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On Walmart, And Who Bears Responsibility For the Poor

As I said in response to Lumifer's post, the problem is this still leaves it up to chance. We may come to the same conclusions on one thing or another, but that is purely by accident, and if we should begin to come up with different moral axioms, I have no reason to respect his viewpoint if a.) I have no guarantee that he'll respect mine, or b.) I have no axiom which states that I should respect other moral frameworks even if they're different from mine. Certainly, there are many instances in which both parties to a discussion discover an idea they agree upon, but the debate continues because of how the agreement was come upon, when it shouldn't matter.

On Walmart, And Who Bears Responsibility For the Poor

"I recommend observing real life and learning history. People have rarely been treated as inherently equal and yet it very often happened that "one person's agency or vision" was respected. Do note that people's capabilities vary greatly and reality doesn't care at all about equality or fairness."

That essentially relies on chance. A person's agency is most likely to be respected by me if, by chance, I see that person as roughly my equal. Most people don't worry about violating the agency of a dog nearly as much as they worry about violating the agency of another human (although this obviously depends on one's definition of personhood). The agency of African American people in the U.S. was frequently violated because they were perceived as being different from, and lesser than, white people.

Proximity plays a noted role, here. There's generally a greater concern for the agency of those near you than those you don't know about, because the only violations of agency you care about are those that seem to be a threat to you. I just think that personhood is a valuable enough thing that we ought to be more systemic in how we protect the agency of things which fit whatever definition of personhood we agree to.

"Yes, this is correct, but I don't see how is this related to the willingness to sacrifice others."

You cannot say that there is a right for you to sacrifice other people against their will, because, definitionally, you cannot willingly abide by the obligation to sacrifice yourself against your will for other people.

On Walmart, And Who Bears Responsibility For the Poor

"May I suggest a review of the concepts of the map and the territory?"

None is needed; I'm pretty sure that I understand the use of the terms map and territory here. Maps are representations of reality, territories the correspondent reality. I don't argue against this term pairing, in fact I quite like it, and I'm pretty sure I haven't violated them in principle. I was just heading in the direction of arguing that all anyone can ever have is a map, so to speak--I'm fundamentally an epistemological idealist. But this is a discussion we could go on about to the end of time.

"I think I missed it completely. I just don't understand what rights does a "claim of ownership" give you. Let me ask the question again: what can you do with it? Let's take two people, A and B. A has the "claim of ownership", B does not. They both wake up, walk out onto the street. What can A do that B cannot? Which rights does A have that B does not?"

I think you might be under a misconception about the idea of market socialism (or my particular version of it, anyway): the only things which don't have claims of ownership are non-people, in the broad sense. To make the scenario fit, you'd have to ask, "what can A do with A's claim to ownership that B cannot do with A's claim to ownership?" B cannot take A's claim to ownership (be it his labor or the value associated with a single person's share) and use it to work towards or in any way advance B's vision of the Public Good if A does not agree with B's vision of the Public Good. This is the only right/obligation that people in this theoretical can worry about: freedom to exercise agency and vision, and an obligation on the part of each person to respect the exercise of agency and vision of others.

"What happens to people who do not like these tenets?"

They're free to participate or not participate in my, or any other entity's, vision of the Public Good, including their own. If a particular vision is in low enough demand, then it likely won't be achievable due to lack of resources gathered to accomplish it, and any organization around that Public Good will naturally dissolved as people become dissatisfied with it. This gives people an incentive to formulate a vision of the Public Good which is as universally-appealing and inclusive as possible.

In a sense, it's much like the universalizability issue of the Kantian imperative. I can make any particular vision of the Public Good as specific as I like it, but as I add more and more detail to it, the more opportunities I create to turn people off from it. If my vision of the Public Good revolves around my every specific desire, it's not likely to attract other people because I will have a different set of specific desires from other people. By contrast, if I can formulate a vision of the Public Good which is composed solely of specific desires that appeal to a lot of people, more people will join me in the pursuit of my vision of the Public Good.

This should all sound quite similar to what we have today, because it is. The difference is that, with the abolition of private property and a democratic ownership of the MoP, there's a lot more room for many different visions of the Public Good to be realized as no one has anymore ability to impose their Public Good vision on people than anyone else does. I always thought this was a pretty meritocratic system.

On Walmart, And Who Bears Responsibility For the Poor

"Really really :-) Political economy is a description of how the world works. Being a description, it is a map."

I've always thought that ultimately, description is the best that anyone can ever really do. We'll be getting into epistemology if we go down this route any further; your call on whether or not you want to do that.

"Let's do a little gedanken experiment. I hereby give you a piece of paper that represents a share, an ownership claim on your fraction of the global means of production. It is exclusive to you and you control it. Oh, but say you, it's fake, it doesn't represent anything! OK then. In the system which you describe, what can you do with you "true" ownership claim that you cannot do with the admittedly fake claim which I have just given to you?"

