A Rant on Degrees of Violence

We live in a violent society.  When people become alienated they often do violent things. When the person is “one of our own,” the violence is seen as a matter of individual responsibility. A man — Joe Stack — becomes troubled because the financial problems and flies an airplane into an Internal Revenue Service building. The response seems to be that he is mentally unbalanced or expressing justifiable indignation in an unacceptable way.

A young Pakistani immigrant suffers financial and family problems, turns to religion, and tries to explode a car bomb in crowded Times Square.  The response focuses on the religious angle because his religion is not the dominant one in the country.

What if he had used a drone instead? Obviously, most of the victims have been innocent.  Of course, we have no knowledge that our own drone attacks predominately kill “guilty parties”?  And then again, if the drone attack had been successfully pointed at Wall Street, it would have undoubtedly kill people whose destructive activities have resulted in many destroyed lives. Would that be justified?  Our own young people who operate the drones might be seen as some as heroes.

The analogy of Wall Street and the military may be unduly provocative. And yet, the banks resemble a victorious government demanding reparations from a defeated enemy — in this case, the losers of the class war.  Why should ordinary people have to pay for the destructive behavior of the rich and powerful?

I don’t know if the people who recently burned the Greek bank were police provocateurs or militants angry with the government. In the former case, the objective was to harm the people who are presently being harmed by the financial crisis.  In the latter case, they were behaving stupidly.

The man who flew the plane into the IRS building was upset about how much he was paying to support the government.  I suspect that he, or the people who expressed sympathy for his cause, are less concerned about military expenditures than the social programs, comparable to what the Greek government is forced to cut.

Returning to the war theme, how much violence has been the product of people returning from the wars, serving the interests of Wall Street and the rest of big business.  Timothy McVeigh was justifiably regarded as an outlier, but more common violence, such as individual homicides and suicides, seem to be far more common among people exposed to the violence of war.

How much more guilty are the supposedly respectable people who promote our wars abroad than the disturbed young man who attempted to kill a couple hundred people at most? Instead, his incompetent attempt at violence will be used to justify far greater violence abroad.

How can we put an end to such hypocrisy and the violence it entails?

Finally, what about the everyday violence experienced by people denied the opportunity for a decent chance in life?  What about inadequate healthcare or education? Isn’t that a form of violence?  If a capitalist society rewards some people with multibillion-dollar annual incomes of the official unemployment rate is near 10%, is it time to see that capitalism itself is a form of violence?

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38 comments so far

  1. Kasey on

    I appreciate your recent posts on the costs of war. You make some interesting points in this post too. However, I don’t see how you come to the conclusion that capitalism = form of violence. Are you not aware of the heavy hand our government plays in encouraging these violent acts, namely war? This isn’t capitalism. I think you are mistaken in categorizing our current economic system as capitalistic.

    • Todd on

      from dictionary.com:

      violence: “an unjust or unwarranted exertion of force or power”

      Under class societies, like our current capitalist ones, the people who own the things needed to produce things needed to live use this ownership to force those who don’t own these things to work for them, basically, for free.

      If that isn’t violence, I don’t know what is.

      As capitalism can be reasonably defined as an economic system wherein ownership of the means of production is used to make profits for the sole use of making even more profits by exploiting those who don’t own the means of production, I’d say that fits what we have in North America (if not practically anywhere around the planet).

      • Kasey on

        Todd, Why only define violence using dictionary.com and not capitalism too?

        From dictionary.com:

        Capitalism:
        “An economic system based on a free market, open competition, profit motive and private ownership of the means of production. Capitalism encourages private investment and business, compared to a government-controlled economy. Investors in these private companies (i.e. shareholders) also own the firms and are known as capitalists.”

        We do not live in a capitalistic society. You don’t really believe we do, do you?

        I support Professor Perelman pointing out problems of our current system but he shouldn’t make the mistake of miscategorizing our economic system as capitalistic.

      • Anok on

        Kasey, that is exactly the economic system we have. Just because corporations and shareholders aren’t entirely free to run amok doesn’t mean we don’t have capitalism.

