Posts Tagged: Economy

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We can distinguish between two kinds of value-subjectivism. You can have explanatory value-subjectivism, which simply means that in explaining someone’s actions, you appeal to their evaluations, not yours — just as in explaining someone’s actions you appeal to their beliefs and not yours. If you see someone walking out on a bridge, and you know the bridge is unsafe and is likely to collapse, but they don’t know that, then in interpreting why they’re doing what they’re doing you shouldn’t attribute to them your belief that the bridge is unsafe if they don’t have that belief. If you try to explain their action by appealing to your belief that the bridge is unsafe, your explanation isn’t going to be any good.

So likewise, if you’re explaining their actions you also have to appeal to their values. Suppose that you hate vanilla ice cream, and you see someone trying to get some. What they’re doing would make no sense if you assumed that they share your value. Instead, your evaluation of their taste in ice cream doesn’t make any difference to explaining — whether they’re right or wrong to like vanilla ice cream, nevertheless the fact that they like it is what explains their going after it.

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Mises and the Neo-Marxists: Paleotechnic Blood Brothers?

In an earlier post,  I argued that we’re experiencing an end to economic growth–not because of an end to progress and innovation, but because progress and innovation are making conventional metrics of “growth” obsolete.  GDP and other conventional metrics of economic “growth” measure the value of inputs consumed to produce a given level of output.  The implosion of capital outlay requirements to undertake production mean that the vast majority of investment capital is becoming superfluous, and that enormous amounts of paper GDP disappear from off the econometric radar.

For this reason the Austrian dogma of von Mises, that the only way to raise real wages is to increase the amount of capital invested, is shown to rely on a false assumption:  the assumption that there is some necessary link between productivity and the sheer quantity of capital invested.  George Reisman displays this tendency at its most vulgar:

The truth, which real economists, from Adam Smith to Mises, have elaborated, is that in a market economy, the wealth of the rich—of the capitalists—is overwhelmingly invested in means of production, that is, in factories, machinery and equipment, farms, mines, stores, and the like. This wealth, this capital, produces the goods which the average person buys, and as more of it is accumulated and raises the productivity of labor higher and higher, brings about a progressively larger and ever more improved supply of goods for the average person to buy.

But this view has been at the heart of most twentieth century assumptions about economy of scale, and an unquestioned assumption behind the work of liberal managerialists like Chandler and Galbraith (see Chapter One of my book Organization Theory,  “Chapter One: A Critical Survey of Orthodox Views on Economy of Scale“). …

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Additional Definitions and Distinctions

See also Robert Anton Wilson and Robert Shea’s Definitions and Distinctions.

1. state-enforced artificial scarcity

Scarcity created or exacerbated by the state. Scarcity raises prices. Natural scarcity results from genuine material costs of production (affecting both effort and raw materials) and from natural, material limits on the replicability of goods. Natural scarcity is unavoidable. Artificial scarcity obtains when access is constrained even when a good is naturally abundant. It can only be created by actual or threatened aggression—the state’s métier. When the state engrosses land and thus keeps it from being homesteaded, when it limits access to health care by enforcing licensing requirements, when it limits access to land by enforcing zoning rules, or when it enforces “intellectual property” rights, it makes things more scarce than they would otherwise be, and thus more expensive.

2. (artificial) property rights …

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Voluntary vs. Command Economies

A free nation is not necessarily a Capitalist nation. As we seek to describe the institutions of a free nation we must consider all the alternatives. In the United States, libertarians tend to associate the idea of an economy based on voluntary relations with cash-based, for-profit enterprises. Other voluntary economic relations are possible. In addition to enterprises based on private monetary profit, there are at least two others which do not use this approach. one is the system based on charitable donations, usually of cash. The other is the system based on the charitable donation of labor. …

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Anarchist Economics

The Center for a Stateless Society, Kevin Carson and Shawn Wilbur all get honorable mentions in this overview of Anarchist Economic theory and practice.

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While libertarians reject the provision of corporate welfare there is disagreement about just how deeply such welfare is rooted.  Building off of these basic attitudes is our willingness or unwillingness to tolerate the existing distributions of wealth and how we feel about the people who win and lose under the economy’s current framework.

I. The Traditional Model

The traditional libertarian narrative frames the base of the American economy as free enterprise which unwillingly supports a parasitic superstructural class of regulators, moochers and bureaucrats.  It also sees the emergence of capitalism as occurring primarily through natural and legitimate market means and not through illegitimate state action.  The resultant perspective on the distribution of wealth (political economy) espoused by libertarians utilizing this model can be described as traditional.  It views society’s existing wealthy and successful market actors as those who are productive in spite of the state and all those who oppose any aspect of their property rights, democratically or otherwise, as looters of varying degrees of evil and/or stupidity.

II. The Revisionist Model

Left-libertarian and some radical Rothbardian traditions are generally far more critical of the aforementioned model and view the state as the base of the existing economy with some free market sprinkles on top.  They acknowledge that capitalism’s historical emergence required massive amounts of state power in order to catalyze the Industrial Revolution and create a reliable and dependent working class.[1] It notes that the basic economic rules which have virtually always been and continue to be in place worldwide generally favor the status quo elite who control the political machines in order to further concentrate their wealth and power.

This revisionist ideological foundation leads to a far more skeptical and radical approach toward American political economy which finds as much in common with modern progressive and leftist movements as it does with any fair weather free marketeer conservative tradition.  However, the conclusions drawn from this approach don’t leave us with a precise method of ameliorating the historical and ongoing wrongs nor of how to establish the moral standing of the current beneficiaries and losers.[2]

Merely proclaiming “eat the rich!” in response is neither sufficient nor desirable because the majority of people who are currently financially successful are most likely unaware of the anti-market base of the economy or its injustice and as a result behave as simple market actors (profit-maximizers). [3]Most people tend not to attend conferences on political philosophy or economics of any variety but are merely reacting to the circumstances of the markets within which they operate to the most profitable extent of their ability. …

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An adequate, non-simplist, mutualist theory of what is proper to individual human beings, seeking to do justice to the range of things we denominate by the word “property,” will have to account for the nearly unbridgeable separateness that we experience in consciousness, as well as the inextricable interconnection which is our material reality. It will have to, in essence, respond to Max Stirner and Pierre Leroux (or any number of other advocates of a roughly ecological universal circulus.) The “gift economy of property” proposal seeks to base a form of “self-ownership” on two generalized “gifts:”
  1. A conscious ceding of all that we might claim of our own in others; and
  2. An affirmation of the right to err in the process of learning to manage one’s own.

On this basis, “self-ownership” would actually be an elegantly appropriate phrase, highlighting the ways in which the notion brings together two aspects of property, the “I am…” and the “I own…,” without being able to simply merge them. And it would indeed be “property,” according to the definitions used by Proudhon, combining the elements of “use” and (socially limited) “abuse.” 

There might be ethical arguments for denying one another one or both of these “gifts,” but I suspect there are very few that would meet any very rigorous standard of mutuality.