The Instigator
J.Kenyon
Pro (for)
Winning
92 Points
The Contender
charleslb
Con (against)
Losing
25 Points

On balance, capitalism is more humanitarian than communism

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Post Voting Period
The voting period for this debate has ended.
after 23 votes the winner is...
J.Kenyon
Voting Style: Open Point System: 7 Point
Started: 11/30/2010 Category: Politics
Updated: 6 years ago Status: Post Voting Period
Viewed: 18,084 times Debate No: 13835
Debate Rounds (4)
Comments (243)
Votes (23)

 

J.Kenyon

Pro

Charleslb has an awful lot to say about capitalism (and capitalists), but he has yet to take on any of the experienced libertarian in a formal debate.

The burden of proof is equal: we both must prove the merits of our respective systems and demonstrate their superiority over the alternative.

== Definitions ==

Capitalism – economic system characterized by voluntary exchange, private ownership, and the prohibition of force, fraud, and coercion.

Note: while there are other definitions of capitalism, this is a common one among libertarians and it is the one I will be defending. This is not a semantics debate. By accepting the challenge, my opponent agrees to the terms I've set.

Humanitarian – showing concern for welfare and happiness of mankind.

I'll leave this term open-ended. Some possible criteria might include social stability, equality, prosperity, respect for human rights, etc.

I'll also allow my opponent to define communism as he sees fit (within reason, of course).

== Pro Case ==

1. Individual rights

A) Personal ownership and private property

I'll be defending Jan Narveson's metaethical contractarianism.[1] It is necessarily true that rational individuals will assign themselves rules so as to harmonize their interactions. Moreover, ethical discourse consists of the use of argumentation to convince another of the truth of one's position. Belying this is the fact that no one could possibly make any ethical proposition, nor be persuaded by argumentative means unless the right to exclusive use of one's person is presupposed. For example, if you were to try to convince me to become your slave, at the most you could get me to perform uncompensated voluntary labor; the idea of a "voluntary" slave is a contradiction in terms. Similarly, it is logically incoherent to argue against a voluntaryist ethic of self-ownership; such a right is categorically affirmed by the process of argumentative appeal.

One's person is inseparable from his actions; direct interference with my peaceful activities is a violation of my right to self-ownership. Appropriating land for my personal use is an example of such an activity, thus property ownership is a necessary corollary of self-ownership.

B) The role of government

On libertarianism, the sole legitimate role of the state is to defend individuals against the initiation of force against their person or rightfully owned property. This is the *only* system of government consistent with a natural rights ethic. Such a minimal state is not uninspiring; on the contrary, it is a framework for utopia. Within such a system, free individuals may associate with whomever they want on any mutually agreed upon terms. The Amish or even communists like my opponent may freely form their own societies operating on their own rules within the framework the state, provided such rules are agreed upon by the members of their respective communities.

2. Economic prosperity and overall well-being

The central, unifying theme in economics a simple one: people act on their desires. Ludwig von Mises termed this principle "praxeology."[2] The debate we are having affirms this. Engaging in discourse is not without cost, it expresses a preference over other activities we could be doing instead. Socio-economic systems can harmonize with this, or they may fight against it. Both approaches have predictable results.

A) Free rider problem

Frederic Bastiat once said "the state is that great fiction by which everyone tries to live at the expense of everyone else." Socialism creates a game theory scenario. If all wealth is collectively shared and owned, instead of producing to satisfy one's desires, the best outcome is attained by "defectors" who enjoy the fruits of others' labor without themselves being productive. When there is no incentive to produce, the result is the Tragedy of the Commons.

B) Economic calculation problem

Every economic system must answer the question of how to make use of limited resources to satisfy consumer needs. On capitalism, the price mechanism operates on the law of supply and demand. When demand for a good exceeds supply, the price increases. This creates an incentive to produce more of that good, bringing the two forces into equilibrium. When there is a glut in the market and supply exceeds demand, prices decrease, discouraging the allocation of capital in that sector.

Knowing which products are in demand is only the beginning. The real task is to place the economic means at the service of the ends. Mises explains: "this can only be done with some kind of economic calculation. The human mind cannot orientate itself properly among the bewildering mass of intermediate products and potentialities of production without such aid. It would simply stand perplexed before the problems of management and location."[3]

Once it is decided that consumers desire 10 units of product A over 7 units of product B, we then have to consider raw materials, labor, machinery, storage facilities, etc. before we decide how much of each to produce. Every one of these instrumental goods is in turn subject to competing forces of supply and demand. Even in the purely theoretical case that a production decision begins with complete technical knowledge of all the relevant factors, changes occur every minute of every day. The only way to coordinate the means of production with consumer desires is via a price mechanism.

3. Power structures

A) State authority

David Friedman describes three basic ways to get people to do what you want: persuasion, trade, and force.[4] On capitalism, the only way for a business to get your money is by trade (or persuasion, if you're stupid). To succeed, businesses must either provide a better product, or do so at a lower cost (or both). This is the ultimate check against corporate power. Government, by contrast, is under no such obligation. Governments operate on force, thus they can act with impunity. It is not surprising, then, when Murray Rothbard writes "the libertarian sees that throughout history and into the present day, there has been one central, dominant, and overriding aggressor: the State."[5]

B) Communism is inherently coercive

Let's say the average income in Marxville is $100 a week. Crusoe is a doctor; if he lived outside the commune, he could make $150. Crusoe and his fellow doctors decide to leave, lowering the average income to $90 a week. Jones, an engineer, might earn $100 outside the commune. Thus, soon after Crusoe and his fellow doctors depart, Jones and the engineers follow. Eventually, there are no skilled workers left in Marxville. The community decides that it is necessary to force individuals to stay. If workers choose not to produce so that their efforts do not exceed their benefits, they will have to be forced to work.

