- Capitalism and Alternatives -

Corvee is not slavery

Posted by: Nikhil Jaikumar ( DSA, MA, USA ) on December 25, 1999 at 12:28:51:

In Reply to: Errors not contradictions posted by Gee on December 22, 1999 at 11:39:08:

: A right to shelter means shelter *must* be supplied - or the right is null. Who is to supply it if not others.

No, no more than a right to security implies the need for a standing army; Costa Rica seems to get along OK without an army....

:A right to be free of slavery is to be free of work made compulsory by the force of others.

Not so; slavery implies 1) that you have no control over what you do for teh majority of the time, 2) that you are working for the benefit of others and not yourself, and 3) that you were not "compelled" to work as a result of your own actions. (e.g., hard labor for criminals is not unjust because they've committed specific actions to merit the punishment.) The modernized, egalitarian corvee that I propose fulfils none of these conditions.

1) It applies only for a small portion (8 hours) of teh workweek, and even within this time limit it allows individual choice as to what you do for the State.
2) The work you do does not benefit an individual ownber, it benefits Society, and you are society, therefore it benefits you. You are still working, albeit indirectly, for yourself when you are drafted to build roads for the state for 8 hours a week.
3) The corvee, and taxation, unlike slavery., is not applied indiscriminately to people; it is imposed on the elite class and the businesspeople. We determine that by their occupying a privileged position in society, they are implicitly denying soem of teh goods of society to others, and are thus harming equality. To remedy this damaging effect, we argue that they should "pay back" in the form of either taxation or free labor.

: If the above right is to be enforced, and insufficient people volunteer the effort then the effort must be taken from them by force.

And incidentally, a furtehr difference between slavery and the corvee is the following. Slavery creates differences bewteen a master and slave class, it deepens the divisions in society. This is one of the strongest arguments against it. But if everyone is liable to the corvee, or if teh corvee is used as a means of normalizing everyone to the same level, then thsi criticism of slavery is clearly inapplicable.

: Whats exterme about following something to its logical conclusion?

: : Anyway, the only thing that seems to be 'contradicted' by the 'social obligations' that you're talking about is YOUR personal view of freedom.

: Lets forget views of freedom and look at the above again. An obligation exists to provide others, insufficient people volunteer the necessary effort. How do you resolve it without force? Tax? Tax is force, try not paying it.

Yes, tax is force; on the otehr hand, how teh hell do you think existing property relations are defended? Behind every 'NO TRESPASSING' sign is teh implied threat of guns and prisons. The implied threat that, as the old song says, "Anybody caught trespassing will be shot on sight."

: : Modern science may be comprehensible to the mind of God, but human minds are certainly not capable of understanding its laws without eventually running into contradictions.

: This points, quite accurately as you know, to human failings and not evidence of actual contradiction In fact. Where two 'laws' apparently contradict then one, or possible both, is in error. An object either must pass every plane or it need not. It cannot be both.

What I intended to suggest was that different scales opf teh universe possess unbreakable laws, but that alws at one level are incompatib;le woith thsoe of another. Perhaps a better examp[le, free of the idea of 'scale', is teh following; light is a wave, and a particle, but not both at the same time. You cannot integrate these two descriptions into a signle concept, but they are both true. This is contradictroy, yet true.

: : You're the one insisting that rights, to be valkid, have to be extensible to their extreme.

: Would have to be seen consistently through to what you call 'extreme'. Otherwise they are guidelines - like Newtonian physics is great for calculating moving bodies to a point - but not at light speed. Thats why physicists look for a unified theory - because they look for consistencty and universal applicability of a law.

Well, in that case, very few things are 'laws' and not guidelines; few things in physics, perhaps nothing in ethics. Freedom is certainly far less absolute than Newtonian mechanics are; Newtonian mechanics fails only in extreme circumstances, while "freedom" runs into cul-de-sacs every signle time we try to apply it to real situations.

: Does teh obligation to take care of your child limit your freedeom? I really would like to know your repsonse to taht.

: Obligation to ones own children (or wards) is chosen. You choose to have children. Having sex makes babies, one could argue effectively that having sex includes as part of it the 'risk' of having children. At no point do you *not* choose. Your argument makes for interesting conundrums in cases of rape, or teenage pregnancy where the persons are genuinely ignorant of cause and effect though.

: Taking care of the poor is likewise a chosen obligation. One interesting point - even as you choose to be obliged you can abdicate that responsibility - hence abandoned children. what is to be done then? I'd like to see David, Dr Cruel etc mull over that one too.

I disagree. You do not have the right to abandon your child; the child's right to life trumps your right to "do as you please". (If any pro-lifers feel compelled to interrupt, let me add that I',m revising my views on abortion; I don't think, at this point, that it should be legal in the last six months.) I think many, many people would agree with me on thsi one. To abandon your child seems to violate fundamentally what it is to be human. In analogy, caring for teh poor
is not a 'chosen' obligation; it's simply an obligation.

: : A world where your linbertarian idea of freedom ruled the roost is frankly not one that seems very attractive.

: Why not? People readily choose to have obligations all the time. People aren't nasty unless coerced to behave 'nicely' now are they?

No; no one was 'coercing' the Brazilian rubber companies when they slaughtered hundreds of thousands of Amerindians.

: : When you have the freedom, what do you do with it? Freedom is a two-edged sword;

: Certainly is - thats why so many people would gladly exchange it for a little comfort and safety. As long as they dont exchange their neighbours freedom while they are at it I dont mind.

REally? I suspected you would quote Ben Franklin's contemptuous dismissal pf those who woudl trade 'security' for freedom.