        And it is coercive, economic coercion I believe, is a form of violence or force. People with wealth and property tell people without either that they must jump through hoops, and pay what they demand, and both groups know what will happen if the latter group doesn’t do exactly that: They will be homeless, and starving.

        homelessness and starvation is a threat of violence as a direct result of not doing what the capital holders say. And it happens on a daily basis.

      • Jeremy Lammerding on

        I am not sure why Todd and Anok are suggesting that the working class is at the mercy of the horrible, evil capitalists. In California, we have a funny thing called Unions. In case you were not aware, Unions run the state, not businesses.

        The threat of “economic coercion” (in the form of general strikes, boycotts and other less desirable subversive methods of union strong-arming) goes both ways, don’t ever think otherwise.

        PS. Prof Perelman ~ I like the “Ads by Google”. ‘Get money’ you capitalist ;-)

      • Todd on

        Jeremy said:

        “In California, we have a funny thing called Unions. In case you were not aware, Unions run the state, not businesses.”

        Curious they allowed Schwarzenegger to become governor and begin cutting if they’re that powerful.

        “The threat of ‘economic coercion’ (in the form of general strikes, boycotts and other less desirable subversive methods of union strong-arming) goes both ways, don’t ever think otherwise.”

        Strange how this hasn’t been deployed en masse by The Unions aka God Almighty to further their own nefarious ends.

      • Jeremy Lammerding on

        Two Words: Speaker Perez. Ill give you two guesses on what he did before he became a politician, but you’ll only need one.

        “Curious they allowed Schwarzenegger to become governor and begin cutting if they’re that powerful.”

        The fact you believe the governor is solely responsible for the cuts is a joke.

        “Strange how this hasn’t been deployed en masse by The Unions aka God Almighty to further their own nefarious ends”

        The threat of a strike is just as effective. its not much of a deterrent when it is actually used (think the bomb circa cold war).

        as if you need more proof on union influence:

        As of December 31st, 2009:

        – Service Employees International Union (SEIU) President Andy Stern and Secretary-Treasurer Anna Berger have visited the White House a combine total of 60 times. The tally includes 11 meetings with President Obama and one other with Vice President Biden.

        – AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka visited the White House 9 times.

        – United Steelworkers President Leo Gerard has reportedly visited the White House 8 times.

        http://www.whitehouse.gov/briefing-room/disclosures/visitor-records

      • Todd on

        To say that unions have influence (which has been declining from what it used to be) is one thing; to say they “run the state” is something else entirely.

        (BTW, despite all these visits to the White House to dictate to the president how to run the country, how do you explain the fact that wages have been declining for the past 30 some-odd years, unionized jobs have been moving to union-unfriendly states and countries, and union membership has stagnated and declined?)

        “The fact you believe the governor is solely responsible for the cuts is a joke.”

        Did I say he was solely responsible? No. But that was an important element of his election. You’d imagine that, with such cuts affecting union-members (and assuming they had the power you imagine they do), they’d have swatted S. like a fly.

        “The threat of a strike is just as effective. its not much of a deterrent when it is actually used (think the bomb circa cold war).”

        Oh, so now you want to talk about the mere _threat_ of general strikes to affect the whole state? Same argument: strange how even this hasn’t been deployed.

      • Jeremy Lammerding on

        “(BTW, despite all these visits to the White House to dictate to the president how to run the country, how do you explain the fact that wages have been declining for the past 30 some-odd years, unionized jobs have been moving to union-unfriendly states and countries, and union membership has stagnated and declined?)”

        The same reason American farmers are some of the richest in the world even though they lack competitiveness in almost every area. Despite their decreased membership and being obsolete they are still a fiercely important constituency… and they vote accordingly.

        BTW, wait till the redistricting takes place in 2011 and the ‘impartial’ redistricting boards are flooded with union hacks, then you will see how they run the state.

      • Todd on

        “The same reason American farmers are some of the richest in the world even though they lack competitiveness in almost every area. Despite their decreased membership and being obsolete they are still a fiercely important constituency… and they vote accordingly.”

        Not sure what you’re getting at wrt farmers, but, again, if unions had as much power as you think they do, one would imagine they’d exercise it far more effectively than they’ve been doing for the past few decades at all levels of government.

        And if you think unions are obsolete, I recommend getting acquainted with 19th century labour history as well as asking trade union leaders who get murdered on the orders of strike-breaking companies or repressive bourgeois states why they’re dying for obsolete ideals like decent wages.

