Libertarianism, socialism, and differing views of reality

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aneeshm
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Libertarianism, socialism, and differing views of reality

Postby aneeshm » Wed Dec 10, 2008 4:46 pm UTC

While reading through many threads on communism and libertarianism, I realised one fundamental difference between the way the libertarians and socialists view the world.

In one thread, it was being argued that a choice in which a person has to either work or starve is not a choice. The libertarians were insisting that it was, and that socialists that it wasn't "really" a choice. The socialists also argued that no employer should have this power over someone else - that nobody should have the capacity/power to offer a person work when his other option was starvation.

This probably stems from the two ways they have of looking at the world.

Once, man had to hunt or starve. It was a simple choice. Later, it was farm or starve. I'll use this to illustrate the key difference.

The libertarian sees this choice as something inherent to reality - a law of human nature and of the tragedy of the human condition, if you will. He is of the opinion that any system of politico-economic organisation is not capable of abolishing this choice, that it is inherent, and man will be faced with it again and again. He sees it a bit like the law of the conservation of energy, or, in the words of a famous libertarian, TANSTAAFL - There ain't no such thing as a free lunch. The libertarian also has no belief in the concept of "cosmic justice" - he does not believe that the universe or humanity is inherently just. He also tends to see large-scale things in terms of non-intentional systems, rather than intention-directed action by individuals.

The socialist, on the other hand, gives primacy to intention in causality, and believes that "work or starve" is not an unalterable natural imperative, but only a phase of human society, or an artificial choice, not inherent to the human condition, and therefore something which can be abolished if some key things in society are changed. It isn't a natural law, merely a perversion created by the systems currently in place. The socialist also (generally) believes in cosmic justice, or, barring that, in the achievement of cosmic-like justice - the much-loved "absolute fairness" - as much as possible in reality. He also sees intentional causality behind the behaviour of large-scale systems, such as the explanation of society in terms of "classes" and their "struggle" who are more akin to classical nations in their own right than classes of a single one.

There are many more differences, but these were the ones pertinent to the discussion, so I took them up here.

Right now, I'm not making any comments on which is the correct view, because I don't want to tilt or derail the discussion.

Thoughts?

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Re: Libertarianism, socialism, and differing views of reality

Postby aneeshm » Wed Dec 10, 2008 5:08 pm UTC

Following my complaint, the OP has clarified his intent:

I want this thread to be a place where, instead of debating the issues of the moment and calling each other names, we actually try to understand why we differ. This is an examination of the differences between the people in the two camps beyond merely the issue level, but at the level of mentality. That's why I solicited thoughts. Most threads are about a specific issue, say healthcare, or the role of the state, or whatnot. Rarely do we sit down and examine our assumptions about the way the world works, instead of debating merely the conclusions of those assumptions.

Please continue a SB quality discussion in this vein.

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Re: Libertarianism, socialism, and differing views of reality

Postby Indon » Wed Dec 10, 2008 6:26 pm UTC

So the libertarian would argue that working for an employer or facing dire consequences (such as starving to death or some setup such as a company shop) is a choice? Fair enough.

I would then argue based on that premise that abiding by every mandate of an authoritarian government that shoots you on the spot for dissent is a choice.

Because you're choosing not to get shot, you're not being coerced unfairly or immorally in such a situation.

Thus, methinks that that supposed 'view of reality' of libertarians (as they strive to avoid being forced out of making choices through government coercion) is either absurd, or simply does not reflect a serious libertarian view of the world.
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Re: Libertarianism, socialism, and differing views of reality

Postby Bubbles McCoy » Wed Dec 10, 2008 7:00 pm UTC

Indon wrote:I would then argue based on that premise that abiding by every mandate of an authoritarian government that shoots you on the spot for dissent is a choice.

Because you're choosing not to get shot, you're not being coerced unfairly or immorally in such a situation.

I think the difference lies with how the employer does not impose their existence on anyone, they exist solely because the owner created the organization. How other people interact with this organization is entirely their choice, whatever contracts and agreements they make with the business is entirely in their hands. People who work for businesses are only forced to work for them once businesses have heightened lifestyles to such a great degree that the alternative of living out in the wilderness seems absurd but the businesses themselves make no threat of violence, only lack of their services should you not provide any desired services for them.

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Re: Libertarianism, socialism, and differing views of reality

Postby Indon » Wed Dec 10, 2008 7:33 pm UTC

Bubbles McCoy wrote:I think the difference lies with how the employer does not impose their existence on anyone, they exist solely because the owner created the organization. How other people interact with this organization is entirely their choice, whatever contracts and agreements they make with the business is entirely in their hands. People who work for businesses are only forced to work for them once businesses have heightened lifestyles to such a great degree that the alternative of living out in the wilderness seems absurd but the businesses themselves make no threat of violence, only lack of their services should you not provide any desired services for them.


Violence is the only method of coercion, then?
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Re: Libertarianism, socialism, and differing views of reality

Postby Bubbles McCoy » Wed Dec 10, 2008 8:29 pm UTC

Without those businesses, what you gain from working for businesses wouldn't even exist - industry and modern science didn't somehow pop into existence and become immediately dominated by some evil overlords, it was largely created by people using their own property and talents seeking a profit. I don't see it as terribly coercive in any meaningful sense, there's no reason I should have someone else's property unless I provide something in return. Their business relies on inputs of both worker and owner to make it function, how do you propose this be mediated? Government mandates? Yes, you are in effect forcing people to work for businesses, but lets not forget that in all likelihood their ancestors would have died long before raising a family should business never created heightened crop yields or superior medicine. We are forced in the system upon penalty of death because without the system the vast majority of us would never have existed in the first place, as such I hold no grudges on account of being "forced" to work.

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Re: Libertarianism, socialism, and differing views of reality

Postby qbg » Wed Dec 10, 2008 9:50 pm UTC

aneeshm wrote:The socialist, on the other hand, gives primacy to intention in causality, and believes that "work or starve" is not an unalterable natural imperative, but only a phase of human society, or an artificial choice, not inherent to the human condition, and therefore something which can be abolished if some key things in society are changed. It isn't a natural law, merely a perversion created by the systems currently in place.

Well, until we can get robots to do the vast majority of work for us, "work or starve" is going to be with us, but that isn't quite exactly what socialists are objecting to. What is being objected to is the actual lack of options. As it stands now, the only option for the vast majority of people is to either go to work for a capitalist and sell yourself (enter wage slavery) or starve. The socialists then believe that this isn't the only way things could be, and that there is a better method.

