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Writing to find his way in a world where moral systems everywhere were seemingly in decay, Musil strives to reconcile the ongoing conflict between functional relativism and the passionate search for ethical values. Robert Musil was born in and died in He has a range and a striking capacity every bit as great as that of Mann, Joyce, or Beckett.

Table of Contents. Dates of First Publication Notes. Chicago Blog. Sign Up. There are, of course, also Americans whose material conditions appear unsatisfactory when compared with those of the great majority of the nation. Some authors of novels and plays would have us believe that their gloomy descriptions of the lot of this unfortunate minority is representative of the fate of the common man under capitalism.

They are mistaken. The plight of these wretched Americans is rather representative of conditions as they prevailed everywhere in the precapitalistic ages and still prevail in the countries which were either not at all or only superficially touched by capitalism. What is wrong with these people is that they have not yet been integrated into the frame of capitalist production.

Their penury is a remnant of the past.

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Wilder Penfield. The second career with other essays and addresses. - PubMed - NCBI

The Edition: current; Page: [ 28 ] progressive accumulation of new capital and the expansion of big-scale production will eradicate it by the same methods by means of which it has already improved the standard of living of the immense majority, viz. Now let us look at India. Nature has endowed its territory with valuable resources, perhaps more richly than the soil of the United States.

On the other hand, climatic conditions make it possible for man to subsist on a lighter diet and to do without many things which in the rough winter of the greater part of the United States are indispensable. Nonetheless, the masses of India are on the verge of starvation, shabbily dressed, crammed into primitive huts, dirty, illiterate. From year to year things are getting worse; for population figures are increasing while the total amount of capital invested does not increase or, even more likely, decreases.


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At any rate, there is a progressive drop in the per-head quota of capital invested. In the middle of the eighteenth century conditions in England were hardly more propitious than they are today in India. The traditional system of production was not fit to provide for the needs of an increasing population. The number of people for whom there was no room left in the rigid system of paternalism and government tutelage of business grew rapidly. Neither the ruling aristocracy nor these paupers themselves had any idea about what could be done to improve the material conditions of the masses.

They demolished entirely the pseudo-philosophy that hitherto had been instrumental in shaping the economic policies of the nations. In short: these authors expounded the doctrine of free trade and laissez faire. What begot modern industrialization and the unprecedented improvement in material conditions that it brought about was neither capital previously accumulated nor previously assembled technological knowledge.

In England, as well as in the other Western countries that followed it on the path of capitalism, the early pioneers of capitalism started with scanty capital and scanty technological experience. At the outset of industrialization was the philosophy of private enterprise and initiative, and the practical application of this ideology made the capital swell and the technological know-how advance and ripen. One must stress this point because its neglect misleads the statesmen of all backward nations in their plans for economic improvement.

They think that industrialization means machines and textbooks of technology. In fact, it means economic freedom that creates both capital and technological knowledge. Let us look again at India. India lacks capital because it never adopted the pro-capitalist philosophy of the West and therefore did not remove the traditional institutional obstacles to free enterprise and big-scale accumulation.

Capitalism came to India as an alien imported ideology that never took root in the minds of the people. Foreign, mostly British, capital built railroads and factories. The natives looked askance not only upon the activities of the alien capitalists but no less upon those of their countrymen who cooperated in the capitalist ventures. Today the situation is this: Thanks to new methods of therapeutics, developed by the capitalist nations and imported to India by the British, the average length of life has been prolonged and the population is rapidly increasing.

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As the foreign capitalists have either already been virtually expropriated or have to face expropriation in the near future, there can no longer be any question of new investment of foreign capital. Edition: current; Page: [ 30 ] On the other hand, the accumulation of domestic capital is prevented by the manifest hostility of the government apparatus and the ruling party. The Indian government talks a lot about industrialization. But what it really has in mind is nationalization of already existing privately owned industries.

For the sake of argument, we may neglect referring to the fact that this will probably result in a progressive decumulation of the capital invested in these industries as was the case in most of the countries that have experimented with nationalization. At any rate, nationalization as such does not add anything to the already prevailing extent of investment.


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Nehru admits that his government does not have the capital required for the establishment of new state-owned industries or for the expansion of such industries already existing. I have dwelt so long upon the affairs of India because they are representative of what is going on today almost in all parts of Asia and Africa, in great parts of Latin America and even in many European countries.

In all these countries the population is increasing. In all these countries foreign investments are expropriated, either openly or surreptitiously by means of foreign exchange control or discriminatory taxation.

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At the same time, their domestic policies do their best to discourage the formation of domestic capital. There is much poverty in the world today; and the governments, in this regard in full agreement with public opinion, perpetuate and aggravate this poverty by their policies. As these people see it, their economic troubles were in some unspecified way caused by the capitalist countries of the West. This notion included, until a few years ago, also the advanced nations of Western Edition: current; Page: [ 31 ] Europe, especially also the United Kingdom.

