Reason Debates Jacobin on Capitalism, Socialism: Podcast

link to the debate on Soundcloud: podcast

Talking past each other quite a bit , and past the possibility of a third or forth possibility, one of them being markets without capitalism, or freed markets.

Many (right) libertarians may agree with the principles of “freed markets” set forth by left libertarians, but stop short of wanting to end capitalism in those markets, which freed markets could help bring to fruition.

Part of the problem between capitalists and socialists is that the socialism capitalism debate is almost always misframed. There is supposedly contention between the Labor Theory of Value and Subjective Theory of Value, but in reality the latter is a snap shot of the former, and both focus on how the distribution of income and/or profits/losses should be divided. The Labor Theory of Property rarely enters the debate as an alternative because it shifts the paradigm away from the false dichotomy of: if not capitalism then socialism, or vice versa. As David Ellerman points out elsewhere:


…the capitalism-socialism debate was a debate between private and state capitalism (i.e., the private or public employment system), and the debate was as misframed as would be a debate between the private or public ownership of slaves.


…Marx accepted the capitalist-apologetics’ bogus framing of the questions and then took the other side of the pseudo-questions. Thus Marx and Marxism have somewhat inadvertently become an essential part of the apologetics for the “capitalist” system by agreeing to the bogus framing of the issues.


…Rather than showing how those governance rights are creatures of the employment contract (the master-servant relation), Marx did capitalist apologetics a huge favor by accepting their argument that those rights were part of the “private ownership of the means of production.” Accordingly, Marx then concluded that such private property had to be overthrown. Capitalist apologists couldn’t ask for a better “opponent.”…The command over the production process was taken as part of the bundle of capital ownership rights.


…This idea that “rulership” is part of capital ownership has become so widely accepted that it could be called the “fundamental myth” of the capitalist system.


…Marx continued to talk about “capital” (in the sense that includes residual claimancy) as being owned in a linguistic move that might be called a “semantic straddle.”


…After thus redefining “ownership” as a contractual role, they then straddle back to the old meaning and talk of it as a property right. Those are some of the thought patterns in both Marxist thought and in orthodox economics that sustain the fundamental myth that “capitalism is based on private property rights.”


…Marx and his tradition seem to have no intellectual access to the inalienable rights critique of the contract to rent persons, namely that the contract puts a person into the legal role of a non-responsible thing.


…Marx did capitalist apologetics another huge favor by accepting value theory as the field of intellectual battle and then developing the “labor theory” as a labor theory of value….It seems as long as one can dredge up some Marxists to play the Marxist “dancing bear” role, then there is no reason to let the “Great Debate” stray outside the bogus framing of the issues that is fully accepted by Marxism.


…Marx did a huge favor for capitalist apologetics accepting their ‘neglect’ of the inalienable rights tradition.


…Instead of challenging the capitalist premise that “democracy” was only a thing for the public sphere while enterprises were private, Marx and the so-called “democratic” socialist tradition accepted that dichotomy and then concluded that enterprises could only be made “democratic” by making them publicly owned. Thus state capitalism in a political democracy was seen as “democratic socialism.” Again Marx and the “democratic” socialist tradition did a huge favor for capitalist apologetics by accepting the quarantining of the democratic principles in the “public sphere” and then arguing that economic enterprises (or at least the large ones in the “commanding heights” of the economy) should be moved to the “public” side of the ledger and thus made “democratic.


…Many who argue that big corporations should be “democratized” have no clue about LTP or inalienable rights theory, and only argue that since big corporations are in some sense “social” they should fall in the “public sphere” and thus be in some sense subject to “democratic” control. This is like an “abolitionist” arguing that big slave plantations were inherently “social” and thus should be held accountable to public standards, not like some dark private abode where the master would be unchecked. Again Marx played into the hands of capitalist apologetics by accepting the public-vs.-private framing of the question, and by arguing for public rather than private ownership of the means of production.


Marx blew the real precursors of the LTP off the orthodox intellectual map since Marx accepted the bogus framing of the questions by capitalist apologetics and thus Marx became the perfect “true opponent” or foil on the intellectual battlefield. In that sense, Marx and Marxism could be seen as the perfect intellectual opposition just as the Soviet Union was the perfect real world example as “the” alternative to capitalism. Both sides in the Cold War agreed on that framing of the Great Debate. Now the Soviet Union and that whole “model” is gone, but capitalist apologists and their Marxist counterparts are less willing to toss their “Great (pseudo-)Debate” into the dustbin of intellectual history.


For at least the above five reasons, Marx has been a blessing to capitalist apologetics and an unmitigated disaster for the critique of the employment system. In terms of popular culture, it is as if Marx was sent back by the capitalists of the future as the “terminator” of the libertarian and democratic left, and that Marx did his job all too well. Marxism has become the ultimate capitalist tool.


…the imputation of the invisible judge will be correct according to the LTP. The key conditions were: 1) no transfers outside of contracts (i.e., no property externalities), and 2) the fulfillment of a transfer contract by the de facto transfer of the sold property or commodity from the responsibility of the seller to the responsibility of the buyer. The employment contract inherently violates that second condition since responsible human action is not interpersonally transferable as the legal authorities are well aware as when the criminous employee contends in court: “But I sold my labor!” Thus to get the employment system to work, all the legal authorities have to do is “accept” the employee obeying the legal commands of the employer as “fulfilling” the contract and the invisible judge does the rest automatically. The legal authorities never have to “say” that noncriminous employees are non-responsible; the question does not come up. Thanks to Marx, it doesn’t even come up in the “Great Debate” about capitalism. In any case, the legal principle of holding people responsible for their deliberate actions is ancient, and the search for the precursors of the LTP-as-responsibility-principle would be lost in the mists of time.


…the first connection between the imputation of responsibility and property appropriation (the Lockean question) was made by the combined efforts of two capitalist apologists rather than by the critics of capitalism—who were largely lost wandering in the dark Marxian woods.


Apologists such as Von Wieser and Clark were “precursors” by mis-applying the LTP/responsibility principle before the critics figured out how to apply it correctly! The apologists knew better than the Marxist Left what theories had to be defanged and metaphorically reinterpreted in order to make the world intellectually safe for an economy based on the renting of people.



also see: Embracing Markets, Opposing “Capitalism”

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  1. Pingback: Socialism: A Perfectly Good Word Rehabilitated – LibertⒶrianous

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