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Re: Libertarianism, socialism, and differing views of reality

Postby DougP » Thu Dec 11, 2008 4:09 pm UTC

Bubbles McCoy wrote:Without those businesses, what you gain from working for businesses wouldn't even exist - industry and modern science didn't somehow pop into existence and become immediately dominated by some evil overlords, it was largely created by people using their own property and talents seeking a profit. I don't see it as terribly coercive in any meaningful sense, there's no reason I should have someone else's property unless I provide something in return. Their business relies on inputs of both worker and owner to make it function, how do you propose this be mediated? Government mandates? Yes, you are in effect forcing people to work for businesses, but lets not forget that in all likelihood their ancestors would have died long before raising a family should business never created heightened crop yields or superior medicine. We are forced in the system upon penalty of death because without the system the vast majority of us would never have existed in the first place, as such I hold no grudges on account of being "forced" to work.


Some of the most advanced technology we have ever seen has come out of government funded (i.e PUBLIC) research. Sure, private enterprise can accomplish things as well (see the X Prize, as a good example), but I think we can agree that a private enterprise would not have gotten us to the moon in the 1960s. Thats just an example though. The larger point is that private enterprise is not the only way to "industry and modern science."


Now, I'd like to move on to a separate discussion that related to the OP, but isn't directly responding to the post I've quoted.

I view socialism as a desire to insert democratic principles into economics. There is, for some reason that I am not entirely sure, a morbid fear of this concept. We have no problem democratically electing leaders to lead us politically. However, the idea of workers electing their supervisors, managers, etc, is seen as radical. As a culture, we have decided that autocratic rule at the level of government is unacceptable, but in the economic realm, it is preferred. I have a hard time getting my head around this concept.

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Re: Libertarianism, socialism, and differing views of reality

Postby aneeshm » Thu Dec 11, 2008 6:48 pm UTC

DougP wrote:
Bubbles McCoy wrote:
I view socialism as a desire to insert democratic principles into economics. There is, for some reason that I am not entirely sure, a morbid fear of this concept. We have no problem democratically electing leaders to lead us politically. However, the idea of workers electing their supervisors, managers, etc, is seen as radical. As a culture, we have decided that autocratic rule at the level of government is unacceptable, but in the economic realm, it is preferred. I have a hard time getting my head around this concept.



The way a libertarian would see it is that the free market is democracy in action in the economic sphere.

Let me explain.

When it comes to political action, we choose leaders by means which are primarily political in nature - by means of our votes.

The libertarian believes that if we want democracy and individual free choice in the market, then the best means of doing so are economic means - voting with your wallet. So the masses "democratically" decide, with a granularity far finer than that possible in the political process, whether a certain company's product succeeds or not. The idea is - economic means of decision making for decisions which are economic in nature. So he sees the free market as democracy in action in relation to economics.

Does the approach of the other side seem a little clearer now?

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Re: Libertarianism, socialism, and differing views of reality

Postby DougP » Thu Dec 11, 2008 7:04 pm UTC

I understand the theory of free markets and people "voting with their wallets" so to speak.

However, this does not address the idea of democracy "in the workplace," but rather "in the market." The latter is not what I am talking about specifically. What I am talking about is the ability of people to control their working lives democratically, in the same way that they control their political lives democratically. While your point (or, to be specific, the point you are explaining, I don't know if you agree with it or not) argues for some sort of democracy at large, it does not argue for democracy within any specific workplace. For instance, if the market decides that Nike produces the best shows, they've "democratically" decided that they like their shoes, but it doesn't mean that the people who work at Nike have any sort of democratic control of their leaders or their conditions. These things are decided autocratically by whoever runs the company, and at the local level, whoever runs the factory. The relationship betweens workers and bosses is a political relationship, not an economic one, and, in my opinion, should be determined in the same way we view that other political relationships should be determined.

ETA: this related to the OP because "they can just choose another job" is not a viable answer. Not everyone has this choice, if just not working and not feeding your family is considered a "choice" then I would respectfully suggest that you can not prosecute someone who shot a victim they were trying to rob when he didn't give up his wallet because that person "chose" to be shot.

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Re: Libertarianism, socialism, and differing views of reality

Postby aneeshm » Thu Dec 11, 2008 7:27 pm UTC

DougP wrote:
The relationship betweens workers and bosses is a political relationship, not an economic one, and, in my opinion, should be determined in the same way we view that other political relationships should be determined.



Well, then, that's where another fundamental difference comes in.

This employer-employee relationship is seen as fundamentally economic in nature by the libertarian - a trade between a person who was money and wants skills, and another who has skills and wants money - not political, and thus subject to economic methods of decision-making, not political ones. According to him, no coercive power is involved, and thus no political decision-making mechanism need be invoked.

It is seen as a power relationship by the socialist - the employer is the one with the intrinsic power advantage, the employee one without - and therefore one subject to the same political decision-making process which is used for other relationships where the use of force or coercive power is negotiated.

The difference in subsequent positions stems from this difference in the view of the nature of the relationship - one sees it as economic, another as political, and that leads to all the massive flamewars that inevitably follow. ;)

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Re: Libertarianism, socialism, and differing views of reality

Postby Vaniver » Fri Dec 12, 2008 2:31 am UTC

Find a copy of A Conflict of Visions by Thomas Sowell. In it he presents two viewpoints- the "constrained" view of humanity, which says that humans are constrained by limited circumstances and a selfish nature, and the "unconstrained" view of humanity, which says that all human ills stem from negative institutions and policies, and changing those institutions can solve the problem. The key difference is that the first view believes in trade-offs; the second view believes in solutions.

That's why someone could say that "work or starve" is a choice- because any choice involves a trade-off. Do I want to deal with the negative impact of working, or the negative impact of starving? This proposition shocks the person with the unconstrained viewpoint, though- "work or starve" is hardly a solution, and any policy that results in starvation has to be negative.

Essentially, OP, it's your post but in a lucid, well-researched book form.

DougP wrote:ETA: this related to the OP because "they can just choose another job" is not a viable answer. Not everyone has this choice, if just not working and not feeding your family is considered a "choice" then I would respectfully suggest that you can not prosecute someone who shot a victim they were trying to rob when he didn't give up his wallet because that person "chose" to be shot.
Under capitalism, you can choose another employer, though often at economic cost. Under socialism, you can't choose another employer, because there is only one, and it is empowered to use violence against recalcitrant employees.
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Re: Libertarianism, socialism, and differing views of reality

Postby Bubbles McCoy » Fri Dec 12, 2008 2:45 am UTC

DougP wrote:Some of the most advanced technology we have ever seen has come out of government funded (i.e PUBLIC) research. Sure, private enterprise can accomplish things as well (see the X Prize, as a good example), but I think we can agree that a private enterprise would not have gotten us to the moon in the 1960s. Thats just an example though. The larger point is that private enterprise is not the only way to "industry and modern science."

