On Land and Work
1. Look, you have provided evidence that, on occasion, capitalists have used the force of the state to suppress the workers.
What you don't seem to understand is that isn't sufficient to carry forward your thesis, that the capitalists have "stolen" the land from the laborers. All you have proven is that SOME capitalists have on occasion used violence against laborers.
But you are also aware that, ON OCCASION, some LABORERS have used violence and force to destroy and steal the property of capitalists. I would point you to the Los Angeles riots after the Rodney King verdict, or the well publicized incidents of union thuggery during bitter strikes.
All these actions are wrong and should be judged. But they do not prove your case, that the property has all been stolen from the laborers, and should be handed back to them.
Indeed, I provided you with an example where that is not the case: my own case. I am a first-hand witness to my case, which I have presented to you. All you have done is cited second-hand cases from old books and newspapers.
And of course, you know perfectly well that MOST property held these days by businesses in America was not stolen from anybody. No force was used to acquire it, and no laborers were frog-marched into working for them. You can drive down any business street in America and see millions and millions of such legitimate, capitalist-owned properties conducting business in a lawful and proper manner.
No amount of appeals to cases where capitalists have used force to restrain workers can prove your case, so long as MOST property is held in a free and uncontested manner in our country.
The proper answer to the cases you cited is, again, for the courts to award damages, to punish policemen, to jail business owners who actually engage in the conduct you describe. The proper answer is NOT for you to steal my property.
Your solution makes you just as bad as the capitalists you deride: you will use force to take my property, to redress the actions of OTHER PEOPLE who used force to hold property.
Do you not recognize that you are embracing the same thuggery and thievery that you declaim against in the capitalists?
2. Your little story about offering $1.75 is amusing, but I don't know of anybody who has been assaulted for trying to bargain with a business owner. It happens all the time. I don't know where you are living, but people in America are free to make such bargains. Now, that doesn't mean that your counter-offer will be accepted. It may be, it may not be. But you aren't forced to enter the trade, if you think $2 is too much. Put your money in your pocket and go elsewhere.
3. Your idea that the laborers have a remembrance of the centuries of oppression is very funny indeed. Nobody remembers that stuff except communists and people who are looking for an excuse for their socialist moral values. The reason is that we have managed to put away that sort of conduct in our country, with very very very rare exceptions. A person is more likely to be murdered in his bed by a thug from the insane asylum than to experience the sort of conduct you are describing. In our country, in these days and times, people are free to take a job or leave a job, and it is very rare that any violence or threat of violence is in play, or that anybody is even worried about it. Do you actually work in the real world? Because what you are writing makes no sense, and doesn't line up with what all of us out here in the real world are thinking and doing.
4. I notice that you dismiss my counter-example, which is that you propose to steal MY property which I have worked for and gained fair and square, as simply "my opinion." Well, do you propose to take my property? Am I a capitalist? Have I stolen the property from my employees? You propose examples from far away history that nobody much remembers, and I propose an example I know about. Answer the challenge: have I stolen the property I have worked to obtain? Are you going to take my property away from me, because of what happened at the Paris Commune in 1871???
John Locke and Adam Smith supported the obtaining and holding of private property. They did not support misconduct against property and people that you describe, either by capitalists or by labor. They were not "anti-capitalists," and they did not support the laborers holding all the property in common.
5. You think that my position is invalid because I cite my personal example, but you're not allowed to. I never said that. What I said was, your situation does not justify taking my property.
Perhaps you have heard of the notion of the "counter-example" - by which an entire theory is destroyed. You must justify your theory, that says because some capitalists have sometimes abused authority, that means the property of hard-working capitalists who have not abused authority should seized for the common use.
My moral standards are very simple: there is a God in heaven who judges murder, theft, and covetousness. The misconduct of the capitalists you cite for use of violence offends the justice of God. So does your proposed solution, because it is not tailored to apply only to the lawbreakers you have mentioned - it extends to an entire class (property owners) whether they have misbehaved or not.
It doesn't take a Christian, or even a believer in the Deity, to know that your proposal is immoral and unjust.
I'm sorry to have to break it to you again, but you do have the heart of a common thief. No matter how much you dress up your "philosophy" with weighty references and ancient historical incidents, at heart, you want to seize what is not yours, and what you have no moral claim to.
