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Troy Jollimore on Markets and Morality

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Posted on Jul 22, 2010

By Troy Jollimore

“With the collapse of communism, markets and the political theories that advocate expanding the market have been enjoying a considerable resurgence,” writes Stanford University professor Debra Satz in her new book, “Why Some Things Should Not Be for Sale: The Moral Limits of Markets.” “Markets are not only spreading across the globe, but they are also extending to new domains, such as environmental pollution. For many people market institutions are assuming the role of an all-purpose remedy for the defects of the cumbersome government bureaucracies of the Western world, the poverty of the Southern world, and the coercive state control of the planned economies. This remains true despite the recent economic downturn.”

Indeed, the market’s stock has perhaps never been higher, and the idea that the voluntary exchange of goods between free individuals might answer every significant economic, social and even ethical question has perhaps never been more widely accepted. But in the midst of all this celebration of the market’s virtues—and let us admit, as Satz is perfectly willing to admit, that a market can indeed be a very efficient and effective means of coordinating complicated activities among a large group of individuals with differing agendas—there are also some reasons for concern. Efficient, after all, does not necessarily imply admirable or just (or even, on occasion, tolerable). Moreover, technological advances have made available types of markets that were not possible before. Fertile women can now rent out their wombs for nine months and become surrogate mothers. And while it is not yet legal in this country for individuals to sell their kidneys and other bodily organs to those who need them, such a day may not be far off.

Indeed, given the current shortage of healthy organs, the creation of a market for them might seem not only inevitable but eminently sensible. And there is also, of course, the moral argument for allowing such sales: My kidneys are mine (if not, then whose are they?), and the fact that something is mine gives me certain rights over it, including, ordinarily, the right to sell it to someone else at a price that we both agree on. This argument forms the core of the standard libertarian explanation of why we should have free markets in organs, in surrogate motherhood, in prostitution and, indeed, in pretty much everything.

 

book cover

 

Why Some Things Should Not Be for Sale: The Moral Limits of Markets

 

By Debra Satz

 

Oxford University Press, 264 pages

 

Buy the book

Is it true, though, that the right to something must always include the right to freely exchange it? Take what is perhaps the most compelling apparent counter-example, that of vote-buying. I suppose we could imagine a supremely committed libertarian who would argue, in Robert Nozick’s memorable phrase, that government ought not to prohibit “capitalist acts between consenting adults”—not even when what is for sale is an individual’s right to vote in an election. But it would be difficult, one suspects, to find very many people who would accept this. Nearly all of us understand that the very functioning of a democracy depends on the powerful and wealthy not having the ability simply to buy their way into the country’s political offices—at least not in so blatant a manner.

Vote-selling, then, is a fairly easy and noncontroversial case of a market that ought not to be permitted. But where else should the market not go? The most controversial cases discussed by Satz are probably those of surrogate motherhood, which is currently permitted in the U.S., and organ selling, which is not. In contrast to the vote-selling case, allowing a market to operate in either of these contexts might not seem inherently anti-democratic. The popular perception, indeed, is that if restricting markets in such goods is justifiable, it is so because to put such goods on the market is to value them in the wrong way: It degrades or demeans a womb or kidney to offer cash for the use of it.

But of course this reason for prohibiting such markets meets strong opposition from the libertarian, who will simply ask: Shouldn’t it be up to the person who owns the good in question whether or not offering it up in exchange for cash is appropriate? If an individual agrees that kidneys are sacred, in a way that makes such exchanges inappropriate, then she need not offer her own kidneys for sale. But what right do we have to impose our own value judgments on others?

To see long excerpts from “Why Some Things Should Not Be for Sale,” click here and go to Google Books.

Satz’s approach is quite different, and renders the cases of surrogate motherhood and organ sale much closer to the vote-selling case. On her view, what all or nearly all “noxious” markets have in common is that they undermine the ideal of equal standing between persons, or of equal democratic citizenship:

A market exchange based in desperation, humiliation, or begging or whose terms involve bondage or servitude is not an exchange between equals. On my view, lurking behind many, if not all, noxious markets are problems relating to the standing of the parties before, during, and after the process of exchange.

I will also argue in this chapter that some markets are noxious and need to be blocked or severely constrained if the parties are to be equals in a particular sense, as citizens in a democracy. […] As I see it, a major problem with noxious markets is not that they represent inferior ways of valuing goods (as those who link the limits of markets to social meanings claim) but that they undermine the conditions that people need if they are to relate as equals.

Particularly worrisome, in terms of equality concerns, are exchanges in which one of the parties is in a position to exploit the “underlying extreme vulnerabilities” of the other:

[W]hen a desperately poor person agrees to part with an asset at a fire sale price, even if the exchange improves his well-being we are rightly concerned with the fact that his circumstances made him willing to accept an offer for his asset that no one with a decent alternative would ever accept. When a person enters a contract from a position of extreme vulnerability he is likely to agree to almost any terms that are offered.

Such vulnerabilities are morally salient in, for instance, the organ case: According to many people, Satz writes, “a kidney sale is objectionable because it is a paradigmatic desperate exchange, an exchange no one would ever make unless faced with no reasonable alternative.” Sales of this kind are objectionable on the individual level, but the objections multiply when one considers the general social context. “It has been keenly noted that international organ markets transfer organs from poor to rich, third world to first world, female to male, and nonwhite to white.” (One might be reminded of Kazuo Ishiguro’s novel “Never Let Me Go”—a comparison explicitly drawn by Satz—which depicts the plight of a subclass of human clones grown solely so that their organs can be harvested for the benefit of the ailing wealthy.)

Organ sales also tend to involve another characteristic feature of objectionable markets, weak agency, which in Satz’s usage most often indicates that one of the transacting parties is significantly under-informed. Many potential organ sellers in India, for instance, are quite unaware of the results of a recent study of kidney sellers in that country: Over 86 percent of participants experienced a substantial decline in health following their surgery, and 79 percent said they regretted the decision to sell their kidneys. And even if one knows those facts, imagination can fail us: It is hard to anticipate, perhaps, what it is like to have a kidney surgically removed and to live without it.

 


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By Foucauldian, July 31, 2010 at 7:49 pm Link to this comment

Shenon, let me focus on your key idea.  You say:

“Capitalism is based on individual rights
and is the only sociopolitical, economic order that is based on the doctrine of individual rights.  So to argue for or against capitalism one must not forget to argue simultaneously for or against individual rights.”

I know exactly what you mean.  And a couple of years ago, I’d held exact same position (see for example my article for BC, “The Hidden Dimension of American Politics, Part III,” as per link:  http://blogcritics.org/politics/article/the-hidden-dimensions-of-american-politics2/).  In particular, see reference to the introduction to E. M. Forster’s Howards End, the quote by Richard Rorty.  But that was before my Foucault stage. 

Anyway, I no longer consider economic rights on par with other kinds of rights guaranteed by the liberal democracies - not with the kind of abuses that attend those “rights.”  Rights, anyway, is a relational concept, it partakes of obligations, recognition of the larger community, the whole shebang.  True, they have been a pivotal concept in political philosophy for the past two hundred years, a concept which, when pursued aggressively, resulted in a great many accomplishments in terms of splintered liberation movements on behalf of women, gays, blacks, and so forth.  But we’re over that phase, at least in America we are (although universal healthcare is still being debated, erroneously, I might add, in terms of “rights”). Consequently, I’m beginning to think that the concept of rights has outlived its usefulness.  To use Susan Sontag’s turn of phrase, it’s time to start doing political philosophy in a new key.

On a minor note:  you’re misrepresenting the movement of history when you speak of “return to feudalism.”  As I argued earlier, except for periods of reaction, history doesn’t usually unfold that way, replicating the past.  New historical forms are new historical forms, period (in spite of “family resemblances).  Only people are that reactionary - e.g., neo-positivism, neo-conservatism, etc.

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By tolstoyscat, July 31, 2010 at 7:45 pm Link to this comment

Also, what do you really mean by saying that “property has no agency.”  It’s not a very helpful way of talking.

That was just an ironic comment directed to Anarcissie to tease her for our scuffle over markets and agency. It was sort of a joke.

No wonder it wasn’t helpful. wink

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By tolstoyscat, July 31, 2010 at 7:24 pm Link to this comment

“I can hire one half of the working class to kill the other half.” - Jay Gould, 19th century American financier and railroad businessman

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By Foucauldian, July 31, 2010 at 7:10 pm Link to this comment

Anarcissie,

I believe we’re slowly getting to the point of common understanding.

Let me distinguish, however, between two modes of my thought.  The first is the critique of the capitalism system as a sociological and economic reality.  The purpose is to acquire full understanding, discover weak spots, and develop general strategies.  In this mode, however, I don’t entertain any illusion that the system can be obliterated in toto by one single magical stroke.  Far from it.  So don’t get me wrong, thinking I’m entertaining such a possibility.  That’s not the purpose of my analysis.  If anything, I’m convinced the system will self-destroy from within, with or without the aid human agency, by virtue of historical forces alone.  And what will arise out of ashes no one can tell (although I have some ideas).

Meanwhile, one can only experiment on the fringes,
by means of guerrilla tactics, and hope for the best.
I’ve already spoken of local solutions, such as permaculture, for instance, and there are other experiments at work, in India and Brazil most particularly.  The alternatives will emerge on the ground, on a piecemeal basis. 

So I hope this post made things clearer for you.

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By Foucauldian, July 31, 2010 at 6:53 pm Link to this comment

TC,

Of course, a more enlightened kind of arrangement, a step down from my small-scale, community’s
farmer market scenario, would be one in which the individual, subsistence-farming properties are pulled together, as it were, to form a “combine”  (and old Soviet Union term) which is held/owned in common, by the entire community - a cooperative, in other words.

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By Foucauldian, July 31, 2010 at 6:46 pm Link to this comment

TC,

I wouldn’t call something profit if it’s a fair exchange for one’s labor.  (I’m not talking now of barter- or gift economy, but of a community’s “farmer’s market” on a small scale, where not everyone’s a farmer and money is still the medium of exchange.  That’s why the distinction between labor value and exchange value is critical.  And it’s also critical to make a distinction between types of property and the use to which it is being put.

Ownership of means of production (which also entails employing laborers for the purpose of producing a commodity) obviously is a different kind of ownership than ownership of a small patch of land for the purpose of subsistence farming and getting a fair recompense for what is produced extra.  The latter case comes close to a mutual aid kind of setup Kropotkin had in mind.

So I think we’re pretty much on the same page thus far.

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By Anarcissie, July 31, 2010 at 6:16 pm Link to this comment

I agree that the general category of ideas we call property presents complex issues.  It is necessary for human beings (and others) to appropriate parts of the world so that they can live and do what they want to do.  When conflict arises over scarce items, property—a set of established social relations about possessed things—is a way of solving the conflicts in advance by assigning some items to owners and others to others, or to combinations of persons, or even to abstract or possibly non-existent entities, and prescribing practices by which possessions may be exchanged.  A community’s concepts of property are usually embodied in customs or laws which are in turn embedded in a larger system of ideas about the world, persons, the gods, etc. etc. etc., which means they may vary considerably from one community to another, and from one time to another.

Obviously property concepts and practices can be used oppressively or exploitively; I have already given the example of Negro slavery in the United States.  They can also be changed, sometimes very rapidly, as witness the Intellectual Property laws, which have suddenly made the Disney Corporation’s exclusive, monopolistic appropriation of an Italian folk character (Topolino) virtually immortal under the name of Mickey Mouse.  Another example is the very rapid propertization of the broadcast spectrum. 

My view of the situation is that there is enough room in the present social order, including its property system, to make it possible to develop something else, which to me is the important thing.  This doesn’t mean I think the present system is desirable or legitimate.  Instead of challenging the system as a whole, I think new ways of doing things can be cultivated in its interstices.  (Here I am speaking of the U.S.; more authoritarian regimes may present more difficult problems.)  The present problem here—and this is why I speak of “agency”—is that at this time not very many people actually want to do it, although a good many seem to want someone to do it for them, maybe sort of. 

In regard to the Jesse Jackson speech, I could appreciate both sides of the “discussion”.  But many cannot.

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By tolstoyscat, July 31, 2010 at 3:12 pm Link to this comment

Shenonymous, July 31 at 6:49 pm

I agree with you and think you explained well capitalism’s basis in private property.

But anarchism provides for individual liberty as well. You argument that an argument against capitalism must argue against individual liberties is flawed for that reason, I think.

I also think it isn’t picayune to distinguish between various types of private property. Actually, I think it’s pretty important to decide whether owning the earth is the same as owning your toothbrush.

Finally, I think your opinion about what is an advancement and what is backward is biased.

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By Shenonymous, July 31, 2010 at 2:52 pm Link to this comment

For ThomasG:  The more I read about social capital and how it can
fund socialized capitalism as an economic system the more I think
it is the wave of the future and the only way that capitalism can work. 
I also believe a comprehensive revisit to John Dewey’s ideas would
put the idea on a track that would be easy assimilated in the
culture.  He understood social capital and how it could work to
improve the world.  Lyda Hanifan’s showed exactly how social
capital could work and his 1913 essays and lectures are worth
studying. 

For a nonpareil of definition of social capital and how it can work as
socialized capitalism the 2004 analysis by James Farr, “Social Capital A
Conceptual History” is about the best there is. In his words, “Social
capital may be – because [historically] it has been – used as a figurative
term for a prospective and productive fund that is created by shared,
public work.”  As such it relies for its metaphoric power on the
dominant discourse of economics in a capitalist society.  It is not a form
of capital in spite of their common association with the ideas of work
and other apparent economic matters.  Shared and public work is the
first order of social capital, and it needs constant refunding.  As Farr
also points out, the public work of civic education organized in specific
programs is a primary objective.  The notion of sympathy is its moral
psychological underpinning and on which it is dependent for its
success.  Sympathy in this case means the fundamental capacity for one
to imagine oneself in the place of others and to consider
consequentially their welfare in our own place.  On sympathy also
depends cooperation and solidarity including the idea of trust. 

Farr offers three suggestions for a reconsideration of social capital
which I will present in my next post.

