Nobody expects the Spanish revolution

Javier Navascués reports on the youth movement occupying Spain’s public squares
19 May 2011

‘We, the unemployed, the underpaid, the subcontracted, the precarious, the young … demand a change towards a future with dignity. We are fed up of reforms, of being laid off, of the banks which have caused the crisis hardening our mortgages or taking away our houses, of laws limiting our freedom in the interest of the powerful. We blame the political and economic powers of our sad situation and we call for a turn.’

When a new and unknown platform called Real Democracy Now called for a demonstration last Sunday, 15 May, few expected that something like 130,000 people would turn out across Spain. Around 1,000 of those attempted to occupy Madrid’s central square, the Puerta del Sol, overnight in a conscious imitation of Tahrir Square. They were violently evicted by police, but the next day similar camps sprang up in most major cities. They are still mostly there and intend to remain until Sunday’s local elections.

Of course, though the movement has taken even the organisers by surprise, it has antecedents and a context. Its roots include those groups and movements connected to the World Social Forum process as well as the protests organised by young people before the financial crisis over the high cost of homes as a result of the property boom. More recently, a ‘Youth without a future’ demonstration attracted up to 3,000 people in April, marching under the slogan ‘No House, No Job, No Pension, No Fear’. This was not a particularly impressive turnout, though it matched the unimpressive turnout for recent trade union mobilisations.

The trade union response to the crisis was slow in coming and quickly lost steam. A general strike last September happened nine months after the first austerity measures were announced. Then the large unions signed an agreement with the government on pension cuts in January. Although they were denounced by smaller, more militant unions, those unions were unable to call a significant mobilisation against the agreement. Union rank and file members are showing clear signs of demoralisation.

Then came the election campaign. A court battle concerning the possibility of pro-ETA candidates running in the Basque Country resulted in them being allowed to run (good news because it signals a better chance of bringing terrorism to an end) but provided the right with an opportunity to stoke Spanish nationalistic chauvinism. On the other hand the austerity policies and the high rate of unemployment have alienated a lot of the popular classes who would normally support the PSOE. As a result the polls were forecasting a landslide defeat of the PSOE to the PP. United Left (IU) is showing significant advances in the polls, but nothing to match the major shift away from the PSOE.

Then the marches last Sunday erupted. They were called mostly by word of mouth and through social networks. Thousands marched against the banks and for real democracy. Botín, CEO of Banco Santander, and other prominent businessmen were identified as responsible for the crisis, while one of the most popular slogans was ‘PSOE and PP are the same shit’. Corruption is also targeted. People shouted ‘no hay pan para tanto chorizo’ (there is not enough bread for so many sausages). As well as being a Spanish sandwich sausage, ‘chorizo’ also means ‘crook’ in popular slang.

Some are now advocating a ‘blank’ vote in the elections, but in most cases ‘real democracy’ is understood as the need to reform the electoral regulations and, more significantly, the primacy of elected bodies over the ‘markets’ and the accountability of elected officials.

The right will still most probably win the elections although a surprise cannot be ruled out. If the defeat is large enough, PSOE prime minister Rodrigo Zapatero will probably be forced to call an early general election. It does not seem realistic to expect a left turn as his government is highly committed to the austerity policies that are being designed at the European level.

But the Spanish landscape the day after could be different. There could be new actors on the stage. Whether or not this particular movement survives, contestation in Spain is gathering momentum and it will recover. And although this new impetus will not automatically shift either the unions or the PSOE grassroots to the left, this week’s mobilisations will certainly have an effect on the labour movement. The anti-globalisation movement in Spain, which was thought dead, has reappeared under a new incarnation.



Javier Navascués is an activist with United Left in Spain, and the architect of a radical form of participatory budgeting in Seville.


 

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Panagiotis Atmatzidis 20 May 2011, 06.54

Globalisation, really? is it? What form of globalisation is this exactly? Products and money do not have borders but people and nations do? Really? That’s not globalisation, that’s a really awful situation.


Jorein Versteege 20 May 2011, 07.43

I hope the PSOE loses, that pro-capitalist social democratic party has betrayed the workers of Spain. Unfortunately a lost for the social democrats means a victory for the conservatives of the People’s Party. People don’t seem to know that the PP is as right-wing as the Spanish ”Socialist Workers” Party.