C) Communism inevitably leads to tyranny

Using the mechanism of the state to achieve a classless society is impossible. Mikhail Bakunin criticizes the dictatorship of the proletariat, writing: "no dictatorship can have any other aim but that of self-perpetuation, and it can beget only slavery in the people tolerating it; freedom can be created only by freedom, that is, by a universal rebellion on the part of the people and free organization of the toiling masses from the bottom up."[6]

|| CONCLUSION ||

Libertarianism allows maximal freedom, enabling individuals to pursue their own chosen ends as they best see fit. Con is faced with a serious dilemma: if people adopt his system voluntarily, there is no essential conflict with libertarianism. If they don't, he must address the reasons why. I've given two strong economic arguments against Marxism: the free rider problem and the economic calculation problem. Finally, I've argued that a system based on collective ownership necessarily involves a coercive central state and inevitably leads to tyranny.

References: http://tinyurl.com...
charleslb

Con

Firstly, I reject your definition of capitalism. If I allow you to define capitalism in idealistic terms then you can simply use a sort of pat, circular, ontological argument, you can argue that: Capitalism is a perfect system and so being a perfect system it must ipso facto be the perfect system that it purports to be. Sorry, capitalism is not the lovely, ideal system you assert it to be and you don't get to start from the assumption that it is, you'll have to defend your assumption if you want this to be a real debate.

Empirically, in real-world experience that is, we find that capitalist theory when applied permits the development of an economic system characterized by the tendency of individual capitalists and business entities to garner sufficient economic power and political influence to make much about the capitalist way of life less than "voluntary" for working people.

Yes, private ownership is the cornerstone of capitalism, in both theory and practice, but in practice unregulated private ownership of the economy by those whose strong sense of self-interest has driven them to the top of the socio-economic food chain hurts the self-interest of everyone else. If you want evidence of this, well, we are living through a recession right now, read the newspaper. If you do you'll note how the greed of bankers and Wall Streeters precipitated a global "financial crisis". Need I say more? If you're someone who's been personally affected by the recession I shouldn't need to say any more, but of course there's ample evidence of the undesirable consequences that private ownership leads to.

Just a few random examples. How about businesses that cheat their employees out of their hard-earned pensions, because they can, because the private owners and CEOs of these companies have the power to give themselves golden parachutes and to give a royal screwing to their workers. Or what about the appalling way the ethos of private ownership is allowing the divide, both nationally and globally, between haves and have-nots to widen into a gaping chasm. According to the World Institute for Development Economics Research 1% of the world's population now owns 40% of its wealth, and the most affluent 10% own a whopping 85%! How is this state of economic affairs in the "self-interest" of the majority of human individuals in the world?

Private ownership inexorably degenerates into the ownership of way too much by way too few people to be a system that the majority of self-interested people should want to live under. The only reason that many self-interested individuals don't recognize this and oppose capitalism is that they prefer to identify with the winners of the system rather than its victims, and they're under the illusion that there's a good prospect of any hard-working person such as themselves joining the ranks of the winners. Thanks to these two psychological factors, denial about being a member of the routinely shafted working class, and wishful thinking, people fail to appreciate how much private ownership is not in their best interest.

Add on all the societal propaganda and programming we're subject to from the cradle to the grave and it's no wonder that most of us don't realize how much private ownership harms our private interests. Ironically, and life is full of ironies, a system that limits or does away with private ownership, and replaces it with more people's ownership would be more in each individual's private interest. Or perhaps this isn't so ironic or counterintuitive at all, we've just been conditioned to think that it is. It's really just common sense that if we the people jointly owned and were in charge of our own livelihoods then economic conditions would start to favor rather than work against our happiness.

As for the capitalist system prohibiting force, fraud, and coercion, it only does so in the idealized, ivory-tower version of capitalism. Outside of Milton Friedman's classroom capitalism functions very much through heavy-handed and dishonest methods of making money and protecting the interests of capitalist fat cats. This is not a fluke, it's a fundamental flaw of the system. The capitalist system is of course one in which alpha capitalists and business firms, being free to do so, acquire a disproportionate amount of money and money-power, and use it to exert more and more control, and to begin making the rules of the system so they're easier to bend and break with impunity. This, BTW, is why capitalism is so incompatible with democracy, and why as long as we live under a system of private ownership we'll never have properly functioning public institutions.

Sorry if all of the above flies in the face of the definition of capitalism commonly preferred by libertarians, but I'm not interested in debating about the castles that libertarians and other free-marketeers build in the sky, I'm interested in what capitalism turns out to be more down to earth.

You next define the term humanitarian, I'll accept your definition and point out that, again, off the pages of Adam Smith's The Wealth of Nations and in the real world, capitalism conduces to the welfare of the few at the expense of the many. The economic success of the First World would have been impossible without its exploitation of Third World resources and peoples during the age of colonialism, and without the continuation of that exploitation in the form of "neo-colonialism" and "globalization". And domestically, well, go survey the millions of working poor in America and ask them how "humanitarian" they find our system, how well it's working to promote their welfare and happiness. Or is theory all you care about, and the real impact of that theory on real people's lives matters not at all to you?

Now on to "individual rights". Granting individuals the right to enrich and empower themselves out of all proportion to the rest of society leads to a few individuals setting themselves up in a position to abridge and violate everyone else's individual rights. Eventually, when capitalists and corporations have enough hooks in enough politicians they can pretty much override our vaunted democracy and have things their way, so how well then does capitalism really serve and protect our interests in terms of our individual rights? Not much, alas.

As for rational self-interest, if we were more rational and less culturally brainwashed we'd probably profoundly revamp or reject capitalism, since it's a system that hurts the interest of too many of us too much of the time.

You then proffer what you consider to be a logically airtight argument for "self-ownership" and private property. Well, socialism would simply be the joint voluntary ownership of the means of production and of society's GDP. It would be people, not that political entity called the state but rather people democratically owning their economic system the way they're supposed to own their political system. In your argument you take the leap of saying that appropriating property for personal use is de rigueur for self-ownership and personal freedom, but this is a leap and where you land in the real world is, once again, a society in which a few alpha owners use their wealth and clout to infringe on everyone else's rights. Ownership by everyone together is what's necessary to guarantee a fair and free society.

As for the role of government, it should be to represent the people and their interests, it should be the means by which the people exercise control over both their political and economic life. There's more to life in a society than politics, you can't have a truly democratic society unless democratic values are extended from the public sphere of politics into the private sphere of economics, i.e., socialism!