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By Shenonymous, July 31, 2010 at 2:49 pm Link to this comment

Without private property there is no capitalism.  Capitalism is
based on private ownership of the means of production with a
completely uncontrolled and unregulated economy and all land is
privately owned.  Laissez faire is a complete separation of economy
and state. That has been proven not to work very well.  A new
configuration is required.  However, separation is only one
facet of capitalism.  Capitalism is based on individual rights
and is the only sociopolitico economic order that is based on
the doctrine of individual rights.  So to argue for or against
capitalism one must not forget to argue simultaneously for or
against individual rights.  Capitalism indeed recognizes that
individuals own his/her own life, and as long as the individual
does not violate the rights of others, one has the right to live as one
chooses.  Hence, essentially capitalism, promotes social harmony
through the pursuit of self-interest.  Markets associated with
capitalism have to do with trading and trading is about buying
and selling property and goods for profit.  What is so hard about
understanding that?  Bartering is an archaic way to do business on a
grand scale al though on a very small format it is possible.

The picayune requirement to microscopically define property is really
moot.  Property can be anything that can be owned and traded.  It
could be chickens or chicken scratch or chicken shit, or peach pits if
there is a market for them, or peachy ideas.  Anarcissie made excellent
distinctions so the belaboring about what she means by property is like
picking dead skin from a sunburn.

History will be preserved and all the pros and cons of every
socioeconomic system from now on out as long as humanity survives
will be available for inspection and study.  There won’t be devolution
even if it romantically seems a possibility.  A new Middle Ages just is
not in the future.  Electronic media will save all ideas ones tried
successfully and others that have failed for posterity as all literature,
academic or otherwise is being committed to the electronic archives.  It
isn’t like what each system consists will be lost to humankind. 
Capitalistic, socialistic, and anarchistic systems are known for what they
are.  While there are still some feudal systems working even in the 21st
c. they are on their way out in favor of democracies.  Eventually the
entire world will be under democratic systems.

Trial and error is the mode by which humans learn.  It is in that way we
can say we learn from history, by doing and failing, just as Darwin
noticed.  In failing we learn how to succeed.

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By tolstoyscat, July 31, 2010 at 2:41 pm Link to this comment

F,

Interesting. Maybe the circumstance of profit isn’t as important as whether the purpose is profit.

If one gives things away freely, is someone profiting from receiving them? Getting something for nothing? (I’m not being ironic, I really am asking if this is considered profit in your meaning below.)

If I give you a bushel of apples but I only need 6 ears of corn, you profit yes? But in a gift economy, for example, the profit like that doesn’t matter, if it can be called that.

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By Foucauldian, July 31, 2010 at 1:15 pm Link to this comment

Of course I agree, TC, in the general sense.  I was just trying to make Anarcissie spell out what exactly she means by property.  Is everything included?  The chicken one raises on the little patch or land, the fruits and vegetable one grows through their own effort, things of that nature?

True, we must make the all-important distinction Marx raises, between use value and exchange value.  And the the things I was talking about in paragraph one pose no problem when they’re obtained for one’s consumption.

But let’s complicate things a bit.  We have the so-called “Farmers Market” when those items are being sold.  It’s a more benign kind of market, you’ve got to admit, than WallMarts or Safeway, of course.  One could argue that the goods sold are those that are in excess of the consumption need and at a minimum of profit.  We’re not talking about large farms, think very small ones indeed.

In times prior, there was the barter system.  Still a market in a manner of speaking, still hinging on there being a “property” - goods and services one produces through one’s own labor - in the limited sense I’m speaking of “property.”  So what’s your take on that?  It is precisely those things that I had in mind when I quizzed Anarcissie about the property concept - how extensive was it for her.

As to the use of the term “market,” I have no problem with it; of course, the term has become corrupted, and can understand why people would want to come up with a different term.

Also, what do you really mean by saying that “property has no agency.”  It’s not a very helpful way of talking.  Try to put in in some other way.

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By tolstoyscat, July 31, 2010 at 12:20 pm Link to this comment

Though I would like to point out that property has no agency. wink

Sorry, I just had to.

My take on markets is that if you have a system that is based on exploitation, and you indoctrinate people into seeing it as the only reality, the idea of agency is moot. The market system, itself, justifies and is based on exploitation.

I should look around for a need and fill it…doesn’t matter if the need is based in human degradation. Most important is my profit. Those is part of a profit market premise.

A profit market a community where places profit above human life and welfare. It is, in and of itself as effective in creating agents who follow its tenets, as easily as a wall along your property will keep me walking along a sidewalk rather than over it. And there is nothing particularly evil or selfish about me for walking the way I am socially directed. I am a social animal.

I don’t consider a market necessary for trade. I consider a market to be related to profit. If one wants to call something that is not based in profit and competition a ‘market’, then that’s fine. However, I will exclude such a forum from my claims about markets in general.

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By tolstoyscat, July 31, 2010 at 12:06 pm Link to this comment

Foucauldian, July 30 at 11:16 pm

My two cents—Capitalism relies on private property, private property is what makes capitalism both possible and sustains it.

Capitalism, as far as I can see, always first co-opts property from common access. It is how scarcity is controlled.

Here is a recitation of a poem I like that alludes to this: Money (or Money Rant?) by Benjamin Zephaniah. From the Lyrics:

Food is necessary. Let me grow my food. An them can eat their money.

I like what Anarcissie says in the post, July 31 at 12:20 pm. It makes sense to me.

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By Foucauldian, July 31, 2010 at 10:47 am Link to this comment

A very thoughtful post, Anarcissie, one of your best. 

A number of questions, however.  First, why do you express the set of available/possible/potential alternatives in terms of Capitalism versus Feudalism?
Surely you don’t think I’m suggesting we revisit the past.  History always moves forward except for periods of reaction:  two steps forward, one step back, that’s the usual progression.  So no, I don’t envisage a return to feudalism as part of the solution, although I grant that some features of the pre-capitalist era may well be reinstated.  But even so, it wouldn’t be feudalism any more.  Terms from the historical past become obsolete and singularly unhelpful when applied to new and changing circumstances, even if some of the old features may reappear under novel condition.

As a matter of fact, we’re beginning to see germs of a solution here and there, though they’re being applied locally and small-scale.  The movement called “permaculture” is making inroads in select communities.  Google Catherine Austin Fitts’ Solari website, for instance, and I can provide you with links to ingenious approaches that are being tried in the Third World, India in particular.  But no, none of them are feudal in nature. 

Of course, the shape of the world to come is impossible to envisage, but it is from efforts such as these that the mold will be made.  I’m convinced that capitalism is falling apart from within on account of its inherent contradictions, that it’s only a matter of time, and whatever new economic forms will emerge, they won’t be the same. 

You cite Jesse Jackson’s call to arms, “Jobs, not jails.”  Surely it’s understandable given the predicament of African-Americans having been denied opportunities to succeed in a culture which prides itself on the ethos of success, any kind of success.  But this surely is an American peculiarity, and certainly not shared by the rest of the world, however much everyone strives for economic betterment.  America does present a skewed picture of humanity, hardly representative of other peoples and nations, and it shouldn’t be used for generalization purposes.  The psychosis we as American experience is local.

Which is to say that solutions may well originate elsewhere.  Look at Greece, for example, or even Spain or Portugal.  They all share a sense of solidarity when it comes to the working classes, even those who work for the government.  It’s a non-existent concept in the present-day America (excepting the labor unions of old), and all so refreshing. 

It may still hit our shores, but for the time being, everyone here thinks only of themselves, there being no sense that every person’s lot is inextricably tied up with that of every other.  Things will have to get infinitely far more worse before they can get better.

Meanwhile, we keep on shopping at Walmart and suffer from false consciousness.

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By Anarcissie, July 31, 2010 at 8:20 am Link to this comment

Foucauldian, July 30 at 11:16 pm:

‘Anarcissie,
I don’t believe we were discussing strategies, that’s a topic for another time and place.

My question was of a different nature - do you think that dismantling of capitalism - however it is going to come about, whether by revolutionary action, historical processes, attrition, and we can think here of any number of scenarios - will necessarily bring about a radical change in property relations? ...’

Well, past developments have.  For instance, slavery, which was one of the founding principles of civilization and was approved of by practically everybody from Aristotle to John Locke, suddenly became untenable (although some forms of property in other persons remain).  The right to own and use land was extended to virtually all adults.  Land use came under government regulation.  New forms of space (for example, the broadcast spectrum and mechanical reproduction of cultural artifacts) were discovered or created and then propertized.  Then people found ways to break the boundaries of these new forms of property.  There is an ongoing struggle.  As capitalism evolves or deteriorates (or both) I expect to see the struggle continue.

I don’t know about the total abolition of private property, but obviously as long as a lot of people have to sell their labor power to live, or think they do, and others possess the means of production, capitalism is not only going to exist, people are going to demand it, e.g. Jesse Jackson’s “Jobs not jails!”, that is, “Capitalism, not feudalism!”  (When he said this during a public oration I attended in New York City many years ago, a punk-rocker standing next to me snorted, “What’s the difference?” and walked away.)

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By ThomasG, July 30, 2010 at 7:42 pm Link to this comment

Foulcauldian in his July 30, 2010 10:42pm post yips like a dog that has run to the end of his chain, as if I would talk to a dog, rather than just to observe that the dog is barking.

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By Foucauldian, July 30, 2010 at 7:16 pm Link to this comment

Anarcissie,

I don’t believe we were discussing strategies, that’s a topic for another time and place.

My question was of a different nature - do you think that dismantling of capitalism - however it is going to come about, whether by revolutionary action, historical processes, attrition, and we can think here of any number of scenarios - will necessarily bring about a radical change in property relations? 

You took the most radical view, so it seems, when you equated capitalism with private property (a misleading proposition, however daring), arguing thus that private property is the sufficient condition for capitalism (and consequently that abolition of private property is a must).  Again, I’m not certain that it’s so.

So can you answer this simple question, yes or no?  Of course the question is far from simple, but it was your proposition, and I’m holding you accountable for it.

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By Anarcissie, July 30, 2010 at 6:57 pm Link to this comment

Foucauldian—The production of scarcity is the feature which defines the turn from what I call subsistence capitalism to consumerist capitalism.  In the U.S. this turn occurred early in the 20th century with the rise of advertising.

I don’t think I can give any good advice on revolutionary technique.  Well, actually, I can, but it’s long-winded.  The very short form is that capitalism is a stage of development which is natural to the present state of human culture, which of course includes certain ideas about property (currently undergoing a kind of hypertrophy).  Those ideas will change as the culture changes, but I’m not sure what route people will choose to take.  In history, they often take the most difficult route.  (For example, in getting rid of Negro slavery in the U.S., the method was to fight a civil war and devastate the Southern part of the country, and then drop the job half-done.)  I try to push things my way, others other ways.

Right now, I think the most urgent task for activists is to try to back the U.S. away from continuous war and imperialism and the development of a police state.  This is a conservative, rather than a revolutionary program, so those interested in it should be able to find plenty of allies.  Later we can argue over whither and how to progress.

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By Foucauldian, July 30, 2010 at 6:42 pm Link to this comment

ThhomasG,

My discussion is with Anarcisse.  I believe I’ve made it clear that as far as I am concerned, you have no understanding to impart.  So keep on posting all you want, but for your information, you will be ignored.

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By ThomasG, July 30, 2010 at 6:26 pm Link to this comment

Arguing over whether or not the divisions of labor will or will not allow for Capitalism to have or not have equitable distribution is a false argument; the legitimate argument is whether or not Capital that is generated by the economic activity and commerce of Capitalism can be equitably distributed? ——and, the answer to the question is Yes it can, by the use of Social Capital and Socialized Capitalism, and I have thoroughly explained Social Capital and the Process of Socialized Capitalism on various Truthdig threads, so that all who want to understand the process have sufficient information to do so; apparently from Foucauldian’s post July 25 at 9:01pm, no amount of information is sufficient to impart understanding to Foucauldian, and that, to me, resolves itself down to a personal problem of Foucauldian’s ability to perceive anything other than what he wants to believe.

The Pyramid Scheme of Capitalism is by its very nature inequitable, and to argue over the inequitable nature of that which is inherently inequitable is a false argument. 

However, the proceeds of Capitalism as a Ponzi Scheme produces Capital and that Capital as Social Capital, rather than Private Capital, can be used equitably to produce an equitable revenue stream for Social Purpose, as well as for Private Purpose

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By Foucauldian, July 30, 2010 at 12:50 pm Link to this comment

I wasn’t discussing the means of abolishing or bypassing capitalism - only whether abolishing of capitalism is predicated on abolishing the system of private property (to an extent yet to be specified). About this question I’m still undecided; but judging by your comments, you seem to think so.

Am I therefore correct in assuming that on your view of things, capitalism cannot be dealt a mortal blow unless something be done concerning the present system of property relations? 

As to “scarcity,” I have two comments.  First, much of it is “manufactured” - similarly to what Chomsky had in mind when speaking of “manufacturing consent.”  And second, whatever scarcity there exists, it’s a direct result of accumulated wealth and resources in too few hands.

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By Anarcissie, July 30, 2010 at 10:13 am Link to this comment

Obviously one can abolish capitalism simply by resuming feudal relations.  One observes this in gangs, mafias, and idealized fascist groups, where capitalism for some reason has failed a group of people or a whole community.  Property relations remain, but the labor market disappears because people are assigned work by their authorities, are bound to their masters, and so on.

However, one might want to come out on the top rather than the bottom.  I think this development is going to call into question the system of property as we know it, since it is by means of that system that the scarcities which perpetuate capitalism are maintained.

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By Foucauldian, July 30, 2010 at 9:50 am Link to this comment

If your argument is that the capitalism system is a system of property put into certain use, I don’t have any particular problem with that formulation with a proviso of course:  you have to specify and describe the complex system which has evolved; and therein lies the rub.

One the other hand, if your argument is that in order to abolish capitalism one has to abolish private property, I haven’t come yet to that conclusion.  (I suppose the determination may hinge on how extensive is your definition of “private property.”)

Otherwise, we’re just quibbling over words, and that’s not my game.

