Category: Book and Movie Reviews


I’ve been amiss on my blogging since the summer in just about every way one can be amiss on blogging.  Total absence.  Void.  Lack-thereof.  Certain dramatic changes in life circumstances, followed by an MA paper that refuses to go away, will keep you a little busy, and blogging falls a little down the list of things-to-do.  So, by way of apology, I want to start blogging again, and will do so, first, by sharing with you one of my favorite things: Tarantino films.

Tarantino is one of those directors where, well, you like him or you don’t, and by that I mean you either LOVE him or you HATE him.  I know few people who, if I ask them what they think about Tarantino, they merely shrug shoulders and say “Ehh, he’s okay, I guess.”  I, however, LOVE Tarantino films, and while I don’t like all of his movies equally (I only watch Jackie Brown after enough time has passed for me to forget how ‘blah’ I feel about Jackie Brown), there are some that I quite well love.  Death Proof is one of those.  This won’t be your run-of-the-mill full plot-based movie review–this is me, cleaning my apartment and watching Death Proof, and taking a little pit-stop to share it with you, because I like you (whoever you are).

And I don’t know if what follows will count as spoilers or not, so I’m just going to say SPOILER ALERT!!!!! just so I don’t have to think about it further.

Death Proof is a movie divided neatly in two.  The first half is a group of girls who get run down on the road (read: Tarantino-level massacre) via a lunatic stunt car driver named Stuntman “Icy Hot” Mike in a “death proof” muscle car.  The later half is “Icy Hot” attempting to do the same to a second, unrelated car full of girls, and it ends up. . . differently.  Now, a feminist analysis would be easy in this last part, given the clear Tarantino trope of strong-female-characters-kicking-violent-male-douchebag-ass.  That is not the story I want to tell.

The key part of Death Proof is what makes the fate of the girls in the first car different from the fate of the girls in the second car, under the same circumstances.  In both cases, Stuntman “Icy Hot” Mike claims to have been a stunt driver for television/film, but the implication is that his best days are over.  He is shown having a conversation in a bar about movies and films he has worked in, and none of the younger crowd listening have any knowledge of the movies or tv he mentioned.  Later, when he asks a 20-something girl if she knows how movies film major car crashes, she suggests “C.G.?,” implicitly suggesting that in modern movies computer generated scenes have replaced stunt driving.  Thus, the only real clues we have about Stuntman Mike being a real stuntman are (1) the fact that he seems to believe it himself, (2) he has a stuntman’s ‘death proof’ car, (3) he shows real driving ability, and (4) he does mention his role in things, but truth-be-told they aren’t really verified.  He also has a notable scar running down his face, looking old enough that we can perhaps assume that  its from his stuntman days, rather than his subsequent hobby.

The girls in the first car are “Jungle Julia,” an Austin, TX local DJ, and her friends.  Julia is something of a local celebrity, and she and her friends spend a night of getting high and wasted, as Stuntman Mike easily runs them down.  From the occupation we can assume Mike to have, he attains all the elements needed to pull off vehicular homocide. . . a ‘death proof’ car that allows him to survive any collision he gets into, and the driving skills to make sure the other drivers don’t get off so lucky.

The girls in the second car, however, are themselves associated with movies, too.  Of the four girls in the second car, one is an actress, one a makeup artist, and two are stuntwomen: one who seems to do a lot of stunt driving, and the other general stunts (Note: this character, Zoe, is actually played by Uma Thurman’s Kill Bill stunt double, if memory serves).  The actress, dressed like a cheerleader for her role, allows the characters to get their hands on a valuable muscle car, and the skills of the two stuntwoman–the first’s ability to drive, developed in her profession, with the second’s ability to ‘always land on her feet’ and developed control in doing the nearly physically imposssible, collectively give the girls the skills necessary to out-stunt(wo)man Stuntman Mike.  This is no small detail, either, as Stuntman Mike’s skills as a stuntman and his stuntman’s ‘death proof’ car, spawning the title of the film, are well developed as the means of his method of murder.  Similarly, the occupations of the girls in the film’s second car/second half are well established, focused on, and set up a large portion of their story line.  In fact, without their jobs, no element of their plot-line would make sense–they wouldn’t even know each other were it not for their occupations.