Running low on characters here, so I'll close by saying that communism is not inherently coercive, only certain inauthentic distortions of it. I'll pick up here in the next round.
Debate Round No. 1
J.Kenyon

Pro

== Analysis ==

Con has rejected my definition of capitalism without bothering to give his own counter-definition, thus mine should be preferred by default. Moreover, I stated very clearly in the first round that "this is not a semantics debate. By accepting the challenge, my opponent agrees to the terms I've set." If Con had a problem with my definition, he should have rectified this BEFORE accepting.

As I expected, Con demonstrates a fundamental misunderstanding of just what capitalism is. Predictably, he engages in a long diatribe knocking down strawmen. Moreover, he has not presented a single argument in support of communism, or explained how or why the problems he sees with capitalism will be remedied under his system. I refer him to the terms set in the first round: "The burden of proof is equal: we both must prove the merits of our respective systems and demonstrate their superiority over the alternative." Con has also failed to define, explain, or outline his view of communism, as I requested in the first round. Is he an anarcho-communist? A libertarian socialist? Does he think currency should be abolished? None of this has been made clear, which is unfair and abusive to the Pro side. Finally, he has dropped or ignored several of my contentions which I will point out when I get into the body of my case.

== Pro Case ==

1. Individual rights

A) Personal ownership and private property

Note that Con has not specifically argued against contractarianism, nor given his own alternative standard. Instead, he's opted to attack the consequences of my system, which is merely begging the question of utilitarianism against deontology. Moreover, I think his practical critique is lacking as well, which I'll get to shortly.

Con claims "when capitalists and corporations have enough hooks in enough politicians they can override our democracy and have things their way, so how well does capitalism really serve and protect our individual rights?" I'll go into more detail on monopolies when I address the Con case, however, he has not explained how his plan will solve for this. Using the state apparatus as a check on corporate power regresses the problem and makes it worse. What check is there on state power? If it is the will of the majority, why is this not a sufficient check on corporate power?

B) The role of government

Con has not answered my argument that an ethic of self-ownership is compatible with other political systems; if people voluntarily adopt communism, there is no essential conflict with libertarianism.

He objects that "if we were more rational and less culturally brainwashed we'd probably profoundly revamp or reject capitalism, since it's a system that hurts the interest of too many of us too much of the time." This is pure question begging: he hasn't answered a single argument I've made against communism.

2. Economic prosperity and overall well-being

A) Free rider problem

Dropped.

B) Economic calculation problem

Dropped.

3. Power structures

A) State authority

Dropped.

B) Communism is inherently coercive

Con claims that "communism is not inherently coercive, only certain inauthentic distortions of it." I've given an a priori reason to think coercion is inherent to all possible forms of communism, which he has ignored. Note also that Con has not outlined his view of "authentic" communism, which is unfair to the Pro side.

C) Communism inevitably leads to tyranny

Dropped.

== Con Case ==

Because Con hasn't bothered to tag his arguments, I'm forced to sift through his lengthy invective and try to put the pieces together for him.

1. Excessive corporate power

A) Monopolies

Harmful monopolies can not and do not exist in a free market; they are state creations. Thomas DiLorenzo explains: "The enduring forces of competition - including potential competition - will render free-market monopoly an impossibility."[1] Monopolies can only endure with government sheltering through subsidies, protectionist tariffs, copyrights, patents, price controls, exclusionary licensing rules, etc. Take a specific example: liberals love to claim that business taxes help even out the wealth distribution. The reality is that big corporations can afford to pay them, but their smaller competitors can not.

TURN – Con claims that powerful corporations can influence government policy, yet the only way they can become this powerful is through state intervention in the first place. Moreover, how can we trust that government will responsibly protect us from predatory businesses when historically it has consistently done just the opposite?

TURN – Con is forgetting that government is the biggest monopoly of them all. Moreover, governments do not operate on a profit and loss basis; they use force to achieve their goals. Thus state power is more greatly to be feared than corporate power.

B) Colonialism

There are different types of colonialism; Con has only briefly mentioned the term without explaining what he means by it. He has not cited any specific examples for me to address. Unless and until he makes an actual argument, I have nothing here to respond to.

2. Unequal distribution of wealth

First, as I explained earlier, I am not defending the status quo; we do not live in a capitalist society, we live in a corporatist plutocracy. Con claims "1% of the world's population now owns 40% of its wealth, and the most affluent 10% own a whopping 85%" This is a common and rather fatuous argument. It implicitly and fallaciously assumes that wealth accumulation is a zero-sum game.[2] Moreover, Con is looking at wealth in relative terms rather than absolute terms. Even under the present system, things are not nearly as dire as he claims. The prevalence of real deprivation has declined dramatically since the introduction of the official poverty rate. The purchasing power of low-income households is far higher today than it was in the 60's and 70's.[3]

Marx predicted that over time, the rich would get richer and the poor would grow poorer. He was partly right: the rich have gotten richer – and the poor have gotten richer, too.[4] Even if the linear income gap has grown, the *marginal* gap in living standards has actually decreased. Technology has made available to the masses luxuries that were formerly reserved only for the richest of the rich.

3. Economic instability

Con cites the recent recession as evidence of market failure, apparently forgetting that Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac are government sponsored enterprises.[5] Moreover, the financial collapse has vindicated the predictions made by free market economists such as Jim Rogers, Mark Faber, and Peter Schiff, who saw the downturn coming as early as 2005.[6] In a 2007 interview, Schiff argued that artificially low interest rates set by the Federal Reserve created a housing bubble, which was bound to burst, leading to a recession.[7] This fits perfectly with the Austrian business cycle theory.

TURN – The Community Reinvestment Act is a "progressive" piece of legislation that compels banks to make loans to low-income borrowers who would not otherwise qualify.[8] This was an important contributing factor to the mass defaults leading up to the 2008 collapse.

|| CONCLUSION ||

Con rejects capitalism "in theory," instead arguing against it in practice. However, even the perversion of "capitalism" that we live under offers an increasingly high standard of living for the poor and middle class. Moreover, his theory/practice dichotomy ignores the a priori basis of economic understanding and offers no rational explanation of how my idealized capitalism naturally denigrates into the plutocracy we both despise. Finally, he hasn't offered any solutions to the problems he sees and has largely ignored my case against communism.

