Monday, February 20, 2006

"From each according to his ability, to each according to his needs"

The above is an influential quote of Marx's from his "Critique of the Gotha Program." The Gotha program was a socialist program, but Marx disagreed with the theoretical approach they were taking. They would distribute goods in a society according to the labor each individual added to the whole, rather than according to Marx's standard, "from each according to his ability, to each according to his needs."

Marx disagreed with this because he believed that amount of labor supplied by each individual was a bourgeois manner of distribution, and would lead to inequality. Although the standard was the same for all (the labor of the doctor would be just as valuable as the labor of the trash collector), nevertheless inequality would still result because the raw amount of labor that each individual could supply would differ according to natural ability. Since some people would be able to supply more labor, they would be accorded a greater amount of the final distribution of goods than those that weren't able to supply as much labor.

So, Marx introduces a standard wherein distribution should not be according to labor supplied, but according to need.

The errors in this are manifest. What is need? Is it different than want? Is it only subsistence? Then what of the superfluous goods of societies? Who is going to get the ocean-front property in California? Who is going to have live in Nebraska?

Much like the above problems with need, we must also wonder about ability. How do you determine someone's ability? Surely this is not an objective measure. You cannot assign a number to someone's ability. If someone says to you "Work according to your ability," are you apt to work a tremendous amount on difficult tasks, or to focus on easy, more fun tasks? Say, are you more likely to build a bridge (even if you are outstanding at this, but hate doing it) or to write a novel (even if you are absolutely Danielle Steele at this, yet nevertheless enjoy it)?
The only solultion to the dictate "from each according to his ability," is to turn it into a mandate for slavery. "From each according to his ability" then becomes a justification for the forcible extraction of labor from the individual. If you choose not to apply your abilities, then you must be enslaved and forced to apply them--this is half of the recipe for a totalitarian society.
The other half of the recipe is supplied by the rest of Marx's dictate, "to each according to his needs." This is a call for the total dependence of the people on some distributor. Since needs, beyond very basic subsistence, are subjective, as noted above, and these subjective "needs," when morphed into "wants" naturally outstrip the scarce resources present (I want beach front property in California, a house made out of gold, scores of servants, fancy cars, etc.), there must be a distributor to determine people's needs on an objective level if society is to function. This determination will necessarily be arbitrary, and will ween a people totally dependent on the distributor, and beholden to it for everything--food, clothing, hobbies, etc. This is the dictionary definition of a totalitarian society. The totality of one's life is dictated by another, and dependent on another.

These are problems that would inevitably result from having ability be the standard for production and need be the standard for distribution--that is, for there being two radically different standards for the production and distribution of goods juxtaposed uncomfortably (and, I would say, unnaturally) next to each other. The natural tendancy is to use as little of one's ability as possible (at least as it pertains to work, and not to the pursuit of one's pleasure) and to fulfill as many of one's needs as possible.

The capitalist solution is to reward people for their work in proportion to its demand from society. People are paid more for doing work that others value. This motivates the use of one's abilities. Then, people are supplied goods according to the amount they are willing to pay for them. This rations out scarce resources to those who most value them, and allows each person to decide their own needs, and rank some needs above others. Which all, in turn, allows the individual the capacity to make decisions about their life, rather than some, hopefully benevolent, but always controlling and totalitarian, distributor.

Tuesday, February 14, 2006

Meta-Post

Poll: Four Fifths of Americans have Basic Grip on Sanity

From CNN.com:
Poll: Fifth of Americans think calls have been monitored

Any guesses as to the probable political affiliation of those who think they've been monitored? And, no, 'paranoid schizophrenic with mild delusional fantasies' is not a political affiliation.

Or maybe that's the wrong take. Maybe it should be: "Poll shows fifth of Americans systematically mislead by Mainstream Media about probable extent of NSA wiretapping. When contacted, we had no comment."

Either way, let me be the first to say that the government doesn't care about your plans to get "DEEEERUNK" this weekend with your frat buddies. Yeah, they're insensitive that way.

Sunday, February 12, 2006

Freedom of speech vs. Religious Respect

Glenn Reynolds, aka Instapundit, weighs in on the controversy over the Muhammed-caricature cartoons (video).

CNN's excuse for not airing the cartoons, is that they don't want to add fuel to the fire. Then why publish the Abu Ghraib photos? There very discriminate on what fires they fuel--the raging flame of world-wide anti-Americanism, for example, hey, that's perfect for makin' S'mores!

Saturday, February 04, 2006

"They don't hate us for our freedoms...it's...ah...our cartoons they can't stand"

The cartoontroversy (I promise to never use that word again) continues to spread, with the burning of Danish and Norwegian embassies in Damascus, Syria.

From that news story, we get a statement from the Vatican:

The Vatican deplored the violence but said certain provocative forms of criticism were unacceptable.

"The right to freedom of thought and expression ... cannot entail the right to offend the religious sentiment of believers," the Vatican said in its first statement on the controversy.


The flippant response is that Jesus sure offended the religious sentiment of believers back in the day, but you can see where the Vatican is coming from. Although phrased poorly as a matter of "offense," which causes no actual "harm" and is entirely subjective, the Vatican obviously doesn't want to affirm the values of liberal democracy over religion.

And they shouldn't--for those that truly believe in Catholic doctrine, insofar as they believe it as religious truth, obviously it must take precedence over political ideals such as freedom of thought and expression.

Political ideals represent merely temporal expedients--ways to make life here on earth more palatable. Religious ideals represent the ways in which the temperal life is merely a means to affirming their faith and love in some Divine Creator. Therefore, religious ideals should never be subverted for temporal political expedients.

Which is all fine and dandy if you're a religion like Catholicism which hasn't lately burned an embassy over the finer points of theology. However, does the Vatican really wanna go religiously relativist and say that freedom of thought and expression don't entail the right to offend the religious sentiment of believers? Shouldn't they limit it to Catholics?

Does the Vatican realize that Muslims not only find depictions of Muhammed to be blasphemous (which is what this whole cartoontroversetc is about), but that it is also blasphemous to depict Jesus? So, there goes the crucifix. Don't want to offend other religious believers.

I guess the Vatican does have an out, logically. They can say that the crucifix doesn't offend Muslims based on a crucifix wearers freedom of thought or expression, but on deeply held religious beliefs, which can be a legitimate source of offense to others, religiously.

Which is all just to say, I guess, isn't this messed up?...burning the Danish embassy over a cartoon? I mean, I could understand if it was Family Circus--that insipid strip makes me feel like firebombing a third-degree burn clinic--but just depicting a bearded, probably unbathed, Muhammed? I don't know about that, man.

Friday, February 03, 2006

*cough*

I've been sick, so this'll be short. Lemme just say that this is a dark habinger of things to come:
European leaders tried to contain the controversy over newspaper cartoons of the Prophet Mohammed on Thursday, as the international dispute escalated into a consumer boycott and risked the gravest cultural clash with the Muslim world since the Salman Rushdie affair.

If you haven't heard about this story (again, I don't watch news media so I don't know what kind of play it's getting there) the "controversy" is the depiction of Muhammed in cartoons, which is blasphemous to Muslims. So, naturally, they threaten holocaust, among other violent, posterboard insanities.

The demographics of Europe are changing. And Europeans are scared--at least those whose belief in liberal democracy isn't moth-eaten and decayed by relativist notions such as postmodernism and multiculturalism.

*cough*