In short, the key difference in the fates of the girls in car one and car two are due, entirely, to the effects of their occupational skill.  Implicitly, this shows the difference that occupational skill development makes in the lives of two otherwise similar groups of women–the first have occupational skill that gives them no practical means to defend themselves against vehicular assault.  The latter have those very skills, and it saves their lives.

So I guess you could say the ‘moral’ of Death Proof is that (if the the development of wide-ranging skills is forbidden due to occupational differences) alienation kills!  Or perhaps, to say the same differently, CAPITALISM PUTS THE “KILLING” in “DESKILLING!!!”

Tarantino, you dirty, foot-fetishist communist, you!

Now that you’ll be thinking of the 1844 Manuscripts every time you see Death Proof, I’ll leave you to it.  Oh, and a review gives stars, right? I’d say 3.5/4.

Movie Review: Super 8

Hi all,

I haven’t done a movie review in some time, so I decided to do another one after having seen J.J. Abrams’ Super 8 today.  I happen to particularly enjoy monster-and-alien movies (people create new species, and I think that’s really creative).  But I’m going to keep this review short, and like my last reviews, this one will be less about stars and more about sociopolitical implications.

The shorthand–this story is about the crash of an Air Force train in Ohio in the late 70’s, which happens to be filmed and observed by a group of kids, themselves in the area filming a zombie movie for a film festival.  Inside the crashed train is. . . GASP! an alien, who *ZOUNDS!* escapes, and strange things happen.  The military comes in, all secret-like, pushing around the town authorities, trying to control the situation while keeping everyone in the dark, failing, and when truth does come out to some parties it turns out there were some dirty State/military secrets involved.  If it sounds formulaic, that’s because this particular film is not, in fact, the most original alien/monster movie I’ve ever seen.  The movie is pretty much a nostalgic romp, and you can count homages to various films in the genre as you go.  Bunch of kids are the first to witness the crash/accident? Check.  Vow of secrecy? Check.  Shady military presence? Check.  Secrets? Check.  Trouble? Check.  Etc., etc., etc, and I’ve certainly given away nothing that wasn’t in the previews or couldn’t be assumed from a basic knowledge of how movies are structured.

That said, unlike most movies, it doesn’t feel like a money-making regurgitation. . . it seems intentional, as though Abrams it trying to invoke memories of the great summer alien blockbusters of yore.  And that seems to match his M.O.–as though he aims to reinvigorate classic Sci-Fi subgenres from mindless regurgitation or obscurity.   Reinvigorated Star Trek? I liked it (except, while I loved Quinto as Spock, I couldn’t help but think “Why would you let Sylar on the ship? HE WILL KILL YOU ALL!!!” *Comment if you get that nerdy reference*  After few interesting monster movies since the 80’s, I appreciated his co-reinvigoration of the genre with Cloverfield (and alongside the film adaptation of Stephen King’s The Mist, which I liked, and the South Korean movie The Host, which was great).  And this? He wasn’t trying to be new or cutting edge here, just. . . good.  And it was good.  I enjoyed it, and I don’t think you’ll regret it if you see it and just expect to enjoy it and let it bring to mind all the old Sci-Fi movies you’ve loved.

That said, in one of the reviews I read from the Atlantic City Weekly:

“One of the more annoying aspects of Super 8 is the one-dimensional nature of the military presence. Even the “men with the key chains,” a group of government types who took E.T., had some compassion for the plight of the people involved. In Super 8, they are just here to represent the worst of human nature, so that the kids can represent the compassionate, likeable side of humanity.”

The review is correct in that the military is presented as a personality-devoid, compassion free force.  But where I disagree is that this portrayal, the military-as-obstacle, the government-as-cruel-shadowy-figure, is largely accurate.  Perhaps the movie was, if anything, too watered down.