The resolution is affirmed.

References: http://tinyurl.com...
charleslb

Con

I reject your definition of capitalism because it's theoretically nice-sounding but empirically inaccurate. My counter-definition: capitalism is a system in which individuals and business entities are given license to function according to a narrow, myopic understanding of self-interest that degenerates into socially destructive greed. This promptly permits the devolution of a capitalist meritocracy into a plutocracy, which is why we don't have the "pure" free-market system that free-market purists dream of. This outcome is built into capitalism, this is its fatal flaw.

This is not a straw man definition of capitalism, it's the verifiable real-deal. It's my opponent's definition that's an inverted, positive straw man, an idealized definition that he prefers for obvious reasons.

My definition of communism: a socio-economic system grounded in the realization that our interests are interdependent, that therefore the effective and smart way to pursue one's self-interest is not by operating selfishly but by working together socially, by being cooperative rather than competitive.

As for contractarianism, it's grounded in Hobbes' pessimistic view of human nature, which I don't subscribe to. And, as philosopher Jean Hampton points out, a social contract would be unlikely to actually rescue human beings from Hobbes' cruel "state of nature". And as law prof Patricia Williams points out, not all human beings enjoy the real-world status of being the independent agents needed for a social contract. You need a healthy degree of social justice before you can draft a fair and freely-entered-into social contract. Humanitarian principles of social justice, then, must first be in place, and are the real foundation of a good society.

Moving on, "free riders" = the conservative's bugbear, welfare moms. This is a problem under welfare-state capitalism, but under a system based on the principle of "From each according to his ability, to each according to his needs", a system with full employment and equal distribution, there would be no "free riders".

Then, yes in certain examples "communist" systems degenerated into tyranny, but this was due to long established authoritarian political traditions and thought patterns in these countries, it's hardly an inherent problem with communism.

Next, under a democratic form of socialism the "state" becomes what it's already supposed to be in our faux democracy, an instrument to serve the interests of the people.

Now on to an argument for communism.

Why should people prefer communism, or socialism, to use the less buzzwordy word, over capitalism? Well, the philosopher John Rawls provides one rational reason. Rawls suggests that we intellectually imagine a scenario in which we're about to come into a world with a social system of our own choosing, but we have no knowledge or inkling whatsoever what our status or position in that social system is going to be, and then ask ourselves what form of society we should choose.

Obviously the point of this scenario and exercise is to force us to think about what kind of society would really be most likely to ensure our and everyone else's best interests. For example, if we were to choose monarchy as the form of society we'd like to be born into, perhaps wishfully thinking that we might be born a king or queen, well, we might instead be born a peasant, and this is actually much more likely. So, realizing this we think again and cross monarchy off our list.

This is basically how the scenario works, and we keep casting about for the type of system that would be safest in terms of having little probability of turning us into a victim, and a good probability of respecting our humanity and individual interests.

There are other obvious non-starters, feudalism would not be a very good bet because we might find that we're serfs rather than lords. Nazism would be catastrophic for us if we wake up to discover that we're Jews or Gypsies rather than Aryans! Etc. But would the society that many "rugged individualists" and "libertarians" assume would be ideal, a true-blue "meritocracy" in a "free market" where one is perfectly free to pursue his self-interest to the best of his ability, would such a society be that safe a bet?

Remember that you have no idea what your position in this meritocracy will be. You have no idea what abilities you're going to be born with, what gifts you will possess or lack, what deficits you may suffer from, no assurances at all, kind of like in real life!

And you have no idea what kind of opportunities will still be available for someone with your particular skill set. Perhaps other, more talented people (and unless you're ragingly egotistical you have to acknowledge the possibility that there will be individuals who are more talented and clever than you) will already have locked up most of the good opportunities and the wealth in society.

And perhaps they've set themselves up in an unfairly advantageous position, making everyone else second-class citizens. After all, "meritocracy' doesn't mean equality, it means individuals using their personal merits and capacities to climb to the top, and once they're at the top they have the power to scuttle your meritocracy and turn it into a system designed to serve their interests more than yours.

In other words, your meritocracy won't ensure a level playing field at all, and for all you know you may find yourself low man on the totem pole. Taking such a risk is hardly in your self-interest, if you're a gambler you might be inclined to take it, but it wouldn't be too smart a thing to do.

Now doesn't capitalist theory propose just such a risky "meritocracy", one that's likely to, and in our real-world experience does degenerate into more of an aristocracy of money and privilege, in which the rich and well-connected rig the game in their own interest and against yours and mine? Again, how then is capitalism such a good bet in terms of my self-interest? Perhaps the heretical answer is that it's not!

Rawls himself does not reason that communism would be the best alternative, but we don't have to go all the way with Rawls unless we wish to be dogmatic Rawlsians for some strange reason. Arguably, an equalitarian society in which we own everything together would be most likely to ensure that no one else has the disproportionate economic or political power to infringe on my interests and happiness.

Communism, that is, doesn't guarantee me a big piece of the pie, but it guarantees that no one else takes such a big piece that all I'm left with are crumbs. And such a guarantee provides more safety vis–�–vis my self-interest than pure or any modified form of capitalism. Such a society, communism, would be a truly libertarian society because no one would be in a superior position to rob me of my liberties.

To recap, remember the episode of Star Trek in which Khan, the genetically superior man from the past reminds us that "Superior ability breeds superior ambition". Well, superior ambition in a so-called "free-market" "meritocracy" would promptly lead to people of superior "merits" putting themselves above the rest of us and establishing a dictatorship of merit that would sound fair, like the Soviet "dictatorship of the proletariat", but would be just as unpleasant.

Only authentic social and economic democracy, which some like to malign with epithets like "communism", would protect us from all such forms of dictatorship and injustice, from anyone's superior ambition to violate our interests.

(PS, to reply to one of your arguments in round one, if Crusoe and Jones had a bigger, longer-range, and more rational picture of their self-interest they might realize that despite being able to earn more money outside their commune, living in the dog-eat-dog mainstream world might have adverse consequences for them and therefore it ultimately would be more in their interest to stay put.)
Debate Round No. 2
J.Kenyon

Pro

== Analysis ==

I think it's become clear at this point that my opponent is not interested in rationally discussing ideas; he is a secular evangelist substituting Karl Marx for Jesus and trying to use this debate as a platform for his proselytizing efforts.