: : Freedom is the ability to lead a fulfilling life as per teh dictates of your conscience and innermost desires, and the ability to define for oneself the specific goals and paths chosen to achieve a fulfilling life worthy of a human being.

: A wonderful way to put it NJ, I admire your words genuinely. Read that again though - and have it as each individual on Earth following it, with their myriad desires and goals, and you and I do not stand so far apart do we?

Well, I don't know. I defined freedom as the achievement of a self-defined fulfilling life, and I think that grape pickers and sweatshop workers, by and large, aren't living what tehy would consider a fulflilling life. Therefore they are not free; in fact, by virtue of EXTREME penruy and therefore EXTREME restrictions on their life choices, they are VERY FAR from being free. Taxation or a mild corvee, however would, if it restricted certain "freedoms" of the upper classes, would do so only mildly. (If it does so at all; I don't even concede, except for argument's sake, that these entrepreneurial freedosm are really freedoms at all.) Rawls, the great theorist on freedom and equality, states that freedom can be infringed if the infringement leads to a greater increase of freedom somewhere else. Therefore, a mild abridgment of freedom for teh bourgeois to produce a massive increase in the freedom of the proletariat is justified.

: :Anyone who is not leading such a life is not free, and therefore he is being victimized by some forces outside himself.

: Indeed - he who cannot follow his desires, nor set for himself any goals is restrained. The question really is - is he restrained by other people in a deliberate manner (most obviously as a slave, but also in a command economy etc) - or is he restrained by the facts of reality - his poor constitution, his colorblindess, his height, his geographic location, his poor family, his childhood upbringing.

: These latter things are those which can be improved for poeple and I think thats what you are after - but think of what it takes to improve them and ask if people want to go about doing that, making that equality of opportunity let alone equality of outcome.

Valid points, but see above. First, I would suggest that the migrant workers' penury is, indeed, caused by otehr people; through the monopolization of teh means of prodiuction in the hands of those who have money (the bourgeoiseie). Therefore, tehse people are guilty in a sense of having caused teh workers' penury, and have a resposibility and an obligation to help remedy it. Secodnly, veen if they are IN NO WAY responsible, taxation and a corvee would STILL be justified by the argument provided above.

: : I'm not necessarily advocating the good of all, I'm arguing that no one should be victimized, even if the majority woudl benefita s a result. If the strong exercising their talents victimizes the week, then even if society as a whole benefits, such an exercise is unjust.

: I cant see how it could victimize anyone unless the 'talent' was mugging or somesuch.

Because if you have a supply of medicines or food, etc., and you must decide how to distribute it, you must decide on some system for allocation; shall it be by need, by money, by age, by loyalty, etc. In this way a talent fro making mnoney is incompatible with doing what is best for the poor, and therefore it will invariably victimize them. In general, profit-making and equalizing the goods of society are incompatible gaols; tehrefroe talents fro making money often, though not always, thrive only by victimizing others.

Look at GM's calculated decsiion to allow people who drive its cars to die in fires; tehy determined that it would be more expensive to shift the dangerously placed gastanks, then to keep them where tehy were, have people die and face the lawsuits. As if human life had a price. As if anything really valuable or important had a price.

: : No, because this would result in the lowering of the quality of life for the weak below the standard we see as acceptable. It is better that some have 10 dollars and others 12 than that some have 20 and others 9.

: First - is it really better? The sum of wealth in the latter is $29, 7 more than the former, think of the extra facilities the extra wealth can create. Are those the only choices? Why not $20 and $14?

Rawls addresses this problem; whenever you ahve a given social distribution, you must push AS FAR AS POSSIBLE in teh direction of absolute equality, until the least well off begin to suffer. The absolute welath in society is not what we should look at, rather the wealth of the least well off class. They are the only class whose prosperity we ought to make our guiding line.

: : But as I said, I don't see how the right to own personal property necessarily translateds into teh right to own large-scale productive property.

: Because if you can own exclusively, and protect from others, one piece of property then for that right to be meaningful it must be universal - as we discussed above. If one item is not 'allowed' then any item in time can be 'not allowed' for the right has been abandoned.

: : Well, I disagree. You said yourself that the right to health care implies a government program to supply it. Similarly, I argeu taht teh purpoose of a right to free speech is to make various schoolds of thought available and to allow people to choose teh one tehy like.

: I dont see that in the wording - the right to free speech not being a tangible good in the sense that shelter or medical aid is. The right is a negative one. you may exercise it i you wish, but no one is obliged to listen or provide airtime. Simply that people may not silence you by force.

But unless people are exposed to different viewpoints, I don't see the point of saying that they are free. Teh end result is teh same. People must eb informed, ergo educated, to be really free.

: : Yes! I think I'm free now; freer than I probably ought to be.

: I've never heard a man so damn himself!

: : But that doesn';t mean I'm your slave, far from it

: This tells me you volunteer the effort. What if the recipient was right wing geurillas - welfare for them because they are poor. In other words - would you volunteer effort for something you didnt like?

Yes, as long as they didn't commit a specific action that deprived them of the right. Any man can deprive hismelf of his rights by specific individual actions. You can even make yourself unworthy of teh right to life by committing heinous murder. In the case of right wing terrorists, I think that specific actiosn such as bombing hospitals and raping children would clearly reduce their claim to any rights or consideration. After they've been duly punished, of course, and repented, they can be condiered just like anyone else. No one ought to be punished for their ideology. Although to be frank, if it comes to making a choice between who si to get scarce medications, jsut being a Nazi would put someone pretty far down on my list.....

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