We live with the government that has disposed of democratically elected leaders in Guatemala, Chile, Nicaragua, Iran, Venezuela (though it failed) and Honduras, directly or indirectly, and supported numerous dictators.  The U.S. government has performed LSD experiments on its own citizens, sterilized Native and African Americans, used Napalm on Vietnamese villages, and is the only country in the world to have used nuclear weapons on another, and twice at that.  The U.S. ‘perfected’ the most horrific system of slavery the world has known, and was founded on a campaign of genocide that Hitler couldn’t top–and then reinterpreted those travesties as hiccups on the road to freedom, and whitewashed the Founding Fathers as new Jesuses.  Our current government seriously entertains Right Wing social engineering, racist immigration laws, discrimination against GLBTQ folk, secret wars in Libya, Yemen, and Pakistan, torture, indefinite detention, repression of peaceful protesters (how many environmentalist and antiwar activists have been arrested, maced, or had their offices raided).  But who gets strong government protection? Corporations.  We are living under a shadowy, unresponsive government, and benefit from the thinnest veil of pseudodemocracy.  The main problem with the portrayal of the military in Super 8 is that Abrams was going for cheery, memory-lane summer blockbuster–his dark-shadowy military is not one tenth as shady as ours is.  But then again, it took place in 1979; shady? Yes.  Compared to today’s shady? Not as much.  And this is not to say every individual member of the military is some dark murderous sociopath–there are, indeed, good soldiers who are very good people–but they are good because they are good people, despite the military and its training.

That aside in place, I did enjoy the movie, and I’d recommend it.


							

After a solid month of visiting various friends and family members, I am now ready to start blogging more regularly again.  With all vacations, I emerged appreciating life more. . . which means I am going to take a break from reading classics of libertarianism for at least this week.  Today, I am going to do a brief review of Hannah Arendt’s Antisemitism, and proceed to draw out some of its implications for a Marxist theory of racism.

Arendt’s book is not about Marxism in any way;  it is an account of antisemitism, the ideology, itself.  The history of the phenomena, as Arendt explains it, begins with the slow development of the nation states in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries.  Individual Jews became strongly associated with the state in these periods, as Jewish bankers became often the sole source of financing for state activities.  This gave European Jews both inroads into the inner circles of the state (without themselves gaining actual political power) and a corresponding dependence on the state for their protection in a society which is otherwise hostile towards them.

After the French Revolution, nation states emerged large enough to require more capital than any individual Jewish banker could supply.  Consequentially, the combined wealth of the wealthier Jews provided financing for state activities, which accorded special privileges to the Jews.  At this stage, wealthy Jews were fully integrated into the state as a sort of ‘financial arm.’  This period ended with the nineteenth century rise in imperialism, where capitalist expansion involved the direct aid of the state.  Early in this period, bourgeois businessmen saw the profitability of financing state activity and displaced Jewish bankers as the dominant source of state revenue.  This removed their long-standing state function, leaving them relatively unprotected yet with large remaining sums of useless wealth.  Additionally, despite the fact that Jews gradually lost their state function, and with it what social power they had (which, in reality, was shared only by rich individual Jews, not distributed to Jews as a group), their prior position as the prime source of financial revenue, and integration into political circles in every European country, connected them directly in the mind of most classes in society to the state independent of their actual position or power.  Thus, as discontent grew against the state, discontent grew against Jews as a race as representatives of the state.  Thus, the rise of Antisemitism, in short, is really a reaction against ‘the state’ which became a reaction against European Jewry.

This process shows its implications for Marxist theories of race after a few facts are introduced.  Jews became enmeshed in banking as a result of Christian prohibition of usury in the middle ages.  Jews were religiously persecuted, and commonly forbidden from traditional occupations, while in those same Christian regions usury (the reception of interest after the loaning of money) was prohibited to, essentially, everyone except the Jews.  The obvious consequence is that, in order to make a living, Jews had to engage in loaning money and receiving interest, a practice that was actually looked down upon rather than empowered (as is the case with modern financial capitalists).

The religious persecution of Jews (rather than racial persecution) resulted, thus, in the system of Jewish banking, that itself led to the process Arendt describes.  This gradually codified into persecution of Jews by race, and throughout this process the finance capitalist Jewry were essentially forced into this degraded class status until its power and profit potential was realized by the bourgeois;  at that point, the Jews could no longer serve this function, and they lost the only protected class status that any Jews had attained.  In short, the fact that Jews were Jews, first religiously then racially, forced them into subjugated economic positions, then forced them out when those positions were no longer subjugated.   Racism, here in the form of antisemitism, seemed to be a tool to force a group of people into a subjugated (yet functionally necessary) economic class.  This insight, though undeveloped, might be the foundation for a strong Marxist analysis of racism.

