The “Anarchist Collective” YouTube channel has produced a video entitled “Top Ten Arguments for Capitalism,” a video that is meant to disprove all of the major lies that are traditionally put forward by the system’s supporters. After watching the video, however, I am surprised at how poor a job the creator of the video did in achieving his goal of a thorough criticism of capitalism. There are quite powerful arguments that can be levied against the capitalist system and the alleged lies that defend it, but I see few of them being used here, and the arguments invoked that traditionally have a great deal of strength are used in a mostly ineffective manner. I have a generally high opinion of the Anarchist Collective, with their criticism of Austrian Price Theory being the strongest that I have ever seen. Unfortunately, however, this video that is key for their case for libertarian socialism over capitalism fails on all major fronts. I will briefly give an overview of what I see as the fundamental failures of the video, and of leftist libertarianism in general, before going on and overviewing the specific faults in the arguments made.
This article ended up being far longer than I wanted it to, so I have included a TL;DR summary towards the end of the article. Continue reading
I just finished reading “The Worldly Philosophers: The Lives, Times and Ideas of the Great Economic Thinkers” by Robert Heilbroner, which is probably one of the more preeminent works on the history of economic thought. Indeed, “The Worldly Philosophers” probably ranks among the more famous economic works ever written, it is certainly among the best selling. It’s surprising that it’s taken me so long to get around to reading this work. When I first announced to one of my social studies teachers all the way back in my sophomore year of high school, he actually handed me a copy of the book and told me to read it, yet at the time I was too busy reading other economic tracts.
Nonetheless, here was a book that had been recommended to me by repeatedly for years, so it’s not surprising that I had significant expectations for the book. I have a pretty extensive exposure to economic history from other sources, including Mark Skousen’s “The Making of Modern Economics”, a more formal textbook, “A History of Economic Theory and Method”, and a variety of other channels. Perhaps this gave me a fairly rigid and preconception of how the history of economic thought developed which in turn put me outside the target demographic of this book (whoever that actually includes). With all of this in mind, I have to say that I’m not impressed with Heilbroner’s acclaimed book.
For Part One go here.
1914 saw the outbreak of the Great War. Japan, though part of the Entente, contributed very little to the military side of things, but this doesn’t mean it was a major player in the war.
Japanese weapon factories manufactured millions and millions of artillery shells for the Allies, Japanese rifles were supplied to the Russian and British armies in large quantities and, most importantly, the zaibatsu-owned shipyards churned out freighters at breakneck speed: in just four years Japan doubled its already large mercantile fleet, without taking into account the ships sold to the Allies. Exports rose by 266% in three years and Japan started turning a large trade surplus, helped by the power vacuum left by British and French companies’ commitment to the war effort (Continental Asia was largely unaffected by the war and still needed industrial goods).
In late 1916, after the Battle of Verdun, Mitsui Bussan analysts concluded (correctly as it turned out) that in three years at most the war would be over with an Allied victory. They concluded a recession would hit Japan hard as demand for munitions would drastically drop and French and British competitors would be back in business. Hence Mitsui started to steadily reduce its transaction volumes almost immediately. Other zaibatsu, thinking Mitsui had some serious internal issue, stepped in to seize what they thought was a golden opportunity. Recession hit immediately after the Armistice in November 1918, as France, Italy and Britain cancelled large munitions orders overnight. Many zaibatsu were ruined or barely survived the hit while Mitsui’s dominating position was strengthened.
For Part One go here
For Part Two go here
For Part Three go here
For Part Four go here
Finally, what conclusions may we gather about Byzantine economy and society?
Byzantium originally started out as a continuation of the Late Roman Empire of Constantine I the Great (r. 306-337), so much her own citizens, despite shunning Latin and practicing forms of Christianity which diverged more and more from Western European Catholicism, called themselves Romaioi, Romans. The Late Roman Empire had nothing of the prosperous realm of Trajan described by Pliny the Younger. It was much poorer, much less secure and much less free. The State was everywhere, meddling in trade, pricing and religion. There was of course an exception to this rule, namely the Middle East: Syria, Palestine, Egypt etc. While Europe descended deeper and deeper into the interminable cycle of civil wars, the Middle East was an area of relative stability.