With recent economic changes, the number of nations to which it refers has been more and more restricted; today it means practically only the United States. The inhabitants of all those countries in which the average income is considerably lower than in this country look upon the United States with the same feelings of envy and hatred with which within the capitalist countries those voting the ticket of the various communist, socialist and interventionist parties look upon the entrepreneurs of their own nation.

The same slogans that are employed in our domestic antagonisms—such as Wall Street, big business, monopolies, merchants of death—are resorted to in speeches and articles by the anti-American politicians when they are attacking what is called in Latin America, Yankeeism, and in the other hemisphere, Americanism. In these effusions there is little difference between the most chauvinistic nationalists and the most enthusiastic adepts of Marxian internationalism, between the self-styled conservatives eager to preserve traditional religious faith and political institutions, and the revolutionaries aiming at the violent overthrow of all that exists.

The popularity of these ideas is by no means an effect of the inflammatory propaganda of the Soviets. It is just the other way round. The communist lies and calumnies get their persuasiveness, whatever it may be, from the fact that they agree with the socio-political doctrines taught at most of the universities and held by the most influential politicians and writers. The same ideas dominate the minds in this country and determine the attitude of statesmen with regard to all the problems concerned.

People are ashamed of the fact that American capital developed the natural resources in many countries which lacked both the capital and the trained specialists required. When various foreign governments expropriated American investments or repudiated loans granted by the American saver, the public either remained indifferent or even sympathized with the expropriators. With the ideas underlying the programs of the most influential political groups and taught at most of the educational institutions, no other reaction could be expected.

Four years ago there assembled in Amsterdam the World Council of Churches, an organization of one-hundred-and-fifty-odd denominations. The culprits are not specified.

Precision and Soul

But it is understood that the indictment refers to the capitalists and businessmen of the shrinking number of capitalist countries, practically to the United States and Canada. Such is the opinion of very judicious conservative churchmen acting in full awareness of their responsibilities. The same doctrine is at the bottom of the foreign aid and the Point Four policies of the United States.

It is implied that the American taxpayers have the moral obligation to provide capital for nations that have expropriated foreign investments and are preventing the accumulation of domestic capital by various schemes. There is no use indulging in wishful thinking.

It is generally agreed that every sovereign government has the right to decree a fictitious parity of its inflated currency as against dollars or gold and to try to enforce this arbitrarily fixed spurious parity by foreign exchange control, that is, by virtually expropriating foreign investors. As far as some foreign governments still abstain from such confiscations, they do so because they hope to talk foreigners into more investments and thus to be later in a position to expropriate more.

In exuberant and entirely un-deserved praise of the late Lord Keynes, a Harvard professor found in his hero but one weakness. Keynes tried to provide a belated and spurious justification of a policy that Great Britain had adopted in defiance of the teachings of all its great economists. The essence of Keynesianism is its complete failure to conceive the role that saving and capital accumulation play in the improvement of economic conditions. The main problem for this country is: Will the United States follow the course of the economic policies adopted by almost all foreign nations, even by many of those which had been foremost in the evolution of capitalism?

Up to now in this country the amount of savings and formation of new capital still exceeds the amount of dissaving and decumulation of capital. Will this last? To answer such a question one must look upon the ideas about economic matters held by public opinion. The question is: Do the American voters know that the unprecedented improvement in their standard of living that the last hundred years brought was the result of the steady rise in the per-head quota of capital invested? Do they realize that every measure leading to capital decumulation jeopardizes their prosperity?

Are they aware of the conditions that make their wage rates tower above those of other countries? If we pass in review the speeches of political leaders, the editorials of newspapers and textbooks of economics and finance, we cannot help discovering that very little attention, if at all, is paid to the problems of capital equipment. Most people take it simply for granted that some mysterious factor is operative that makes the nation richer from year to year. Government economists have computed a rate of yearly increase in the national income for the past fifty years and blithely assume that in the future the same rate will prevail.

They discuss problems of taxation without even mentioning the fact that our present tax system collects large funds, which would have been saved by the taxpayer, and employs them for current expenditure. A few days ago the American Academy of Political and Social Science published a new volume of its Annals, entirely devoted to the investigation of vital issues of the nation.

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What economists have said about these problems either remained unknown to the author or he does not consider it worthy of an answer. One does not misrepresent the economic ideas determining the course of American policies if one blames them for not being conscious of the role the supply of new capital plays in improving and expanding production. An instructive example has been provided by the conflict between the government and business concerning the adequacy of depreciation quotas under inflationary conditions. In all the agitated debates concerning profits, taxes and the height of wage rates the capital supply is hardly mentioned, if at all.

In comparing American wage rates and standards of living with those of foreign countries, most authors and politicians fail to stress the differences in the per-head quotas of capital invested.