This is a continuation of my August 12th book review of Milton Friedman’s Capitalism and Freedom, which can be found below.  We last discovered that the foundation of his argument for a connection between capitalism and freedom depends upon whether or not individuals have a right to private ownership of the means of production.

Morality exists in general because people’s actions have physical effects in the world, and as such we need to consider our actions in light of these effects. The relevant standard is the impact of our actions on the things we affect, and how important this impact is on those thing, i.e. according to its impact on their well being. Rights cover those elements of well being that are so important that they must be protected. Minimally, we can be said to have, then, a first right to life; life is the background condition for any other rights or moral categories, and in the absence of basing an argument on a strong metaphysics, life is the essential element to well being. Life is not, however, its own purpose; it is just the precondition for the realization of other purposes. Our ability to act with relative freedom, i.e. our actions do not intrude first upon the right to life of others, and secondly upon their own freedom, is a necessary component of our well being as well. Consequentially, we further have a right to freedom. It has been argued by many that rights to private property are justified as, for example, a necessary precondition for the rights to life and freedom. These conceptions, however, justify only property use, not ownership, because so long as one has the necessary goods when they are needed, one’s rights to freedom and life are perfectly met. There are other attempts to justify private property ownership rights, but I will not cover them at this time. At any rate, ownership of the means of production (raw materials and tools) are direct limitations on the freedom of action and welfare of others, as they take away the means to achieve ends. They take away property use rights from others, and as such they limit the ability of others to meet their own needs, while overextending one’s own rights (in that property use is the only prerequisite of rights being met). We thus do not have a right to private property ownership in the means of production, but do have a right to free use of the means of production. Capitalism, in its absolute private ownership of the means of production, in fact violates the legitimate right to property. Consequentially, capitalism in fact violates rights rather than than guarantees them, this violation of rights is protected by coercive force. In short, Friedman’s entire argument that capitalism protects political freedom is false.

What about economic freedom? Economic freedom, the freedom of exchange, is essentially meaningless with Friedman’s conception of rights. The freedom to exchange goods it not necessarily contested under socialism (for example, socialists would not likely object to, say, a barter fair, and they most certainly would not object to an exchange of services). It is the specific sub-component of ‘economic freedom’ that involves production for exchange that is contested, and primarily because it involves the exploitation of labor, tendency for the accumulation of capital to override social values, and inability to meet human needs except by accident. Were no exploitation present and production geared towards meeting human needs it would be less objectionable. In fact, these conditions are impossible under capitalism, as capitalism presupposes and is founded upon exploitation and producing for profit, not needs. This aside, socialists object not to exchange per se, but capitalist production for exchange; thus, capitalism only differs necessarily from socialism in terms of economic freedom in that socialism rejects the components of economic freedom that violates rights, whereas capitalist apologists such as Friedman defend it.

His argument that freedom of exchange protects political freedom in that it restricts the means at the disposal of the state, thus preventing centralization and consolidation of power, has at least once central problem; it artificially separates the government from its citizens, which cannot be done in a democracy. Now, American democracy is not truly democracy but representative democracy, which is not democracy at all. In theory and practice, representative democracy replaces popular rule with quasi-popular choice of rule by an elite. In a real democracy, however, the government is the people, and thus removing the means from the ends of the populace through capitalism is an imposition on democracy. Friedman’s argument, then, is no more than an explicit argument showing how capitalism thwarts democratic self-determination through empowering a property-owning elite.

