Category Archives: Socialism

Now this is a call to violence

Even with all the crowing from the authoritarian left about violent rhetoric, I have yet to see a call to violence as clear as this one from leftist Sociologist Frances Fox Piven:

So where are the angry crowds, the demonstrations, sit-ins and unruly mobs?


Second, before people can mobilize for collective action, they have to develop a proud and angry identity and a set of claims that go with that identity. They have to go from being hurt and ashamed to being angry and indignant.


Third, protesters need targets, preferably local and accessible ones capable of making some kind of response to angry demands.


An effective movement of the unemployed will have to look something like the strikes and riots that have spread across Greece in response to the austerity measures forced on the Greek government by the European Union, or like the student protests that recently spread with lightning speed across England in response to the prospect of greatly increased school fees.

Piven is calling for the types of protests where rocks are hurled and molotov cocktails are thrown. She wants protests where property is destroyed and people are killed. She hopes that such moves will intimidate government at all levels in this nation into further forced redistribution of wealth.

As commenter Florida pointed out over at Althouse:

They [the leftists] want violence … as long as it’s THEIR violence.

As long as they are the ones bringing the thugs to the town hall meetings.

As long as they are the ones telling US what we must buy and who we can watch and what they can say.

That’s all they want.

Yeah, that’s all they want. Remember, Piven and her ilk are the kind who claim moral superiority to the rest of us. They arrogate to themselves the moral authority to regulate any aspect of our lives they choose. If we don’t cooperate with them, they are willing to intimidate us, hurt us, and kill us. The thought of a free society of equals is simply beyond their comprehension.

To the left, words in opposition to their cause are more violent than assault and murder in support of it. Never forget that.

Marxism And Libertarian Exploitation Theory

I tend to be a stickler for definitions and proper usage of terms. One of those that stick in my craw is the use of “Marxism” to describe a lot of systems that Marx wouldn’t have supported. Marx, as an intellectual, had quite a few pretty strong insights economically, but he had some social beliefs on human nature that led him down the wrong path. While I’m no Marxist, by ANY stretch of the imagination, I find myself sometimes defending Marx from the unfair criticisms. There’s enough about his beliefs that are fair to criticize that it makes no sense to add falsehoods.

The Marxist philosophy, as I understand it, can be boiled down into theories of exploitation. He dealt first with mankind’s defeat of feudalism. Feudalism is the exploitation of the masses by the aristocracy, where all property was owned by the traditional power elite, and the masses (subjects) were given pittance as reward for toiling for those masses. Marx viewed capitalism as the proper, and beneficial, opponent of feudalism. Capitalism offered levels of freedom for the masses that feudalism before it did not, but he believed that it created a new and different type of exploitation. Capitalism offered a more free exchange of labor for property, but there were typically two classes still — the capitalists and the workers. The capitalists had enough of a stranglehold on the means of production that they extracted a surplus from the workers; they paid them too low of a wage compared to the value* those workers produced.

Thus, Marx believed that while capitalism was a positive marker on the road of human social evolution, he didn’t believe it was the end point. Marx saw an end point where the “capitalist class” ceased to exist. At that point the “worker class” would own the means of production, and thus there would be no exploitation of the surplus value. The workers would retain this surplus. But Marx’s vision DID NOT include a totalitarian state to divide the spoils of production. He saw, rightly, that the state itself could easily be an exploitative entity, and thus the Marxist communist vision of society was really anarcho-socialism.

Marx saw that to break the capitalist stranglehold on the means of production, there would likely need to be a period of state socialism. The capitalist class was not willing to give up their surplus freely. They would need to be broken, and to do so an entity with the power to carry out that duty must exist — a state. Once the capitalists had been broken, though, he believed the state itself would wither away out of lack of necessity.

Marx made what I would consider to be three critical mistakes in his analysis:

  • Humanity has far too close of a relationship with property to function in an anarcho-socialist system.
  • The state, once breaking the capitalists, had too many perks to let itself “wither away”.
  • Much of his goals for workers “owning the means of production” are already beginning to occur within capitalism.

The first point is a bit of my own conjecture, but stems from Marx’s treatment of classes as classes rather than the more individualist libertarian treatment of classes as collections of disparate individuals. Marx saw the proletariat seizing the means of production and then finding harmonious sustainable ways to equitably distribute the fruits of such production. The analysis does not take into account individual goals, which is a very human desire to maximize gains for one’s self and one’s own. Humans are cooperative, but we are cooperative individuals. Cooperation can be sustained in a system of mutual benefit, but humans typically have a difficult time sacrificing for the collective over the long haul. Anarcho-socialism relies on such mutual cooperation (and sacrifice) in the absence of a coercive entity, and thus relies on human nature to be compatible with such a system. I do not believe human nature is so constituted — which, of course, is why I’m an anarcho-capitalist.