        “BTW, wait till the redistricting takes place in 2011 and the ‘impartial’ redistricting boards are flooded with union hacks, then you will see how they run the state.”

        Ah. I think I see your problem: you’re confusing Democratic politics and ideology with those of unions. They’re close, but the Dumbocrats have screwed unions over and over again, and the union leadership keeps at it partly because they can’t see any alternative to the even worse Repuglicans.

      • Jeremy Lammerding on

        This will be my last response as I am really over this discussion because you just can make someone see what they dont want to believe.

        “And if you think unions are obsolete, I recommend getting acquainted with 19th century labour history as well as asking trade union leaders who get murdered on the orders of strike-breaking companies or repressive bourgeois states why they’re dying for obsolete ideals like decent wages.”

        I never said they were not relevant at their creation. Have you taken a look at your calendar lately? Welcome to the 21st century,complete with minimum wage, 40 hour work weeks and child labor laws. Obsolete.

        I just find it so funny when people accept concepts like ‘we worked for an oil company before he was president, so he is lobbying for his old buddies at Big Oil, Inc.’ as self-evident. But when presented with the fact that other politicians (a great deal mind you who are often Democrats) have STRONG union ties and are well documented sympathizers, the fact that they are in the back pocket of Union thugs is downplayed, debated and discredited. Open your eyes.

      • Jeremy Lammerding on

        you just CANT* make someone see what they dont want to believe.

        hah, I can see Prof. Perelman rolling his eyes at my last post right now. I really wish I had taken your class. The real world is A LOT less stimulating.

      • Todd on

        “I never said they were not relevant at their creation. Have you taken a look at your calendar lately? Welcome to the 21st century,complete with minimum wage, 40 hour work weeks and child labor laws.”

        F for failing to understand the point, sonny.

        Unions were and still are all about organizing workers to have bargaining power in the face of owners’ economic and political power to make money on the backs of their employees, whether they’re working mules or flipping burgers. That basic fact hasn’t changed in over two centuries.

        Minimum wage? 40 hour work weeks? That’s nice; you can thank unions for helping to make those dreams a reality. Unfortunately, that hardly ends matters. Remember what I said earlier about wages (and trying to get _up_ to 40 hours of work a week)? And there’s still more to work on. Stuff your post-politics nonsense.

        “I just find it so funny when people accept concepts like ‘we worked for an oil company before he was president, so he is lobbying for his old buddies at Big Oil, Inc.’ as self-evident. But when presented with the fact that other politicians (a great deal mind you who are often Democrats) have STRONG union ties and are well documented sympathizers, the fact that they are in the back pocket of Union thugs is downplayed, debated and discredited. Open your eyes.”

        Like you said about people refusing to open eyes: you still haven’t told me the secret plans explaining why unions and their workers have been on the currently losing side the class struggle yet control or have disproportionate influence over government. You claim self-evidently they’re “an important constituency” (like the vanishing independent farmer, how apropos you should mention them), but you still can’t manage to explain how that brushes away that obscure bundle of facts called history.

        But I suppose if you just keep lying to yourself, you’ll block out that unfortunate tendency called reality.

  2. political economist on

    I read somewhere that Joe Stack was not merely troubled by personal woes but by the systemic problems in our society. Furthermore, these feeling could be traced back to what he saw as a young man when his neighbor lost his pension (or a large part of it) and his widow had to subsist on a very reduced income — i.e., poverty.

    Now, someone might say: but that does not justify his method of protest. Of course, not. But why don’t we say the thing thing about the drone-bomber-in-chief?

  3. mark hansen on

    our government is merely a front for those who buy its politicians.
    as Gore Vidal has said:”by the time a man is nominated for president by either of the two major parties, he has sold himself so many times, he doesn’t know to whom he belongs.”
    members of congress and the senate go for much lower rates.
    being required to get money to pay for campaigns is done on a daily basis by congress members and only slightly less regularly by memberws of the senate.
    the president regularly travels the country on fund raising trips.
    no wonder that the weapons makers are nearly the last manufacturers of products in this country.
    gives one a good understanding of why we are currently fighting two wars.
    the tea baggers never seem to complain about the pentagon’s share of the federal budget.
    their most recent upwelling was in an attempt to stop a comprehensive healthcare act.
    since the one passed seems to guarantee the government subsidizing health insurance companies,
    they appear to have succeeded.
    to me, the above are acts of violence on a grand scale.