To summarize the preceding points, (1) Friedman’s case for capitalism being a necessary condition for democracy as well as economic and political freedom rests upon a notion of private property ownership rights—specifically private property ownership rights over the means of production, tools and raw materials. (2) Property rights are legitimate insofar as they contribute towards freedom and well being, but this supports private property use rights, not ownership rights, and specifically discounts ownership of the means of production, as it impedes freedom and well being. Since private property use rights mean no more than an individual has a right to use the property he or she needs (and here I will accept that private goods which aren’t the means of production have value attached to them that may be more for one particular individual than others, a picture of one’s own children for example, and so I will prima facie hold no qualms over ownership of private property that is not the means of production, at least insofar as my case against Friedman doesn’t require it, so I don’t need to go that far), private ownership of the means of production violates the use rights of others, as well as their freedom and well being. Consequentially, (3) capitalism in fact violates the legitimate range of economic freedom, and as it involves the coercive and illegitimate state defense of private property in the means of production, capitalism rests on coercion, and thus violates political freedom as well. It further (4) undermines democracy through its separation of political means from political ends, in essence holding democracy hostage. If government is to satisfy the purposes that Friedman sees in it, namely “”the maintenance of law and order to prevent coercion of one individual by another, the enforcement of contracts voluntarily entered into, the definition of the meaning of property rights, the interpretation and enforcement of such rights, and the provision of a monetary framework” (27), the government ought to be socialist, devoid of illegitimate coercion because of its recognition of the proper definition of property rights.

Now, Friedman’s support of the connections between capitalism/freedom and capitalism/democracy have been undermined. He makes arguments on more specific sociopolitical issues later, and while many if not all of his points are rendered illegitimate and the questions themselves meaningless after the collapse of his notion of rights, I will proceed to advance additional arguments against them, each on their own terms. I may refer to something pointed out before, such as problems with private ownership of the means of production, but not simply make statements such as “Friedman says x, but since his conception of property rights has been rejected, x is wrong/meaningless”. In other words, I won’t reject his additional arguments by fiat.

In his chapter on Monopoly and Social Responsibility, Friedman argues against what he calls a “monopoly in labor,” referring to workers increasing their class power through unionization. Friedman argues that “if unions raise wage rates in a particular occupation or industry, they necessarily make the amount of employment available in that occupation or industry less than it otherwise would be. . . [and] the effect is an increased number of persons seeking other jobs, which forces down wages in other occupations . . . [making] high-paid workers higher paid at the expense of lower-paid workers.” (124) He thus argues that “unions have therefore not only harmed the public at large and workers as a whole by distorting the use of labor; they have also made the incomes of the working class more unequal by reducing the opportunities available to the most disadvantaged workers” (ibid). While it’s nice hearing Milton Friedman be so concerned here with inequality and disadvantaged workers, his argument presupposes that it is legitimate for capitalists to fire workers in order to preserve profits. His argument is saying this: when unionized workers work to raise wages, their boss has to pay more to employ them, and consequentially the only way the boss can maintain his profit margin is to employ fewer of the workers. It is a sad but true fact that the average American union is relatively conservative, and limits its demands to higher wages, reaching out too little to non-union workers, and rarely if ever fights for the workers outside its own union. However, Friedman’s argument neglects that, while the negative effects of unionization he shows seem believable, they are so only because of the capitalist’s decision to fire workers to maintain the rate of profit. In short, it is the choices of capitalists that might produce greater inequality between workers and harm the public at large. True, without maintaining the profit margin capitalists will be pushed out of the market, but this only shows that capitalists, too, are alienated, and capitalism, not individual capitalists, is the problem. A bit more work remains to be done in the process of reviewing Capitalism and Freedom, and so I will return to this post in short order.

My last review:https://practicalutopian.wordpress.com/2009/08/12/book-review-milton-friedmans-capitalism-and-freedom-part-i/

After reading two quite good posts on the Left Solutions blog against Ayn Rand, I decided that my next book reviews will be about some classics of libertarianism.  I expect to review Friedman, Rand, some Hayek, Nozick, maybe even some Rothbard.

Today’s book review is a classic of Libertarian thought, and a very influential defense of capitalism, Milton Friedman’s Capitalism and Freedom.  It’s major theme is, in the words of Friedman, “the role of competitive capitalism . . . as a system of economic freedom and a necessary condition for political freedom” (4) and its minor theme “is the role that government should play in a society dedicated to freedom and relying primarily on the market to organize economic activity” (ibid).  As the first two chapters lay out his theoretical position most explicitly, and contain the bulk of his arguments, I will concern myself most explicitly with these chapters, and draw from the last four chapters, The Distribution of Income, Social Welfare Measures, and Alleviation of Poverty, as well as the Conclusion, where appropriate.

