Monday, 27 September 2010

Traditional Socialist Values

Are Socialists Inherently Evil?

If you can’t be bothered to read the rest of the article, I’ll just jump straight to the conclusion and tell you the answer is no.

For the more intrepid reader...

There’s a really great post by Eliezer Yudkowsky on the sorts of values Capitalists actually have, rather than Socialists would like them to have. How Traditional Capitalist Values are more about

“Mak[ing] things that people want, or do things that people want done, in exchange for money or other valuta. This is a great and noble and worthwhile endeavour, and anyone who looks down on it reveals their own shallowness.”


“grab all the money you can get”

I wanted to a mirror one, on traditional Socialist Values. Except, because socialists actually
are evil and immoral, I’ll have to invent some values that hypothetical, non-evil (merely delusional) socialists might have.

And these are the values and arguments you should be considering, when you evaluate different systems. If there are stronger arguments they could be making, that appeal to more humanely realistic value systems, it doesn’t matter if all the socialists you meet are idiots who don’t understand that Rothbard proved them wrong decades ago, that value being ordinal disproves their system.

We’re Libertarians; we didn’t pick our beliefs from those offered by the main political parties, and there’s no reason why we should pick our considerations from those offered by other ideologies. If there is a stronger case and you ignore it, you’ve lost your epistemic virtue; Libertarianism has become your fantasy, rather than actually about the world.

How not to argue like your opponents are characters in Atlas Shrugged.

By the time you’ve shown that socialism is the rejection of life and the worship of death, you’ve shown your point. The hard part is to get from actual positions that people take to Atlas Shrugged; getting from Wesley Mouch to some kind of contradiction is not the important part of an argument. And for that, we need to understand the values they’re starting from; maybe to understand that they’re human too. Values like,

  • “From each according to their ability, to each according to their need” – not looting from the productive to keep the Twentieth Century Motor Company afloat, but each individual proud to achieve the best he could, in the knowledge that he was helping those in need, rather than making the rich richer.
  • “Every socialist movement’s proud and beautiful goal is a society based on freedom, mutual cooperation, and solidarity, where all exploitation is abolished and each individual’s free and harmonious development is the condition of everyone’s free development.”[1]
  • “Democratic socialism is an international movement for freedom, social justice and solidarity. Its goal is to achieve a peaceful world where these basic values can be enhanced and where each individual can live a meaningful life with the full development of his or her personality and talents and with the guarantee of human and civil rights in a democratic framework of society.”[2]
  • That it is outcomes that matter, and a millionaire who fails to help the suffering masses is as bad as one who inflicts suffering upon them.
  • That death or suffering is always bad, whether it is wrought by nature or man, and we should try to prevent it either way. We should not be a bourgeois state and ignore the former.
  • That it’s crazy, in an era of industrialised farming and genetic engineering and the internet, for us to not be able to feed the world. That it’d be comic, if it wasn’t tragic.
  • That advertising destroys the self esteem of millions of people by presenting them with unobtainable targets. If we move beyond profit-obsessed corporations and media manipulation, we can acknowledge the full range of human values, including honesty, and allow people to flourish in their own manner.
  • That inequality generated by Capitalism is morally wrong, because it fragments society and prevents us from relating to one another. Can the tycoon in his luxurious penthouse relate to the pensioner shivering in her flat, or the unemployed man waiting for the bus in the rain?
  • “What does it mean to be a intellectual of the field? To muddy your boots, to swat mosquitoes, to eat out of the common pot, to listen to questions, to accept criticism. To adjust theories to workers experience. To adapt to changes as well as to defend principles.”
  • That, if there were no other effects, it might be better to have a richer but more unequal world, if it made everyone better off. But at the moment, we’re not on that margin: redistribution from the pampered elite to the starving masses will make them better off, not worse.
  • That Feudalism was wrong to assign a child a station at birth, and Capitalism is wrong to assign it a socio-economic class.
  • That it is wrong for huge corporations to manipulate governments, especially of poor countries, into weakening environmental laws to allow for greater profits: the public good of the atmosphere, and other parts of nature, needs protection.
  • That people should be defined by their own values and projects, not by their job.
  • That ‘positive freedom’ matters; we might quibble over the semantics of whether or not this counts as freedom, but whatever it is, actually being able to achieve your goals is important.
  • That the view of human nature as rational, egotistical agents is slander; our other values, like community, family and fellowship are important, but ignored in a Capitalist Society.
  • “To love the country; do it no harm
  • Serve the people; do no disservice.
  • Follow science; discard ignorance.
  • Be diligent; not indolent.
  • Be united, help each other; make no gains at other's expense
  • Be honest and trustworthy; do not spend ethics for profits
  • Be disciplined and law-abiding; not chaotic and lawless.
  • Live plainly, struggle hard; do not wallow in luxuries and pleasures.”[3]
  • "It's easy to offer an "opportunity" that in practice goes to a few; the hard and serious task is to ensure the means of flourishing to all." HT: SarahC
  • It is better to live for others than only for yourself .

[1] Swedish socialist leader Nils Karleby, quoted in Timothy Tilton, The Political Theory of Swedish Social Democracy (Oxford: Clarendon Press 1990), p. 73.

[2] Socialist International, Declaration of Principles.

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