Although Con spent over 1,000 characters attacking my definition of capitalism, he still managed to completely miss the point. I am *not* trying to define my way to victory. I *am* arguing that a society operating on the non-aggression principle will tend to *remain* free, prosperous, and equal, while a society based on communal ownership inevitably leads to tyranny. Moreover, by defining "communism" the way he does, Con is doing the very thing he has accused me of! Hmm, pot, kettle, pot, kettle...

Con has again chosen to ignore most of the arguments I've made and dropped all of his own, so instead of wasting character space going through the entire body of our respective cases and pointing them out, I'll just list them here. Pro Case: 1B, role of government; 2B, economic calculation problem; 3A, state authority; and 3C, communism inevitably leads to tyranny. Con case: 1A, monopolies; 1B, colonialism; 2, unequal distribution of wealth; and 3, economic instability.

== Pro Case ==

1. Individual rights

A) Personal ownership and private property

While moral contractarianism *could* be grounded in Hobbesian pessimism, it need not be. My own view of human nature is more in line with Rousseau's. Moreover, Con has not explained *why* he disagrees with Hobbes or given any evidence to support his own position.

Next, Con introduces Rawls' "veil of ignorance" contractarianism as an alternative to Narveson's version. However, he has not explained why it ought to be preferred or how it escapes his own criticisms. I reject the veil of ignorance as it lacks real normativity and the argument I made under contention 3B ultimately undermines it. Narveson asks "what is the relationship between a 'person' behind the veil -- where, after all, he is quite unrecognizable *as* a person in any ordinary sense of the word -- and that 'same' person on the real-life side? Namely, the question would be why the real person should pay any attention to what the idealized person has, from his Olympian perch, 'decided'. Doesn't the behind-the-veil person look uncomfortably like Plato's philosopher king, say? And if not, why not?"[1]

Finally, I think I've demonstrated that a libertarian society is ideal, even from a purely pragmatic standpoint. Con, however, still hasn't offered any positive arguments for communism. Therefore, Pro should win even by Con's own standard.

2. Economic prosperity and overall well-being

A) Free rider problem

While Con at least mentions the issue this time, which is an improvement over the last round, he merely asserts that communism will solve it without explaining how. Extend my argument.

3. Power structures

B) Communism is inherently coercive

Con asserts "if Crusoe and Jones had a bigger, longer-range, and more rational picture of their self-interest they might realize that despite being able to earn more money outside their commune, living in the dog-eat-dog mainstream world might have adverse consequences for them and therefore it ultimately would be more in their interest to stay put." He has not explained just what those adverse consequences might be or why it would be in their interests to stay put. Extend my argument.

|| CONCLUSION ||

Because I won't be able to respond to anything presented the fourth round, it is, out of fairness, reserved for rebuttals. The next round is Con's last opportunity to present new arguments and I suggest he make use of it.

References: http://tinyurl.com...
charleslb

Con

Firstly, The debate is about the humanitarianism of capitalism vs. that of communism, therefore the true nature of capitalism is highly relevant and critiquing it is not at all a waste of space.

As for "contractarianism", the "social contract" that libertarians, et al dream of is really one that would give them an escape clause from their responsibilities to our society as a whole, which includes its less fortunate members. Their social contract is a legal fiction that provides an excuse for being asocial individualists rather than standing in solidarity with your needy neighbor. And unless you arrogantly think you'll never be a needy neighbor you don't wish to sign on to such a contract!

Next, what's so great about Rawls' "veil of ignorance" scenario if it's not realistic? It makes us think, objectively and fairly, it cuts through our usual ideological BS and forces us to get down to brass tacks about what a just and desirable society would look like.

Now for some arguments. What's one of the fundamental but frequently unappreciated ways in which a society predicated on capitalist theory is not in most people's "self-interest"? Well, it has to do with one of the formulations of Kant's categorical imperative. The formulation that I have in mind goes something like this: Never treat another human being like a mere means to an end, never deprive him of his humanity and autonomy by objectifying him into a sheer utilitarian object that serves a purpose for you.

Of course this is precisely what capitalism and private ownership does to working people, it objectifies them into flesh & blood worker droids for owners. The most poignant and pernicious tragedy of capitalism is that in a capitalist economy human beings are crassly utilized, commodified, and thingified, reduced to things that perform a particular economic function for an employer.

Upon joining the work force we're unwittingly dehumanized into cogs in a corporation or busy little worker bees whose sole value and identity, as far as the bosses & bankers who own most of the economy goes, is our job, the way we serve as means to their end of making more and more money for themselves. Sure, this serves the self-interest of owners, but it profoundly and grievously disserves the self-interest of the majority of people who are workers, who are demeaned from being free and dignified human individuals into tools of another man's greed.

To be on the receiving end of our system's violation of the categorical imperative, to have our humanity disrespected daily from 9 to 5, is an endemic evil of capitalism. A "communist" system in which everyone owns everything together and works for himself jointly with everyone else, would be a system in which no one is any longer made to function as a tool for the interests of another, in which no one is a wage slave producing so his employer can live in a mansion while he lives in a hovel.

In short, in a system of social ownership and social equality no one is in an inferior position of being a means to someone else's material ends first, and a human being second, rather everyone would enjoy the full status of his humanity throughout his workday. Communism then upholds the categorical imperative, capitalism callously tramples it.

Another way that capitalism systematically dehumanizes us is that capitalism creates a gesellschaft kind of society in which much of the time we one-dimensionally relate to each other as just our role in the economy. For example, when you go to the market you relate to the checker as his role in your shopping transaction, as the living robot who tells you how much to pay and who extends his hand to receive your money.

Marx called this the "cash nexus", in other words, under a capitalist gesellschaft form of society we increasingly connect to others only on the basis of economic transactions, we largely cease to relate to each other as human persons.

Well, there's nothing more in our "existential" best interest than preserving our humanity, and the sort of gesellschaft communities favored by capitalism, communities of standoffish individualists who only come together to use each other's services or to have our labor exploited by owners, are deeply opposed to our self-interest as human beings.

