I was sent a blog by a friend on Facebook where this libertarian makes the same irrational claim, the freer the market the freer the people. Since it’s now easy for me to debunk such arguments I decided to go ahead and make a reply to it showing the logical gaps in his statements and misrepresentations of socialism. Since I’m currently in the middle of writing 3 more books I’m going to make this post short and sweet.
“In the simplest terms – capitalism is businesses and trade being directed by private individuals, while socialism is businesses and trade directed by the state. The idea behind capitalism is that individuals know how to create wealth better than the government. Every person makes their own decisions which impact how much money they make. The “problem” with capitalism is that you end up with some people who have a LOT of money, and other people who have very little.”
Well he is correct, this is the simplest of terms, an over simplification. In capitalism business is less directed by the state, there is always regulation for business that people and others businesses have demanded. (See: “that’s not real capitalism”) Every country in the world to some degree or another plans its’ economy. The only countries that don’t are ones where it’s likely not known who is running things. (If there is even any government to speak of.) It’s called “not being stupid and trying to make things work” rather than religiously believing the “choices” of billions of people will magically make everything balance and work out. Socialism just tries to plan most of the economy if not all of it. It depends on the socialist state. Cuba has less regulation and control than North Korea does.
He perpetuates the famous obviously untrue (to anyone who has ever worked for a living) claim that people choose what they do. In reality the vast majority of people take the job that is available rather than the one they ideally want. Observe the high unemployment rate for just a moment. This is a pretty common theory-based claim made by people who are pro-capitalist. There is choice to small degree, to no one’s surprise the wealthier you are the more choice you have. The trick is to have people believe that is true when in reality they are grabbing up scrap minimum wage jobs when available.
Then he just turns into a typical overfed privileged First World White. (Please note for commonsense sake that I am pointing to a “typical type”. I know I’m a First World White.) Apparently the hunger of tens of millions, the 1-in-3 poor of the world who will suffer from unclean water, the millions killed by the US imperialist war machine or the 6 million children who die a year from starvation is a “problem”. Problem being in quotation marks because it’s not really a problem to them. The suffering of billions isn’t a real problem so long as a self-important ass can talk about how virtuous he is for thinking he’s better than the people his privileged position is based on the exploitation of.
“Socialism takes control of the market, and directs businesses to pay certain wages, provide certain benefits, and produce certain products. When the government takes control of all these things they are able to “spread the wealth” evenly. The chasm between rich and poor isn’t nearly as wide. The problem with socialism is that it completely does away with things like incentives, it limits political freedom, and it completely ignores the role of prices in the market.”
At least it didn’t take him long to misrepresent socialism. Socialism doesn’t do away with incentives; it does away with the profit motive as incentive. His statement relies on the false believe that the profit motive is the only motive. In socialist countries the incentive (or motivation) is different than it is in capitalism. National pride, self-improvement and a genuine desire to make things better for people were motivators. Yes, these actually existed. Even in capitalism this isn’t necessarily true. Educated individuals who carry out research often don’t make much money compared to people with the same level of education. People who are working on trying to cure AIDS don’t go into it for the profit motive; they actually want to cure AIDS. Take Japan for example, in its drive during the 80s productivity both in the boardroom and on the production floor was based on this really creepy cult-like loyalty to the company they worked for. Their company had to be the best, it was an intense “brand loyalty”. Denying that incentives other than monetary exist doesn’t mean they don’t exist.
Now we move on to the lack of political freedom that sometimes did and sometimes did not exist in socialist countries. Once again we have the libertarian tactic of just pretending they didn’t exist to justify claiming that they didn’t. In the Soviet Union there was political repression in the times of war. You know like the Civil War, WW2, the Red Terror response to the White Terror being carried out against the Soviet Union. Or the purging of Nazis from the country, while the Nazis were running a capitalist state. (Insert denial here and ignore the market and Hitler declaring private property a right. And that all Marxists should die.) But maybe he just didn’t notice any of that because of a complete lack research or just noticing. In contrast we had people rising up to take a stand against a forced silence by the Czar in Russia and the Nationalists in China, or the fascist Batista in Cuba, who carried out massacres against anyone who disagreed with them. In China they had the “mass airings” where hundreds sometimes thousands took part in gigantic open debates in town squares were people openly struggled over ideas with points and counter-points. Compared to here now in capitalism we have talking heads on television telling us what to think, with no debate going on.
