Posted by: Loran Blood | February 16, 2013

Orson Scott Card Fouls His Own Nest

On a very left-leaning anti-Mormon board, well known to defenders of the faith in the LDS world, a poster placed online a excerpt from an old interview on Slate magazine with LDS fantasy novelist Orson Scott Card.  The statements made are, to put it mildly, an economically illiterate anti-capitalist diatribe so fraught with nonsense that it would take a monograph length treatment to sort it all out.  I responded to the quote, which I reproduce here.  One notices that Card appears, in at least one place, to attack his fellow Latter-day Saints directly in a collective sense, standing over them in pious moral contempt for their embrace of working for a living, making a profit, creating wealth, and seeking and achieving middle class affluence, and not being satisfied with a hut and a dung fire under the cooking pot (communally owned, of course).  The poster mentioned that this was somewhat “shocking” as to its implications.  I agree, but not in the way he meant.  The except and my response follows:

“But on economic matters, I’m a committed communitarian. I regard the Soviet Union as simply state monopoly capitalism. It was run the way the United States would be if Microsoft owned everything. Real communism has never been tried! I would like to see government controls expanded, laws that allow capitalism to not reward the most rapacious, exploitative behavior. I believe government has a strong role to protect us from capitalism. I’m ashamed of our society for how it treats the poor. One of the deep problems in Mormon society is that really for the last 75 years Mormons have embraced capitalism to a shocking degree.”

The only truly shocking thing here is the grotesque economic, political, and philosophical illiteracy on display. Great fantasy/science fiction writer he may be. Serious thinker, well…

Notice the cornucopia of traditional socialist shibboleths and nostrums here, the most astoundingly obnoxious being “Real communism has never been tried.” This was the cry of all the socialist romantics of the middle 20th century who, blindsided by Khrushchev’s revelations of Stalin’s crimes (what many not of the Left in America had long known), decided that although they didn’t want the gulags, firing squads, punitive psychiatry, totalitarian repression, and state terror, they were still committed to the ideas that generated these practices, forms of governance and policy utilized by all Marxist states in actual existence, or, in other words, socialist theory.

Someone needs to tell Card that “communism” has two fundamental meanings in Marxism, the first being that it was coined as a term of polemical and activist usage by Marx who thought the term denoting the actual theory he taught all of this life, socialism, was not vibrant and exciting enough for mass public consumption. What one has seen throughout the 20th century, from the Soviet Union, to China, to North Vietnam, to Cuba, to Nicaragua, to East Germany and other Warsaw Pact countries etc., is socialism as practiced by professional revolutionaries and intellectual theorists.

It is not “democratic” socialism but revolutionary socialism. It is not “communism” which was the fantasized future anarchic utopia in which the state would cease to exist and all human beings would live in an Eloi-like state of plenty and, what Maslow would have called “self-actualization,” and Card is right, that has never been tried, the reason being that it is pure fantasy having no plausible basis in reality. What has been tried is the transitional phase between “capitalism” and communism – socialism – or “the dictatorship of the proletariat.”  This is, of course, as it must be, an authoritarian/totalitarian structure of repression, control of virtually all aspects of human life, terror to compel conformity, and the rejection of any and all manifestations of free agency, or individual liberty.

Also making its appearance, as it always must, is our old friend, personified society, which “treats” people in this or that manner. As I type this, America, a nation which has brought economic security, prosperity, and opportunity to more people both poor, middle class, and wealthy, than any nation or political entity in the history of this planet, and which Bro. Card appears to think is evil personified, has spent some $15 trillion since the mid-sixties on poverty programs, and continues to spend around a trillion a year. Contra Card, who, like most leftists is in search of a perfect world in contrast to which the good is perceived as the most wretched darkness, “society” has been lavish to the point of drunken profligacy with its attempts to alleviate, if not “abolish” poverty (which, as a matter of practical consequences, means that the Great Society was a failure).

Bro. Card needs to do a bit of reading on the history of political philosophy and ideology, political movements, and political economy. “State capitalism” is nothing more than a fascist/socialist hybrid economic policy form that states like the Soviet Union, North Vietnam, North Korea, Cuba, Maoist China, the Eastern Block states etc. had to employ to raise revenue, as their were no free markets and hence, no authentic economic knowledge from which economic decisions could have been made.

But Card here confuses a technique or policy form within the Soviet state to the state itself. The Soviet Union was a totalitarian police state grounded in Marxist/Leninist theory and it was that theory that gave that state and all other Marxist states that have ever existed in practice their totalitarian character.

Some of Card’s statements are just plain bizarre:

I would like to see government controls expanded, laws that allow capitalism to not reward the most rapacious, exploitative behavior.

First, Card obviously doesn’t understand (like many) that the concept of “capitalism” is a creation of its enemies, not an actually existing system of social/economic organization. Secondly, if government controls are expanded much further, we will be living essentially in a fascist (government controls the means of production through legislation, regulation, or direct command) and/or socialist (government nationalizes key industries and commodities, sponsors and subsidizes government corporations) system in which individual economic liberty is, for all intents, moot.

“Rapacious” and “exploitative” economic behavior? No matter, I don’t know what Card is talking about, but neither does he, so, never mind for the moment. And “capitalism” rewards it? Oh, I thought the market – many millions of Card’s free, deciding, calculating, reflecting human beings making decisions regarding what to buy or not to buy, and in what amounts and for what purposes, on a daily basis – were the rewarders of other’s economic activity. Come to find out its an abstraction that rewards the producer of widget x over sprocket y, not real human beings in a free, competitive market.

I believe government has a strong role to protect us from capitalism.

Eternal vigilance is the price of librerty, and it is a virtuous and informed electorate that has a strong role in protecting us from people like Orsen Scott Card.

One of the deep problems in Mormon society is that really for the last 75 years Mormons have embraced capitalism to a shocking degree.”

Nice he seems to think so, but I’ve never heard the Brethren speak in this way, ever, about “capitalism” or the Saints having “embraced” it.

Card can use the neutered term “communitarian” all he wishes, but what he really is is a collectivist, and collectivism’s history is a Medusa head that only the strongest can gaze at in all its human debasement.

Card’s major problem, as with all who hold similar views, is ultimately with freedom.

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