Those of us who regard socioeconomic inequality as a serious problem are often accused of envy, as though such concerns were simply a matter of begrudging someone elses having more cookies than we do.
I think this reaction misses the point in a number of ways; let me say just a bit about just one of those ways:
Suppose you forget to pay your power bill (or your phone bill, or your cable tv bill, or your internet access bill, or your credit card bill, or whatever). What happens? Your provider disconnects you, and youll probably have to pay an extra fee to get service reestablished. You also get a frowny face on your credit report.
On the other hand, suppose that, for whatever reason (internet glitches, downed power lines after a storm, or who knows), you suffer a temporary interruption of service from your provider. Do they offer to reimburse you? Hell no. And theres no easy way for you to put a frowny face on their credit report.
Now, if you rent your home, take a look at your lease. Did you write it? Of course not. Did you and your landlord write it together? Again, of course not. It was written by your landlord (or by your landlords lawyer), and is filled with far more stipulations of your obligations to her than of her obligations to you. It may even contain such ominously sweeping language as lessee agrees to abide by all such additional instructions and regulations as the lessor may from time to time provide (which, if taken literally, would be not far shy of a slavery contract). If youre late in paying your rent, can the landlord assess a punitive fee? You betcha. By contrast, if shes late in fixing the toilet, can you withhold a portion of the rent? Just try it.
Now think about your relationship with your employer. In theory, you and she are free and equal individuals entering into a contract for mutual benefit. In practice, she most likely orders the hours and minutes of your day in exacting detail. As with the landlord case, the contract is provided by her and is designed to benefit her. She also undertakes to interpret it; and you will find yourself subjected to loads of regulations and directives that you never consented to. And if you try inventing new obligations for her as she does for you, I predict you will be, shall we say, disappointed.
These arent merely cases of some people having more stuff than you do. Theyre cases in which some people are systematically empowered to dictate the terms on which other people live, work, and trade. And we generally take it for granted. But its not obvious that things have to be that way.
When it comes to diagnosis and prescription, those of us who worry about socioeconomic inequality go in two different directions. Some identify the free market as the cause of such inequality, and government regulation as the cure; for others, its precisely the other way around. Im obviously with the latter group; all the phenomena I mentioned are made possible by systematic restrictions on competition. Libertarians need to spend more time focusing on liberty as the solution to these pervasive asymmetries of power, rather than giving the impression that they find them unproblematic.
“The more jobs are competing for workers, the less onerous the conditions of employment are apt to be. The more workers competing for jobs, the more onerous.”
How about we reverse the paradigm and state the opposite: The more workers are competing for jobs, the less onerous the conditions of hiring and managing employees are apt to be. The more jobs are competing for workers, the more onerous.
e.g., in the current market, less managers have to put up with workers who regularly come in 5 minutes late, take a lunch break 5 minutes too long, leave 5 minutes early, and basically do the minimum amount of work possible not to justify the expense of firing them and finding a replacement.
Now, you do make an interesting point about subordination, per se, that it is not normally a desirable thing (except to a subset of people, and normally in their private lives). However, I think that my point still stands — things come in packages. General absence of responsibility except for implementation of direct instructions and subordination tend to go together. I am not sure how valid or productive it is to mechanistically separate subordination in the workplace from everything it normally comes with. I mean, what people _really_ want, or at least definitely wouldn’t object to, is for money to just rain down on them like manna from heaven without them having any responsibilities at all. e.g., The Garden of Eden. So what, it is just a fantasy, isn’t going to happen, certainly not in a free market.
Life is full of packages, it doesn’t make much sense to complain about the reality of the packages that we will always necessarily have to choose amongst — even in a free market. People are packages too, you can either take them or leave them, flaws and all.
Lets say that less subordination would exist in a free market. Ok, fine, great. That hardly implies that corporations that offer a certain package of subordination and reduced responsibilities are somehow blameworthy. They’d only be blameworthy to the extent that they lobbied for various government regulations. And I am not fond of the approach of handwaving and saying without any concrete evidence “they did lobby” and having vicarious liability.
Also, you are mostly focusing on employees here. There are other aspects to Long’s argument, which I replied to in my article.
“Some identify the free market as the cause of such inequality, and government regulation as the cure; for others, it’s precisely the other way around. I’m obviously with the latter group”
So long as it is a free market made up of cooperatives rather than private enterprises I would hope? Wage slavery won’t move us very far along the path to freedom!
I’ve gone into some practical detail here http://philosophukka.blogspot.com if anyone’s interested; showing people how to identify the kinds of organisational structures already operating on an anarcho-socialist platform and encouraging them to join in or start a scheme of their own.
