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A Marxist Argument

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SkepticalMetal Posted: Tue, Nov 13 2012 11:22 AM

While trying to go to sleep last night, I came up with a Marxist argument:

Voluntaryists say that they want all human choices to be voluntary. This mainly includes how these people interact with the government - that they don't want to be forced to do something. The common argument against us Marxists by Voluntaryists is that they say that we support slavery. Is this really true? Let's think about something here -  is birth voluntary? No, of course it isn't. The baby doesn't ask to be born. If this baby is born into poverty, like a poor working-class family, then that baby is born into conditions that that baby never asked for, or voluntarily agreed to. It just worked out that way. This is simply proof that a system of absolute voluntary descisions goes against nature itself, in that not all people make their own choices. Sure you could blame it on the parents, or the grandparents, or whoever was the first to make the choice that would lead them into becoming a proletarian, but the offspring never asks for these things. This is why it is necessary for a system to be established to where all can work together, and no offspring can be born into these conditions which they did not ask for. I see no other alternative to being born into this world without any consent other than the principle of "from each according to his ability, to each according to his need."

How would you guys respond to an argument like this?

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gotlucky replied on Tue, Nov 13 2012 11:36 AM

Voluntaryism has to do with human interaction. Unless you are Stewie from Family Guy, birth is not an interaction.

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Yes. I posted this because socialist arguments are starting to get deeper. Some of them are starting to look at Voluntaryism and see what they can do to attack it from the inside. This was simply my attempt at creating a possible Marxist argument stating that because there are things in life that are not Voluntary (such as birth) and that a human being can be born into conditions created by interactions from other human beings (like the "bourgoisie") so that the person being born advocated no such conditions, but is affected by human action all the same.

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gotlucky replied on Tue, Nov 13 2012 11:56 AM

Hm. Well, depending on who you talk to, voluntaryism is a subset of libertarianism. As I understand it, the basic idea is that only voluntary interactions are considered legitimate, with the only exception being that violence in defense of oneself (or another) or of rightful property is permitted. And there are basically two types of human interactions: cooperation and conflict. Voluntaryists would prefer if A and B were to cooperate, but if A insists on conflict, then it is legitimate for B to respond in kind.

To the voluntaryist, it doesn't matter what the circumstances are regarding the situation A and B find themselves in. If they are going to have interactions, then they will either seek cooperation or conflict. Voluntaryists prefer that regardless of whatever situation A and B find themselves in, that A and B cooperate.

Marxists and statists in general do not advocate that. To them, the ends justify the means. If they don't like the situation, then they are okay with A using conflict as a means to an end. There really isn't much to respond to when someone says that. If that person believes that the ends justify the means at a fundamental level, then there is nothing you can do to change his mind. However, if that person believes that conflict is legitimate because he lacks an understanding of even basic economics, then you might find it possible to change his mind. But even then, you will see a lot of people just clam up and claim that you are stupid.

In my opinion, whoever starts talking about the conditions of society is trying to distract from the fact that they are advocating conflict as a means to an end.

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Wheylous replied on Tue, Nov 13 2012 12:06 PM

Birth cannot be either voluntary or involuntary. If before a person's creation there was no person, then no rights were violated by having him "brought" into existence (because there was no person for his rights to be violated).

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John Ess replied on Tue, Nov 13 2012 12:41 PM

Being a parent or child is not voluntary once you have the baby, no matter where in the social ladder it occurs.  Parent must do certain work, and the child obeys some amount of authority.

Birth is voluntary for parent, and involuntary for child.  So it is subject to the same moral rules guiding any other critique of authority.

  Also, most employment and corporate work is not voluntary.

However, voluntaryists usually mean they don't have to pay taxes.  They don't consider any other type of action.

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Autolykos replied on Tue, Nov 13 2012 12:47 PM

John Ess:
Also, most employment and corporate work is not voluntary.

How not? What's your definition of "voluntary"?

The keyboard is mightier than the gun.

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John Ess replied on Tue, Nov 13 2012 1:18 PM

Your employment is created by someone else.  And it is predicated on certain obligations, and not choice.  Or else it would not be employment.

Likewise, being a child was someone else's choice.  And it is predicated upon living in the house of that person.

Obviously, it would be better to maximize choices in employment to be most desirable to the individual, but this is rarely and not necessary so.  And also it might be better to be able to choose obligations, or to minimize them.  But that is never discussed by voluntaryists.

However, none of this is addressed necessarily by Marxists either.  Many of them believe that these non-choices should be resolved by the state or van guard party.  However, neither they nor the 'voluntaryists' deal with either.  Marxists usually take the above conclusions and say that voluntaryism is only bourgeois value, while 'voluntaryists' define voluntaryism within a narrow definition related to taxation.