While he’s already not noticing, he probably forgot the whole Occupy Wall Street thing (along with the other Occupy movement) where police are beating people on mass, few to death, illegal arrests with wrongful confinement. Perhaps he missed all of that. Perhaps he also didn’t notice that the US has the highest incarnation rate in the entire world. The US locks up more of its people than anyone else, largely due to a private prison system. He also must not have noticed the fact that police kill a Black person every 36 hours.
To finish this part he claims socialism doesn’t take the market into account. This is patently false, it is taken into account, Preuss is literally lying (assuming he even knows what he talking about). Marx said markets would continue in socialism and continue into communism. In fact markets were a problem for example: In Poland they had private farms and had empty shelves in butcher shops. In Romania they had collective farms with state owned stores and their shops were full of meat. Perhaps Preuss never noticed Lenin’s work “On the So-Called Market Question” where he goes into depth about markets. Or “On The Budgetary Finance System” by Che Guevara where he discusses how to use markets in socialism. Or even Das Kapital one of the most basic fundamental texts to Marxism. But like a typical libertarianism he never read any Marx, he read people talking about Marx. Honestly he has no idea what he is talking about here.
“And so the argument continues. It is, however, very easy to put an end to any argument that socialism is superior to capitalism. Compare and contrast. As Milton Friedman said, “The only relevant test of the validity of a hypothesis is comparison of prediction with experience.” So, with that in mind, let’s compare the prediction of socialism with our actual experience with socialism.”
Its laughable reading him say “put an end to any argument”, when he hasn’t allowed one and is intentionally misrepresenting the other side. This is typical of libertarians. He goes on to describe why certain socialist and “socialist” countries failed. Not only can I disprove what he says, he outright calls countries socialist when they are in fact social democrat. But libertarians think everything that isn’t the fictional totally free market is socialist, more intellectual dishonesty, or stupidity depending on the individual’s intention. By the way, “comparison of prediction with experience” of a non-existent version of capitalism? By his own very guide by which to judge, he is can literally claim nothing.
“Greece. Like much of Europe, Greece is in an economic crisis. Much of this is due to it’s socialist policies. The young working class pay for and support the retirement of the seniors. Sounds fair right? People who make money give it to help those who aren’t working. The problem? Well, there are too many people collecting money and not enough people earning it. Greece’s unemployment rate is over 20%, and their retirement age is 50. Without incentives for people to earn more (and keep more), the working population continues to go in debt to support socialist retirement programs.”
It’s not socialist; its social democratic, private enterprise is all around. If he had bothered to look into the cause of the Greek crisis he would have known it was government complicity with borderline criminal financial gambling that caused the problem. All of which was done without the consent of the people. But he doesn’t give any explanation at all; he just says that it was the government providing services. He doesn’t actually say why it happened, he literally gives no argument, he just says its socialism when the country wasn’t. How dishonest and stupid could you get by not even putting forth an argument? He just says support for the elderly is the problem and that they don’t deserve support because they didn’t work for it supposedly. Of course as usual the libertarian didn’t notice that people pay into the state pension fund their whole lives. So what if young people pay into it as well, the generation after than will too, and so on and so on. Everyone gets covered and everyone works, there is no great theft as they like to describe it. Why did this supposedly cause the Greek Crisis? Well I can’t refute his argument because there is no explanation why. Just socialism, when it’s actually a social democratic. It’s in crisis because it’s socialist and crisis shows that its socialism. Circular logic.
(I don’t have time here to go into why it’s actually in crisis. I do have a video I made on that here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HHMT9QHamo0.)
“Cuba. Cuba actually has a number of things going for it. It has a very low unemployment rate, it has small debt (at least in comparison to Europe and the US), and only 1.5% of it’s population is “below the poverty line”. On the other hand, what exactly is the “poverty line” in a country where the average annual income is $9,900? And if the people of Cuba love it so much, why are basic freedoms (like expression, and the press) suppressed by the Cuban government? And why does Cuba have to keep it’s citizens captive? – That’s right. Emigration is pretty much outlawed in Cuba. No one gets to leave, because if they could – everyone would.”