The conservatives will destroy most social services. They believe fully in the rules of the IMF and the capitalist market economy. They want the workers to pay for the crisis. Spain is one of the poor west European nations. A salary of 600 to 900 euro each month is max for most Spanish workers. Now the social democrats and the conservatives want the workers to pay for the crisis the big banks caused.

A Socialist Alternative is needed in Spain.


james 20 May 2011, 10.11

May 20 update from the Guardian:
Spain bans protests ahead of elections
http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2011/may/20/spain-bans-protest-ahead-election


Manolo 20 May 2011, 11.31

This problems (corruption, capitalism and politician privileges, among others) not only affect Spain, every place in Europe and America are suffering the same status quo, so… don’t await what we (the spanish people) will do and raise up on your city or town.

On England, Germany, France and all over the world .. stand up for your rights and call for real democracy now!


Tom 20 May 2011, 21.51

It looks to me like the teenage leftists of the European Union require a direction and a purpose.

The market economy is the only thing on your side, young spaniards, it’s the only thing that provides you any measure of freedom and self-realisation. It’s also the only economy you have, and thus the only source of actual material wealth. By interfering with it you’re only going to produce less wealth, less jobs and more suffering. Yes, government is a massive problem which must be dealt with, but ‘democracy’ is not the solution. The solution is liberty: have the government withdraw interference from markets, eliminate ‘social services’ (every Euro spent by the government is another stolen from the productive market, meaning less real wealth and less sustainable jobs.. and how is it a ‘service’ if you’re forced to pay for it?), eliminate anti-market corporatism (limited corporate liability, patent law, bailouts, anti-trade taxation, fiat currency monopoly, all anti-competitive laws) and by doing so eliminate the corporatist problem while retaining the economic liberty to have a thriving economy. Because just demanding more socialism will only produce more economic problems, and you’ll never make any forward progress.

I’m not advocating a conservative position, in general conservatives tend to talk about economic freedom but in practise are just a bunch of cowardly prohibitionists, corporate whores and opponents of personal liberty. What I’m saying is that democracy and socialism are no better than fascist corporatism, you’re still going to be left with the same problems of massive corruption, very little economic progress and a ruling elite who don’t give a damn about you and your rights. The further you push to the left, the worse your problems will become. You won’t achieve anything positive for yourself or for Spain using coercive violence.

Please take a moment to consider the anti-coercive anarchist philosophy of Voluntaryism as an alternative to the further perpetuation of personal and economic oppression:

http://www.economicsjunkie.com/anarchism-voluntaryism-faqs/

Revolutions are pointless things, they always return you to the same point you started at. Even the American revolution ended in tyranny and taxes. Lets try and aspire to something better than just another turn of the wheel…


w 21 May 2011, 00.48

Best listen to Tom.


Labin 22 May 2011, 18.24

@w

If I would get a dollar for every explicit and implicit piece of nonsense contained in Tom’s post, I could by a first class flight to Madrid right now :-)

So no, best don’t listen to Tom, because Tom happens to be a political, historical and economic illiterate.


Tom 22 May 2011, 18.29

Personal insults instead of counter-arguments! Wasn’t expecting THAT on the internet…

Cheers, w.


EconomicsJunkie 22 May 2011, 19.21

Well said, Tom! :)


Labin 22 May 2011, 21.47

@Tom

Calling someone a political, historical and economic illiterate isn’t an insult, it is a factual statement, which can be true or false. Had I called you an asshole or a moron, that would have been an insult (although some insults can also be true in the sense of correctly describing a given factual state). Time to learn the difference, seemingly among many other things…

“It’s also the only economy you have, and thus the only source of actual material wealth.” (Tom on market economy)

Let us take just this one sample of your wisdom and insight.

Market economy is first and foremost a social relation (question: why is it a SOCIAL relation?), not a productive facility. The only two sources of “actual material wealth” are, actually, nature and human labour, the only two productive forces known to us as yet (if you believe to have discovered others, please do tell…). The market economy (as any other economy) socially organizes usage and ownership of productive facilities and the social distribution of its products in a specific way. The “actual source of material wealth” of any society are its productive facilities, not the social relations organizing them (the so-called “economies”).

And on “coercive violence”:
“Absolute liberty can only be wielded by an absolute tyrant” (Hal Draper, in the spirit of).