The second point has been demonstrated in nearly every society which has taken a serious stab at state socialism. The rulers become quite fond of being the rulers, and enjoying the material and societal perks of being at the top of the food chain. Rather than dismantling the exploitive class, they replace it with themselves. If faced with the choice of “withering away” or putting down their opposition by whatever means necessary, they usually opt for the latter. Lord Acton’s old adage about power corrupting holds sway.

Finally, Marx discounted capitalism’s ability for the working class to own the means of production without seizing it — they may merely buy a piece. American corporations don’t limit stock purchases to fellow robber-barons, they let any old average Joe with an E*Trade account have a piece. In 2000, America passed the tipping point, with 50% of households owning stock. The 401K is widely used as a wealth-building vehicle, and rather than discourage this, corporations compete as to how much of a matching contribution will be added. Further, larger corporations often have employee stock purchase plans where, at discounted rates, employees can buy directly into their own company. Modern economics is blurring the line between the “working class” and the “capitalist class”. But in the reverse of Marx’s prediction, it is the inclusion of workers into the capitalist class that is blurring the line.

Interestingly, a recent paper written by Ralph Raico of the Mises Institute (and printed by the Campaign for Liberty here) compares some of Marx’s writings on the exploitation of the state over the masses to those of classical liberals. Marx saw the potential for government to stand independent and against the interest of its subjects; one wonders why he thought a transition through state socialism to pure communism would ever work:

Every common interest was straightway severed from society, counterposed to it as a higher general interest, snatched from the activity of society’s members themselves and made an object of government activity, from a bridge, a schoolhouse and the communal property of a village community to the railways, the national wealth and the national university of France…. All revolutions perfected this machine instead of smashing it. The parties that contended in turn for domination regarded the possession of this huge state edifice as the principal spoils of the victor …under the second Bonaparte [Napoleon III] …the state [seems] to have made itself completely independent. As against civil society, the state machine has consolidated its position …thoroughly. [Quoting Marx from Raico’s piece]

At the same time, classical liberal writers denounced the warmaking powers of government as tools of the elite and financial interests, operating on the backs of the masses:

The degree to which one finds the concepts of classes and class conflict used in this sense in 18th- and 19th-century liberalism, once one looks for it, is astonishing. To take two examples: this is clearly what Tom Paine is talking about in The Rights of Man, when he speaks of governments making war in order to increase expenditures; and what William Cobbett is getting at when he terms gold the poor man’s money, since inflation is a device utilized by certain knowledgeable and influential financial circles.

As [John] Bright put it:

The more you examine the matter the more you will come to the conclusion which I have arrived at, that this foreign policy, this regard for “the liberties of Europe,” this care at one time for “the Protestant interests,” this excessive love for the “balance of power,” is neither more nor less than a gigantic system of out-door relief for the aristocracy of Great Britain.”

Later in the century, Bright identified other classes as the promoters of imperialism. In the case of the British occupation of Egypt in 1882, Bright (who resigned from the cabinet on account of it) believed that the City of London (i.e., financial interests) were at work, and, according to his biographer, “he did not think that we ought to involve ourselves in a series of wars to collect the debts of bondholders or find new lands for commercial exploitation.” He agreed with his friend Goldwin Smith, the classical-liberal historian and anti-imperialist, who wrote him that it was simply a “stock-jobbers’ war.” This was long after Cobden had died, but the latter would doubtless have agreed. He once wrote: “We shall offer no excuses for so frequently resolving questions of state policy into matters of pecuniary calculation. Nearly all the revolutions and great changes in the modern world have a financial origin.

It is thus interesting that those today who would call themselves “Marxists” support the very oppressive governments that Marx himself derided, while attacking the classical liberal underpinnings of Adam Smith and the classical liberals, who were likely very influential to Marx’s own thought.

