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Tuesday, April 2 - 6:39pmSanction this postReply
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Hi,

I ended up running into this conversation between an anarchist and communist. Now, if I was in this argument, I wouldn't know how to respond to some of his points and I find them interesting ones to consider; for example his assertion that the existence of class struggle invalidates the non-aggression principle (if this isn't the principle being violated, please tell me what is) along with his other points on class warfare. I am also interested in what he says about capitalism, since I am no expert on the history of capitalism. Though, with capitalism (taken literally), I see why he's against it because of certain branches such as state capitalism and because immoral methods of obtaining private property. So I'd like to hear what you think about them.


Here is the entire conversation (for context), there are other arguments/discussions being had but I'm less interested in them. I also know next to nothing on the communist manifesto.

Communist: "You'll find that quote (The free development of each shall be the condition for the free development of all.) at the end of the Communist Manifesto. It describes the sort of society we would like to see come about. And I would argue that capitalism prevents the free development of workers, who comprise the overwhelming majority of humanity, by its very function, and that any "aggression" on our part against such an oppressive and exploitative system and the people who run and defend it is nothing more than self-defense.

I am not an anarchist for a myriad of reasons. I am an unapologetic Leninist and a Trotskyist. I don't believe that socialism (or really capitalism for that matter) can exist locally in a vacuum, but that one or the other must eventually encompass the entire globe. I also dont believe that localized groups of people can really decide to start living in a communist society, at least not the kind of communism Marx described. Groups of anarchists living in communes are no more living in a "communism" to me than the millions of people who lived in Stalin's Russia were. Now obviously, there is an element of semantics to all of this, but we mean very precise things when we use terms like communism, socialism, and capitalism."

Anarchist: " 'oppressive and exploitative system' Totally disagree there which is why our aggression is your self defense and vice versa. If it's voluntary then its mutually beneficial and morally okay. If someone is forced to do something against their will or has their rightfully acquired property taken from them then that is aggression. Rightfully acquiring meaning derived from voluntary transactions absent fraud or coercion.

'there is an element of semantics to all of this, but we mean very precise things when we use terms like communism, socialism, and capitalism.' Exactly which is always the problem when I talk with socialists (or even democrats for that matter) about 'capitalism'. I don't know what your definition is there. Sometimes people tell me the "private ownership of the means of productions" but that is so broad that a myriad of economic systems antithetical to liberty are included in that."

Communist: "But briefly, the entire ethical system you've hinted at is completely abstracted from the reality of the situation. That the class struggle exists and carries on (which, I think, is undeniable, or else you and others wouldn't even need to develop these justifications for the functioning of this system) is a testament to the fact that your conception of ethics and morality is neither obvious nor relevant to billions around the world, regardless of their class. It doesn't account for the historic development of capitalism's ruling class, the bourgeoisie, nor that of its system of property relations, which came about only as a result of the most brutal conquest and enslavement of millions in every continent. As Marx said, capitalism came into existence "dripping blood from every pore."

Political and economic systems don't drop from the sky out of people's heads. They have definite, identifiable material bases. The classes that rise and contend within them have definite interests which stem from their existence in material reality. Political consciousness for everyone develops as the process of the class struggle unfolds, not so much through persuasion and agitation (though these things eventually come to play a greater or lesser role at certain periods of the struggle), but through the experience of great events and of living life itself. This is what Marx meant when he said that capitalism creates its own gravediggers.

But yeah, semantics is an issue. I've discussed with more than enough libertarians to know that what I mean by "capitalism," "socialism," etc isn't what you guys mean. Likewise, "liberty" for you sounds like "oppression" to me (and possibly vice versa). Many will call Obama's rule some sort of "socialism" but I as a socialist am implacably opposed to 99% of what Obama's done. And don't get me started on Stalin. And I recognize that many of you aren't happy with the state of the world either, even though I readily identify it as a capitalist system that is indeed based on private ownership of the means of production. I'm open to suggestions as to how to solve our terminological disagreement, but I'm also not sure its necessary."