  4. Kasey on

    Anok,

    I guess there are degrees of free markets too.

    There is a lot of room to free up markets that would bring wealth to more, in my opinion.

    I believe we live within a corporatist society, not capitalist one. If you look that word up in a dictionary I think you’ll find it a better match to our current system.

    The government, in collusion with corporations (healthcare, war, etc.), is more often the one that “requires us to jump through hoops, and pay what they demand” than “people with wealth and property” alone.

    • Todd on

      “I believe we live within a corporatist society, not capitalist one.”

      Since corporatism has so many meanings (as to be virtually meaningless), what exactly do you mean by “corporatism”?

      “The government, in collusion with corporations (healthcare, war, etc.), is more often the one that “requires us to jump through hoops, and pay what they demand” than “people with wealth and property” alone.”

      Given that bourgeois social relations are pretty much the norm among the people who make up the political class anywhere, how do you expect governments to act?

      BTW, a business (the number of which is vastly greater than the number of governments) is a business, no matter whether or not it’s IBM or a mom-and-pop hot-dog stand. If that business employs workers, it’s exploitative, coercive, and violent.

      • Kasey on

        “what exactly do you mean by “corporatism”?”

        My definition of corporatism is something to the effect of: government acting in collusion with select private industry interests to steer the government to allow select private industry to operate monopolies.

        “how do you expect governments to act?”

        Like they have principles and a spine. To enforce the rules. To treat businesses the same, politically. Its businesses job to push the envelope to see what they can get. Government has the difficult job of staying principled and treating businesses the same, politically.

        “If that business employs workers, it’s exploitative, coercive, and violent.”

        I’m assuming you’re masochist or self-employed?

        My main point is we don’t have free markets. We’re getting seriously punched in the gut by our government’s collusion, especially with the financial organizations. The price of money is centrally controlled, the price of food is perverted, the education market has huge price inflation problems because of easy money. Here are all these perverted markets and people are railing about the capitalists. Capitalists don’t live very long any more.

      • Jeremy Lammerding on

        “BTW, a business (the number of which is vastly greater than the number of governments) is a business, no matter whether or not it’s IBM or a mom-and-pop hot-dog stand. If that business employs workers, it’s exploitative, coercive, and violent.”

        That statement is absolute nonsense. Employment would imply the free exchange between individuals, trading labor for goods (in most cases money). There is no argument for exploitation in at-will employment unless it is involuntary, in which case we call that ‘slavery’. Two very different concepts.

        Are you suggesting the world was any better before we started interacting and forming societies. trading, cooperating, organizing, that stuff is overrated and exploitative right? It would be much better if we all lived solitary lives: poor, nasty, brutish and short.

      • Todd on

        You again, Lammerding? I thought we’d seen the back of you.

        “There is no argument for exploitation in at-will employment”

        “At-will employment” isn’t what we have, though. If this were the case, after I’ve earned enough money to satisfy my needs and desires for a certain amount of time, I’d be able to knock off and go home until I needed more money. As it is, if I tell my boss that I’ve earned enough money to satisfy me for the time being and I’ll be leaving, he’ll tell me not to bother coming back.

        (BTW, slavery involves the owner paying for the worker’s body, not so much the worker’s labour power; there’s a difference. This is still exploitation, though on a cruder, less progressive level than that experienced by workers in a capitalist society.)

        As for exploitation, workers are exploited by their employers in two ways. First, as a class, workers _must_ sell their labour or (nothing else preventing it) have no money, alongwith the attendant difficulties. That means, we have to endure the conditions that the capitalist class lays on our class. We can struggle politically and/or economically to get a better deal (or prevent the deal we have from worsening), but, under class society, the working class is pretty much at the mercy of the owners.

        Second, basically speaking, workers don’t get an equal exchange of money for our work for the capitalists. We get paid by the hour not by what gets done (and forget piece-work: it’s calculated to amount to the same result); it’s in the owner’s interest and power to force the worker to work as hard as he can ie to use his labour-power for the same amount of money as if the working were just poking along at his own comfortable speed. All that extra money that the worker ends up making for the capitalist goes into the capitalist’s pocket.

