Saturday, January 8, 2011

Rattling the cage of The Barefoot Bum 2

I was going to call this post Communist Bum, but I suspect the Barefoot Bum would have called that title "egregiously stupid," his favourite phrase when he references me, Libertarians, Randians (Objectivists), and anyone else who disagrees with him in general. I don't like calling anyone a communist (because in the USA that might get you shot), I prefer to use the word statist (but Statist Bum does not demonstrate the same level of contempt that I hold). Oh wait, Mr. Bum doesn't think the term 'statist' is "particularly well-defined." Let me help.
In my usage, statist comes from the word "statism" which means the theory or practice of concentrating economic and political power in the state, usually resulting in a weak position for the individual or community with respect to government. A statist is one who practices statism.  As far as I'm concerned there is very little difference in practice between communists, fascists, NAZI's, socialists (called New Democrats in Canada), Liberals (in Canada), Conservatives (everywhere), Democrats, Republicans, Greens and on and on. They are ALL statists according to that definition and my usage, and they differ only in degree of application. However, there is a very big difference between Libertarians and Conservatives/Republicans. Libertarians want limits on the size and scope of government, Conservatives/Republicans say that they do but in practice it never works out that way. In those so-called right-wing (Conservative/Republican) governments the state always accumulates more power, more control, and more funding at the expense of individuals and communities. That is what has happened in the US and Canada.

Mr. Bum has dissected my previous commentaries line-by-line and he did it again in a recent post after I responded to his initial attack. I don't read Mr. Bum's postings as a rule, it was only by accident that I found his attack on my posting. What I do know is is that Mr. Bum hates Libertarians. Strangely Mr. Bum has something in common with Ayn Rand, my supposed Prophet, she hated Libertarians too. Go figure.

I first read Rand's work as a boy in the late 1960's and early '70's and she obviously had a profound affect on me probably because my thinking at the time was similar to hers. Mr. Bum refers my "dreary Libertarian dogma" blaming Rand.  Of course his communist views are strictly his own, sprung from his fertile brow and certainly not dogmatic. I'm full of dogma and propaganda because I'm libertarian, he is just a communist, no dogma, no propaganda just lots of evidence and skepticism. Right Mr. Bum?

In his most recent dissection of my blog he avoids my comment "I too would be frustrated if my dream-Marxist world had collapsed to the point where just Cuba and North Korea are all that is left of the great revolution of the proletariat. The former communist world has taken on a decidedly capitalistic appearance, though it is still coercive by nature; they have moved closer to us in the West and unfortunately we have moved closer to them in many ways." He avoids it because its true, though he actually posts an apology for Communism before he dissects my blog. Nice touch. In it he says: "I self-identify as a communist. I could just as easily self-identify as a socialist. I chose "communist" for a couple of reasons. Both terms have some unfortunate connotations. Communism, of course, carries the baggage of the errors and excesses of the Soviet Union and China." So, Mr. Bum wants to distance himself from the "unfortunate connotations" of those places where communism began and had its greatest effect on humanity. He also feels free to distance himself from all the advocates of communism (Marx, Lenin, Mao etc.). Damn those unfortunate connotations! I guess he means the millions and millions murdered (possibly 110 million people!) by Stalin and Mao and others. Yes, that is unfortunate. But lets not dwell on reality. Mr. Bum shares with us his ethics: "My fundamental ethical philosophy is gob simple: I want as many people as possible to be as happy as possible, however each person construes "happiness"; I want as few people as possible to suffer as little as possible, however each person construes "suffering". I see the interesting part of politics and economics to be about how to bring about universal happiness. If I thought capitalism were the best way to bring about universal happiness, I would be a capitalist; I do not, therefore I searched for an alternative and settled — at least at present — on communism." Ugh, that sounds like the beauty contest contestant that wants "world peace," he just wants everyone to be happy, and not suffer, and that will happen in his communist lala land, but not like before, that was bad. Mr. Bum goes on to dismiss the communist (and also statist) idea of a planned economy as "unsound" and prefers "the social ownership of capital, the means of production," whatever the hell that means, I have no idea and I'm sure he could not explain it either.

I do agree with one thing that he says: "I consider economics and politics to be fundamentally scientific disciplines; I do not believe they areas merely of competing dogmas."  I agree, economics at least, is a science. Like any science, attempts should made to describe it with theories. Theories are formed by testing hypotheses, when a hypothesis corresponds with reality (i.e. is true) it is accepted. Hypotheses become theories when they describe reality and can be used to make predictions with outcomes that correspond to the real world if they work. If communist theory claims that the means of production should be owned by the proletariat for the good of everyone, fine, show me an example where this has worked or even partially worked now or in the past. Is it in Cuba, North Korea, the former Soviet Union, any of the Eastern Block satellites of the USSR, Red China, is it anywhere, anywhere but in the Communist Manifesto? Every time communism has been attempted anywhere it has led to "errors and excesses" and "unfortunate connotations" as Mr. Bum so blandly puts it. Every time! That is quite a record of rotten success, quite a record of UNhappiness, Mr. Bum!

