Presentation on theme: "J AMES R. O TTESON J OINT P ROFESSOR OF P HILOSOPHY AND E CONOMICS C HAIRMAN, D EPARTMENT OF P HILOSOPHY Y ESHIVA U NIVERSITY."— Presentation transcript:
J AMES R. O TTESON J OINT P ROFESSOR OF P HILOSOPHY AND E CONOMICS C HAIRMAN, D EPARTMENT OF P HILOSOPHY Y ESHIVA U NIVERSITY
Socialism: cooperation, sharing, altruism, equality. Capitalism: competition, hoarding, selfishness, inequality. Socialism: community in affection. Capitalism: atomization from greed and fear.
Capitalism is feasible. (Short run only?) But perhaps socialism is “infeasible.” So what? Sweet grapes on a high branch means … sour grapes? No: infeasibile ≠ undesirable.
1. Is socialism infeasible? 2. Is socialism morally attractive? ◦ “Moral shabbiness of market motivation.” ◦ “The market is intrinsically repugnant.” ◦ “Every market … is a system of predation.”
“Socialism”: ◦ Centralized organization and planning ◦ Common or public ownership of property ◦ Equality “Capitalism”: ◦ Decentralized organization, non-centrally-planned markets ◦ Private ownership of property ◦ Inequality Not “liberty” or “justice”: ◦ Liberty S and Liberty C ; Justice S and Justice C. ◦ Let us beg no questions.
Now-standard answer: Yes, it is infeasible. Runs afoul of (1) human nature and (2) human condition. Human nature: ◦ Limitations of human knowledge. ◦ Self-interest and limited benevolence; status. ◦ Territoriality (“natural” private property?). ◦ Value pluralism. Human condition: ◦ Scarcity, mutually incompatible allocations of resources, conflict. ◦ Competition, striving, happiness. Conclusions: Socialism … ◦ Requires an impractical altruism and sharing. ◦ Would lead to underproduction, deprivation. ◦ Would lead to strife and division, enervation, unhappiness.
Infeasibility Argument is stronger than one might think. ◦ Must be faced squarely, not ignored. Nevertheless not enough. Many moral codes require impossible ideals. ◦ Kant’s Categorical Imperative ◦ “WWJD?” Socialism’s strongest argument? ◦ Consider Plato’s argument about the kallipolis in the Republic.
Impracticality by itself does not defeat an ideal. An ideal is not defeated … unless: 1.Involves use of immoral means or policies, or 2.Makes people worse off than otherwise. Note: a disjunct, not a conjunct. “Immoral means”: define non-controversially. “Worse off”: beyond some low but clear threshold. ◦ Mencken’s definition of “Puritanism” not sufficient.
Not “theft”: question-begging. But: ◦ Imprisonment of not-proved-guilty ◦ Murder of not-proved-guilty ◦ Forced labor and slavery ◦ Forced starvation ◦ Torture of noncombatants These are non-controversially immoral. (Right?) Universal practices? Over last ~100 years, higher in “socialist” states.
V. I. Lenin (1917-24): 4,017,000 dead. Joseph Stalin (1929-53): 42,672,000 dead. From 1917-87, the Soviet Union killed some 62 million people—more than twice as many as killed during 400 years of brutal African slave trade.
1968-87: 2,397,000 dead. Most lethal murderer in twentieth century: ◦ 1975-9: killed 8% of population annually. ◦ Khmer Rouge killed 31% of all men, women, and children in Cambodia. ◦ The odds of surviving: 2.2 to 1. (Pol Pot died peacefully in 1998 after a one-year house arrest.)
Remember: impracticality does not defeat an ideal … unless: 1.Involves use of immoral means or policies, or 2.Makes people worse off than otherwise. Claim: immoral means and policies have been implemented. Does that defeat the ideal? But let us press further.
Let us not quibble about marginal matters. ◦ Hundreds of kinds of toothpaste? ◦ Barry Schwartz, The Paradox of Choice: Why More Is Less (2005) More central criteria: ◦ Income and wealth ◦ United Nations Development Index ◦ Longevity ◦ Infant morality and child labor ◦ Environmental performance Some evidence to consider:
Economic Freedom of the World Index (http://www.freetheworld.com/)http://www.freetheworld.com/ Correlation between “economic freedom” and various metrics of prosperity in ~140 countries since 1975. “Economic freedom”: ◦ “Individuals have economic freedom when property they acquire without the use of force, fraud, or theft is protected from physical invasions by others and they are free to use, exchange, or give their property as long as their actions do not violate the identical rights of others.” Notably “capitalist” definition, though not question-begging. Results?