I have little love for Karl Marx and his theories. I do, however, have great interest in him. He has become a caricature of both the left and the right, celebrated or opposed for fictions about what he believed and espoused. As I’ve said, I think there’s a lot to teach about Marxism and its flaws as a theory. It offers the ability to further highlight the classical theories that led to Marx, and show why his “improvements” on said theories are bunk. But if the left equates Marx to Ghandi, and the right equates Marx to Stalin, we’re not going to get anywhere.
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Chavez Running New Gambit To Break Opposition Media

This doesn’t sound good:

Chavez said the authorities have determined that 25.8 percent of shares in Globovision belong to one of the owners of the Banco Federal, which the government took over last month citing financial problems and irregularities.

With that minority ownership stake, the government will have a right to name a board member of Globovision, Chavez said.

“We’re joining the business,” he said.

Globovision takes a consistent anti-government stance, and its broadcasts have been a frequent target of the president’s wrath.

Chavez also suggested the government could take over an additional 20 percent stake that belonged to a shareholder who recently died, which would raise its ownership to 45.8 percent.

“If someone receives a concession and dies, the state recovers that concession,” he said.

Chavez has been fighting for years to fully consolidate the media in state hands. I’m not sure he’s got enough power to walk in the front door, but he just might have found an unlocked window.

Quote Of The Day

Not sure how it ended up this way, but I’ve got three posts coming this morning on socialism/communism. First we’ve got Friedrich Engels, communist intellectual, opining on the American government in an 1891 work:

Society had created its own organs to look after its common interests…. But these organs, at whose head was the state power, had in the course of time, in pursuance of their own special interests, transformed themselves from the servants of society into the masters of society…. Nowhere do “politicians” form a more separate and powerful section of the nation than precisely in North America [i.e., the United States]. There, each of the two major parties which alternately succeed each other in power is itself in turn controlled by people who make a business of politics…. It is in America that we see best how there takes place this process of the state power making itself independent in relation to society …we find two great gangs of political speculators, who alternately take possession of the state power and exploit it by the most corrupt means and for the most corrupt ends — the nation is powerless against these two great cartels of politicians who are ostensibly its servants, but in reality dominate and plunder it.

His cure isn’t right, but I’ll be damned if he didn’t nail the symptom cold.

The NFL And Los Angeles — Which Taxpayers Get Screwed Worst?

Being a football junkie, engineer, and overall nerd, one of my favorite sports websites is Advanced NFL Stats. They delve into the minutiae of the game at a level relatively unseen elsewhere, in addition to regularly linking commentary about the sport elsewhere that tackles strategy and tactics at almost a “football coach” level rather than ESPN talking-head level.

There’s usually not much overlap with politics, but today the purveyor of the blog, Brian, is discussing whether it’s better for the NFL to have a team in Los Angeles or to have it as a lucrative bargaining chip for other cities:

It may be that the NFL would be foolish not to take advantage of such a large market, but perhaps the current 32 teams are better off leaving LA wanting for a team.

Without a team there, they sacrifice the exposure and revenue LA can provide. On the other hand, a team-less LA might provide the 32 NFL teams much more. As it currently stands, any team trying to wrangle a new stadium or other major concession from its home city and state has a credible threat of a lucrative destination.

If Vikings owner Zigi Wilf wants a new stadium, with LA in the mix, he’s likely to get more cooperation from Minnesotans, fans and government alike. If Jaguars owner Wayne Weaver is seeking deep discounts on his lease or a bigger share of the stadium concessions, he’ll get a better reception with LA as a suitor than if Portland or Oklahoma City were the next best alternatives.

Based on this analysis, I would think that the taxpayers of cities with NFL stadiums are desperately hoping that LA gets a team. After all, as the actual victims of the extortion that local team owners foist on city officials, they’ve got the biggest dog in this fight.

What’s sad in this analysis (and I don’t discredit Brian for leaving it out, as he’s not — to my knowledge — a libertarian, and even if he were his blog is not a political policy blog in any way) is that it is merely a foregone conclusion that team owners can expect cities to bend over backwards to build stadiums if the teams merely have a credible threat to leave.

In a sane world, stadium funding wouldn’t have anything to do with city government, except maybe for zoning and traffic planning considerations. In fact, to the extend that infrastructure needs are stressed by the stadium, a city/state would be justified in extracting money from the team to help cover the externalities imposed upon neighboring residents due to the impact of the new stadium. But we don’t live in a sane world. We live in a world where local officials have an ego-driven need to keep teams in the city, and are willing to spend a lot of money in order to do so (it is easy since it’s not their own money). Team owners know this, so they’ll do whatever it takes to shunt the cost onto the taxpayer as well.

If this is the way the game is played, I hope for the rest of the country’s sake that LA gets at team. It would be nice to have professional football here in addition to USC.

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