Friday, April 25, 2014

Don't Hide Marx Under A Bushel

Alternative title: "In Which Our Hero Marx Is Hidden Under A Bushel"

I'm really loving the expression..."In Which Our Hero..."

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Yesterday those Crooked Timber liberals stole a chuckle from me.  It's the third time that they've done so.  Here are the first two times...

1. An Economy Based on Wife Swapping.  Should we have to organize a wife-swapping party every time we need to purchase a blanket?  The Crooked Timber liberals say "no".  But I think that they are protesting a bit too much.

2. Ouch, My Most of Me!!  David Graeber takes a Great White shark bite out of Henry Farrell.

3. Karlo Marx and Fredrich Engels / Came to the checkout at the 7-11

A publisher, Lawrence & Wishart, forced the folks running marxists.org to remove protected material.  Scott McLemee writes...
Somehow it has not occurred to Lawrence & Wishart that, by enlarging the pool of people aware of and reading the Collected Works, the archive is actually expanding the audience (and potential market) for L & W’s books, including the somewhat pricey MECW volumes themselves, available only in hardback at $25-50 per volume. I’m stressing the bottom line here, given that the press’s decision is rational only on the narrowest conception of it. But a piece of synchronicity involving another CTer underscores just how much the left can learn from, of all things, the sectarian right: 
About the time the Marxist Internet Archive announced that it would be taking down all the MECW material, Corey and I both, by coincidence, were availing ourselves of radically under-priced materials from the enemy’s publishing apparatus. He’d received an order containing dirt-cheap copies of Bastiat from the Liberty Fund, while a day earlier I had downloaded free digital editions of the major Austrian School books on theory of value and the socialist-calculation debate from the Mises Institute website. There’s more to neoliberal hegemony than loss-leader pricing, but as ideological combatants those people know what they’re doing.
Did you chuckle?

Hey Scott McLemee...sing along with me!
This little Marx of mine
I'm going to let him shine
Oh, this little Marx of mine
I'm going to let him shine
This little Marx of mine
I'm going to let him shine
Let him shine, all the time, let him shine 
All around the neighborhood
I'm going to let him shine
All around the neighborhood
I'm going to let him shine
All around the neighborhood
I'm going to let him shine
Let him shine, all the time, let him shine. 
Hide him under a bushel? No!
I'm going to let him shine
Hide him under a bushel? No!
I'm going to let him shine
Hide him under a bushel? No!
I'm going to let him shine
Let him shine, all the time, let him shine. 
Don't let Satan [blow] him out!
I'm going to let him shine
Don't let Satan [blow] him out!
I'm going to let him shine
Don't let Satan [blow] him out!
I'm going to let him shine
Let him shine, all the time, let him shine
Yeah, for sure don't let Satan shrink the pool of people exposed to Marx/Engels...
But the peculiar evil of silencing the expression of an opinion is, that it is robbing the human race; posterity as well as the existing generation; those who dissent from the opinion, still more than those who hold it. If the opinion is right, they are deprived of the opportunity of exchanging error for truth: if wrong, they lose, what is almost as great a benefit, the clearer perception and livelier impression of truth, produced by its collision with error. - J.S. Mill, On Liberty
Peter Boettke would certainly agree... You Have to Read Marx and Understand His Philosophical System to Appreciate What He Said and What Is Wrong With It

What's wrong with Marx?  He believed that it was beneficial to hide Scott McLemee under a bushel.  That's what socialism is.  Input doesn't flow...it's blocked.

Right now we have socialism in the public sector.  Scott McLemee can't shop for himself in the public sector.  He can't choose where his taxes go.  He can't boycott war.  McLemee's deep input is blocked.  His light is hidden under a bushel.  As a result, the public sector is dimly lit.

Should McLemee be hidden under a bushel?  No!  We have to let him shine.  Giving McLemee the freedom to directly allocate his taxes would help illuminate the public sector.

If everybody could shop in the public sector...then the public sector would be brilliant.  It would be brighter than the sun.