Wage labour becomes wage slavery only when there’s no acceptable alternative to it. In a freed market, the legal barriers to cooperatives etc. would be removed, so whatever wage labour still existed would be a matter of genuine choice and so not wage slavery.
Somewhere on the AFAQ I believe this very question is addressed, i.e. what if no legal barriers existed to cooperatives, etc, would they take over. The answer was, as long as “capitalism” continues cooperatives will not be as profitable as corporations so cooperatives will be outcompeted. So even if workers start their own businesses and aren’t slaves to employers they are still slaves “to the economy” in the sense they have to keep making profits and working hard or go under.
Corporations wouldn’t be as profitable or even exist in their current form without their benefactor, the state, to interfere on their behalf.
brandon: “Corporations wouldn’t be as profitable or even exist in their current form without their benefactor, the state, to interfere on their behalf.”
Almost nothing would exist in its current form if the state were to wither and die.
But we would still have roads, companies, firms, families, commerce, capitalism, religion, marriages, employment, rent, mass production, specialization of labor, international trade–and corporations.
Yes. As Brandon says, if it weren’t for “legal barriers” the big corporations wouldn’t be able to compete in the first place, if you can use that term to describe what they’re doing now.
In addition, if it weren’t for artificial scarcity rents and mandated overhead it would take a much smaller revenue stream to keep from going under. “Going under” has a qualitatively different meaning, depending on whether you’re talking about a situation where production requires expensive machinery, or only craft tools that can be afforded by an individual worker. In the latter case, the distinction between being “in business” and “out of business” is pretty blurry, because there is no overhead or fixed cost to service to keep from going deeper in the hole. What revenue comes in is free and clear, and slow periods can be ridden out. So someone can gradually shift work hours from wages to self-employment, incrementally, with little risk.
And if you eliminate artificial overhead mandates and other entry barriers for subsistence — like restrictions on cheap vernacular building technology, artificial land titles that held vacant land out of use, monopolies that drive up healthcare costs several hundred percent, etc. — then the lower the revenue stream that must be provided by self-employment and wage employment combined.
If the logic of an OSE replaces the currency platform, then we don’t still have capitalism. We may have markets, but with consumer preferences shaped by the OSE, the invisible hands of market exchange will be determined by non-rival cognition. That’s not capitalism or socialism or communism bub.
MBH: “If the logic of an OSE replaces the currency platform, then we don’t still have capitalism. We may have markets, but with consumer preferences shaped by the OSE, the invisible hands of market exchange will be determined by non-rival cognition. That’s not capitalism or socialism or communism bub.”
And herein lies a main difference between standard anarcho-libertarianism, and whatever you are. As a good anarcho-capitalist, I’d relish a free(d) market so we could see you guys eat our dust from your communes up in Lancaster.
And as whatever I am, I’d relish a freed market because the “currency” would be stable, interaction wouldn’t entail hierarchies, knowledge would flow freely, and poverty would likely be eliminated.
Therein does lie the main difference. You seek the end for more division. I seek an end to unjust division. You think that capital can continue to measure value. I think that innovation has outpaced capital, and you ass clowns are parasitic on us.
Once we do design systems to decouple Open Source Ventures from the metacurrencies that more accurately represent their value than your archaic capital, then we will see whether or not the old school venture capital leaves us in the dust — undoubtedly funneling toward your legal services.
Fuck you in the ass how much did Goldman Sachs value Facebook at yesterday? Boy, if only they had gold backing their start-up; they’d really be rich. Save your horse shit for Lew. 🙂
mbh: nothing wrong w/ “hierarchy”.
Right, it’s fantastic in sand castles.
Nothing wrong with a wealth hierarchy a priori?
How exactly will a medium of exchange that cannot accurately track value not entail a wealth hierarchy a priori?
MBH: “Nothing wrong with a wealth hierarchy a priori?”
right. Nothing unlibertarian, either.
“How exactly will a medium of exchange that cannot accurately track value not entail a wealth hierarchy a priori?”
Media of exchang do not “track value”. As Mises showed, even for goods that do have a market price, the price does not serve as a measure of the good’s value. As Mises states:
“Although it is usual to speak of money as a measure
of value and prices, the notion is entirely fallacious. So long
as the subjective theory of value is accepted, this question of
measurement cannot arise.” Ludwig von Mises, The
Theory of Money and Credit, H.E. Batson, trans. (Indianapolis:
Liberty Fund,  1980), p. 51 (in chapter 2,”On the Measurement
of Value”). Also: “Money is neither a yardstick of value nor of
prices. Money does not measure value. Nor are prices measured in
money: they are amounts of money.” Ludwig von Mises, Socialism:
An Economic and Sociological Analysis, 3d rev. ed., J. Kahane,
trans. (Indianapolis: Liberty Press, 1981), p. 99); see also Mises,
So libertarianism cannot prefer one situation over another?
