plato

Questions In an Examined Life

Punk Johnny Cash Anarchism 5 Comments

Socrates stated “An unexamined life is not worth living”. I’d like to live a life worth living. It is often better to have questions which we ponder and analyze than to offer up the definitive answer for every possible question. When we have all the answers we cease to grow and learn. When we believe we know it all is when we fail to realize there is much we do not know. The accumulation of knowledge is often the realization of one’s own ignorance.  The more we learn the more we realize we do not know.

As I write I often give answers and realize that I have more and more questions. Often my writings are inspired by a search to an answer for these questions. It is easier for some to accept ambiguity than others. I find I have learned to accept ambiguity more over the years. Perhaps this is uncomfortable because of our own fears. We fear what we do not know and not knowing a definitive answer as an assured fact creates another area that we do not know therefore we create an area with the potential to grow fear.

When in conversation conflicts often arise out of a desire to set everyone straight to seeing the perspective of one individual as an absolute.  There is a rigid reaction of you are wrong, I am right.

When looking at the concepts behind Non-Violent communication I begin to see an answer to approaching such things in a more constructive manner. Translating demands and statements into needs may be a valuable tool in not only reaching others with what we are stating but also in hearing what the other is stating.

I am simply writing a post of questions. I do not wish conflict, but discussion. Many of these I may have opinions or answers to, some I may have more than one opinion or answer for. A few I truly have not come to a conclusion on. The goal is not to tell you how it is, but to hopefully get others to join in contemplation on these ideas.

Why can’t we answer questions with questions?

Is it ever acceptable to use aggressive force to obtain ones will or rule?

If communism is the natural evolutionary process of society outside of the state,  would libertarianism be the battle to end the state result in a communist society?  Is there a harmony we can reach between the two by looking more into some of this?

If a market is simply human action is it possible to have a marketless society? How would needs be met in a marketless society? What would this look like and how would it function?

If property rights are defined by the right to own the product of our labor then why is a syndicate not more representative of this? Why is bargaining for wage labor more often promoted from those who speak of property rights?

Is the Labor theory of value truly at odds with the concept of supply and demand, or are the two somehow compatible or possibly different aspects of  one function?

Where does one draw a line at the concept of Landlords? The Anarcho-Capitalist ideal is often criticized as being a modern feudal system.  I find this to be an extremely valid criticism. Is there ever an excuse for rent? Where does one draw a line between rent, Landlords and the power they hold over others?

Can capital exist without the state? In a stateless society what determines value? Where is gold or silver in this, or is the value of gold and silver also a construct? Is value or worth determined by socialized values of a society?

Where do we draw a line on hierarchy. Is submission to hierarchy truly acceptable if it is voluntary and the one who submits is socialized to submit? If one has no realization there is another option outside of submission does this justify the one who asserts authority over another? We see no violent persuasion. Where is the line of coercion? Media is a form of persuasion and coercion, so how do find a limit or line that is not crossed if any exists?

Can any economic order, philosophy or basic solution be universal without a centralized coercive force?

UPDATE I wrongly attributed the quote “An unexamined life is not worth living” to Plato. It was Socrates in Plato’s Apology who who stated this in his trial. Jim Davidson Pointed this out to me. Thanks Jim. I edited the line to reflect this.

Author: PunkJohnnyCash
Visit PunkJohnnyCash's Website - Email PunkJohnnyCash
I am a writer at Gonzo Times. I started the site up some years ago. I cook and consider myself a pretty good vegan chef. I am really interested in the history of Anarchism and classical Anarchist writers.
Punk Johnny CashQuestions In an Examined Life

Comments 5

  1. Jehu

    I will try to take a shot at one of your questions. I can elaborate further as necessary, but only briefly here:

    You asked: Is the Labor theory of value truly at odds with the concept of supply and demand, or are the two somehow compatible or possibly different aspects of one function?

    My answer: I do not think the labor theory of value is at odds with the concept of supply and demand at all. In order to understand supply and demand, you need the labor theory of value. And, to understand the labor theory of value you need to understand why prices fluctuate according to supply and demand.

    In Marx’s theory, value is the designated term for socially necessary labor time required for production of a good. However, in Marx’s theory, value has two forms. What we could call the direct form of value and the indirect form of value. (NOTE: Marx does not use the terms direct value and indirect value. I am only using them to keep thing simple.)

    Form 1: The direct form of value is the labor time directly expended on production of a single good. When we say a good has a certain value, we are making the statement that it takes so much labor time to produce it. This value is determined as the average of labor times required by all producers of this particular good. Since the producers compete with each other to sell the good, each producer is forced to spend no more labor time on average producing his good than the rest of the producers. If bakers spend on average 10 minutes to produce a loaf of bread, then the value of a loaf of bread is ten minutes. If one baker takes 11 minutes, and another takes only 9 minutes, the value of their loaves are still ten minutes, or the social average.

    Form 2. The indirect form has nothing to do with labor time directly expended on the good, but with the total demand for the good versus the supply of the good. Even if all of the producers of a certain good spend no more time producing their good than the average, the demand for the good by society may be greater or less than the total amount of the good produced. For instance, bakers produce 100 loaves of bread, but there is only demand for 90 loaves, or there is demand for 110 loaves. Although each baker only spent 10 minutes baking each loaf of bread, for a total of 1000 minutes, the demand for bread was equal to only 900 minutes or was equal to 1100 minutes.