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By Anarcissie, July 30, 2010 at 8:00 am Link to this comment

Foucauldian, July 29 at 5:41 pm:

‘... More importantly, can you have markets without property?  The agora (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Agora) is an early example, a forum where the community would get together and conduct “business” - political, social and commercial.  And if memory serves, there wasn’t any “violence” on account of whatever property there existed or the market itself.  A “market of ideas,” such as may exist within the walls of a Free University of among the community of scholars/participants/disputants, need not be tainted by any violence either.’

The term market in common contemporary usage denotes a situation in which actors who possess property (or some claim to it) exchange specific items of their property for specific items of the property of others, so that the ownership and use-value of the items changes hands.  Ideas, knowledge, and the like don’t work this way because after the possessors of an idea, a fact, a work of art, etc., impart it to others they still retain it in its full utility—the only thing that has been lost is a monopoly on the idea.  It is not really property as a material possession (until intellectual-property laws come along) and thus violence is not involved or implied (until intellectual-property laws come along). 

In a school, what is usually up for sale or trade is the time and energy of teachers and trainers (which the owners do not retain if given up), but the knowledge and skills they impart and the time and energy it takes to impart them may be exchanged under the gift economy or communism, rather than bought and sold.  This in fact was the general practice in human gatherings—agoras—until the last few centuries.


‘... What I fail to see is why you’re hiding behind the idea of property as the sole perpetrator of violence?  Is there a taboo against using the C- word when referring to the real culprit.  Capitalism and the system of private property are not the same; the former is far more extensive, there being plenty of add-ons.  Conflating the two only obfuscates the issue. ...’

I would put it the other way around—that capitalism is a particular disposition of property, which in turn is a realization of political power.  Property is not the sole perpetrator of violence, but it is a vehicle for certain kinds of violence.

Capitalism is extremely productive and thus revolutionary; the energies it creates and releases may be used by anyone who has the power to do violence regardless of whether the perpetrators believe in capitalism or not.  Capitalism produced nuclear weapons, but Genghis Khan or the Roman emperors would have been glad to make use of them without troubling themselves about their pedigree.  Their spiritual descendants feel the same way.

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By Foucauldian, July 29, 2010 at 1:47 pm Link to this comment

Correction:  truth-value

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By Foucauldian, July 29, 2010 at 1:41 pm Link to this comment

Anarcissie (post July 28, 12:13 am)

At least it’s short and sweet.  We don’t need no stinkin dissertations; they’re loaded.

1A “if you’re saying that human beings don’t have agency, then they’re helpless and hopeless and we might as well stop worrying about them.”

I haven’t said anything of the kind.  What I said is their freedom of action is severely constrained by the social institutions, in this case the market.  It’s constrained by virtue of the fact that markets are the most natural thing to them, they see nothing wrong with the picture.

1B “I don’t think anyone was arguing that humans operate with unlimited freedom.”

Of course no one was arguing that in any overt manner.  But it was being implied by minimizing the extent to which the human agents were unconstrained and didn’t suffer from “false consciousness.”  Hence my caricature to offer the needed corrective. 

2 “As for the moral violence of markets, I don’t see it.  You could say that markets pass on the violence of property to human relations, but property precedes markets and you can have property without markets.”

A More importantly, can you have markets without property?  The agora (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Agora) is an early example, a forum where the community would get together and conduct “business” - political, social and commercial.  And if memory serves, there wasn’t any “violence” on account of whatever property there existed or the market itself.  A “market of ideas,” such as may exist within the walls of a Free University of among the community of scholars/participants/disputants, need not be tainted by any violence either.

B Consequently, it’s not the idea of market per se that is under scrutiny, only the institution of the market as is has evolved (devolved is an apter term) under the auspices of capitalism.

The general point is even the most viable and functional concepts may undergo degeneration through history; and the capitalist market is a perfect example.

C You speak of violence that comes with property.  Fair enough.  I speak of violence that comes with capitalism.  (Property preceded capitalism.)  “Market” is just a convenient shorthand, a bird’s eye view of capitalism at work, a syndrome.  The same with “commodity,” a more foundational term than that of a “market” and the starting point of Marx’s analysis.  There were no “commodities” prior to the advent of capitalism.  There were goods and services.  The concept of commodity is a capitalist invention.  Consequently, my critique is a critique of the capitalist system itself - the ideas of commodity and market figure in only as symptoms.

What I fail to see is why you’re hiding behind the idea of property as the sole perpetrator of violence?  Is there a taboo against using the C- word when referring to the real culprit.  Capitalism and the system of private property are not the same; the former is far more extensive, there being plenty of add-ons.  Conflating the two only obfuscates the issue.

D “Markets are otherwise just the more or less free interaction of one with another.”

Why insert this proposition into your counter-argument (especially since we both agree as to its true value, as regards, that is, the idea of market as such?  [The (unintended?) effect is only to muddy up the discussion.  Let’s stick to issues we disagree on.]

But of course, the idea of market in the abstract is not under discussion here, only its corrupt historical form under capitalism. 

3 “First you have to have the slavery.”

Just like “first you have to have property.”

The analogy misses the point because the entire capitalist system is under scrutiny, not just the idea of property.

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By Anarcissie, July 29, 2010 at 7:59 am Link to this comment

Shenonymous—choice is associated with value.  One way of measuring values is to set them in choice order.  I think this is a method of analysis which may miss some important aspects of value, but it’s no doubt useful to advance some lines of thought.

So if economics is about choice, it’s about value, and if it’s about value then it is not a surprise that the performance of economists is so poor: they’re trying to psychoanalyze six billion people at once, plus their interactions with each other and with the material world, which in a sense has another set of “values”.

The problem is partially solved by constructing very limited frameworks of observation, which work some of the time.

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By christian96, July 29, 2010 at 1:21 am Link to this comment

Do we really have “free choice?”  I read in another
article where a man in Maryland faces 16 years for
videotaping a police officer.  The Nazis have begun.
All we need now is a dynamic speaker who can unite
the country against the Jews.  Instead of the Jews
why don’‘t we make it lawyers and politicians this
time.  Off with them to the gas chambers.  Can you
imagine America without lawyers and politicians?
Throw in the big-business leaders and I’ll stand
and say “Heil somebody!”

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By glider, July 28, 2010 at 7:59 pm Link to this comment

Shenonymous,

>>The needs of workers…becomes problematic and devices would be needed to prevent exploitation…And what about those who do not provide any revenue for the society…Don’t they automatically fall under the socialist umbrella?<<

In theory these decisions could be made by a democracy (which we are not).  However our forefathers failed to a produce a constitution that keeps the hands of moneyed interests out of the legislative cookie jar.  So we need an amendment that thoroughly separates corporations from the state.  But we have passed the point of no return.

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By Anarcissie, July 28, 2010 at 6:26 pm Link to this comment

Efficiency is reward less cost; or, if we want a ratio, actual reward less actual cost versus ideal or maximum reward less cost.  But reward and cost are values.  Values are subjective, or at least they vary from evaluator to evaluator.  So before we can say anything is efficient, effective, efficacious, good-better-best, etc., we have to ask what values frame the implied measurement.  Or maybe we should say whose values, because very often the powerful get to set quasi-universal values for everyone else.

There is little doubt that under some conditions of culture, capitalism appears to be the best, most efficient system to powerful people.  This is why Yeltsin and company took the Soviet Union out of whatever you want to call what they were doing and embarked, with rather disastrous results generally, on instant capitalism.  (The results weren’t disastrous for those with Swiss bank accounts, however.)  But this evaluation is not universal; I would prefer to live under a different set of arrangements, or at least I think I would.  For me capitalism is not necessarily efficient.

As to competition, capitalists are not necessarily interested in competition; most of them seem to try to avoid it or crush it should it appear.  The defining feature of capitalism is the private ownership and control of the means of production by the capitalist class, which requires the subordination and exploitation of a working class.  At least this is my definition, which I think reflects historical fact.  Libertarians, etc., have other definitions; for example, the ownership and control of the means of production by the people using them is socialism in my book, capitalism in theirs.

In actual operation, programs like Welfare, education, medical insurance and care, the judicial system and so forth are brutally competitive, especially for the destitute.  I think this reflects their function as payoffs to quiesce the lower orders about the class system: one makes the least payoff which will do the job.  It seems clear to me that the only fair, moral distribution of the social product, at least of basic goods, would be communistic.  But that’s another subject.  I’d rather continue to explore the paradoxes of liberalism, which has the twin virtues of actually existing and being written up by Debra Satz and reviewer Jollimore.

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By Shenonymous, July 28, 2010 at 4:59 pm Link to this comment

Anarcissie, I understand what you mean by human agency, I think.
It is the human capacity to act independently and to make one’s own
free choices in the world.  Not, though, with any particular moral
extension, meaning not with moral agency which would assign
responsibility to either an individual or a coherent group for
making moral judgments and taking actions that are consistent
with morality, but as an individual would engage the social structure.
Not that moral agency is unimportant but to talk about it might take
the discussion in different direction.

Seems to me that groups within a social structure however need a
catalyst, an individual actor, an agent, who motivates…  Perhaps I still
am not on the right wavelength?
  Historically, movements get started
from the idea and action of an individual, viz., of the Marx and Engels
collaboration Marx obviously had the most influence as the
socioeconomic political philosophy is called Marxism not Engelism. 
Jesus is the individual agent of Christianity, unless Paul is seen as that
agent. Then perhaps the religion should have been called Paulianity. 

I guess what I am getting at is an apparent incongruity that describes
theoretical/pragmatic inconsistencies.  If we just take the concept of
choice among the very basic categories of economics, which would at
the least include institutions, that is, networks of commercial
organizations, i.e., manufacturers, producers, wholesalers, retailers, and
buyers who generate, distribute, and purchase goods and services that
would be important to the economy of the country; markets; money;
social relationships; even the notion of uncertainty and change, there
seems to exist a consensus among the economic theorists that humans
possess the capacity of exercising real choice (Tony Lawson, Economics
and Reality, p.8).  They, the “mainstream” economists, have given a
name to this idea, Choice Theory, and some go so far as to say that
“economics is all about how people make choices.  And sociology is
all about why they don’t have any choices to make.”
(a J. S.
Duesenberry aphorism).  Agreed, I don’t think it is about individualism
per se, on individual choices, but on the capacity to act either as
individuals or as group on their choices.  Seems the theories of free
could force contention. Am I still out of the ball park? 

As a bad or sloppy habit, people often “do” a generalization instead of
being accurately specific, in reference to your comment on people
saying Germany but meaning a particular subgroup of Germany.

glider made a very good point that certain institutions, academics,
manufactured products, etc., excel better under a system of competition
such as capitalism is based, while a socialistic approach works more
optimally for other kinds of institutions such as health care…the ones
he named.  The needs of workers in either set, however, becomes
problematic and devices would be needed to prevent exploitation which
would include hours worked, working conditions, and equitable wages
and benefits.  And what about those who do not provide any revenue
for the society, children, seniors, the infirm or handicapped, full-time
poets
, etc.?  They actually deplete the coffers regardless of the
economic system.  Don’t they automatically fall under the socialist
umbrella?

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By glider, July 28, 2010 at 2:57 pm Link to this comment

It is nice to read such a civilized and thought provoking thread. I tend to come down on the side of not insisting upon ideological purity in constructing a society that requires at least two separate results, namely both efficient production and a core foundation of support for all citizens.  These different needs require different solutions.  For efficient production and technological advancement it is clear that a well regulated capitalistic market has produced the best results.  Competition works in academics, the computer industry, the auto industry, and so on better than any other system devised.  But likewise it is completely inappropriate for providing for core healthcare needs, inherently socialist insurance products, education, the justice and prison system, and vital economic gatekeeper functions such as banking and monetary system control.  Basically apply the best system for the goal to be achieved.

Christian96,
I have had some harsh arguments with you in the past but IMO you should pursue aggressive legal recourse for the outrageous assault you endured at the hospital.  Get checked out quickly to document any damage sustained.  If you have past tests that can validate that you have received recent damage consistent with the attack you would strengthen your case dramatically.

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By Anarcissie, July 28, 2010 at 9:07 am Link to this comment

Shenonymous, July 28 at 12:04 pm:

‘... It looks to me like Anarcissie wants to bring the
phenomenon of markets to the level of individuals while everyone else wants to keep it in the level of abstraction….’

I think the main difference between me and my interlocutors is my insistence on human agency, not on individualism.  I am pretty doubtful about the agency of emergent phenomena at the social level.  But groups can certainly agree on common goals and methods.  For example, people sometimes say Germany does something, but I think if this makes any sense it is shorthand for “the ruling class of the German state orders that something be done, and enough people go along with it to make it happen.”  The Lorelei sings on unaffected.

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By Shenonymous, July 28, 2010 at 8:04 am Link to this comment

It is said, ironically by theorists, that Economic Theory comes up
with propositions that run counterintuitive and when dimensions
are evaluated using instinctive feelings don’t fit reality.  Does
anyone have a truly good grip on the forces that work in economics?

Defined as the discipline that studies how scarce economic resources
are used to maximize production for a society, all things being equal
(ceteris paribus), isn’t it most important to see how individual
decision-making by consumers, those who own resources, and
the businesses found in a free-enterprise economy, relate to the
aggregate economic activity?  Oversimplifications have been
presented by all here who are discussing economics and associated
subjects.

Since economics more than greatly affects all our lives throughout life,
economic conditions determines exactly where we live, eat, are
schooled, where we work, and in the end decide how much money we
can earn.  In the abstract, economics affects the peace of our nation,
what our society is like so it is important that we understand the forces
that decides so much of our life. Trying to get a handle on this from
the superabundance of literature on the discipline I try to put it into a
kind of logical structure.  What comes first then second then third and
so forth so that thinking stays on a progressive path hopefully yielding
understanding if not perfect knowledge.

First comes desire in people to want something.  Then comes the
availability, then comes the concept of scarcity as the first rule of
market power.  This seems to be the way economics gets started.  At
least this seems to be the case when we think about the commodity
known as food for instance.  Everybody who has a brain knows there is
plenty of food in the world to feed the entire world.  Yet there is horrid
starvation.  There is also enough clothing, cars, and so forth. 
Economics is enigmatic because the supply of stuff is not less than the
desire, or need, called the demand.  But we are expected to believe this
arrangement and hence the tension between supply and demand is
translated into value or the prices assigned.  Furthermore, we have also
learned that if society can’t create enough demand, the government will
enter the picture and subsidize purchasing power as well as the
manufacturers and produce an artificial demand, thinking industry, jobs
and dribble down into income that allows the surpluses to be bought. 
So what now creates the marketplace is the tension known to be
created by marketeers between supply and demand.