Communist communities would be quite the opposite, they would be communities in which we share each other's lives not just on an economic but on a more well-roundedly human level. An authentic communist society would be a society of people relating to each other not exploitatively and objectifyingly, a society in which we do not diminish each other's humanity, but rather a society in which we realize, as a society, that it's not in our interest as individuals to do so, to degrade our neighbor into a virtual prostitute who services our economic desires.

I'll conclude with a few more words on capitalism. There's a free-marketeer and libertarian urban legend, that we've never had real capitalism and that this explains all of the deplorable realities of our modern national and global economies. According to this ideological urban legend it's of course big government that has compromised and corrupted the integrity of American capitalism.

But of course the real reason that we don't have theoretically pure capitalism is something that capitalist theory and its believers don't want to face, i.e. that it's really big business rather than Big Brother that's tweaked our system into something that doesn't conform to classic free-market principles. Yes, it's capitalists who've tweaked the "free market" to make it more favorable to their interests and who predictably have destroyed the dream of a free-enterprise paradise.

The pesky, terminal flaw of capitalism is that it's a system that will always suffer such a fate at the hands of the alpha capitalists who run it. This is why pure capitalism is an unworkable, impossible dream. Maybe in a twilight zone, alternate reality somewhere there are capitalists who play by the rules and conscientiously practice the principles of capitalist theory, but in our real world that we all have to live in you can always count on human beings to pervert a system that grants them the permissive freedom to do so, which capitalism does. Capitalism gives the most successful and clout-wielding capitalists the permissive freedom to screw around with it, and so it promptly ceases to be "pure", "real" capitalism. This is its nature and its built-in self-defeating foible.

The urban legend that if "pure" capitalism were ever given a fair chance it would work beautifully is laughable because "pure" capitalism by definition will never give itself a fair chance, it will always give the big players of the economy a chance to twist the system to serve their special interests, and they will always take advantage, making capitalism's supposed meritocracy into a barely covert plutocracy.

But the "original sin" lies with capitalist theory, not the men who take license with it, because capitalist theory calls for a system that permits greedy men to gain the money-power that allows them to skew the system the way they want it. That is, capitalist theory inherently and ironically results in a system that lends itself to such corruption, to being debased from what it should be in its never-never land of people strictly following its precepts to what it is in the cold, hard, empirical world where human nature plays a big part in how a theory plays itself out.

Pro-capitalists pride themselves on being the ones who are quite realistic about human nature, but they're the ones with an unrealistic belief at the heart of their philosophy, the belief that a society can successfully harness human greed, that a society can safely ride on the back of the tiger of unbridled avarice. The only way that you can really direct self-interest toward the common good is by socializing it, not by privatizing it.
Debate Round No. 3
J.Kenyon

Pro

== Analysis ==

Con introduces two new arguments: the categorical imperative and wage slavery. It's unfortunate that's he's limited the scope of our discussion by waiting until so late to bring them up, but better late than never. He's also touched on corporate power and monopolies again, but it's merely a rehash of his previous points and my earlier criticisms remain unaddressed.

== Pro Case ==

1. Individual rights

A) Personal ownership and private property

I find it ironic that Con criticizes the social contract on the grounds that he does not share Hobbes' pessimism about the human race, yet in the previous round, he states "in our real world that we all have to live in you can always count on human beings to pervert a system that grants them the permissive freedom to do so, which capitalism does."

Con claims the social contract is for libertarians "an excuse for being asocial individualists rather than standing in solidarity with your needy neighbor," which I find extremely offensive; I suggest he apologize. Libertarians do not object to charitable giving, we object to being forced to give at the hands of the welfare state, which deprives the act of any moral significance and fosters animosity and resentment instead of compassion and empathy.

Further, he states "unless you arrogantly think you'll never be a needy neighbor you don't wish to sign on to such a contract!" Apparently he's missed the point of this exercise; you can't coherently argue against the idea of Narveson's social contract. As I stated in the first round "ethical discourse consists of the use of argumentation to convince another of the truth of one's position. Belying this is the fact that no one could possibly make any ethical proposition, nor be persuaded by argumentative means unless the right to exclusive use of one's person is presupposed." Moreover, I've given several good, pragmatic arguments both for capitalism and against communism which Con has not adequately addressed. In light of this, I really don't think his objection here holds any water.

C) The categorical imperative

This is an ironic argument for a communist to make. In a free society, individuals are entitled to the fruits of their own labor. All interactions and transactions are done voluntarily by choice. In a communist society, one person's need justifies the forceful seizure of another's possessions. The second person is made into an economic object to serve the first person's end. If anything, Kant's second formulation of the categorical imperative supports capitalism!

== Con Case ==

1. Excessive corporate power

A) Monopolies

Con states "capitalists pride themselves on being realistic about human nature, but they're the ones with an unrealistic belief," however, he continually ignores the arguments I've already made addressing this. On capitalism, it doesn't *matter* if someone is greedy. The only way he can get your money is by offering a superior product at a lower price; in the process of enriching himself, he enriches society as well. If a transaction is not in your best interest, you can't be forced to make it. If a company offers a sub-par product, or does so at an excessive price, it will quickly be run out of business by the competition. This acts as a check against greed.

2. Unequal distribution of wealth

B) Wage slavery

The potential to abuse workers is limited by two important factors. First, on capitalism, all employment is voluntary; if you don't want to work for someone you don't have to. Moreover, if the wage offered isn't high enough to live on, no one will waste time working at such a job. You can even choose to shun what you consider shallow, materialistic concerns and live in a commune. Second, companies have to compete for workers in the same way that they compete for consumers. Labor is a commodity, companies that want the best workers will have to beat out other potential employers by offering them better wages, benefits, or working conditions.