Now, that is (in contrast to the heap of nonsense in your post) actually a statemnt with insight and some pretty non-trivial consequences. The question is: why?

Question 2:


EconomicsJunkie 23 May 2011, 03.20

@Tom: Keep spreading the truth, logic, and reason as best you can. Ignore trolls who can’t do anything but mouth the same bromides again and again. They don’t deserve your attention one tiny bit. You are a true defender of peace and freedom for all, my friend :)


Anonymous 23 May 2011, 06.29

@ EconomicsJunkie

Especially logic and reason. These are definitely your’s and your buddy’s strong points, as demonstrated above…


EconomicsJunkie 23 May 2011, 08.06

@Anonymous: Thanks. Always remember though, the strength lies in our methodology, not our conclusions. :)

http://www.economicsjunkie.com/existence-logic-evidence-truth-knowledge-bigotry/

Cheers,
EJ


Labin 23 May 2011, 10.22

“Always remember though, the strength lies in our methodology, not our conclusions.”

Jesus. Another one for the hall of fame. I’m having trouble keeping up here…


Tom 23 May 2011, 21.41

Cheers, lets try again:

@Labin

Thank you for responding.

Without the market economy all the nature and labour in the world won’t produce more than the most primitive and pathetic amount of actual material wealth, so yes, the market economy IS the only source of actual material wealth the modern world has. Without the market economy the Spanish will be left to slide backwards into poverty and destitution. There exists no other means by which economic prosperity can be achieved, and in this sense it is the source of material wealth.

Care to explain the quote? It appears to be mistaking liberty for the right to behave tyrannically, which is of-course an error. A person’s liberty includes only the right to act in a voluntary fashion. A tyrant, and indeed anyone who attempts to restrict the voluntary behaviour of the market, exceeds their liberty and becomes a criminal by virtue of their use of coercive violence.

I look forward to your response.


Labin 23 May 2011, 23.37

“Without the market economy all the nature and labour in the world won’t produce more than the most primitive and pathetic amount of actual material wealth.”

Nope. Many civilisations in which the market has played very restricted or completely secondary roles have produced material wealth which was anything but “primitive and pathetic”. As far as the modern world is concerned, the world’s greatest single producer of “actual material wealth” at the moment is…China – in which the market (at least internally) also plays a significantly restricted role.

“A person’s liberty includes only the right to act in a voluntary fashion.”

“Only” is quite a lot here, as “acting in voluntary fashion” can have many forms, f.e. I can act “in voluntary fashion” by robbing someone blind. There are many forms of “voluntary action”, tyrannical behaviour included.

Which is exactly why “liberty” without further examnination of its concrete content (that is: liberty for what and liberty for whom?)is not merely meaningless, it is also a most welcome disguise for trampling on liberties of others. Meaningful liberty in human relations is always a product of negation of abstract absolute liberty. My freedom to live without the fear of being murdered is only possible if other people’s freedom to kill me is taken away from them, if necessary by “coercive violence”. The same naturally applies in the opposite direction.

Which is the meaning of Draper’s statement: as absolute liberty of anybody is the absolute negation of any liberty for everybody else, it can only be wielded by an absolute tyrant.


EconomicsJunkie 24 May 2011, 00.07

@Tom:

Where conclusions arise out of trauma and not out of the method of reason, reason will be of no use in challenging potentially false conclusions.

I wrote about this here so you may find this interesting:

http://www.economicsjunkie.com/logic-evidence-vs-abuse-trauma/

In short: Don’t waste your time! :)


Labin 24 May 2011, 09.23

@Economics Junkie

Here is the great thinker again. Don’t you have something better to do then trolling a discussion among grown-ups? Up till now you haven’t even ADDRESSED, let alone criticised a single concrete point of argument I have stated. So much for your “logic and reason” (and that of your website, which is, by the way, embarassing even for the miserable standards of third-rate Misesians you seem to belong to). So why don’t you go play somewhere else and leave discussions of non-trivial issuses to people who actually have something of substance to say?


Suttree 24 May 2011, 14.19

Labin: You were too generous giving a back & forth with Economics Junkie who brought to mind the quote below.