Economists find their reason for their existence in their attempt to
simply what the reality is and to be able to discuss it with a minimum of
effort efficaciously is usually the adjective used. Economics as a science
collects data about some marketing event, i.e., the price of bananas,
and abstracts views form the data that attempts to explain the
principles that describes how the price of bananas are determined and
why it so radically changes.  They idealize, that is, they set up
uncomplicated hypotheses that reflect facts and learn from experience,
hopefully, even if simplification distorts the facts.

Hence, the price of bananas are determined from the interaction on the
market between expected and actual supply and the expected and
actual demand.  This is simply put how the market works.  But it is not
that simple, is it?  It looks to me like Anarcissie wants to bring the
phenomenon of markets to the level of individuals while everyone else
wants to keep it in the level of abstraction.  To understand economics,
markets, and morality, it also looks like some synthesis of the two
levels of thought needs to take place.  Doesn’t that mean to show how
the two actually relate not simply by implication?

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By Shenonymous, July 28, 2010 at 8:02 am Link to this comment

2.
The market is only a special set of circumstances that comes about
as a phenomenon located in a single point in space and time and
all the constituent parts are related not exactly as absolute values
but creates a transmutable value depending on supply and demand. 
Do I have this right?

As I see it, as already has been expressed in some form or other,
markets have no concrete existence, do not self-germinate, but has
to do with the action buying and selling of real articles of trade
traded by humans, or agents of action.  For a thing to be an action
there has to be actors, viz., agents of action.  Markets are a construct,
not hypothetical because it deals in realities – but are an abstraction
that has instances in the items of trade, such as bananas, or scarves,
etc., or even the writing of books these days where there is a huge
market that depends on the revenue generated by media appearances
to huckster the books.  This in an age when they (predictors of such
things) said that real paperbound books are becoming extinct! But I
digress.

As a device, a market does not carry out the process of distribution: of
food etc., and it certainly does not pay attention to the humiliated
starving and poverty stricken.  Markets are less like a fortuneteller and
more like an accountant’s ledger.  Shouldn’t the information be used to
read the accountants’ ledgers to understand what markets really are
and not what they are thought to be?

Economic predictions by market analysts frequently do not materialize. 
A 2007 Business & Media Institute report shows at least 10 economic
myths that drove those who pay attention to market and speak
marketese crazy. 
http://tinyurl.com/ysrt7h
and
http://myslu.stlawu.edu/~shorwitz/Good/myths.htm
with sources cited.

On the philosophical level, Foucauldian appears to want to dismiss
socialized capitalism in favor it seems of a neo-socialism, which he
defines not at all but simply talks about it in a sort of metadiscussion
of the situation.  We might all do well if ThomasG would answer my
questions, naive as they are, but, I have some unexplainable sense that
what he is proposing feels right from the plethora of literature I have
been reading but he needs to articulate his ideas so that feelings
transmutes into rational reason; and Anarcissie’s questions that are not
naïve; and if Foucauldian would give some statements that defines the
fundamental character of his view of what is the best economic path,
then we can judge both views for merit and engender a desire to carry
their ideas to others.

On what terra firma does anybody stand?  There is bound to be more
that needs to be said if the dialogue is to have any rational closure.

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By Anarcissie, July 28, 2010 at 8:00 am Link to this comment

You would have potlatches between different communes.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Potlatch

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By troll, July 28, 2010 at 6:21 am Link to this comment

So, what would a communist market look like?

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By Anarcissie, July 27, 2010 at 8:13 pm Link to this comment

Well, if you’re saying that human beings don’t have agency, then they’re helpless and hopeless and we might as well stop worrying about them.

I don’t think anyone was arguing that humans (or anything else) operates with unlimited freedom.

As for the moral valence of markets, I don’t see it.  You could say that markets pass on the violence of property to human relations, but property precedes markets and you can have property without markets.  Markets are otherwise just the more or less free interaction of one with another.  (By free I mean anarchic or authorityless, not unconstrained.)

I guess a slave market in the Old South exemplifies what I’m talking about in the starkest terms.  The slave market may facilitate and encourage slavery and make it more efficient, but first you have to have the slavery.

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By Foucauldian, July 27, 2010 at 4:49 pm Link to this comment

both fail to address . . .

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By Foucauldian, July 27, 2010 at 4:37 pm Link to this comment

TC,

Your analysis of the Jollimore article is spot on.  Prior to having read your comment, I too suggested that Debra Satz’s critique of the markets focused only on the most extreme examples - the “noxious” markets, as she called ‘em - a sound strategy when it comes to introducing what might be to some a “novel” concept, but in the long run misleading.  While distinctions can certainly be made with respect to the degree to which any given market is “noxious” - on the comparative scale of, say, 1 to 10 as a measure of toxicity - this approach, if carried no further, leaves one with the impression that for the most part, there is no trouble in paradise, that all we must do is but to eliminate the potential trouble spots and all will be swell.

I’m also very skeptical of the idea that we can neatly separate agents from their habitus (or any given institution, as the case may be), as Shenon and Anarcisse continue to argue (see my links to Bruno Latour’s ANT theory, whereby the habitus has the effect of constraining the actors’ freedom to the point of molding the desirable behavior).  It may be patently true that markets, in and of themselves, are “amoral”; and consequently, that whatever abuses and/or dysfunctions result, they’re the bitter fruits of evil agents; that if only if the agents were moral, there would be nothing whatsoever wrong with the markets themselves; that markets are but a morally-neutral medium, something on the order of a meat processor in that you get out of them what you put in.  Garbage in, garbage out, in other words.  But it could be just the other way around ... only if the agents were moral.  Darn human nature!  It turns everything into manure!

But surely, this is too simplistic an account to even worth considering.  To claim unlimited freedom for agents to act independently, apart from networks and institutions in which they find themselves, in a context-less kind of environment, simply defies common sense.  It’s pure fiction to imagine the freedom to act in that sense; and to assume that our institutions, which form the structure of our lives, don’t impact/determine/constrain/influence/mold out behavior - pick any term you like - is equally absurd.

As a corollary to the above, Shenon and Anarcisse both emphasize human greed as the main culprit:  hence the conclusion that under any other system things aren’t any different; there always have been the ruling classes and the exploited ones, so in this on respect, capitalism is no exception.

Well, they both miss a far more important point:  it is the unique propensity of the capitalist system to “manufacture” needs, to turn human beings into mindless consumers, automatons, robots.  Interestingly, bother fail to address what I regard the most deleterious effects of the economic system in place.

It doesn’t matter, I suppose, as long as we can always blame “the agent.”

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By Anarcissie, July 27, 2010 at 8:08 am Link to this comment

Wikipedia has an article about ANT:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Actor-network_theory

I haven’t read it yet, so I can’t evaluate it.

No doubt markets, like other social interactions, produce various emergent phenomena which are different in quality from the components that make them up.  However, I was generally responding to sentiments like those of ofersince72, July 23 at 8:04 am: ‘Markets and Morality… That is an oxymoron ....so I am not going to read this.’ or more recently TolstoyCat’s complaints about them.  Actually, markets can and sometimes do mediate moral values, but for the most part people are not interested in moral values beyond their very immediate surroundings so they don’t do it very much.  I suppose one could complain that markets enable people to distance themselves from the results of their behavior, but so does social organization in general.

To me, the crucial element in the market are the relations of property and coercion, which stand outside the market and are part of its framework.  These practices and concepts are central to the liberal state even as it professes liberty and equality.  Hence the curious paradox of declaring that there is something wrong with renting out part of your body for a short time, but nothing wrong with renting out all of your body and your mind for a much longer time.

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By christian96, July 27, 2010 at 7:53 am Link to this comment

Ofersince72—-What do you want done with your
private organ?  I feel like a straight man in a
comedy routine asking that question.  How about your
tongue?

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By christian96, July 27, 2010 at 7:53 am Link to this comment

Ofersince72—-What do you want done with your
private organ?  I feel like a straight man in a
comedy routine asking that question.  How about your
tongue?

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By Old Man Turtle, July 27, 2010 at 6:25 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

So much time, so little to do.  That’s the part they don’t mention when making the sales-pitch for transplanting one’s “self” from the Living Ground of a whole ecology to the selectively crippling hothouse of an economy.  Is it really turning-out to be true, though, that half-a-life is better than none?

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By ofersince72, July 27, 2010 at 12:00 am Link to this comment

Body Parts??????

Here is what John has to say….

Please don’t bury me
down in that cold cold ground
No I’d druther have “em” cut me up
And pass me all around
Throw my brain in a hurricane
And the blind can have my eys
And the deaf can take both of my ears
If they don’t mind the size
Give my stomach to Milwaukee
If they run out of beer
Put my socks in a cedar box
Just get “em” out of here
Venus de Milo can have my arms
Look out!  I’ve got your nose
Sell my heart to the junkman
And Give my love to Rose

But please don’t bury me
down in that cold, cold ground

Give my feet to the footloose
Careless, fancy free
Give me knees to the needy
Don’t pull that stuff on me
Hand me down my walking cane
It’s a sin to tell a lie
Send m;y mouth way down south
And kiss my ass goodbye
**********************************************************
I hope my son does this,  I have asked him just to throw
me in the pond and let the turtles eat me if he can get
away with it.  Don’t want none of them chemicals pumped
in my body@!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

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By tolstoyscat, July 26, 2010 at 7:31 pm Link to this comment

hmmm… this has been interesting, I probably could say a whole lot more…I probably won’t.

The little guy who visited me was singing my song as he took his bath today, F. Not just a song I taught him. A song I wrote—for children. Perhaps I will change professions. grin Or perhaps I will just think about fun things like that.

Be back soon.

Nice chatting Anarcissie and Shenonymous.

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By Foucauldian, July 26, 2010 at 7:08 pm Link to this comment

” It’s not that markets and trading are evil, it’s that the stuff they’re mediating is evil.  Or at least shall we say problematical. . .”

Anarcisse,  I believe I expressed pretty much the same sentiment.  The question is - is that characteristic peculiar to markets under the capitalist system, to the vagaries of human agency, or simply the goods and services that are being “traded”?  (You use the term “stuff,” but I’m certain you’re not referring to goods and services here.)

If anything, I would argue that it is the capitalist system, the framework it provides, which renders market so prone to create inequalities (and “mediate evil”).  Surely, the idea of markets goes way back, even to ancient times - a barter system does partake of a market idea, doesn’t it? - yet, we don’t think of those prototypes as having been dysfunctional in any way.  Quite the contrary.

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By Anarcissie, July 26, 2010 at 6:46 pm Link to this comment

Foucauldian— I thought I said that markets required a framework in which property was established—who owns what, who has the right to trade what.  Property is associated with force—it’s those things the possession of which it is legitimate to defend by force.  The use of force implies the state.  I think it was Marx who characterized markets as anarchic (not a compliment coming from Uncle Karl).  I am sometimes at odds with him.

I suppose one might say that in an ideal, abstract market where everyone agreed upon the rules and on who owned what, and no one’s back was to the wall, trading could proceed anarchically, which would be nice because in theory every rational trade between informed traders increases utility.  However, I’ve noticed that most real markets don’t work that way.

In any case the article at hand notes that for some very serious matters, like work, production, real estate, medical care, education, etc. etc. etc., trade does not take place between traders who are remotely equal.  In that sense I guess it is a sort of sham of ideal trade.  It’s not that markets and trading are evil, it’s that the stuff they’re mediating is evil.  Or at least shall we say problematical—I don’t want to be doing metaphysics here.

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By Foucauldian, July 26, 2010 at 6:39 pm Link to this comment

The last link was too long, so it won’t work.  The following should do it, uploaded via Acrobat:

https://acrobat.com/#d=9UenE39DQtoRD-jJfFmXZA

BTW, this is entire encyclopedia.  Look for ANT in the index.

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By Foucauldian, July 26, 2010 at 6:24 pm Link to this comment

I’ll try to digest Shenon and TC comments before responding.  However, this is something else for everyone to consider.  In a way, it is a take-off from my previous comment

A comment or two ago, Anarcisse made a statement to the effect that markets have no agency (garbage in, garbage out - namely that we humans happen to endow it with characteristics and qualities, good, bad, or indifferent, as the case may be.  Well, this kind of thinking presupposes a kind of separation between actors and specific features of their environment.

I further suppose that it is precisely to address the weakness of this kind of analysis that Bruno Latour & company came up with the so-called ANT (Actor-Network) theory.  Brief account from Wiki follows:  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Actor-network_theory.  Also see the following PDF file:

http://www.sagepub.com/upm-data/5222_Ritzer__Entries_beginning_with_A__[1].pdf

I’m citing a passage from the above:

The terms actor and network are linked in an effort to bypass the distinction between agency and structure, a core preoccupation within sociology (as well as other disciplines).
This distinction is neither useful nor necessary for ANT theorists, as macrolevel phenomena are conceived as networks that become more extensive and stabilized. Networks are processual, built activities, performed by the actants out of
which they are composed. Each node and link is semiotically derived, making networks local, variable, and contingent.

Analytically, ANT is interested in the ways in which
networks overcome resistance and strengthen internally, gaining coherence and consistence (stabilize); how they organize (juxtapose elements) and convert (translate) network elements; how they prevent actors from following their own proclivity (become durable); how they enlist others to
invest in or follow the program (enroll); how they bestow qualities and motivations to actors (establish roles as scripts); how they become increasingly transportable and “useful” (simplify); and how they become functionally indispensable (as obligatory points of passage).

END OF QUOTE

I haven’t yet digested the import of this theory fully, but the main idea seems to me that “networks” - such as markets, in this instance - tend to constrain the freedom of action of the part of the participants and exert a unique kind of influence.  In short, they tend to mold human behavior.

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By Anarcissie, July 26, 2010 at 6:17 pm Link to this comment

tolstoyscat, July 26 at 3:01 pm:

‘Anarcissie says,

“I don’t think markets do much.  I don’t think they have agency.  I suppose among rational actors they increase utility; but it’s the wills of the actors that actually cause anything to happen.”