        “Are you suggesting the world was any better before we started interacting and forming societies.”

        Hardly. As I mentioned above: there are degrees and kinds of exploitation. If all we can get for the moment is a less onerous form of exploitation, that’s worth fighting for ie it’s class struggle. But a good communist should keep an eye out for times when the whole system of class society can be overthrown; that’s an even more progressive advance than the least exploitative of class societies.

      • mperelman on

        I have to disagree with Jeremy about the absence of exploitation. I don’t have a lot of time to go into it with the end of the semester and preparations for a trip to China.

      • Jeremy Lammerding on

        ““At-will employment” isn’t what we have, though. If this were the case, after I’ve earned enough money to satisfy my needs and desires for a certain amount of time, I’d be able to knock off and go home until I needed more money. As it is, if I tell my boss that I’ve earned enough money to satisfy me for the time being and I’ll be leaving, he’ll tell me not to bother coming back.”

        Well it sounds like you should find a part time job or one that pays less so you have to work more hours to fulfill your needs. Employment is a contract between two consenting parties, not defined ONLY by what your need is, but what they employer requires of your labor to make the business viable and continue to pay your wages. The relationship needs to be mutually beneficial, even if disproportionally. If a farmer had his field laborers coming and going as they pleased with utter disregard for the crops, he would go out of business as his crops die on the vine, then laborers would be out of a job regardless.

        “All that extra money that the worker ends up making for the capitalist goes into the capitalist’s pocket.”

        As it should. Look, at the end of the day capitalists and business owners earned their profits because they are tolerating a disproportionate amount of risk. If the business tanks the workers can go home, collect unemployment and relax till they get a new job. The Capitalist however could lose his home (unless it is a limited liability or corporation) but surely will lose all the money he invested to create the start-up.

        If you want to enjoy the same rewards the capitalists do, go leverage your home and apply for a loan at the bank then open your own business. But if are not willing to accept that level of risk, then be satisfied with your measly salary. Asking a business to pay you anything more than your average marginal product is ludicrous.

        On a broader note, if you have a problem with classes and an elite, I have a website you should check out: http://www.peopleofwalmart.com. This is the majority working/middle class. Now, do you want them running our country on an equal field, or some ‘elitist’ with a degree from an Ivy League school and a knowledge of policy rivaling Kissinger? You can guess who I would trust with the security of our economy and nation.

        “You again, Lammerding? I thought we’d seen the back of you.”

        Heh, I really tried to keep my mouth shut but I could not help myself, you arouse the most base emotions within me. Capitalism as my mistress, I must defend her as such. I will try to keep a lid on it this time.

      • Todd on

        “Well it sounds like you should find a part time job or one that pays less so you have to work more hours to fulfill your needs.”

        Even in the situation you give above, the same conditions of exploitation that I outlined above ie no freedom to stop work when I think I’ve made enough money still hold true. The only difference is that I’m relatively worse off because, in your scenario, I now make even less money. It would take me more time to make the money I feel I need, but I still wouldn’t be allowed to stop work at that point.

        “Employment is a contract between two consenting parties”

        On the surface, that’s what it looks like. But the conditions surrounding that contract are something else altogether. Imagine I came to you to ask for a loan. I’ve brought with me five husky fellows who are well known to you as kneecappers and are sporting baseball bats, and I’m armed with a large-caliber handgun. You, on the other hand, don’t have this help. The loan agreement that we make, with my friends hanging over you, coughing and slapping their bats in their palms every time you mentioned a number about 1% interest and my pointing my gun at you, would be legally binding by the stipulation you make above because it’s between two consenting adults.

        “not defined ONLY by what your need is, but what they employer requires of your labor to make the business viable and continue to pay your wages.”

        You’re forgetting profits, which is what makes business and business-owners keep going.

        “The relationship needs to be mutually beneficial, even if disproportionally.”

        So a parasite has a beneficial effect on its host so long as it doesn’t kill him, right?

        If you’re serious about real mutual benefit, that would require communism.

        “If a farmer had his field laborers coming and going as they pleased with utter disregard for the crops, he would go out of business as his crops die on the vine, then laborers would be out of a job regardless.”