Yet agreement on which commodity will serve as medium of exchange presupposes the inter-subjective theory of value, which is different.
mbh: “So libertarianism cannot prefer one situation over another?”
Libertarians can, insofar as they are not just libertarians. But libertarainism itself? If it prefers at all, it would prefer hierarchies to none.
And you prefer wealth hierarchies without any consideration for the nature of the unit of account, its stability, or whether it permits just mobility?
MBH: “you prefer wealth hierarchies without any consideration for the nature of the unit of account, its stability, or whether it permits just mobility?”
I don’t prefer just any hierarchies; I simply oppose the abolition of all of them. Since it is clear that in any free society there will be inequality (ever heard of Nozick’s Wilt Chamberlain hypo?); and since private authority figures and structures are necessary and would exist.
I’m a libertarian which means I oppose aggression and focus on aggression as the primary political evil. It is what we oppose, qua libertarian: it is why we say that the only way to violate someone’s rights is by initiation of force. Of course I would oppose any authority that results from state intervention but if the state is gone then that is not a concern.
I fully expect a free society would be very capitalist indeed, with lots of wealth disparities, inequality, private authorities, employment, firms, division of labor, distant ownership, rent, landlords, and the like–and that this is good insofar as it results from the free market process. Of course the poor would be far better off and there would probably be a wide diversity and variety and significant amount of localism, self-employment, leisure, and what have you; but the rich would also be much better off.
I would walk it back too, Stephen. Unfortunately for you, I’m not going to let you skate here — too many LvM’ers hold this belief without any idea how repulsive it is.
You didn’t qualify it at all. You didn’t say, “If the hierarchy implies ability, then it’s OK.” You didn’t say, “If the hierarchy is unjust but can be overcome by openness, then it may not be OK, but we could work with it.” You didn’t say, “If the particular hierarchy is a revolt against nature, then I want another hierarchy.” You just said, “Right, [nothing’s wrong it.]”Reflect on this impulse, for Christ’s sake. Nothing. Wrong. Wealth hierarchy a priori. Nothing. Wrong.
It’s the equivalent of conservatives that knee-jerk: government = bad. Or progressives: free market = bad. Misesians: wealth hierarchy a priori = natural, amoral, irrelevant. That belief is a pre-conscious sickness.
Irrelevant. My question was not how to structure a free society. My question was whether certain background conditions to that formation are more or less favorable to other background conditions.
The issue is a priori. Why won’t you play the Austrian economics game with me?
I have no problem with that per se. I have a problem with your implicit assumption that, even if wealth is bottlenecked in the top .01% of a society a priori, nothing’s wrong. I think that belief is a sickness.
“You didn’t qualify it at all. You didn’t say, “If the hierarchy implies ability, then it’s OK.””
? Hunh? So? I don’t oppose wealth hierarchies per se. There is no way to “oppose” wealth hierarchies *per se* in a libertarian way, unless you mean just griping about it. But I don’t oppose wealth hierarchies per se at all.
” You didn’t say, “If the hierarchy is unjust but can be overcome by openness, then it may not be OK, but we could work with it.””
That is implied by my rejection of the opposition to all wealth hierarchies per se. It implies that they are not necessarily bad or unlibertarian. Which is my view.]
“Reflect on this impulse, for Christ’s sake. Nothing. Wrong. Wealth hierarchy a priori. Nothing. Wrong.”
Correct. There is nothing wrong apriori with (all) wealth hiearchies.
“It’s the equivalent of conservatives that knee-jerk: government = bad.”
Conservatives actually do not believe this; the are statists too. But of course all states are “bad”.
“Misesians: wealth hierarchy a priori = natural, amoral, irrelevant. That belief is a pre-conscious sickness.”
“My question was whether certain background conditions to that formation are more or less favorable to other background conditions.”
Then you should have talked about that rather than implicitly claiming that all wealth hiearchies are bad, since these are different claims.
“The issue is a priori. Why won’t you play the Austrian economics game with me?”
I am not clear what you are talking about.
“I have no problem with that per se. I have a problem with your implicit assumption that, even if wealth is bottlenecked in the top .01% of a society a priori, nothing’s wrong.”
“bottlenecked”? What kind of economic or libertarian concept is that?
In any case, I did not say that. I only said I do not oppose wealth hierarchies in and of themselves. This only means that not all such hiearchies are objectionable. It does not rule out that some–such as the one you describe–may be illegitimate for one reason or another.