Here he just doesn’t have a clue. How could the poverty rate be so low when income is so low? Because the services that combat poverty are provided by the government. Your income isn’t attached to it like it is in America where you have to pay for it out of pocket leading many to have it, or a really terrible version of it. What defines poverty isn’t all about how much money you have, it’s also access to necessitates. Things rates of illness or infant mortality, which in fact Cuba’s is lower than Americas. Cuba suppresses freedom? Care to back up this argument with anything? Do I have to go back to the constant police murders and world’s highest incarceration rate? Cuba doesn’t keep it citizens captive because I’ve met Cubans who have immigrated to Canada. My mother who is a tax preparer did the taxes for a woman who legally became a Canadian citizen by applying at the Canadian embassy in Cuba. She literally just got on a plane and left. This guy has no idea what he’s talking about. Always assume the mainstream media and government are lying, except when it comes to socialist countries because then they’re telling the truth. Feel free to move to Somalia, why is your country holding you captive by not handing you a free plane ride out of the country? (He must not have noticed that either.)
“But, never mind all of that. I hear the same story from people all the time. “Those countries aren’t true socialist countries.” “True communism has never been tried. We’ve only seen this barbaric form of totalitarianism.” Funny how often communism and totalitarianism go hand in hand. Perhaps that’s because to control a market requires controlling the people who make up that market. One thing people often overlook it that “markets” are PEOPLE. Free market = free people, which is why political freedom and economic freedom are inseparable.”
NO, communists don’t say this, Trotskyist say this. Those were socialist countries and they were not totalitarian states, see previous police murders. Real communism has been achieved in a limited form. A handful of the communes in China did make it to communism, of course they were still in a socialist state, but they managed to get 90% of the way there. (Mao was closer than anyone to achieving this.) Now contrast this with “that’s not real capitalism” every god damn time someone points out their complete bullshit or the fact their concept of society literally never has and never will exist in real life. To finish he gives the old fee markets = free people line without defining what freedom is. Well we know 6 million children starving to death a year is part of it.
“But again – let’s not only compare the predictions with the results. Let’s compare the results with the results of alternatives. The evidence is jaw dropping, and the list goes on and on. I’ll let you do your own research, but here are a few examples – North Korea vs South Korea, East Germany vs West Germany, Soviet Union vs United States, California vs Texas, Illinois vs Wisconsin”
Okay let’s make these comparisons even if they are stupid. South Korea receives unending aid dollars and assistance from the US. North Korea has had decades of sanctions and embargoes against them. Guess what, people with access to enough resources can develop better. So a country that is being severely harmed by a foreign power has a more difficult time than the country being helped by it? No kidding. Just like a libertarian they completely ignore the material conditions behind the development of both countries. In fact North Korea was actually ahead of South Korea in development up until about 1975. Let’s also acknowledge that North Korea developed by itself while South Korea had been
handed everything. Or that North Korea achieved satellite orbit before South Korea did. If we do a fair comparison like the North to say another 3rd world country we get a completely different result. Compared to say Somalia or any other 3rd world capitalist country it is miles head. It has a universal health care system, infrastructure, a solid military. As long as you skew the comparison, ignore the sanctions and the massive aid to the South I guess you could make such a claim. As for the image of the dark North compared to the lit up South, energy shortages from sanctions seem to have gone unnoticed. If you have a shortage of energy you turn off unnecessary power at night to save resources. Or fail to notice the age of the picture either, its way out of date.
East vs. West Germany, actually they were fairly close. What’s the argument here?
US vs. Soviet Union, both world nuclear and economic superpowers, but apparently no one had an incentive to work so industrialization never happened in the USSR.
Finally, States, California vs Texas, Illinois vs Wisconsin. This is stupid. A bunch of states in a capitalist country?
Interestingly no argument is actually made by him; he just says do a comparison. Typical Westerner, relying on mainstream media slander to make one for him.
“Like Friedman said, the only relevant test to the validity of a hypothesis, (in this case, socialism) is comparing the predictions (everyone wins) with the actual experience (everyone loses). In the end, the actual evidence does not hold up. The only system to ever greatly increase the standard of living for a society has been the free market system. Unfortunately, the free market creates winners and losers. But even after all the wins and loses, the country as a whole continues to grow.”
Then socialism wins because it did what it could with what it had. As opposed to capitalism which is supposed to work out for all because the market provides. Unless of course you count the billions in poverty or the 6 million dead children. I guess capitalism didn’t hold up in experience. Socialism was supposed to come closer in equality, communism is supposed to create total equality. What we have here is the Preuss changing the definition of socialism to communism and ignoring the billion and a half capitalism has killed.