My TV set doesn’t have any agency, yet it manages to be indoctrinating all the same. The indoctrinated minds who have learned from my TV set will now promote their indoctrinated ideas and ideologies. ...’

That’s like saying a bottle of whiskey will make you drunk.

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By Foucauldian, July 26, 2010 at 4:29 pm Link to this comment

Anarcisse,

Let me get in on the tail end of the discussion.

You commented on the Hedges’ thread not too long ago that market are anarchistic type of institution.  I don’t have the exact quote, but you said something to that effect.

So the question becomes:  can we or should we make a relevant distinction here between markets, let’s say, before the advent of capitalism, and “capitalistic” markets.  I don’t want to knock down the idea of a market in general, because it does facilitate exchange of goods and services by providing a kind of forum?  (E.g., we can speak of markets in which ideas are being exchanged.)  Anyways, markets address the vital question of human need, for which reason I think your original comment was on the right track.  But when it comes to “capitalistic” markets, they do tend to promote inequality. 

So the question, is that inequality intrinsic to capitalism, or to the idea of markets in general?

Debra Satz’s book identifies what she calls “noxious” markets, and she singles them out as being parasitic on basic inequality between the parties to the exchange; indeed, that’s where she draws the line.  So again, the question is - can such a line be drawn at all with respect to capitalistic markets, except perhaps for the purpose of highlighting the most “noxious” cases?

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By tolstoyscat, July 26, 2010 at 3:37 pm Link to this comment

Shenonymous,

I’ll reply in bits…

With respect to “high-minded” (which I did not say BTW)

Right, sorry about that. I meant to edit that, but neglected to do so.

but to dispense with it except to say I suppose that term would mean morals that contribute to the health of a society

Understood and close enough to what I meant as well.

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By jkehoe, July 26, 2010 at 12:54 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

I’m in full agreement Grandpaw. The fairly limited corrections made to capitalism during the early to mid 20th C had to be made for the survival of the ec. system. The brutal edges were to be removed but the true nature of the system exists to this day- possessive individualism. At that point capitalism wasn’t working well, the elites feared the growing influence of the North American “Reds,” along with the expanding labour movement. Limited political democracy was ok, but economic democracy was not on the table. Keynes produced the theory, and FDR, with other western liberal elites, introduced the reforms. C.B. Macpherson spells it out in “The Real World of Democracy.” IMO, one direction for expanding democratic citizen-led governance and especially a democratic citizen-led economy is with the co op movement.

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By Shenonymous, July 26, 2010 at 12:31 pm Link to this comment

With respect to “high-minded” (which I did not say BTW),
tolstoyscat, but to dispense with it except to say I suppose that
term would mean morals that contribute to the health of a society. 
In that case, the society one finds oneself in by some means or
another, hardly ever from free choice, indoctrinates its members
and there really is in that case no condition where evaluation is
completely made from free will.  I am not saying there is no such
thing as free will.  That, however, is a topic for another time.

“Markets have no morality, yet they end up controlling and
dominating human behavior. A capital market is the conduit for
amorality. It will always result in it. There is no other outcome
possible.”

I have already reckoned markets are amoral.  In a non-capitalist based
society, are there no markets?  Of course there are.  Does it matter
whether the state runs the markets or if private individuals do?  As
Anarcissie says, there will always be at least two classes:  Employers
and employees (production owners and workers, masters and slaves).  I
guess coops are an option. But I can’t see that a huge and complex
marketplace can exist under coop conditions, I mean the auto industry,
the airplane manufacturers, Mattel toy factory, etc., etc., and etc.

It is said that real democracy should be considered a classless society. 
In a real democracy the people are the employers and the employees. 
So to keep exploitation to a minimum, ThomasG’s program seems to be
the best candidate, no other viable offers forthwithcoming.  Except he
still has to say how the transformation can take place. How does social
capital get translated into revenue streams and hence used to fund
socialized capitalism?  Why does Robert Reich’s criticism of socialized
capitalism not have any bearing?

It is not markets that control and dominate human behavior.  It is
people who use markets as the vehicle to control and dominate human
behavior.  If as you say, “Domination and patriarchy is what creates
the problem, whether they use a system of slavery, feudalism or
capitalism. One system may be better for you—take your pick. They all
act in service to oppression and repression.”
  Then what is left? 
Socialism?  But it is recorded history that socialism is also used as
instruments of oppression and repression.  Now what else is left?  How
to prevent exploitation is the question of the century? 

You said, tolstoyscat, ” We aren’t good or evil.”  Yet ethics and
morality are applicable to something:  Our behavior is judged to be
good or evil. While it might also be true that human nature is basically
flexible hence is capable of doing what is needed to change.  Once
again, that is a generalization and one size does not fit all and within
human nature are millions of conflicting individuals so that attempted
change might be thwarted for a long time and possibly not happen at
all.

I realize I have a somewhat cynical view, and admit to being a skeptic of
many theories.  While I think there is a natural altruistic quality to
human thought and action, I further think that feature is often in
contention with self-interest.  There are those who are not interested in
creating a “just” world.  Those who do however, will go to war with
those who don’t. You seem to be a nurture rather than nature believer
tolstoyscat and embrace the idea that humans relate and react to the
world only from their experiences.  Blank Slate Pinker would disagree as
would a slew of others.  That also is another argument for another time
though.

Buckminster Fuller said something like, and it might be a truism, “To
change things you don’t fight an existing reality.  You build a new
model that makes the existing models obsolete.”  The existing models
we have are capitalism and socialism.  What would a new model be?

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By tolstoyscat, July 26, 2010 at 11:19 am Link to this comment

Shenonymous,

If I get what you mean, (and I’m not certain I do) then I think we can skip the problem. We don’t have to decide and agree on what is ‘high-minded’, we have merely to let everyone decide that for herself. (without being subject to indoctrination by a dominating culture)

What if the soul (or mind if you prefer) of humankind were not basically good or altruistic where the goal is to bring health and happiness to the many, as is often hypothesized (or at least hoped for by the morally conscious or those who say it “stands to reason”), but were basically evil and self-serving the goal being one’s personal pleasure?

My view is that human nature is basically flexible. We learn what we are taught. We aren’t good or evil. But in the interest of creating a just world we can consider what we need to do and what we need to change. We can comprehend that we are a product of a culture of patriarchal domination for 1000s of years. We can see it in our history. We are what we eat.

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By tolstoyscat, July 26, 2010 at 11:01 am Link to this comment

Anarcissie says,

I don’t think markets do much.  I don’t think they have agency.  I suppose among rational actors they increase utility; but it’s the wills of the actors that actually cause anything to happen.

My TV set doesn’t have any agency, yet it manages to be indoctrinating all the same. The indoctrinated minds who have learned from my TV set will now promote their indoctrinated ideas and ideologies.

But that is prior to and outside their purview.

What do you mean by this? Do you mean that the traders have no say in what they will do? If so, then you are beginning to see what I mean. People have no more say about unwritten rules than written ones.

Markets indeed facilitate some people taking advantage of others, but people also do this without markets, and worse, as under slavery and feudalism. 

Domination and patriarchy is what creates the problem, whether they use a system of slavery, feudalism or capitalism. One system may be better for you—take your pick. They all act in service to oppression and repression.

A market has about as much morality as a pipe: you put something in one end and it comes out the other in different place.

I think that I said that when I said amoral. That is the problem. Markets have no morality, yet they end up controlling and dominating human behavior. A capital market is the conduit for amorality. It will always result in it. There is no other outcome possible.

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By Shenonymous, July 26, 2010 at 10:49 am Link to this comment

Is there some reason, Schluessel, July 26 at 5:55 am, you repeated
something I said July 25, 3:41pm?  I don’t mind the reference if my
comparison could be made relevant to someone other than
christian96.

tolstoycat’s observations about markets and capitalism describes the
advertising industry to a Tee.  I used to have graphic design teachers
come into the class to talk about successful advertising strategies,
mainly for critical thinking purposes and to get the students to start
thinking about how their minds are manipulated of which you only
covered a few in this case through psychological devices of the power of
art and design.  I agree that the kind of market capitalism that now
rules the world of commerce is morally objectionable to me.  But that is
because I have adopted a set of morals based on my own emotional
texture.  It is one thing to say the weezers want the effects of markets
to service a high evaluation of human behaviors and another thing to
actually define those that are desirable or what fills the bill of high
evaluation.  It is the old Kantian categorical mistake of taking an ideality
for an actuality.  What if the soul (or mind if you prefer) of humankind
were not basically good or altruistic where the goal is to bring health
and happiness to the many, as is often hypothesized (or at least hoped
for by the morally conscious or those who say it “stands to reason”),
but were basically evil and self-serving the goal being one’s personal
pleasure?  Either direction assumes too much because what stands to
reason for one may not stand to reason for another, it is the fallacy of
composition.  I don’t’ think markets have even a pipe’s worth or
morality.

Markets, qua, are insensitive abstractions.  Yes, it is the agents’ will,
more or less rational actors’ desire, that drive markets and whose
actions are arbitrated moral or not.  I think however that the rational
quotient becomes hijacked to be a servant to the emotions, especially
the emotion of greed.  Greed provides power and hence the emotional
sense of power comes full circle as the motivation for markets as it
does in all exploitations.

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By Anarcissie, July 26, 2010 at 10:30 am Link to this comment

I don’t think markets do much.  I don’t think they have agency.  I suppose among rational actors they increase utility; but it’s the wills of the actors that actually cause anything to happen.

Markets do imply things, like a property system which tells traders who can trade what.  But that is prior to and outside their purview.

Markets indeed facilitate some people taking advantage of others, but people also do this without markets, and worse, as under slavery and feudalism.  A market has about as much morality as a pipe: you put something in one end and it comes out the other in different place.

“Libertarian” has been reassigned, just as “liberal” and “conservative” were.

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By tolstoyscat, July 26, 2010 at 9:33 am Link to this comment

F,

This was interesting and provocative. Here’s my criticism.

I think Satz is only able to see a tiny bit of the problem with markets. She comprehends that markets in organs and reproduction promote hierarchy. That’s good. But she can only see the extreme. She apparently does not see that markets promote hierarchy when you are selling hot-wheels and Barbies, dish soap, and make-up.

Markets are created in teenage angst, they define what is human, what we should want, whom we should want, how we should be, how we should understand the world. Markets exploit every insecurity, every desperate need, every anguish, every wish to be loved—to make a profit. In doing so they turn little girls and boys into women and men who hate their bodies and engage in mostly dysfunctional relationships based in the wrong underpinnings.

Markets also amorally promote and reproduce whatever is acceptable within the culture. So, if slavery were to be acceptable in a culture, capitalism would not only advertise it, it would indoctrinate the next generation into accepting it. That is why I have to actually see titles of pay-per-view shows go by on my cable guide called something like : Horny Slutty Babysitters. Capitalism makes it okay for men to sexually desire children and this is becoming normalized and accepted into the mainstream.

Now, if markets promote the outcome I describe, then it stands to reason that we don’t want them to be the basis for human behavior, norms, morality, self-worth, relationship. But they are.

Also, Jollimore could be a little more savvy about the use of ‘libertarian’. He seems to only be familiar with the word as it applies to right-wing US-based people. Not astute.

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By Anarcissie, July 26, 2010 at 9:10 am Link to this comment

Foucauldian, July 25 at 10:29 pm:

‘... But you say:  “He has told us that the government’s usual methods for obtaining money both would, and would not, be used to provide social(ized) capital.”

And the meaning is?  Would you care to translate?’

I have no idea what it means.  I’ve just always admired bald, bold, foursquare logical inconsistency.  I wish I could do it, but I am cursed with Reason.

If you’re into post-Aristotelian postmodernity, it’s you who should be doing the translation.

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By tolstoyscat, July 26, 2010 at 8:29 am Link to this comment

F,

Thanks for sending me this article. Great stuff!

xo

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By Schluessel, July 26, 2010 at 1:55 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

It is really a type of
Gambler’s Fallacy, where there is a failure to understand statistical
independence.  The futuristic prophetic What If events are statistically
independent of the real events that took place.  You could probably
come up with dozens of But What Ifs that would tend to accumulate to
a sum where you become paralyzed to act on your own behalf.

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By christian96, July 25, 2010 at 7:28 pm Link to this comment

Shenonymous—-I just got home from walking 2 miles.
I know about “tired” bones.  It’s 10 p.m. EDT and I
don’t feel like cooking.  I’ll probably drive to
Wendy’s and get a sandwich.  I agree wholeheartedly
the hospital personnel was “waaaaay” out of line.
I’ve had encounters with Physicians before but our
diragreements never led to fist-a-cuffs.  Once I
drove 2 hours to The Cleveland Clinic in Ohio with
chest pains.  The emergency room admitted me to
the hospital.  However, instead of placing me in
Cardiology they put me into Internal Medicine.  When
the doc. from IM came in the next morning I ask to
be transferred to Cardiology.  His response, “There
is nothing wrong with your heart.”  When I asked how
he had arrived at his conclusion he informed me my
blood test had shown there was nothing wrong with
my heart.  With ignorant people he could have gotten
away with his comment. I responded, “Doc, the blood
test only tells you if I’ve had a heart attack. If
you could tell the condition of my heart by a blood
test we could do away with Stress Tests, Echocardiograms, Catherizations, etc.”  He responded, “There is nothing wrong with your heart!” He then turned and stormed out of the room.  It’s
pretty bad when the patient knows more than the
doctor.  What is sad is when the patient accepts the words of the doctor as gospel.  I have an appointment with my attorney this coming Friday.
After that I am going to head North for a month or
two to visit with family and friends.  I’m going
to place making any decisions on hold while I take
in some much needed rest and relaxation.  As you
know I do appreciate your intelligence and empathy.
Thanks for your input.  Right now I’m out the door
and off to Wendy’s.

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By Foucauldian, July 25, 2010 at 6:29 pm Link to this comment

Granted - used it for rhetorical effect. 

But you say:  “He has told us that the government’s usual methods for obtaining money both would, and would not, be used to provide social(ized) capital.”

And the meaning is?  Would you care to translate?