“Nothing facilitates an understanding of political essence of developments as greatly as their evaluation by one’s adversaries (that is, of course, unless the latter are hopelessly stupid).”
~ Lenin, Collected Works


Labin 24 May 2011, 16.14

@Sutree

Thank you for the quote. That is Lenin, always a true and profund Hegelian: you can only overcome and show what is untrue in your adversary’s position if you are ready to learn from and assimilate that what is true in what he has to say. “Unless, of course, the latter is hopelessly stupid.” ;-).


Tom 25 May 2011, 00.08

@Labin

Thank you for responding.

You misunderstand, I’m not saying that *only* a strict free market can produce *any* wealth, I’m saying that wealth can only be produced in any considerable quantity while having some level of a market mechanism. China as I’m sure you know embraced the market economy in 1978 after the disastrous failure of Communism, and experienced unprecedented growth as a result. During the attempt at a communist economy, about 50 million people died from starvation alone as a result of the Great Leap Fowards. Since the economic reforms the poverty rate in China has decreased from 64% to 16% in 2004. Before the rise of Mao, China was a market economy and a producer of incredible material wealth. It was only during the attempt to destroy the market economy that the Chinese people suffered for a wide-spread lack of material goods.

This is one clear and objective example of how the market economy is crucial to the creation of wealth, and reflects how attempting to push the Spanish economy further to the left and away from peaceful voluntary exchange will only hurt the people of Spain more.

Robbing someone blind is not a voluntary act, since the victim has not volunteered to be robbed. In this context ‘voluntary’ does not mean “anything one chooses to do”, but instead refers to consensual exchanges of property between individuals. Being a tyrant is not voluntary behaviour.

You define murder as a “freedom”. Liberty only includes that which you have a right to do, to “act in a voluntary fashion”. It is the contention of the Voluntaryists that no person has a right to initiate physical force against the life, liberty or property of another, and that all people’s rights are morally equal in this axiom. Draper’s quote is flawed because his definition of liberty is erroneous: absolute liberty only includes all non-coercive actions that one can perform. To perform a coercive action is to exceed liberty and cross into the boundary of criminal behaviour.

Further, if a person is attempting to harm you then it is not “coercive” to stop them, merely defensive. They are the party behaving in a coercive manner by initiating violence.

I keenly anticipate your response.

@EconomicsJunkie I used to consider myself a leftist until another person’s arguments got through my thick skull mate, so I’d like to think there’s always a possibility of making head-way in these discussions.

@Suttree there’s no call to be rude and insult the man. It’s only a discussion.


EconomicsJunkie 25 May 2011, 01.08

@Tom:

I understand where you’re coming from.

I am addressing you in particular, as I have little interest in the other boring, predictable, and oft-repeated noise and bromides flying by on this comment thread.

As you probably know, to me the conclusions themselves are not so much the issue. Whether someone considers himself a leftie, a socialist, a conservative, or a libertarian is not so important.

What is more important is whether he applies an objective, logical, and proven methodology in his pursuit of knowledge, and whether he displays genuine curiosity in the process, in other words: whether he is capable of thinking.

When one can’t do anything but attempt to insult, humiliate, and ridicule another person without a shred of curiosity, while at the same time studiously avoiding to post even one piece of evidence or reason against that person’s hypotheses, and then hypocritically attacking the other person for not addressing his “arguments”, while topping it all off by citing 3 different quotes that he heard or read someone else say or write somewhere else … then my friend, you are not dealing with such an individual.

You are dealing with someone who indeed needs help and compassion, but on a much deeper psychological level that you won’t be able to reach, I’m afraid, through a few internet comments about politics.

In fact, I’m afraid you will accomplish the exact opposite: When you wrestle with a pig both of you get dirty, one of the two enjoys it.

You reinforce pettiness by attempting to reason with unreason.

So ask yourself this: Back when you were a leftie as you say, were you also a petty, angry, frustrated, paraphrasing, insulting individual as this wretched and traumatized soul here, devoid of any capacity to think, intent to shit all over every single individual who puts forward ideas that seem to oppose your thinking?

If so, then I can understand your desire to bring the light of reason to bear upon similar individuals and I wish you the best in this pursuit, but most of all massive kudos to YOU for turning it around!

If not, then maybe now it makes a little more sense to you when I said that you’d be wasting your precious time that you could use on people who are worth it.

This is indeed something that the irrational and petty people of the world are much better at than we are: They don’t waste their time trying to convert rational people like us. They quickly move on to find people who are susceptible to their propaganda and nonsense. Their success rates over the past millennia speak more than a thousand words.

