I was so gratified to see Wendell Berry’s remarks in a recent interview (“Wendell Berry: Landsman” with Jim Leach in Humanities magazine, May/June 2012) where he makes a point about economics that is overlooked in these days when divisiveness rules the political roost. The general view is that the economic battle is between capitalism and socialism, but as Wendell observes, “both are industrial systems and they have made the same mistakes in some ways.” Both have ignored “the propriety of scale and the standard of ecological health.”
Yes, yes, yes. But I would like to go farther (probably too far) than Wendell did. Both capitalism and socialism are similar industrial systems basically because both accept and practice the industrial idea that the fundamental tool to “growing an economy” is the ability to borrow money at compound interest rates. I certainly would be foolish to deny the effectiveness, maybe the necessity, of being able to borrow money. We borrowed to buy our first house and car. But seeing how borrowed money nearly ruined people I knew when I was growing up, I was determined never to borrow again if I could avoid it and I never did. Repaying a loan over a long period of time often means buying the house or car twice and if one carries credit card debt all the time, to paying for stuff more than three times.
Somehow this kind of insanity has become sanctified in our society as if it were holy scripture. The phrase “free enterprise” is uttered by its high priests with all the fervor of a biblical evangelist uttering “the Lord Jesus Christ.” I remember the first time I confronted this kind of reverence and realized with a shock, that “free enterprise,” guided by what its followers called an “invisible hand,” was almost a synonym for God.
|Gene Logsdon is the author of, most recently, A Sanctuary of Trees: Beech Nuts, Birdsongs, Baseball Bats, and Benedictions|