That is the fundamental problem with socialism. It is a denial of basic bedrock moral principles, masquerading as social justice.
All Capitalists have stolen their wealth, and those who haven't, bought it from those who did. Courts prosecute possession of stolen property when you're poor. But they don't do it when you're rich. Quoting Adam Smith, "The masters upon these occasions are just as clamorous upon the other side, and NEVER cease to call aloud for the assistance of the civil magistrate, and the rigorous execution of those laws which have been enacted with so much severity against the combinations of servants, labourers, and journeymen." And those who doubt this are, "as ignorant of the world as of the subject." [*1]
Are you trying to tell me that if I steal property, and then sell it to someone else, I have a right to keep the money, and they have a right to keep the property? If not, then all Capitalists are in possession of stolen wealth. And if so, then you're just legitimizing theft of all types.
I'm completely willing to debate the history of this with you -- but I've more than justified my case, whereas you have only pointed to personal experiences. And you personal experiences, well, they're not sufficiently representative of human history.
In the case of McDonald's Restaurants versus Morris & Steel, the United Kingdom Supreme Court made a horrendous declaration: it was made illegal to associate McDonald's food with cancer of health problems. In the cases of Rodney King, which you brought up, a video tape shows clearly a beating of someone -- and the government had done absolutely nothing in terms of prosecution or arrest. Just go to youtube and type in "police brutality," and you'll find countless videos -- even summary executions of people on the street by the police; and, of course, never charges, never allegations, never anything. The police serve the interests of the Capitalist system by breaking up strikes, and spending more on prosecuting shoplifters than CEO's. Likewise, when they go so far as to open fire on unarmed crowds, I think we can safely say: the police have no interest in us or in achieving justice for us. Whether the People's Liberation Army in China, or the French Gendarmes, they've massacred their people by the tens of thousands. And now you want to me to go to the world's greatest butchers, and ask for justice?
I've already responded to this point. Capitalists will lobby government, bribe officials, and dump millions into campaign boxes -- all so that the government invades another country, pumps out land development deals, and signs costly weapons contracts. Look at the colonization of all of South America, or Africa, or Asia, by the European Capitalists. Look at any single one of these conflicts, and you'll see: the Capitalist and the state are responsible for mass murder. Now, given this consideration, anyone who opposes mass murderers, even if illegally, is certainly doing more for justice than anyone else. Or, are you saying that the French Resistance to the Nazi Occupation was wrong, because it was illegal?
There is a reason why I haven't responded much to this. It's known as a false argument. Ad Hominem, or "To the Man." As I said above, your personal experiences are not representative of anything except your personal experiences. You can't use personal experience to disprove gravity, to design the blueprint for a space shuttle, or to organize an economy of millions. It simply doesn't work. Which is why I refuse to even debate this with you. We both have personal experiences that makes us think we have the right philosophy -- but either way, personal experience can't demonstrate the absolute infallibility of a complicated, social idea.
It was an analogy, not something I claimed actually happened. I was trying to demonstrate that past aggression can create a situation where people APPEAR to enter into agreements freely -- where, in fact, they are doing it out of the threat of coercion and violence. Naturally, I wasn't applying this analogy to the bread industry (why would I make an analogy about the bread industry to explain the bread industry?). I was attempting to demonstrate the type of "free agreement" that now exists between those who live by laboring, and those who live by owning.
"There are always a few, better endowed than others, who feel the weight of the yoke and cannot restrain themselves from attempting to shake it off: these are the men who never become tamed under subjection and who always, like Ulysses on land and sea constantly seeking the smoke of his chimney, cannot prevent themselves from peering about for their natural privileges and from remembering their ancestors and their former ways. These are in fact the men who, possessed of clear minds and far-sighted spirit, are not satisfied, like the brutish mass, to see only what is at their feet, but rather look about them, behind and before, and even recall the things of the past in order to judge those of the future, and compare both with their present condition." -- Étienne de La Boétie, 1548 [*2]
Yes, I certainly am a little student of politics and history. I'm intensely passionate about my liberties, my rights, and the world that I live in. If I want to end oppression in our current world, I need to understand how it was ended in the past. If I want to create prosperity and equity for our people, I need to know how it was done in the past. To understand these things, how we live and why we live, we need to know what has come before us. And if we don't, then we certainly can't offer any hope for the future.