...I'm assuming that the parallel with paper currency is intentional. This is exactly the way in which any system of private property works: the validity of the claim is based on a common social contract. However, as these shares are claims to a publically-owned property, it is a type of personal property, dependent upon some particular formulation of a social contract (stipulating e.g., 1. all material goods are publically-owned, and 2. all people who are capable of conceiving of a vision of the Public Good deserve a share in this publically-owned stock of goods)....I can't tell if I'm being led somewhere or you missed that completely, though I'm naturally leaning toward the former.

"Can you specify the end you're seeking?"

In excruciatingly minute detail; suffice to say the most important tenets are egalitarianism, equality, and communitarianism.

On Walmart, And Who Bears Responsibility For the Poor

"Nope, the concerns of a political economy are irrelevant here. The contest is between a map and a territory and the territory always wins."

So, to be clear, you don't believe that political economy is part of the territory? Really??

"Yes, I know. But the argument to popularity is not a good way to evaluate forecasts :-/"

Some people appreciate an appeal to authority, but I don't need one to justify what I said. I'll respond differently to an announcement that you're going to twist my finger, if you tell me before doing so that you'll give me a lollipop afterwards if I let you, than I would if you simply told me you were going to twist my finger, right?

"You are saying that something like an internal passport gives you a share of "ownership" in all means of production in the society. What does that mean? Which rights do I, personally, have with respect to that which I "own"?"

Well, labor seems like the obvious component here. Whatever other means of production exist now only exist because someone in the past labored to make them. I'll concede that I haven't totally worked out how you'd evenly divide up extra-somatic means of production, i.e. existing private property, but it seems like it ought to be possible to construct a pricing model to evaluate all the means of production in an economy and split that value equally among all participants in that economy.

Shares would represent a compensation for the price assessed of the global means of production by the global market, divided by the number of people in the world, with each person getting one share. This share is an ownership claim because it is exclusive to its original owner (no one is able to take it from me, nor can I take one from anyone else), and I control it (no one can make me use it for a purpose other than one of my choosing). I should've asked earlier, are you familiar with the distinction between private property rights and personal property rights? These shares would be an example of the latter, and thus have a different set of ownership rights than the private property rights we tend to focus on now.

P.S. You haven't answered the question whether you object to the notion of property in general."

I did on the other comment thread a little while ago, but I'll say here as well: I'm a consequentialist. If capitalism and private property gets me the end I'm seeking, I'm fine with that. But if it doesn't, I'm not. Values should be system-neutral.

On Walmart, And Who Bears Responsibility For the Poor

"I did not. You are making a logic error: thinking that { not(A) is_not (B) } necessarily implies { (A) is (B) }. That is not so. Here A="democratic system of governance" and B="public enterprise accountable to the public"."

Fair play, but I think I can clean up the mess I've made there by asking if you consider a democratic government to be a kind of public enterprise. To me this seems like a reasonable assertion: a government elected democratically is beholden to its shareholders (electorate), for whom it must produce a particular batch of goods and services at a particular level of efficiency. Any democratic government which consistently fails to do so will have its managers (elected politicians) kicked out by its electorate for a new group of managers. I understand you're likely tired of conversing with me, so I'll just ask for a yes/no answer on that.

"No, you misunderstand. I am using "price and greed" to mean the following: the market signals what it likes and does not like via the price at which the market clears. This price reflects both supply and demand. There is information in this price, but this information is useless unless somebody acts on it. The usual reason to act on the basis of the price information is desire for wealth, aka greed. It is the motivation which is necessary to make the step from information to real-world consequences (usually, a change in supply)."

The information of supply and demand, i.e. price, isn't useless if there's no one to act on it, it's non-existent. If there was no one on Earth, we wouldn't have supply and demand, and so no price. And--this is sure to bring some laughs--the desire for wealth isn't a rational impulse. Unless you literally have a desire for wealth, which is an instrumental good, and not what it brings you, intrinsic goods (however defined), it's against your interest to pursue wealth beyond whatever version of your intrinsic good it buys you. That seems obvious to me--a dollar is worth its exchange value, nothing more. And how many parables are there about the wealthy, lonely old man, sitting sadly in his mansion, surrounded by piles of gold? I'd rather everyone be poor and happy than have some people wealthy and happy, some others being wealthy and unhappy, and others being poor and sad or poor and happy; wouldn't you?

Don't misunderstand my intent, here. If capitalism really did make everyone rich, or even just modestly comfortable, I'd have no problem with it or private property; I'm not a deontologist. But the fact of the matter is that capitalism doesn't make everyone rich, or even modestly comfortable, but tells the lie that it can; that's where I have a problem with it.

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