Here’s to the crazy ones. The misfits. The rebels. The troublemakers. The round pegs in the square holes. The ones who see things differently. They’re not fond of rules. And they have no respect for the status quo. You can quote them, disagree with them, glorify or vilify them. About the only thing you can’t do is ignore them. Because they change things. They push the human race forward. And while some may see them as the crazy ones, we see genius. Because the people who are crazy enough to think they can change the world, are the ones who do.
At the heart of my next book project is the argument that neoliberalism is the reinvention of aristocratic politics for a capitalist age, that the political theory of the free market is an effort to create what Nietzsche called “great politics” in the realm of the economy.
Nietzsche, of course, had nothing but contempt for capitalism (and economics more generally) — in part because he saw it as destroying whatever possibility there might be for aristocratic great politics.
Yet re-reading The Gay Science on the train this morning, I found this passage, which somehow I missed on my first go-around:
Trade and nobility.—Buying and selling have become common, like the art of reading and writing. Everybody has practiced it even if he is no tradesman, and gets more practice everyday — just as formerly, when men were more savage, everybody was a hunter and practiced that art day after day. Then hunting was common; but eventually it became a privilege of the powerful and noble; it lost its everyday character and its commonness because it ceased to be necessary; it became a matter of moods and luxury. The same might happen some day to buying and selling.
One can imagine social conditions in which there is no buying and selling and in which this art gradually ceases to be necessary. Perhaps some individuals who are less subject to the laws of the general condition will then permit themselves to buy and sell as a luxury of sentiment. At that point trade would acquire nobility, and the nobility might then enjoy trading as much as they have hitherto enjoyed war and politics… (§ 31, pp. 102-103)
It’s just a moment’s notice, and it doesn’t begin to describe our contemporary reality (where more and more, rather than fewer, realms of social life are becoming subject to the economy). Even so, it provides a glimpse of a possibility that Nietzsche seems to have dimly envisioned — when commercial transactions become acts of great noblesse — and that gets at the heart of the political theory of the free market.
Despite the sad news it delivers, an obituary in the New York Times can often be an occasion for hilarity. To wit:
Prof. Nietzsche was one of the most prominent of modern German philosophers, and he is considered the apostle of extreme modern rationalism and one of the founders of the socialistic school. (New York Times, 8/26/1900, p. 7)
H/t Brian Leiter
From Human, All Too Human (section 450):
…one is now supposed to learn…that government is nothing but an organ of the people and not a provident, venerable “above” in relation to a diffident “below.” Before one accepts this hitherto unhistorical and arbitrary, if nonetheless more logical assertion of the concept government, one might be advised to consider the consequences: for the relationship between people and government is the most pervasive ideal relationship upon which commerce between teacher and pupil, lord and servants, father and family, general and soldier, master and apprentice have unconsciously been modelled. All these relationships are now, under the influence of the dominant constitutional form of government, altering their shape a little: they are becoming compromises. But how greatly they will change and be displaced, exchange their name and nature, when that latest concept has conquered minds everywhere! — for which, however, it may well take another century. In this matter nothing is moredesirable than caution and slow evolution.
From Twilight of the Idols (“Skirmishes of an Untimely Man,” §40):
The stupidity — at bottom, the degeneration of instinct, which is today the cause of all stupidities — is that there is a labor question at all. Certain things one does not question: that is the first imperative of instinct. I simply cannot see what one proposes to do with the European worker now that one has made a question of him. He is far too well off not to ask for more and more, not to ask more immodestly. In the end, he has numbers on his side.
H/t Harrison Fluss
Whatever has value in our world now does not have value in itself, according to its nature—nature is always value-less, but has been given value at some time, as a present—and it was we who gave and bestowed it. (The Gay Science, §260)
A student of Economy has no hopes of ever being clear and correct in his ideas of the science if he thinks of value as at all a thing or object, or even as anything which lies in a thing or object. (The Theory of Political Economy, p. 82)
Value is therefore nothing inherent in goods, no property of them, but merely the importance that we first attribute to the satisfaction of our needs, that is, to our lives and well-being. (Principles of Economics, p. 116)
A higher culture can come into existence only where there are two different castes in society: that of the workers and that of the idle, of those capable of true leisure; or, expressed more vigorously: the caste compelled to work and the caste that works if it wants to. (Human, All Too Human, §439)
…only from an advanced position does the next range of desires and possibilities become visible, so that the selection of new goals and the effort toward their achievement will begin long before the majority can strive for them….it is necessary that the developments that will bear fruit for the masses in twenty or fifty years’ time should be guided by the views of people who are already in the position of enjoying them.
What today may seem extravagance or even waste, because it is enjoyed by the few and even undreamed of by the masses, is payment for the experimentation with a style of living that will eventually be available to the many. The range of what will be tried and later developed, the fund of experience that will become available to all, is greatly extended by the unequal distribution of present benefits… (Constitution of Liberty, pp. 97-98)
The noble type of man experiences itself as determining values…it is value-creating. (Beyond Good and Evil, §260)
The “economic motive,” writes Hayek in The Road to Serfdom, is “the desire for power to achieve unspecified ends.” Money, he adds, is “the medium through which a force [the economic motive] makes itself felt.”
Also, while we’re on the subject of Nietzsche and Hayek, there’s this:
Nietzsche: “When a worker says to a wealthy manufacturer, ‘you do not deserve your happiness,’ he is correct; his conclusions from that, however, are false. No one deserves his happiness, no one his unhappiness.”
Hayek: “In a free system it is neither desirable nor practicable that material rewards should be made generally to correspond to what men recognize as merit…it is an essential characteristic of a free society that an individual’s position should not necessarily depend on the views that his fellows hold about the merit he has acquired….the value which a person’s capacities or serves have for us and for which he is recompensed has little relation to anything that we can call moral merit or deserts.”