Saturday, 17 September 2016

A libertarian debates a marxist on what makes a free society

From Per Bylund at the Mises Institute:
In a live and streamed debate on 9/14 in Stockholm, Sweden, Per Bylund of Mises Institute debated Andrew Kliman from the Marxist-Humanist Initiative (MHI). The topic for the debate was "What makes a free society?" and the purpose was to raise two often overlooked perspectives on society and the economy: libertarianism and marxism.
With the debaters being economists, the debate focused on economic issues. The primary discrepancy is the one between views on property, where the marxist Kliman proposed "individual property," or ownership only of what one uses for personal needs but with communal ownership of the means of production, whereas I, as libertarian, argued for private property and free markets of the means of production. It is interesting to note that the Kliman relies on a division of property that is divided along economic categories: consumer and production goods (or goods of lowest and higher orders).

While this distinction makes sense theoretically, and for the purpose of economic analysis, it is confusing and unintuitive in practice. You can use your house as both dwelling and office, your car for both personal transportation and business, and so on. The error by the marxists is here of the same type (though opposite) as that of environmentalists, who do not recognize the difference between natural/physical resources and economic resources. Kliman, in distinguishing between practical ownership of individual and private property (where only the latter may include the means of production), makes a theoretical distinction between consumption and production that he claims must be upheld exclusively also in practice. Kliman's argument, it follows, requires clear-cut differences where those differences may sometimes only be existing in theory. In practice, as we know, a physical resource may be used interchangeably as production and consumption goods — or both at the same time.

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