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By Anarcissie, July 25, 2010 at 5:51 pm Link to this comment

Foucauldian, July 25 at 9:01 pm:

‘ThomasG has a penchant for saying that capital (which is to say, all manner of resources) can be used for social purposes as well.  Of course it is trivially true.

Where he fails time and again, is in the area of implementation.  The so-called “US communal resources” amount to zilch - unless you count powers of taxation, printing money, and getting deeper and deeper in debt.  For “US communal resources” to amount to anything worth talking about, the state must appropriate the resources which at present are in private hands.  Yet, curiously, ThomasG is conspicuously silent on the subject of appropriation by the state - the only feasible move to get his project - idee fixe, in fact - off the ground.’

On the contrary, he has not been silent.  He has told us that the government’s usual methods for obtaining money both would, and would not, be used to provide social(ized) capital.  That is not silence.  Silence is something of which one could not accuse ThomasG.

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By Shenonymous, July 25, 2010 at 5:32 pm Link to this comment

christian96, we, you and I, have been TDing for a very long time.
Occasionally we do not see eye to eye, but just as occasionally we
do.  I don’t know you other than as an e-person.  And as far as
e-people can care about other e-people, I care about your e-“tired”
bones.  And your story makes me very angry.  That a hospital would
treat a patient in that manner defies all mental coherence.  The
medical profession can be what Anarcissie and ThomasG are calling
the beast!  Evil on earth.  I have heard other stories of such evil in
hospitals and seniors often get the brunt of their horrid behavior. 
Value judgment:  They ought not to be able to get away with it.  I was
once in the hospital when my daughter came to visit and found that my
bed was wet after a surgery procedure requiring anesthesia, and no bed
pan had been put under me.  She was furious, I was too out of it to
really care.  She raised such a ruckus that the nurses came immediately
and moved me out of bed and changed everything me included! 
Daughter #1 was indignant and outraged. She got results at once!  You
should too!  I too do not desire to cause pain or suffering of others.  I
care about other people a great deal.  As an atheist, I am often met
with incredulity when I say I have much empathy and sympathy for
other human beings.  But also I am pretty much of a moral nihilist,
meaning I do not believe morals come from anywhere except from the
intelligence of human beings.  We are the only beings who really have a
heightened sense of morality.  Some lower animals do show concern for
others of their species (there are those rare moments of cross species
caring I know too, some videos exist where goats and dogs have love
affairs, and dogs and cats do too, really weird) and I have several texts
that discuss this trait in sentient beings.  That fact however is irrelevant
to human morality.  What if the experience you had in that hospital
happened to me?  I would do what you are doing.  It is both a legal
issue and a moral issue.  Get legal action happening.  I would not wait
for the second attorney but call and fire him/her then get a third one
that will act swiftly since the statute will be running out.  You must get
the legal action to happen and like yesterday!  It is a travesty that any
employee of a health provider would dare to put a hand on a patient let
alone be the cause of injuries.  There is no debate.  The guy might lose
his job, (another what if) that is true, if so, he would do well to change
professions anyway since he does not belong in an environment where
people’s lives are at stake.  It would be doing him a favor and the rest
of the world as well!  Yeah I know, that is a personal judgment that
could conceal a ton of what ifs. 

Okay okay, I was just knocked off my chair.  60 Minutes the TV show
had a segment couple of hours ago that would put this TD article
directly into the archives.  Doctors are growing limbs and organs and
putting the technology into humans already.  There will be no need for
organ donors in the near, really near future.  It was stunning.  If you did
not see it, you should find it on a 60-Minutes online and watch it! It
probably won’t show up until next week.  But it really is amazing.

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By Anarcissie, July 25, 2010 at 5:01 pm Link to this comment

Shenonymous, July 25 at 6:05 pm:

‘... Nomads emphasize production and exchange economy. They practice socialized capitalism. ...’

The owners and managers of production have employees and sell the products?  I had a different impression of nomadic life, one in which familial and tribal relations were paramount, most production was vernacular and trade was peripheral, but I don’t know much about nomads at all.  I imagine they have been considerably affected by the changes in the outer world.  Genghis Khan could assemble mighty hordes of armed horsemen on the plains of Mongolia and nearly conquer the world; today, Mongolia is a backwater and anyone who tried to assemble any hordes there would be packed off to an asylum by the local police.

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By Foucauldian, July 25, 2010 at 5:01 pm Link to this comment

ThomasG has a penchant for saying that capital (which is to say, all manner of resources) can be used for social purposes as well.  Of course it is trivially true.

Where he fails time and again, is in the area of implementation.  The so-called “US communal resources” amount to zilch - unless you count powers of taxation, printing money, and getting deeper and deeper in debt.  For “US communal resources” to amount to anything worth talking about, the state must appropriate the resources which at present are in private hands.  Yet, curiously, ThomasG is conspicuously silent on the subject of appropriation by the state - the only feasible move to get his project - idee fixe, in fact - off the ground.

He’s been queried about this very subject by Anarcisse, to no avail.  All he ends up doing is repeating himself.  One gets a distinct impression that ThomasG is not a real person but some kind of a machine which, for lack of proper maintenance, is malfunctioning, repeating the same operations over and over again, condemned to performing one and the same subroutine.  After a while, it gets really tiresome and all so booooring.

In the interest of promoting genuine communication on this thread, it would be best of ThomasG, whatever its identity, were to address particular respondents rather than post automatic messages which have all the appearance of “public information” bulletins.  As for me, I wish to be excluded from these spams.

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By ThomasG, July 25, 2010 at 3:54 pm Link to this comment

It is a frame for Foucauldian to say that “social capital” and “socialized capitalism” cannot be implemented because of class conflict and it is easily said that for reasons of a false frame something cannot be implemented.

Social Capital, like Private Capital, is just in its essence, capital, an asset that provides a revenue stream.  To claim that an asset that provides a revenue stream can only be used for private purpose, rather than social purpose, is a ludicrous claim.

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By christian96, July 25, 2010 at 3:31 pm Link to this comment

Shenonymous—-Excuse the delay in responding.  I went
to bed around noon and slept until 6 p.m.  I don’t
enjoy getting old.  Seems like I sleep a lot.  All
of us engage in “what if” stories when trying to
make decisions.  I try to keep mine as rational as
possible.  I understand where you are coming from
with the Aliens(Ha!) The Aliens may be more real
than you imagine.  Don’t think I haven’t considered
that the Bible could have been inspired by aliens
pretending to be God but that’s another issue.  My
injuries from the emergency room experience include
several herniated discs in my neck.  I take oxycontin
for the pain.  It works.  I could have surgery but
then I’m back to the “what if” questions.  I damaged
my left hip with the fall to the floor but it is not
giving me pain(probably because of the oxycontin).
You know I have respect for your intelligence.  What
would you consider “rational action” in my situation.

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By Shenonymous, July 25, 2010 at 2:05 pm Link to this comment

A moment to devote to TDing. I’ll shoot my wad then go back to
my workshop.  This could be fun for me if not for anyone else…
(I’m so glad the beastie was laid to rest.  It was cluttering social
capital and socialized capitalism even more than it is.)  Reason
rules!  Yayyyy!

Nomads 1
Ah yes, nomadic life.  Often romanticized.  The story of Waris Dirie,
coming from a semi-nomadic life, “Desert Flower,” would wake up even
the most somnambulistic.  What is morality to women of nomadic life?  I
found your hypothesis very intriguing, glider, so I went looking. 
Perhaps it is true that the romantic notion of nomads ‘socioeconomic
evolution was the progenitor of today’s market practices; a look at what
nomads are like today might give insight into that theory.  One report
said there are about 30-40 million nomads in the world presently.  An
appreciation into the cooperative nature of nomadic societies, and I
doubt that tribal structure has changed much from primitive time, an
abbreviated look at Kazakhs, nomadic herders, and Bedouin (1% are still
nomadic) might give substance to your conjecture.  No pretense here
that I present an end all information on the subject.

One 1995 report, from a would-be proselytizer of Christianity, an
evangelist who made a study of middle eastern modern nomads might
be forthwithgiving (he optimistically thought it would take about 10
years to convert Muslim nomads of the middle east to Christianity,
which is their dogma mission to do, convert!  It is now 5 years past that
10 years and nothing close has come to pass, was he deluded? Just an
observation.  No need to digress further about it, though.).  Regardless
of his intentions, the description of the structure of such societies is
probably valid.  The basic political organization among pastoral nomads
(those who raise livestock) is that of the camping-group headed by a
leader (in the Middle East that would be a sheikh, katkhoda, grey beard)
often from a leading family, restrained by the collective experience of
the group expressed by its older members and heads of families. Such
factions tend to be linked by intermarriage, claim common ancestry,
express their unity in a sense of collective honor, to be defended
against that of other groups.  Tribes develop and maintain a solidarity
of its own, and its leading family exercises considerable authority.
Membership varies, it tends to express its solidarity in terms of
common descent, a tribal name surviving for centuries despite the
changes in the group bearing its name.  Family and common ancestry
set up the hierarchy.

Pastoral nomads establish a dependent relationship on their
domesticated animals and their identity is inseparable from their stock,
apparently a deep psychological and sociological necessity.  Essential
values are firmly oriented towards their animals; dependent on them for
food, status, cultural practices.  A romantic view corresponds with the
view nomads have of themselves: leisurely lifestyle, closeness to nature,
endurance in face of harsh environment, honor in confrontation, and
independence.

There is much mutual ignorance, some ill feeling and prejudice and
some social interaction between nomads and settled populations.
Usually an uneasy peace exists in which nomads and villagers exchange
their various commodities.  Potential hostility is due to competition
between groups over marginal lands that lie between the cultivated
zone and the pastoral grazing areas.

Pastoral Nomads have always been a part of an economic system that
included villagers and townspeople.  All nomads depend on settled
communities in a symbiotic relationship that includes pastoral,
agricultural and trading worlds.  Nomads emphasize production and
exchange economy. They practice socialized capitalism.

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By Foucauldian, July 25, 2010 at 2:04 pm Link to this comment

Of course, Anarcisse, and I’m using it that way.  But you’re right of course.  Class struggle and class conflict is a built-in mechanism; and no matter how enticing the proposals on behalf of “socialized capitalism,” whereby the notion of class-conflict is trivialized, the harsh reality remains.

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By Shenonymous, July 25, 2010 at 2:04 pm Link to this comment

Nomads 2
Conflict and antipathy does not prevent interaction. Intermarriage
takes place - Tapper in “Pasture and Politics” claims nomads give
20% of their daughters to villagers and receive 10% of their wives
from villagers.  Alliances of convenience are also formed for eco-
nomic reasons. Oddly enough, there is a constant movement of
nomads settling down and of villagers becoming nomads.  With
growing population pressures conflicts are on the increase. Villagers
expand their cultivation into nomad lands, commercial stock breeders
send their herds into nomad grazing grounds.

Unlike most practices today in the market economies of the world,
some nomads have relatives in the villages with whom they regularly
cooperate in joint ventures. Some wealthier nomads own shares in
village lands acting as absentee landlords.  Communism is not the
socioeconomic system among nomads.  There are both the more
wealthy and the more poor members.  Sharing is not the ruling
principle but resources do arise from within the group.

Traditionally in politics, nomads most often dominate settled
communities, acting as “King makers and breakers”, backing dynasties
and changing them. There has always been a competition between
nomads and settled communities, the line between grazing and
cultivated lands moving in accordance to the strength or weakness of
the central government. Nomads have had the advantage of mobile and
flexible fighters that could melt into the deserts as needed. They could
easily evade taxation, disrupt caravans, raid oases. They often
demanded and received “protection money” from settled communities,
caravan traders, and even governments to ensure the peace.  Village
leaders would try to create rivalry between nomadic groups through
subsidies and other tactics in order to keep them in a state of
dependence. Some nomadic leaders even settle in towns to have better
access to governments and join ruling elite.  However, it appears that
social capital worked exclusively in these societies even into modern
nomadic organized groups.

I am not sure how this affects the politicoeconomic system of a society,
but as far as my question goes about the lot of women in nomadic
lifestyle, it did yield this:  Polyandry, or stable sexual relationships
where one woman is shared by several “husbands” was not unknown in
primitive nomadic tribes, i.e., the Wu Hu , an Asian steppe tribe from
the Han Dynasty .  While polygamy (a husband with many wives) is not
usually practiced in the West, and while they are not known as nomads,
the Mormons are known to practice it and there has been recent cases
in the news about it.  However, the practice of polygamy is practiced in
32 countries today.  Speaking of beasts, Nigel Barber, Ph.D,’s article,
The Human Beast, deals with polygamy.  Actually the ancient practice
has much to do with economics, family economics, that is.  Barber
writes, “Polygamy works well in underdeveloped tropical countries but
not so well for developed high-latitude countries. Why? At least three
factors are critical. First, instead of a scarcity of males, developed
countries have an excess thanks to better public health that saves more
males than females (that’s an interesting fact!). Second, colder winters
made it impossible for mothers to raise children without substantial
help from their husbands (hmmm, western women know this in spades).
Third, developed countries are highly urbanized and it is very difficult
to raise large families in cities because children are such a drain on
finances that it is impossible for most men to support multiple families
(probably the most important factor, says this cynical observer of
western societies.). In agricultural societies, by contrast, kids contribute
social capital to the family economy by working.”

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By Anarcissie, July 25, 2010 at 1:20 pm Link to this comment

Foucauldian—the Beast thing may be a bit over-poetic.  The essence of the problem is that capitalism is by definition a class system.  (Historical capitalism, that is, capitalism as we know it.)  From that fact, numerous problems emanate, some of which contradict the usual ideas of socialization.