While the Galliae and Hiberia were ravaged from end to end by marauding armies and robbed of their accumulated wealth by ravenous tax collectors, Syria, Egypt and the other Middle Eastern lands remained relatively peaceful and stable.
The Arabs to the South were usually well disposed towards Rome (mostly thanks to generous “subsidies”) and on this frontier only one power faced the Empire: Sassanid Persia, heir to the ancient and highly advanced Iranic civilization.
I find the most important aspect of Hayek’s work to be the extent of individual ignorance. All disciplines are full of stunning complexities and many phenomena which would elude our understanding if they were not pointed out to us by others. Omniscience is forever denied to man, and therefore it is foolish for anyone to be perfectly confident in their understanding.
The wait is finally over!
Entrepreneurship and Innovation
In Part I we looked at a certain world without uncertainty, yet this is not the world in which we live. No one knows whether or not a productive process will really yield a profit because no one can be certain what consumers will demand in the future. We call the people who take risks by starting and funding businesses “Entrepreneurs”. They are the movers and shakers of the market economy.
Well things over here at VR have been rather quiet lately. Since I haven’t been writing nearly as much as I’d like to over the past few months, I’ve decided to help fill the gap by working on a number of articles I hope to publish over the course of this week. The first of these articles, as you can see, has already been published. These articles will mainly focus upon some heavier stuff I’ve been doing with economics, as well as some lighter articles dealing with socialism and left-libertarianism.
So check in over the course of the next week to enjoy some of my wonderful articles as well as any other materials published by some of the great authors here at VR. Thank you all for your reading and I hope you continue to support the Voluntaryist Reader.
Democratic Socialism and Democratic Efficiency
This is a basic argument that attempts to expose a contradiction at the heart of all forms of radical democratic socialism; namely Marxism, left-libertarianism, and anarcho-socialism. The argument can be extended to criticize any explicitly pro-democratic ideology, yet it is especially devastating against all democratic forms of socialism that fully reject capitalism. This argument should not be interpreted as a criticism of authoritarian anti-democratic socialism such as the form of governance practiced in the U.S.S.R, Communist China, and practically every other explicitly “socialist” country to ever exist, nor should it be considered an argument against “moderate” democratic socialism such as modern day Sweden and Norway.
The main idea: in terms of avoiding civil unrest, mass democracy is at the very most the fourth-best option available, and clearly underperforms systems that could quite easily be implemented tomorrow, even without doing away with the state.
1. High pretensions
1.1 Anarcho-capitalists are left unimpressed, if not frightened or even disgusted, by the depths of the modern worship of democracy. A host of moral and ethical arguments disprove the notion that by topping the bureaucratic apparatus with an elected echelon we make our government less of an aggressor against personal property.
1.2 An interesting debate though, starts once we accept, for the time being the existence of a government: does democracy still count a second-best alternative to a Free Society? I will try to explore the two arguments for democracy that appear to be more than poetry: that democracy avoids civil unrest and that it provides a crowdsourced second best algorithm for approaching just laws.
For Part One: https://voluntaryistreader.wordpress.com/2013/01/11/south-korea-and-the-chaebol-system-part-one/
The ’70s marked a turning point in the chaebol system, and not for the better. The general worldwide slump which followed the abolition of the Bretton Woods Treaty (1971) and the First Oil Crisis (1973) had a very noticeable effect on Korean exports. However there were a number of other issues which rattled the chaebol system. As a first thing, the chaebol had traditionally been very dependent on low value-added goods like textiles, footwear, low-grade steel and simple chemicals. These goods were mostly exported to South-East Asian nations like Thailand, The Philippines and Indonesia. However as the ’70s progressed these nations, especially Thailand, started to be able not only manufacture the same goods locally, but also to export them, and at prices competitive with heavily subsidized Korean goods. Continue reading