Certainly not all science originates from private enterprise, but the bulk of the science driving modern industry was privately developed. The moon landing had to be a publicly funded expedition (well, at least to get it done expediently) but it has little value in the economic sphere to date. For all practical purposes, I find it rather indisputable that the quality of modern life has been privately driven, not governmentally.

DougP wrote:I view socialism as a desire to insert democratic principles into economics. There is, for some reason that I am not entirely sure, a morbid fear of this concept. We have no problem democratically electing leaders to lead us politically. However, the idea of workers electing their supervisors, managers, etc, is seen as radical. As a culture, we have decided that autocratic rule at the level of government is unacceptable, but in the economic realm, it is preferred. I have a hard time getting my head around this concept.

anesshm had done a good job covering this for the most part, but I'll try to add a bit- government only exists for the sake of protection of individual rights and providing some level of social stability (how much is debatable, but libertarianism generally stresses the less the better). Economics is only the expression of these rights, with individuals freely exchaning goods and services for other goods and services they desire. We collectively run a government to ensure our freedoms, not bind our freedoms and lives to the wills of others.

Voting in the workplace does not work as you effectively give one party a complete power monopoly, and productivity and general effectiveness of the business will drop when those doing the work decide their own terms. Unions do kinda work and have played an important role in workers rights in the past, but they really were only there to break power monopolies that businesses set up, which is effectively impossible in the modern day (cornering an entire isolated group of workers is very challenging if not outright illegal in the modern day). Currently, unions have a fairly negative impact on the businesses they're in from automobile manfuacturing to supermarkets. If a single business or a consortium is too prominent in a geographical area, then they will have a power monoply over potential employees and this can turn nasty, but in modern America this is very rarely the case. So long as there are a variety of businesses, then the business as well as the workers are forced to compete for either top positions or top employees, which maximizes the meritocratic elements of employment.

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Re: Libertarianism, socialism, and differing views of reality

Postby qbg » Fri Dec 12, 2008 4:35 am UTC

Bubbles McCoy wrote:The moon landing had to be a publicly funded expedition (well, at least to get it done expediently) but it has little value in the economic sphere to date.

IIRC, for every penny that went into the Apollo program we have received several pennies worth back in advancements in (micro)electronics. If that is correct, I'd say it had more than a little value in the economic sphere.

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Re: Libertarianism, socialism, and differing views of reality

Postby aneeshm » Fri Dec 12, 2008 4:59 am UTC

Vaniver wrote:
Find a copy of A Conflict of Visions by Thomas Sowell. In it he presents two viewpoints- the "constrained" view of humanity, which says that humans are constrained by limited circumstances and a selfish nature, and the "unconstrained" view of humanity, which says that all human ills stem from negative institutions and policies, and changing those institutions can solve the problem. The key difference is that the first view believes in trade-offs; the second view believes in solutions.

That's why someone could say that "work or starve" is a choice- because any choice involves a trade-off. Do I want to deal with the negative impact of working, or the negative impact of starving? This proposition shocks the person with the unconstrained viewpoint, though- "work or starve" is hardly a solution, and any policy that results in starvation has to be negative.

Essentially, OP, it's your post but in a lucid, well-researched book form.



I've read the book, but I never really understood it until I read went on that thread-reading spree I mentioned in the OP, when those points really stood out. That is when it struck me - "Damn, Sowell is totally right!". So I made this thread.

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Re: Libertarianism, socialism, and differing views of reality

Postby Bubbles McCoy » Fri Dec 12, 2008 7:16 am UTC

qbg wrote:IIRC, for every penny that went into the Apollo program we have received several pennies worth back in advancements in (micro)electronics. If that is correct, I'd say it had more than a little value in the economic sphere.

Based off of memory and the quick Wikipeidia-ing I just did, it would appear that although government demand drove early sales of computers they still were largely researched and created by businesses. Granted, the Enlgish and Polish academics who got things rolling during WWII and academia in general has helped advance computing but much of this advancement was still private, and pratical products have been produced for a very long, long time by companies like Texas Instruments and IBM.

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Re: Libertarianism, socialism, and differing views of reality

Postby tpd » Fri Dec 12, 2008 8:02 am UTC

qbg wrote:
Bubbles McCoy wrote:The moon landing had to be a publicly funded expedition (well, at least to get it done expediently) but it has little value in the economic sphere to date.

IIRC, for every penny that went into the Apollo program we have received several pennies worth back in advancements in (micro)electronics. If that is correct, I'd say it had more than a little value in the economic sphere.


This is a fairly simplified argument for it though. Yes, resources were spent on the Apollo program and we did get some return back in various technological advances. You seem to assume though that if it weren't for the Apollo program then that money wouldn't have been spent at all. Of course it would have been. The only argument is, is mankind better off for having spent money on the Apollo program, and gotten some portion of that return back in technological advances, or have given the money directly to "the people" to which we would have spent the money on what we desired, and gotten 100% of the return back in technological advances.

When you allow us to spend the money, we directly give a signal to the market, which is received without any loss, as to what we want. We buy an iPod, so we tell the market that we want technological advances in portable audio. When we spent money on, say, space travel, certainly some portion of that money will result in things we actually value, but because we don't get to decide on how it's spent part of the signal is lost. It distorts the market and makes it less efficient, which has a negative impact on every person the world over.

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Re: Libertarianism, socialism, and differing views of reality

Postby Nonanol » Fri Dec 12, 2008 2:17 pm UTC

Vaniver wrote:Under capitalism, you can choose another employer, though often at economic cost. Under socialism, you can't choose another employer, because there is only one, and it is empowered to use violence against recalcitrant employees.


I feel that this is largely based on the assumption that the market is necessary to safeguard democracy. The government's ability to arbitrarily use violence against its subjects is very limited in most first world countries today, and I can't see why it wouldn't be under socialism. Why would our democratic measures to protect the rights of citizens depend on a free market?

I think my main problem with the free market as a democratic system is inheritence. I hardly think anyone would call a political system democratic if people were born with a different number of votes, and I find it equally absurd to call an economical system where my personal wealth (for many) is based on my parents' democratic.

To the OP: I don't really understand your concept of cosmic justice. Do you mean that most socialists believe that the universe (or humanity) is inherently just, or that socialists think that justice for everyone is desirable? The former is a bit absurd, and the latter should apply for libertarians as well. If there is no need for justice for everyone, the concept of human rights is meaningless. If we do not want justice, why would robbery, or murder, be wrong? Or did I misinterpret your concept of cosmic justice?