So lets summarize, communism hasn't worked, doesn't work, and millions and millions have died, but Mr. Bum concludes: "so I'm a communist." Fine, be happy.

However, I'm a libertarian, I support freedom and I do not support coercion, and communism requires coercion and removes freedom, always. My choice of economics is the Austrian School or Theory. What is the Austrian Economics? Just click on that for a lengthy history and explanation. In essence it is a laissez-faire approach to economics. Where it has been tried, it has been wildly successful. Witness the United States, Canada or any country or territory that remotely resembles laissez-faire Austrian Economics. Again it is a matter of degree, but if you check out this interactive map of Economic Freedom and correlate it to the wealth, life expectancy, yes happiness, of individuals in those countries found in this document, then you might agree with me. If you live in Canada or the United States you are still free to choose. You are also free to agree with the Barefoot Bum and the dreck that he spews.      


  1. Oho! The battle is joined! I'll respond tomorrow on my blog.

  2. Dear Mr. Small, I was going to write a much longer rebuttal to this post but it's getting late and I just can't be bothered. I'm sure Larry will do a much better job than I could anyway.

    I do feel obligated to answer one of your charges when you say communism has never worked and you ask about the social ownership of capital.

    The plain answer is communism can and does work and when it works, makes it's participants very happy. The social ownership of capital means a bit more than this but you can simply think of it as a co-op. The workers are the owners.

    I'll give you an example of where this works. In Michael Moore's film, "Capitalism - A Love Story" he spotlights a bakery where the workers are the owners and the line workers are paid $60,000/yr! Take a moment to re-read that. Your average, high school graduate, production line worker makes $60,000/yr. In a laissez-faire system, these people would be paid the minimum the market will bear, maybe $20,000/yr. This is one case where communism wins! There is another manufacturer highlighted in his film that's a high-tech firm where the workers control it all.

    Another instance would be open source software. Think Linux or Ubuntu (the computer on which I'm composing this is running Ubuntu). There is no fee to those who download it. Each according to their abilities (I've contributed nothing) and each according to their needs (I needed an OS). Communism wins again!

    Remember, capitalism has been around for only about 200 yrs. Other systems were in existence before that like feudalism and mercantilism. The vast majority of human existence has been lived under cooperative structures which is are form of communism. Think native American Indian tribes where everyone depended on everyone else (I don't know if this is strictly accurate so you could call me out on it but the larger point remains true).

    There were the Utopian Communes. Some still exist today. Hell, you can think of religious orders like convents as being communist. They wouldn't work for me but whatever makes them happy.

    What is it Carl Sagan said? Absence of evidence is not evidence of absence. Same applies here. Just because you couldn't immediately bring to mind examples of working communism doesn't mean it doesn't exist.

    I suggest you go re-think your views on communism a bit more.

  3. Hi Scott,
    I appreciate your comments, and believe it or not I saw Moore's film, I also know about co-ops and I have no problem with any of what you say. We have co-ops in the Canadian western provinces, especially the farming community, in Israel many of the once very socialist kibbutzes have morphed into co-ops. It's a great option, if it works wonderful, that is not the communism I'm talking about.
    Libertarianism is about choice, frequently choice is small scale as in your examples, people get together, make contracts and operate in good faith for mutual benefit or sometimes no benefit and others receive benefit that they did not contribute any effort toward like your OS example. If you call that communism ok, but I don't.
    You may be interested in the Seasteading Institute, scroll down my blogroll on the right. That group, which has libertarian roots, offers options in self government and cooperative structures will likely be a large part of their effort.
    We may have more in common than you think. I know Larry The BB doesn't get this, but coercion often occurs when majorities rule. When 51% of a population says go to war does that mean that 49% are out of luck? Worse than that happens and has happened. Big governments have big ideas and require big budgets thats what I mean by statism. It doesn't work on a large scale.
    I'm not enjoying the tit-for-tat with Mr. Bum as much as he seems to be. I think its a waste of time arguing with him. I'm not here to argue I'm here to suggest options, suggest other ways of thinking about problems and encourage other solutions. But every solution needs to address the idea that individuals have rights and choice. That leaves open a surprising amount of room for experimentation.

  4. if communist makes people so happy, why do communist regimes need to keep people from fleeing at the point of a gun?

    People vote with their feet, and they vote for freedom.

    Put your theories aside and let people decide.

  5. scott: the examples of communism you cited are examples of non-coerced and free association.

    Anybody should be free to associate and pool their incomes IF THEY WANT. And you can do this today under all capitalist regimes.

    Communism as a coercive political system, imposed upon the population has never worked.