Capitalism is the cause of Poverty

Watch the following clip in which Milton Friedman addresses the problem of poverty in the United States.

My response:

If Marshall Sahlins is correct about hunter/gatherers forming the original “affluent” society, then poverty must surely be some kind of departure from the hunter/gatherer society. [I include horticulturists and herders.]

There are three characteristics which such primitive or “savage” societies have. The first is that everyone has a free access to subsistence land (socialism). The second is that they form small egalitarian democratic groups (anarchism). The third is that they share freely, and are prone to gift giving (communism).

Today (Dec. 3, 2020), someone posted on Facebook the following story, which for me illustrates the communism of hunter-gatherers:

“The anthropologist invited children from an African tribe to play a game. He placed a basket of fruit next to the tree and announced to the children, “The first of you to run to the tree will get all these sweet fruits.” When he motioned for the children to start the race, they clasped their hands tightly and ran all together, and then all sat together and enjoyed the delicious fruit.

The astonished anthropologist asked the children why they all ran together, because each of them could enjoy the fruit for themselves? To which the children replied: “Obonato”. Is it possible for one to be happy if everyone else is sad? “Obonato” in their language means: “I exist because we exist.””

Peter Joseph has characterized poverty as a deprivation of each of these. The first he calls “absolute poverty.” The second he calls “relative poverty.” The third he calls “poverty of the spirit.” [Peter Joseph, The New Human Rights Movement, 2017, pp. 157-59.]

The fundamental one is the deprivation of people of a free access to subsistence land [absolute poverty].

This deprivation — as Franz Oppenheimer has convincingly shown — can occur only through conquest. The conquest results in class divisions between the conquerors and the conquered, which morphs into the governors and the governed, the masters and the slaves, the landlords and the serfs, and now into a tripart system of the governors, the employers, and the employees.

All these systems i.e., slavery, feudalism, and capitalism, have one thing in common: forbidding a free access to subsistence land.

Milton Friedman has claimed that capitalism has been responsible for reducing poverty. If Friedman were conscious of the fact that capitalism requires a mass of proletarians (these are people who do not have a free access to land and subsistence) — something created by the laws of a centralized State — then the fact that some proletarians are given wages by the same system which deprived them of subsistence to begin with, then the situation has the form of taking everything from you, and then returning some of it back to you.

In other words, capitalism creates a proletariat and then takes some of them out of the created poverty by employing them.

See also: Andrew Chrucky, Milton Friedman’s Hidden Anarchism in Capitalism and Freedom, Aug. 8, 2008.

Critical commentary on an article on socialism in the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy

The article is: Pablo Gilabert and Martin O’Neill, “Socialism,” Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy, 2019.

This article is an example of how scholarship obfuscates the subject matter.

The subject of the article is “socialism.” After pointing out that the word is ambiguous and vague, there should be an attempt at a prescriptive definition, which they do give. They begin correctly with the statement: “Socialism is best defined in contrast with capitalism, as socialism has arisen both as a critical challenge to capitalism, and as a proposal for overcoming and replacing it.”

So, if socialism contrasts with capitalism, then the problem is to give a definition of capitalism, which they also give by listing, what they call, “constitutive features.”

“(i) The bulk of the means of production is privately owned and controlled.

(ii) People legally own their labor power. (Here capitalism differs from slavery and feudalism, under which systems some individuals are entitled to control, whether completely or partially, the labor power of others).

(iii) Markets are the main mechanism allocating inputs and outputs of production and determining how societies’ productive surplus is used, including whether and how it is consumed or invested.

An additional feature that is typically present wherever (i)–(iii) hold, is that:

(iv) There is a class division between capitalists and workers, involving specific relations (e.g., whether of bargaining, conflict, or subordination) between those classes, and shaping the labor market, the firm, and the broader political process.”

Although these points do describe features of capitalism, I would not call them all “constitutive.” A necessary condition for capitalism is the presence of, what Marx called, “free laborers” or “proletarians.” This is why Bernard Shaw wrote: “To begin with, the word Capitalism is misleading. The proper name of our system is Proletarianism.” Bernard Shaw, The Intelligent Woman’s Guide to Socialism, Capitalism, Sovietism and Fascism, 1928

It is (i) and (ii) which — properly formulated — is a necessary and sufficient condition for capitalism. However, as they have formulated it, it is misleading. The formulation has two phrases which are not accurate. The first is the word “bulk” meaning “most”, and the second phrase “means of production,” which comes from Karl Marx, and suggests something like “mass production.” The phrase “means of production” in Marx includes territory of land. But if we think of indigenous people (who are not capitalists), they use material found on the land for making tools, shelters, and they use the land for hunting, for fishing, and for gathering food for consumption, and they may also use the land for herding and cultivation — in short, for subsistence. It is misleading to talk here of “production.”

