Louis Proyect: The Unrepentant Marxist

January 12, 2014

Different (or identical?) views on the welfare state

Filed under: economics — louisproyect @ 3:05 pm

The welfare state is therefore frequently understood as an “achievement” of the labor movement, a concession to the working class (in order to pacify it). It is in fact the case that the lives of wage-laborers are considerably easier and more secure with state social welfare measures than without them. However, it is not the case that such measures are one-sided benefits for the forces of labor that—as is occasionally asserted—already constitute the first step in transcending capitalism. Rather, they safeguard the existence of workers in a manner consistent with capitalism, namely as wage-laborers. On the one hand, it is in the interest of capital that those workers whose labor cannot be profitably used for a temporary period of time—as the result of illness, accident, or the lack of demand—are still maintained in an “orderly” condition amenable to capital. On the other hand, state social welfare measures are usually contingent upon the sale of labor-power (or the willingness to sell one’s labor-power): benefits such as unemployment insurance or old-age pensions depend upon the previous wage, a correlation that already functions as a means of disciplining workers.

Michael Heinrich (http://www.thenorthstar.info/?p=11830)

According to the official USA.gov website, there are 510 federal departments and agencies, 50 of which were created over the past 15 years. Among those with the largest number of civilian employees: 718,000 at the Department of Defense; 302,000 at the Department of Veteran Affairs; 240,000 at the Department of Homeland Security; 114,000 at the Department of Justice; 100,000 at the Department of Treasury; and 98,000 Internal Revenue Service agents.

Another aspect of the capitalists’ administrative state is the increasing numbers of federal regulations and bigger staffs to enforce them. From 1949 to 2005 the listings of federal regulations grew by 600 percent to 134,000 pages, six years later it was nearly 170,000. While expanding under the George W. Bush administration, they’ve shot up further under the Obama administration. The 144 new major regulations pending in the second half of 2011 is double the figure from the same period in 2006.

The propertied ruling families in the U.S. and other imperialist countries exercise their state power — the dictatorship of capital — not only through a centralized military and police apparatus but also a large and growing state bureaucracy, with a myriad of agencies, institutions, departments, regulatory boards and enforcement corps, propped up by a second tier of so-called Non-Governmental Organizations and non-profit foundations.

The seeds of what is often termed the modern “administrative state” were planted in Europe and America with the rise of imperialism in the early 1900s and grew at an accelerated pace following the end of World War II.

Contrary to popular misconception, the revolutionary communist movement is not for “big government,” whether it’s a government representing the state power of the capitalist exploiters or a revolutionary government of workers and farmers.

Brian Williams (http://www.themilitant.com/2014/7802/780250.html)

With the current challenge of reducing the runaway government spending and an entitlement mentality by citizens, it is quite possible to trim $4 trillion by reining in just our federal bureaucracy. Thomas Sowell suggested that to do so, we must further examine and challenge the giant economic leviathan of our government bureaucracy. The Office of Management and Budget revealed that the executive branch of our federal government grew by 23 percent since President Obama took office. The Wall Street Journal (2012) opined that the president has “presided over the largest expansion of government since LBJ — health care, financial regulation,” and in so doing has spent 24 percent of our nation’s GDP.

Ludwig von Mises Institute (http://mises.org/daily/5955/the-seven-rules-of-bureaucracy)

1 Comment »

  1. Whatever happens to “the state” in general following a revolution, there will have to be organized and coordinated bodies that provide governance as opposed to “government.”

    For example, there will have to be standards and protocols for technology. Medical services and food production and distribution will have to be organized–and managed in a disciplined and probably hierarchical manner. It will not be possible to accomplish such things by, for example, some worldwide daily standup in which every living human being participates in every decision that constrains and limits the activities of any human being anywhere in the world.

    Furthermore, no matter what some self-professed Marxists may think or may once have thought or at least claimed, it should be clear that the scope and time scale of human history as opposed to human biological evolution is such that no new species of “socialist man” somehow transcending h. sapiens sapiens is likely to just manifest itself within a practical historical time scale. The qualitative biological nature of human beings, roughly speaking, is going to remain pretty much what it is now for the foreseeable future, and whatever “human race” emerges from revolution will fall pretty much within the existing genotype. ( Please note that this is not the same thing as claiming that “human nature” is fixed and immutable, or that the naive biologism of [e.g.] a Chagnon is somehow justified.)

    Unless of course there is no revolution, which–given the history of revolution in the twentieth century–may very well be the outcome.

    The point is that you can talk all you want about big “government” but big governance is going to be with us as long as there are people. Neither the dialectic nor the invisible hand of the marketplace can create a solution that will just go of itself without some kind of intensive–and to some extent hierarchical–organization. To my mind this adds a dimension to the discussion of “big government” that none of the quoted parties seems to be aware of.

    Comment by Philip Jenkins — January 12, 2014 @ 6:48 pm


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