We should learn from your enemies and actually use that approach for GOOD, wouldn’t that be great?!

Anyway, these are conclusions that I have come to based upon evidence that I myself have gathered over the years, and as always I’d gladly stand corrected should the inconceivable indeed occur.

I’m not holding my breath for it. ;)


Labin 25 May 2011, 07.54

@Tom

You are welcome. And I am forced to retract and apologize for my initial remarks – you may be wrong in some important general points (and I believe you are), but you definitely aren’t a political or historic illiterate. And you engage in discussion in a meaningful way, that is by addressing concrete arguments (which is a crucial qualitative difference to the troll here who already TWICE posted a litany in which he avoided even addressing any single concrete point I have made, which of course doesn’t prevent him from continuing to parade with “logic and reason”, as this sort usually does). So, one has to give credit where credit is due – you do know how to engage in a meaningful discussion.

“You misunderstand, I’m not saying that *only* a strict free market can produce *any* wealth, I’m saying that wealth can only be produced in any considerable quantity while having some level of a market mechanism.”

Then we have no disagreement on this point. I by no means adhere to the liberal caricature of planned economy as an economy in which “all means of production are collectively owned (sic!)”, the “state controles everything” and similar nonsense from the tea party’s cabinet of horrors. This is a matter of definition, but if one defines the market as the place for the (in your sense of the word) voluntary exchange of property not only between individuals but also between social groups and entities, then meaningful planned economy is, in the strict literal sense of the word, nothing BUT a market economy. In other words, it all depends on what we are talking about when we talk about market.

“China as I’m sure you know embraced the market economy in 1978 after the disastrous failure of Communism, and experienced unprecedented growth as a result. During the attempt at a communist economy, about 50 million people died from starvation alone as a result of the Great Leap Fowards.”

a) China never embraced “market economy” in the sense it exists in the western world. Market elements (in this, that is, Western capitalist sense of the word) have always been, and are still subordinated to the central planning (which is, however, driven by the pressures and demands of the world market). A sidenote: this sort of central planning has nothing to do with “Communism” – under the condition one adhers to the general concepts and definitions of Communism as developed in the work of Marx & Engels. However, it does produce “actual material wealth” on a grand scale. The only question is: for whom and for what?

b) China never attempted anything like communist economy. We obvioulsy have a major difference in what we understand under “communist” when we use the term speaking of social and economic relations.Communist economy requires concrete social an material conditions which cannot be pulled out of thin air by any sort of voluntaristic “leaps”, the Great Leap Forward included. China’s pre-Maoist period (I am talking about the late modern world (19th/20th century)was a disaster. This doesn’t make the Maoist period better then it was, but to contrast the dark Maoism with the glorius pe-Mao China would be a travesty. There where no glories there for anybody (with the exception, of course, of the Emperor and his clique, Western colonial thugs (pardon, “democracies”) and a small layer of their local economic and political servants).

“It was only during the attempt to destroy the market economy that the Chinese people suffered for a wide-spread lack of material goods.”

This is wildly incorrect. You should know better.

“It is the contention of the Voluntaryists that no person has a right to initiate physical force against the life, liberty or property of another, and that all people’s rights are morally equal in this axiom.”

Disagree. To adopt this view in the narrow sense of “initiate” (that is, to understand it as ANY initiation of physical force independent of the events which have led to the state in which the force is being initiated)is to fully succumb to cementing any possible state of affairs, no matter which are its origins or consequences. Again, liberty (and, for that matter, property) for what and for whom?

“Draper’s quote is flawed because his definition of liberty is erroneous: absolute liberty only includes all non-coercive actions that one can perform.”

Definitions can’t be erroneous. Only conclusions based on definitions can. His definition is merely another definition (well, not his definition, he is taking the definition of his opponents (it this case, some anarchists against whose notion of individual liberty as absolutely unrestricted he is argumenting against)).

As already stated, this is not to say you cannot define “liberty” as capacity to act freely in non-coercive consensus with others (on a sidenote, such liberty isn’t merely “individual” any more, it is already a SOCIAL PRODUCT, which is a very important point to understand). You can. But, again, this is not the definition of liberty Draper refers to in the context in which he made his statement. On the basis of that definition, his argument is flawless.

