Restoring risk

Were I to declare myself an opponent of collectivism, I do not think it would occasion much surprise. My horror of socialism in all its many forms — Soviet, Maoist, Venezuelan, and so on — is not a secret I have tried to keep. My use of the term “Twisted Nanny State” (for decades I just said “Nanny State,” until I offered the new, improved version) extends my pathological hatred to “guvmint” in all contemporary forms. I love to mock the pretensions of “democracy,” snowballs at which I am pleased to hurl. Some have rocks in them. I deny being an anarchist or libertarian: implausibly, to some readers. Yet as “A Man of the Thirteenth Century” (TM) I am, after all, a moral authoritarian, and a papist so strident that the current pope never invites me to tea. My preference for science over scientism further marks me as a creature of the dark lagoon.

So yes, from all this, it may be concluded that I am not a collectivist, nor a semi-collectivist. Did you know I am not an individualist, either? For sometimes I drop lead on that toe, too. The idea of perfect individual autonomy strikes me as the Sin of Adam. Let Everyman, before God, take responsibility for everything he has done, including those things that no court could try.

But within the little realm of politics, and after all those who think themselves anti-collectivist have sent their regards, I will mumble my objections to usury, and limited liability.

It seems to me — a man who has read Adam Smith with admiration, but wonders if anyone else has — that the modern corporation is a collectivist enterprise. It begins with first ownership, often enough, and gets worse after takeovers and mergers, further compounded by the leverage and debt. What we call “capitalism” today is an incomprehensible jumble in which the legal fiction of “corporate persons” creates the dominant players on every stage. Joint-stock companies own companies that own companies in a parody of the Great Chain of Being, and only in tiny corner stores will one find a sovereign human being who can answer a question with a straight face.

Anything that requires “public relations,” or a “human resources department,” is Stalinist by intention.

But, “small is beautiful” is not my theme. (A sub-theme maybe.) I do not despise large companies, per se. I despise large companies that are owned by even larger parent corporations, pension funds, or other ontological shadows and geists. They behave as, because they are, collectivist entities.

Let a man (or a woman, if she has charge of her own purse) put down his golden ducats (or florins, should the vendor agree), and take possession. Should a partnership be formed, it will not vex me. Let the man, or the very same partners, by similar device, take possession of more than one company, in their own names. But let no abstraction invest, and should the owners acquire more than they can handle, let them rue the day. For in my view they should be personally responsible for business practices in any company they own, as they would be for the behaviour of an incisive dog. Let the rich be rich, and bankrupts be bankrupts, as the direct consequence of risks they have freely assumed. Let those who have broken clearly-written laws themselves be broken on the wheel of Justice. And let the taxes, too, be made plain and predictable, applying not to aggregates, but by transaction.

My scheme could be drawn out in tedious detail — I’ve hardly started — but let me jump to the conclusion that it would not increase any nation’s paper wealth. Indeed, it would have a condensing effect. But I think it more important that our relations be just — and investigably seen to be just — than that they be remunerative.

Down with capitalist collectivism!