Sunday, May 29, 2011

Individualism: The Myth of Utopian Socialism

This is part 1 of a 3-post series dealing with the Marxist concept of Socialism and Individualism.

Part 1: The Myth of Utopian Socialism

Socialism: the penultimate state of equality. Everything shared, the power and interests of each individual so intertwined that the most minor discomfort will be done away with: Utopia. But Utopia is, by definition, an unattainable state of things: it means "no place." Nature itself precludes perfection.

But socialism isn't a utopia, either. The closest proximity it ever gets to Utopia is that socialism defines the conditions which allow for humans to strive for utopia. The daily struggle to subsist, wherein basic human need resolves itself into conflicts between individuals, stands in the the way of Utopia more than nature. But the triumph over the conditions which create these conflicts could allow humans to redirect their efforts.

If the problem of hunger is restricted to our history, we can then seek to resolve the intricate issues of human inter-personal relations. The state of the individual in need is a state of oppression, for the simple reason that it disallows the free actualization of the human being: in such a state, one is tied above all to the very struggle to exist before one can exist as a free person:

Saturday, May 28, 2011

Nothing is as Sure as U.S. Debt Payments

For all the hype about fiscal deficits, the numbers don't add up to any significant threat to the U.S. economy: The U.S. is highly unlikely to default on its debts, and debts are mostly held by private and public U.S. firms and individuals.

As Ludwig von Mises famously argued, if you print money (or create loans) you'll get inflation, and whoever gets the money first benefits from it most. But whom does inflation hurt? In a global economy, it is the relative debt/capital holdings that matter. These are called "net account balance" and "capital account balance." The U.S. far supersedes other nations in terms of net debt and net capital. What will expanded government purchases do to this dynamic? It depends on where those purchases go. If we look at the current data from the U.S. Treasury, we see that U.S. debt goes primarily to U.S. interests: 70.7 percent of U.S. debt is owed to U.S. firms or individuals.

If we decide to take Rep. Paul Ryan's advice, we will be reducing government purchases that expand net capital in the U.S. and net debt to entities in the U.S. If we follow these plans, the U.S.'s place in the global economy will contract: Capital will leave the nation.

In a nation with fiat currency, the government can simply create money. The trend in government borrowing is a testament to this fact; as Binyamin Appelbaum noted on "NewsHour": "Nothing is as sure in financial markets than that the United States government will repay its debts. And so the government gets the cheapest rates available."

(Originally at Richmond Times Dispatch: Letters to the Editor: Dean Sayers: Nothing is as Sure as U.S. Dept Payments)

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Ames: California Class War History: Meet the Oligarch Family that's been Scamming Taxpayers for 150 Years, and Counting

Henry Miller collected the largest wealth of land in US history,land largely aqcuired by scams:
"Miller scammed the federal government for land and ruthlessly used corrupt state courts to steal land from owners of Mexican land grants. One of his crowning achievements was when, with the help of the notoriously corrupt lawyer and future California governor Harry Haight (after whom Haight Street was named), Miller and Lux litigated a Mexican-American landowning family into insolvency and forced them to sell a property called Buri Buri Ranch, which stretched from the southern tip of San Francisco all the way down to Burlingame, spanning some of the best property in the Bay Area."
Today, the same bloodline uses their inheritance to accrue massive federal funds and favor with the political elite:
"Jim Nickel runs the family’s agricultural and water operations, while Jamie Nickel serves at the director of Federal Crop Insurance Corporation at USDA and manages the real estate end of the business.  Meanwhile his grandson, George W. Nickel, III, is is a budding politician in California, who unsuccessfully ran for the state senate and now works in the Obama administration. Oh, and on top of everything, the family gets a nice revenue stream from the federal government, pulling in roughly $3.6 million in farm subsidies since 1995."

Read the rest here:

Capital Volume 1 Chapter 1 Notes

This is part 1 of a series in which I'll be summarizing the framework of Marx's Capital, Volume 1. For this series I am using the translation by Ben Fowkes, © 1990 & published by Penguin Classics.

All numbered and lettered lists are as they appear in the literature; further organization is my own doing. Occasionally, notes appear outside of the section they are sourced from in the book. This was done to improve the organization and flow of the notes.

I. The Two Factors of the Commodity: Use Value and Value (Substance of value; Magnitude of Value)

-There are two kinds of value applicable to commodities:
Use-value (substance: subjectively represents usability to consumer, represents wealth)
Depository for exchange value
Exchange Value (magnitude: realized by way of market exchange)
Since magnitude of value is our subject, ‘value’ and ‘magnitude of value’ are often used interchangeably.
-…and two creative factors for value:
Labor Value (prerequisite, subsumed into commodity, creates commodity value)
A value or quantity of labor is the common denominator among commodities
Resources (See Section II)

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Economic Liberals Admit it: Capitalists Own Us

"Don't tax the rich, as they create jobs," so the mantra goes. However, this line of thinking betrays the underlying structure of production: namely, that the capitalist class has executive control over the means of production - control which is a concern of public policy, as Cato and the Heritage Foundation admit by requesting policy that regards its standing. Despite that fact, policy proposals argue for diminished public input. Indeed, history shows us that such control has always underlined this graft:1,2,3,4

  • Today, the Capitalist creates jobs by allowing the working class to use the means of production and sell their labor to him.
  • Before that, the Lord created jobs by allowing the working class to use the means of production and give part of their labor to him.
  • Before that, the Slaver created jobs by having the working class use the means of production and he (and it was always a man - patriarchy and all that) provided basic subsistence to them.

It has always been the narrow control over the means of production that allowed the interests of a group of oligarchs to consistently stand as a barrier to the production process. Interestingly, when these power structures shifted, it was always by diminishing the returns that older systems could replicate. The oft-revered Mises agrees: it is by diminishing the surplus value on capital investment that the same is disincentivized.2 Is calling for safer structures for capitalism simply another incarnation of the tactical perpetuation of power? And does this activity fit the theoretical model of consumer-driven capitalism?

Monday, May 16, 2011

Paving an Interstate on the Moral High Ground

Lev Lafayette reminded me of something easy to forget:

On one level such attitudes are the result of an apparent inability to consider life from the perspective of a person living in such countries. For decades these countries have been ruled by absolute monarchs, dictatorships, or regimes with only a pretence of democracy, all of which have engaged in gross violations of basic human rights. -Lev Lafayette, How beautiful is freedom /
The same kind of alienation occurs throughout human activity every day. It variously manifests as the structural-procedural diminishing of general human interests to the end of efficiency, political maneuvering and one-sided interest-fulfillment, to things like the very structure of language meant to engineer - consciously or not - the refutation or dilution of interests competing with one's own.

Sunday, May 1, 2011

May Day 2011: If They Tell You You Can't, Then You Can

Today, I got a chance to momentarily leave my armchair and rise up with my fellow discontents. May Day 2011 saw a motley crew of 300-500 core Richmond leftists hit the streets. There was much ado about the police this time around: namely, the police claimed that protection had to be purchased, and the organizers had to foot the bill. The ACLU even got involved, ineffectively. By the time the rally came about, it seemed like we were already fighting for a lost cause, despite how little the permit meant.
 "I couldn't help but wonder: would we have gotten better turnout if we had been campaigning for fly-fishing somehow?"
It was the same message, the same tactics, the same speakers. A few things were new, but they were scant in today's message. The open-source speaking program policy looks good on paper (and is probably the best way to keep from pissing people off when their pet group doesn't get 5 minutes). But just about everybody seemed ready to skip most of the speakers and hit the streets.