“Further, if a person is attempting to harm you then it is not “coercive” to stop them, merely defensive. They are the party behaving in a coercive manner by initiating violence.”

Again, depending on the definition of “coercive”. If you define “coercive” as “forcing somebody to do (or not to do) something against their will and intent” than every defensive act is also a coercive act. If you define “coercive” so that it excludes defensive actions, then, of course, it isn’t. However, then you have to find another word for “forcing somebody to do (or not to do) something against their will and intent” – as this, obvioulsy, encompasses defensive action.


Tom 25 May 2011, 19.12

@Labin

Cheers, that’s much appreciated.

“This is a matter of definition, but if one defines the market as the place for the (in your sense of the word) voluntary exchange of property not only between individuals but also between social groups and entities, then meaningful planned economy is, in the strict literal sense of the word, nothing BUT a market economy.”

Well that’s not true, the market economy is specifically an economy where prices are fixed through negotiation. To the extent that an economy is planned (or in any other way manipulated), it is not a market economy. Moreover, there can be no voluntary exchange beyond that of individuals, since only individuals can have an inherent human right to property. If individuals choose to cooperate voluntary as a ‘social group or entity’ then that is morally legitimate but it is still only ‘between individuals’, and ceases to be voluntary once the property rights of any one individual involved are not fully respected.

The planned economy can never match the market economy for wealth created, because the former lacks spontaneous order. Spontaneous order is where individuals acting in their own self-interest will cooperate to use their property to the best of their ability in order to produce the greatest return for the least cost/risk. In a population of 50 million, a free market draws from the minds of 50 million people, all of whom are making the best use of their own property that they possibly can. No small group of minds can ever plan anything more efficient and more appropriate to the needs and desires of people than the emergent order of the market because they cannot possibly know the needs and desires of their entire population.

I disagree that china didn’t embrace the market economy in the western sense. They stopped a long way short of the free market, but that doesn’t change the fact that they moved from a communist centrally planned economy to a primarily market-driven economy and enjoyed massive economic success as a result.

I’m not sure what you mean when you ask “for whom and for what”. Material wealth created in the market is for whoever properly owns it and for whatever purpose they choose for it, but I suspect that doesn’t answer your question.

I understand your concept of Communism will likely be more nuanced than mine, but I believe the simplest statement of the Communist principle is this: “From each according to his ability, to each according to his need”. In Communist China this was enacted: people were worked to the point of death, and had resources distributed to them as the state saw fit. I understand that Communism is supposed to be a historical end-state which arrives when “superabundance” occurs, but seeing as how this concept of superabundance is some mythical abstraction I see no reason why Communist China’s attempt at achieving the Communist end-state cannot be considered a legitimate experiment in Communism.

I hope I didn’t come across as trying to glorify pre-Mao China, I’m aware of the history. I only meant that most people could find enough to feed themselves, with the exception of naturally occuring famines. It was only during the communist experiment that 70 million people were forced to starve to death. This is what I would define as a ‘wide-spread lack of material goods’.

Voluntaryists do not believe that there is any excuse for enacting violence against someone who has not physically coerced you, regarding of the “state of affairs”.

Definitions absolutely can be erroneous. If I tell you the definition of A is B, that is an erroneous definition. Draper’s definition of liberty as including the right to aggress against others is erroneous as it mis-defines liberty, and renders his quote rather nonsensical in the context of the english language.

From Answers.com:

– Coercion
1. To force to act or think in a certain way by use of pressure, threats, or intimidation; compel.
2. To dominate, restrain, or control forcibly.
3. To bring about by force or threat.

Coercion is not a two-way street: once a person has chosen to initiate violence against you, you are not ‘forcing them to act in a certain way’ by defending yourself and your property, you are merely defending yourself and your property.

Looking forward to your next response, and apologies for the length! I went through and edited but damn it there’s just so much to say.


EconomicsJunkie 25 May 2011, 19.44

Private Property: Goods obtained via homesteading or voluntary exchange.

Voluntary: Any action that is performed without the threat of aggression.

Aggression: The INITIATION of the use of force.

Force(=Violence=Coercion): The occupation of one’s body or private property against his will.

Defense: The use of force in response to aggression.

Liberty: The absence of aggression.

Voluntaryism: The theory that defense is the only universally permissible application of force.


