Re: Capitalism, Private Property, etc (was Re: Sweatshops)

From: Travas Gunnell (
Date: Wed Apr 18 2001 - 21:46:47 MDT

--- wrote:

> What about other contractual arrangements? Suppose
> I give you some object
> in exchange for your promise to give me money on a
> regular, ongoing basis.
> This is not a loan because there is no promise to
> return the object.
> Does this make it morally OK? Why or why not?
> I'm having trouble understanding the dividing line
> between which kinds
> of freely-chosen, voluntarily-agreed-to arrangements
> between private
> individuals are acceptable in this system and which
> are not.
> Hal

A few more snippets from the FAQ that nobody seems to
be reading:


I.4.12 Won't there be a tendency for capitalist enterprise to reappear in any socialist society?

This is a common right-libertarian objection. Robert Nozick, for example, imagines the following scenario: "[S]mall factories would spring up in a socialist society, unless forbidden. I melt some of my personal possessions and build a machine out of the material. I offer you and others a philosophy lecture once a week in exchange for yet other things, and so on. . . .some persons might even want to leave their jobs in socialist industry and work full time in this private sector. [this is] how private property even in means of production would occur in a socialist society." Hence Nozick claims that "the socialist society will have to forbid capitalist acts between consenting adults." [Anarchy, State and Utopia, pp. 162-3]

As Jeff Stein points out, however, "the only reason workers want to be employed by capitalists is because they have no other means for making a living, no access to the means of production other than by selling themselves. For a capitalist sector to exist there must be some form of private ownership of productive resources, and a scarcity of alternatives. The workers must be in a condition of economic desperation for them to be willing to give up an equal voice in the management of their daily affairs and accept a boss" ["Market Anarchism? Caveat Emptor!", a review of A Structured Anarchism : An Overview of Libertarian Theory and Practice by John Griffin, Libertarian Labor Review #13, Winter 1992-93, pp. 33-39].

In an anarchist society, there is no need for anyone to "forbid" capitalist acts. All people have to do is refrain from helping would-be capitalists set up monopolies of productive assets. This is because, as we have noted in B.3, capitalism cannot exist without some form of state to protect such monopolies. In a libertarian-socialist society, of course, there would be no state to begin with, and so there would be no question of it "refraining" from doing anything, including protecting would-be capitalists' monopolies of the means of production. In other words, would-be capitalists would face stiff competition for workers in an anarchist society. This is because self-managed workplaces would be able to offer workers more benefits (such as self-government) than the would-be capitalist ones. The would-be capitalists would have to offer not only excellent wages and conditions but also, in all likelihood, workers' control and hire-purchase on capital used. The chances of making a profit once the various monopolies associated with capitalism are abolished are slim. ... Notice also that Nozick confuses exchange with capitalism ("I offer you a lecture once a week in exchange for other things"). This is a telling mistake by someone who claims to be an expert on capitalism, because the defining feature of capitalism is not exchange (which obviously took place long before capitalism existed) but labor contracts involving capitalist middlemen who appropriate a portion of the value produced by workers - in other words, wage labour. Nozick's example is merely a direct labor contract between the producer and the consumer. It does not involve any capitalist intermediary taking a percentage of the value created by the producer. It is only this latter type of transaction that libertarian socialism prevents -- and not by "forbidding" it but simply by refusing to maintain the conditions necessary for it to occur, i.e. protection of capitalist property.

Lastly, we must also note that Nozick also ignores the fact that acquisition must come before transfer, meaning that before "consenting" capitalist acts occur, individual ones must precede it. As argued above, for this to happen the would-be capitalist must steal communally owned resources by barring others from using them. This obviously would restrict the liberty of those who currently used them and so be hotly opposed by members of a community. If an individual did desire to use resources to employ wage labour then they would have effectively removed themselves from "socialist society" and so that society would bar them from using its resources (i.e. they would have to buy access to all the resources they currently took for granted). ----

Unfortuanately I don't have a lot of time to spare to pick through all these emails and give decent responses. Though for the most part, properly reading through the FAQ will probably answer most questions and criticisms that people might have. Also, starting tomorrow, I'm going to be away from email for several days, so y'all will just have to get along without me. ;-)


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