Rosa Luxemburg at Wikipedia
The text of Reform or Revolution (1900)
Panel at the Left Forum 2016:
Sandra Rein on Rosa Luxemburg
Chris Hedges on Rosa Luxemburg
Richard Wolff on Rosa Luxemburg
Saying or shouting “bullshit” may be appropriate to make your strong rejection or condemnation known as, for example, if you are in an audience listening to a politician; or, if you are asked for, let’s say by a reporter, for a one sentence response to a political speech.
However, in the context of a discussion, saying “bullshit” is, at best, an expression of rejection. But since it may not be clear what is being rejected, the response could and should be: “What are you rejecting?” Is it the importance of what I am saying? Is it the truth of one of my statements? Is it my reasoning? To avoid such follow-up questions, instead of saying “bullshit,” say: what you just said is so trivial, it is not worth discussing; or, what you said is false; or, your reasoning is faulty. And each of these comments should be followed-up with reasons. This way a discussion has a chance; otherwise, saying “bullshit” may just be a conversation stopper.
I will give this talk pretending that I am a capitalist.
I am a capitalist. No, I am an entrepreneur. That sounds more innocuous. What does that mean? It means I have a business which provides services and/or I have a factory which produces widgets. In both instances, I need wage-workers who will provide the services and the labor of manufacture. Also I need a market — a place to sell my services and products. But the indispensable factor here is the workers. Where am I to get cheap workers?
Well, they are everywhere in abundance. They are, as it were, a reserve army of potential workers. They are people who without work are basically the homeless. You say that the homeless are only a small minority. Well, yes, because once they become workers they stop being homeless. But if they do not work, or are not involved in crime and dependency on others, they become homeless. The government — which, of course, works for me — has set up the laws in such a way that you are mostly either homeless or you work for someone like me. And as an entrepreneur, as a business person, that is how I want things to be.
My fear is that this pool of the potentially homeless, that is the pool of potential workers (in short, as Marxists call them, the proletariat) is somehow removed from me. How can this happen? The greatest danger is that the government falls into the hands of those who will institute — God forbid — an agrarian reform. “Agrarian reform” is a eulogistic term for giving away land to people for free. If people have access to free subsistence land, then it will be very difficult (or unprofitable) to hire them. This is the greatest possible evil that can occur to someone like me, a capitalist. To prevent this, I will muster all the forces of government to prevent this from occurring here or anywhere else in the world. My government must intervene in all places where there is any whisper of “agrarian reform.”
There was danger of this occurring in Ukraine in 1918 under the anarchist Nestor Makhno, but miraculously the Bolsheviks prevented this from succeeding. Then another anarchist revolution occurred in 1936 in Spain, but thank goodness Mussolini, Hitler and Stalin by backing Franco prevented this disaster. Then in 1954 in Guatemala, that no good Arbenz tried to get the land back from the United Fruit Company. But our CIA under Allen Dulles orchestrated a coup, and put a stop to this nonsense. Then there were those nasty Sandinistas in Nicaragua who came to power in 1979. They too were full of “agrarian reform.” Well, my hero, President Reagan, though having to use illegal and brutal clandestine methods, put a stop to this danger. Unfortunately, the only place in our hemisphere where agrarian reform succeeded was Cuba. But we quarantined this disease of Cuban agrarian reform through a series of embargoes, which still exist. You say that Cuba is a small place relative to the world. But you forget that such examples are contagious, giving rise to ideas of reform or even revolution.
And of course we have to stop agrarian reform everywhere, directly as in Vietnam, we burned their villages and drove them into the cities where they had to look for work or remain homeless. We — I am talking about us, the American businessmen — helped (indirectly) Indonesia to get rid of those useless villagers in East Timor. Imagine! These people tried to live independently of the market economy. Good riddance!
Talking of revolutions, all these velvet, orange and other multicolored so-called revolutions which have happened recently have simply replaced one president by another — something not unlike voting for a new president. I, as a capitalist — I mean entrepreneur — am not bothered by this. It has little if any effect on my business enterprises. In fact, I am in favor of stirring up people into marches and protests. I like all this hullabaloo about racism, immigration, police profiling, and especially all this attention and preoccupation with President Trump — a Russian probe, pussy grabbing and sexual harassment. I love it. I hope he remains in office for all 4 years; even better for 8. He is a capitalist’s — I mean America’s — godsend. Why do I like all this? Because it distracts people from the root of capitalism — the fact that people do not have access to free subsistence land. As long as there is no talk of agrarian reform — quarrel away, and demonstrate all you will. I on the other hand will use the police and the military in such a way as to pretend that I am terribly frightened by these outbreaks of violence, I am oh so frightened by Neo-Nazis and Muslim terrorists. Yes, I want to create some violence in the expectation of people thinking that because the police are used to quell this violence, that the protests are serious and dangerous for the government. Yes, that is what I want people to think. And it will keep them preoccupied with what to me is a distraction, as I rake in some more cash.
Peter Joseph characterized Stefan Molyneux as being either a pathological bullshitter or a classical (conscious) con man. This made me think about the nature of a con man and how he achieves his goal, which is to get something from you fraudulently — like money. And he does this by persuading you to trust him, or, in other words, having confidence in him. I found the Wikipedia entry “confidence trick” very helpful, particularly the bibliography.
Thinking about this reminded me of the movie The Sting. Here is the trailer.
It also reminds me of the 1955 song by The Platters, “The Great Pretender.”
