external benefit” is a benefit “that individuals or firms confer on others without receiving compensation” (Krugman & Wells Microeconomics 2015: 465).

This is the “textbook” definition of externalities. What should be clear, but is not, is that the “external cost” that an individual or firm imposes on others is, by definition a benefit to the individual or firm; similarly, an “external benefit” that an individual or firm confers upon others is a benefit for which they would be compensated if they could.

The failure of markets to automatically track externalities has led some progressive economists to embrace a very non-progressive solution: give a price to all externalities. It is the same solution vigorously promoted by radical right wing economic thinkers, such as Michael Walker of the Fraser Institute. Although few of you will have heard of Walker or the Fraser Institute, some may remember the segments from Achbar and Abbott’s 2004 The Corporation, in which Walker proposes precisely this solution.

It makes sense. Only when we know the real cost of anything (or the real benefit) can we make rational economic decisions. Except that the underlying premise of pricing is that all things, including things that are not things, have prices that are differentially related to the prices of all other things. And this holds true only in fully elaborated, highly integrated, capitalist economies. Only in capitalist economies does it make any sense at all to monetize things as outwardly different from one another as “family time,” “health,” neighborhood “amenities” such as green space, well-maintained roads, or a view of two bridges. Only in capitalist societies do we differentially value gender, race, ethnicity, and sexual orientation in highly rigorous mathematical models that actually predict and prescribe outcomes.

This is possible because in capitalist societies all things, including things that are not things, are valued in terms of a single social substance: homogeneous undifferentiated labor in the abstract. This means, on the one hand, that it makes good sense to measure the cost individuals and firms are compelled to pay for the carbon foot-print caused by the decisions made by others, an externality. On the other hand, it is only possible to measure this cost because all things, including things that are not things, have been reduced to the same abstract form.

But this also means that things as such have no value. And this is a problem.

Now let us say that we no longer measure value in terms of the abstract homogeneous labor time consumed in their production. To even suggest such a possibility is likely to make people nervous. How, if not in the differential relationships that they bear to one another, can we establish the value of things? Consider something simple like paid family medical leave. I have no other way to measure the value of this leave than in terms of the opportunity cost carried by my employer or by investors so that I can care for an ailing spouse, parent, or child. That is to say, the only way there is to value this time is in terms of abstract value. To even begin to talk about this time in other ways is to “wax poetic,” to resort to “metaphor,” to live in a “fantasy world.” In the hard-nosed bargaining that won workers family leave, all that mattered was the marginal cost and/or marginal benefit it placed on workers and/or employers.

But this also means that accurate pricing of externalities fails to address the underlying problem: our lost capacity even to think about value outside of its relationship to abstract homogeneous labor time.

Is it good to know the total value lost in our dependence on fossil fuels? Yes. Of course. On the other hand, so long as we are measuring this value — the value of property damaged and property lost to extreme weather events, the value of health care for individuals suffering a higher incidence of lung disease and cancers, the value of decreasing bio-diversity and growing dependence on genetically modified organisms — so long as we are measuring value in terms of its abstract value coordinate, we have lost sight of the values of things per se.

The bad news is that this loss is near universal. The good news is that it is extraordinarily recent. Out of the 2.4M years humans have occupied the planet, it is only over the last half millennia that human beings have lost the capacity to value things. In the cultural remains left to us, we have access to a rich, highly diverse, catalogue of ways communities have valued things in the past. Studying and exploring these communities is not simply a flight into the past. It had better be a flight into our very near future, or we very likely will have no future.

Finally, it cannot be overlooked that recalibrating how we value things offers a much more satisfying path to consideration of externalities. Bio-feedback mechanisms are everywhere. We need only learn how to read and listen to them.

Karl Marx’s Lenten Practice

Was Karl Marx a Christian? No. Nor is there any evidence that he observed Lent, the season of penitence that leads up to Easter. Nevertheless, let me suggest that Marx’s entire approach to capitalism was a Lenten Practice.

Not Lent as it is often observed — abstaining from chocolate, alcohol, or Facebook — but Lent as it might be observed — reflecting critically, and acting militantly, on behalf of the redemption of the world.

In traditional Protestant theology, at least since the eighteenth century, it has been argued that the modern world is an outgrowth of Christianity. Democracy is an expression of the abstract idea of humanity promoted if not by Jesus, then at least by Paul, and capitalism is an expression of the Christian idea of freedom. In the nineteenth century, the German thinker Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel showed how the modern liberal state was an outgrowth, an expression, of the Christian Spirit.