If there is one single difference in the perspectives of libertarians and socialists, I think it's the definition of freedom. The common definition of freedom would be "the ability to affect your own life", or something close to it. IIRC, in political theory rights are described as negative or positive freedoms. A negative freedom is to not be prohibited (the right to bear arms, for instance) while a positive freedom is being entitled (such as the right to work as stated in the UN Declaration of Human Rights, article 23). Libertarian freedom is mostly negative freedom; the freedom to do something if you are able, while socialist freedom more often is the positive one; the right to do something and the help to do it if you lack the ability. Assuming that your goal is the most possible freedom for everyone, I think the positive freedom is more relevant. A negative freedom only gives a portion of a country's citizens more ability to affect their own lives, while a positive applies to everyone.

I suppose some would argue that maximising freedom is not the goal of libertarianism. In that case, I really think libertarians should stop hogging the word freedom in the political debate. :)

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Re: Libertarianism, socialism, and differing views of reality

Postby DougP » Fri Dec 12, 2008 4:15 pm UTC

Let me butt back in here with a quick clarification:

To me, socialism is much closer to anarcho-syndicalism than it is to Soviet style communism. So, when I say socialism, I am not referring simply to "government" ownership in any broad sense. Perhaps at the micro level I am arguing for "self-government" of the work place, but not through a large scale government.


Under capitalism, you can choose another employer, though often at economic cost. Under socialism, you can't choose another employer, because there is only one, and it is empowered to use violence against recalcitrant employees.


Under the kind of socialism I am talking about, there is no employer but yourself. Yes, there would likely be a hit in general productivity, but I hold that people do not need a "carrot" to chase to be productive 100% of the time. This is an unfortunate idea thats been so totally accepted by our society that we don't even have a chance to think about it any other way.
Humans have the ability to CHOOSE how to act, we aren't slavering beasts that just blindly chase after green pieces of paper. We have the potential to be that, but we are not inherently and without alternative that.

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Re: Libertarianism, socialism, and differing views of reality

Postby zombie_monkey » Fri Dec 12, 2008 5:23 pm UTC

That why I believe the best economic policy would encourage small businesses as much as possible -- in the framework of a free market. Small groups are inherently more healthy, sociologically speaking. (Small as businesses go) Anti-trust, monopoly and cartel laws would be a good start, if they weren't mostly a joke.
A group of whatever character gaining too much power is to me by definition more harmful than useful, because thas's how humans work.

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Re: Libertarianism, socialism, and differing views of reality

Postby SpiderMonkey » Fri Dec 12, 2008 9:57 pm UTC

The libertarian sees this choice as something inherent to reality - a law of human nature and of the tragedy of the human condition, if you will. He is of the opinion that any system of politico-economic organisation is not capable of abolishing this choice, that it is inherent, and man will be faced with it again and again. He sees it a bit like the law of the conservation of energy, or, in the words of a famous libertarian, TANSTAAFL - There ain't no such thing as a free lunch. The libertarian also has no belief in the concept of "cosmic justice" - he does not believe that the universe or humanity is inherently just. He also tends to see large-scale things in terms of non-intentional systems, rather than intention-directed action by individuals.


And this view over simplifies things of course. The definition of 'natural' has to be extremely stretched to make libertarian economics (which you should note has little support amongst actual economists, especially now) seem like natural laws. Holding a man over a cliff and telling him to stop whining about gravity is both brutal and stupid.

Much like libertarianism.

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Re: Libertarianism, socialism, and differing views of reality

Postby fencerjimmy » Sat Dec 13, 2008 1:34 am UTC

Nonanol wrote:If there is one single difference in the perspectives of libertarians and socialists, I think it's the definition of freedom. The common definition of freedom would be "the ability to affect your own life", or something close to it. IIRC, in political theory rights are described as negative or positive freedoms. A negative freedom is to not be prohibited (the right to bear arms, for instance) while a positive freedom is being entitled (such as the right to work as stated in the UN Declaration of Human Rights, article 23). Libertarian freedom is mostly negative freedom; the freedom to do something if you are able, while socialist freedom more often is the positive one; the right to do something and the help to do it if you lack the ability. Assuming that your goal is the most possible freedom for everyone, I think the positive freedom is more relevant. A negative freedom only gives a portion of a country's citizens more ability to affect their own lives, while a positive applies to everyone.

I suppose some would argue that maximising freedom is not the goal of libertarianism. In that case, I really think libertarians should stop hogging the word freedom in the political debate. :)


This is the way I see the dispute too, but I think you're leaving out a key part of the libertarian argument: that attempts by a government to implement protections for positive freedoms inevitably decrease the freedom of other members of society. As a (very) trivial example, when the government raises taxes to provide health care or create jobs, it limits the freedom of the taxed to use their resources as they wished. The question then becomes, is it right for the government to limit one person's freedom to increase another's?

I'm generally in favor of positive rights, but historically they've been dangerous things to guarantee, especially for a government that isn't in the best place on its own. If the government guarantees a right to work but can't guarantee its own bills, then your right to work is a bad joke; but negative rights only require non-interference, which I think most libertarians see as a lot more possible.

I tend to think of libertarianism and socialism more as vectors than goals, to be honest, and think either extreme would be a bad idea.

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Re: Libertarianism, socialism, and differing views of reality

Postby Vaniver » Mon Dec 15, 2008 12:28 am UTC

Nonanol wrote:I feel that this is largely based on the assumption that the market is necessary to safeguard democracy. The government's ability to arbitrarily use violence against its subjects is very limited in most first world countries today, and I can't see why it wouldn't be under socialism. Why would our democratic measures to protect the rights of citizens depend on a free market?
The primary reason is that nearly every right you have is founded on the right to own property. While it's theoretically possible to remove that right and have the other rights, in practice when you remove a house's foundation, it comes crashing down. That may not make too much sense from a theoretical standpoint, but it does from a historical one (even Marx agreed with it). It is out of private wealth that rights for private individuals have grown, and private wealth that maintains the power to keep those rights. Once all power is concentrated in the hands of the People's Planning Committee, what sane individual would expect them to needlessly restrict themselves in fulfilling their goals?

But the violent aspect is just there to differentiate between the state and a company. The more critical part is that when the government controls the means of production, no individual is wealthy anymore- which means that no individual is financially secure. That's progress for you.

A society which assigns productive power based on political reasoning instead of economic reasoning is like a classroom where grades are assigned based on popularity rather than performance on tests- with the obvious impacts.