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I'd respond that the argument is by and large why parents have obligations to their offspring, to raise them well. And nothing further than that.

 

Your employment is created by someone else.  And it is predicated on certain obligations, and not choice.  Or else it would not be employment.

No, your employment is an engagement deemed mutually beneficial ex ante, where you trade one good in return for another from the employer. Scarcity is what forces human beings to labour in a myriad ways to earn an income and meet their wants. But scarcity is a mere fact of nature. Even if there was no division of capital and labour, you would have to work to survive. I don't see how that implies the arrangement is involuntary, however.

Freedom of markets is positively correlated with the degree of evolution in any society...

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John Ess replied on Tue, Nov 13 2012 2:34 PM

Your argument does not prove that it is voluntaristic, but that in your view people are doomed to non-voluntarism.  Because involuntarism is beneficial.

Hobbesian theory of the state is based on mutual beneficience.  But few would say it is voluntaristic.

The employment opportunity was created by someone else, for instance, Pizza Hut.  You didn't have anything to do with it.  It wasn't your will or your choice.  And you have to make pizzas and work certain days, if you're the employee there.  You don't get to pick which days or what food.  This is not a socialist or moralistic argument, but one in which all people must agree as common sense.

Part of doing anything within in any regime of work means that one loses a particular voluntarism.  To which it can then either be maximized or minimized depending on how much the situation is in your favor.   The CEO of pizza hut also has obligations, and his work is not voluntaristic either.  There is really nothing about the corporation Pizza Hut that is voluntary, except maybe for consumers who want it instead of McDonalds.   Nothing about it is freedom-based or individualistic like in the imagination of voluntarists who object to the state on the those grounds.

Obviously, the most voluntaristic situation is one in which one and others are responsible for what is produced, and in which one can choose how much work is necessary.  And the least would be one in which one is not responsible for what is produced, nor how much work is done.  And, as in the case of taxation, universalization of said principle would extend to all as a preference.

However, voluntarists do not look at maximization of particular situations of freedom.  Because their primary concern is taxation, and ignoring other situations.  Somehow taxation is a universal preference, but it doesn't matter about parenting or employment.  The state can do what it wants, but they don't care what parents or employers do in regards to what is voluntary.  Nor do they think people must maximize liberty in these areas, or disapprove of lack of freedoms which are very obvious. Their concern about maximization of liberty and agency does not extend there.

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I think you are confusing availability of choices with voluntaryism. Voluntaryism solely concerns itself with whether an interaction involves the initiation of force or not (or its threat.) I am not implying that there is an inherent "involuntaryism" in the world, because there is no agent imposing it. Things simply are scarce. In fact, the notion of scarcity is what brings about choice conceptually to begin with. Voluntaryism applies to human interactions (or rather, those between rational beings if others were to come to the table in ways other than being food), because this is where the potential to wilfully coerce others creeps in, whereas with "nature" there is no such will or indeed person to which to apportion blame.

Voluntaryists focus on the state because a) it is the most flagrant and obvious coercive institution in society, b) it enables and even encourages "private" coercion, or ignores it, or substitutes itself for it under the auspices of its fake legitimacy, c) it has absolutely no claim to the resources it controls as it has neither acquired them legitimately nor has it homesteaded them (and as for the social contract, to the extent that that pipe dream exists it only applies between the state and the people who signed it, and as any other contract, can be terminated at will.)

Hence why we oppose taxation. We oppose all theft and robbery, and all slavery. I agree that in principle increasing the amount of choices people possess is beneficial, but absolute, boundless freedom does not exist. Reality itself imposes limits on us. Hence why voluntaryism is not couched in unrealistic and unrealisable terms. I'd say it is wrong to assert that voluntaryists don't care about parental abuse or lack of employment options. They do. As much as I am not 100% in favour of him, take a look at Stefan Molyneux and the guests on his show. The issue only arises when some voluntaryists use the rhetoric of free markets and apply it to blatantly coercive employer (or parental) situations that occur in the present. In that instance I agree that there is a blnd eye being turned.

However, there is also this tendency to conflate something not being the best of all worlds with it being "coercive". The employer, by virtue of being an employer, is coercing no one. Any resources they acquired in a voluntaryist society would either be the result of homesteading, in which case no one was aggrieved as the resources were unowned ab initio, or acquisitions of wealth, i.e. derivatives of homesteading. In the event that they stole them, acquired slaves etc. they'd be treated like any other criminal.