As a young student, Karl Marx was inclined to agree with Hegel. He simply thought that Hegel needed to be tweaked. Only once the working class was the universal class; only then would the Spirit be fully realized.

But, then, Marx had what can only be described as a conversion experience. Modern liberal capitalism was not the expression of the Spirit. It was the expression only of the spirit of capitalism. And that meant that it did not matter who owned it, capitalists or workers, or how it was owned, publicly or privately. What mattered, according to Marx, was whether or not human beings are dominated by labor, by what they do, and by commodities, by what they make. “True freedom,” Marx remarked at the end of volume three of Capital, only appears where “labor ends.”

This became Marx’s liturgy, his Lenten practice, if you will: ending the domination of labor over people’s lives.

This Lent, as we ease gently into a Biden-Harris neoliberal dream world, I am observing a Marxian Lenten practice. Please join me.

Biden, Harris, and Determinate Contradiction

In volume one of Capital, Marx definitively scrapped his earlier analysis of the central contradiction in capitalism. According to his earlier analysis, capitalism would have been overcome — superseded — when the contradiction between the social forces of production (the industrial working class) and the private relations of production (private property and the market) violently clashed, giving rise to the universal species being, its feet firmly anchored on its own soil. Marx now counted this view naive. He now held that the central contradiction within capitalism was internal to the form of the commodity itself:

To say that these mutually independent and antithetical processes form an internal unity is to also that their internal unity moves forward through external antitheses. These two processes lack internal independence because they complement each other. Hence, if the assertion of their external independence proceeds to a certain critical point, their unity violently makes itself felt by producing — a crisis. There is an antithesis, immanent in the commodity, between use-value and value, between private labour which must simultaneously manifest itself as directly social labour, and a particular concrete kind of labour which simultaneously counts as merely abstract universal labour, between the conversion of things into persons and the conversion of persons into things; the antithetical phases of the metamorphosis of the commodity are the developed forms of motion of this immanent contradiction. These forms therefore imply the possibility of crises, though no more than the possibility. For the development of this possibility into a reality a whole series of conditions is required, which do not yet even exist from the standpoint of the simple circulation of commodities (Capital I.I.3 §2 (a)).

I have been reading a lot of extraordinarily sloppy social analysis of the new Biden-Harris regime in the US. As Hegel observed, these commentators paint their grey on grey, as though Biden is Trump in sheep’s clothing, revealing their no longer secret idealism. They want the Kingdom to come. (So do I.)

Or, Biden-Harris are the Kingdom. Oh. My. No.

There is a real “break” (as Lacan would have said) between the surface form and its underlying value; a “break” between the value social actors rely upon and the actual value social mediations assign to things. And this break opens up a “possibility,” but no more than a possibility.

Critical social scientists need to think carefully about the “whole series of conditions” that might be required for even half of the world’s 7.5B inhabitants to “see” what they would have to see in order to do something more than stomp their feet, raise their fists, march, change regimes (again), kill someone, assassinate a leader, retreat, advance . . .

In the mean time, the end (unfortunately) is not near. What could we do to help even half the world’s population to grasp what is happening, what is being done to them, how they are being played, the game they are playing?

Light . . . ?

Hello Epiphany!

I must confess. I’ve found it difficult seeing the light in 2021. No. The storming of the Capital by the people we defeated in 1945 is not light. Nor is the campaign to defeat them. Where is the light? Let me take a stab at it.

As some of you know, I have been praying the Hours since January 2020. Praying through the Psalms every week, along with the appointed chapters and passages from the Book of Common Prayer, introduced me to what first appeared to me to be a lot, too much, war-mongering. Since many of the Psalms were written by or with David in mind, and since over all of them hover the Exodus and conquest of the “promised land,” this martial theme is not unexpected. (World War I provoked haunting poetry. I have buried myself in WH Auden, among the most insightful poets of WWII, over the pandemic.)

Where is the light?

Let us suppose that the whole point of the Gospel only comes to light in its final chapter. Let us say that, like the disciples in Mark, we are all duller than door knobs. Like Pharisees (or Sadducees) we come, raise our objections or ask our questions, and it really doesn’t hit us.

Wars and rebellions are smoldering. Sedition is rife. To me it feels like I am living in the middle of the Psalms. I don’t know how it ends.