Post 1

Wednesday, April 3 - 12:19amSanction this postReply
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Capitalism is a system of individual control of the use of resources (property), voluntary trade of property, and retaliation to infringement of non-consensual use.
Socialism/Communism are systems where individuals do not have control over resources, instead some group of people somehow determine how resources are to be used in a central plan. Hence there is no trade. But there may be punishment if individuals use resources in ways not prescribed by the central plan.

In capitalism, people can quickly move to different "classes" by hard work and/or making successful entrepreneurial choices on what to invest resources in. There will always be fools and lazy people who are unable to climb the ladder, or by luck when they do climb the ladder, they squander their resources into poverty.

Its not really capitalism that involves elites taking advantage of the poor through fraud or money printing... those are forms of corruption. Its not really capitalism when describing a group of people destroying another group of people... that is called war.

A group of people can be capitalists in respect to each other, and yet not respect the property of entities external to their group.

Communism destroys the mechanism for determining how resources should be valued and allocated/spent. Socialism, to the extent that it prevents trade and ownership, does the same... resulting in people brutally fighting over resources or starving to death in pacifism.

In capitalism generally individuals have more direct choices in what resources they have. Individuals directly benefit by gaining in market value whatever resources they exchange... and hence creating market values is inherently worthwhile for individuals. Things have market value because individuals are willing to trade their resources for them. Through free market forces, resources generally get allocated towards whatever results in their greatest market value. Individuals are able to maximize their satisfaction of needs and wants given whatever purchasing power their incomes can trade for.

In socialism, people get whatever the planners allocate them. There is no direct benefit (nor motivation) to work, particularly as population increases beyond a few people... unless the planners motivate individuals using whips & guns. Without trade, its impossible to tell whether a process of resource usage was worthwhile to the population. Generally you can only tell how good the plan is by how slowly the population is decreasing (assuming the population was once capitalist, and is now socialist, and hence motivation to work has dropped, and entreprenuer choices are no longer made by people who are risking their earnings).






Post 2

Friday, April 5 - 5:29amSanction this postReply
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What are the choices to any of us,in dealing with each other? If we want nothing from others, then there is no need to deal with others. But we often want something from others (including, to be left alone-- that is a want.)

So what are our choices?


We can simply ask, and others can say yes or no or maybe.

When that is insufficient, and we still want:

We can trade value for value, and others can agree or disagree on the trade at the value with offer in exchange.

When that is insufficient, and we still want:

We can beg and plead, either directly or via others on our behalf. We can ask for subsidy.

When that is insufficient, and we still want:

We can resort to politics, which is the art and science of getting what we want from others using any means short of actual violence. Politics can include reason, but it can also include lies and deceit,usually in a group situation; mob activity just short of violence,threatening the power of the mob, but dressing up its mob wants in the veneer allowed by local political context, fettered or unfettered.

When that is insufficient, and we still want:

We can resort to crime, either individually or as a mob. We can riot, and take what we want via force.

When that is insufficient, and we still want:

We can wage all out war.


It is clear where capitalism fits into the spectrum of how we deal with each other. It is based on trade and free association.

It is also clear where the totalitarian variants (National Socialism and/or its blood/cripps brother Communism) fit into that spectrum. They are based on forced association.

Because sometimes we want what we want, and it is as simple as that.

regards,
Fred





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Friday, April 5 - 12:55pmSanction this postReply
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BGL:his assertion that the existence of class struggle invalidates the non-aggression principle (if this isn't the principle being violated, please tell me what is) along with his other points on class warfare. I am also interested in what he says about capitalism, since I am no expert on the history of capitalism. Though, with capitalism (taken literally), I see why he's against it because of certain branches such as state capitalism and because immoral methods of obtaining private property.


I have some experience with the body of Marxist literature.  I know the Manifesto. It is short and easy to read.  You should look at it.  Not to spoil the plot, but Marx called for public schools, central banking, and an income tax.  So, you should read it in its entirety.

I also read Vol 1 of Capital (or much of it - it is easy to run through, making its points and then supporting them with tons of stuff I did not need to know.) It took about a week, maybe eight or ten hours all in all.  In addition, I have read Lenin's Imperialism (and Schumpeter's also), What is to be Done? and few more like that, as well as the standard histories of socialism such as To the Finland Station

A classic work on anarchism is Patterns of Anarchy by Krimerman and Perry.  They assembled an anthology that begins in the Enlightenment with Woolstoncraft (father of Mary, the creator of Frankenstein) and include the American individualists Lysander Spooner and Benjamin Tucker as well as the German egoist Max Stirner. Of course, all the lefties are there, as well, Proudhon, Buffon, Kropotkin.... 