Marx never gave a coherent definition of class. The third, unfinished volume of Das Kapital cuts off at the point where he planned to do so. Engels' notes in the introduction state that "bourgeois" refers to "capitalists, owners of the means of production, and employers of wage laborers." Proletarians are those "in the class of modern wage laborers who, having no means of production of their own, are reduced to selling their labor power in order to live."[1] But this doesn't make sense; a small town doctor in private practice would be a member of the bourgeoisie, but should he leave his practice for a more lucrative position as chief surgeon at a prestigious hospital, according to Marx, he is now a member of the proletariat; a wage slave. This suggests that some other measure is necessary, but if we consider something like living standards, Con is still no better off. As I argued in R2, living conditions and purchasing power have increased dramatically in low income households since the introduction of the official poverty rate in the 1960's. This point remains unaddressed.

C) Welfare programs

Let me repeat myself: libertarians are not selfish egoists who disdain the idea of helping those in need. This is an unfounded assertion and frankly I'm tired of hearing it. Libertarians object to the inefficient bureaucratic mess of welfare state we have that dehumanizes aid recipients and traps them in a vicious cycle of generational dependency. Reaching into someone else's pocket to donate to the poor is an act of theft, not compassion. Real charity is given freely, and from the heart.

Alexis de Tocqueville puts it for more eloquently than I ever could: "individual alms-giving established valuable ties between the rich and the poor. The deed itself involves the giver in the fate of the one whose poverty he has undertaken to alleviate. The latter, supported by aid which he had no right to demand and which he may have had no hope of getting, feels inspired by gratitude. A moral tie is established between those two classes whose interests and passions so often conspire to separate them from each other, and although divided by circumstance they are willingly reconciled. This is not the case with legal charity. The latter allows the alms to persist, but removes its morality. The law strips the man of wealth of a part of his surplus without consulting him and he sees the poor man only as a greedy stranger invited by the legislator to share his wealth. The poor man, on the other hand, feels no gratitude for a benefit which no one can refuse him and which could not satisfy him in any case. Public alms guarantee life, but do not make it happier or more comfortable than individual alms-giving; legal charity does not thereby eliminate wealth or poverty in society."[2]

|| CONCLUSION ||

Con has yet to admit that he is willing to use initiatory violence in order to implement his society. He needs to either bite the bullet and explain why he thinks it is justified, or he agrees that there is no essential conflict with libertarianism, provided all parties involved voluntarily consent to live under communism. This (1B) has been the central argument of my case and Con still has not responded to it. If nothing else, I think I should win on the strength of this point alone. Other contentions Con has ignored include Pro case: 2B, 3A, 3B, 3C. He has also dropped 1B, 2, and 3 of the Con case.

It's disappointing that Con harbors such seemingly unfounded and irrational hatred for libertarians. I think we both want the best for society, but in his mind, he is incapable of seeing libertarians as anything other than selfish, maladjusted social terrorists. I think if he examined both sides with an open mind as I have, he might come to appreciate and understand that we share a common goal, we just disagree over the best way to achieve it.

The resolution is affirmed.

References: http://tinyurl.com...
charleslb

Con

In this round I'll deal with some of pro's basic arguments. Firstly, if for argument's sake I agree that property ownership is necessary for "self-ownership" or personal autonomy, well then, under communism everyone would produce and own everything interdependently, and, if anything, people's sense of ownership and autonomy would be enlarged. Or, if we instead think of collective ownership in terms of no one owning anything privately and therefore no one owning anything period, then ownership of property ceases to be an aspect of the human condition and becomes moot to concepts such as autonomy and individual rights.

What of the role of government in a free society? The libertarian thinks that all government needs to do to help its citizens enjoy the dignity of being free is to provide police protection against anyone trying to forcibly violate their property rights. The libertarian's understanding of our natural rights seems to be limited to property rights! Communists strenuously beg to differ, it's the view of leftists and many other people of a humanitarian viewpoint that there's more to human dignity and rights than mere property rights, and that government's role includes upholding those rights as well.

Libertarians are a political one-hit wonder who just keep monotonously singing the same tune of "freedom", as if that's all we need for our experience of life to be well-rounded, full, worthwhile, and human. But we also need to live in a society that respects our need to not be dehumanized by poverty, and that respects every individual's latent human and creative potential and removes economic inequalities that prevent its expression and development. This is also our natural right. Who says? Well, who says that we have a right to the libertarian's "freedom" either, that we have any rights at all? But some of us recognize and reason that we do have an intrinsic life-affirming entitlement to certain considerations and dignities from our society, and communists are simply people who recognize and reason that those considerations and dignities include more than bare-bones libertarian "freedom".

The role of government then includes protecting our freedom, but also our dignity, which means taking a role in ensuring the material welfare of its citizens, in ensuring that we're not chronically and callously consigned to a condition of poverty and privation, of being disadvantaged and disenfranchised.

And as for freedom, it doesn't just mean freedom from someone forcibly entering my home and disregarding my property rights, and it doesn't just mean freedom from politicians exercising control over my life, it also means freedom from a moneyed ruling class exercising control and dominance over my life. Which in turn means that for human beings to enjoy true freedom social equality is de rigueur, i.e. it's necessary to prevent a rich few from setting themselves up in a privileged and powerful position over the strapped and struggling many. Therefore a government geared to protecting our freedom will also be concerned with leveling the socio-economic playing field and keeping it level.

Yes, the libertarian philosopher Murray Rothbard said that the state is a "gang of thieves writ large", and I agree wholeheartedly, but politicians aren't the only thieves out there interested in stealing away our freedom and material well-being, under capitalism there's also the capitalist elite. Communism is a system that would structure, i.e. socialize the ownership and distribution of economic wealth so as to negate the ability of both gangs of thieves, both the politicos and the plutocrats, to establish themselves in the catbird seat where they can prey on the little guy.

This leads to the question of economic prosperity and overall well-being. The material prosperity generated by capitalism simply isn't divvied up well enough, and certainly isn't divvied up justly and equitably, those who toil to produce it often live in poverty while capitalists and CEOs live in penthouses. This fact combined with the sundry other adverse-to-happiness conditions that many working-class people have to put up with makes capitalism a less than ideal system from the point of view of human well-being.

Apropos of this, being free to "act on your desires", to borrow my opponents phrase here, should mean more than just the freedom of capitalists to act on their desire to shaft the working poor, it should also mean everyone's freedom to act on the desire to enjoy a certain quality of life in keeping with human life's value, and the freedom to realize our inner capacity for personal growth. Society should be organized, and government should function to preserve our inherent prerogative as human beings to freely act on desires that range the whole hierarchy of our needs, from economic to higher-level drives. Communism helps in this regard by freeing us from the stultifying power of an owners class.

