[Marxism] Doug Henwood comment on Counterfeit Nation (pen-l)

Louis Proyect lnp3 at panix.com
Mon Dec 22 09:35:29 MST 2008


On Dec 22, 2008, at 11:16 AM, Louis Proyect forwarded a piece by Stephen 
Mihm:

Thanks for re-posting this, Lou. The current mess - fraudulent boom 
followed by crushing bust - is as American as gun violence.

Re: this quote...

 >Perhaps the current wave of debt machinations will end badly. Then 
again, in the long run, it may not. Consider the impressions of another 
novelist, the British writer Frederick Marryat, who visited the United 
States in the wake of the panic of 1837. As he surveyed the wreckage of 
broken banks and worthless paper, he came to a surprising conclusion. 
“If all the profits of the years of healthy credit were added up,” he 
wrote, “and the balance sheet struck between that and the loss at the 
explosion, the advantage gained by the credit system would still be 
found to be great. The advancement of America depends wholly upon it. It 
is by credit alone that she has made such rapid strides, and it is by 
credit alone that she can continue to flourish.”<

...a gloss from Capital, vol. 3 (somewhere around p. 570 of the 
Vintage/NLB edition):

"[Credit is T]he principal lever of overproduction and excessive 
speculation in commerce, this is simply because the reproduction 
process, which is elastic by nature, is now forced to its most extreme 
limit; and this is because a great part of the social capital is applied 
by those who are not its owners, and who therefore proceed quite unlike 
owners who, when they function themselves, anxiously weigh the limits of 
their private capital. This only goes to show how the valorization of 
capital founded on the antithetical character of capitalist production 
permits actual free development only up to a certain point, which is 
constantly broken through by the credit system. The credit system hence 
accelerates the material development of the productive forces and the 
creation of the world market, which it is the historical task of the 
capitalist mode of production to bring to a certain level of 
development, as material foundations for new forms of production. At the 
same time, credit accelerates the violent outbreaks of this 
contradiction, crises, and with these the elements of dissolution of the 
old mode of production.... The credit system has a dual character 
immanent in it: on the one hand it develops the motive of capitalist 
production, enrichment by the exploitation of others' labour, into the 
purest and most colossal system of gambling and swindling, and restricts 
ever more the already small number of the exploiters of social wealth; 
on the other hand however it constitutes the form of transition towards 
a new mode of production. It is this dual character that gives the 
principal spokesmen for credit, from Law through to Isaac Péreire, their 
nicley mixed character of swindler and prophet."





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