Studying Karl Marx’s Capital From a Libertarian Perspective, Chapter 1, Section 2: The Two-Fold Character of the Labor Embodied in Commodities.

February 28, 2010
(audio source: Libravox via Internet Archive)

Coats are not exchangeable…

Beginning section 2, Marx employs, with scant explanation, the new concept of the relative commodity.  I don’t recall from the previous chapter any concise definition of the term commodity, but the definition is not too difficult to extrapolate: A commodity is a useful item produced trough human labor for the purpose of being exchanged.  If I made a coat for the purpose of exchanging it for something I wanted more, I suppose Marx would consider that to be an “commodity in the absolute”, although he has not (yet) used that term.  But suppose that I hated the sound of trumpets so much that I would never under any circumstances exchange one of my coats for any number of trumpets.  Because my coat was not produced for the purpose of being exchanged with trumpets, my coat would not be a commodity relative to trumpets, although it would remain a commodity for other purposes.  Under this framework, Marx derives the following rule about like commodities:

A flash of sober reflection reveals the difficulty with such a general pronouncement.   Read the rest of this entry »

Studying Karl Marx’s Capital From a Libertarian Perspective, Chapter 1, Section 1: The Two Factors of a Commodity: Use Value and Value

February 27, 2010
(audio source: Libravox via Internet Archive)

A given commodity, e.g., a quarter of wheat is exchanged for x blacking, ...

Marx begins Capital by describing what I would call a commodity’s “trinity of value“.  The trinity consists of use value, exchange value, and value.  These are all terms of art that are to be used with precision.  Use value, in my interpretation, is most analogous what I would call “value”¹.  It is largely subjective and impossible to quantify.  An item’s exchange value, in my interpretation, is analogous to what we would today call fair market value, or market price, and is measurable in terms of what one might expect to receive for the item if one intended to exchange on the market.  Ironically, the term value has no analogy among my previously-held notions of “value”.  To Marx, value arises out of the “socially-necessary labor time” required to produce a commodity.  To me, the amount of labor necessary to produce a commodity is irrelevant to the commodity’s “value”.  Quite to the contrary, a potential item’s latent, pre-existing “value”, i.e demand, is usually what induces the labor necessary to make the item in the first place.  Labor is the effect of “value”, not its cause.  Nonetheless, to facilitate the proper interpretation of the term value as Marx will inevitably continue to use it, I will assign to the term value the definition that Marx has assigned it, however useless I find the concept to be.  Read the rest of this entry »

On Leaving the Lifeboat….

February 26, 2010

"If you don't want to paddle with your hands, then you can leave the lifeboat. There's a plank. Gee, I wonder how that got there. And here's the end of my sword. Oh look! The end of my sword is getting closer to you. It must like you."

Over the past few weeks I’ve heard these three different formulations of the same general slogan, each offered in objection to the libertarian position:

“I think anyone who doesn’t see the value in paddling can leave the lifeboat.”

“If you don’t want to participate in the world, then you should probably excuse yourself from it.”

“So, you don’t avail yourself of [tax-funded government services]?”

The thrust of the slogan is that those who use publicly-funded goods and services should not object to paying taxes.  I hear this so often that it is high time I concocted a blanket, boilerplate response.  Here it is.  Listen:

First of all, most who resort to these slogans do not distinguish between those who merely object to paying taxes, and those who actually evade taxes.  There have been times when I have neglected to tally up cash payments for tax purposes.  Yet by and large, my tax payments have been involuntarily withheld from paychecks, and I have never failed to file a reasonably complete annual tax return.  I am paddling, whether I see a value in it or not. Read the rest of this entry »

Links for February 24, 2010: Synthetic Reefer Madness

February 26, 2010

JWH-108: "I'm comin-da gitcha!!"

  1. Philadelphia Inquirer | New drug worry in Phila.: synthetic marijuana

    They didn’t exactly say what the “worry” was….

Studying Marx’s Capital From a Libertarian Perspective: Introduction

February 25, 2010

I’m starting a new series of posts in response to Marx’s Capital. I have not read the work previously, so I will be writing as I learn. Because I’m not much into reading, I will study Marx’s Capital primarily via Librivox audio podcast (rss), but I will refer to the Google Books version of the text when necessary.  To assist with understanding, I will be viewing David Harvey’s video lecture series (rss) on the book as I listen.  Here is the introductory lecture:

Vodpod videos no longer available.

As usual, it looks like I’ve come to the first class unprepared.  After an hour of general history, Harvey launches into Marx’s theory of value before I’d “read” and considered Chapter 1 of Capital.  I’ll save most of my critique for Marx himself, but here is my an initial reaction to Harvey’s lecture: Read the rest of this entry »

Links for February 23, 2010: PZ Myers Pooh-Poohs Libertarianism, Climate Change Proponent Responds to the Skeptical Environmentalist.

February 25, 2010
PZ Myers

PZ Myers
pooh-poohs libertarianism. (image source: Wikimedia Commons)

  1. Pharyngula | Libertarianism defined

    PZ Myers. An atheist intellectual that I respected until I about ten minutes ago. The anti-libertarian post is an ad-hominem joke. Since there is no substantive argument, there can be no substantive response. Myers links to a “previous commentary” in which he relays the allegory of a Libertarian, LIB, and a Scientist, SCI. LIB is a pathological, deranged, driver headed at top speed directly toward a lake. SCI is an intellectually superior passenger who insists that LIB turn the car. LIB naturally refuses, placing faith in the free market and a sock puppet. The allegory could accurately describe the relationship between man and environment, but Myers made no attempt whatsoever to describe the relationship between man and State. By the end of the allegory, SCI should cock a pistol and order LIB at gunpoint to turn the car. We can debate whether this hijacking is appropriate, but to ignore the hijacking, or to be unaware of it, is to avoid the libertarian’s primary concern.

  2. Mother Jones | Fact Checking the Skeptical Environmentalist

    The best way to learn about an issue is through a direct call-and-response, like this one. If I ever have enough free time to learn about global warming, etc., I’ll start with The Skeptical Environmentalist, and then move on to The Lomborg Deception. I’d like to see a rebuttal from Mr. Lomborg as well.

    Update:The wikipedia page for The Skeptical Environmentalist briefly describes the the Cambridge University Press’s peer-review process, which Lomborg’s book passed prior to publication, as well as previous efforts on Lomborg’s part to respond to criticism. I expect there to be a healthy debate here.

Links for February 22, 2010: U.S. Government Poisoned Alcohol During Prohibition, Oath Keepers, others….

February 25, 2010
  1. Slate | The little-told story of how the U.S. government poisoned alcohol during Prohibition

    "Normally, no American government would engage in such business. … It is only in the curious fanaticism of Prohibition that any means, however barbarous, are considered justified." —- "'Only one possessing the instincts of a wild beast would desire to kill or make blind the man who takes a drink of liquor, even if he purchased it from one violating the Prohibition statutes,' proclaimed Sen. James Reed of Missouri. —- Oh, is THAT why people often went blind after drinking moonshine. It figures.

  2. Oath Keepers | About OathKeepers

    From the Oath Keepers web site. Nothing jumps out at me as being immediately objectionable. To the contrary, there is much to support. I'll be looking out for these folks. Read the rest of this entry »