Re: `capitalist' character values

From: Mike Lorrey (
Date: Sat Jul 21 2001 - 08:41:59 MDT

Russell Blackford wrote:
> Damien said
> >what I'm addressing is the issue Lee raised: the social merits
> >of (as I paraphrased it, perhaps unfairly) `inculcating the personal values
> >appropriate to the frontier or the 1930s or 1950s'. That is a broader
> >social issue, which could only take effect over the next couple of decades.
> >I'm saying that with the Spike on the way (which, granted, you dispute) we
> >probably don't have time--and, more to the point, that subsidizing the
> >incompetent poor at the risk of ruining their moral fiber is a chance worth
> >taking, since their moral fiber will be toast anyway.
> I'm not actually too worried about paying my taxes for "the incompetent
> poor" or for public infrastructure. On other lists, I often feel like the
> token mad libertarian, but on this one I sometimes feel a bit like the token
> "commie".

Don't worry about it. True communism is indistinguishable from a
completely free market.

> I'd support a guaranteed minimum wage if we could get the economics of it to
> work, which I can hear a number of people on the list say is a big "if". In
> a world of abundance produced by nanotech, it might not be such a big "if"
> at all.

No, it wouldn't be an 'if' at all. Dead certainty. However, don't think
we will all be living lives of ease as intellectuals. There will be a
period where the less intelligent will only find useful employment as
servants performing the less easy to automate jobs, but these positions
will pay quite well.

> I made a comment earlier that I could not see a principled way to stop
> governments from spending money on schools etc. J.R. shot back a remark
> about toll roads and private schools, but my thoughts were not about whether
> there are practical private alternatives to public infrastructure. It was
> about the central question of political philosophy: the limits of political
> obligation. I actually think that it's damn hard justifying the state *at
> all*.

Damn hard if you hold to principles that dislike monopolies in any form.

> Now, minarchists want to justify the state but only in so far as it provides
> protection of life and property, enforces contracts, and keeps out the bad
> guys in the geographic region next door (or across the other side of the
> world these days). A minarchist state would have a military, police, a
> minimalist legal system and a system of courts, but not much more. For
> example, Nozick's opening chapters of _Anarchy, State and Utopia_ try to
> steer a middle course between philosophical anarchism and Leviathan, and to
> justify something like this. I am pretty convinced that they fail. See
> Robert Paul Wolff's classic article "Robert Nozick's Derivation of the
> Minimal State" and see what you think.

The US government started out like this, but the primary problem was
that the states themselves were essentially given cart blanche in the
10th amendment to do anything they could con their populaces to approve.
The 14th balanced this out a bit, but not before significant damage was
done and the feds had grown to a point of sustained over unity reaction.

> I add that the problem of political obligation is at least semi-independent
> of the economic virtues of either pure capitalism or the current
> mercantilist system (corporations in cahoots with governments). I can live
> with the mercantilist system quite happily but don't see how it can be
> *justified* <g>. Indeed, some kinds of libertarianism would lead to the
> conclusion that an unregulated capitalist system is the answer, but that the
> corporate form is not legitimate.

This is essentially my point of view. All of the ills ascribed to the
free market are essentially a function of mercantilist collution with
government thuggery.
> Anyway, when it gets down to the attitude we should take to the "incompetent
> poor", my heart is with Damien, wherever my jurisprudential theorising may
> be. I'm not too worried about taking away incentives and so on where I see
> people in real trouble. I might run a pretty tough welfare state if I were
> in charge but I certainly wouldn't abolish the welfare state.

The primary problem with the concept of the 'incompetent poor' is that
most of their incompetence is not genetic, it is learned. If their
primary instruments of learning are controlled by the powerful (i.e.
television, textbooks by publishing companies, etc) then they are
justified in claiming to be oppressed, they are just too ignorant to
properly prescribe proper solutions. Getting a free income may sound
fine, but its a really stupid solution. Getting minimum wages and hiring
quotas may sound fine, but they are stupid ideas. Getting guaranteed
benefits may sound fine, but it is not tenable if they are not
sufficiently productive. The solution is obviously linked to the
problem: learning.

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