If you care about the individualist anarchist arguments, No Treason: The Constititution of No Authority by Lysander Spooner is short about like the Communist Manifesto, and easy to read.  (Spooner was a lawyer, and an abolitionist, who at first argued against slavery on Consitutional grounds.  He also operated his own post office in direct competition with the US Government.  They shut him down, but cut their rates.)

So, I have some experience with this.

1. Class struggle.  By Marxist theory, the CEO of Goldman-Sachs is an exploited worker, hired by the real capitalists to manage their property.  Does that make any sense to you? 

1.a. Class struggle.  The classes are
The bourgeosie (owners of big-C capital).
The petite-bourgeoisie (shop owners who identify ideologically with the big Bs who actually oppress them. Comes the revolution, many p-B will joing the struggle against big-B.) 
The proletariate including all employees and all independent skilled trades (carpenters, software developers).  The latter are forced to fend for themselves as excess labor; they only think they are independent.
The lumpen-proletariate: criminals, vagrants, and others lower than the Ps, lacking any exploitable skills. Used as a weapon against the Ps by their criminality.

So, when any "Marxist" talks about the Ps versus the Bs, they are leaving out a lot of narrative, and thereby showing their ignorance.

2. Historical development of capitalism.  Pharoah was not a capitalist. Caesar was not a capitalist. Richard the Lionhearted was not a capitalist. Yet, private property existed in all those times and places. They had factories but manned by slaves, which is why Marx correctly identified them as slave-based economies. 

Capitalism is the result of several historical developments coming together at the same time. The two most important were Natural Rights Theory (rooted in the legal theory of medieval theology but given a rational (Locke) or empirical (Hobbes) basis); and the mathematics of risk.  Once risk was calculable, not only could you make money on it, but deeper still, we were no longer at the mercy of Fate: the future could be computed. Thereby, we gained some control over our futures being able to think about the consequences of our choices.

3. Class struggle. In America in particular, with a mostly laissez-faire underpinning, massive accumulations of wealth and massive losses were alike possible.  "Shirt sleeves to shirt sleeves in three generations."  Yes, we have the Rockefellers and DuPonts and the other families who reflect the inherited class of European rulers.  But we have other stories as well. What class you are "in" depends pretty much on what class you want to be in later. 

4. Narrative versus fact.  "You have the right to your own opinion,. You do not have a right to your own facts."  Marxism and anarchism provide descriptive narratives of human action.  The final arbiter is reality: what works.   The first woman to be president of a bank in America was the daughter of a slave.  The first black millionaire was an ex-slave who speculated in real estate.   On the other hand, California's Utopian Colonies by Robert V. Hine is the classic history of 50 ways to freely, openly, and honestly fail via all the many ways to collectivize, communize, and democratize production. 

4.b. In the history of invention, innovation, and discovery, the capitalist societies far out-distanced the socialist utopias. Freedom works.

4.c.  If any semblence of truth remained in Marxism, why is Cuba not the Information Age center of the planet? The could have smuggled in computers, reverse engineered them, smuggled in the chips - transshipped them in coffee or cocoa, imported Husqvarna sewing machines and Braun coffee makers and pulled the chips from them - done a million things... Cuba was always connected to Canada, Mexico, and Spain.  The US embargo was never complete.  Why is Cuba so poor in the post-industrial world?  Did their glorious Russian theoreticians not see this coming?  And once it arrived as the PC and the Mac, why do they still lag so far behind?  It does not take many boxes of cigars to buy a workstation. 

5. The left insists that this is "capitalism" but denies that the USSR, Red China, Nazi Germany, Fascist Italy, and anyone else they do not like were not "really" socialists.  It cuts both ways.  Rather than calling it "state capitalism" why not use the equal and opposite term "private socialism."  That would underscore the fact that socialism is theft and leave open the question who steals from whom.  That would also address what you, Brandon, correctly identify as immoral means of acquiring private property.