What do you think “a wealth hierarchy a priori” means? Have you considered that “a wealth hierarchy prior to…” has a solid family resemblance to “a wealth hierarchy as background to…”?
Stephan. Where do I imply that? I say,
‘Hierarchies wouldn’t necessarily frame interaction’ does not mean all hierarchies are bad. It doesn’t even imply it. By what rule of inference could it imply that all hierarchies are bad?
I never said all. In fact, I said,
My diagnosis may be incorrect. I thought pre-conscious sickness. It’s looking more and more conscious.
“What do you think “a wealth hierarchy a priori” means?”
Have no idea. seems like crankish terminology to me. I thought you were asking me if I would apriori oppose wealth hierarchies per se.
” Have you considered that “a wealth hierarchy prior to…” has a solid family resemblance to “a wealth hierarchy as background to…”?”
Sorry, but I am not sure what you are talking about.
“Hierarchies wouldn’t necessarily frame interaction’ does not mean all hierarchies are bad. It doesn’t even imply it.”
I don’t know what this interesting phrasing is supposed to mean.
So why did you take it to mean I was “implicitly claiming that all wealth hiearchies are bad?”
“So why did you take it to mean I was “implicitly claiming that all wealth hiearchies are bad?””
B/c at first I thought you were asking me if we can know “apriori” that wealth hierarchies [per se] are bad. I say no. Now you say no, that you are talkign about “wealth hierarchies apriori” and I don’t know what this is supposed to mean.
Do you know what the word ‘situation’ or the word ‘circumstance’ means? These words refer to states of affairs that are prior to action. Actions occur within a given situation or circumstance. “Man acts” within a larger context — an environment. Man does not act in a vacuum.
Similarly, Catallactics implies, (among other things) states of affairs prior to visible market activity. The state of affairs under consideration is the ownership of wealth — specifically, the state of affairs in which a large percentage of the wealth’s sum rests within a small portion of a population.
I contend that this prior state of affairs can be neutral or it can be bad (not one or the other). You contend that per se they are neutral.
I’m framing the state of affairs through Catallactics. Mises says, in The Scope and Method of Catallactics:
I want to know if a hypothetical market phenomena — highly concentrated wealth — is enough to judge its hypothetical ramifications, or if we need to look for hypothetical roots (distinguishing hypothetically legitimate wealth from hypothetically illegitimate wealth).
So when I say,
And you say,
I wonder why you suck at Catallactics.:) Mises would obviously say that, when considering a wealth hierarchy (even per se), you have to consider (or qualify) the roots and ramifications. A hypothetical wealth hierarchy might be neutral and it might be bad. Why do you say,
Mises clearly wants to say that something may be wrong with “hierarchy”. The core lesson of Catallactics is exactly that: hierarchy per se is a blur. You can’t say nothing’s wrong with it per se; you can’t say something is wrong with it per se either. Hierarchy per se is necessarily wrong or neutral.
“I don’t know what this is supposed to mean.”
That is a very familiar refrain when debates involve MBH. No one understands what he means. My theory, and I haven’t had a chance to test it as yet, is that he is a KGB spy attempting to infiltrate and undermine the traditional values and institutions of the West through ways and means not fully understood.
OK OK. You got me to crack. I’m sending this back to The Motherland.
Stephan, in case you haven’t taken enough medicine, here’s one more dose.
If bigness is a priori highly suspect, why exactly shouldn’t hierarchy be? — Well, I guess you could always argue that bigness isn’t per se suspect.
You say on 08.02.09,
For future reference Stephan, just say “oops” and get out! Or, pretend like you’re doing Catallactics right and continue to be called out your ignorance…
Sorry to miss all the mbh/kinsella action, but I wanted to clarify my remark to illustrate how the artificial legal barriers along with corporations might fall but “wage slavery” could still exist. It’s a “collective action problem”, like if a few people try to start driving on the left side of the road they will just be mowed down by the traffic driving on the right side. Graphically, in the space of possible societies capitalism (meaning private property, wage labor, etc) is a valley, so a few hippie cooperatives forming might not make much difference because they would be outcompeted by all the normal firms. The argument then is, that even if the state goes away capitalism might still continue in present form because of existing monopolies, industry is so capital intensive, capitalists can sell at a loss in one region to crush competition in another, etc.
I should clarify I’m not certain about this and do truly hope that a state-free society would look substantially freer and better than the one we have now. Yet, sometimes I imagine the worst case isn’t anarchy = chaos, but anarchy = the way things are now just with no state, taxes, or social programs and McDonalds running things like in that book “Jane Government”.