Top 10 Countries in “Economic Freedom” Source: The Fraser Institute.
*Combined measurement of: (1) life expectancy, (2) adult literacy rates, (3) school enrollment, and (4) per-capita incomes.
Note: difference between top and bottom quartiles is over twenty years.
Infant mortality measured against EF: Child labor (% of 10-14 year-olds in work force) against EF:
*Includes environmental stresses and ecosystem vitality. Sources: The Fraser Institute, Yale Center for Environmental Law and Policy and Center for International Earth Science Information Network, Columbia University, with the World Economic Forum and Joint Research Center of the European Commission, 2008 Environmental Performance Index (http://sedac.ciesin.columbia.edu/es/epi).http://sedac.ciesin.columbia.edu/es/epi
Wealth, both per-capita income and real economic growth Life expectancyInfant survivalChild nutritionLiteracyFood production Access to health careAccess to safe water Percentage of GDP dedicated to research and development Political stabilityPeace
Claim 1: Political and economic institutions consistent with markets and limited government are closely correlated with high and increasing human prosperity. Claim 2: Institutions consistent with centralized economic control and public property closely correlated with low and decreasing human prosperity. Conclusion: The former seem to make people better off, while the latter make people worse off. Broader but weaker conclusion: socialist policies are correlated with underperformance on standard measures of human prosperity.
If not human nature and human condition … … then “immoral means” and “worse off”? But: were they proper or good-faith attempts? ◦ Or power-hungry despots? Small-scale success? ◦ Monasteries? New Harmony, Indiana? Kibbutzim? 1.Specified, narrow, and shared purpose. 2.Personal familiarity → personal trust, joint effort. 3.Unless subsidized from without, low standard of living. Would it work on a large scale?
What have we shown? 1.Socialism seems difficult to reconcile with human nature and the human condition. 2.Large-scale attempts have involved immoral policies and have decreased human prosperity. Those constitute a strong objection. Again, however, let us not yet rest content. Let us ask: Is socialism’s moral ideal superior in itself? ◦ Capitalism: Class struggles, class interests. ◦ Socialism’s resolution: “species being.”
Human beings are members of classes metaphorically, not literally Literally: discrete moral agents ◦ Separate consciousnesses ◦ Individual decision centers ◦ Unique reservoirs of knowledge, experience ◦ Unique schedules of preferences, values What is common to us: ◦ Desire for money, success, to ‘better our condition’ (Smith) ◦ Higher status What is separate, distinct, and indexed: ◦ What matters: values, goals, ambitions. ◦ What to do for, with money. ◦ What counts as success, status, better condition. ◦ Who decides.
Factual claim: discrete consciousnesses, unique centers of moral agency. Moral principle: individual dignity demanding respect ◦ Slavery, genocide, ethnic cleansing ◦ Human rights, equality before the law Socialism: not individual dignity but class membership. ◦ Fungible, interchangeable ◦ Poker chips, marbles Human beings are not fungible; they are precious and irreplaceable. A bedrock, nonnegotiable moral principle. Socialism’s moral core violates that principle. ◦ Sharing and community are morally praiseworthy only when voluntary, respecting individual dignity. ◦ Socialism: no opt-out option.
John Lilburne (1614-1657) Brought before Star Chamber in 1637: heresy, treason. Would not doff his hat, would not bow, would not enter plea. Claim: “freeborn right” to conscience, religious practice, equality before law. Pilloried, flogged, tortured, imprisoned. Bloodied but unbroken. And then … Star Chamber abolished in 1641. That was a great moral leap forward.
1. Socialism faces serious challenges: a)Human nature and human condition entail its infeasibility. b)Large-scale attempts have both involved immoral means and have left people worse off. c)Its conception of humanity is both factually incorrect and morally flawed. 2. Thus, the socialist grapes: a)cannot be harvested, b)have induced destructive attempts, and c)are rotten in their core. 3. Is it time, then, to give up on the socialist grapes?
J AMES R. O TTESON Y ESHIVA U NIVERSITY 500 W. 185 TH S T. N EW Y ORK, NY 10033 OTTESON @ YU. EDU