Nonanol wrote:I think my main problem with the free market as a democratic system is inheritence. I hardly think anyone would call a political system democratic if people were born with a different number of votes, and I find it equally absurd to call an economical system where my personal wealth (for many) is based on my parents' democratic.
Inheritance is a frequently discussed topic among libertarians- many dislike the impact it has on the market and equality of access, but few are willing to limit the ability of individuals to do what they want with their money (i.e. give it to their kids).
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Re: Libertarianism, socialism, and differing views of reality

Postby Praxis1452 » Mon Dec 15, 2008 3:40 am UTC

SpiderMonkey wrote:
The libertarian sees this choice as something inherent to reality - a law of human nature and of the tragedy of the human condition, if you will. He is of the opinion that any system of politico-economic organisation is not capable of abolishing this choice, that it is inherent, and man will be faced with it again and again. He sees it a bit like the law of the conservation of energy, or, in the words of a famous libertarian, TANSTAAFL - There ain't no such thing as a free lunch. The libertarian also has no belief in the concept of "cosmic justice" - he does not believe that the universe or humanity is inherently just. He also tends to see large-scale things in terms of non-intentional systems, rather than intention-directed action by individuals.


And this view over simplifies things of course. The definition of 'natural' has to be extremely stretched to make libertarian economics (which you should note has little support amongst actual economists, especially now) seem like natural laws. Holding a man over a cliff and telling him to stop whining about gravity is both brutal and stupid.

Much like libertarianism.
The libertarian viewpoint is that no one is holding him there. He can either whine about gravity, which you admit is useless, or he can do something about it. In many cases it may be harsh and brutal.

Still, socialism is founded on utilitarianism, an even worse principle.

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Re: Libertarianism, socialism, and differing views of reality

Postby SpiderMonkey » Mon Dec 15, 2008 8:10 am UTC

Praxis1452 wrote:The libertarian viewpoint is that no one is holding him there. He can either whine about gravity, which you admit is useless, or he can do something about it. In many cases it may be harsh and brutal.


But there is someone holding him there, and you have inadvertently shown the big gaping hole in libertarian capitalist theory. Poverty is understood to be the lack of property - and so can only exist as a concept when you define property. Property is not a natural concept, it is defined by human beings (territorial animals are not exercising property as we know it, unless you want me to attack you, steal your wife and piss on your front door) - so the person or people who hold the power to define property in a society also thus define poverty - and are the people holding you over the cliff.

Were men just left to their own devices, without threats of force keeping them off most of the surface of the planet, most could fend for themselves.

Still, socialism is founded on utilitarianism, an even worse principle.


1) Socialism is founded on from a desire for justice
2) Whats wrong with utilitarianism anyway?

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Re: Libertarianism, socialism, and differing views of reality

Postby Bubbles McCoy » Mon Dec 15, 2008 9:11 am UTC

SpiderMonkey wrote:Were men just left to their own devices, without threats of force keeping them off most of the surface of the planet, most could fend for themselves.

...until the land they had wasn't enough to feed their expanding families, they took to arms to get what they needed, and a couple of thousand of years down that road is where we are today?

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Re: Libertarianism, socialism, and differing views of reality

Postby SpiderMonkey » Mon Dec 15, 2008 9:14 am UTC

Bubbles McCoy wrote:
SpiderMonkey wrote:Were men just left to their own devices, without threats of force keeping them off most of the surface of the planet, most could fend for themselves.

...until the land they had wasn't enough to feed their expanding families, they took to arms to get what they needed, and a couple of thousand of years down that road is where we are today?


What makes you think that human beings are only capable of resolving disputes through violence? Also, what makes you think there isn't enough land to feed everyone?

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Re: Libertarianism, socialism, and differing views of reality

Postby Bubbles McCoy » Mon Dec 15, 2008 9:24 am UTC

If you're hungry and will die provided you will not find some way to get more food, most would be driven to killing. There is enough historical data to back this up that I feel elaboration is uneeded. Certainly disputes could be resolved through other means, but when people are on the first step of Maslow's good 'ol heirarchy reasoned debate is generally tabled.

We will get hungry as we have many times in the past, there would be billions fewer on this Earth should the Green Revolution (which was driven by either corporations or coercive governments) never had occured. Men have killed each other for resources for the entirety of human history, the great apes are no better than us either. Unless you're living in a modern Western society with birth control, humans breed to no end and will eventually die from starvation or kill another for resources, what possible evidence do you have for thinking to the contrary?

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Re: Libertarianism, socialism, and differing views of reality

Postby SpiderMonkey » Mon Dec 15, 2008 9:50 am UTC

Bubbles McCoy wrote:If you're hungry and will die provided you will not find some way to get more food, most would be driven to killing. There is enough historical data to back this up that I feel elaboration is uneeded. Certainly disputes could be resolved through other means, but when people are on the first step of Maslow's good 'ol heirarchy reasoned debate is generally tabled.


But there is no food shortage. There is enough food on this planet to give everyone enough to eat. Even current production could feed the population easily.

We will get hungry as we have many times in the past, there would be billions fewer on this Earth should the Green Revolution (which was driven by either corporations or coercive governments) never had occurred. Men have killed each other for resources for the entirety of human history, the great apes are no better than us either. Unless you're living in a modern Western society with birth control, humans breed to no end and will eventually die from starvation or kill another for resources, what possible evidence do you have for thinking to the contrary?


In an extreme situation, perhaps. But in reality it rarely gets as far as kill-or-die. In any case, most people cannot look another person in the eyes and deliberately kill them, even in dire circumstances (otherwise any refugee camp would be an instant bloodbath). Military training reflects this; in WW2 only 2% of soldiers would shoot to kill, and since then the military have developed advanced training techniques designed to circumvent the natural human aversion to murder.

Your view of great apes is as factually incorrect as your view of humans by the way. The general rule for all great apes is that lethal violence is a last resort. Bonobo murder has never been observed, for instance. Common Chimpanzees have been observed killing their own kind, but only in areas where they are under intense environmental pressure from humans, so it can't be known if this is a behavior they would show if humans weren't destroying their habitat. Even if great apes were the unrelenting savages you make them out to be - we don't have to be. Humans exhibit thousands of behaviours that great apes do not, such as living in houses, reading and writing.

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Re: Libertarianism, socialism, and differing views of reality

Postby Vaniver » Mon Dec 15, 2008 12:02 pm UTC

Sorry, I missed a couple of posts before.
DougP wrote:Under the kind of socialism I am talking about, there is no employer but yourself.
That sounds... either like capitalism as it is now, or a totally non-functioning economy. What do you mean by this?

DougP wrote:Humans have the ability to CHOOSE how to act, we aren't slavering beasts that just blindly chase after green pieces of paper. We have the potential to be that, but we are not inherently and without alternative that.
While a nice way of stating the unconstrained view, saying it does not make it so. There have been countless attempts at changing human dispositions instead of changing human incentives- which cooperative communes have lasted a significant amount of time, or offered their members the same growth in material comfort as selfish societies?