Bushels be gone!  Satan be gone!  Socialism be gone!  Darkness be gone!

Let the sunshine in!!!





For goodness sake let the sunshine in...
Here the contrast between the past and the present is tremendous. You will recall the wonderful image at the beginning of the seventh book of Plato's Republic: those enchained cavemen whose faces are turned toward the stone wall before them. Behind them lies the source of the light which they cannot see. They are concerned only with the shadowy images that this light throws upon the wall, and they seek to fathom their interrelations. Finally one of them succeeds in shattering his fetters, turns around, and sees the sun. Blinded, he gropes about and stammers of what he saw. The others say he is raving. But gradually he learns to behold the light, and then his task is to descend to the cavemen and to lead them to the light. He is the philosopher; the sun, however, is the truth of science, which alone seizes not upon illusions and shadows but upon the true being. - Max Weber, Science as a Vocation
It is yet more monstrous, then, to see how frequently governments, not content with squandering the substance of the people in folly and absurdity, instead of aiming at any return of value, actually spend that substance in bringing down upon the nation calamities innumerable; practise exactions the most cruel and arbitrary, to forward schemes the most extravagant and wicked; first rifle the pockets of the subject, to enable them afterwards to urge him to the further sacrifice of his blood. Nothing, but the obstinacy of human passion and weakness, could induce me again and again to repeat these unpalatable truths, at the risk of incurring the charge of declamation. - J.B. Say, A Treatise on Political Economy 
It may help to see this point if we think of a modern phenomenon which can be compared with child sacrifice, that of war...  But once it had broken out (or even a little bit earlier) it became a "religious" phenomenon.  The state, the nation, national honor, became the idols, and both sides voluntarily sacrificed their children to these idols....  The fact that, in the case of child sacrifice, the father kills the child directly while, in the case of war, both sides have an arrangement to kill each other's children makes little difference. - Erich Fromm, The Anatomy of Human Destructiveness
Going to war accelerated the move from indirect to direct rule. Almost any state that makes war finds that it cannot pay for the effort from its accumulated reserves and current revenues. Almost all war-making states borrow extensively, raise taxes, and seize the means of combat – including men – from reluctant citizens who have other uses for their resources. - Charles Tilly, Roads from Past to Future
It is worth recalling that Thyssen was one of only two leading industrialists to support the Nazi Party before it became the most powerful party on the political scene. - Germa Bel, Against the mainstream: Nazi privatization in 1930s Germany 
To compel a man to furnish funds for the propagation of ideas he disbelieves and abhors is sinful and tyrannical. - Thomas Jefferson
It would seem to be a blatant injustice if someone should be forced to contribute towards the cost of some activity which does not further his interests or may even be diametrically opposed to them. - Knut Wicksell
Individuals who have particularly negative feelings concerning a publicly provided good (e.g. Quakers on military expenditures, Prolifers on publicly funded abortions) have also at times suggested that they should be allowed to dissent by earmarking their taxes toward other public uses. - Marc Bilodeau, Tax-earmarking and separate school financing
The distinguishing characteristic of [public] goods is not only that they can be consumed by everyone, but that there is no escape from consuming them unless one were to leave the community by which they are provided. Thus he who says public goods says public evils. The latter result not only from universally sensed inadequacies in the supply of public goods, but from the fact that what is a public good for some - say, a plentiful supply of police dogs and atomic bombs - may well be judged a public evil by others in the same community. It is also quite easy to conceive of a public good turning into a public evil, for example, if a country's foreign and military policies develop in such a way that their "output" changes from international prestige to international disrepute. - Albert O. Hirschman, Exit, Voice, and Loyalty 
Unquestionably Mr. Spencer has the courage of his opinions; for in a chapter entitled The Right to Ignore the State he actually contends that the citizen may properly refuse to pay taxes, if at the same time he surrenders the advantages which State aid and State protection yield him! But how can he surrender them? In whatever way he maintains himself, he must make use of sundry appliances which are indirectly due to governmental organization; and he cannot avoid benefiting by the social order which government maintains. Even if he lives on a moor and makes shoes, he cannot sell his goods or buy the things he wants without using the road to the neighboring town, and profiting by the paving and perhaps the lighting when he gets there. And, though he may say he does not want police guardianship, yet, in keeping down footpads and burglars, the police necessarily protect him, whether he asks them or not. Surely it is manifest—as indeed Mr. Spencer himself elsewhere implies—that the citizen is so entangled in the organization of his society that he can neither escape the evils nor relinquish the benefits which come to him from it. - Herbert Spencer, An Autobiography
