Wednesday, August 06, 2008

A defense of capitalism

Commenter Jimmy_D writes in with a spirited defense of capitalism in reply to First principles [of political discourse] redux.

Well, "spirited defense" can mean a collection of straw men, non sequiturs, dogmatic assertions and an almost charming (almost!) ignorance of even the most basic terms of politics and economics. It's nostalgic: I haven't discussed philosophy with anyone this incompetent since I left IIDB.

The workers must work for the owners or starve: They are coerced into cooperating
Except for the fact they can choose to become self-sufficient through personal production. Or they can join a commune and live off of the work of others. Or they can use coercion to be given what they have not earned (i.e. unions, politics, welfare, etc.).
Jimmy actually stumbles upon an actual point here, probably by accident. If it were true that an ordinary person can actually become self-sufficient through personal production, my point would collapse.

However, it is not realistically possible to for an ordinary person to do so. Self-sufficiency is very difficult: I make a good living, but I am hardly self-sufficient: I do not grow my own food, I do not make my own clothes, I did not build my own house, I do not provide my own medical or dental treatment.

Is it coercion that if I simply do nothing all day I will starve to death? If not then your example is equally absurd.
Actually it is coercion, except in this case reality is doing the coercing. I can tolerate being coerced by reality (but all human civilization has been dedicated to loosening the bonds that uncaring reality holds on us). I'm speaking, however, about coercion between other human beings.

My point is not to establish people's freedom to do nothing, it is to establish their right to keep the surplus value of their own labor.

No one is forcing you to work at a specific job.
If I'm given a choice about who comes into my house and takes all my stuff, is my property secure? I think not.

So what you're calling coerced cooperation is simply choosing to work as a means of supporting oneself. Is it coercion that I have to breathe? Is it coercion when a lion has to hunt instead of someone providing for them? There is no coercion involved in someone having to produce to support themselves, that occurs in nature regardless of the presence of any other human being. Aren't you simply arguing that you shouldn't have to support yourself?
No, I'm not arguing that people shouldn't have to support themselves. Those with a firm grasp of the English language can read and understand my actual argument.

The owners simply accumulate the workers' surplus value and share nothing; they are permitted to betray.
Except that's simply not true because they share the value by paying wages and by paying taxes.
Pay attention: I'm talking about surplus value. Paying what is necessary for the workers to continue to produce more value is not sharing surplus value. You know, if you're going to defend capitalism, it might be worthwhile to actually read Marx. Know your enemy, eh?

Absent coercion, capitalism would be impossible; we would have anarcho-syndicalism, where people could "own" only what they themselves actually used to produce wealth.
Without a government a person could still own a machine and still rent out the use of that machine to those skilled in production with it.
Do you mean absent coercion or merely without a government? These are two different things. Absent coercion, this kind of arrangement would be impossible. As soon as someone else had possession of the machine, he would own it.

You also forgot to mention that absent coercion (of any type) anarcho-syndicalism wouldn't function because there would be no one to enforce contracts so any worker could defect from contributing to the pot.
I know Wikipedia is very expensive to use, but perhaps you might invest some time and money in actual research.

The essence of anarcho-syndicalism is that workers own the means of production. There is no "pot" to contribute to.

It is only by violent coercion that capitalist owners can prevent workers from employing the means of production to create surplus value for themselves, rather than for the owners.
Bullshit! Only through violent means could workers take from their employers to create surplus value. Here the worker is defecting from a willingly entered into contract. How is using someone else's property without their permission not stealing? I'll tell you what next time I'm in town I'll take your car for a joy ride and return it whenever I feel like it, obviously you won't mind.

Only by invoking the violent coercion of dissolving property rights could this idea possibly work, and once you do that either have to invoke an uber-state to dispense all material things (and power corrupts) or live in a nation of thieves. Private property is essential to a functioning society not to mention to the preferences of the human psyche.
Private property is complicated, is of many different varieties, and is socially constructed. It is nothing more than a particular set of agreements, out of the infinite number of agreements that might be made. To treat property rights as laws of physics is as retarded as any theological bullshit. To conflate all kinds of property rights as only one phenomenon is to lump rape with consensual intercourse.

One really sad thing is that Jimmy is obviously far too stupid to be a member of the ruling class. He is vociferously and vehemently defending nothing but his own enslavement.

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