Friedman begins through asserting that “only certain combinations of political and economic arrangements are possible” (8), and that “a society which is socialist cannot also be democratic, in the sense of guaranteeing individual freedom” (ibid).  He specifies that capitalist economic systems are not necessarily democratic, but that capitalism is a necessary prerequisite for democracy.  Friedman continues by arguing that (1) “freedom in economic arrangements is itself a component of freedom broadly understood” (8) and thus an end in itself, and (2) “economic freedom is also an indispensable means toward the achievement of political freedom” (ibid).

Economic freedom, to Friedman, essentially means freedom of exchange, i.e. the ability to buy or sell without legal restriction.  He considers it a necessary component of freedom because a restriction of it is a restriction of a range of choices and actions.  Political freedom means “the absence of coercion of a man by his fellow men” (15).  Friedman considers economic freedom as a means to political freedom because “it separates economic power from political power and in this way enables the one to offset the other” (9).  Markets more specifically secure political freedom because they remove “the organization of economic activity from the control of political authority, [and thus] the market eliminates this source of coercive power. . . [enabling] economic strength to be a check to political power rather than a reinforcement” (ibid).  Concentration of power, he argues, is most dangerous to freedom, and there is no zero sum law of economic power or fixed quantity of total economic power, whereas he sees the quantity of political power being essentially finite and thus more prone to concentration. He notes a general correspondence with the emergence of democracy and the emergence of capitalism, and a short time later argues that “collectivist economic planning has indeed interfered with individual freedom” (11).

After that partial digression, Friedman elaborates on the connection between economic and political freedom.  He argues that “the basic problem of social organization is how to co-ordinate the economic activities of large numbers of people” (12) and that there are two ways of doing so, either (1) “central direction involving the use of coercion” or (2) “voluntary co-operation of individuals” (13).  The latter, he claims, is based on the premise that “both parties to an economic transaction benefit from it, provided the transaction is bi-laterally voluntary and informed” (ibid).  Consequently, he deduces, competitive capitalism brings co-ordination without coercion.  It is worthy to note here that his elaboration that “co-operation is strictly individual and voluntary provided: (a) that enterprises are private, so that the ultimate contracting parties are individuals and (b) that individuals are effectively free to enter or not to enter into any particular exchange, so that every transaction is strictly voluntary” (14).  In his model, viewing all ‘economic freedom’ in terms of exchanges, the buying and selling of goods and labor power are always mutually beneficial, never the product of coercion, and necessary components of freedom.  In fact, he claims that “the central feature of the market organization of economic activity is that it prevents one person from interfering with another in respect of most of his activities” (ibid).  The selling of labor power is uncoerced in that “the employee is protected from coercion by the employer because of other employers for whom he can work” (14-15).

This voluntary model of organization by markets is contrasted against “action through political channels,” which “tends to require or enforce substantial conformity” (15). Here he claims that the market is “a system of proportional representation” where “each man can vote [for his consumption choices]” (ibid).

Finally, Friedman argues that competitive capitalist societies have an easier time accommodating the avocation of socialism than socialist societies have allowed the avocation of capitalism. First, he argues that “in order for men to advocate anything, they must be in the first place able to earn a living” (16), which is problematic under socialism, he claims, because of governmental control of the job market.  Whereas in socialist societies, the state would have to subsidize subversive literature, Friedman argues that in competitive capitalism all one has to do is find a rich benefactor, or prove that one’s literature will make the publisher (or other media source) money.  The ability in competitive capitalism to find rich benefactors, Friedman argues, shows “a role of inequality of wealth in preserving political freedom that is seldom noted–the role of the patron” (17).  He further defends the costs borne in capitalist society to advocate radical change, arguing that “no society could be stable if advocacy of radical change were costless . . . [and that] it is important to preserve freedom only for people who are willing to practice self-denial” (18).  His only caveat is that “what is essential is that the cost of advocating unpopular causes be tolerable and not prohibitive” (ibid).