Here is a cartoon about John Law and the Mississippi Bubble
As to Ponzi schemes, here is a List of Ponzi schemes.
The largest Ponzi scheme was that of Bernard Madoff, he ripped off 65 billion dollars. Here is a trailer of a movie about him: “The Wizard of Lies.”
Jan Lewan, a Polish polka band leader, pulled off a Ponzi scheme, as portrayed in the film: “The Polka King.”
Peter Joseph in 2007 created the movie Zeitgeist which exposed religious, economic, and political bullshit. This exposition was expanded into a trilogy, to include biological, psychological, and social misconceptions. There is now a Zeitgeist movement, other movies, and recently a book by Peter Joseph, The New Human Rights Movement: Reinventing the Economy to End Oppression (2017), which I have yet to read. All this has brought on for him a slew of interviews .
Here are links to some of his movies:
ZEITGEIST: ADDENDUM, 2009
ZEITGEIST: MOVING FORWARD, 2011
I have mixed attitudes towards the videos by Stefan Molyneux. On the one hand I think he is an intelligent, articulate person with an interesting stage presence, and what he says, for the most part, seems reasonable and acceptable. But, on the other hand, he comes off as being arrogantly cock-sure of himself and full of himself, and in this regard, he is not at all appealing. But enough of praise — all this is ad hominem, and, therefore, irrelevant.
What is relevant is the examination of what he claims. He claims to be an anarchist and a capitalist, which makes him an anarcho-capitalist. By this he means that he wishes that society be run on the basis of free exchange without government interference. Now the model of such a society would be any primitve tribe. But a primitive tribe is not a capitalist society, even though it has free trade. Free trade is not a sufficient condition for capitalism. The necessary condition for the existence of a capitalist society is the existence of a proletariat.
Max Weber, in the 22nd chapter: “The Meaning and Presuppositions of Modern Capitalism” of General Economic History (Wirtschaftsgeschichte, 1923), translated by Frank H. Knight, 1927, lists six necessary conditions for modern or “rational” capitalism. What interests me, and on which I want to focus attention, is the 5th necessary condition, which is:
“The fifth feature is free labor. Persons must be present who are not only legally in the position, but are also economically compelled, to sell their labor on the market without restriction. It is in contradiction to the essence of capitalism, and the development of capitalism is impossible, if such a propertyless stratum is absent, a class compelled to sell its labor services to live; and it is likewise impossible if only unfree labor is at hand. Rational capitalistic calculation is possible only on the basis of free labor; only where in consequence of the existence of workers who in the formal sense voluntarily, but actually under the compulsion of the whip of hunger, offer themselves, the costs of products may be unambiguously determined by agreement in advance.”
Proletarians are people who do not possess land nor have free access to land for subsistence, and they are neither slaves nor serfs. The question arise: How is it that portions of the earth became the property of some individuals? And the answer to this is given, among others, by Karl Marx in his various writings, particularly in Das Kapital.
I thought I could get an insight into Marxism from a video by Stefan Molyneux. But, no. Instead of examining the reasoning of Karl Marx about this topic in Das Kapital or in any other of his writings, Molyneux attacks the character of the author — the person Karl Marx. He launches a full-scale ad hominem attack.
My reaction. What he says about the life and character of Karl Marx may all be true, but irrelevant.
To make his ad hominem seem plausible, he argues by the following analogy. Suppose you were in a bookstore and picked-up a copy of a diet book. On the cover is a picture of the overly obese author. Immediately you wonder.
“If the diet works, why didn’t the author use it on himself? Ah, maybe he did use it, but it doesn’t work. Well, I am not going to waste my time on this diet, which obviously does not work. Or, wait, maybe the author thinks obesity is OK; so he doesn’t apply it to himself. Hmmm, he either sees no value in dieting, or the diet does not work. Obviously, this book is worthless.”
The reasoning is an example of the genetic fallacy, specifically an ad hominem fallacy. The above reasoning for the dismissal of the book is ultimately unreasonable. Suppose the author has a congenital condition that leads to obesity which no diet can cure. So, the fact that the author is obese does not imply either that the author sees no value in dieting, nor that the diet which he recommends does not work.
Using this fallacious reasoning for the dismissal of a book on dieting by an obese author, he tries to apply a similar line of reasoning about Karl Marx’s writings on the basis of Marx’s life and character. Thus, by a moral condemnation of Marx, he refuses to read or discuss what Marx wrote. Incredible!
Most articles and books which I read, I have no idea about the identity of the author. And it doesn’t matter. I am able to judge the merit of their writing independently of any knowledge of the traits of the author.
On Sep. 23, 2013, there took place a “debate” between Peter Joseph, of Zeitgeist fame, and Stefan Molyneux, the self-proclaimed anarcho-capitalist “philosopher” of the internet. On reflection, Peter Joseph asked rhetorically: Is Stefan Molyneux a pathological bullshitter or a conscious con artist? Judge for yourself.
Peter Joseph and Stefan Molyneux “Debate” Sept. 23rd 2013
Stefan Molyneux’s commentary on their debate Oct. 5, 2013
Peter Joseph on Stefan Molyneux’s commentary on their debate
Oct. 6, 2013
Published on Sep 26, 2013
Derek Gee Review Sep 28, 2013
March 4, 2014
G. Edward Griffin, The Creature from Jekyll Island, 3rd edition, 1998.
“Ultracrepidarianism” — Wikipedia