If This Be Treason….

A meditation on Brad DeLong’s Slouching Towards Utopia

Is the logic of capitalism the logic of the germ cell or the cancer cell? If it actually turns out to be both, what does that augur for our future?

Social democracy demands consensus. Fascism demands obedience. Neither has much respect for the richness of human intention.

We are a mercurial species. Cats are actually easier to herd than we are. Sooner or later, this drives the zealots, ideologues, and bureaucrats of every religion and ism around the bend. If they weren’t so vicious in their disappointments, they’d deserve our sympathy.

There are echoes of an eloquent despair in DeLong’s perceptions, something prophetic, something like an eternally acerbic Brechtian irony:

Wäre es da
Nicht doch einfacher, die Regierung
Löste das Volk auf und
Wählte ein anderes?

Would it not in that case
Be simpler for the government
To dissolve the people
And elect another?

—Bertolt Brecht, die Lösung

If in the end democracy isn’t robust enough to save us from the metastatic influence of 21st century technologies on our nastier impulses, what then? Even if human evolution were proceeding according to our fondest hopes, could it ever be quick enough to make Brecht’s tongue-in-cheek option a viable one? Clearly not.

I don’t care. I’ve just finished reading Slouching Towards Utopia, and I’m putting away my lantern. I’ve found an honest man. To return to Brecht again:

In den finsteren Zeiten
Wird da auch gesungen werden?
Da wird auch gesungen werden.
Von den finsteren Zeiten.

Will there also be singing
In the dark times?
There will also be singing.
About the dark times.

—Bertolt Brecht, Schlechte Zeit für Lyrik