Libertarians are right!

Robert Peter Burns rburns at chaph.usc.edu
Thu Feb 15 02:03:26 MST 1996


In response to Brian Carnell:

1) There should be no presumption in favor of liberty where the liberty in
question has as a consequence serious harm.  You cannot argue in favor of
capitalism on the ground of liberty unless you can show that capitalist
liberties are not seriously harmful, or that they are harmful but are
nonetheless justifiable.  This you haven't done. 

2) Next I must question just how much freedom capitalism really and
typically affords most people.  I was talking with a friend this evening
about her experiences working in IBM.  The restrictions on employees'
freedom imposed by IBM were quite extensive.  She summed it up by saying
that she was "not even free to be myself".  In another case, I was told of
an ex-Jesuit who left the order because he felt he did not have enough
freedom in it.  Later he worked for a large corporate business.  He
complained to one of his former confreres that now he was not even allowed
to choose which color of socks to wear to the office, and that many other
aspects of his life--even his personal life--were subject to his new
bosses' surveillance, regulation, and control, to a degree far greater
than anything he had ever experienced as a Jesuit.  The really available
alternatives for most people are straightforward and conventional forms of
poverty, or becoming a boss (and thus a constrainer of employee freedom),
or 'dropping out' of conventional society, which is often rather
economically impractical, and has severe socio-psychological costs. 

3) While it may be possible for a few people to form communes and
suchlike, it would not be possible for *most* of the population to do so
without a large transfer of the productive assets (including land) now in
the hands of wealthy capitalists.  This concentration of private property
and wealth prevents the greater part of the population from realistically
choosing to live under non-capitalist economic arrangements even if they
wanted to.  They would simply lack access to and control over the
necessary means of production.  (This is one way in which private property
hinders rather than serves individual freedom and self-determination.)
That is why bringing about a free choice on the part of the majority to
live a communistic form of life will require the democratic (but still
revolutionary) socialization of the means of production--i.e. socialism. 
Perhaps small enclaves of capitalism could then be set up for those who
still wanted to be capitalists and those who still wanted to work for
them and be told what to do by them.  But they would on no account be
allowed to interfere with the lives of the happy socialist majority.

4)  Libertarians are wrong.

Peter
rburns at scf.usc.edu



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