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By Shenonymous, July 25, 2010 at 11:41 am Link to this comment

It’s hard to give up old habits, christian96.  Now you must know
da debble made the orderly do it!  My very wise mom used to
say, “If a frog had wings, it wouldn’t bump its ass.”  Of course what
you do is entirely up to you.  When I used to whine to her about things I
didn’t know how they would turn out, Mom also occasionally told me a
But What If story about a young girl who was thinking about getting
married.  She started musing that if she did she would live in a house
and would get pregnant, have a baby then as she was going up the
stairs to put the baby into its crib, she would trip and fall down and the
baby would get killed.  So she decided not to get married. The But-
What-If question is the heart of a special species of fallacy.  It consists
of bringing up something that is specifically defined as irrelevant.  Do
the math, you obviously want to return time and time again to an issue
you care about.  So you set up hypothetical questions you are hoping
will define the issue away.  To help you decide, you really have to
define exactly what is the real question in your mind.  Then compare
that definition with the BWI questions to see their coherence.  You
might have to give up extraterrestrial influences.  It is really a type of
Gambler’s Fallacy, where there is a failure to understand statistical
independence.  The futuristic prophetic What If events are statistically
independent of the real events that took place.  You could probably
come up with dozens of But What Ifs that would tend to accumulate to
a sum where you become paralyzed to act on your own behalf.  And so
it goes.  That is not to say that there might be some anticipatory
aspects that one ought to be alert to.  Likelihood needs to be added to
the recipe.  There are too many variables that most of those What Ifs
are merely part of an obstacle course you have set up to subvert
rational action.

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By Foucauldian, July 25, 2010 at 11:04 am Link to this comment

Sorry for the belated response, Glider.  You write:

But from the interpretation I quickly made “Socialized Capitalism” would be a subgroup of capitalism by the state.  Which brings up the problem of just who interprets what are “founding good social values”.  That is a scary bit as I imagine Hitler may have felt he was running a country of “Socialized Capitalism”

Precisely.  And Hitler in fact was running the country on those very principles - most efficiently, we must agree. 

There’s a bit more to it, however.  My hunch is, the phrase is gaining popularity of late by the apologists for the system.  The underlying intent seems to be to lower our sensibilities and our resistance by trying to re-invent capitalism as a system with a friendly face.  Unfortunately, many who are otherwise well-intentioned, and motivated by the ideal of “social justice,” fall for the ploy, knowing not what they’re defending.  Anarcisse had make a pertinent remark on the subject (see Chris Hedges’ thread “What this country needs . . .”), saying that no matter how you window-dress the system, you can’t kill the beast.  And I totally agree.

BTW, I’m about to present a brief critique of this so-called “movement,” and I’ll alert you when done.

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By christian96, July 25, 2010 at 6:42 am Link to this comment

Shenonymous—-Thanks for the referral.  It’s not
“to sue or not to sue” that’s my dilemma.  The 1st
attorney told me to settle for $50,000.  I don’t
know what getting the crap beat out of you in the
emergency room is worth.  I went to another attorney.
He said, “You should get $100,000.”  I hired him.
It appears he is dragging his feet though.  The event
took place 2-12-09.  I called Attorney General’s
office last week.  I have 3 years from the date of
the event to have the bum arrested.  It’s having
him arrested that is my dilemma.  Beating the crap
out of a senior citizen is a third degree felony.
He will surely lose his job.  A third degree felony
could even ruin his career.  What if he has a wife
and children?  Jobs aren’t easy to come by.  The
hospital could have saved me this anguish just by
firing him but they didn’t.  However, I do have a
responsibility to future patients visiting the
emergency room.  If someone got killed by this guy
I would feel really terrible because I didn’t have
him arrested.  I’m a retired psychologist.  This
guy is potentially dangerous.  I told my attorney,
“I’m not the first person this guy has hit.  If
he is married I’d bet he has beaten his wife.”
If I have him arrested and his career is ruined he
could buy a gun and blow my head off.  If only the
nurse had brought back the doctor as I ask him to
I wouldn’t be facing these choices.  “If” what a
word.  If my aunt had balls she would be my uncle.
Has the devil put me in this situation to test my
Christian reaction?  Money is not really the issue.
I’ve decided to give 3/4 of what I receive to charity and the
other 1/4 to my nieces and nephews in the hills of
West Virginia. I live in a heavily Republican part
of Florida. Very wealthy.  I don’t know how I got
here.  I make $40,000 a year.  I’m like a fish out
of water. A wealthy Republican jury might not award
me anything. Decisions! Decisions!  I’ll follow-up
on your referral. Thanks.

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By Shenonymous, July 25, 2010 at 4:54 am Link to this comment

Oh Christian96, I looked into my crystal ball.  Sue the bastards!  It is
their predestination!  Find another lawyer, go to AARP, take a look at
http://seniors-site.com/legalm/lawyer.html

That is quite a story.  At treatment like that, I’d sue the entire hospital
with not a wisp of a thought.  Throwing a hospital gown at someone is
like throwing zilch and anyway why isn’t it a Christian thing to do?  Does
it say in the anywhere in the Bible that one ought not to throw hospital
gowns at anyone who is being an AH?  Does it say one ought not to sue
AHes?  The behemoth orderly sounds like a dangerous pervert.

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By christian96, July 25, 2010 at 4:17 am Link to this comment

Shenonymous—-It’s good to see you are still around
and quite verbose.  That’s all right.  We all have
our individual personalities.  Free choice versus
predestination?  That’s an interesting area I’m
dealing with in my personal life.  Months ago, I
went to a local walk-in clinic because of chest pains.  When I informed the doctor of previous
by-pass and angioplasty surgeries he suggested I
go to our local emergency room.  I didn’t.  I went
home to rest and contemplate future choices.  Since
I live alone and the chest pains persisted I decided
to go to the emergency room. It wasn’t a choice I
made easily.  I’ve been taking steroids for 30 years
for asthma.  Therefore, it is very difficult to
insert(where did your mind go on “insert?”) an IV.
I’m usually stuck anywhere from 3 to 5 times before
success is achieved.  After several hours in the
emergency room on a God-awful bed the doctor informed
me I didn’t have a heart attack.  He said I could
go home or stay for observation.  After they promised
to transfer me to a more comfortable bed I decided
to stay.  Hours later I hadn’t been transferred.
I pressed the “call” button to inform the nurse I
had decided to go home.  After several unsuccessful
attempts to reach the nurse I decided he was busy
and quit pushing the button.  An hour went by and
still no nurse.  I got out of bed, removed my gown,
and EKG leads attached to my chest.  Lo and behold,
the nurse appeared. I informed him I wanted to go
home.  He responded, “You’ll have to sign yourself
out against hospital advice.”  I reminded him the
doctor had said I could go home.  I ask him to get
the doctor.  Instead of returning with the doctor
he returned with the doctor’s assistant.  I was
standing next to my bed holding my gown.  The doctor’s assistant was about 30 years old and well
over 200 pounds.  When I informed him the doctor
had said I could go home he got smart with me as
young men over 200 pounds are apt to do.  I threw
my gown at him.  Not a Christian thing to do.  I
could see he was throwing a punch at me so I turned
my head to avoid being struck in the face.  He hit
the back of my head several times, knocking my right
side into my bed after which I struck the floor on
my left hip.  He jumped on top of me, grabbing both
forearms so tight that my skin tore and I began bleeding rather profusely.  When I got off the floor
I said, “Hey, pal, I’ve got a witness to what you just did.”  The male nurse standing next to him said,
“I didn’t see anything.”  I ask to speak with a
security guard. When he came into the room I informed
him I wanted to file a report to what just happened.
He ask, “Did you throw your gown at him?” When I
responded affirmatively the guard advised me if I
filed a report the doctor’s assistant could file an
assult charge against me.  I told him I didn’t want
to file a report.  After attending to my injuries
other nurses moved me to a new room with a much more
comfortable bed.  The next morning I went home.  I
hired a lawyer.  Since nothing has been done I called
his assistant and made an appointment several days
ago.  The attorney’s asst. didn’t know the name of
the fellow who attacked me nor did he know whether
he was still employed at the hospital.  I left his
office and went straight to the hospital and learned
he is still employed. I didn’t have him arrested
previously because I’m a Christian and believe in
forgiveness.  Now to “free will vs predeterm.”
I am considering having him arrested but assulting
a senior(70 years of age)is a felony.  I do have
a responsibility to protect future seniors but I
don’t like ruining a boy’s life.  Big decision for me. Has my future choice been predetermined or do
I have free will?  Talking about verbose? WOW!
Do I have free will to hav

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By glider, July 24, 2010 at 9:37 pm Link to this comment

Anarcissie, it is interesting to think about how human nomadic tribes were structured. I always have felt that incredible cooperation in these groups was essential since everyone knew each other and were dependent upon one another for survival.  And that this was the evolutionary incubator for our social characteristics.  This is what I will bring up to Libertarians in an attempt to show them that their “individual as an island” philosophy is unnatural.  And I think of modern governments as kind of a replacement in large societies for that lost local level cooperation.

Perhaps competition is simply a modern expression of striving for excellence which initially paid rewards for survival, and is now quantified by our modern testing systems and business prosperity in the free market capitalism.

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By Anarcissie, July 24, 2010 at 7:52 pm Link to this comment

glider—I think I should clarify something as a sort of preface.  Most people who discuss the sort of issues we are engaging want to propose general, universal solutions which can be implemented by a government or some other authority, at least over a jurisdiction if not the state or the world.  I am not up to that.  Mostly I critique the present order of things; when people reasonably ask for my alternatives, I suggest things that some people might want to try somewhere sometime, not things that every must try everywhere right away.

Among the things I have studied (if somewhat lightly) are the organization and sociology of alternative communities of the communistic sort, not just hippie communes but people like the Dukhobors.  One of the basic principles of those communities which survive is the principle that it is the job of every member of the community who possesses useful knowledge to pass it along to those who need it and want it.  Often, people enjoy doing this, so it is not necessary a job in the sense of a laborious task, but it must be done.

My advice to those who are not ready to rush out into the woods to join the nearest commune, but would prefer to remain in liberal capitalist society, would be to try to imitate this flow of knowledge and competence in the society they prefer.  I don’t know how, exactly, they would do this; maybe fund public schools at every level through taxation, open to all without tuition, along the lines of the Cooper Union (a privately supported art and engineering school in New York City generally thought to be the top of the line).  In them, a person could take any class she or he was capable of absorbing.

Credentialization would be separated from these institutions; one would be credentialed for certain jobs or posts, if it were deemed necessary, by means of independent testing.

I’m not tremendously concerned with excellence.  No doubt excellent people will do excellent things; it’s everyone else I’m thinking about.

I realize no one with any influence or importance among the bourgeoisie will want to do anything like this, because they want to preserve their privileges for themselves and their families, so forgive me if I don’t go into great detail—it is all very unlikely to happen soon.  I just wanted to suggest that “another world is possible”, as they say; probably not within a class system, but one could give it a try.

I hope this isn’t too much of a diversion; I was anticipating some fun around issues like why one shouldn’t be allowed to sell a kidney, or enter upon a career of prostitution, if that is one wants to do.  Why is the body sacred, while the mind can be trashed daily with employment and advertising?

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By glider, July 24, 2010 at 6:57 pm Link to this comment

By Anarcissie,

“I mean that everyone would get a chance to learn whatever they and the community around them found useful”

I am not fully understanding what you mean.  Like you added people need to be directed to what is useful by some mechanism.  So I am imagining traditional merit competition for the more desirable jobs to sort that problem out, but to the extent possible give everyone an equal chance in their early education for the later test or academic record that would be determinant.  From my experience nothing will substitute for competition if you are seeking excellence.  That is not necessary for every position in society but it is often highly desirable.  You seem to be proposing another selection system.  So how would you have the “community” dole out the positions?

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By glider, July 24, 2010 at 6:35 pm Link to this comment

By Foucauldian, July 24 at 8:11 pm #

““As despicable as China is in so many ways, they may yet evolve into a more sustainable, more responsible, and more effective system than our own, with a wall that truly can separate government from corrupting runaway capitalistic forces.”

My question however is:  How is that “socialized capitalism” rather than capitalism run by the state?”

Hello Foucauldian,
Well I just stumbled on that expression today and do not know the full history of it, and I wasn’t really referring to China as an example.  But from the interpretation I quickly made “Socialized Capitalism” would be a subgroup of capitalism by the state.  Which brings up the problem of just who interprets what are “founding good social values”.  That is a scary bit as I imagine Hitler may have felt he was running a country of “Socialized Capitalism” grin.  Which is a good reason to fix our system with a Constitutional Amendment so that all the other good stuff comes along with the package.

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By Anarcissie, July 24, 2010 at 6:27 pm Link to this comment

glider—I would prefer adequate opportunity to equal opportunity.  After all, opportunities can be equally bad.  Furthermore, to really provide equal opportunity you’d have to give everyone the same parents and have them grow up in the same neighborhood with the same neighbors, and so on.  By “adequate opportunity” I mean that everyone would get a chance to learn whatever they and the community around them found useful without having to spend huge sums of money or be of the correct class.

A change of this kind would be quite an undertaking, requiring the abolition or transformation of the entire academic system, and the abolition or modification of most intellectual-property laws so that corporations and institutions could not hide and sequester knowledge and art to sell at a high price as they now do.

In general I don’t see this taking place because the academic system is embedded in a class-based society.  Capitalism requires a class system with at least two classes, and the exploitation of labor.  (That is its definition.)  The academic system which fits that model is precisely one which does not offer either equal or adequate opportunity, since the working class must be continuously replicated as a set of people who cannot and will not choose to become autonomous, but will submit themselves to the capitalist class for not only the organization of their production, but for direction in consumption and other areas of life as well.

Historically, we observe that a capitalist polity will attempt to mitigate inequality through state power only when it is threatened.  Thus social democracy, Welfare, were allowed to grow when the ruling class had to defeat fascism and Communism in the 20th century.  As those threats receded, so social democracy, Welfare, equalization were cut back.  Now, when capitalism has no serious enemies (except itself) we observe a social order with historic levels of inequality.

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By RayLan, July 24, 2010 at 5:44 pm Link to this comment

Scarcity is the driving principle of economics. The entrepreneur seeks to ‘maximize’ profit under the contraints of a limited capital. - That is how money is ‘made’ - literally - beyond the original market price. But the only intersection between the semantics of economics and ethics is the word ‘value’. All the political struggles in our society play in this margin of ambiguity. We have to date so much reduced the one to the other , that success in every field is measured commercially, including art, religion and education.
After I criticized a poem by a well known author - I was supposed to be duly chastened by the argument that the poet is published and has received more from the sale of his books and journals than I will ever be able to.

