Wednesday, April 2, 2014

"Capitalism and Imperialism" by Imad-ad-Dean Ahmad

A paper delivered on March 17, 2014 at the 2014 Istanbul Liberty Network conference in Istanbul Turkey by Imad-ad-Dean Ahmad, Minaret of Freedom Institute

I have noticed that the main opposition to capitalism in the Muslim world, as in the third world in general, is its association with imperialism. This association is unfortunate and has impeded the Muslim world from engaging in the free markets that are its birthright under the Qur'an and sunnah. While some capitalists have eagerly pursued and benefitted from imperialist policies, as did such socialist regimes as the late, unlamented Soviet Union, not only is imperialism not an inherent element of capitalism, but it is inherently opposed to the principles of a free market, and has been condemned by such major advocates of free markets as Adam Smith, Edmund Burke, and Murray Rothbard. There are several reasons for this unfortunate association of imperialism and capitalism:

*    The establishment of crony capitalism in some of the puppet dictatorships established by capitalist imperialist powers
*    The tendency toward empire of emerging world powers from which neither the capitalist nor Islamic civilization have been exempt
*    The hijacking of the American right by the neoconservatives
*    The Westernization that has accompanied the opening of markets to the West, so-called "cultural imperialism"
*    The role of corporatism in the imperial enterprises of the Western  powers
*    The failure of modern conservatives and libertarians to categorically repudiate imperialism as a violation of free market principles...

Read the full paper:

1 comment:

  1. I disagree with the author's argument that the only reason Muslims are skeptical about capitalism is its association with imperialism. "Capitalism" is indeed a pejorative term, because it does not simply mean "free markets" but connotes many other less pleasant things: Massive accumulation of wealth in the hands of a few while many are impoverished; the destruction of craft labor in favor of mass production of shoddy, identical products by people working in horribly inhuman conditions; and above all, a spiritual value system that directs people to put most of their energy and attention into struggling for material things in this life, rather than spiritual things in both this life and the next.

    Islam limits the free market in many ways. Most importantly, it tells us not to accumulate wealth, as Surat at-Takathur insists so succinctly. Without wealth accumulation, there is no capitalism as it exists today. The traditional Muslim market is "free" in the sense that it is untrammeled by government taxation and regulation; but each merchant makes sure that nobody comes out way ahead of anyone else. If one rug merchant is having a bad day while another makes a good sale, the lucky one spends the rest of the day directing customers to his "rival." All the merchants are motivated not by trying to make more money, but by trying to provide a good product at a fair price. Once they make more money than they need, they are under the religious obligation to give it away rather than pile it up. This is not the "rigorously competitive free market" of Adam Smith - and thank God for that!

    The Qur'an warns us against the excessive enjoyment of the things of this world (consumer culture) by calling drinking alcohol and gambling "abominations." Today's capitalist, consumer-culture world is full of abominations never dreamed of in the time of the Prophet, SAAS. We are surely living in the end times, when ignorant Bedouin tribesman compete in building skyscrapers (a perfect description of Dubai and Riyadh) and "the slave girl gives birth to her mistress" (the flighty, irresponsible airhead has authority over the mature, responsible person - see Robert Bly's The Sibling Society for details).