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February 27, 2014


Socialism In One Bedroom

"If you believe that money makes us happy, then you can argue that, in depriving us of alternative lifestyles but delivering the physical goods, capitalism isn't really imposing much of a loss upon us, because it's giving us what makes us happy, what we'd choose anyway."

Who is this 'us'? The factory worker in Bangladesh making the stuff or the accountant using the stuff?

Is historical materialism built on 'happiness'? It seems to me it is built on things like how developed are the productive forces. I.e. not about happiness but more about competition. I don't think one system dies and another takes it's place because of how happy it makes people. It make be a componenet part but surely a small factor?


There are similarities between Marxism and Libertarianism - not least the absence of the state. I'm not sure whether a basic income would exist under Marxism - Marx strongly promoted the concept of worker "discipline" - I think you would have to contribute in some way, and wages would have to become distinctly unsticky to the downside - if only to prevent shortages or surpluses. I suspect the guitar and the fusion cookery would have to be evenings/weekends only. Okay, disabled folks and orphans would be taken care of - but I think able-bodied adults would have been er,expected, to do something. Alienation would perhaps be lower with more machines, so services predominate then. Hey, Keynes' 15 hours a week - machines do all the grunt - everyone else serves coffee, cuts hair, makes computer app thingys. Cool.
So what are these institutions other than the private sector and govt, that can maximise social welfare in that individualised Nozickian sense, without parasitism, theft, slavery, etc.

Luis Enrique

wasn't there a certain amount of trampling crushing and elbowing in socialist states? People are far to quick to say "capitalism creates X" when X is actually a feature of non-capitalist societies too.


"Most of don't have outside options; we can't live off our savings or inheritances or on our smallholding. We are therefore compelled by circumstance to enter into capitalist relations to earn our living. This curtails our freedom to pursue other lifestyles, such as a love of arts and music or caring for others. "

Nothing curtails your freedom to try and earn a living by being an artist or musician, other than the basic principle of nature that a human being needs food, clothing and shelter to continue to exist, and the only ways of getting them are either to take them from someone else, or get them to give them to you voluntarily in exchange for something you have, or do for them.

So absent any expression of force, either through stealing, or enforced taxation of others, the only way a man can eat is to voluntarily work, either by creating the requirements of life by his own hand, or by working for others in return for them.

All other options require someone to be forcibly removed from the products of their labours.

Luis Enrique

that was a dumb comment for this post. sorry


Thanks for the article. In fact, Libertarians are main advocates of a basic income.

For more on the world Libertarian movement, see www.libertarianinternational.org

An Alien Visitor (Resistance is useless)

Everyone is free but some are freer than others

Will Davies

As David Graeber says:

"Given a choice between a course of action that would make capitalism seem the only possible economic system, and one that would transform capitalism into a viable, long-term economic system, neoliberalism chooses the former every time"



Lots of libertarians think that libertarianism necessarily rejects not only government intrusion into individuals' private lives, but also into the economy. One can be a libertarian by embracing the former and not the latter by recognizing that private economic agents are just as capable of constraining others' economic freedoms as public agents are. A left-leaning libertarian believes that government intrusion into the economy will tend to produce a freer society than will the intrusion by private agents that it displaces(perhaps because they believe that governments' policies tend to respond to democratic will, whereas private agents' policies respond to wealth and power).


There's freedom in the sense that little opposes your goals, and there's freedom in the sense that you have the resources to support you in pursuing your goals.

Clearly money falls into the latter category, and the question becomes "which freedoms are you willing to sacrifice in order to attain the money required to achieve the goals you want to attain most?"

There's nothing wrong with making such choices freely, but there's surely a difference between choosing to work for an arsehole in return for the cash to explore Peruvian mountain trails and having to work down a dangerous mine to avoid seeing your kids starve.


I do find this constant analysis of an "ism" as if it were an actor with a certain personality, an actor who could be changed, incredibly muddle-headed.

An "ism" is not a force applied to a society; it is the description of that society (even a fantasy society like libertarian capitalism, or Marxism). The ism has little causal force. Marxists think it does, since they think they can change the world by persuasion of people into a different "ism" by removing the veil of "false consciousness". Hilarious, of course.

Take this nonsense as an example of the problem:

"Capitalism prioritizes the goods of effectiveness (money and power) over those of excellence."

In other words, those with more power, have more power. (Since money is but one legal lever of power, we can ignore that term and reduce this statement to the vacuous tautology it is.)


@ Andrew - I'm not saying capitalism is a personality. I'm merely saying it is an economic system, and economic systems shape culture; this is a point on which pretty much everyone agrees, even if they might not agree upon how it does so, and the desirability of those effects.
In saying that capitalism prioritizes the goods of effectiveness over those of excellence, I was not expressing a tautology, but rather the view that capitalism (I'm sorry that the word to describe our economic system ends in three letter you don't like) shapes our desires.
And please don't call those who disagrees with you muddle-headed - unless you can better establish a genuine confusion; it just makes you look like an arrogant cunt.


@chris - surely we live in a socioeconomic system and surely it has evolved over many centuries as a single complex system?

I'm not clear how an analysis of a purely economic system shaping culture is particularly useful. You always seem to have this unidirectional view, where "capitalism" rather that being a description of one facet of our present society, is seen as a choice of system, that has causal effects on culture.

IT seems you like to imagine societies "under Xism vs under Yism". Since the ism is, as you say, a description of a society, I really don't know how you can have a useful idea of what is left to be altered when you take the ism away and replace it with another one.

Culture and society would indeed HAVE to be altered in order to bring about any such change.

I think I can reasonably call any analysis I want muddle headed. It is an attack upon the analysis and perfectly legitimate. I don't wish to denigrate your intellect - if I did, why would I read you so regularly?

Despite your answer about shaping desires, I still don't know what "Capitalism prioritizes" could mean if it didn't entail gives priority to, i.e. power over lesser priorities. And I doubt anyone else does either.

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