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By Foucauldian, July 24, 2010 at 4:11 pm Link to this comment

“As despicable as China is in so many ways, they may yet evolve into a more sustainable, more responsible, and more effective system than our own, with a wall that truly can separate government from corrupting runaway capitalistic forces.”

You said it, Glider - only through a kind of government which holds in check the “corrupting runaway capitalistic forces.” 

My question however is:  How is that “socialized capitalism” rather than capitalism run by the state?

I don’t want ThomasG’s opinion on the matter; we’ve both reached a dead end.  I’m posing this question to you.

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By glider, July 24, 2010 at 4:02 pm Link to this comment

a couple small changes grin
Anarcissie,
It seems to me there should be a merit component to a free education so long as everyone is given an equal chance, such that it is a true “land of opportunity” and not a rigged game.  I generally like reasonably regulated free market capitalism (to which such merit competition is suited) but think it should be excluded from areas better served by government social services (e.g. BANKING, healthcare, military, early education, prisons, etc). I personally like the concept of Socialized Capitalism but am less sure it is sustainable.  In my lifetime we have seen many of the “Socialized” aspects circumvented by globalization, and more recently being challenged to the point of no return, by the Corporate takeover of our government at home.  As I have said before, our Constitution is flawed, the product of men from a bygone era who could not possibly envisage our challenges today, and needs some serious amendments particularly as needed to get Corporate power out of our legislative process. Fat chance however.  As despicable as China is in so many ways, they may yet evolve into a more sustainable, more responsible, and more effective system than our own, with a wall that truly can separate government from corrupting runaway capitalistic forces (but I wouldn’t count on it!).

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By glider, July 24, 2010 at 3:57 pm Link to this comment

Anarcissie,
It seems to me there should be a merit component to a free education so long as everyone is given an equal chance, such that it is a true “land of opportunity” and not a rigged game.  I generally like reasonably regulated free market capitalism (to which such merit competition is suited) but think it should be excluded from areas better served by government social services (e.g. healthcare, military, early education, prisons, etc). I personally like the concept of Socialized Capitalism but am less sure it is sustainable.  In my lifetime we have seen many of the “Socialized” aspects circumvented by globalization, and more recently being challenged to the point of no return, by the Corporate takeover of our government at home.  As I have said before, our Constitution is flawed, the product of men from a bygone era who could not possibly envisage our challenges today, and needs some serious amendments particularly as needed to get Corporate power out of our legislative process. Fat chance however.  As despicable as China is in so many ways, they may yet evolve into a more sustainable, more responsible, and more effective system than our own, with a wall that truly can separate government from corrupting runaway capitalistic forces.

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By Foucauldian, July 24, 2010 at 3:21 pm Link to this comment

Thanks for being gracious, Shenon, in spite of my dogged persistence.  To be continued.

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By Shenonymous, July 24, 2010 at 2:31 pm Link to this comment

I said I was an artist.  That should answer your questions about
seeing in ways other than verbalizations.  The arts have their own
language. This is not the place to discuss the languages of the arts. 
Not the genesis of linguistics.  Yes, the additive function is the way I
think language increases.  Unless you require a public forum I’d
be glad to discuss these issues elsewhere.  Otherwise I am not sure
what you mean by seeing.  All forms of communication could be
construed to be a language.  Even cries of emotion come to
be understood as a language such that repeated cries most often mean
what it meant earlier, pain or joy.  It depends on the context, do you
not agree?  So what do you say is language?

I have to go right now, but will check back tamarra.

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By Shenonymous, July 24, 2010 at 2:20 pm Link to this comment

5 Yups, Roger. 

It is my belief that nature is not involved in rights or morals.  I do not subscribe to the notion that rights derive from Nature and I did use the
word metaphorically in an ersatz narrative to explain my view of the
built-in survival quality of organisms.  The word Nature is an abstract
mass noun (a non-count noun) and an abstract concept; one definition
is the whole of the natural physical world that we often reify to ease
talking about The Everything.  Please try not to be so picayune.  There
is so little meat left on the bones.  I am the one that is supposed to be
meticulous (my middle name).  Nature is so bad (my moral judgment), it
doesn’t even care about anything really.  It simply is.  If Nature would
speak to me, I think it would say it didn’t even care if the universe
existed.  Caring is not packed in its travel bags.  Gee, Nature should
have a talk with Martin Heidegger.

Over and out for now.

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By Foucauldian, July 24, 2010 at 2:15 pm Link to this comment

The freedom-determinism debate, Shenon, is a dead horse.  Like most of metaphysical conundrums, it’s a result of linguistic confusion (or to say the least, not a very useful distinction). 

To deviate from the topic somewhat, are you a social-constructionist?  And what’s your view of language as (the only) means of seeing? 

If you’re even partly sympathetic to these notions, you should also be sympathetic to the idea that accretions to language, in terms of novel ideas and concepts, are some of the tools at our disposal for remaking the world.

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By Foucauldian, July 24, 2010 at 1:36 pm Link to this comment

Thanks for posting David Byrne’s song.  I’m due for a short break after having written an unusually long post.  Don’t take it the wrong way, please! 

You are a bad influence, Shenon.  I thought we’ve both agreed to keep it short and sweet.

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By Foucauldian, July 24, 2010 at 1:32 pm Link to this comment

If I resort to smugness, Shenon, it’s not because of some inherent trait of mine I’m incapable of eradicating but only because I see it as one of the available strategies to use when the occasion might merit:  in this particular case, to combat your apparent penchant for trying to have it both ways.  So it’s not really the case that I am being oblivious of the difference(s) between rights and obligations; nor is it that case, as you say, that I put words into your mouth - if you mean that I’m doing so inadvertently, or as a result of simply misreading your meaning(s).  So yes, I do admit that I do so - again, as a matter of strategy - which is to say, purposely and with full cognizance of the “move.”  Again, the purpose being to make you recognize the fact that you’re hedging, however clever and formidable the intellectual architecture employed.

Let’s examine an excerpt.  You say,

“At any rate, I was referring to an organism’s natural right to live since it got to be born quite by accident but its genetic force aims to survive.  From nature’s grant, it makes its own right.  I would go so far as to say that is the first instance of self-righteouness. LOL I consider it a natural right merely because nature provides to living things and that ultimately if it got to exist, exists only by accident.  But it is really a petty thing to keep arguing about since my meaning about a right is as clear as pristine water.”

Now, you’re using here such constructions as “organism’s natural right to live,” “nature’s grant . . . makes its own right,” and the like; and then you conclude: “my meaning about a right is as clear as pristine water.”

But is it really, Shenon?  The last I’ve heard, nature is indifferent to what’s right and what’s wrong.  It’s not endowed with any agency, human or divine (lest assume the latter is the case); it’s an impersonal force and/or combination of forces, a set of phenomena and processes which are indifferent to purposes, teleology, to say nothing of goodness or badness.  (Reread the closing lines of Stephen Gould’s article on Kropotkin.)

Granted, political philosophers of old, of naturalistic bent, I might add, made use of “nature” to arrive at such constructs as “natural rights,” to give but one example.  But aside from the few who may have committed the reification fallacy, the main motive behind the move surely was to ground the idea on a firmer basis.  Since God was quickly falling out of fashion as appeal of the last resort, “Nature” (with the capital N) because the second-best, there being nothing else available.
Of course you are perfectly free to subscribe to a philosophy that “rights” properly derive from Nature other than merely metaphorically, and if you do then this discussion is over.  But if you don’t, however, than I do have a bone to pick. 

You say further:  “You tend to take limited
meanings of terms that have more than one meaning.”  Well, my response is that the terms such as “rights,” “obligations,” “values” represent full-fledged meanings, not limited by any stretch.  To the contrary, it’s your prototypical idea of “right,” as residing in nature, happens to be a limited and truncated notion - even if I grant you it’s a cogent one.

Let me close with Wittgenstein’s dictum: 

“Philosophy is a battle against the bewitchment of our intelligence by means of language.” 

Well, what may well have here is the obverse, which is to say, a case of our intelligence bewitching our language.

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By felicity, July 24, 2010 at 12:52 pm Link to this comment

Justice is accessed through equality and since
justice (political, social and economic) for all is
what a democracy is supposed to be all about, as long
as inequalities exist among us, justice remains
unaccessible for too many of us.

Market-driven capitalism naturally results in
economic inequalities among people. Adam Smith
realized this but rationalized it away by holding the
belief that inborn in each of us is a kind of empathy
for our fellow man, the result being that the mega-
rich would ‘take care of’ the poor.  Of course he was
dead wrong and rumor has it that he recognized this
late in his life and even entertained the notion of
writing a tome discrediting laissez-faire capitalism.

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By Shenonymous, July 24, 2010 at 12:49 pm Link to this comment

Oh yes, Roger, I forgot to comment.  Even though humans are now
able to respond to changing situations and appear to make choices,
appear to recreate our environment anew, it could be argued that the
genetic evolution was reliant on the accidental meeting up of organic
matter, the bumping into one another of the subatomic particles of
which all matter comes to happen.  So that is why I put in the word
ultimate to qualify that bit of science.  I agree that at the macrohuman
level, we do seem to make choices.  Along with my academic training in
the humanities, as a long time artist of several arts, I fully appreciate
the notion that what I create I have done from my own intelligence and
free will.  I tend to side with the incompatibilists, mainly because it
suits my purpose.  But it might be that I am preprogrammed to be that
way genetically.  I make all kinds of choices as I commence to make a
work of fine art or a piece of music, or poetry.  Even so far as creating
a new dish for suppah.  Boo hoo if these are not uniquely my
inventions.

Here is the David Byrne song In the Future from his production
The Knee Plays.  It is worthwhile checking out for a brief respite.:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ngVGxYLRrZ0

In the future everyone will have the same haircut and the same clothes
In the future everyone will be very fat from the starchy diet
In the future everyone will be very thin from not having enough to eat
In the future it will be next to impossible
To tell girls from boys, even in bed

In the future men will be super-masculine
And women will be ultra-feminine
In the future half of us will be mentally ill
In the future there will be no religion or spiritualism of any sort
In the future the psychic arts will be put to practical use

In the future we will not think that nature is beautiful
In the future the weather will always be the same
In the future no one will fight with anyone else
In the future there will be an atomic war

In the future water will be expensive
In the future all material items will be free
In the future everyone’s house will be like a little fortress
In the future everyone’s house will be a total entertainment center

In the future everyone but the wealthy will be very happy
In the future everyone but the wealthy will be very filthy
In the future everyone but the wealthy will be very healthy
In the future TV will be so good
That the printed word will function as an art form only

In the future people with boring jobs
Will take pills to relieve the boredom
In the future no one will live in cities
In the future there will be mini wars going on everywhere
In the future everyone will think about love all the time

In the future political and other decisions
Will be based completely on opinion polls
In the future there will be machines
Which will produce a religious experience in the user

In the future there will be groups of wild people
Living in the wilderness
In the future there will only be paper money
Which will be personalized
In the future there will be a classless society

In the future everyone will only get to go home once a year
In the future everyone will stay home all the time
In the future we will not have time for leisure activities
In the future we will only work one day a week

In the future our bodies will be shriveled up but our brains will be
bigger
In the future there will be starving people everywhere
In the future people will live in space
In the future no one will be able to afford TV

In the future the helpless will be killed
In the future everyone will have their own style of way-out clothes
In the future we will make love to anything, anytime, anywhere
In the future there will be so much going on
That no one will be able to keep track of it

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By Shenonymous, July 24, 2010 at 12:28 pm Link to this comment

Things always seem to ski down the slippery slope, especially when
it comes to human arrogance.  Why stop with livers and kidneys? 
Why not sell a few fingers, I mean, my gawd, you have ten! This day
and age you really only need one finger to type on a keyboard.  Oh
oh, better think again on that one, you need enough to use toilet
paper.  How many is the minimum for that?  Then maybe even a
limb or so, being symmetrical in that way?  An extra is…well…an
extra.  Or how about selling an eye, you have two and really only
need one to look at a computer screen all day long?  Or… and here
is the best organ commodity… since your brain has two hemi-
spheres why not sell half of your brain?  Oh oh, maybe you are already
half brained, well then… sell off a fourth!  LOL.  Be careful though you
don’t sell those memories you wanted to keep.  Selling blood is selling
something replenishable.  The body does not replace lost parts, uh…
sold off parts.  Also teeth are marketable these days with implants
being offered by orthodontics.  Let’s see…hmmm…32 possibles, you
could just gum jello for the rest of your life just to make a buck or two. 
More LOL.  Of course, “in the future,” as David Byrne would say, long
life bionics will take the place of human organs, parts that wear out. 
And they already have fake blood, not quite perfected yet, though.  So
selling organically human parts will become moot and only for
traditionalists, which might be really a cheap bargain, again shall we
laugh?  Eternal life will become a much closer reality and eventually the
bionics will take over the universe since they are almost indestructible. 
Very godlike.  Hmmm the tsunami of the future?  So the market will go
up, then it will go down. TIme to switch stock options.

Whilst I am not smuggling in the right of an organism to live, you,
Foucauldian, continue with your smugness!  You tend to take limited
meanings of terms that have more than one meaning.  When I said a
species has only one right, and I did not say anything about ‘obligation’
which is an additive on your part (a very nasty habit you have of
attributing things to people that were not said and exist except in your
own blurred vision? At any rate, I was referring to an organism’s natural
right to live since it got to be born quite by accident but its genetic
force aims to survive.  From nature’s grant, it makes its own right.  I
would go so far as to say that is the first instance of self-righteouness. 
LOL I consider it a natural right merely because nature provides to
living things and that ultimately if it got to exist, exists only by
accident.  But it is really a petty thing to keep arguing about since my
meaning about a right is as clear as pristine water.

Now about human capability of creating new situations.  Some theorists
hold that there is no such thing as free choice and that even creativity
has its genesis prior to the mind that comes up with newish
configurations.  I have not yet decided on the issue of free choice. 
While some, the determinists, hold there is no such ability, others, the
incompatibilists, or libertarianists, oppose saying determinism is false
because it is logically irreconcilable with a deterministic universe. 
Actors, or agents if you prefer, have free will which says that an
individual is able to take more than one possible course of action under
a given set of circumstances, this viewpoint is based on the idea that
nothing is determined. Forse questo o forse quello. Non ci è senso
decidere.

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