Here is what I know, even before opening the cover of the New Testament. I know that God is on the side of the widow, the poor, the orphan, the outcast, the immigrant, the homeless, the hungry, the sick, and the naked. That much is clear from the Hebrew sacred text. I also know that the well-graduated, the wealthy, the secure, the initiated, the housed, the well-fed, the healthy, and the stylish — the powerful — are ready to do everything they can to secure and protect their ground. They have what the Psalmist calls a “deceitful tongue.” They will lie and deceive to secure and protect what they have. The children of darkness are in this unto death.

In case anyone doubted before January 6 — Epiphany — that the children of darkness are in war against us, that they are using real weapons, that they mean to kill us, that ship (I hope) has sailed. The nations have seen a great light.

Epiphany, this year, perhaps all years, is a promise that reaches us from a distant shore. It says: God is still here. She is fighting on our side. She has appeared, not in Jerusalem, not in the Temple, but in (of all places) Galilee. She has not placed her bets with the Roman occupation, not with the collaborators, not with the racists, misogynists, nationalists, and patriots. The Zoroastrians from the East tell us at least that much.

But, we already knew that before we knew anything about Bethlehem or Galilee or Golgotha. But we did not see the light. We did not hear the word. We did not follow the signs. Then as now.

Where is the light? Do you see it?

Marx’s Hegel

For the past year or so I have been exploring the “Hegel” of the mature Karl Marx, the Marx of Capital. Identifying this Hegel has seemed critical to me because Marx described the central contradiction within capitalism using categories clearly drawn from Hegel’s Phenomenology. Where Hegel described the historical elaboration and materialization of the spirit — the spirit’s coming into its fullness — Marx described the historical elaboration and coming into its own of the value form of capital.

Further, the living Substance is being which is in truth Subject, or, what is the same, is in truth actual only in so far as it is the movement of positing itself, or is the mediation of its self-othering with itself. This Substance is, as Subject, pure, simple negativity, and is for this very reason the bifurcation of the simple; it is the doubling which sets up opposition, and then again the negation of this indifferent diversity and of its antithesis [the immediate simplicity]. Only this self-restoring Same-ness, or this reflection in otherness within itself — not an original or immediate unity as such — is the True. It is the process of its own becoming, the circle that presupposes its end as its goal, having its end also as its beginning; and only by being worked out to its end, is it actual. Thus the life of God and divine cognition may well be spoken of as a disporting of Love with itself; but this idea sinks into mere edification, and even insipidity, if it lacks the seriousness, the suffering, the patience, and the labor of the negative.

GWF Hegel Phenomenology §§18-19.

It is constantly changing from one form into the other, without becoming lost in this movement; it thus becomes transformed into an automatic subject. If we pin down the specific forms of appearance assumed in turn by self-valorizing value in the course of its life, we reach the following elucidation: capital is money, capital is commodities. In truth, however, value is here the subject of a process in which, while constantly assuming the form in turn of money and commodities, it changes its own magnitude, throws off surplus-value from itself considered as original value, and thus valorizes itself independently. . . . But now, in the circulation M-C-M´, value suddenly presents itself as a self-moving substance which passes through a process of its own, and for which commodities and money are both mere forms. But there is more to come: instead of simply representing the relations of commodities, it now enters into a private relationship with itself, as it were.

K Marx, Capital, vol. 1, I.iv

Whether we want to differentiate sharply between Hegel’s spirit and Marx’s value form depends on how we understand Hegel’s spirit and Marx’s value. So, for example, we might justifiably credit Hegel with intending a discussion not of universal history, but, more specifically, of modern history, in which case his spirit might easily be taken as homologous with Marx’s value. Similarly, many interpreters of Marx credit him with investing value with transhistorical, universal, validity, such that the apotheosis he imagines lay hidden since the foundation of the world.

The value of interpreting Marx in this way is that it reconciles what I am calling the mature Marx of Capital with Marx’s earlier and earliest writings, such as German Ideology, the Communist Manifesto, and his posthumously published 1844 Economic and Philosophical Manuscripts. In that case, however, Marx’s discussion of value in Capital is rendered virtually incoherent, since Marx’s explicit aim is to show how the formation and quasi-personal autonomy of value, the agency of value, rests on the social and historical validity of the production of commodities. In that case, however, we are presented with a different problem: why or how can Hegel occupy so central a position in Marx’s thinking, both early and late, both during his early humanist phase and during his later neoclassical phase? Why Hegel?

