Friday, May 19, 2006

Nick Gillespie is a clever m-f-er

He is.

Or, if you want it in a less-smug-but-still-pretty-smug way--that is, in Spanish--there's this. Read more.

Saturday, May 06, 2006

And then there's evil

Researching the economic calculation debate of the 20s, 30s, and 40s, I came across several good quotes.

From Karl Kautsky, the Marxist who first proposed a plan on how the communist system would work after the revolution:
Capital has accustomed the modern laborer to work day in and day out and he will not long remain wholly without labor. There are people who are so much accustomed to their work that they do not know what to do with their free time and that feel themselves unhappy when they are not working, and there will be few people who will feel themselves happy for any length of time without any work. I am convinced that when once labor loses the repulsive character of over-work and when the hours of labor are reduced in a reasonable degree, custom alone will suffice to hold the great majority of workers in regular work in factories and mines.

Right. People will work because they don't know what else to do with their time. Don't worry, he's not so stupid as to have actually believed what he just said:
But it is self-evident that we cannot trust to this motive alone as it is the weakest. Another much stronger motive force is the discipline of the proletariat. . . . But the discipline which lives in the proletariat is not military discipline. It does not mean blind obedience to an authority imposed from above. It is democratic discipline, a free will submission to a self-chosen leadership, and to the decisions of the majority of their own comrades. If this democratic discipline operates, in the factory, it presupposes a democratic organization of labor, and that a democratic factory will take the place of the present aristocratic one.

No, he believed something less stupid: That people will work because they'll be punished if they won't. But that punishment will be democratic, so it's all good. It never ceases to amaze me how socialists actually think people will cease to be greedy under different economic systems. I actually had a sociology professor tell me once that socialism grants "freedom from want."

From Maurice Dobb, Marxist economist and infamous apologist for Stalin, on the effect of advertising on consumer demand and the problem of likening economic freedom of choice to democracy:
The highest economic good consists in giving the consumer what he thinks he wants, as a political good consists in giving the people the government it thinks it deserves. Both conceptions are part of our bourgeois heritage from the nineteenth century. But there is no need to show that there are fallacies in the latter to demonstrate that there are fallacies in the former. The effect of the advertiser on economic choice may be taken as a fair parallel to that of the Press magnate on political opinion: both damage the sacredness of the popular verdict pretty ruthlessly; in both spheres it would seem that bad money drives out good.

So the consumer's an idiot who's brainwashed by advertising and the media. So what logically follows?
If consumers' choice under capitalism was so malleable by convention and seducible by the advertising agent, what right have we to assume that under socialism it will be supremely wise? If it was so corruptible then, why are we to accept the verdict of its untutored state now? If taste is mainly acquired, rather than innate, and shaped by culture and convention, as seems to be the case, there is no reason why, in a socialist order, the State should entirely abrogate the right of creating taste in favour of being its creature.

The government will tell you what you want.

Well, at least he was consistent. The other market socialists sincerely believed that consumer choice could be maintained under central planning, despite Mises' objection that economic calculation was impossible without a functioning market system.

My favorite quote, most of which I'm going to commit to memory, comes from Oskar Lange. He opened the single most important market socialist paper with this utter gem:
Socialists have certainly good reason to be grateful to Professor Mises, the great advocatus diaboli of their cause. For it was his powerful challenge that forced the socialists to recognize the importance of an adequate system of economic accounting to guide the allocation of resources in a socialist economy. Even more, it was chiefly due to Professor Mises' challenge that many socialists became aware of the very existence of such a problem. And although Professor Mises was not the first to raise it, and although not all socialists were as completely unaware of the problem as is frequently held, it is true, nevertheless, that, particularly on the European Continent (outside of Italy), the merit of having caused the socialists to approach this problem systematically belongs entirely to Professor Mises. Both as an expression of recognition for the great service rendered by him and as a memento of the prime importance of sound economic accounting, a statue of Professor Mises ought to occupy an honourable place in the great hall of the Ministry of Socialisation or of the Central Planning Board of the socialist state. However, I am afraid that Professor Mises would scarcely enjoy what seems the only adequate way to repay the debt of recognition incurred by the socialists, and it is difficult to blame him for not doing so. First, he might have to share his place with the great leaders of the socialist movement, and this company might not suit him. And then, to complete the misfortune, a socialist teacher might invite his students in a class on dialectical materialism to go and look at the statue, in order to exemplify the Hegelian List der Vernunft which made even the staunchest of bourgeois economists unwittingly serve the proletarian cause.

There is now no question among economists worth their intellectual weight that Mises was right. Dialectical materialism indeed. Read more.

Tuesday, May 02, 2006

This is a blog entry about love

There's a Sambomaster song which starts,
ima bokura nado dare ka ni nozomu no ha
tabun hontou no koto wo hanashite hoshii dake
itoshi sa nante bokura ga shiranu nara
dare ka kandou no uta wo kikasete okure yo

If I'm to trust the video's translation, it means,
The thing we wish for from someone now
Is that perhaps we would like them to speak the truth.
If we know nothing of love and such
Someone, let us hear an emotional song.

It doesn't parse too well into English, but the message is clear enough. We desire truth. We know nothing about love. The answer to both of these problems is an emotional song. Rise up, singing voices.

I can't find a flaw in his reasoning.

Which is why writing is so impotent sometimes. Read more.