Of course just because everyone can be made better off by taxation does not mean that everyone will be made better off. Some people want more national defense, some people want less, pacifists want none. So, taxation means that some people will be turned into forced riders, people who must contribute to the public good even though their benefits from the public good are low or even negative. - Tyler Cowen, Alex Tabarrok, Modern Principles of Economics 
A second point of broad consensus among critics stresses that publicness in consumption must not necessarily mean that all persons value a good’s utility equally, Mendez (1999), for example, illustrates this point by examining peace as a PG. Some policy-makers might opt for increased defense spending in order to safeguard peace. However, this decision could siphon off scarce resources from programmes in the areas of health and education. Other policy-makers might object to such a consequence and prefer to foster peace through just the opposite measure -- improved health and education for all. Especially under conditions of extreme disparity and inequity, the first strategy could indeed provoke even more conflict and unrest, securing national borders by unsettling people’s lives. - Inge Kaul, Public Goods: Taking the Concept to the 21st Century
Only the free market, then, can determine different qualities or degrees of a service. Second, and even more important, there is no indication that for a particular taxpayer, the government is supplying a "service" at all. Since the tax is compulsory, it may well be that the "service" has zero or even negative value for individual taxpayers. Thus, a pacifist, philosophically opposed to any use of violence, would not consider a tax levied for his and others' police protection to be a positive service; instead, he finds that he is being compelled, against his will, to pay for the provision of a "service" that he detests. In short, equal pricing on the market reflects demands by consumers who are voluntarily paying the price, who, in short, believe that they are gaining more from the good or service than they are giving up in exchange. But taxation is imposed on all people, regardless of whether they would be willing to pay such a price (the equal tax) voluntarily, or indeed whether they would voluntarily purchase any of this service at all. - Murray Rothbard, The Myth of Neutral Taxation 
The people feeling, during the continuance of the war, the complete burden of it, would soon grow weary of it, and government, in order to humour them, would not be under the necessity of carrying it on longer than it was necessary to do so. The foresight of the heavy and unavoidable burdens of war would hinder the people from wantonly calling for it when there was no real or solid interest to fight for. The seasons during which the ability of private people to accumulate was somewhat impaired would occur more rarely, and be of shorter continuance. Those, on the contrary, during which the ability was in the highest vigour would be of much longer duration than they can well be under the system of funding. - Adam Smith, Wealth of Nations 
Current practice rising from that conviction leads to strange tactics in allocating benefits from certain public expenditures: Defense is always seen as a good, even in a country embarking on a disastrous war which brings untold suffering. Typically, in studies of expenditure incidence, households are seen to value services for police, and administration at cost, even though they have not the slightest idea as to the amount or costs of resources used on their behalf in these services. Under such circumstances, would not value equal to costs be an extremely unlikely outcome even in those few countries with representative government? And what about those residents of a country who are actively or passively in opposition to the status quo? Do they really benefit from expenditure on internal and external security as the empirical studies always assume? Is it clear that such expenditures even enter into household utility functions? Of consider further: If the community spends twice as much on diplomacy and administration while reducing education expenditures pari passu, is it obvious that there has been no change in total economic value as measured in the national accounts? Extreme assumptions are the usual way to deal with the problems suggested by these situations. But the fact that the assumptions are extreme, suggests that there is something wrong with the usual techniques in allocating benefits from certain general expenditures. - Jacob Meerman, Are Public Goods Public Goods?

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