Actually, I'm the only one here who has quoted both of those philosophers -- which leads me to believe, in fact, that I'm probably the only one here who has also read their books. Sure, every philosopher in the world is patriotic and loves America, from Socrates to Descartes. Now, can you prove it, after someone brings up that these people lived before the formation of the United States? Probably not. Just as you can't prove that Adam Smith and John Locke are on your side, after I've demonstrated that they're highly critical of modern Capitalism.
Just like your suggestion that poverty statistics are made up by the government, or that the capitalist class does not possess stolen capital, or that labor is not responsible for all wealth -- sure, that is your idea, and you have every right to believe it as fervently as you want. BUT -- if you want to convince me that you're right, why not try showing some evidence? You seemed soooo eager to tell me about how John Locke and Adam Smith were not "anti-capitalists". So, why not quote a single selection of theirs that proves your argument? It seems, in fact, rather wasteful, to tell me what you think about John Locke and Adam Smith, without having read their works. You are, after all, discussing with someone who's spent years reading Enlightenment era literature. Please, by all means, show me where John Locke and Adam Smith contradict the quotes I've provided?
Again, quoting Locke and Smith...
John Locke agreed that people can have the right to property where "at least where there is enough, and as good, left in common for others." And elsewhere, "...land that is left wholly to nature, that hath no improvement of pasturage, tillage, or planting, is called, as indeed it is, waste." That is to say: someone who possesses productive property, but does not use it, is stealing it from the others. He was very clear when he said of the property owner, "whatever is beyond this, is more than his share, and belongs to others. Nothing was made by God for man to spoil or destroy." [*3]
And Adam Smith? He clearly expressed his opinion about the Capitalist class: "Masters are always and everywhere in a sort of tacit, but constant and uniform combination, not to raise the wages of labour above their actual rate. To violate this combination is everywhere a most unpopular action, and a sort of reproach to a master among his neighbours and equals." [*4]
According to Locke, if you disenfranchise others by owning wealth, you are a thief, sapping at the will of the good, common people. Owning land, and refusing to use it, or using it to exploit others, is waste, and therefore, theft. And according to Adam Smith, the Capitalist class has been in a conspiracy against the common people since the dawn of civilization. I never called them "anti-capitalist," -- I did my best to summarize their opinions based on my readings of their books. Of course, I've already quoted and summarized their works, oh about -- maybe five or six times so far? If you disagree with my analysis, show me why. Don't just disagree.
You do a lot of talking, but not much citation. And slavery doesn't offend god, so why should it bother me? Ephesians, 6:5, "Slaves, obey your earthly masters, as you would obey the will of Christ!" If someone ties you up and declares you as their property, would you obey? Probably not! So throw that wretched book out the window. If you disagree with god at some points, then it's pretty ridiculous to bring up the other points as if they mattered.
"You're immoral," "you have the heart of a common thief", etc., etc.. You know, this is a discussion about politics -- it's not your Sunday sermon, and it's not a PTA meeting. If you believe in something, don't repeat it fifty times; say it once, clearly and exactly, and then provide evidence and reasoning to your ideas. Because, quite frankly, I'm starting to grow tired of the "you are a bad person for having these ideas" speech.
*1. "Wealth of Nations," Adam Smith, Book 1, Chapter 8.
You keep dragging out that old quote from Adam Smith. He was describing the state of the law in his day in England - but that is not the state of the law today in America. Indeed, the Wagner Act and its progeny have tilted the stage in the other direction, granting to organized labor the power of the state to enforce "negotiations" on employers.
But you have not demonstrated the truth of this statement that you make: "All Capitalists have stolen their wealth, and those who haven't, bought it from those who did."
You are way way way far from proving the truth of that statement. First of all, you haven't been able to quantify in any way just what portion of capitalist property was directly stolen. Is it 50%, 10%, 1%, .1%, .001%?
You also have not shown any evidence that all other capitalists bought their property from capitalists who stole it.