Labin 25 May 2011, 22.41

@Tom

“I only meant that most people could find enough to feed themselves, with the exception of naturally occuring famines. It was only during the communist experiment that 70 million people were forced to starve to death.”

“Naturally occuring famines” in China (as well as in the rest of what was to become the Third World) are a Western colonial fairy tale. There was nothing “natural” about them. For details, and especially the role of the “free market” in this monumental crimes of capitalism, I strongly recommend a book by Mike Davis – Late Victorian Holocausts: El Niño Famines and the Making of the Third World.

You are a bit to lax with the numbers – first it was 50, know it is 70 million. Just for the record, both figures are hugely overblown – which is not to deny the existance of massive and horrendous hunger during that period. However, we should not resort to claims which have no serious basis.

“Moreover, there can be no voluntary exchange beyond that of individuals, since only individuals can have an inherent human right to property.”

This is a standard example of a non sequitur – the first part of the sentence does not follow from the second. Let us examine this a bit further: if this “inherent human right to property” (which is here taken as existant for the sake of the argument) includes the right of an individual to use it as it sees fit, that is, also the right to share this property with others as common property (to make the use of it on a communal basis), then it also must include its right to exchange this property an the communal basis – not as an individual, but as a collective owner. That is, there is no contradiction between the “individual’s inherent right to property” (if this includes its right to use it as it sees fit) and the possibilty of voluntary exchange between social entities. (That is the non sequitur in your argument). On the contrary, as shown above, the exact opposite is the case: if there exists “individual’s inherent right to property” that includes its right to use it as it sees fit, then voluntary exchange between groups of people (social entities) is necessarily possible. The supposed “logical” contradiction between “individual’s inherent right to property” and the voluntary exchange between social groups is just another one in the long list of major Misesian fallacies and platitudes.

“- Coercion
1. To force to act or think in a certain way by use of pressure, threats, or intimidation; compel.
2. To dominate, restrain, or control forcibly.
3. To bring about by force or threat.”

You should notice that you have chosen the worst possibility for the definition of coercion if your argument is to hold water: every defensive action apart from a non-violent one is NECESSARILY included in this very definition of coercion you cite. When you defend yourself from a violent attack, you “dominate, restrain, or control forcibly” the person or persons attacking you by forcibly subduing/impeding their intention to harm you, unless you act in a non-violent manner. Therefore, if you want to exclude defence from coercion, you have to define defence in a strictly non-violent way. Amusingly enough, this is exactly what Economics Junkie doesn’t do: “Voluntaryism: The theory that defense is the only universally permissible application of force.” – he explicitly defines defence as an application of force.

“Coercion is not a two-way street: once a person has chosen to initiate violence against you, you are not ‘forcing them to act in a certain way’ by defending yourself and your property, you are merely defending yourself and your property.”

Any non-violent form of defence is… a violent form of defence, that is, a forceful form of defence. This sort of spearation between defence and force should be obviously nonsensical: force is constitutional to all non-non-violent defence.

So much for know. Will follow up if I catch more time…


Paul 26 May 2011, 03.54

@labin: Could you reference the chapter and paragraph where in mises’ literature you read that there is an inherent logical contradiction between an individual’s right to property and what you call exchange between social groups?


Labin 26 May 2011, 05.51

@Paul

I couldn’t. My first-hand knowledge of Mises is admittedly restricted to a few chapters from Human Action. However, the contention Tom has put up (voluntary exchange is only possible between individuals because only individuals have an inherent human right to property) has been posed in other discussions I have had as an argument by people claiming they mainly draw their arguments from the work of Mises. So, as the saying goes, if they are wrong, then I am wrong also. It should be pointed out, however, that the correct espousal of views/theory of a given source in a debate with those who have only limited or no knowledge of that source is the responsibility of those who base their arguments on that source. If I as a Marxist present Marx’ views in an incorrect manner, then I will have only myself to blame if my version of them is falsely attributed to Marx by other participants in the debate.


Paul 26 May 2011, 06.13

Ok, I wanted to see if your representations of economic theories are accurate and fact based or if you just make stuff up …


Labin 26 May 2011, 09.57

Correction: a second “non” has splipped out in the sentence: “Any non-violent form of defence is… a violent form of defence”. It should read “Any non-non-violent form of defence is… a violent form of defence”.



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