He also gets a bit confused, continues to grow? Ever heard of recession? Ever noticed the decline in the living standards among the working class, unless they count as “the losers”.
“So why do people continue to flirt with the idea of socialism even if it’s failed miserably whenever it’s been tried, and even when there is a clear superior alternative? There are two things that make the modern day socialist tick. A misunderstanding of human nature, and a misunderstanding of economics. Things like money, prices, and incentives are very real and very important, and things like greed and envy are inseparable from humans.”
Couple of things here, failed miserably? He failed to demonstrate that, or anything else for that matter. Marx never misunderstood human nature; he understood it to be a dynamic thing that keeps changing. Contrast this with the opinion of people who are pro-capitalist who think human nature is one way and has always been regardless of how much it has changed since we were Neanderthals. Buy this we can collude that they think people are the same today as they were as Neanderthals. We can also conclude that they think Native American tribal society was based on greed as well. Giving us a picture that libertarians have no idea what they’re talking about. The history of the human race has been a constant change in our nature. Except to libertarians we’re the same as ancient cave dwellers.
“There’s an idea out there that a utopia can be created. If only the economy were under the control of one centralized all-powerful government, everything would work out. Everyone would get what they need, and no one would want anything else. But that’s not the real world. People want more than they need, and they in fact have a right to go after it – the “pursuit of happiness”. The ideal socialist society is a fantasy. It’s been thought of for centuries, by Plato, by Thomas Hobbes, and by Karl Marx. It’s all the same, and it’s all unrealistic. Whenever it’s been tried it’s resulted in a controlled suppressed people, and a stagnant or dying economy.”
Fail, we don’t claim to try and make a utopia. Perhaps Preuss never noticed “Socialism: Utopian and Scientific.” A work that describes the difference between the two that Preuss never read because that would require him to actually read Marxism. As for controlled, suppressed people, I assume we don’t have to mention the incarnation rates and police killings again? Or the constant centuries of imperialist war?
“Another big misconception is what Thomas Sowell calls the “Zero Sum Fallacy“. It’s the idea that wealth is not created, it’s distributed. The idea that there is a set amount of money in an economy, and one person can only get richer if someone else gets poorer. This is the backbone of why people are frustrated with capitalism. They simply don’t understand that even if one person earns millions, it doesn’t affect anyone else. His millions do not take away from what anyone else earns. Envy is understandable, it’s human nature, but envy in a free market is unfounded.”
This is so fucking stupid it’s unbelievable. It actually requires presupposing infinite everything, jobs, money, resources and opportunity. It also implies that no one makes money off anyone else. It implies you receive back everything you create through your work, if that was true profit couldn’t exist. This is unbelievablely fucking stupid. I rarely swear during a blog post, or video, or book, but this is just so fucking stupid. It literally has nothing to back it up. If this was true and there was an infinite amount of money that can be collected because there is supposedly no limit, money would have no meaning or value.
“So, we have a group of people who believe that their fantasy can become reality. They disregard the laws of economics, and the laws of nature. Capitalism on the other hand doesn’t do away with human nature. It instead works with it. People are greedy – so why not let money be an incentive for them to invent, produce, think. Prices fluctuate for reasons, and disregarding those reasons in favor of price controls creates shortages and surplusses, neither of which serve anyone. The most people’s needs are met when a free market it truly free. Like I said earlier – free market = free people.”
This blog post by Preuss was unbelievably obnoxious and arrogant. It was also completely devoid of facts and at times devoid of argument. The shear unmitigated weakness, logical bankruptcy and intellectual dishonesty of libertarians was laid so bare here. He almost literally knows nothing about socialism or Marxist theory at all.
Finally, if socialism is so bad, why do all these people want it back?
Why nearly 60 percent of Russians ‘deeply regret’ the USSR’s demise
East Europe’s communist nostalgia
The Rise of Communist Nostalgia
Nostalgia in the former Czechoslovakia
In Romania, Opinions Polls Show Nostalgia for Communism
Homesick for a Dictatorship: Majority of Eastern Germans Feel Life Better under Communism
Tim Preuss did not debunk socialism; he lied about it and then didn’t make an argument half the time.
Tim Preuss: Free Market = Free People: Debunking Socialism http://timpreuss.com/2012/02/20/free-market-free-people-debunking-socialism/