SpiderMonkey wrote:But there is no food shortage. There is enough food on this planet to give everyone enough to eat. Even current production could feed the population easily.
But what keeps that so? If we mailed to Africa all the food they wanted, what makes you think that wouldn't cause a population boom that turned a supposedly fake food shortage now into a real food shortage?

SpiderMonkey wrote:In an extreme situation, perhaps. But in reality it rarely gets as far as kill-or-die.
Are you suggesting that resource wars don't exist, or that resource wars happen 'infrequently,' especially in the period of history before capitalism began to work its magic?

SpiderMonkey wrote:In any case, most people cannot look another person in the eyes and deliberately kill them, even in dire circumstances (otherwise any refugee camp would be an instant bloodbath). Military training reflects this; in WW2 only 2% of soldiers would shoot to kill, and since then the military have developed advanced training techniques designed to circumvent the natural human aversion to murder.
It doesn't need to be most people- it just needs to be most killers. And especially when a member of a hungry mob, most people aren't as far from killing as we'd like to believe.

SpiderMonkey wrote:Your view of great apes is as factually incorrect as your view of humans by the way. The general rule for all great apes is that lethal violence is a last resort. Bonobo murder has never been observed, for instance.
Bonobo murder has been observed. Look into research by people that didn't set up a restaurant for the bonobos they were studying, removing most potential sources of conflict.
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Re: Libertarianism, socialism, and differing views of reality

Postby SpiderMonkey » Mon Dec 15, 2008 12:41 pm UTC

Vaniver wrote:But what keeps that so? If we mailed to Africa all the food they wanted, what makes you think that wouldn't cause a population boom that turned a supposedly fake food shortage now into a real food shortage?


Nothing keeps it so - it just is so at the moment, and may be so for longer if technology permits. What of it?

You view of African people strikes me as slightly racist, that like mindless animals they will simply multiply if given an adequate food source. Do you have any evidence to back this up?

Are you suggesting that resource wars don't exist, or that resource wars happen 'infrequently,' especially in the period of history before capitalism began to work its magic?


Its the 'magic' of capitalism that causes most of those war. Individual people are not so psychotically violent, only when they are organised under an idea of pure greed do you get people going across the world to grab resources.

It doesn't need to be most people- it just needs to be most killers. And especially when a member of a hungry mob, most people aren't as far from killing as we'd like to believe.


Your idea of murderous, hungry mobs is at odds with every societal collapse in history. Sure, murder rates go up, but its still only a great minority. In situations of critical survival, people resort first to cooperation to get by.

Bonobo murder has been observed. Look into research by people that didn't set up a restaurant for the bonobos they were studying, removing most potential sources of conflict.


Where is your evidence?

Where's yours? You have been asserting the opposite view without citation as well. Kettle, meet pot. Perhaps working together you could make us a nice SB-worthy citation stew.

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Re: Libertarianism, socialism, and differing views of reality

Postby Vaniver » Mon Dec 15, 2008 4:45 pm UTC

SpiderMonkey wrote:Nothing keeps it so - it just is so at the moment, and may be so for longer if technology permits. What of it?

You view of African people strikes me as slightly racist, that like mindless animals they will simply multiply if given an adequate food source. Do you have any evidence to back this up?
That's not my view of African people, that's my view of humans. To restate Malthus (since most people aren't familiar with his actual arguement), the limits on the growth of food production are greater than the limits on human reproduction, and so either people will die from starvation or exhibit what he called "moral restraint," which was doing things like delaying childbirth til marriage, delaying marriage a couple of years, and only having a small number of children. While he underestimated the growth of food production, the real thing he underestimated was immoral restraint- birth control does far more to limit population growth than abstinence, because the population's commitment to abstinence is often lacking.

So, essentially, the unconstrained view represents the optimism of Malthus- that people can say "if I have a child, I will make it more likely that starvation will happen, so I should limit my number of children." This, demonstrably, does not happen (and, by the way, is so old it was noticed by Thucydides).

SpiderMonkey wrote:Its the 'magic' of capitalism that causes most of those war. Individual people are not so psychotically violent, only when they are organised under an idea of pure greed do you get people going across the world to grab resources.
What? Capitalism began, depending on what you call the start of capitalism, sometime between the 14th century and the 18th century. Resource conflicts have existed since the first cavemen quarreled over dinner.

SpiderMonkey wrote:Your idea of murderous, hungry mobs is at odds with every societal collapse in history. Sure, murder rates go up, but its still only a great minority. In situations of critical survival, people resort first to cooperation to get by.
I'm noticing a trend here. I say "history shows X," you counter that history shows not X. The naiveté to suggest that people default to cooperating instead of competing under stress is so significant that I'm forced to call it that. How about you come up with some factual support for that generalization?

SpiderMonkey wrote:Where is your evidence?
Source. (it's pretty fascinating, I'd read the whole thing.)
For a purportedly peaceful animal, a bonobo can be surprisingly intemperate. Jeroen Stevens is a young Belgian biologist who has spent thousands of hours studying captive bonobos in European zoos. I met him last year at the Planckendael Zoo, near Antwerp. “I once saw five female bonobos attack a male in Apenheul, in Holland,” he said. “They were gnawing on his toes. I’d already seen bonobos with digits missing, but I’d thought they would have been bitten off like a dog would bite. But they really chew. There was flesh between their teeth. Now, that’s something to counter the idea of”—Stevens used a high, mocking voice—“ ‘Oh, I’m a bonobo, and I love everyone.’ ”

Stevens went on to recall a bonobo in the Stuttgart Zoo whose penis had been bitten off by a female. (He might also have mentioned keepers at the Columbus and San Diego zoos who both lost bits of fingers. In the latter instance, the local paper’s generous headline was “APE RETURNS FINGERTIP TO KEEPER.”) “Zoos don’t know what to do,” Stevens said. “They, too, believe that bonobos are less aggressive than chimps, which is why zoos want to have them. But, as soon as you have a group of bonobos, after a while you have this really violent aggression. I think if zoos had bonobos in big enough groups”—more like wild bonobos—“you would even see them killing.” In Stevens’s opinion, bonobos are “very tense. People usually say they’re relaxed. I find the opposite. Chimps are more laid-back. But, if I say I like chimps more than I like bonobos, my colleagues think I’m crazy.”

At Lui Kotal, not long after we had followed the bonobos for half a day, and seen a duiker run for its life, Hohmann recalled what he described as a “murder story.” A few years ago, he said, he was watching a young female bonobo sitting on a branch with its baby. A male, perhaps the father of the baby, jumped onto the branch, in apparent provocation. The female lunged at the male, which fell to the ground. Other females jumped down onto the male, in a scene of frenzied violence. “It went on for thirty minutes,” Hohmann said. “It was terribly scary. We didn’t know what was going to happen. Shrieking all the time. Just bonobos on the ground. After thirty minutes, they all went back up into the tree. It was hard to recognize them, their hair all on end and their faces changed. They were really different.” Hohmann said that he had looked closely at the scene of the attack, where the vegetation had been torn and flattened. “We saw fur, but no skin, and no blood. And he was gone.” During the following year, Hohmann and his colleagues tried to find the male, but it was not seen again. Although Hohmann has never published an account of the episode, for lack of anything but circumstantial evidence, his view is that the male bonobo suffered fatal injuries.