        Not if the business were rationalized in order to take this into account. But such a step would require a _big_ and revolutionary change to society to implement. Even now, all you can do is think inside the box of capitalism (“It won’t work because it’s not capitalism!!”) because you’ve been taught that such is the natural way of the world.

        “Look, at the end of the day capitalists and business owners earned their profits because they are tolerating a disproportionate amount of risk.”

        Do you know just how old this particular bit of apologia is? Marx himself dealt with it over a century ago.

        They don’t “earn” anything: it’s wrung from the hide of their employees who are made to work as hard as they can for as little pay as the owner has to put out. I told you that earlier.

        As for risk, capitalists own the means of production. If they don’t get their profits, all they have to do is sell that means of production and move on. This isn’t including matters of society like a banker having less of a problem loaning money to a former business-owner than to someone who doesn’t even own his own house.

        “If the business tanks the workers can go home, collect unemployment and relax till they get a new job.”

        That you can make this comment seriously goes a long way to flaunting your purblindness.

        Have you kept track of the tightening of and changes to unemployment insurance, welfare, etc. over the past few decades to make them as unpleasant and short for workers as possible?

        “If you want to enjoy the same rewards the capitalists do, go leverage your home and apply for a loan at the bank then open your own business.”

        If one is willing to be the owner/operator of a business or go into partnership with others, that’s one thing (which I personally don’t care for, but a capitalist economy definitely can’t endure: it must have labour and as cheap as possible); exploiting others for profit really puts me off my tea. I’d rather not.

        “But if are not willing to accept that level of risk, then be satisfied with your measly salary.”

        I take then that getting pay increases for various reasons is also ludicrous, no?

        “Asking a business to pay you anything more than your average marginal product is ludicrous.”

        In an exploitative class society, yes. But that’s what I and others want to get rid of.

        “On a broader note, if you have a problem with classes and an elite,”

        My problem is with class society as such. Elites are something very different, and I don’t necessarily have a problem with them depending on context.

        “Now, do you want them running our country on an equal field, or some ‘elitist’ with a degree from an Ivy League school and a knowledge of policy rivaling Kissinger?”

        Why can’t all workers have the benefit of as good training as Kissinger got (depending on context)?

        So you must believe that “elites” are genetically superior in all ways to non-elites, which is why they’re elite and the others aren’t. Do you really believe this fascist tripe?

        “I will try to keep a lid on it this time.”

        Do that. I don’t suffer fools gladly.

  5. Mike B) on

    “I suspect that he, or the people who expressed sympathy for his cause, are less concerned about military expenditures than the social programs, comparable to what the Greek government is forced to cut.”

    Greece is governed by a bourgeois ruling class who want to pay their debts by robbing the working class of pieces of the wealth they themselves create and which have been won through successful class battles of the past. The ruling class is only ‘forced’ to do this because they see it as being in their interests. They could just as well raise taxes on themselves to pay for their debts to other bourgeois.

    Oh, and another thing, religious beliefs do play a role in the many, many suicide bombings undertaken by fundamentalist Muslim nationalists, who believe they gawn up to pair a dice to see some virtual virgins. Joe Stack’s the only diaspointed cockroach capo I know of who committed suicide. I doubt whether he was a faith-killer. Tim McVeigh was a poor working class ignoramus who fell for right-wing populist, nationalist rhetoric blaming ‘big guvmint’ for his traumas. Not sure whether he said a prayer before his premeditated murder (including his own).

    Other than that, I agree. Keep on keepin’ on Michael. ;p

  6. Todd on

    “government acting in collusion with select private industry interests to steer the government to allow select private industry to operate monopolies.”

    Um, what monopolies? There definitely are companies that have much more influence with government (and on the market) than others (which is historically normal in any relatively unregulated market), but there simply are no companies or cartels that have a lock on the market (much less a government-imposed one).

    As for collusion, yes, if you’re talking about the “normal” relations between business and government ie lobbying at any level; no, if you’re talking about secret conspiracies (at least none have come to light AFAICT).

    “Like they have principles and a spine. To enforce the rules.”