    This latter form of value would result in only 90 of the loaves being sold and the rest wasted, or 100 being sold when there was actually need for 110. In the first case an average loaf of bread would be sold below its individual value, while in the second case an average loaf would be sold above its individual value.

    As you can see the labor theory of value allows us to explain not only why prices fluctuate up or down according to supply and demand, but — much more important — why goods have any price at all. Supply and demand can explain why prices fluctuate, but it cannot explain price itself.

    In Marx’s theory, value is an abstraction, but at the same time very real. Which is to say the concept value reflects very real processes taking place behind our backs, so to speak. Value is created by the need for innumerable private productive activities to become social in a very primitive fashion through prices and their fluctuations. Since, everyone produces in isolation and without a common plan there must be some natural mechanism to regulate the activities of all of them.

  2. austin shufelt

    Is the Labor theory of value truly at odds with the concept of supply and demand, or are the two somehow compatible or possibly different aspects of one function?

    Same material, but each theory answers different questions. labor theory of value addresses questions of price and distribution of resources, whereas concept of supply and demand deals with what will be produced, and how much of it.

  3. austin shufelt

    Is it ever acceptable to use aggressive force to obtain ones will or rule?
    Bloody slave uprisings come to mind. Also, resistance to oppression in general. Yet recent history demonstrates the power of predominately nonviolent direct action.

  4. austin shufelt

    If a market is simply human action is it possible to have a marketless society? How would needs be met in a marketless society? What would this look like and how would it function?

    Markets exist because of insecurity and lack of sufficient information (and greed). We need many people buying and selling the same thing, that way we know it’s worth making, and how much to make. However, many groups of people choose to remove themselves from the market system, through either state ownership or subsidies, especially of essential goods.

    I doubt a marketless society would ever exist, other than in name only. However, as societies progress, and people exert more political power, many tasks performed by corporations become part of government, then left as an institution in a post-state society. Health care comes to mind first as something impossible to afford in a “free market” economy, but under consolidated ownership, would continue to prosper. Thus I see the next major transcendence from capitalism to socialism in the health care field.

    I always see markets when it comes to certain forms of innovation, such as consumer technology, but maybe I’m narrow minded.

    I hope some of this makes sense.

  5. Anonymous

    “Can capital exist without the state? In a stateless society what determines value? Where is gold or silver in this, or is the value of gold and silver also a construct? Is value or worth determined by socialized values of a society?”

    Jehu addressed this tangentially with his comment, but I think it bears further examination. Much as there are two ways to look at value, there are two ways to look at capital.

    1. Exploitative excess (e.g., using slave/coerced labor)
    2. Natural excess (e.g., a bumper crop)

    Assuming one should be able to dispose of what she makes as she wishes, a bumper crop would mean that the planter could trade, sell, store, or give away the excess. In any of those cases, it could be argued that excess represents capital — even in the case of giving it away, as it would create goodwill and favor above the norm or average.

    In the case of storage, it would remain in times where the produce was more highly sought, and thus more highly valued (in the 110-loaves-demanded sense Jehu described); or in the sense that less time and labor would be required in the future in order for the planter to have a given amount of produce (9-minute-bread, ibid.).

    The question, then, centers on investment. Does the planter use the excess to acquire more tools, seeds, etc., in order to increase the next yield by a given amount? Does she use it to launch another line of work in addition to the planting? Assuming infinite storage, does she continue to accumulate against future demand increase, thus maximizing the value for eventual trade? Or, does she rest on her laurels and make reductions to her labor, exchanging with herself, as it were?

    In coercive forms of “communism,” she’d be compelled to put any excess toward the “common” stock, and may not be guaranteed (nor even expectant) of a return in the form good will or allowances. In voluntary forms, she would willingly contribute the excess, but with the obvious possibility (even surety) that she would be the beneficiary of similar excess on the part of the community.

    I suppose most of the danger lies in the first type of capital — that which places the burden upon the shoulders of others rather than upon luck, skill, etc. But, there is a secondary danger if the second type of accumulation is allowed to become the first; that is, if the excess acquired by luck (etc.) is allowed to coerce others into providing yet more excess for their exploiter. In the planter example, this might mean that her stored produced is saved until a drought, and then used to employ desperate, starving people.

    Of course, nothing is perfect, but in terms of built-in incentives it’s important to at least look at it with open eyes. In my mind, I think the balance by allowing any producer the full spectrum of uses for her product will ultimately produce the best result, and jives best with my intuition and experience. That being said, I think it’s equally important that the bond between producer and product (in scarce physical resources) be very strong. Meaning that the idea of “employment” and other forms of production-by-proxy should be viewed with significant skepticism.

    So, if a skilled gardener grows more tomatoes than her neighbor, great for her! But, if she hires a skilled gardener, who ends up working for less compensation than it takes to buy the tomatoes she grows for her employer, then the likelihood that something very wrong is going on increases significantly.