On another occasion, Hohmann thinks that he came close to seeing infanticide, which is also generally ruled to be beyond the bonobo’s behavioral repertoire. A newborn was taken from its mother by another female; Hohmann saw the mother a day later. This female was carrying its baby again, but the baby was dead. “Now it becomes a criminal story,” Hohmann said, in a mock-legal tone. “What could have happened? This is all we have, the facts. My story is the unknown female carried the baby but didn’t feed it and it died.” Hohmann has made only an oblique reference to this incident in print.

These tales of violence do not recast the bonobo as a brute. (Nor does new evidence, from Lui Kotal, that bonobos hunt and eat other primates.) But such accounts can be placed alongside other challenges to claims of sharp differences between bonobos and chimpanzees. For example, a study published in 2001 in the American Journal of Primatology asked, “Are Bonobos Really More Bipedal Than Chimpanzees?” The answer was no.
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Re: Libertarianism, socialism, and differing views of reality

Postby SpiderMonkey » Mon Dec 15, 2008 5:03 pm UTC

That's not my view of African people, that's my view of humans. To restate Malthus (since most people aren't familiar with his actual arguement), the limits on the growth of food production are greater than the limits on human reproduction, and so either people will die from starvation or exhibit what he called "moral restraint," which was doing things like delaying childbirth til marriage, delaying marriage a couple of years, and only having a small number of children. While he underestimated the growth of food production, the real thing he underestimated was immoral restraint- birth control does far more to limit population growth than abstinence, because the population's commitment to abstinence is often lacking.

So, essentially, the unconstrained view represents the optimism of Malthus- that people can say "if I have a child, I will make it more likely that starvation will happen, so I should limit my number of children." This, demonstrably, does not happen (and, by the way, is so old it was noticed by Thucydides).


It does happen all the time. Generally, higher levels and understand of birth control provides more stable population growth. This is why fertility rates in the developed world are about half what they are in the developing world. It isn't an inherent quality of 'human nature' - whatever that is - its a very specific cultural condition which causes overpopulation

I'm noticing a trend here. I say "history shows X," you counter that history shows not X. The naiveté to suggest that people default to cooperating instead of competing under stress is so significant that I'm forced to call it that. How about you come up with some factual support for that generalization?


You think I am naive for thinking humans cooperate? You have a great deal to learn about people. By your 'logic' any time there was a famine or anything the entire population of people who face death through starvation would turn on each other before they died. This is clearly not the case. You are the one making the extraordinary claim, which you have offered zero proof for.

What? Capitalism began, depending on what you call the start of capitalism, sometime between the 14th century and the 18th century. Resource conflicts have existed since the first cavemen quarreled over dinner.


Not on anything like the scale since it the advent of capitalism. Higher levels of organization or what cause such wars - not 'human nature' because humans are, as I have said, generally averse to killing each other.

Source. (it's pretty fascinating, I'd read the whole thing.)


How can you make an argument about the nature of animals citing the behaviour of animals in a zoo?

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Re: Libertarianism, socialism, and differing views of reality

Postby Vaniver » Mon Dec 15, 2008 5:22 pm UTC

SpiderMonkey wrote:You think I am naive for thinking humans cooperate?
No- I think that you're naive for expecting them to cooperate under stress and when cooperation is not as beneficial as cooperation. When two people have only one loaf of bread, and need more than half a loaf to not starve, they'll fight for it instead of splitting it.

SpiderMonkey wrote:Not on anything like the scale since it the advent of capitalism. Higher levels of organization or what cause such wars - not 'human nature' because humans are, as I have said, generally averse to killing each other.
I find this hard to believe, but since you haven't defined many terms it's hard to tell what you said is true or not. Wars were smaller beforehand, but just because more people were killed at once doesn't mean that the total proportion of people that died due to murder (and starvation) was higher after capitalism than before it- and I would suggest the opposite. Hunter-gatherers have a murder rate higher than the worst American city.

But while many people have an aversion to killing others, it's hardly omnipresent and also relatively easy to suppress (the relevant experiments are taught in any basic psychology course, which I'll assume you've taken since you claim there's no "scientific" evidence for human nature, which is essentially the entire field of psychology).

SpiderMonkey wrote:How can you make an argument about the nature of animals citing the behaviour of animals in a zoo?
I'm going to take a walk.

Now that I've exercised out my anger, let's resume. All evidence that bonobos are cheery, sexed-up creatures comes from observing small, well-fed groups of bonobos, who have nothing to do besides have sex with each other and explore their tiny cage. Did you know this? If so, why did you ask that question? If not, what authority do you have to discuss the subject?
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Re: Libertarianism, socialism, and differing views of reality

Postby SpiderMonkey » Mon Dec 15, 2008 5:40 pm UTC

Vaniver wrote:No- I think that you're naive for expecting them to cooperate under stress and when cooperation is not as beneficial as cooperation. When two people have only one loaf of bread, and need more than half a loaf to not starve, they'll fight for it instead of splitting it.


I'm still waiting for you to produce evidence of universal violence is starvation situations. Not one or two people - by your argument every single person will try to kill before they starve, because after all its 'human nature'.

SpiderMonkey wrote:]I find this hard to believe, but since you haven't defined many terms it's hard to tell what you said is true or not. Wars were smaller beforehand, but just because more people were killed at once doesn't mean that the total proportion of people that died due to murder (and starvation) was higher after capitalism than before it- and I would suggest the opposite. Hunter-gatherers have a murder rate higher than the worst American city.


Murder rates don't say anything about

But while many people have an aversion to killing others, it's hardly omnipresent and also relatively easy to suppress (the relevant experiments are taught in any basic psychology course, which I'll assume you've taken since you claim there's no "scientific" evidence for human nature, which is essentially the entire field of psychology).


Many people. Try 98% of people or more. And if it was 'easy' to suppress why did it take the military decades to get it right?

Also, if you think all psychology is 'human nature' I can only conclude you've been taught psychology in Nazi Germany, because otherwise you would understand that human behavior varies far too much in different circumstances to define anything like 'human nature'.

I'm going to take a walk.