Next my opponent mentions so-called "free riders". A communist system in which the foundational principle is "From each according to his ability, to each according to his needs" would effectively obviate the existence of idlers who parasitically live off the fruits of other's labor. Everyone would be engaged in the productivity of society, and no one who's able-bodied would be encouraged to "defect" by being allowed to feed at the common trough without giving back to it.

Now to make short work of the "economic calculation problem", according to free-market dogma only the natural operation of free market forces can work out this problem for a society's economy. This is just an ideological rationalization of the counterintuitiveness of free-marketarianism. It's just good horse sense that an intelligently organized and guided economy is the most efficient way for a society to determine what to produce and in what quantities, and to direct its economic growth in a direction that will ensure a decent standard of living for its people. All of the usual free-marketarian twaddle about the impossibility of planned economies keeping up with all the mystifyingly complex calculations necessary to keep the economy viable is just a big crock of mystification.

Next, the question of "authority". My opponent seems to think that state authority is the only form that's coercive. The authority and power of the economic elite that exists under capitalism is highly coercive, and frequently exercises its control through government. Government's abuse of our rights and liberties is largely the indirect manifestation of the socio-economic dominance of the big players of capitalism. Communism would rectify this state of affairs by abolishing economic elites and making government more truly representative, more an instrument of the well-being of the people.

Next, my opponent dredges up the old saw that communism is inherently coercive, as if capitalism in the real world isn't! Firstly, freedom isn't an absolute, it has to be tempered with other human needs and considerations. So, if communism isn't a perfectly libertarian form of society (and again, neither is "free-market" capitalism), this is only in the interest of making it more sane and humane, just the way the law against shouting fire in a crowded theater makes our freedom of speech more sane. Some limits are good. Secondly, communism would be far less coercive than the way the power of capitalists really works in our system. And there would be no real coercion, in a technical sense, since everyone would own everything together and be on an equal social footing. That is, to have a coercive elite you first need an elitist form of society.

And for the same reasons that communism isn't dangerously coercive, neither does it inexorably lead to tyranny.

In conclusion, libertarian capitalism allows maximal freedom for the tyranny of capitalists, communism allows maximal freedom for all the people of a society.
Debate Round No. 4
243 comments have been posted on this debate. Showing 1 through 10 records.
Posted by TheOrator 4 years ago
TheOrator
Wow, when I read the title I didn't think that the Pro would be able to pull it off (Note: I'm a libertarian, and since I've been absent for a long period of time I didn't know about any of these two debaters), but his arguments came off as way better, and the votes represent it. On a side note, yeah Mouthwash, I agree the Con looks like a sore loser :P
Posted by MouthWash 4 years ago
MouthWash
It's always painful to see sore losers.
Posted by charleslb 6 years ago
charleslb
Wow, I'm really closing the gap now. Soon I'll be grinding you in my dust J.Kenyon! Oops, sorry, I narcoleptically dozed off for a moment and was typing while dreaming. Back awake now, I see that in the in the open-minded opinion of people who are pro-capitalism on balance capitalism is more humanitarian than communism. I guess all the real-world empirical evidence of what capitalism tends to devolve into to the contrary, capitalism is the better system. NOT! Fortunately the outcome of debates judged by a biased jury doesn't logically dictate the adoption of the winners point of view.
Posted by charleslb 6 years ago
charleslb
anonymouse: "I vote communism but I can't vote because I refuse to put a phone number on this website. Capitalism is about exploitation,betrayal and misanthropy . it's the best thing in the world if you happen to be the majority race/ethic group but if your not it's a life of discrimination and poverty. At least communism is about giving everyone an equal chance which capitalism is not about. Ultimately it won't matter because capitalism will destroy this planet. Capitalism requires in infinite resources on a finite planet. Once resource run thin and overpopulation is rampant a form of communism/socialism will kick in. The movie "Total Recall" is a great example of what Capitalism is"

Excellent points.
Posted by J.Kenyon 6 years ago
J.Kenyon
Yeah...you didn't actually read the debate, did you? Voting on debates isn't a popularity contest; it's about who had the better arguments.
Posted by anonymouse 6 years ago
anonymouse
I vote communism but I can't vote because I refuse to put a phone number on this website. Capitalism is about exploitation,betrayal and misanthropy . it's the best thing in the world if you happen to be the majority race/ethic group but if your not it's a life of discrimination and poverty. At least communism is about giving everyone an equal chance which capitalism is not about. Ultimately it won't matter because capitalism will destroy this planet. Capitalism requires in infinite resources on a finite planet. Once resource run thin and overpopulation is rampant a form of communism/socialism will kick in. The movie "Total Recall" is a great example of what Capitalism is
Posted by J.Kenyon 6 years ago
J.Kenyon
1. Just because I liked the movie doesn't mean I agree with the worldview it espouses. I love the Godfather movies, but that doesn't mean I support mob violence. My all time favorite TV show is '24,' even though the main character is a hardline utilitarian.

2. Clint's pretty old in that shot, I'd say it's more of a Walt Kowalski pose http://en.wikipedia.org...
Posted by charleslb 6 years ago
charleslb
J. Kenyon: "Why would I argue for authoritarianism? When I wrote this debate I was already a minarchist and since then I've become an anarchist."

Regarding your choice of avatar, it looks like Clint Eastwood in a Dirty Harry pose; well, Dirty Harry was a law enforcement maverick, but at the end of the day he was just an ultra-lethal enforcer for the state and the status quo, hardly an icon or a suitable avatar for an anarchist. Does your desire to identify with an archetype of the macho concept of what it means to be a man supersede your anarchist sensibilities?
Posted by J.Kenyon 6 years ago
J.Kenyon
Why would I argue for authoritarianism? When I wrote this debate I was already a minarchist and since then I've become an anarchist.
Posted by SaintNick 6 years ago
SaintNick
J.Kenyon--would you be interested to debate authoritarianism vs. communism?
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