If your claim is that, once an act of violence or theft occurs anywhere in time in the market, then all economic transactions after that are illegitimate, then it is you that has a real problem. That means any wages you have been paid by any capitalist were derived from stolen property, which means everything YOU possess is stolen.
Thus, by your theory, everything owned by everybody, whether poor or rich, was either stolen from the laborers or was bought from somebody who stole it.
Under your theory, if a bum on the street collects some cardboard for shanty to sleep in, he is a thief because cardboard was manufactured by capitalists who stole everything they have.
Frankly, your "logic" on this point is delusional. No way can you realistically claim that "EVERY" capitalist thrives on "stolen property" unless you agree that YOU thrive on stolen property.
Your claims about the police are partly true - but you are mistaken if you think they only act on behalf of the capitalists. There are plenty of instances where union thugs beat up people and the police stand by and do nothing.
In fact, I was once arrested by the police at the commands of the local Democrat Party chairman - who is an anti-capitalist.
I certainly don't blame my arrest on the capitalists. It was the other side that harassed me. 16 months later I got before a real judge who ruled I had broken no law and dismissed the case.
The state protects the power of the state - whether it benefits the capitalists or the anti-capitalists depends on the politics of the day.
You miss the entire point about my "personal experience" - which is that your political philosophy demands that you steal my property that I have worked hard for. I am entitled to raise a point of personal privilege when YOU propose to do VIOLENCE to ME.
You just cannot stand the fact that you have been called out on the morality of your scheme - by a victim whom you want to sweep under the carpet, or dismiss as having a mere "personal" interest.
Socialists like you do try to treat people as members of large classes or groups. You try to generalize the harm done to a narrow group of individuals to the entire class of "laborers" by a small group of individuals whom you lump into an entire class of "capitalists."
You have not demonstrated that Locke and Smith were critical of modern capitalism. Modern capitalism wasn't in vogue when they wrote. They were critical of a system struggling to separate itself from a system based upon a nobility and a serfdom. The critical quotes you have drawn from their works do not apply to the general working of the modern capitalist economy.
Quoting from historical sources cannot and will not justify the immoral proposition you make: that to redress past abuses, you are entitled to steal my property.
I really don't care whether Locke or Smith are "on my side" or not, so I don't need to drag out quotations from them. All I have to do is shown you that the quotations you have shown do not generally apply to the economic system of today. Your quote from Locke for example about wasted land being held as stolen - this was in the context of a nation where a nobility held almost all the property - remember feudalism - and continued to hold it - even though it had most likely been acquired by violence.
That is not a modern capitalist system. Today, we buy and sell property freely - and the largest "owner" of fallow land is in fact the United States government. They should sell it all off, as far as I'm concerned.
Your contempt for God comes through loud and clear. I'm certainly not going to get embroiled with you in a discussion of slavery and the Bible.
Again, it has become clear that we do not hold compatible moral or ethical views. You can guess where mine come from - the Holy Scriptures, and the ideals of the Declaration of Independence.
You believe it is theft to hold private title to property. I believe it is theft to hold title to property by class.
But in the final analysis: your political philosophy holds that my property that I worked hard for should be stolen from me.
No amount of appeals to past abuses, or enlightenment literature, or socialist dogma, can get you around that. You just believe it's justified to steal my property.
So you are, in the final analysis, a common thief. I cannot talk you out of it. It would do no good to quote you philosophers, poets, moralists, prophets, etc., because you would dispute their authority or their beliefs.
We just disagree on what is right and what is wrong, that's all.
You have made it clear you believe I am a thief for holding property. I have made it clear I believe you are a thief for seeking to take it from me.
Perhaps we should just let it lie there. I don't know how either of us can move the discussion forward from that critical dispute.
Adam Smith was talking about his day in England? Uummm, then why did he put forth the effort to write "always and everywhere" right in the middle of the sentence? Quoting Adam Smith, one more time...
And, as I argued earlier, an employer forced into a negotiation is not being forced into an agreement; and, they still possess every right to turn down an offer. Only a few years ago, the threat of prisons and police coercion was used against unionists on strike. The law is very clear. Yes, employers are forced into negotiation, which means at the least they have to reject every offer given them. On the other hand, the law isn't afraid to force people to work. It sounds like the law is much more so on the side of the Capitalist class than it could ever be on our side. If you further doubt it, just examine the worker struggles in South America or Asia, where forced labor and the police state are common things.
