Criticism of David Parkman on Socialism

David Parkman, in the videos below, tries to introduce some clarity for the concept of socialism. But his analysis does not touch the core issues, and in that sense is not satisfactory. I will try to do better.

First, socialism is a reaction to and a rejection of capitalism. So, the first step needed for a clarification of socialism is an understanding of capitalism. The essence of capitalism consists of two factors. The first is the existence of a type of government. The second is a law by this government to the effect that no one has a right to free subsistence land. All land, thus, has to be purchased, and is subject to government taxation. The result of such a law is that two classes of people are created: employers and employees; or, the bourgeoisie and the proletariat. And this leads to a third factor or problem: unemployment or underemployment — in short: poverty.

The existence of a market is a necessary condition for capitalism, but a market is not peculiar to capitalism. Markets and barter have existed at all times in all places. It is the combination of a market with the exclusion of free access to subsistence land by a government which is peculiar to capitalism.

In order to oppose capitalism, you must oppose this type of government, or you must oppose this land law, or both.

One approach, favored by social democrats, is to work within the existing government, and try to alleviate the symptoms of this system, which is poverty. And this is done by various social programs. One such law could be that everyone has free access to subsistence land. But such a law, under existing forms of government, will not be passed. However, something equivalent to getting rid of poverty would be a law giving everyone a basic income; what Milton Friedman called a negative income tax, and what Bertrand Russell called a “vagabond wage.” [According to Russell, everyone’s survival needs should be satisfied, but to get “luxuries,” one has to work. See Bertrand Russell, Proposed Roads to Freedom: Socialism, Anarchism and Syndicalism, 1919.]

Another approach is to take control of the government, and have the government run everything. This is state capitalism; or, authoritarian socialism.

Another approach is to change the type of government, as in anarchism (libertarian socialism). It is true that anarchists are against the State, but it is not true that they are against government. A State is a type of centralized government (i.e., centralized in a one-person rule by a president or a prime minister). It is a type of government which is found everywhere in the world, either as a liberal representative democracy or as a dictatorship. A better form of representative democracy is in Switzerland, which does not have either a president or a prime minister, but a Federal Council of seven individuals.

The alternative government could be a decentralized direct democracy consisting of nested councils, grounded in a community of some 150 families.

P.S.: I recommend Alexander Gray’s The Socialist Tradition: Moses to Lenin, 1946. Although he fails, in my eyes, to do justice to anarchism, his coverage is extensive, with very helpful references to relevant works. Here is his disparaging verdict on anarchism: “The fundamental trouble with the anarchist is that, though he may be highly intelligent, he has no sense.” p. 380.

Why I am not a socialist

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