Thursday, October 25, 2012

Why "Own or Be Owned"?

By Norman Kurland

Our evolving "movement" is made up of individuals. Some are more individualistic than others in their attitudes toward working in solidarity with others. Yet each of these individuals share in common an ability to understand and use in their communication with others such terms as "binary economics", "the Just Third Way", "Capital Homesteading", and, for some, even "capitalism" as that word was used by Kelso and Adler and in our "Glossary" of Just Third Way terms.

Kelso and Adler, as scholars are increasingly coming to understand, distinguished their property and free market-based and limited government system of economic democracy from what Marx and his inventors of the term "capitalism" meant. To socialists, "capitalism" describes a social order based on greed, exploitation and power over the most of humanity by a tiny elite. This is maintained through highly concentrated ownership of the means of production.

The global justice movement is united behind the essential triad of principles of economic justice (participation, distribution and harmony) and so-called "theory of capitalism" as articulated by Kelso and Adler. This distinguishes supporters of Kelso's vision of a property-based and just free market, limited government system from the system of political economy advocated by Marx and others on the left.

It also distinguishes the Kelso-Adler semantic use of the word "capitalism" from that of Ayn Rand and Milton Friedman on the intellectual right. They take the word to mean "greed is good" and that systemic barriers to creating national and global of individually independent capital owners can be ignored. This is because (in their opinion) free markets alone without lifting unjust institutional barriers to widespread capital ownership will create a moral society.

Some of the Just Third Way supporters of the Kelso-Adler vision, including myself, reject the word "capitalism" as a morally confusing use of semantics. We would argue that if "capital" is defined in Kelsonian binary economic theory as non-human "things," and these "things" are integrated with all human contributions to the production of marketable goods and services, then "capitalism" is "thing-ism" and a "capitalist" can also be called a "thing-ist."

Differences in semantics exposes our movement to diversionary criticism from others that we glorify "things" rather than "human beings." But semantic arguments need not weaken the need for greater solidarity among all supporters of the principles, logic and vision of the Kelso-Adler vision of a new system of economic democracy based on equality of opportunity for every person to become an owner of capital.

Without economic democracy — articulated by a common mantra like "Own or Be Owned" — political democracy will never work. Being a capital owner is better than being a slave, including a wage slave, a welfare slave, a credit slave and even a charity slave. To strengthen our movement we need to tolerate differences, including semantic differences, as long as we agree on basic principles. If all of us reflect on and begin communicating the common sense reality of these four words to reflect the essential unity of our new movement, every "elevator speech" by each of us could begin with this term to open up the minds of others to "the new big picture."

We should invite everyone we meet to learn more by visiting the website of the Coalition for Capital Homesteading, and the growing "virtual libraries" of the Kelso Institute and the Center for Economic and Social Justice.

Words are important for uniting highly diverse people to gain a passionate commitment to a new and revolutionary set of morally compelling ideas, including our blueprint for changing the "social disorder" of today's world to a new "social order." "Own or Be Owned" can easily be explained to offer new and realistic hope that Peace, Prosperity and Freedom for all in America and throughout a more participatory global community.

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