One entirely valid way to answer this question is to notice the central position Hegel occupied in critical reflection in Germany both prior to and after the revolutions of 1848-49. Hegel was everywhere. But this exaggerates Hegel’s importance. Hegel was not everywhere in England. He was not everywhere in France.

Nevertheless, Hegel told a compelling story about the progressive, inevitable, historically embedded universalization of freedom; the spirit coming into its own. Conservative German thinkers could and did interpret this as a commentary on and endorsement of the universal spirit expressed in the universal state. Marx offers a thumb nail sketch of what this meant in his earlier critiques of Hegel. In its fully elaborated form, however, as in Gustav von Schmöller’s Economics, it could prove very dense and detailed. Progressively, throughout history, an ever broader, ever deeper, ever more diverse representation of humanity has found its place in the universal. Schmöller even notes, near the end of his multi-volume Economics, that even Friedrich Engels had abandoned the bloody revolution in favor of the evolutionary principle.

Has not von Schmöller and, indirectly, the mature Engels, proved correct? And has not the young revolutionary Marx and Engels been proven wrong?

If, on the other hand, Marx was critical of the developmental logic implicit in commodity production and exchange; if, as seems clear, he credited this developmental logic to capitalism, then it would be very odd for him to then fault this logic for not being fast enough. Is that the essence of Marx’s critique? Hurry up?

My research suggests an alternative understanding of Marx’s Hegel. Hegel grasped capitalism. But Hegel mistakenly granted its logic universal validity. Marx’s mature critique of Hegel credits Hegel with grasping the logic of capitalism, but not the logic of history. For the mature Marx, the logic of history ends when capitalism ends; which is different than saying that Hegel’s end is Marx’s end. Hegel ends with the fully integrated, fully elaborated, universal logic of capital. Marx ends with the destruction of this fully integrated, fully elaborated, universal logic. The end of capitalism arises when value is no longer determined by abstract time and labor; where the social logic therefore falls apart.

Or, at least, this is the result of my preliminary research. I could be wrong. So I am continuing to work through the material. Of one thing, however, I am very certain. The humanist Marx celebrated in the 1940s and 1950s, and through Marcuse and others fueled the 1960s, bears absolutely no relationship to the Marx of capital. That was a very different, non-Marxian, critique; valid in its own way, but lacking in critical historical and social depth and rigor. The Marx of the 1860s was no longer there. He had moved on.

Democracy and Capitalism: An occasional series

As is so often the case, the Economist asks the right questions but is clueless in its analysis. This is not, as some suppose, because it relies too much on neoclassical interpretive categories. The Economist’s cluelessness in this case arises from its faith in a relationship that until World War II was completely unknown: the supposed positive correlation of democracy and capitalism.

Prior to World War II any suggestion that this correlation was positive was dismissed in precisely the circles most committed to neoclassical economic categories: not only at LSE, but also at Cambridge, not only at Chicago, but also at Harvard and Berkeley. This was because economists prior to WWII recognized that the broadening of the political franchise without a simultaneous broadening of the social franchise was suicide to the republican values and institutions most of them had reason to value. Since few of them valued a broadening of the social franchise, they also dismissed broadening the political franchise.

It was the conceit of the Austrian School’s Friedrich von Hayek and von Mises sychophant Milton Friedman that democracy and capitalism somehow naturally suggested one another. What capitalism suggests is consumerism, voting through consumption, voting in order to consume. But consumers are the least well equipped to govern republics. Moreover, in the unregulated, privatized world dreamt by Friedman, those who occupy the lower three quarters of the income hierarchy are doomed to ever declining purchasing power, while those at the top are free to expand the range of their consumer preferences indefinitely.

Only massive public intervention, such as WWII, has proven effective expanding the social franchise. And, yet, so long as public resources are diverted to private production and consumption, they cannot help but reproduce conditions hostile to republican values and institutions.

The Economist editors fantasize a different story. Capitalism generates democracy. Greed, avarice, and corruption destroy democracy. In other words, personal morality is at fault. The message is that we need to promote good people and frustrate bad people. This may be a good message. But it has nothing to do with neoclassical economic theory. The Economist is at its worst when it attempts to find the moral of the story.

In capitalist, there is no moral to the story. William Stanley Jevons, the father of neoclassical economics, said as much way back in 1871. He was right. The Economist is not.

https://www.economist.com/leaders/2020/11/26/democracy-contains-the-seeds-of-its-own-recovery