It is not that the “bulk” or “most” of the land (which is what we should be talking about) is privately owned; rather, all of it is controlled by the government — where there is a government — as a sellable commodity. For example, in the United States all land was owned by the government and originally sold for a minimum of $1 an acre.

Capitalism is best described as a political system which bars people from a free access to subsistence land; thus creating proletarians.

And then, socialism, as an antithesis to capitalism, is a political system which grants everyone a right of free access to subsistence land, or something approximating this.

Socialism =/= Anarchism

I call myself an anarcho-socialist for a reason. I favor both socialism and anarchism. Socialism is concerned primarily with subsistence; whereas anarchism with freedom of agreements. The model for anarcho-socialism is a typical indigenous tribe of hunter/gatherers. But remember a model is used to depict things in given respects only; other respects are irrelevant or even unsavory. The respects in which a tribe serves as a model for socialism is that it satisfies all three criteria as given, for example, by Anton Menger. He listed these as: 1. the right to the full product of labor, 2. right to subsistence, 3. the right to labor. Of these, the primary is the right to subsistence, i.e., all the things which are necessary to preserve animal life: water, food, shelter, clothing, fire (energy).

An indigenous tribe also serves as a model for anarchism inasmuch as the tribe makes decisions through direct democracy on a small scale, i.e., the scale of a Dunbar number of not more than 150 persons. This presumably is the amount of people that one can get to know intimately.

There are, however, features of primitive tribes which are inimical to free thought. And it is in this respect which Karl Popper condemns “tribalism” as a closed society. Primitive tribes are closed to metaphysical and ritualistic disagreements. This unsavory aspect is continued in modern societies by religions and patriotic rituals.

If the essence of socialism is the right to subsistence, then socialism is carried out by the States in the form of prisons, and in the case of the United States in the form of Indian reservations, and to a lesser extent by welfare programs. Let us call these Prison Socialism, Reservation Socialism, and Welfare Socialism. There are also various non-governmental charitable organizations serving, for example, the homeless. Call these Charitable Socialisms.

Talking about Prison Socialism, have you seen Michael Moore’s video “Where to Invade Next“? Watch the whole film about how socialism works, and especially the clip from the film about Norwegian prisons:

The Danger of Disgruntled Employees and a Lame Duck President

Julian Carlton, on Aug. 14, 1914, set fire to Frank Lloyd Wright’s house, Teliesen, in Wisconsin, and killed seven people, this included killing with an axe.
“Carlton’s motive for the attack was never conclusively determined, as he pled not guilty and refused to explain himself to the authorities before passing away. However, it is most likely that Carlton snapped after learning he would be let go from his job at Taliesin. Witnesses claimed he had been in several disputes with both employees and Borthwick, and that Wright had begun advertising for another worker. Carlton’s wife Gertrude, who also lived and worked on the grounds, further testified that her husband had recently grown agitated and paranoid, and that the two of them were even supposed to travel to Chicago in search of work on the day of the rampage.”TALIESIN MASSACRE (FRANK LLOYD WRIGHT)

It has become a policy when firing an employee to have the employee pack-up his personal belongings under supervision and be escorted out of the building immediately. This is to prevent any time for brooding and performing acts of retaliation, as what seems to have occurred at Teliesen.

President Trump has been given roughly 70 days for brooding and retaliation, until his replacement on Jan. 20, 2021.

The Dilemma of Evil

I can understand and sympathize with either the judgment that Joe Biden is the lesser of the two evils or the judgment that Donald Trump is the lesser of the two evils. In other words, I and such people are in agreement that both Joe Biden and Donald Trump are evil. But if someone does not understand or agree that both are evil, then I consider such a person a fool.

It is abundantly clear that both the Democratic and the Republican Parties represent the interests of the rich. And this message was superbly expressed by Chris Hedges (see below):