Stephen Fortunato’s Dystopian Fantasy

Follow along to understand the problem with the Marxist philosophy(*) espoused by Rhode Island Superior Court Judge Stephen Fortunato in Wednesday’s Projo.
1. Start in a place where Marxists and non-Marxists can find common ground. People get compensated differently for the work they do and there’s not always a strong correlation between some quantity like “importance to society” (or even “importance to your company”) and income received.
2. So how are incomes allocated? At present, they are determined by a market system, which Judge Fortunato believes to be inherently amoral…

In sum, globalization, whether called imperialism or capitalism, is neither benign nor moral for the majority of the earth’s 6 billion people. It has always been thus, and there is nothing inherent in capitalism — whose only guiding principles are increasing profits and cutting costs — that results in just wages and benefits for all…
The exorbitant salaries and lavish lifestyles of corporate profiteers is not a result of irresistible natural forces but, rather, of their domination of economic and political power. An executive makes $12 million a year not because some free-market force dictates this, or because of his inherent worth to the community, but because of decisions by executive-pay consultants and cross-pollinated boards of directors, who sup at the same trough.
3. Since capitalism is neither “benign nor moral”, Judge Fortunato wants to do away with it. In Judge Fortunato’s opinion, to reject that “fundamental changes in the current economic order” are necessary is to accept a “dire and fatalistic view”.
4. Wanting to do away with a system because it is neither benign nor moral implies there is a system more benign and moral that can replace it. The Judge doesn’t tell us in his op-ed what the new system is, but he does drop a few clues…
4a. The new system will be based on the “laws of right”…
The 19th Century philosopher of art and social reformer John Ruskin put it well: “It [is] the privilege of the fishes as it is of rats and wolves to live by the laws of demand and supply; but the distinction of humanity, to live by those of right.”
4b. The new system must be powerful enough to mandate income levels for everybody…
Equally unjust and irrational economic arrangements lead to the payment of exorbitant amounts of money to celebrities and sports figures, but no one could legitimately argue that the absence of Britney Spears or Paris Hilton — or even Johnny Damon — from society’s stage would be as calamitous as the departure of local nurses or garbage collectors.
5. But who will determine what the “laws of right” are? And who will determine how much income each person rationally and justly deserves?
Trying to answer these questions leads straight to the heart of the internal contradiction that ultimately unravels any socialist argument.
Having decried the “domination of economic and political power” by a few, Judge Fortunato implies that the remedy is more consolidation of economic and political power in a single set of hands; what is needed is a government powerful enough to manage all economic activity in a country so as to guarantee that everything is “fair” according to the “laws of right”.
But on what basis does the Judge assume that the people that rise to the top of his unspecified ideal system will be any more benign and moral than the people at the top of the current system? He doesn’t answer that question, ignoring the fact that the oligarchs in his centrally-planned dystopia will have much more power to pursue selfish interests at the expense of everyone else than do the elites in a free-market system.
Ultimately, Winston Churchill said it best…
It has been said that democracy is the worst form of government except all the others that have been tried.
The same sentiment can be applied to capitalism and economic systems.

(*)I’m not being hyperbolic when I call Judge Fortunato a Marxist, nor using the term Marxist as a stand in for Euro-style soft socialism. Judge Fortunato has publically written about the beauty of Marxist economics…

I was in Nicaragua in 1983 and 1985 for short periods during the civil war and saw everywhere the easy and graceful blending of a Marxist view of economics and class struggle with the social teachings of the Christian gospels.This happy — and some would say holy — alliance both befuddled and provoked Reagan and his imperialist cohorts. The lie Reagan promoted was that Nicaragua was becoming a Soviet outpost in the western hemisphere…
Nothing in Wednesday’s op-ed leads one to believe that the Judge has changed his views.

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18 years ago

The judge should read Orwell’s “Animal Farm”. “Four legs good, two legs better”.

18 years ago

The judge should read Orwell’s “Animal Farm”. “Four legs good, two legs better”.
That makes me hungry! Wierd though… hmmm… maybe its lunch time?

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