For most of the last few years, the Dissident Right has concerned itself with, among less fortuitous endeavors, refining a critique of “finance capitalism.” This fits it into a long tradition of American dissidents including the “New Left” in the mid-20th century, the “Old Right” writers of the American Mercury along with some great individual intellectuals like Charles Beard (Yankee) and the Agrarians (Southerners). It even extends back to the 1896 populists, the original Southern Nationalists, and the Anti-Federalists of the late 18th century. Many of these erstwhile dissidents remain totally unaware of their inclusion in this tradition, which makes sense because those other guys all lost. This is not an endorsement of finance capitalism as a positive good, or even as “the least among evils,” just a statement of fact.
What matters for our current purposes is the essential validity of those criticisms, and how to make people listen to them. Even long-time antagonists of this writer, Eric Striker inclusive, are mostly right about the nature of “finance capitalism,” (I was, and remain more or less unconvinced that “Jews” are anything more than an accelerant in this process rather than a root cause). So, you’ve diagnosed the problem? What next?
Remember for a moment, what capitalism actually means. Never mind the dissociative effects of “capitalism” as a world or macroeconomic system. Just concentrate on the word itself for a moment. Better yet, consider another “ism” that will help us establish a pattern. What does “monarchism” mean? In short, it means “rule by a monarch.” That means, in longer form, that no matter how many bloggers, podcasters, street activists, court philosophers, provincial magistrates and army captains “solve the problem” of wealth inequality, the only person whose opinion eventually matters is the “monarch” who forms the root of the “-ism.” This is a pattern that holds for most “-isms,” whatever their application. Marxism, concurrently, means a political economy based mostly on the written and extrapolated work of one theorist– Karl Marx. No one even cares about poor Fred Engels (who was totally a better writer).
So what does “capitalism” mean? In short, again, it means the interests of “capital” are privileged. This sounds oppositional to “democracy,” and it is in most ways, but that is a different problem for a different day. If we ask what “finance capitalism” means, then we are shifting the boundaries of the “-ism” to a more specialized focus. Now, instead of “capital” interests being privileged, we are looking at a world where “finance capital” is privileged. What distinguishes “finance capitalism” from regular plain old capitalism? Now we have to look at what “capital” is in opposition to “finance capital.” We are getting into long form journalism now, so this example will be simplified wildly.
Capital, by almost every classical definition (this is one of the few things economists can mostly agree on), is anything that can be counted towards net worth after all costs or fees have been deducted. Often cited, but never very helpful, Adam Smith says capital is “that part of man’s stock which he expects to afford him revenue.” But let’s run with it. If, say, someone puts a new roof on their house, they have invested resources (usually cash) into “improving” their house. Any gain in the value of their house after all costs have been deducted is the marginal increase in capital on the investment in the roof. If someone invests in a hideous roof or cheaps out and settles for a downgrade, they have lost capital. Cash is not capital. It is a medium of exchange that facilitates the exchange of value between “capital” and the “labor” invested in the capital increase. So, in our example, a normal one in a modern culture, a person has exchanged “cash” to a roofer, who coordinates “labor” and “materials” to produce a new roof and increase (hopefully) the net value of a house, resulting in a net capital increase of the home-owner. This is why we say roofers and similar contractors “create capital.” A standard capitalist economy favors producers of capital and holders of capital. People who make stuff for the country, and participate in the exchange of capital inside the country, get to run the country. America used to make a lot of capital goods, which a lot of other Americans bought, making America a capital creation powerhouse economy.
In “finance capitalism,” the privileges of mere capital producers and capital holders are usually dissipated. Ironically (or perhaps not), “finance capital” has a considerably wider definition than capital, which we will eventually see, allows more people a potential “seat at the table,” (making it more democratic) but also steepens the curve for meaningful impact of individual “finance capitalists” (making the democracy a farce). There is some crossover here, because holders of what we are about to call “finance capital” also usually own regular, plain old, capital, and some roofers also hold quite a bit of “finance capital,” but simply holding capital or producing it are no longer enough to ensure “a seat at the table.”