(Edited by Michael E. Marotta on 4/05, 1:11pm)




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Post 4

Sunday, April 7 - 6:47pmSanction this postReply
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Michael:

Re: "The could have smuggled in computers, reverse engineered them, smuggled in the chips - transshipped them in coffee or cocoa, imported Husqvarna sewing machines and Braun coffee makers and pulled the chips from them - done a million things... Cuba was always connected to Canada, Mexico, and Spain."

For sure, and even worse; back in the 90s, when I was doing a lot of international sales of tech(some of which I sold to militaries around the world), it was a lawyer at the State Department Cuba desk who glady and in detail told me how to legally get a system into Havana Airport by way of a Canadian Dealer, laying out a complete blue print. How did I get this information? By phoning the State Department Cuba Desk. It was hardly a state secret.

There was never any real embargo; not when our own State Department is gleefully and cheerfully paving the way with detailed instructions on how to painlessly sidestep it.

Which begs the question; who was the audience for the sham Cuban embargo?

And which reinforces your point; if there really was no embargo(and there really wasn't), then what was holding Cuba back all these years was ... Cuba, its political system, and its dictator leader.

But, not to gloat; we are well on our way to the bottom of the same hill.

regards,
Fred







Post 5

Tuesday, April 9 - 1:04pmSanction this postReply
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FB: And which reinforces your point; if there really was no embargo(and there really wasn't), then what was holding Cuba back all these years was ... Cuba, its political system, and its dictator leader.



To respond to Brandon G. Lee's original quotes, though, I have to reiterate my citation to California's Utopian Colonies by Robert V. Hine.  The utopian communists who denounce Stalin as "state capitalism" might only agree with you about Castro's dictatorship.  "True communism," they would say, "is truly democratic."  But it would not work any better.  That is the fundamental point.  Hine's book and the example of Cuba provide incontrovertible empirical evidence of that.  Ayn Rand cogently explained the theory of why collectivism cannot work. 


It is also why Rand personally endorsed von Mises despite the Kantian foundation of his ideas.  Human Action explains over and over and over why central planning must fail.  The lesson not learned by many who are self-defined "radicals for capitalism" is that those strictures also bind the publicly held joint-stock company.  Corporations are only marginally less inefficient than out-and-out communism. The profit motive when it is internalized is their only saving grace. 

Right now, Michael Dell is trying to take his company private.  If he fails, Dell could go the route of Hewlett Packard, Digital Equipment, Compaq and a thousand others that blossomed and died when "three men in a garage" became publicly-traded corporations.

(Edited by Michael E. Marotta on 4/09, 1:04pm)




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Saturday, April 13 - 1:56pmSanction this postReply
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Thanks for the answers.

Other than the Communist Manifesto, I figure I should add Human action and California's Utopian Colonies to my to-read list.



Post 7

Monday, April 22 - 5:51amSanction this postReply
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Michael:

"Right now, Michael Dell is trying to take his company private. If he fails, Dell could go the route of Hewlett Packard, Digital Equipment, Compaq and a thousand others that blossomed and died when "three men in a garage" became publicly-traded corporations."

That is consistent with the observable trend/behavior of gradient in the universe;

1] gradient drives everything.
2] gradient is resisted by process in the universe which tend to create things like 'drag', the result of which is to consume the gradient.

The end of local gradient in the universe is stasis/death.

The end of all gradient in the universe is the end of the universe.

The process you are describing above is also impacted by the reality that, on average we are average. Massive collective corporations are where great innovative ideas are sold to the on average, average and go to die in institutional bureaucracies.

Is it time for lunch, yet?

regards,
Fred





Post 8

Monday, April 22 - 10:26amSanction this postReply
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Is it time for lunch, yet?

 

Back in 1988 or 89, I interviewed Mary Ellen Sheets, the creator of Two Men and a Truck franchises.  She started the company for her sons, to give them something to do in the summer. She was a good manager, so the company grew, and now is a successful franchise.  When she rented the first truck, she was an operations manager in data processing for the State of Michigan. She said to me that she could still remember being a clock watcher at work, but now, she does not dare to take the time to look.




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