Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Some empirical research on the Labor Theory of Value.

Here are some interesting pdfs on the empirical strength of the LTV.  People who believe that Austrian, marginalist economics can be absolutely proven a priori need to ask themselves: If price tends to gravitate toward the cost of labor in actual markets in a way that is empirically provable, is there something wrong in your a priori analysis?

Monday, January 16, 2012

The Different Kinds Of Democracy.

Democracy: Just two wolves and a sheep voting on whats for dinner? Or an empowerment to the individual? This is an issue that I think is very confused. Noam Chomsky sees democracy as the main goal of society, while H L Mencken said this in Prejudices, Fourth Series (1924):

For if experience teaches us anything at all it teaches us this: that a good politician, under democracy, is quite as unthinkable as an honest burglar.
Is democracy good? Does it promote freedom? Or is it mob rule? Does it infringe on the individual rights of the minority?

It is important to note that all democracies aren't equal. They all talk about majority rule in some way, but not majority rule in the same way. Majority rule, or rather majority decision making isn't inherently good or evil. In my mind, some democratic systems are barbaric, oppressive, negative and corrupting. However, some democratic principles are useful, liberating, and beautiful.

Now, there are a lot of different democratic systems, but I'm only going to analyse these three:
  1. Representative Democracy, as in the system of democratically elected political leaders that is the most common in the western world
  2. Statist Direct Democracy: As in a system of government where the people directly control the laws through democracy rule.
  3. Free Association Democracy: As in democracy that is voluntary and based on the principle of free association. 
Let's start with Representative Democracy. I think, with the last 100 years of western civilizations attempts at making the world a better place through electing new representatives every 4 or five years has proven it is not an effective, fair, or moral system. I don't think it requires a great deal of intellect to dismantle this sort of system, but somehow people are still repeating it's empty and often false rhetoric like drones, but that's probably because they've been fed this sort of thinking from a very young age. Very often you'll hear these people say things like "a real democracy would not treat minorities this way" like majority rule is not inherently oppressive towards minorities.

However, the main flaw of this, from a democratic standpoint, is that the power is not directly in the hands of the people. The power is in the hands of those who decide what questions to ask, that is, the congress, the parliament, the elected representatives. 

The elected representatives do not represent you, at. Governments and the people who represent them have a self-interest, contrary to what many moderates and liberals seem to assume. Government in a Representative Democracy does not work for you, it works for it. 

The problems with a Representative Democracy are almost too many to count, but I'll mention two. First of all, it divides people against each other by providing people with package deals. For our purposes, you get the Democratic and the Republican. Instead of reflecting independently on each issue, you most likely have to compromise on issues to get one issue across. Let's, for example say you believe that grown adults should be able to carry guns or firearms freely, a traditionally Republican or Conservative issue, but your other opinions lean more left, say, you believe in universal health care and ending the drug war. What candidate is going to meet those preferences? If you vote Republican, you most likely won't get free health care, and if you vote Democrat, you might get some health care reform, but guns will probably be more heavily regulated. 

And secondly, the promises of power that is inherent in representative democracy are corrupting, as we know by both looking at the present systems and the past. People will do many things for this kind of power, like providing people with empty promises (see: Obamacare), favoring the rich and powerful, giving privileges to some and oppressing others, all depending on who's in the majority. As Butler Shaffer put it:

"Democracy is the illusion that my wife and I, combined, have twice the political influence of David Rockefeller."
What about statist, or governmental Direct Democracy? Direct Democracy is, in comparison with most other governmental system, on of the most empowering to individuals, collectives and communities. It means that people vote directly on issues without electing a representative. It is often called pure democracy. It's best features are the absence of a power political elite, an equal saying in issues, a better representation of the will of the people than the often corrupt representatives of the above mentioned system. This sort of system radically decentralizes power to individuals and communities.

But there are clear problems with the system. In Switzerland, a land that practices direct democracy more than any other country, and has through it's system given the people more power and liberty than most other places, the tyranny of the majority-problem is still very prevalent. They've banned Minarets and deport foreigners if they are convicted for a felony. Religious rights are not respected, people are seen as either countrymen or foreigners, and the majority becomes the oppressor of the few. That is precisely the problems that lead the Founding Fathers of America to write down the constitution, and why most countries have some sort of limit to the power of democracy.

Statist direct democracy implies some very authoritarian things. All statism incorporates violence. Countries are artificial groups. Nature isn't naturally divided in to plots of land, we as humans did that, and the idea that the majority of the population in any given plot of land on earth has the right to decide for and aggress against the people in the minority is absurd. A nationality is an involuntary identity, forced down your throat. You did not agree to become a country-man, you did not agree to the principle of direct democracy, not by invisible social contract, not by merely existing. If you happen to disagree with the majority, and they impose your will upon you, they have no moral right to do so.

But, what about the last democracy I mentioned? It is the sort of democracy I personally advocate. I call it Free Association Democracy (FAD), some might call it participatory democracy or they call it voluntary direct democracy. It says the issues that effect a lot of people, should be decided voluntarily by the people who are affected by it. It does not require a state, nor does it imply an infringement on personal freedom.

Individual rights are important, and without them, a free and harmonious society could not happen. But individuals are social animals, they seek groups and collectives, based on preferences, goals and ideas. These groups are voluntary, unlike the groups of Representative or State Direct Democracy. Under FAD these associations, like your local community, your church, your workplace, your children's school, your charity organization, whatever group you may associate yourself with, works in a way that improves your individual say in the issues that are relevant to you.

In all of society, it is demanded that your give up your labor, time, freedom, pleasure and profit to bosses, companies, majors, senators and presidents. Why should it be this way? These hierarchical systems could, and should, be replaced with a system of voluntary direct democracy. The group treats each other as equals as opposed to a system of masters and slaves. A democratic system based on free association, individual freedom as well as collective freedom, a system of equality, of liberty. A system which does not claim itself to be the rightful moral owner to you and freedom, based on aggressive force or bribes.

While this sort of free association participatory democracy might not work for all economic or social relationships, it sure as hell beats most of them. This is the idea of anarchism, of libertarian socialism, of handling things locally, collectively, without the use of force. It is not a violent system of majority oppression, it's a system of groups voluntary using bottom-up methods of enforcing individual and collective freedom.