First... I didn't say that an act of violence has to occur anywhere, and I have no idea why you would think that. Free contract DOES NOT EXIST where one of the parties is forced or threatened with force. I couldn't imagine finding a definition of free contract that allows the threat of force to motivate actions.
Secondly... You are right, that many members of society, from top to bottom, including workers, hold a degree of responsibility of ill-obtained gains. But examine it a bit further. If I, the worker, possess wages that were stolen from me, does this make me responsible for stealing from myself? It would certainly seem so, but at least the money goes back to me. Likewise, with slaves who received food and clothing made by other slaves. The master who stole the wealth from the forced laborer -- he is certainly not justified in his actions. But are we going to now suddenly champion the cause of freedom, and say, "Ah, those slaves! They are possessing things that were made by other slaves! These slaves are thriving on stolen property!"
There are many things wrong with this reasoning. (a) Workers, and slaves, never really thrived. (b) If the wealth was taken from the workers and slaves, and only a part was given back -- it seems like the laborers aren't benefiting at all.
Either way, the ability to change things is completely different. Capitalists are responsible for the Spanish-American War, the Vietnam War, the Mexican-American War, US involvement in World War 1, and the genocide of Native Americans, Filipinos, Cubans, and Puerto Ricans. Where there is plenty of wealth, governments can be moved to do anything -- even if it means slaughtering people by the millions. This is how the wealthy, capitalist class maintains their position in society. It seems only quite clear to me... Society is organized and controlled by those with wealth. Those at the top of the economic chain hold significantly more responsibility for the whole than those on the bottom -- they hold the majority of influence in determining the course of all.
Actually, I made no such statement. The only way I have proposed for workers to obtain the means of production is through voluntary, cooperative labor associations (i.e.: unions). When I made the connection that Capitalists thrive on stolen wealth, and that they steal from workers, I left it at that. The method I have proposed to do this requires no police, no authority, and -- naturally -- no violence. In fact, I would consider myself to be a Peace Activist, but you can think that I proposed to do violence against you, if you'd like.
Modern Capitalism wasn't in vogue during Locke and Smith? That's a bit redundant... For some centuries-old philosophers, NOTHING modern was in vogue during their time. And yet, economists from Malthus to Ricardo to Keynes have all cited Adam Smith as being a tremendous source of inspiration. They also made their disagreements loud and clear -- but absolutely none of them disagreed with Smith's theory about the social, economic, and political domination of the Capitalist class.
Furthermore, Locke was not an economist, but a political philosopher -- his tract on government was not about how the economy functions, but on what rights mankind is entitled to have. He said that taking more than your share is theft from the common. He didn't say that this had anything to do with the Capitalist system whatsoever -- and he drew this principle all the way back to the dawn of civilization. I couldn't imagine why he would include a disclaimer of, "Becomes Invalid After 1900 AD."
Actually, that's exactly what the right to property means: if someone steals your property, you have the right to reclaim it. It is the principle upon which all of our courts function -- but, it is certainly not their practice.
I have no contempt for anyone's imaginary friend. There is a difference between skepticism and hate.
Now, you certainly don't know that. Because... well, you haven't quoted anyone so far.
We certainly do agree on some main philosophical points. But I'm curious how we got this far. My main proposal was that we should take land and factories that aren't being used, and then let people work there and manage it themselves. Morally and philosophically, of course I believe it to be their right. And this has been the source of the debate -- we've talked so very little about things we can do to give employment to the workers.
You oppose a human being's right to the land, I understand that. But what if we were to let people lease factories and lands for $1 a year? What if we were to organize cooperatives and collectives? Naturally, these types of enterprises would require very little. In cooperatives, workers will take paycuts before they allow layoffs, so the cost of wages isn't significant. Likewise, there's capital and land laying around abundantly. But the great masses, in poverty and homelessness, cannot afford to buy gigantic stretches of land.