    Most governments do have principles. It’s just that those principles are bourgeois ones that mesh well with (most) businesses. If you want a difference, bourgeois governments have to be replaced by those with more socialist leanings backed by big majorities. Until that happens, you won’t see much change.

    “To treat businesses the same, politically.”

    What does this mean?

    “I’m assuming you’re masochist or self-employed?”

    No, I’m a worker who has to work to eat and help feed my family. I don’t have many choices and no good ones with the status quo.

    “My main point is we don’t have free markets.”

    What do you mean by this? Completely unregulated selling and buying? Caveat emptor being the only rule? A return to the 18th and 19th centuries? In any event, if you’d bother reading some history, you’d see that the “Golden Age of Capitalism” was fraught with panics, market meltdowns, bubbles, and depressions (caused in large part by the manner in which capitalist markets function). You think that’s good?

    “Capitalists don’t live very long any more.”

    But their money and relationships last _much_ longer.

    • Kasey on

      I’ll defend my main point which is why I posted here.

      Free markets should support:

      Prices as a transmitter of knowledge
      Decentralization of knowledge
      Radical uncertainty of expectations
      Spontaneous evolution of social institutions.

      These are believes that are most closely associates with the Austrian School.

      Calling our current system capitalistic is simplistic and wrong. Its similar to neoconservatives calling President Obama a socialist.

      • Todd on

        “Prices as a transmitter of knowledge
        Decentralization of knowledge
        Radical uncertainty of expectations
        Spontaneous evolution of social institutions.”

        To a greater or lesser degree, with various caveats as Michael pointed out wrt prices, this is already the case.

        (Except maybe for that last, but I don’t see what markets specifically have to do with social institutions and/or their spontaneous evolution).

        “Calling our current system capitalistic is simplistic and wrong.”

        What’s not capitalist about the private ownership of the means of production, the production of commodities for sale, cash as a medium of exchange, free labour, (relatively) free markets, etc.?

        You did correctly state above that there are degrees of free markets (or freedom within markets); what’s wrong with the corollary that other elements of that mix have varying degrees of expression, too?

  7. Mike B) on

    Kasey wrote:

    Prices as a transmitter of knowledge

    MB)
    How about: socially necessary labour time as a measure of productivity?
    **********************

    Decentralization of knowledge

    MB)
    And, all producers know how much productivity is in each good and service?

    *****************************
    Radical uncertainty of expectations

    MB)
    Shoddy workmanship and organisation?

    ************************

    Spontaneous evolution of social institutions.

    MB)
    And freely decided creation and maintenance of social institutions.

    • mperelman on

      Prices are not a particularly transmitter of information. I have explained the reason in a number of publication.

  8. Kasey on

    Could you point me towards a publication or two that address how prices are not a good transmitter of knowledge? I’ve read a few of your books but it has been several years.

  9. Mike B) on

    How about the nine trillion dollar housing bubble when most people in the market didn’t see that price was so out of whack with exchange-value and yet the experts (e.g. Greenspan and most others being published in the capitalist media) didn’t see what was happening and allowed their confidents to keep pouring money into worthless assets?

  10. mark hansen on

    what we have in this country is “fascism” big government and big corporations working hand in hand to garner all power to themselves and end freedom for everyone else.
    Ron Paul was booed by many when he told the tea party convention that Obama is not a “socialist”,(a claim many other speakers had made),he is a “corporatist”.
    i think he is correct on this point.

    • Todd on

      More excellent material on fascism here:

      http://www.publiceye.org/eyes/whatfasc.html

      AFAICT, we’re seeing more authoritarian liberal states (including the US) which might or might not go over to fascism.

      But fascism is not what exists in America today.