The role of government, then, is to provide “for the maintenance of law and order to prevent coercion of one individual by another, the enforcement of contracts voluntarily entered into, the definition of the meaning of property rights, the interpretation and enforcement of such rights, and the provision of a monetary framework” (27).  These questions are large, and Friedman places a notable caveat on what he believes to be the extent of democratic determination.  He writes that “the use of political channels, while inevitable, tends to strain the social cohesion essential for a stable society.  The strain is least if agreement for joint action need be reached only on a limited range of issues on which people in any event have common views” (23).  In other words, the more important the issue, the more Friedman sees it being destructive of democratic unity, and thus “fundamental differences in basic values can seldom if ever be resolved at the ballot box” (24) and inevitably result in conflict.  Here, again, he embraces the market for not requiring conformity on these base issues.

Now that we have laid out Friedman’s basic stance on the relationship between economic and political freedom, let us back up and consider his arguments as a whole. To recap, Friedman considers (1) ‘economic freedom’ as the freedom to engages in exchange independent of political authority or coercion, and (2) ‘political freedom’ as, more generally, freedom from coercion. Viewing freedom, generally speaking, as the overriding moral and political value, Friedman argues that the freedom to exchange, i.e. buy and sell in a competitive market, is a necessary component of freedom in that it is a subset of choices and actions that one ought to be able to engage in without experiencing coercion. Economic freedom is thus and end in itself. He also argues that economic freedom is central to political freedom because of (a) its controlling the means to politically determined ends, limiting governmental power, and (b) the ability for unpopular and radical perspectives to find voice in the market.

 

Friedman’s case rests on a number of assumptions, any of which would undermine his argument, but taken as a whole entirely demolish his case. Friedman’s conception of freedom is the absence of physical coercion. Friedman is right in his overarching perspective that governmental action involves or implies the use of coercion by necessity; the background of governmental laws is their ability to enforce them, and the concept of legitimate government implies its legitimate monopoly on the use of force within its boundaries. He simply sees the range of legitimate coercion extending only to protect the rules and preconditions of free market capitalism—contract enforcement and the definition and enforcement of property rights. He claims that the scope and definition of property rights is a question taken for granted, and properly subject to democratic debate, while simultaneously arguing for the inability for democracy to work in substantial value discussion (like debate over property rights) and presupposes the legitimacy of private property rights throughout his argument. Without the presupposed legitimacy of private property (or at least private property in the means of production) no individual would have the right to produce independent of social agreement, or for that matter restrict distribution of goods; his conception of economic freedom, which he claims to be a necessary component of freedom, is contingent upon the legitimacy of private property in the means of production. He further continually emphasizes that the ability to exchange, economic freedom, is an individual freedom, and thus placing constraints on individual exchange opportunities seems as though it would inherently violate his account of freedom. Thus, while he overtly recognizes that definitions of appropriate property rights are subject to democratic determination, his argument for economic freedom, and thus his argument that competitive capitalism supports freedom and is thus desirable, depends upon private property in the means of production being legitimate. If private property is not legitimate, then the coercion with which the government protects it is illegitimate, and economic freedom in the sense that Friedman intents violates political freedom. So the question becomes “Do we, as individuals, have a right to private property in the means of production?”

 

 

This review is continued at: https://practicalutopian.wordpress.com/2009/08/19/book-review-milton-friedmans-capitalism-and-freedom-part-ii/

Left Solutions: Ayn Rand, sociopathic politics – http://leftsolutions.wordpress.com/ayn-rand-sociopathic-politics/

This post is just a plug for some excellent books and authors I want to share with everyone. –comment if you have one you want to add, or have a comment on one I’ve added.

Rodney Peffer- Marxism, Morality, and Social Justice

Charles Andrews – From Capitalism to Equality

http://www.laborrepublic.org/

Michael Albert – Parecon

Cockshott and Cottrell – Towards a New Socialism

http://www.ecn.wfu.edu/~cottrell/socialism_book/

 Erich Fromm – To Have or To Be, The Art of Loving, the Sane Society

Michael A. Lebowitz – Build it Now

Meszaros – Socialism or Barbarism