Why not let the laborers borrow the land and factories? We're looking at a situation where there are empty fields and idle factories. On the other side, there are the poor and the working class, waving signs that read "will work for food." You may not see this as a terrible injustice, but it strikes me as particularly evil. Sure, let's not give workers the land. The Capitalists refuse to let workers labor on the lands, and benefit from their labor. Would you support a proposition that let workers temporarily seize a few, small pieces of land? They would be returned, like a lease. And land and labor, which would've been wasted, instead is used to produce food for a world full of want -- to produce wealth for a society wracked with poverty.
Why not allow the workers to seize idle factories and empty fields, if they're going to be returned to the Capitalist once the labor and harvest is done? It seems like a most reasonable proposition to me.
*1. "Wealth of Nations," by Adam Smith, book 1, chapter 8.
Your quote from Smith was not the one I was referring to. I was referring to the once regarding the use of force and the police to compel laborers.
Look, I am not defending your straw-man system of capitalism. I am not defending any system where the power of the state compels employees to work, or compels businesses to employ certain people, or compels workers to be represented by unions, or compels businesses to deal with unions. None of this belongs in free enterprise, and our party opposes it, as we oppose all wars of aggression and empire.
So you can stop bringing up violence against laborers - we don't support it and believe it has largely been abolished in our own country - and if it hasn't, we want it stamped out here completely. Also, you can stop bringing up what happens in other nations, or in past history, because we don't support those things either, and don't really consider it our business either.
Also, you can stop bringing up Adam Smith and other economic and philosophic authors. Though they have discovered many interesting things, they weren't perfect, and I don't model my economic system after every jot and tittle of what they wrote. Some of what they described is relevant today, some is not, so the fact that they provide a description that you like doesn't make it relevant to today's discussion.
If all you are advocating is voluntary labor unions and the voluntary creation of union-controlled co-ops, then I don't know what there is left to argue about, because I believe that people should be free to associate and organize, so long as they don't use violent force or its threat against others.
Now, I don't believe your voluntary labor unions and co-ops will thrive or succeed much, but then everybody should be free to give it a whirl. I suspect that co-ops don't work well because there is little profit motive to be found in them, because ownership is too diffuse. It will be difficult to accumulate the capital necessary to make a go of it, because there will be no hope of profit to justify the risk.
But do go ahead. Why haven't you and others done this already, since you are completely free to do so in modern American society? - except for the huge taxes and regulation that the government has heaped upon all businesses. Obama's health care proposals alone will probably bankrupt your co-op before it can get off the ground. It would have had a far better chance of survival 100 years ago.
You missed the point about the workers holding "stolen wealth" - my point was simply, if isolated acts of theft in the past taint ALL wealth held by all capitalists, then they necessarily taint all wealth held by all laborers as well. There are plenty of laborers who haven't had anything stolen from them personally - yet they have, by your logic, received wages and purchases possession tainted by those remote acts of theft which blacken (according to you) every act by every capitalist.
You failure to grasp this reveals something about the fallacy of making an arbitrary division of "capitalists" and "workers" - almost every capitalist is also a "worker" and almost every "worker" holds some capital.
But getting to your concrete, substantive proposal in the last paragraphs: there is plenty of land and idle buildings that could be used by people to create "co-ops" - indeed, there are many companies who would be eager to permit such use of idle resources. I am surprised that you don't know about this. In my community, I know of several pieces of property that the owners would likely cooperate with such schemes.
But "workers" don't want to do that. There are very few collective groups of people interested in organizing such schemes.
That, in the end, is what defines an "entrepreneur" - one who has the vision and get-up-and-go to work building his dream enterprise. It happens all the time with individuals. They find ways to builds millions of businesses a year. But it rarely happens with collectives. The fact that millions of individuals pull it off, but so few collectives do, when the same resources are available to both, suggests that collectives just don't work - they don't self-start - they don't, by and large, self-sustain.
The reason is mostly because the profit motive that drives the individual entrepreneur is largely diluted. Indeed, you think it is somehow illegitimate and ought to be suppressed.
That is what amazes me about communism - it is so contrary to how things actually work. The Communist seeks bizarre class-based explanations for why his theory fails - such as appeals to what happened in the Paris Commune in 1871! when all around him individuals are starting with nothing but an idea and some drive and building successful enterprises - while the communists dream of collectives, and gnash against the "forces" that keep them from happening.