With regards to the choice not to "control" one's production etc., you can do that now even. Granted, the state does limit the ways in which you can do it, and the reason we oppose it is not so much because of the options being limited per se but rather because of the fact that it limits them without any right to do so. Bear in mind e.g. not dating someone is "limiting their options" but not in an objectionable way. Nonetheless, you can risk your own resources and invest or start a business (of any organisatonal form, could be a franchise, network marketing, creating a new firm and so on), work for a wage, do nothing if others are willing to support you for free etc., especially when the state is dissolved and the structural incentives it creates gone with it. Therefore it would be more correct to say that voluntaryists believe these sort of problems, to the extent that they are problems, are best dealt with through voluntary means and not the state. But that does not mean they will put a lack of choices on par with the positive act of coercion.

 

Freedom of markets is positively correlated with the degree of evolution in any society...

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The common argument against us Marxists by Voluntaryists is that they say that we support slavery. Is this really true? L

You can't argue ethics, or things of this nature.  Even granted that one could do such a thing, it would have to be two people who are within the same system to have anyt shot intelligability.

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I'd like everyone to keep in mind that I do not endorse anything out of what I wrote. Remember - it's just a possible argument. I was just looking for possible ways to retort.

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If all birth is involuntary, then how the heck is birth in a communist system any less involuntary?

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Is it possible for somethingto be Involuntary but not aggresive?

“Since people are concerned that ‘X’ will not be provided, ‘X’ will naturally be provided by those who are concerned by its absence."
"The sweetest of minds can harbor the harshest of men.”

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John Ess replied on Thu, Nov 15 2012 9:25 AM

'If all birth is involuntary, then how the heck is birth in a communist system any less involuntary?'

This is to evade the point.  The voluntarist charges that circumstance and justice are based on one's own decisions, actions, and agency.  And not those of others outside of themselves.  This is how they define freedom, private property, and self-ownership.  This is different in each society or ideology depending on how much each person has the same privileges from the get go, or the right to self-determination.  But this is impossible in a regime where everyone has different parents with different skills, morality, rules, wealth, etc. 

The marxist opposes the nuclear family to solve this problem, but at the same time they do not believe in the voluntaristic myth anyway.  They can only criticize this myth.

Someone like Molyneux is a little bit closer.  He supports nuclear family, but applies ethics to that situation instead of the moral relativism and apathy of most conservatives and libertarians.  Many libertarians here are horrified by the application of ethics to anything that isn't taxes.  They believe that that is the be all and end all of radical thought.

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John Ess:
This is to evade the point.

How so?

John Ess:
The voluntarist charges that circumstance and justice are based on one's own decisions, actions, and agency.  And not those of others outside of themselves.  This is how they define freedom, private property, and self-ownership.  This is different in each society or ideology depending on how much each person has the same privileges from the get go, or the right to self-determination.  But this is impossible in a regime where everyone has different parents with different skills, morality, rules, wealth, etc.

It's also impossible in a regime where everyone is born into the same exact situation, in fact, it's even more impossible.

John Ess:
The marxist opposes the nuclear family to solve this problem, but at the same time they do not believe in the voluntaristic myth anyway.  They can only criticize this myth.

There is no problem to solve. Being born into any system is by definition involuntary.

John Ess:
Someone like Molyneux is a little bit closer.  He supports nuclear family, but applies ethics to that situation instead of the moral relativism and apathy of most conservatives and libertarians.

LOL, rejecting whatever Molyneux says = apathy?

John Ess:
Many libertarians here are horrified by the application of ethics to anything that isn't taxes.  They believe that that is the be all and end all of radical thought.

I agree with you on this one, though I'm a social conservative and I don't think that's what you had in mind.

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John Ess replied on Thu, Nov 15 2012 1:01 PM

it evades the point because Marxists are not looking at the voluntarism of the act of birth, but of the problem it presents to the model of morality called 'voluntarism'.  Namely that difference in birth means that there is a situation in which parents and those born into higher wealth can coerce the individual child and later as adult.   But voluntarism says that everything should come down to one's agency or will, and not that of others.  While ignoring particular situations outside of the usual.  Including all of the circumstances.

A problem also enters because there are many cases in which people think there are morally autonomous units like the family or a corporation shielded form universality.  But this doesn't square with an individualist ethics like voluntarism.  It is a cognitive dissonance.  There is also a problem when people's morality depends on game-like situations or metaphor instead of the reality.  That is the problem of voluntarism is that it sees life as a fair game, as long as there are not some superficial restrictions, usually for themselves.  They may have a different understanding of 'fair', but voluntarism is an ethic and ethics is partly a definition of the just or the fair.   And the fair happens to be some regime without taxes or too many laws.  But that doesn't yield what they want in reality.