Now that I've exercised out my anger, let's resume. All evidence that bonobos are cheery, sexed-up creatures comes from observing small, well-fed groups of bonobos, who have nothing to do besides have sex with each other and explore their tiny cage. Did you know this? If so, why did you ask that question? If not, what authority do you have to discuss the subject?


Primatologist conspiracy theory? Give me a break. Or at least some evidence.

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Re: Libertarianism, socialism, and differing views of reality

Postby Azrael » Mon Dec 15, 2008 5:55 pm UTC

SpiderMonkey: Take at least a 24 hour break from this thread. And come back with a more civil tone and the inclination to cite your own facts before demanding others do so.

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Re: Libertarianism, socialism, and differing views of reality

Postby Lemminkainen » Mon Dec 15, 2008 9:18 pm UTC

@Spidermonkey-- I would recommend that you take a look at Jared Diamond's Collapse. Diamond makes a very compelling case that human societies tend to break down because they overpopulate and cannot farm-- correlates nicely with what Vaniver says about starvation and fighting, no?

For modern examples, observe the fact that, recently, violence in Rwanda and Somalia were precipitated by food shortages as well as ethnic and tribal issues.

Also, I find the fact that you seem to believe that capitalism is a war- and scarcity-promoting system comical. In the 20th century, the collectivist regimes of Maoist China, and the USSR starved and murdered even more people than even the internet's favorite evil totalitarian. Go read up on the great leap forward or Stalin's purges if you don't understand what I'm talking about.

And the 20th century's collectivist murderers have nothing on their similarly economically authoritarian predecessors in ancient times in terms of killing as a percentage of the world's current population. Take Qin Shi Huang-ti for example. He killed about a third of the population of China while unifying the country. In contrast, observe the modern libertarian capitalist regimes of the 20th century. Do they starve or kill significant portions of their nations' populations? The answer is no, because libertarian capitalism is a system that removes the necessity of state violence and encourages efficient production and pricing of goods to meet the wants and needs of consumers.

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Re: Libertarianism, socialism, and differing views of reality

Postby Julle » Sun Dec 21, 2008 2:33 pm UTC

Lemminkainen wrote:@Spidermonkey-- I would recommend that you take a look at Jared Diamond's Collapse. Diamond makes a very compelling case that human societies tend to break down because they overpopulate and cannot farm-- correlates nicely with what Vaniver says about starvation and fighting, no?

For modern examples, observe the fact that, recently, violence in Rwanda and Somalia were precipitated by food shortages as well as ethnic and tribal issues.

Also, I find the fact that you seem to believe that capitalism is a war- and scarcity-promoting system comical. In the 20th century, the collectivist regimes of Maoist China, and the USSR starved and murdered even more people than even the internet's favorite evil totalitarian. Go read up on the great leap forward or Stalin's purges if you don't understand what I'm talking about.

And the 20th century's collectivist murderers have nothing on their similarly economically authoritarian predecessors in ancient times in terms of killing as a percentage of the world's current population. Take Qin Shi Huang-ti for example. He killed about a third of the population of China while unifying the country. In contrast, observe the modern libertarian capitalist regimes of the 20th century. Do they starve or kill significant portions of their nations' populations? The answer is no, because libertarian capitalism is a system that removes the necessity of state violence and encourages efficient production and pricing of goods to meet the wants and needs of consumers.


Saying that Stalin and Mao killed people because they where "socialist" is as dumb as saying that Pinochet killed people because he believed in the free market or that saying that every christian is bad because of the crusades. Power in the wrong hands is always bad, that's why we have democracy so we can remove them from office. And still, you forget one of the worst terrorist attacks in history, the atomic bombs over Hiroshima and Nagasaki; 200 000 dead on impact. How's that for a free market? Not that this is the thread to discuss the bombs.

The important thing is that both Socialism and Libertarianism is philosophies created to give the individual as much freedom as possible, it's just a question about what freedoms to prioritize.
And I've met far more Socialists that understand this than I have with Libertarians.

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Re: Libertarianism, socialism, and differing views of reality

Postby TheGrammarBolshevik » Sun Dec 21, 2008 8:56 pm UTC

Indeed. The problems that led to the disaster of the Soviet Union or Mao's China have much more to do with certain parts of the socialist movement than with "collectivism" in general. If you say that movement toward socialism/communism inevitably results in dictatorship, would you also agree that movement toward libertarian capitalism inevitably results in imperialism and world wars?
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Re: Libertarianism, socialism, and differing views of reality

Postby Lemminkainen » Sun Dec 21, 2008 11:57 pm UTC

TheGrammarBolshevik wrote:Indeed. The problems that led to the disaster of the Soviet Union or Mao's China have much more to do with certain parts of the socialist movement than with "collectivism" in general. If you say that movement toward socialism/communism inevitably results in dictatorship, would you also agree that movement toward libertarian capitalism inevitably results in imperialism and world wars?


Your second statement is false. Incentives to imperialism are created by trade barriers. The purpose of controlling colonies was to gain exclusive access to their products and markets-- an idea known as mercantilism, an ideology which is at odds with libertarian-style capitalism, and which Adam Smith argued against in The Wealth of Nations, which can be seen as the founding text of modern (capitalist) economics. This behavior was exemplified by practices such as Spain's exclusive control of its new world silver, or Britain's navigation acts which restricted the trade of its colonies. These behaviors, which were the cause of the expansion of imperialism and the first world war, are nationalist rather than free-market in nature, and would be disapproved of by any self-respecting libertarian. Without trade barriers, there is no economic incentive to colonize other nations.

The second world war, on the other hand, had causes that had even less to do with capitalism or the free market. It was caused by the nationalist ambition from Germany, Japan, and Italy. These governments, far from being free-market capitalists, controlled the industries of their nations and pumped massive amounts of extra capital into certain sectors, like vehicle manufacturing, to turn their countries into war machines. Again, this is collectivist, not capitalist behavior.

The reason that I suggest that socialist governments always produce dictatorships is because in practice, every single country without a market economy (as opposed to capitalist countries with social provisions, like modern western Europe) has been a dictatorship. The USSR, China, North Korea, Vietnam, Cuba, the communist nations of the Warsaw Pact-- all brutal dictatorships. Of course, capitalism does not always succeed in protecting democracy, as modern, capitalist China and Pinochet's Chile demonstrate. However, non-market economies, even when they start somewhat democratically, have always become dictatorships, and also poorer and more miserable than their capitalist counterparts. Both of these are problems inherent to central direction-- the poverty is caused by inefficient production by a government that cannot adequately forsee the needs and desires of its people the way that a market can, as well as a lack of incentive towards development and innovation, and the dictatorship because functional collectivist economies require some sort of coercive authority to get individuals to work if there is no monetary incentive. Without a market, this coercive authority is pretty much absolute, inevitably leading to abuses and dictatorship.


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