“Finance capital” is anything you can get cash value for. So yes, your baseball cards, video games, and sex doll collection fall into this category more easily than they do into “capital,” but where the bass really drops on this concept is when “theoretical assets” like debt, stock options, and similar voodoo are assessed. Good old fashioned capital is also “finance capital” insofar as you can get “cash value” for it at any given time. Still following?
The biggest differences between the two are that 1) finance capital is inordinately held by large institutions like banks and 2) it doesn’t have to actually be productive in any way except as a way to generate a higher cash returns. If you, dear reader, have ever noticed that America doesn’t seem to make anything except porn and money– this emphasis on “finance capital” is why. Even companies like “General Electric” don’t make much money actually generating electricity anymore.
Note: Do not PM us with arguments that your sex doll collection is a passive revenue source. There are whole subreddits for that, and we are on enough lists already.
Historical Interlude: In the Constitutional convention, there was a lot of debate between roughly analogous differential interests pitting owners of “property” in the form of Southern planters, who generally owned a lot of land and productive enterprises against holders of “personalty” in the form Northeastern shipping interests, many of whom had little land and produced nothing– yet had a lot of cash assets through services provided. They squabbled quite a bit over the requirements of citizenship and allotment of political power between them. Today, even most of what they considered “personalty” is considered plain economic capital– fancy jewelry, ships, fine carriages, art, etc. But the lines drawn there continued to demarcate sectional economic interests moving forward. It was those owners of “personalty” who invented the “futures market” for grain and lumber in the mid-19th century. The foundation of this Chicago Mercantile Exchange is often held as the inflection point of “financial capitalism” in America. They weren’t Jews.
Resist the urge to pilpul our working “big bang” for finance capitalism here, or at least take it to the comment section. We are well aware that Fernand Braudel and Karl Marx (((sure))) saw all kind of antecedents in tulip markets and weird Venetian bookeeping. That is all in another country, and in America there was enough plain old capital to go around for almost everyone until after the Civil War. Don’t worry about who is to blame unless you’re trying to win an election (you won’t). Let’s wrap this up for now because it is running long. So, in summary:
- Yes, most of the Dissident Right (and even some Tankies) are right about the debilitating effects of capitalism on national identity and “our people.”
- Who cares? Just as in a “monarchy,” where only the monarch’s opinion really matters, in a “capitalist system” only holders of capital get a seat at the table. You need skin in the game.
- We don’t even have vanilla capitalism, because most of the actual capital producers have been overshadowed by large “financial” capital interests. “Finance capitalism” is a whole other beast. Sure one leads to the other, but no one is listening to us explain that because we don’t matter yet.
- I am not a damn libertarian, don’t even think it. I said don’t even think it.
Faced with this set of near-incontrovertible (but totally pilpul-able) facts, there are obviously only four possible paths forward:
- Assume the democratic ideal isn’t entirely a steaming pile of dog turds, and work within the political system to enact a populist revolt that will utilize the machinery of the state to de-emphasize the importance of “finance capital.”
- Uprising of the proletariat, cast off our chains, and upend the government by force.
- Disregard thots, acquire capital.
- Lolbertarian style prepping for end-times.
- [Insert Meme]
More than likely, some combination of several of these factors will be needed. Option one has to be pursued, but it won’t get anywhere without option three. Option two is hilariously stupid, and option four is only valid if it is done collectively, but will also require a smidge of option three.
Since no one talks about option three, here called “Disregard Thots, Aquire Capital,” we will start looking at that more intensely.
But for now a quick teaser. Say you are a 27-year old, single, white male who hates society and what it has done to your people. You have around five thousand shekels saved up, but don’t know what to do with it. You’re in the right place. What if we told you your five thousand is suffering from inflation decay right now, that your bank account may not be covering it through interest payments, and you are probably losing money letting it just sit there? Well it is true. And next time, we will start talking about how to remedy that.
Fulwar is a historian of the New South and the transatlantic Enlightenment. He is also co-host of Rebel Yell, and frequent contributor to Good Morning Weimerica!