It's not Molyneux or his ethics that one is apathetic about.  It is more like because the family is said to be a morally autonomous unit, it is none of our business what they do.  It is off limits to a discussion about ethics. So if a parent is an asshole or unethical even from an individualist perspective, who cares that's their problem not ours.  Except in extreme situations like murder when the imagined autonomy bursts.  This is convenient, because many do not like to go into the question of personal history.  Because the 'voluntarist'  model of society becomes problematic.  You see situations and one's place come outside of agency or personal will.  Such as individual circumstance and privileges.

The conservative is also apathetic or morally relativist.  He thinks it is absolutely important to raise his children some arbitrary way, but usually doesn't care what the other families do.  And he expects others to mind their own business.  If the child asks him 'why?' about anything, it is 'because I said so' or because Jesus said so.  So every explanation is as good as another.

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The voluntarist charges that circumstance and justice are based on one's own decisions, actions, and agency.

No, not really. They do argue that moral behaviour is only possible when it is voluntary behaviour, but that isn't quite the same as what you stipulated.

  And not those of others outside of themselves.  This is how they define freedom, private property, and self-ownership.  This is different in each society or ideology depending on how much each person has the same privileges from the get go, or the right to self-determination.

Voluntaryism solely consists in advocating the elimination of the initiation of aggression from human relationships. It doesn't have the utopian desire of eliminating the constraints of reality. As I said, a voluntaryist can argue that certain problems are better resolved through voluntary means. They don't deny the existence of certain "problems" but this will obviously vary from person to person.

Freedom of markets is positively correlated with the degree of evolution in any society...

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Neodoxy replied on Thu, Nov 15 2012 1:31 PM

This argument is poor and not very Marxist. Among all else the first part of the argument defeats the logic of the second half. A baby CANNOT agree to being born in ANY conditions. I would like to be born with superpowers, I want to be like superman, but my f***ing parents didn't have the genes for it and f***ing science doesn't have a way to make it happen.

Therefore a marxist society is in no way an answer to the problem, even if it did provide for a better standard of living. There is no answer to the problem, so either we must accept the immorality of the world itself, or disregard the problem entirely. 

Anyway, the argument fails because socialism would destroy living standards, not increase them.

At last those coming came and they never looked back With blinding stars in their eyes but all they saw was black...
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So what do you consider to be a "Marxist argument?" Every time I try to talk with one of those left-wingers it's like talking to one of those teenage personalities that have a desire to rebel and be a contrarian for no real reason.

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Marxism is a defined school of thought based on Karl Marx's work. Not every internet or classroom "left anarchist" subscribes to Marx.

Freedom of markets is positively correlated with the degree of evolution in any society...

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Oh, I get it. The one I came up with isn't something that would come from the point of view that the Marxist works subscribe to.

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Neodoxy replied on Thu, Nov 15 2012 5:43 PM

Marxist analyses are almost exclusively centered around class conflict as examined from an economic perspective. This follows directly from Marx's philosophies of "historical" and "dialectic" materialism. An unofficial but almost universally true trait of the school is that it be extremely critical of capitalism, its stability, and its efficacy.

I've been thinking lately about exactly how weird talking to a Marxist is when coming from a mainstream or an Austrian/libertarian perspective. They see things in such an amazingly strange light that it's sometimes hard to grasp how far off the focus of AE and ME are unless you talk to a Marxist for a period of time. I might write up a post about it later.

I think that this entire worldview might be a huge flaw in the Marxist perspective, that is to say that the entire way of thinking is fallacious (perhaps one can look back to Mises' arguments about class, methodological individualism, and polylogism), and one that leads them to singular, anti-capitalist pro-socialistic conclusions. I'll see how I feel when I look at the matter more closely.

At last those coming came and they never looked back With blinding stars in their eyes but all they saw was black...
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An unofficial but almost universally true trait of the school is that it be extremely critical of capitalism, its stability, and its efficacy.

Interseting enough, Marx was one of the biggest praisers of capitalism.

There are certain ways of seeing or thinking how Marx's logic can "work" - in so much as he is talking about a type of social inevitability, and not an "ideal" (for lack of a better term).  I think both Mises and Schumpeter give him a certain type of credit for that, and it may be worth thinking about to some degree.  However it is almost never worth it to talk to a frickin Marxist or radical leftist about.

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John Ess:
The conservative is also apathetic or morally relativist.  He thinks it is absolutely important to raise his children some arbitrary way, but usually doesn't care what the other families do.  And he expects others to mind their own business.

You're conflating conservatives with libertarian individualists. If conservatives were the way you say they are then issues like gay marriage would be non-issues.

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cab21 replied on Fri, Nov 16 2012 8:33 PM

 a baby does not choose to be born into a society, so social enginering of society for the sake of the baby is silly.

why would a baby choose to be rich or poor, how does the baby discriminate value? "poverty" in one country is richer than the kings of the past.

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