  11. Mike B) on

    Fascism is an epithet thrown around a lot by politicos. I think it’s best to go to the source for a definition of what fascism is/was. Fascism isn’t just any sort of authoritarian rule, it’s a specific form of dictatorship which has private capitalists and workers forced by State law to collaborate in what Mussolini called “corporations”, all for the good of the nation. Fascists all think that class struggle is a communist, anarchist, socialist ideological invention used by internationalist revolutionaries to destroy the fabric of a strong nation. Oh fascists know that there are classes; yes indeed they do. But fascists don’t like the marketplace for commodities when it comes to labour power. Fascists think that both the employing and working classes should do their moral duty to work together in ‘corporations’. Fascists make it illegal to see the social relation between classes and class interests any other way. Fascists don’t like ‘flabby’ liberals who endanger the nation by saying workers should have the right to organise in their own class interests to negotiate the price (aka wages) of their time, skills and working conditions with the employing class. Fascists don’t like class conscious workers who organise to pursue their own material interests.
    If this kind of rhetoric has a familiar ring to your ears, perhaps you’ve listened to people who have been influenced by fascist-nationalist thinking and who like the idea of restricting or even eliminating the rights of workers to strike, organise and the right of workers to be in classwide solidarity with their fellow workers in their negotiations with the employing class over wages and conditions. These people will say, “We must put restrictions on workers’ ability to combine as a class or they will become to powerful and upset the national interests. After all, what’s good for employers is good for workers too; they have common interests.” Maybe these people didn’t even know that they have been espousing the fundamental doctrine of the fascist State.

    Benito Mussolini wrote:

    32: “Fascist corporate economy is the economy of individuals of
    associated groups and of the State.”

    47-8: “This fond of economy is regulated, strengthened and
    harmonized for the sake of collective utility, by the producers
    themselves — be they employers, technicians or workers —
    by means of the corporations created by the State which,
    representing as it does the whole nation.”

    From: Mussolini, Benito. 1936. The Corporate State (Firenze: Vallecchi).
    ****************************************************

    8. Outside the State there can be neither individuals nor groups (political parties, associations, syndicates, classes). Therefore, Fascism is opposed to Socialism, which confines the movement of history within the class struggle and ignores the unity of classes established in one economic and moral reality in the State: and analogously it is opposed to class syndicalism. (my MB interjection: class syndicalism is like the sort of unionism which the IWW promotes) Fascism recognizes the real exigencies for which the socialist and syndicalist movement arose, but while recognizing them wishes to bring them under the control of the State and give them a purpose within the corporative system of interests reconciled within the unity of the State.

    and later in this piece…

    …It might be said against this programme that it is a return to the corporations. It doesn’t matter!….I should like, nevertheless, the Assembly to accept the claims of national syndicalism from the point of view of economics…

    Is it not surprising that from the first day in the Piazza San Sepolcro there should resound the word ‘Corporation’ which was destined in the creations at the base of the regime?

    and later…

    But when one says liberalism, one says the individual; when one says Fascism, one says the State. But the Fascist State is unique; it is an original creation. It is not reactionary but revolutionary in that it anticipates the solutions of certain universal problems. These problems are no longer seen in the same light: in the sphere of politics they are removed from party rivalries, from the supreme power of parliament, from the irresponsibility of assemblies; in the sphere of economics they are removed from the sphere of the syndicates’ activities—activities that were ever widening their scope and increasing their power, both on the workers’ side and on the employers’—removed from their struggles and their designs; in the moral sphere they are divorced from ideas of the need for order, discipline and obedience, and lifted into the plane of moral commandments of the fatherland…..

    From “The Doctrine of Fascism” written by Benito Mussolini in 1932 in collaboration with Giovanni Gentile.

  12. javier hernandez-miyares on

    fascinating discussion on this thread.

  13. mperelman on

    Regarding prices as transmitters of information, the best sources that I have published are in The Perverse Economy and in The National Instability of Markets.

    Just look in the index under passenger pigeons, which give one of the best examples.

    Also, some time ago, I posted a talk that I gave in China, which briefly covers the subject.

    http://michaelperelman.wordpress.com/2009/04/10/an-ecological-future-marx-and-wu-wei/

  14. political economist on

    “There is no argument for exploitation in at-will employment unless it is involuntary, in which case we call that ‘slavery’. Two very different concepts.”

    So, if someone choose slavery as the best alternative is it liberty? Can the handshake be a fist?

    Libertarians generally refuse to look at social context and assume that every “handshake” is an indication of liberty. This can get them into moral dilemmas as we see in the recent case of Rand Paul. Certainly for everyone other than a libertarian the term “wage slavery” is comprehensible even in its various guises and shades of meaning. (Several years ago a wrote a paper on this topic: A Handshake or A Fist? (apologies to Joni Mitchell).

    Can’t help myself department: libertarians seem incapable of admitting the existence of externalities.


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